Saturday, 26 October 2013

Follow Your Instincts

There is all sorts of parenting advice out there but the best advice is to follow your instincts and do what you believe is right for your child.  There will always be fads.  This is especially true with autistic children.

I guess we practiced our own version of attachment parenting. 
I nursed Micah on demand and for a very long time each session.  It could be as often as every 15 minutes.  It was torture and I was very frustrated and irritable but I wouldn’t have done it any other way.  I believe it has helped our current relationship because I met her needs and because of having so much time together.
At the hospital, after she was born, she nursed constantly and would be latched on for up to an hour at a time.  The nurses told me Micah was using me as a soother and not just for food.  She wasn’t even a day old and they basically told me she was already manipulating me!  I knew they were wrong.  She obviously needed to do it for some reason, even if we didn’t know what it was.

Our Public Health Nurse (PHN)/Lactation Consultant was able to come to the house a few days later and even though the nurses at the NICU had said Micah was latched on properly, she wasn’t.  She was only getting a little bit of milk at a time.  It was good she was constantly nursing so she was able to get the food she needed- good survival instinct!  If I had only fed her on a schedule then she would have ended up back in the hospital from dehydration and weight lose.

She also needed to nurse so much to meet her sensory needs and her stomach was probably sore because we didn’t know for quite a while that she has celiac disease and other food intolerances.  So even though the latch was fixed she still nursed a lot.  I didn’t sleep much especially at first.
Our PHN was very supportive and she recommended nursing on demand and co-sleeping.  Co-sleeping made it so I could get some sleep.  I co-slept and then slept on a separate bed in the same room as Micah until she was six and we moved to a new house.  At that point, we transitioned her to being on her own in her room but with her service dog so she wasn’t completely alone. 

The big thing when Micah was born, was to Ferberize your baby so it would sleep through the night.  There was no way that was happening in our house and I didn’t have to sleep with her forever as some people would have you believe.  She did it when she was ready.
Everything we did was what Micah needed at the time. Not just something she wanted.

Our PHN also recommended baby led weaning which was something we believed would be good for Micah.  She mostly nursed for soothing as she got older and I’m sure she had a sore stomach too.  Some people believe that if you let the child nurse until they are ready to stop, they will be teenagers and still nursing!  We did have an interruption, when she was almost two, so that I could have my thyroid treated with radioactive iodine but she went right back to nursing as soon as she was allowed.  That was the first time she was depressed.  It is awful that a two year old can suffer from depression.  She had to learn to drink out of a cup because she would never take a bottle and rarely would take a soother.
She weaned herself soon after starting school at age four.  She had other, more important things to do!

Throughout her younger years, we had various people telling us that Micah was manipulating us and demanding attention.  No, she did what she needed to do in order to get her needs met.  She needed reassurance; needed to feel safe.  The world didn’t feel safe or comfortable.
We didn’t leave Micah with babysitters until she was at least three or four.  She wasn’t comfortable with others.  We had to find the right person who would play what she wanted, at her level.  None of the babysitters were horrible but some only came once because Micah did not like them.  Usually because they either didn’t play with her or didn’t let her direct the play.

All autistic kids are different and Micah did not play at all on her own.  We always had to play with her and she always had to direct the play.  It worked out for me because of my lack of imagination, although it was repetitive- it was a section of movie or tv show acted out with animals.  She didn't play with dolls.
Although, we have been careful to pay attention to Micah’s needs, we have also messed up.  I have yelled at her.  Not good, but no one is perfect.  The constant crying and meltdowns, especially when she was younger caused serious sensory overload in me.  I have my own issues so that makes things worse.

And still, even and especially, after her diagnosis, we get told she is manipulating us.  She is just trying to get her needs met, not making some evil plan to dominate us! 
We have been told that some of her aggression is attention seeking and also manipulative.  No, it is due to anxiety and sensory overload.

We have tried to support Micah the best we can without knowing the exact cause of her aggression and meltdowns.  She is a completely different person in a severe meltdown and doesn't remember what goes on.  It is not done on purpose to hurt people.
Over all I think we have done a good job raising Micah.  She is doing well.  She may have a little too much self-esteem if that is possible!  She likes to remind us that she is awesome!

I think she is doing fine.