Vision Therapy

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When Caleb was 5, he had a vision test as a part of his preschool; he did not pass. I let him wear my old glasses, and suddenly he could see the television. I hadn’t realized that he stopped watching tv because he couldn’t actually SEE the tv. I felt like the worst parent in the world.

I have a lazy eye that was corrected with vision therapy back in 1986 (yes, I’m old); I contacted my old vision therapist and asked him if he knew of any optometrists that specialize in autistic patients. He gave me the name of Dr. Dragoo who works out of the Sears in the Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, MI.

Right away, Dr. Dragoo put all of us at ease. She could tell that Caleb needed glasses; his prescription was -2.oo in each eye. At first, Caleb was very rough on his glasses and broke them a lot. We were a little smart and got insurance on one of the pairs of glasses. This last time, we got 2 pairs and both got the insurance. Trust me, it is sooooo worth it. Because, honestly, Caleb can’t always control his impulses and I would rather set him up for success than have unrealistic expectations.

Dr. Dragoo also stated that Caleb needed vision therapy. It seems that at some age, children transition from touch as their main source of sensory input to sight being their main source. Caleb never made that transition. This is why Caleb feels the need to touch everything; he cannot just sit in his seat and take in the information. His brain doesn’t work that way.

Caleb goes to vision therapy once a week at Focus Academy. We also have daily exercises that we do with Caleb. That said, Caleb gets migraines, and we don’t make Caleb do homework or eye therapy when he has a migraine.

We have been going to vision therapy for about 8 months now and we have seen some amazing results. His vision did get a bit worse, but he was able to tell us, and we got him new glasses. We are also making sure that Caleb doesn’t stand too close to the television; it is important for him to pick an object to focus on and interpret.

For our family, the limitations of therapy are financial. We are only able to afford one appointment a week; if you are able to do more, I would. We believe that all kinds of therapy are extremely beneficial.

Study Time: Reframing Homework

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Because Caleb is insanely smart, my husband and I have worked to develop curriculumĀ  that best suits his educational needs. Yes, he has a parapro at school, but what we are working with is a contextual issue. Caleb needs to attend public schools in order to learn how to properly interact with his peers.

However, the school is not an environment that is best suited for Caleb learning information or skills. This is where Amazon and Costco truly shine; they both sell workbooks that allow you to teach your child an array of skills without having to develop your own lesson plans.

The school did provide us with the first grade math workbooks, but we have blazed through those. We are now working on multiplication and division. Some workbooks focus on one subject, like addition or geography; there are also workbooks for each grade which are also incredibly helpful.

I have also found that flash cards are a great way to help reinforce information. With young children, Behaviorism usually works best; performance is the best indicator of success. It is all about practice, doing the same drills over and over again.

We keep a token economy at home, where he can earn (or lose) stars based upon performance. We use the I Can Do It chart at home. We first used a variety of activities, but now we just have one main theme of “No Mean Words,” and all of the stars go into the same pot. Caleb can exchange 10 stars for one book, or he can exchange stars for money which he then uses to pay for excursions to the aquarium or Legoland, etc.

At 3:30pm everyday, we have “study time.” Caleb can choose 2 of the 7 listed possible subjects, which include addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, handwriting, reading, and geography. We also so vision therapy everyday. He controls which subject matter we study first, and I give him the time he needs to answer the questions. Being patient is not a strong suit of mine, but with autistic children, you need to relax and let them answer in their own time. I’m talking like 2-3 minutes, maximum.

The 4 cornerstones of motivation are challenge, curiosity, fantasy, and control. Malone only uses 3, but I have added “control.”

Challenge: Make sure that the subject matter is appropriate for their abilities. It should push them, but not too hard. They should have relative success in the end, even if it is a bit rocky in the beginning.

Curiosity: Be sure to pick a subject matter that is interesting to your child. Maybe they are not crazy about math, but they love Pokemon, so counting Pokemon is a great place in the middle. A lot of autistic children are naturally attracted to electronics; educational games on my son’s Kindle helped him learn how to read at age 2 1/2. Do not discount how helpful electronics can be, as autistic children are not the same as their neurotypical counterparts.

Fantasy: This refers to anything that doesn’t already exist; by taping into a child’s creative side, you allow them to think about the future they want. This may be as simple as thinking up numbers to add together or as complicated as an art project.

Control: Allow your child to have some influence over the subject matter they learn, including how to learn it (workbook, flashcards, problem solving, etc). By giving them ownership, they will be more intrinsically motivated to learn.

The Best Gf/Cf Cookies

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The best chocolate chip cookies, hands down, are the Kinnikinnick cookies. These cookies are a lot like the Chips Ahoy! cookies I grew up with. They are relatively small, which is great for young kids. They are a hard cookie; if you prefer a softer cookie, Live G Free has some snickerdoodles and double chocolate cookies that are also delicious. Glutino cookies typically are not casein-free, so always always always read the labels.

In addition to the chocolate chip cookies, we also love the Kinnikinnick animal crackers and sandwich cookies. Pretty much anything by Kinnikinnick is delicious.

Happy snacking!

Gluten-free Pasta

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When it comes to gluten-free pasta, it has improved a lot over the past couple years. For a while, we depended on Trader Joe’s rice pasta and their rice/quinoa blend. We tried various Whole Foods brands, but the pasta was always gummy and didn’t taste very good.

In walks Barilla. Oh my, what a difference! The pasta tastes almost like normal wheat pasta; it is soft but still al dente. There are various types of gluten-free Barilla pasta, including spaghetti, rotini, penne, elbows, and fettuccine.

Gluten-free/Casein-free Diet

When we first learned that Caleb was autistic, the first thing my husband and I did was research everything and anything that we could do ourselves to help Caleb. We decided to try everything that seemed like it might work, because what it did? So when we read a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggested a gluten-free/casein-free diet. We thought that it was a fairly easy and inexpensive food plan to try, so what did we have to lose?

It took about 2-3 weeks until we noticed a difference, but what a difference it was! Gluten and casein don’t cause allergy symptoms and don’t affect the intelligence of the child. However, we found that Caleb’s behavior was much more under control without gluten and casein.

It is hard for Caleb since he cannot eat the same food as his friends, but we have found some really delicious gluten-free/casein-free foods; look under the “reviews” section to find which food items are the best.

Twice in the past few years we have tried letting Caleb have dairy, and it ended in disaster. His behavior was so affected that the teacher contacted us to see if something was wrong at home.

There is no true evidence that a gluten-free/casein-free diet has any affect on kids with autism. This has to be a personal decision made with your family and doctor. In our house, we have found it to be worth it. After all, so many problems with autistic people involves gut bacteria so it makes sense that food they ingest will have an imp

A Little About Me

CalebMom02My name is Jessica. My son, Caleb, is a 6-year-old with high functioning autism. Originally diagnosed with severe autism, Caleb’s future seemed limited and scary. That is when my husband and I decided to do whatever it takes to help Caleb develop the tools he needs to lead a fulfilling life. I quit my schooling and became a homemaker, a role I had never been attracted to before. In this house, pretty much everything revolves around Caleb, because that is the choice we are making. Caleb has this small window when he can make significant strides that have a lasting impact upon his life. So, for now, it