Thursday, July 9, 2015

What's Joshua Like?

I think upon hearing the word "autism" one can immediately have a certain picture in their head.  At least I used to.  But all people on the spectrum are different.  And while talking to my counselor recently, I realized that she (and probably others) has the wrong idea about what Joshua is like. So today, I'm going to tell you all about him. And I think it's going to challenge your view of these kids.

From birth, Joe and I have always described Joshua as laid back. He still is.

See?  Right there.  You weren't expecting that.  I wouldn't either.  I know that doesn't square with all of my talk about his fierce tantrums.  But really, those are just a small, small portion of his life.

He has always been very happy-go-lucky with lots of smiles and laughter.  Like G (and unlike Baby A), he is a snuggler.  Today we spent about 30 minutes with him laying against me on the bed while I read and he played iPad. He loves to be tickled and thrown around. He's quiet a lot of the time because he doesn't really talk, but can go through periods during the day with LOTS of loud, happy outbursts.  More and more these outbursts are words:  "Yucky!" "Yes!" "Jaaaahsh" (Josh) "Mickey!" "1-2-3!", etc. He wakes up at 5:45 am every morning and runs down the hall towards our room saying "Daddeee! Daddeee!"

Joshua LOVES to play with his siblings and other kids.  He doesn't have the skills to do it on his own, but when we facilitate he can play a mean game of chase or wrestle. And actually he has been reciprocating with William (age 2) lately.

He can now get in his car seat, has been opening the front door (oh dear), and is getting much better about sticking near us in public. They call him "Joshie" at school and he loves it there. He loves to be outside and will walk anywhere holding your hand. He has always, always been drawn to music and I can't wait for the day that he can pick up an instrument. He has deep connections with those he is in a relationship with. When he wants to, he makes STELLAR eye contact. And as Mary says, it's like he looks into your soul with those big blue eyes.

He is comfortable with new people.  If you engage with him, he's cool with you.

His favorite thing to watch right now is the Kids TV 123 channel on YouTube. It is full of educational songs, simply illustrated, and some with catchy tunes. Actually, all 3 kids like it.  Besides Mickey Mouse, it's the one "show" they agree on.  Joshua has been singing along to many of these songs and repeating words from them at random times.  Most memorably, "Yucky! Yucky! Yucky!" all through church.

We always tell him he's going to get by in life on his good looks.

We have been doing some potty training.  And I use the term "training" very loosely. There is no underwear involved and it's all very laid back.  Basically, we sit him on the potty with the iPad several times a day.  Sometimes he does some business, sometimes he doesn't.  If he does, we make a big deal and he gets a few m&ms.  If he doesn't, we just get him off and put his diaper back on.  We started the process because, without going into detail, he started showing some signs that maybe he was done wearing a diaper.  The difficult part is communication...because he's not great at it...doesn't see the value in it a lot of the time. If he is regularly using the potty by the fall, we will start the hard core portion of training, with his teacher leading it from school.

We're working on starting ABA therapy with Joshua. It's complicated to explain, but it is one of the only medically proven therapies to help people on the autism spectrum.  Joshua already receives some ABA therapy at school, but we (and his other therapists/teachers) believe he would REALLY REALLY benefit from a more intensive approach: one on one, several hours a week. The hard part is that it is cost prohibitive without insurance.  We do pay for some therapy out of pocket, but ABA is thousands a month and that is just not possible.  Interestingly, most of the states mandate that insurance companies must cover autism therapy.  However, Blue Cross (and most other federal government providers) realized they didn't have to provide coverage because they aren't a state, so they DON'T.  Shady, but true. We believe there is one insurance option for us that will help pay, but of course we won't be able to get started until January 1st.  We're thankful for advocacy groups like Autism Speaks, without whom I doubt any insurance companies would cover therapy for children on the spectrum.

In the meantime we're hoping to hire a local special ed grad student out of George Mason to hang out with Joshua a couple of days a week.  This will accomplish a few things: another person for Joshua to interact with, someone with knowledge in the field to work with him, and it gives Joe and I a little bit of a break.

If you haven't met Joshua in person, I really hope you do some day.  He is a joy.

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