Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Follow me on Twitter and my Facebook page...

Due to lack of time, I haven't been able to update my blog in quite some time.  It is much easier to update via my Facebook page: and I have recently started a Twitter account @giraffessong

Some day I hope to return to blogging here, but for now, if you would like to continue to follow our journey, please visit me on Twitter and Facebook.

Thank you for all of your continued support.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"It's Just a Phase"...

I recently gave birth to my fourth child, Matthew, and I thank God every day for the wonderful blessings I have been given.  I consider myself lucky to have both NT (neurotypical) children, as well as a child with special needs.  I believe that this gives me a unique perspective on what it is like to raise children.  I do not, however, claim to be an expert on child-rearing; I am just grateful that I am able to experience both of these scenarios.

I have always believed, and heard from other parents, that having a special needs child teaches us many life lessons.  I know that I have certainly learned a lot from Katelyn, given her dual diagnoses of PDD-NOS (autism) and psychiatric illness (psychosis).

This morning after getting Katelyn and Ashley ready for school, I had a realization that I've known for a long time, but never knew how to make sense of it or put it into words.  It seems pretty obvious now, but it came over me like an epiphany this morning.

When a parent of a "typical" child worries about their child being addicted to their binky or not being potty-trained at age 3, etc., we often comfort them with phrases such as, "Don't worry, she will NOT be walking down the aisle with a binky in her mouth," or "No one wears diapers at their high school graduation!"  These phrases imply that there is no doubt, it is a fact, that these typical children will eventually outgrow these issues, that these are in fact normal stages in life that are certain to improve over time, and in the short term no less.  The reality that "this will not last forever" helps the parents to get through the rough time, knowing they can look forward to a brighter future where binkies and diapers are a thing of the distant past.

Here's the kicker.  When parenting a special needs child, the concept of "normal" development flies right out the window.  There is no such thing as "it is just a phase" when it comes to a special needs child.  No one can offer you the same comfort that your child will not be wearing diapers at their high school graduation, or that they will even graduate at all.  For some of our children, it is an unfortunate reality that they will never outgrow these "phases."

Given that I have 4 very young children, I find myself using these comforting phrases quite often with regards to my typical children.  Ashley, 3 years old, is at the dramatic "I'm the boss" stage, and Trevor, 2 years old, is at the screaming, tantruming stage.  What gets me through the day when Ashley and Trevor are having "difficult" days is reminding myself that "this is only a phase," and that they will soon outgrow this behavior as they continue to develop.  However, I realized that I never say that about Katelyn when she is having a difficult day, which is an everyday occurrence, some days worse than others.  

Special needs kids present a laundry list of challenges, whether it be behavior, self-care, cognitive functioning, etc., and one of the hardest things to deal with as a parent of these special children is not being able to reassure yourself, or your concerned family members and friends, that "this is just a phase."  There is no such thing as a "phase" for these children. In some cases, it is obvious that the child will never be able to function independently, toilet-train, live on their own, etc.  In other cases, like ours with Katelyn having psychiatric issues involving psychosis, there is a huge question mark, a big unknown about what her future will hold for her.  Will she live independently?  Will she marry and have children?  Will she be able to attend regular public school one day and graduate?  Who knows.  In either case, I believe it is the lack of being able to reassure oneself that these day-to-day challenges are simply a phase, a stage, something that will eventually dissipate and life will be easier some day.  

Again, being a mom of both special needs and typical children, I can appreciate both sides of the coin.  I know what it is like to be able to tell myself this is only temporary, life will get easier, the kids will outgrow this, and I also know what it is like to have to face the reality that some things will never change and could even get harder in the future.  

I felt the need to share my realization, not to depress the parents of special needs children or to make parents of typical children feel pity, but to put into words what sometimes is hard to understand, even when you are living it day after day.  I hope this post is helpful to others.  It has been helpful for me to write it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Results From Neuropsych Evaluation...

This past Wednesday, we met with the neuropsychologist for the feedback session to discuss the results of Katelyn's recent neuropsych evaluation. The doctor confirmed that, in addition to PDD (autism spectrum), Katelyn DOES have psychosis. She said that it is still too early to determine a specific diagnosis, such as schizophrenia, but that she is definitely responding to hallucinations, or what the doctor preferred to call "extra-sensory experiences" that make Katelyn afraid and do bad things. At this point, she will keep the PDD diagnosis, but her diagnosis could change in the future since childhood schizophrenia and PDD have many overlapping symptoms. The doctor talked about how rare childhood psychosis is, and then when you couple it with PDD, it is even more rare to see this in a child her age (5 years old). She also talked about Katelyn's extreme level of anxiety, which we already were aware of. Who wouldn't be anxious with what she is going through?

Even though this has been suspected for quite some time and I knew in my gut that Katelyn was having hallucinations, it is a bittersweet feeling to finally have confirmation. Having been told by so many "professionals" in the past that, "Oh, that is just autism," it is reassuring and validating to finally have doctors agree that this odd behavior is NOT autism at all. However, it is still difficult to hear that your child truly is suffering from psychosis. It doesn't change anything about how we all love Katelyn and who she is; it just means that we will need to continue to fight harder and harder to ensure that she gets all of the services she needs to reach her fullest potential. It will be a life-long journey for her, but we will all be here to help her navigate through her perceived world and reality.

Thank you to all of you for your support over the years.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Another Video of Katelyn...

Here is another video of Katelyn I put together to hopefully help her doctors to determine what is going on with her. It is less than 10 minutes long, but shows a pretty good amount of her odd behaviors and language. There is no question this is not a characteristic of her autism, but it is becoming more apparent as she gets older that it could be psychosis/hallucinations.