When Little Man was diagnosed on the spectrum 3 1/2 years ago, we didn’t have much to work with. We were still trying to figure out all his issues and triggers. We started our journey with people – people who would help us figure all that stuff out. With the level of co-morbidity being high with spectrum kids, he was also diagnosed ADHD hyper type, and ODD. Our next tool in the toolbox thus became the ADHD meds, which we didn’t even have to research or discuss. Medication was a given. It helped him focus and settle in the classroom, which was a huge priority.
Our toolbox these days includes the ADHD medication, and a mood stabilizer. I’ve been questioned, guilted, sometimes harassed for our choice to medicate. My answer is and always has been, “Why would I withhold something that has proven itself a help to him, something that gives him confidence and control?” To that I also add, unless you’ve walked in our shoes, don’t question my choices, as well as this…he’s my kid, it’s my choice whether to medicate. It works for us. And no I don’t medicate just to make my life easier (which has been said to me on more than one occasion, seriously). When your child says thank you for helping him, and tells his teacher he can finally hear her, you’ll get it.
We also use some natural remedies. He’s taken melatonin before bed for a few years now. It isn’t always hugely successful, but it does help. Could some of that be purely psychological? I don’t have the answer to that one, and I don’t particularly care. It’s natural. It doesn’t hurt him. I’ve tried it myself, and found it a successful aid for sleep. A few months ago, we started using a blend of essential oils on bottom of his feet before bed each night. Ditto what I said about the melatonin. It doesn’t always work – last night is a great example. Is it a magic “cure”? Nope, not in the least. But it’s a tool, one which seems to sooth him and give some aid, so we use it. I think it’s become part of his nighttime routine, and we now how ASD peeps are about routine.
I bought him a weighted blanket last fall. He loves that thing. Moving it from one room to another makes me feel claustrophobic, but it helps him, so it’s in that toolbox as well. We didn’t take it with us to D.C. I had no idea how we would fit it into his suitcase or carry-on, much less if we would have to explain any of the contents of the blanket, so we left it at home. When he gets overly anxious, he will go get his blanket and sit under it until he’s settled down. It’s always on his bed at night.
He has a line-up of plush on his bed too. Typically one of the smaller ones will go to school with him. Jaws – the giant, fluorescent orange, plush shark – almost always travels with us. Jaws has been through the airport scanner quite a few times. His plushies are another item he will grab when he’s getting anxious. Just having something to hold onto seems to calm him.
Headphones used to be a daily part of our routine. His need for them has grown less, unless we know we’re going somewhere loud, and unexpected noises can be expected, or to the movies which seem loud even to me. I used to keep a pair of noise-blocking headphones in the car, one at the house, and one in his backpack just to be safe. Lord save us if we didn’t have them when he needed them.
Technology goes a long way in helping him decompress. iPad, iPod, his DS – all are frequent companions. although we will take them away if his behavior goes sideways after consistent use. It’s a double-edged sword. honestly. As much as technology helps him, it can also send him into a tailspin if he’s on it too long. Time limits are set. We make him break away and do other things as well. He loves his Legos, and is currently obsessed with making Five Nights at Freddy’s creatures out of graph paper. Trust me – I have Freddy’s characters ALL OVER MY HOUSE!
That’s pretty much our autism toolbox – medications, natural remedies, weighted blanket, plushies, headphones, paper, and technology. Oh, I almost forgot the food. I always have on hand goldfish crackers, saltines, bagels, chicken strips, olives, chicken noodle soup, green apples, pasta, and strawberries.
What’s in your toolbox?