Friday, August 02, 2013


So, sometime in June, Matt was hired on full-time at Adobe and we finally got real insurance. Which was awesome because I was able to do something that we have been wanting to do for a while. I called a bunch of places and found a child behavioral therapist for Nicole.

After getting her tested with the school district, we really wanted to get Nicole officially diagnosed. It wasn't that we didn't believe the results of her earlier testing, it was that we want a real diagnosis from a doctor for our own comfort and for Nicole. Putting a name to the issues we have been dealing with with Nicole.

So, we took Nicole in to therapy and the doctor tested her while Matt and I filled out our own tests. It went very similar to what we went through at the school district, but it took a lot less time and it was a lot easier because we didn't have Dan there dying to be entertained by us.

The doctor determined that Nicole does indeed have Aspergers, or high functioning autism. It goes by two names. It was what we already knew, so it wasn't a surprise, it was more of a relief. It was a relief because most people are surprised when they find out that Nicole is autistic and some were even skeptical of the diagnosis, so we can say with assurity that yes, Nicole has Aspergers.

The doctor said that he knew right away when he met her because of her behavior and mannerisms, but the test confirmed it. What does this mean? It means what we already knew. Nicole has trouble with new things, with change, and has a difficult time adapting. She has high anxiety and can easily be over stimulated which results in melt downs or tantrums. She has trouble with physical coordination and is prone to clumsiness. And a bunch of other stuff that comes along with Aspergers.

We have been going to therapy with her regularly and I must admit that it is really more for Matt and I then it is for Nicole. The sessions involve Matt and I talking to the doctor and getting ideas of things to try each week to help Nicole overcome her anxiety and improve her overall happiness.

Some of the things that we have been doing...

Reward System: We started a new reward system with Nicole, per the doctor's recommendation. I was doing a sticker chart system with her, but we have switched to punch cards. She has three different cards that she works on: Following Directions, Eat Your Food, and Look in the Eyes. The cards have 20 spots that I punch out with a heart punch when she does the indicated action. Then, when she gets all the punches, she gets a little candy. This has helped immensely! She tries really hard to get punches and finishes about a punch card a day, so she is getting a lot of rewards which pushes her to try harder to earn punches.

Social Stories: We wrote a book with Nicole and illustrated it that is supposed to help her with something that we are working on with her. We wrote one for bedtime as it still takes around 1 to 2 hours for her to fall asleep every night. It has helped a lot with her being able to relax and stay calm at bedtime as she often has a lot of anxiety about going to bed and falling asleep.

Playdates: Part of Nicole's therapy is to have lots of playdates with structured play (play with games and rules instead of freeplay). I have set up a lot of playdates for her, but I have had to cancel all of them this month because Nicole has been sick a lot this last month. So, this is one that I am still trying to accomplish. It is also a lot of work for me. Not only do I have to set up a playdate, but I need to set up games or activities for the kids to do. But, I will do it because I can be super mom. The mom who is very involved in my kids play and activities and also does the housework and the cooking and also looks good.... okay, I can maybe do some of those things. I am trying here.

Worries: We are working on relieving Nicole's anxiety. We are starting "worry time" where Nicole can express her worries to us so that they don't weigh on her so much. So far, Nicole has a hard time thinking of what worries her unless she is worried in the moment. We will keep trying on this and hope that it helps.

It is a lot of work for Matt and I. We have to actively try new things every week and change our routines and I have to give Nicole a lot of attention everyday. Sometimes I feel bad for poor Dano because I have to put so much time and attention into Nicole that I don't have as much time to play with Dano. Luckily, during the week, Matt is home and he plays with Dano a lot while I work with Nicole.

Despite that it is a lot of work, I think that therapy has really helped. Before, I just didn't know what to do when Nicole continued to have meltdowns and crying fits and tantrums and was afraid of everything. Now, we actually have a plan and tools and tactics to help Nicole. Plus, Nicole starts public preschool soon, which I am really nervous about, so I am hoping therapy will help us help Nicole adjust to this new change.

So, one of the really cool things about Aspergers is that Nicole is super smart. During her testing with the doctor, he rated her at a 9 year old intelligence. She is just so smart. This month, she taught herself to read. She just started sounding out short words all by herself. We have been working so hard on behavior that we haven't had the time to work on academics. So, I guess she just figured it out and started doing it. I need to find the time to teach her more because she absorbs information like a sponge.

So, we are moving forward and trying hard to make things better for Nicole and for ourselves as it is not easy some days.


Marie said...

How does a kid teach themselves how to read?! I don't know, but I know she's done it because she read the word "coffee" on the Bohnanza card. She's amazing!

Lisa D said...

I'm so glad you are making progress with her. You are a good mother and you care about her. I think you guys are doing great.