Friday, September 1, 2017

How to Keep Individuals with Special Needs Safe, Especially during Holidays

     With it being Labor Day weekend, I have repurposed one of my first posts to raise everyone's awareness when it comes to the dangers of wandering in special needs individuals. Please browse the various posts available for viewing in the section on the right sidebar. I appreciate that you have taken the time to visit my site and always welcome the opportunity to share what we have learned, through our journey, with others. ~Lorrie
     Once upon a time, everything used to function at a much slower pace. We didn't have all the obligations that we have multi-tasked into existence. Now our days are slammed-packed full of schedules for work, school and all sorts of doctor's appointments. That's not counting the scheduled & unscheduled trips to the grocery store, pharmacy or health food store for our families. And it's so very easy for us to get distracted with the new technology that we use around the clock to communicate with each other. When you add in a child or adult with special needs, the chances of that individual wandering off increase dangerously. 
      Wandering is not a subject to be taken lightly, by any means. It happens more often than just the particular instances we might hear about through the media, facebook or twitter. Every time I hear about a child wandering, it makes me check in on my own young children, sometimes more than once, during the night. I immediately start sharing as many details as I possibly can about the missing child on various networks while praying for the child's safe return to their family. 
     Seriously, children and adults with the autism spectrum disorder are twice as likely to wander off, succumb to prolonged exposure and probable drowning. Individuals with ASD tend to wander because they are either looking to get closer to something of interest or away from something that is bothering them. A few examples of places they might be drawn to could be a neighbor's pool, signs they might possibly recognize that leads to a local amusement park or somewhere they have happy memories of spending time. Danger is constantly lurking around the corner, just waiting for victims.
     Everyone loves family picnics or gatherings at the lake but, many times a child on the spectrum may want to escape an overload of sensory input or something that is agitating them. It is automatically assumed, that with all the people around, that the child or adult with autism would be safe. Clearly, it is impossible to guarantee that an unforeseen distraction won't provide the opportunity to an over-stimulated child or adult on the autism spectrum to wander off without notice. Wandering in children & adults with autism tends to increase in new, unfamiliar or unsecured environments such as visiting a friend's or relative's home. These situations may trigger wandering, as well as episodes of distress, meltdowns or certain anxieties in a child, or adult, with autism. Especially in warmer months, when it's natural to be and play outside. 
     In dealing with our son, we have found that having a particular person with him at all times works the best. It's like being on an assignment with the secret service, you're not allowed to leave your post until you have secured a replacement. That way there's never a question as to where he is. Most of the time, Nathan is right beside me or at least within arms reach of one of us. If we are at home, he may be in his own room and I am constantly aware of what he is doing. His room is the one place where he can relax and have control of his surroundings. I can't say that Nathan hasn't ever given us a scare. When he was only four years old, my daughter and oldest son had just spent the afternoon swimming in our above ground pool but, had forgotten to remove the ladder when they were finished. We had just walked around the corner to the side garage door for a few seconds when we heard that unmistakable "splash"! Nathan had decided that he didn't want to wait until Daddy came home when we said he could swim. I have always had a rule where I would never take Vincent & Nathan swimming by myself, especially before they had learned to swim. Unfortunately, Nathan had already noticed the ladder and being way too young to understand how dangerous it was, had climbed up it, with his cardboard flip-book in his hand, and jumped in! I am so very thankful that we were nearby when Nathan decided to go swimming and that he had learned to tread water!! When his sister and I got to him, he had his head above water. He looked surprised at both what he had accomplished and that we were dragging him out of his impromptu dip in the pool. I hate to think what might have happened if we hadn't heard that "splash"and been able to pull him to safety when we did. That was an eye-opener for all of us that day. It didn't matter that the little cardboard book or the cell phone in my pocket had to be replaced, only that our precious 4 year old Nathan was alive! Another instance of Nathan wandering, that I was not a directly involved in, was while he was at his elementary school. Out of loyalty and respect of everyone at our school, I will not being sharing specifics. Nathan had been in one of the portables for his scheduled lab time and, when it was over, had wandered around to the front of the building. Nathan had been trusted to return to his class and had gotten distracted by the great outdoors. Thanks to one of the school secretaries, she found him standing on the grass, under a shade tree, twenty yards from the front door of the school. The experience was one that our school doesn't want to have happen ever again. It was very terrifying to even think of him trying to walk the mile and a half home or him being picked up by a stranger! I found an opportunity later that afternoon, without any unwanted distractions, and I explained to Nathan the danger of a child going off anywhere on their own without an adult. 
     For more information about how we can protect our children, please feel free to visit AWAARE. There are many resources on that website, as well others not mentioned, that can be utilized to prepare, prevent and protect a child that might wander. Enjoy a safe and wonderful Labor Day weekend with your family!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Purchase a #DairyQueenBlizzard and Support #MiracleTreatDay July 27th

Who doesn't like a good chili cheese dog, french fries and a Blizzard from Dairy Queen? My family doesn't get to eat at DQ as often as we would like to but, today we made plans to have lunch there. My son, who is a sophomore in high school, and I enjoyed a late lunch at Dairy Queen in a neighboring city. We both made sure to save room for one of their famous Blizzards before leaving. There are so many different ones to choose from that it was difficult for us to decide! I'm sure that even YOU have a favorite one that comes to mind when reading this...

     Please mark your calendars to purchase a Blizzard from Dairy Queen next Thursday, July 27th in support of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals on #MiracleTreatDay!! Dairy Queen will donate $1.00 or more from the purchase of each Blizzard sold that day. Dairy Queen has been supporting this cause for the last ten years. and they raised over four million dollars last year to help the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals! So, invite a friend to join you for lunch or dinner at a local Dairy Queen next Thursday, July 27th. A Dairy Queen Blizzard is waiting for YOU to claim it in support of the 2017 #MiracleTreatDay to help raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals!!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Applying My Critical Thinking Skills to What's Important to Me

     I know that it has been a while since I last posted. My young men and my husband have been keeping me busy. I have also been trying to spend time with the four grandchildren. Another priority that I have been focusing on is taking as many of the online courses that I can towards my associate's degree. Starting this fall, the courses that I have left are only available on campus during the day. It will be quite the experience for me to be able to feel the energy of a college student, even at my age!

     The course that has been especially helpful in preparing me for the future is the Critical Thinking course that I have been taking this summer. It is an accelerated course because the summer semester is only half as long as a traditional spring or fall semester. Even though I only have eight weeks to complete the coursework, I have successfully managed to stay on schedule by completing an average of four assignments each week. The coursework requires you to use your skills to observe, analyze, interpret, evaluate, reflect and problem-solve. The intensity of the coursework has sometimes left me with the equivalent of a brain-freeze but, in a good way!

     The most recent assignment that I was asked to submit had to be about something "Near and Dear" to me. I'm sure that most of you know what that is. My professor requires us to formulate and submit two full paragraphs, and he considers a full paragraph between eight to twelve sentences. I had no difficulty making the minimum requirement when writing about the subject I chose. My dilemma was how was I to know how much I should share about the topic. I didn't want to overwhelm the other students in my class, only give them a little insight. And you know me, I try to keep everything light-hearted while serving up the facts!

     I took one of my personal speeches that I wrote for a fast-track class about a year ago, modified it, and updated information pertaining to my family. It was originally a five-minute speech that I had to give in front of the class I was in at the time. The facts haven't changed, nor has my perception of how important the support of family and friends are to the survival of the immediate family of a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Whether you are familiar with what autism is or not, please read what I shared with my peers. I am curious to see which of my classmates will choose to respond to my forum discussion post topic. I hope that you will take something away from it...

     Autism Spectrum Disorders, also known as ASD, is a group of neurological disorders which affect the behavior, social interaction, as well as both verbal and nonverbal communication in individuals. Raising a child with autism consists of long hours, almost no sleep, frequent meltdowns, constantly having to explain to strangers why your child misbehaves in public, and did I mention almost no sleep? Yes, I can laugh now but, it’s not so funny when you are caught up in a disaster that looks like it will never end! I was fortunate to have a husband, who didn’t just step back and leave it to me to handle the mess, but one whom jumped right in and helped give me the break that I desperately needed. Most families are not prepared for a diagnosis of autism, and what it means for their child's future. That was the situation my family faced when our youngest son received a diagnosis of autism nine years ago. If it hadn't been for the support of our family and friends, we wouldn’t have had a chance of surviving the challenges of raising a child on the spectrum. It is important, for the families of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, to know that they have the support of everyone around them. 

     Parents have to find ways to help their child to adjust to their environment and make the best of their situation. What works as a solution right now, may not work the same way five minutes from now. It is exhausting trying to maintain your sanity, keep a positive attitude about what lies ahead for your child, while protecting him from himself and others during a meltdown. I kept waiting for someone to issue me combat gear, or at least provide me with hazard pay! It was challenging but, I quickly found time for myself and ways to boost my patience levels. When we were having a difficult day, I would frequently have to put myself in time out. You are probably thinking ‘how bad could it have been?’ There were times that we didn’t leave the house for days because it took too much energy to get both of us, and his slightly older brother, ready to go anywhere. Sometimes, all I ever really wanted was the chance to take a nap before anything else happened! It is the support of my husband, family, and friends that have kept me anchored throughout the storm of raising a child with autism spectrum disorders. Our son has come a long way since being diagnosed just before starting Kindergarten and he will be a freshman in high school this fall. He has made tremendous progress and is learning to self-regulate through daily challenges because of the support we have received from our family and friends. We have had the extraordinary privilege of being his parents and advocates. It has given each of us a unique strength, a purpose in life, and has motivated me to become a counselor to help individuals with special needs.     

Monday, March 13, 2017

Mentioned in a Post on LinkedIn

I have been so busy with work, college, as well as attending middle and high school baseball games that I had forgotten to share something exciting that happened a few weeks ago. I routinely receive email notifications to check out posts on LinkedIn. When I received this particular email notification from LinkedIn, I checked it out. Imagine my surprise when I found myself mentioned and tagged, at the top of the posted article, along with several others, as being a behavior expert!

The article is Parents Can Learn How To Prevent Anxiety In Their Children and I hope that you will take the time to read the article. I had no involvement in the collaboration of the attached article. I was named only as one of the individuals considered to be experienced in the area of behavior intervention...but, it was quite flattering!