Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Our First Time Baking

Today was a super rainy day so we decided to bake something all of us could eat. Kiddo eats a strict vegan diet, I eat vegan and gluten free, and daddy basically eats whatever you put in front of him. Baking is usually difficult in this house because really, who has the time to make something all of us can eat? We usually only make vegan treats since I really hate baking gluten free things.

I don't even know if you could call this "baking" but it was easy for Ky to mix everything and dump the batter into the pan.

Pancake and Banana Bites

All we used for this recipe was

- 2 cups gluten free Bisquik
- 1 cup hemp milk
- 1 cup lite syrup
- 1 banana

Preheat oven to 350F

I got everything ready before I announced to her that I needed help, since we have never baked together before and I had no idea how this would go over. I laid out all the ingredients, the bowl, the pan, and measured out what we needed beforehand. She poured it all into the big bowl while I mixed, then without even telling her, she had started to dump it into the muffin tin.

I wanted this to be fun for her so there were no strict directions - Just pour and try not to spill too much on the floor. She did a really great job! We spent about 20 minutes just mixing and pouring. After we had all of the muffing tins full, we cut up the banana into little pieces and pushed them into the batter.

We baked them for about 15-18 minutes. I took them out without telling her, but included her in the process after they were cooled down. She helped take them out and put them on the plate. She did much better than I thought she would, especially since directions are really hard for her. I see a lot of baking in our future!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Autism Service Therapy Dog

I've been holding off on posting about this on the blog. Not sure why - I think I just really hate asking for help. As a parent, you learn to put your pride aside and this is one of those times for me.

I've posted before that Kyra has autism. She also has seizures. We've made the tough decision to start fundraising to get a service/therapy dog for her. It was tough for us to decide what to do because financially, we are pretty strapped. I can't work because she cannot go to daycare/preschool. I know she technically could, but we've made so much progress and the amount that she regresses when placed in a high stress environment made us decide to keep her home. All of our income goes to household necessities and to anything Kyra needs (along with gas to get her to and from therapy 3-5x a week) and to the pets we already have. What held us back from immediately saying 'yes' was the start up cost for getting a dog (cage, food, shots, toys, spaying/neutering, gas to get to training, etc.). We decided to toss a little extra onto our goal to get us started. We've only posted the link on facebook and our friends have done the rest.

So far we've raised $1,172 out of $6,000.

If anyone reading this would like to donate, you can check out our ChipIn page, which also covers why we want the dog and what it will help Ky with. We are grateful for any amount - we've gotten this far on mostly $5-$20 donations!


We really appreciate all of the help we've gotten. I can't believe we've come such a long way since starting the page. We still have quite a ways to go, but we will get there! If anyone would like to pass the link along, please do. Thank you so much everyone!

As a thank you, here are some recent pictures of Kyra:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Body Painting Inside

Sorry for not posting lately! We had a pretty hectic month with doctor appointments, hospital visits, new therapies, etc. but we are back! We've been doing a ton of crafts and projects around here so expect a lot of new posts.

Last week we did body painting. We've tried body painting outside (here) but kiddo wasn't nuts about it. She was always the type to not want to touch anything sticky, wet, or mushy. She definitely wasn't into finger painting. Lately she has been exploring with using her hands to touch things of different textures and actually initiated body painting! We quickly caught on and put her in the tub to finish out the project. It was really fun!

Some tips:
- Start small. Sit them in the tub and let them start off by painting the walls to figure out what they are comfortable with
- Never just throw paint on the child if they aren't comfortable with that texture
- Offer a paintbrush, sponge, bingo dots, or something that they can use instead of their fingers
- If the child is uncomfortable, remove them right away. Never force them to do a project that they aren't comfortable with. Learning new textures is a long process and even involves a lot of trust
- Make sure to have a mat down. It gets slippery!
- Have fun!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Weighted Stuffed Animal

Our therapist gave us the brilliant idea of making a weighted stuffed animal for kiddo to use when she was upset or needed some kind of heavy lifting. Up until now, we had just been using hand weights which can get pretty dangerous (especially when she decides to play catch with you). We needed something that was heavy but still safe to throw. We were going to take one of her favorite TV show characters, take out the stuffing, and replace it with something heavy inside. Unfortunately, all of the stuffed animals we had were small and probably wouldn't be heavy enough. We know she can lift 10 pounds no problem, so we wanted something that was at least 5 pounds because, lets face it, no two year old should be throwing around 10 pounds worth of weight.

Poor guy doesn't know what's in store for him

We had an empty Build-A-Bear laying around from a friend who was nice enough to bring back from a her daughter's birthday party that we weren't able to make it to.We planned to get it stuffed later on but never made it to the store. It was perfect since they are meant to be filled and tied - no sewing needed. We went to the store and bought enough beans to fill the entire bear, leaving just a little wiggle room so it didn't rip the seams. Our bear turned out to be exactly 5 pounds. If you want your bear to be lighter, try doing half beans & half beanbag filling. You could probably do half stuffing and half beans, but the weight might not distribute evenly. 

This has worked out great so far for throwing. I can't say she has ever bonded with a stuffed animal and carried it around, but we are hoping we could get her to carry it in the stores.

He makes a good snuggle buddy

 Some great activities you can do with your bear:

  • Throwing the bear during a meltdown
  • Pushing the bear in a stroller
  • Pulling the bear in a wagon
  • Putting the bear in a backpack and wearing it (put a time limit on this and make sure it isn't too heavy)
  • Holding the bear throughout a store
  • Putting the bear on kiddo's lap while sitting at a table or in a stroller
  • Jumping while holding the bear

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fisher Price IXL for Autism

I want to talk a little bit about a product that I absolutely love. I'm not really one to full on fall in love with a product and recommend it. Nothing really seems to live up to my expectation or it always has one fatal flaw that will turn me off from talking about it. Even though this does have one issue with the design, I still feel it was such a huge positive in kiddo's development and perfect for special needs children that have trouble communicating.

Main Menu Screen

The Fisher Price IXL is a small computer system designed for kids ages 3-6. It is built to be handled roughly by small children unlike the Ipad, which is super expensive and can easily be broken. Although it can't do as much as the Ipad, it is still a good transition computer and can help you figure out where your child is as far as development goes and if they would even be able to navigate an Ipad. Up until now, she had no idea what a computer was, what it did, that you can even interact with it, or that you can learn from it. She was able to not only learn from it, but use it as a comfort object or a transition tool when we had to go out in the community. This thing taught her the ABCs in less than a week! Imagine my amazement when my non verbal 2 year old wakes up one morning and starts telling me all the letters on her alphabet poster. 
The IXL comes in pink, blue, or silver with the option of changing background colors on the screen

I personally would have never bought one of these for kiddo. She was a fresh 2 year old at the time when she received it, which seemed too young to me. With her level of communication, I would have never thought she would be able to do anything with it. I assumed she would look at it, try to play with it, get frustrated that she didn't understand it, and throw it to the ground. Her aunt and uncle got her one for Christmas after seeing how much their son loved it. I think this was one of the best gifts she could have gotten (thank you x1000!).

Using it during a hospital trip as a distraction

The way the IXL works is that you start off with their "Fisher Price no-name character" themed games and story. You can buy additional characters that have their own games and story as well, but it does come pre-loaded with general content. The way the child navigates the system is by which character they want. Once they pick that,  then they can choose a story (to be read to them, or a more interactive story), games, music, art studio, flash cards, piano player, virtual pet, spelling, writing practice, etc. There are so many features in this computer that it will keep your kid BUSY. It is easy to navigate with only a few buttons and the touch screen works well. There is a decent variety of characters so there should be something your kid likes. My daughter personally loves Kai Lan and the games that come along with her (making food, abc basketball). Handy Mandy also has a neat game where you can build cars and replace parts. You can't actually add any apps or games that aren't made for this computer. They do let you add music and pictures. Although I haven't tried, I've heard the picture feature doesn't work too well. The IXL also has a headphone jack, so this is perfect for kids who easily get overloaded and need to block out some unwanted noise.

Now...the complaint. It isn't a huge complaint, but it is hard to avoid and I guarantee every system will encounter this. The IXL comes with an SD card. This is what holds all of the memory for the computer. While this thing is built for being dropped, it still malfunctions sometimes when dropped. The SD card easily wiggles loose and it resets the system until you take the card out and put it back in. We've had it erase the games a few times but usually once you put the card back in, it will work. I recommend keeping extra batteries and a screwdriver on hand at all times.

So there you have it - Who knows, maybe in no time your kid will become a super genius. Probably not, but for those of us that can't afford an Ipad, this is probably the next best thing.

Quality bonding time with Daddy - note the android tablet that can't get any apps we need (no, I'm not bitter about him buying it, I swear...)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Seeking Sensory Input; At Home Edition

Kiddo craves movement. All the time. She is constantly running, spinning, jumping, crashing, swinging, flipping, etc. As I'm writing this, she is in the next room with daddy spinning in circles and crashing (unfortunately, she just crashed herself right into a wall).

Jump Jump Jump- Trampoline is from Walmart - $36

All of this feels good to her, more than it would for us. She uses these activities for two main reasons - self regulating and seeking input. It is more common for her to use it to regulate her body and feel comfortable again, but sometimes she seeks the sensory input from spinning fast or the repetitive motion of swinging back and forth. Sometimes she just wants to be rough-housed and thrown around to get that "deep pressure" feeling. Over time, we are starting to learn what she needs and when she wants it. Its important for a child to learn which ones soothe them and feel good. A lot of exposure at different times when experiencing different emotions is a good thing. Over time, they'll most likely find a way to communicate which ones they need. We use the same blanket to swing, and she eventually learned to bring it to us when she needs to calm down.

Swing, count to 10, then "crash" on the couch/bed. 

I hear a lot that you don't want to let an autistic kid spin too much or they will 'do it forever/more' or 'look funny when they go to school' or "get too excited". You want to let them do it and learn how to regulate their bodies. Over exposure can be bad, but you want to aim for 5-10 minutes, no more than 15 (this is advice straight from her therapist). Most kids will usually not go over 15 minutes but in some cases, they don't know when to stop. That is something to discuss with your child's OT and figure out a schedule. Every kid is different so you will want to talk to an OT about it if you have access to one. If not, there are some things you can still do. Just remember to listen and watch for cues from your child.

Some easy ways to do these at activities at home if you don't have access to private OT therapy:

- A Mini Trampoline
- Wrapping the child in a blanket, swinging to 10 and "crashing" on the couch/bed
- A Sit and Spin
- Spinning in a laundry basket
- Spinning on a computer chair
- Special needs treadmill (no power involved, but pricey)
- Swimming or water play
- Weighted Blanket (see below)
- Weighted lap pad or vest
- Smushing underneath a pillow
- Rough Play / Wrestling
- Throwing weights or a Medicine Ball (5pounds or under is good to start off with)
- Wrapping up in a blanket and rolling
- Pop Tube (Helps with pushing and pulling sensation)

Weighted blankets provide the perfect amount of all over pressure to the body

Weighted blankets are really great and I recommend them to everyone. Kiddo uses hers every day. Sometimes she will use it during the day to calm down, but mostly she asks for it at night. Weighted blankets are okay to use as much and as often and the child wants, unlike weighted vests which should be used for 20 minutes. They are safe to use all night long. A lot of times Kiddo will wake up if hers falls off. A good starting point is 10% of the child's weight + 1 pound.

Hopefully, after doing all of this HARD work throughout the day, your child will be tired and actually sleep. I wish this worked for mine but we did notice a decrease in night-wakings when we bought the trampoline. She no longer wakes up at 1am to jump on her bed for 3 hours. I'll take that as a positive!

Hey, at the very least, your kid will walk away with huge muscles...

*As an added note - I am not an OT, just a parent who is trying to help my kiddo make it through the day. If you have serious concerns or questions, please contact your doctor or local therapy center*

Monday, May 21, 2012

Body Painting Outside

It has been so ridiculously hot here and I'm starting to run out of ideas for outside projects that can be done in the blazing heat. My kid loves to bounce around a lot and can't quite focus on one activity for awhile, so she gets bored easily if she isn't in the pool. She also doesn't like messy projects. I decided to try "body painting" even though I didn't expect her to use her body at all. She surprised me though and painted her hands and feet! It didn't last too long before she started crying for her hands to be rinsed, but its progress! She still had fun!

Click on any picture to see the full size version

All we need for this project was a table cloth and some paint. We used a plastic one so we could rinse and reuse. We bought a large supply of paint at the dollar store just for projects like this. We have our "good" paint for actual projects, and our dollar store paint for bigger messy projects that we don't particularly care about the end result.

Enjoy and have fun!