Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Talent Show

Well, It takes a lot to top "Student of the Month", but I think Lizzie did it! She wanted to sing a Cinderella song, so we picked the Cinderella Dream song from the beginning of the movie. She practiced almost every day for weeks, and even had many rehearsals in front of family. She was so excited to sing and couldn't wait to get up in front of everyone! She just loves the attention and really did a great job. I think it will take plastic surgery to remove the smile from my face!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Student of the Month!

We were so proud of Lizzie that she was chosen as the Student of the Month. She did a great job at the assembly too.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Interviews with Lizzie

Lizzie was in a talkative mood about a month ago, so I couldn't help picking up the video camera and just chatting with her. She loved this, and she couldn't wait to watch herself on video.

Her conversational skills have improved so much this past summer. I have been enjoying having short little conversations with her every day. It is so neat that she is showing a real interest in others and willing to "just chat" with us.

Below is a video from April '09. You can see the difference in her ability to have a conversation in just five months! I am so thrilled with her increased desire to talk to me and the ability to answer questions more quickly.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pink Limousine!

When my oldest, Andy, was in kindergarten and Lizzie was three years old, I remember looking across the street at the school. The pink Sweet and Sassy limo would pull up. All the little girls were jumping up and down with excitement as they got in the limo to be whisked away to celebrate their friend's birthday.

It made me sad for so many reasons. I was sad because I had already missed out on so much of what the experience of having a girl was. I was sad because I did not know if Lizzie would ever have even one friend or if she would ever get invited to birthday parties. I was sad because we had no idea what the future held for Lizzie.

We have been so thankful that Lizzie has progressed so well over the last few years. Lizzie has a little friend, Olivia, that she just adores. The invitation came in the mail, and Lizzie was off in that pink limo celebrating Olivia's birthday.

I know it is strange for me, as a mom, to be so excited about this, but this "pink limo" represents so many of the hopes and dreams I have for Lizzie. It is a huge milestone!!! It is amazing to think that Lizzie is only six years old, she has a friend, and she is going to a participate in a party!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Autism File Photo Shoot

We had the most incredible time doing our own Autism File Shoot. Autism File called all autism mothers to unite in groups of six to demonstrate how we are strong and are 'Delivering Where Governments Have Failed'. I have relied on each of these amazing women (Tammy, Laura, MariAnn, Archana and Nagla) for support on this journey with Lizzie. I am so thankful for the amazing amount of knowledge each of these women have!!!

A huge thank you to HALEY B PHOTOGRAPHY!!! www.haleybphotography.com Haley did an amazing job taking our pics! Thank you Haley!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lizzie at VBS 2009

I am so proud of Lizzie. I was her "shadow" at VBS this week, and she did so great! This was the first year that she was actually interested in doing all the activities. It was incredible to stand there and watch her do the motions, sing the songs and enjoy it just like all the other kids!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Video: 6 Years Old - "Get back in bed!"

Lizzie loves it when her brothers, Andrew and Noah, get in trouble. She is a constant tattle-tale, and in play, she realized that she can get them in trouble over and over and over again. She loves me to play dollhouse with her and finds more and more ways to get the boys in trouble.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Who's to say what's "appropriate" anyway?!

I could not help starting to dream of Lizzie's future profession as a Park Ranger ever since we went camping last weekend. As I watched her in the wilderness, she just seemed to fit. It was like this was where she belonged.

There are so many things that make Lizzie a bit strange here in the suburbs or what we all call "real life". Many behaviors Lizzie exhibits are labeled as inappropriate by most professionals. I realized that if I place her in the right setting, her behavior is completely appropriate and even productive.

Lizzie can been seen many times throughout the week, walking around the outside of our house collecting sticks and leaves. I see this and try to encourage her to make "stick soup". I know that's just my need to make her fit into what I consider to be purposeful play. Although, let's be honest, I don't know how many people that are really gonna sit down and eat stick soup. Out there in the wilderness, this desire to pick up sticks is simply called collecting firewood.

Lizzie loves to climb. I often think that she looks around the room, finds the highest possible place and puts together a plan to get herself there. People might find it strange that the kitchen counters are sometimes her dinner table or that we allow Lizzie to sit on the top of the couch to watch TV. Yes, I will admit, her behavior does seem odd. But, while camping, this desire to climb is even esteemed as the extreme sport, mountain climbing.

Lizzie loves to throw rocks into the water. Each time we pass the little creek in our neighborhood, we have to stop and throw rocks in the water. She could do this for hours. Most would think that it is not normal to do this for such a long period of time. Afterall, there are so many more important, more productive activities we could be doing, right?  But, when camping, "skipping rocks" is considered a favorite past time! I think we could all do this for hours!

Why do we have to be so productive all the time anyway? What's wrong with collecting sticks, climbing and throwing rocks and just enjoying the earth that God provided for us?  Maybe Lizzie isn't as different as she is living in the wrong setting? Surely everyone is not made for the hustle and bustle of the life of the suburbs. With the constant over-scheduling of activities, maybe our kids with autism are made for a more simple life. A simple life that is probably more "appropriate" than the crazy lives of constant motion that most of us are living.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Video - 6 years old: What animal do I have?

Lizzie struggles with coming up with her own original thoughts. In an effort for her to at some point initiate and have a meaningful conversations with others, we work on this in a way that gently prompts her to come up with her own ideas instead of telling her to , "say _____". Not only had Lizzie become adverse to being told what to say, but she also wasn't learning to think for herself. I had to learn to wait a little longer for Lizzie's response. You'll see that it takes Lizzie much longer than the normal response time to process what is being asked of her and come up with something to say. It does feel awkward to wait so long, but it is always worth it when she gives a response that is all her own.

Video - 6 years old: Ladybug

Our therapist, Cristina, is working on turn-taking in conversation and maintaining a topic of conversation. You can tell by looking at Lizzie that she is not all that interested in talking about ladybugs, especially towards the end. Cristina does a good job of continuing to ask questions and softly prompting Lizzie to answer by taping her foot, saying her name or giving her an expectant look with her eyes and expectant sound with her voice. Since Lizzie is such a visual child, it really helps her to discuss topics if she is able look at the pictures in a book.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Video: 6 Years Old - Lizzie is Reading!

We had some family over last night, and Lizzie was so excited! She grabbed her newest book Go Dog Go and wanted to show everyone how she could read. Lizzie started reading to us over the Christmas break and continues to enjoy it every day. We are absolutely thrilled that she learned to read in her kindergarten year! This is only the second or third time Lizzie has read this book, and she does a great job of both sounding out and remembering the words.

Video: 6 Years Old - Unstructured Play

In this video, Lizzie has her friends Lillie and Natalie over to play. Cristina facilitates the play date. Lizzie is doing a better job of staying with and playing with her friends in an unstructured environment. In my opinion, this is where the true deficit of a person with autism is the most obvious. They either lack the desire to be with others and/or just don't know what to do with them once they are with others. It is our hope and prayer that Lizzie will eventually be indistinguishable from her peers even in unstructured environments.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Video: 6 Years Old - Monster - ahhh!

In this video from 02/09, Cristina is working with Lizzie on tolerating her bringing a new idea in play, engaging in play by using Cristina's ideas, building bridges between Cristina's ideas and hers and expanding play by bringing a new idea related to play that is connected to Cristina's idea. All that to say, she is really starting to do a great job with these concepts, and it is so much fun to see these things finally clicking for her!

Video: 6 Years Old - Planning Ahead

Lizzie is engaging in more complex planning ahead. This used to be extremely hard for her and when we started we had to work on one immediate future action at a time. She is able to plan ahead a whole scene here and stick to her plan in this video. Planning ahead is an extremely important organizational skill that takes so much time to teach. If you look back at the video posted on 12/1/2006, you will see Lizzie when this skill was first introduced. We started out with such simple things like saying, "I am going to touch your nose." We would then touch her nose. Amazing how far she has come. We are so thankful!

Video: 6 Years Old - Pretend Play

This first video is from when Lizzie was 3 1/2 years old in June of 2006. At this time, Lizzie never had much interest in playing the way a typical child would play. It was sad to realize that she didn't know how to play with toys. She especially didn't understand pretend play. You will see in this video, Allison is working on pretend play. Lizzie doesn't enjoy this, and the only way that she is willing to do this is if the thing she really wants to do is withheld from her, and then once she has completed the "task", she regains access to it.

The video below was taken in 02/09. You will see how far Lizzie has come with her play! She LOVES to pretend play with her dollhouse. In fact, she now spends hours playing each day. The play in itself is reinforcing and fun for her. This took years of therapy to achieve, and we are so thankful that Lizzie is able to engage with others in pretend play. The give and take required in pretend play transfers into life in so many ways. Such a difference!!! Yeah!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Video: 6 years old - The Mommy Role

The above videos are from October 2008. In the first video, Cristina introduces a new target of getting Lizzie to give instructions in play. You will see how she struggles to give instructions and Cristina then gives her choices and questions to prompt her. In the second video, Lizzie is able to assume the mommy role for a short time.

The next video, taken in February 2009, shows how Lizzie does a much better job assuming the mommy role for a longer time period and giving more instructions.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

VIDEO: Almost 6 years old - I want MY mommy!

In this video taken in October 2008, Cristina is working on variability of play and choices. Lizzie is the baby animal and she is trying to find her mommy. Lizzie has a specific animal that she thinks should be the mommy, and once Lizzie decides how something should be, she has trouble changing that plan without getting upset. In this video, she does a great job not melting down and finally accepts Cristina's animal as her mommy.

This type of play becomes so applicable in the real world. Just this past week, Lizzie started to get extremely anxious because they were moving the trash cans to a different location in the cafeteria. By working with Lizzie to accept changes in her plan in play, we are equipping her to handle the unplanned changes that occur in her everyday life.