Why "Running with Bunions"?

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Bewitching Good Times

Marching Scorpions
In the world of school, Halloween kicks off a busy season of parties, conferences, meetings, field trips, special programs, gift making and giving, decorating, extracurricular activities, celebrations, shopping, bills and...oh, yeah: schoolwork. Parental jobs. Rain, snow, cold.

Translation: this week's blog is short on words, long on pictures. You're welcome!

Pre Halloween party, Wonder Boy's class built Steve the Minecraft Guy out of boxes, tissue, construction paper and tape.
with Steve the Minecraft Guy

Wonder Boy wrote words for the hallway bulletin board.

Meanwhile, Amaze Girl's class? All school parade. Wonder Woman, Ninja Turtle, skeleton, hot dog, Captain Underpants!
Parade Time!

In an opportunistic display of family unity, support and forever love, Super Daddy, Nonnie and GAK soaked up the joy:
Happy Holidays!

More to Come...

Sunday, October 22, 2017

How to Grow Brain Cells (A True Story)

Neurogenesis (definition)
The birth of new brain cells

July 31, 2001 started like any other day for Canadian author Howard Engel. His things were in their places, his body moved in space, food had taste, his hearing worked. Then Howard opened the morning newspaper. The alphabet was there, but in unrecognizable configurations.
It seems Howard had suffered a stroke overnight, damaging the area in his brain that converts writing into language. This would be devastating news to anyone, but as Howard's living depended upon his ability to read and write, he was particularly motivated to find a solution.

Howard participated in therapy. Howard struggled. Over time, he discovered his brain could translate writing into language if he traced individual letters by hand. He started with pen and paper and advanced to tracing in the air. Howard then used his tongue to copy letters onto the roof of his mouth and finally, onto the back of his teeth.

Recovery was difficult. It took time and persistence. But in the end? Howard learned to read again…with his tongue.

Scientists once believed neurons were created exclusively in the womb. Then, in 1962, Joseph Altman injected adult rats with a radioactive, neuron identifying, molecule. When he examined the rats' brains Altman discovered new cells! Further study indicated neurogenesis occurs primarily in areas of the hippocampus responsible for memory and learning.

How to Grow Brain Cells:
Eat Well
Later research indicates "precursor" cells - neural cells still in development - may be independently blasted to affected areas of a newly injured brain.

Neurogenesis slows with age but the human brain is capable of regeneration throughout a person's life. The brain's ability to grow cells and establish new neural pathways is enhanced through cognitive enrichment like the study of language, music or nature and engaging in new experiences. Exercise and a preservative-free diet also stimulate cell growth.

Therapies that include language practice, repetitive effort and sensory experiences increase functional abilities of a person with autism. Is therapeutic success the result of new brain cells created? Or are new neural pathways forged through therapy?

Until the causes of autism are better understood it's difficult to pinpoint how or if the creation of new brain cells in a differently composed brain affects an individual's abilities over the long term.
How to Grow Brain Cells:
Read, Write, Play
What is known: activities that stimulate neuron growth involve the brain at work. Passive activities like tv watching and scrolling through a computer or phone do little more than enter data without contributing to the brain's revival.
Studies show that the best results occur when intervention begins early and is consistent, persistent and tenacious. Read, write, play piano. Bounce on a trampoline, hit a baseball, race around a track, climb a tree. Touch something soft, dance in the rain, swim in mud, ride a streetcar, pet a beetle, work a crossword puzzle. Eat protein and iron rich foods, consume raw veggies, avoid processed fare.
There are no guarantees but it appears that with time, endeavor and toil? It's possible that you, too, could one day read…with your tongue.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dear Hair Stylist

He hollers nonsense phrases and shakes his head. A lollipop gets him into your stylist's chair but he won't let you snap an apron around his neck. His well-meaning sister flutters about the chair, tangling chords to tickle his knees. "Show him a video on your phone," she says, a cheerful reminder of a popular distraction.
Autism's characteristics are as unique to the individual as snowflakes differ one to another. One person may not mind a razor humming near his head but dislikes shiny scissor reflections. Another is okay with scissors but hates sprayed water. Some, like Wonder Boy, have a special need for transition - to be prepared for what comes next.
In this moment, however, you're most concerned about safely wielding sharp objects near the head and face of a moving target than picking up a lesson in autism. How can you gain control of the situation?
Here are five tips for enjoying a successful interaction with our child with autism:
Get to eye level. Hands at your side. Seek eye contact, but don't demand it.
2. WAIT.
Hold your body still. Smile. Put all of your attention on him. It may not look like it, but he's focused on you, decoding you, deciding about you. Let him take you in.
Does he seem more nervous about you or the equipment? Follow his caregiver's lead.
Do not reach for his hand. Do not touch his hair (yet). Do not try to hug him or pick him up.
Do let him touch you: hold out your hand, palm up. High five!
Keep conversation pertinent and to a minimum. Say, "this is the razor" and "it will tickle" and "it hums" or "it will buzz near your ears."
Don't ask questions, like, "how do you like school?" or "how old are you?" or "What's your favorite (fill-in-the-blank)? He's absorbed by the movement of people around him, mirrored reflections. He hears water spraying in sinks, radio static, clattering shoes, humming razors. He smells hairspray, mousse, perspiration. He's aware of his sister and distracted by your fingers on him. The expectation of a response adds to his overflowing sensory workload.
Let him touch the shiny scissors, gripped firmly in your hand. Hold the razor where he can see it. Turn it on and wait for him to absorb the sound it makes. Let him touch it, safely, if he wants to. Turn on the blow dryer; let him touch the moving air. Show him how the spray bottle works. Say, "This is water."
Once you've received the go ahead, begin! He's here for a haircut! Your anxiety and hesitation feed his anxiety and hesitation. The more calm, confident and efficient you are, the better the experience will be for everyone.
When necks and clothes are dusted and our child with autism has sped off, lollipop reward in hand…please won't you acknowledge his helpful, patient, kind, forever-upbeat sister-of-autism?
She's earned a lollipop too.
Sister of Autism

Saturday, October 7, 2017

First Comes Poop

Wonder Boy sobbed. He hit his head. His body shook as fat, wet drops spilled from quarter moon eyes and laced his flushed cheeks.

 "Do you want to eat?" No, I don't.
"Need a squeeze?" No, I don't.
"Potty?" No, no, no! Wonder Boy screamed. He shook his head and tears flew.
Super Daddy's voice was soft. "C'mon, Buddy," he said.
Wonder Boy rushed to the bathroom on bent knees. Alone inside, he sat. He pushed.
He delivered.
Refuse to participate. Rant. But, if you're human? If you eat? Eventually, poop happens.
Gastrointestinal issues are common in autism. Known causes include allergies to gluten or dairy, intestinal bacteria and neurological difficulties, in which the brain and body don't work together to recognize the physical urge to eliminate. Individuals also sometimes refuse all but a few foods causing nutritional shortages, learning concerns, constipation.
Eating programs claim to remedy both autism and its tummy troubles: gluten free, casein free, the special carbohydrate diet. To work, food-based solutions require strict adherence. It's critical that all involved participate, communicate, cooperate.
Until he was 5 years old, Wonder Boy's diet consisted primarily of pepperoni pizza, chicken nuggets and apple juice with Goldfish crackers and Skittles for snacks. Today at Super Daddy's house, Wonder Boy consumes a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, eggs, cheese and breads. Raw spinach and turmeric rice are "preferred" foods. He drinks water.
But in autism, pooping – like learning - isn't just about what goes in.
Many people with autism have sensory sensitive bodies woven with tender, over-alert nerves. Their ears feel every cough, creak and rustle. Eyes burn in light, tongues taste smells, noses absorb texture. Skin alternately aches to be squeezed/screams to be left alone.
For a sensory sensitive individual, effective learning requires customized input, balanced to fit the body's unique protocols. Unexpected, uninvited touch or sudden bursts of sensory stimuli upset the status quo and disrupt the person's ability to function.
Pooping is a sensory activity involving pressing physical sensations, stretched body parts, unique sights, sounds and odors. There's residual removal (wiping), toilet roars (flushing), wet, squishy hand washing.
Postponing bowel movements and the tasks that follow enhances the inevitability of the experience while creating a potentially unfortunate cycle of unhappiness and distress; release and relief.
Wonder Boy got a late start. Potty training efforts didn't begin until he was 5 years old. With help, he quickly learned to urinate in the toilet.
Gaining his cooperation concerning bowel movements? It's complicated.
When he hasn't eaten well or yielded to necessary elimination, Wonder Boy loses eye contact and words, melts into tantrums, retreats from learning.
When he's eaten well and succumbed regularly to his body's need to poop, Wonder Boy's mood is balanced. He sleeps. He uses his words, copes with transition, learns.
This day, after utilizing the facilities, Wonder Boy independently cleaned himself, flushed, washed his hands. He opened the door. "I want banana please?"
Super Daddy extended his hand, palm out. Wonder Boy slapped it. High five!
Then comes eating

New reader? Start here: Poisoned By Lead