Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Temple Grandin

Last night I received a coupon for a free movie rental from redbox. I stood in the freezing cold,trying to decide what to rent. One of the first movies that came up was Temple Grandin. I remembered it winning like seven Emmy's. And the story intreaged me,and my fingers were freezing off,so I rented it. I put the kiddos down for bed,and my hubby and I cuddled up to watch the movie.

WOW! Now I know why it won seven Emmy's!

Everyone needs to see this movie! Especially those who have a child with Autisim or have a family member that does. I bawled through the entire film.

For those reading our blog who don't know about our Elliott,I thought I would share.

This is Elliott Benjamin.

He has Autisim and Sensory Integration Disorder.

Many have asked questions or said things like:

"how do you know?"....or "well,some boys just take longer than others."....or "those are just made up "problems" to cover up the fact that he's a brat, spank him,and he'll grow out of it".

Well,I beg to differ. And if you lived with Elliott you would know he was struggling,you would know he is brilliant and not the typical little boy,and he certainly is NOT a brat.

As Temples Mom said "She is Different...NOT LESS!" I could not agree more!

At the age of fourteen months,my Dad said at the dinner table one night "When is Elliott going to start talking". That made me realize that he really was not talking,he would moan,cry,etc. But he really was not saying any words. He was a very picky eater...and was still mostly nursing,and drinking from a sippy cup. But really had no use for solid food at all. He was a late crawler and walker.He was a scrawny baby. He was a normal baby,happy and so sweet. It was not that he was throwing fits all the time or anything like that. But,as I began to evaluate his milestones,next to his siblings,I realized that he was a little behind. And the more I began to evaluate,I realized, I needed to have him evaluated by professionals.

In came First Steps. Three wonderful people came to our home,and sat with Elliott. By just spending a few hours in our home,they all agreed he would benefit from in home therapy.
I was handed a list of qualified independent developmental therapist's and told to choose one. They had a short " bio" on each one.

I was overwhelmed.
I did not know any of these people,and I was just to pick one,to help my son overcome a life long disability?
I prayed,not knowing what to do. Then,I remembered a friend of mine,who I had recently met at a mom's bible study group. Her son was having in home therapy,and maybe she would have suggestions on what therapist to choose. She was so kind,to refer me to the therapist that was seeing her son. And though she was not really taking any new patients,and was not on the list of available therapists. She offered to squeeze us in. That was of God!

Elliott had therapy with her for a few months,and began to make HUGE strides. Saying his first audible words. Eating food.Playing with toys.

But,then began the out birsts. The "Meltdowns" as we called them. Of course most people told me it was the terrible twos coming on. But,I had two other children,who had been through the "terrible twos". That was not it. He would melt down,as if he just could not process everything going on.

Example, we were in wal mart, it was a Friday,and it was crazy, busy,loud people, babies crying, music blaring, bright lights, carts everywhere. You get the idea.

Elliott was sitting in the cart,he had been in the cart for maybe two minutes,long enough to take it all in. He laid down in the cart,pulled his coat over his head,and cried. Loudly. Grabbing his clothes and pulling on them.Trying to get out of the cart.Just melting down.

Of course people are staring,assuming that he saw something he wanted and is throwing a fit. I just turned around,and left.I got Elliott to the car,and put him in his car seat,wrapped his blanket around him.and he calmed right down. I put my three other kids in the car,and I cried. I will never forget that feeling.

So,our awesome therapist,reccomended we get an occupational therapist. She told us of a lady who was the best in the area. And being that I was re-searching diet,and had Elliott on a nearly all organic diet,this OT was very knowledable and open minded when it came to that aspect of therapy! God and his amazing mercy was upon us!

So,Elliott now had two therapists,coming sometimes twice in one week. He was learning so much,but I think I was learning more! The encouragement,suggestions,and just people to talk to who understood did WONDERS for me! I don't know who looked forward to therapy days more,me,or Elliott.

His OT told us some great things to help with taking Elliott out, when I would take him to a place like walmart,I would put sunglasses on him,and headphones. He also wore his "hug vest".
In the movie Temple builds a "hug machine",this is Elliotts "hug machine". It's really called a benik. Whenever Elliott was struggling we would put it on him. Almost like magic,he settles down. Now,at the age of four,he knows when he needs it,and will go get it and ask to put it on!

Elliott was still struggling with his speech,and so he was assigned one more therapist. A speech therapist. This was towards the end of his first steps "career". All of the therapists became like extended family.

We went to the zoo with them,the park,the water park,resturants. You name it,we did life with the therapists. That was SO helpful too,because they could see how Elliott would react in public,and give me ideas and suggestions as to how to help Elliott process new environments.

At the age of three Elliott aged out of first steps. He then went to a local public school,that housed a preschool for children with disabilities. I was hesitant to have him attend. Not knowing how he would react,if it would do any good for him. I am so thankful we choose to have him attend. It was best for him. At first the head teacher told me,she was not sure Elliott needed this much special ed,as he seemed like a normal child. I had heard this many times,and though I tried to take it as a compliment...I also knew they would be doing no favors for Elliott believing such. All it took was a few days in his new school for his teacher to come back to me and say "This is exactly where Elliott needs to be,at first glance he seems "normal",and it's not that I'm saying he's not,I'm just saying,your right,he is struggling,and we will help him."

Elliott hated to be messy. I mean HATED it. Most kids love play dough,mud pies,sand,etc. Not Elliott. He cried,like a melt down cry. His teachers helped him to get better about that. By purposely setting up stations that had different textures they had to put their hands into. They worked on getting him to eat in public,and try new foods. He still had speech therapy at "school". Elliott continued to do SO well.

Then came the big transition. Elliott is now in a private preschool,with normal children. He is doing well,though often asks to go back to his old school. Thankfully one of the Para's Mrs.Vicky has followed him to his new preschool,and he LOVES Mrs.Vicky! Because Elliott was referred from first steps,he still gets speech therapy at his private preschool. He speech has come a LONG way! He talks non stop now. You can understand everything he says...though we joke sometimes it would be nice if people could not understand him. What can we say,Elliott is very,very honest. If he thinks it,he says it.

That is our story so far. We love Elliott dearly,and we all have learned so much by having him in our family. I would not trade a DAY with him! No,it's not easy. It's not easy for him. I loved how In the movie,Temple's mom has brought her to a boarding school,and one of the teachers says "I know it's hard to have a child who won't be able to live up to the expectations you have". She looks at him and says "You have no idea,the fits,tantrums,struggles,that Temple has had to live though...I can't put her through one more thing". As if to say, "Me?" who cares about how hard this is for me...LOOK at HER!".

It's not about how hard it's been for me. It's been WAY harder for him. I am a better person,a better mom,because of Elliott. And that is the gift Elliott has given to me.

Elliott has surgery a week from tomorrow.He has a mass growing in his mouth that has to be removed.We would appreciate prayers for him,and that the biopsy will come back clear. And also that this would not set him back or affect all the progress we have made with his speech and eating habits. Thank you friends!

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