It’s been a while since I’ve updated Autism Mom Diaries. So much has happened since November, the biggest change, no doubt, being the coronavirus outbreak. Let me detail some of Ethan’s developments since November, including how we’ve coped with the COVID-19 situation until the present time.
- We got our new Doberman puppy, Atlas, in January as 9-week-old pup. Ethan didn’t have a huge reaction when we picked him up. In fact, Ethan did not like the experience at all, because it was in unfamiliar territory. I had to bring him to the car and feed him Ritz crackers to get him to calm down. One of his therapists told me it was not unusual for a child on the spectrum to completely ignore pets, and this is what Ethan did for the first couple of months. Gradually we saw Ethan warm up to Atlas, from first touching his tail, to now wrestling and playing with him and crying whenever he goes out to go potty. He sometimes gives Atlas his toys to play with him. A boy and his dog cannot be separated, and we definitely cannot be happier over Ethan fully embracing Atlas as his canine sibling. Today, Ethan started saying the word “doggie.”
- Ethan has been learning so many new words, added two private speech sessions a week to his weekly therapy routine (now doing teletherapy), and has begun to experiment more with different sounds. Some new words apart from “doggie,” a clear version of “up,” bubbles, cake, okay, yeah, and heeyo go (for here you go). He is able to name the objects in his flash cards 70% correctly, invented a song whose lyrics consist of “little truck, little truck,” is experimenting with different pitches in singing, and finishes some of the sentences in his favorite Peppa Pig and Do Not Touch the Dinosaurs book when his ABA therapist reads it. He says “Wa” or “Ga” for water. We love his speech therapists: Miss Lisa from LAUNCH and Miss Ashley from Lynne Alba!
- Ethan has been doing teletherapies with Lynne Alba Speech Therapy, Kids in Motion, and just starting last week, Torrance Memorial for feeding and LAUNCH preschool (virtual classroom including IEP services). You can imagine how busy our teletherapy schedule is! I’ve had to keep close track of all his session times. The first video session was very challenging, and admittedly slightly frustrating because Ethan was turning his back and really didn’t want to engage. It made me think that he probably thought that the screen was showing a routine YouTube video. As we do more of the video sessions, Ethan’s attention is getting better, although he is starting to see a pattern in the frequency of video sessions, and runs away when he sees he has to do some work. The good thing about it is I get to practice some of my pediatric OT skills at home with Ethan. I purchased adaptive scissors, shaving foam, texture books, a Thomas The Train sensory tunnel and collected some items that we already had at home based on a list provided by his OT at LAUNCH. We’ve been incorporating cutting into his daily activities at ABA therapy.
- We have continued ABA services. We took a two week break at the beginning of the Safer at Home California lockdown but we started back up again after that. I decided that Ethan’s ABA therapy is indispensable and has to continue, while exercising all the necessary precaution with the ABA therapist coming to our home. From 3.5 hours a day, we had his hours increase to 5 hours a day for a total of 25 hours a week, since we have more time with school being closed. His teacher said that this would prepare him to come back to school in-person when schools open, and he has been showing significant progress with the extra hours of ABA. We opened up the goal of potty training, are taking walks during the warm spring days, and incorporated school arts and crafts into his goals. He’s been able to sit on the potty for at least three minutes, and is slowly mastering the steps to using the potty! We are still not ready put underwear over his pull-ups as the ABA manager recommended, but we will do so once he masters the steps in going to the bathroom.
- Ethan has definitely come a long way from depending on milk and Pediasure for sustenance to having more than ten foods that he consistently accepts. His “tolerate” food list is also quickly growing. With the help of his feeding therapist from Torrance Memorial, we were able to eliminate the bottle, transition him to a sippy cup, and have been slowly adding new foods every couple of weeks. His staple is still fried rice with sausage, egg, carrots and green onion, but we have been able to sneak in quinoa, edamame, cauliflower and broccoli rice, and bits of chicken thigh into the rice we make for him. He also did a complete 180 and stopped drinking milk and now only drinks water. Now one of his ABA goals drinking milk! Isn’t that funny? Here are some new foods that he accepted in the past few months:
- Fried rice from Sam’s Club which includes edamame
- Ritz with peanut butter
- Hash browns
- Fried rice and chicken from Panda Express
- Yoshinoya – including beef and cabbage
- Chow mein
- Coffee cake (my husband made it and is quickly becoming his favorite)
- Orange chicken
- Filipino chicken stew with rice
- Steve, Ethan’s Dad also had to give him a COVID-19 haircut. With all the barbers and kids’ salons closed, we had no choice! Even if it had a few irregularities it came out pretty well!
And finally, a milestone in Ethan’s development, he finally dropped his nap! He stopped sleeping whenever we would try to get him to nap so we just let him remain awake during the day. He used to nap from 4pm-7pm after ABA therapy. The great thing is, he has more time for therapies and he sleeps faster and better at night.
There are tougher days than others, but we are grateful for Ethan’s consistently cheerful demeanor. He is like a little ray of sunshine in those bleak days, but we remain optimistic and positive through the COVID-19 crisis. Keeping a consistent schedule and actively collaborating with his therapists and teachers has helped a lot. Ethan’s playtime in the backyard has become essential and is a way to ease cabin-fever. Making use of the extra time to do some one-on-one goal targeting has helped in his progress. Hopefully, by the time I post my next update, things will be better.