Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Grass Seems Often Greener

This happened rather suddenly today.  One moment, Alanna was kicking her feet in excitement seeing Mom come home, and the next she climbed up into my arms to cuddle.  Then, the eyes started to shut with the gentle rocking she so enjoys.  Then... well, you can see what happened.  Alanna sometimes crashes like this, but it's not very often. Like many children with autism her sleep schedule isn't very good.  She used to take hours to fall asleep and "crib bounce" for hours.  Now, she wakes up in the middle of the night and crib bounces.  Thankfully, she responds well to melatonin, a handy hormone that tells your body it's time to sleep.  Interestingly, some studies have found some autistic people lack this hormone.  As time goes on though she is becoming more resistant to the melatonin.  We have to give her more of it, more often.  I dislike giving it to her but she is so much better rested with it.

Speaking of resting... sleep is one of the many things with which parents of children with autism struggle.  Today my wife reminded me today that Alanna is close to 2.5 years old.  I stared at the VB-MAPP (a tool used for assessing developmental milestones for kids with disabilities) and was crestfallen seeing all of the milestones a typically developing kid would have met at 30 months.  I thought to myself, isn't she supposed to be catching up with ABA?  Well, of course she is.  I have to remind myself:  she's only been doing ABA for six months and she has probably caught up eight months in six, and that's with only 10-15 hours of ABA a week.  The optimal hours is more like 25-40 a week.

It's so hard as a parent as you see your child with autism get older.  Even as they "catch up", the older they get, the more unlike the other kids they look.  Alanna is still very young; there is still a chance she will be so mild that she can adapt and manage fine (she is not there yet).  I look at all the gains she has made, especially socially, and I know these should be celebrated.  But I am also so wanting her to imitate verbally so she can start talking consistently.  This is such a huge step for her - if she can verbally imitate, we can teach her so much.

So Alanna can't talk.  But some highly verbal kids are so inflexible they lose it over the slightest change to their day.  Alanna is pretty adaptable, even for a typical two year old.  Autism looks different in every person.  I have to remind myself it could look much worse in Alanna.  I also have to remind myself to "throw away" the typical development milestones... Alanna will reach them on her own time.  It's just so hard to do this.

I've looked on with envy as some autistic kids I see are verbal.  But the grass only looks greener on the other side... I have no idea what colour it really is.  I need to remember things are probably better where we already are.


  1. "So Alanna can't talk. But some highly verbal kids are so inflexible they lose it over the slightest change to their day. Alanna is pretty adaptable, even for a typical two year old."

    You are right on the mark here! A child with autism who can talk and is very inflexible will have just as difficult time in life as a nonverbal person. Alanna is so young and has many years ahead of her.

    What a cute picture of her sleeping!

  2. Don't give up hope on the talking front. My older daughters didn't start talking until they were almost 4. It took them almost two years of ABA and speech therapy to get them there but they finally got it. As long as your daughter is moving forward with ABA and is not falling further behind you are in relatively good shape.

  3. Thanks MJ, that makes me feel better!