Welcome to my blog!

A blog about our busy family with two amazing kids, one of whom happens to have Down syndrome!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Service dog update!

I thought I blogged about this, but I just realized I didn't! Here's a good explanation of how Lauren, Monte, and I work as a triad team.


The thin leash on the left is attached to Monte's head collar. (It can look a little like a muzzle, but it's similar to a horse bridal in that it just allows us to "steer" him by the head rather than his neck. He can open his mouth fully with this on.) I always have full control of this leash, I wear it as a hands-free leash, it goes on like a cross body bag, so I have full use of my hands (necessary for all kids, especially kids like Lauren, lol).

The thicker leash you see on the right is connected around Lauren's waist and attaches to a silver loop on Monte's pack. This physically stops her from eloping. He will either stand and refuse to move or lay down if she tries. Generally, if we're just all walking, he just walks at a normal pace. If she starts to bolt, he resists and then I can then stop and talk to her, get more on eye level, and try to talk through the problem.

When they aren't tethered, he will stand in front of her and physically block her from eloping. He's only actually had to do this a couple times. The truth is, when he's with us, she's much less likely to run. She loves him and he gives her a sense of purpose and responsibility. There's a small handle on his pack that she will sometimes hold onto. Other times she'll hold onto his leash with me. Other times she will just rest a hand on him. Other times she will just walk next to him. This can be tricky, because usually then he tries to block her (even when not neccesary) and just gets in front of her and she gets irritated. It's a bit of a work in progress, I think he feels like he needs to be touching her or connected to her while we're out in public. Lauren generally goes with the program! The only time we really force the tethering on Lauren is if we're somewhere where we KNOW it's going to be hard for her. Church is rough because it's loud, crowded, and generally a huge trigger. Places like Target, etc that can be quieter she tends to listen a little better. But she also knows she gets no chances. If she tries to elope, they get hooked together. And sometimes we give her a choice and she will choose to be tethered to him.

My picture says autism anchor dog. That's technically what Monte is. Lauren doesn't have autism, but kids with Down syndrome can (and Lauren does) share a lot of characteristics with someone on the autism spectrum. Lauren tends to elope, she has sensory issues, she wanders (different from eloping), she has meltdowns. Monte helps her with all of this. The sensory input of Monte's fur helps give her sensory input. If she's freaking out because something is loud, or hurts, or is bothering her, she can pet or hug him and he calms down her overactive sensory system. He blocks others from getting too close to her during a meltdown or when we're out in public. (As you probably know, Lauren is not your "they're always so sweet" kid with Down syndrome. She likes her personal space from strangers.) He stops her from eloping (running away). He stops her from wandering (aimlessly wandering away from us because she can be so off focus and off task that she doesn't generally realize that she's walking away from us and into danger).

Basically, he's her lifeline. Where she goes, he goes (outside of school and brave moments on my part). He seems a little lost without her sometimes during the day and he'll wander around the house. He loves his downtime, don't get me wrong! And he can be a crazy dog when he's "off duty". But he luckily really has a drive to work and is amazing as soon as we give him the "dress" command and put his gear on.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Why?

I had my tonsils out one week ago today. If anyone ever tells you, as an adult, to have a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy...JUST SAY NO.

Seriously. I'm a week out and it's still pure misery.

And on top of that, both kids now have strep! Thank God I'm already on antibiotics since my surgery. Both kids are now also on antibiotics.


This picture is from Friday. It was a sad, yet extremely snuggly day. Ryan's usually a champ when he's sick, but not so much this time. He's been pretty low key, but has perked up significantly. Lauren is back to her normal (wild) self. Both kids will be going to school tomorrow and I can convalesce in peace.

My mom took Lauren home with her today for like 4 hours, which was amazing. I was feeling so horrible and so was Ryan. Lauren wasn't, which is amazing, but she's hard to keep up with when I'm not post-op! Monte was lost, poor guy. He likes to be touching her, or at the very least, sitting underneath her at the table. He even lays down by the bathroom door while she's going potty, forcing her to touch him to step over him or make him move. If she's not around, I'm his person and I've been lazing around. I feel so bad, I know he's bored out of his mind. He (thankfully) is a dog that loves to work, so a full week with no public access has been terrible for him. Luckily he had a full weekend prior to my surgery, but I still feel bad. I need to drag myself to the grocery store and bring him while the kids are at school sometime this week. If we have spells like this, Greg or I (or both of us) will take him places like the grocery store, the mall, out to dinner, etc to work on/keep up with his training. Restaurants are a great place for training because it's great distraction/leave it training. And he's already so well behaved while "dressed" that he's no bother anyways. Last time we took him out to eat our server was absolutely shocked at the giant dog that left with us. It was a great compliment!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The magic of kindergarten

Lauren is officially a kindergartener. School started about 2 weeks ago. She is LOVING it! And Greg and I both feel like she's made huge gains since starting. She can count to 10 flawlessly, her ABC's are getting so much better, she can draw a person with a face, she can trace "Lauren" really well independently. And her speech is getting better by the day.

I really love her teacher, I get pictures and updates every day.

Look at this genius!

We'd always just worked on tracing "Lo", it didn't even occur to me that she'd be capable of this yet. And that person?!

Life is going well on the Tenex as well. She's still Lauren (and thus very mischievous), but her meltdowns are far and few between and she's less aggressive with me. We started with 1/4 tablet twice a day and it went well for the first week. Then she was lashing out (hitting, pinching, screaming at me). So we increased her to 1/2 tablet in the morning and 1/4 tablet after school. Her teacher hasn't noticed any tiredness at school and we haven't at home either. Ryan had a soccer game Saturday morning and Greg was sleeping after working all night. So I was on my own with both kids at soccer. Normally, my anxiety would be through the roof for this and I'd need to recruit help. (Partly because of my anxiety and largely due to Lauren's behavior). She was great! She never ran from me, she didn't have any meltdowns even when we had to do a last minute field change before the game started. She didn't argue about sitting in her adaptive stroller. She had to go potty, and she told me she had to go, then actually made it to the port-a-potty (ew). She talked nonstop through the game and wanted me to pay attention to her, but she's also developmentally overall more like a 3 year old so not unexpected. She was seriously angelic compared to how she would've been a month ago. I really do feel like this medication has allowed Lauren's personality to shine through instead of her behavior taking over her.

Ryan is doing great at his new school! We had his open house, got to meet his teacher, and saw his classroom. I had a chance to talk with his teacher about his sensory/feeding issues. I really debated even telling her because he's come so far, but I want to give him the best chance possible to succeed and I wanted his teacher to be on his side. She seems really nice! They have wobble seats in the classroom, which is great because he struggles a lot with staying still. He wears a bracelet he's obsessed with and he constantly opens/closes the clasp, I don't know if it's a fidget-spinner kind of thing for him or if it's anxiety, I could see it either way for him. I think maybe the wobble seat might help him a little if it's sensory. I also really am hoping we can work our way up to buying lunch on pizza day once this year, but so far Ryan is not on board with this. It sounds like he got picked on a little bit about his Titanic obsession because he told us he's trying not to talk about it so much because the other kids at school don't want to hear about it. I'm hoping it was a friend who kindly told him that he'd rather talk about something else. Either way, Ryan wasn't upset at all, so even if it was in a teasing way he didn't get his feelings hurt. I told him that he can always talk to me and his dad about the Titanic as much as he wants (I may regret this). He apparently found a girl on his bus who also loves the Titanic!

The school year is well underway and going well!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Behavior win! And Ryan is amazing.

Yesterday was one of those great family days that feels like everything goes right. Don't you just love those day?!

We woke up, I took Lauren to McDonalds' drive-thru to get her a sausage burrito and Ryan pancakes. We brought Monte along because he loves car rides.

Then we all got ready (and Greg woke up since he worked the night before) and drove an hour away to a museum with a Titanic exhibit. It was AWESOME! Ryan is really obsessed with into the Titanic currently. Monte hadn't worked in a while, so it was great for him to get the physical AND mental exercise. (Our nanny said she can always tell when Monte hasn't worked in a while because he's crazier than usual) Then we went to a restaurant that magically had an arcade attached (we weren't familiar with the area and had no clue). Then we stopped at my parents house. It was awesome!

The best part? We had this whole long day full of driving, walking (minimal walking on Lauren's part, I'll get to that), sensory overload (namely the arcade), etc. And only one meltdown! Let me say that again. ONLY ONE MELTDOWN!!!! It was at the arcade and it wasn't super involved. And it only lasted maybe 2 minutes. I think she tripped and fell or something, because I found her huddled in the pedal part of a car-racing game crying. I had to drag her out of there, but she calmed down pretty quickly. We just returned to our table, hugged, she petted Monte. That's it, meltdown over. What?!

She was a little whiny at the Titanic exhibit but loved the rest of the museum. The Titanic part was all real artifacts in display cases. You couldn't even touch the cases without alarms sounding. Mix that with a very impulsive five year old. Yep, we made Lauren sit in her wheelchair the majority of the time. She convinced me she wanted to get out a couple of times (clearly I am insane because each time I expected it to go differently). She was really good though! Minimal complaining. There was a huge "iceberg" actually made of us that the kids got to touch. Monte was thrilled to be with Lauren. He's trained to walk ahead of me by a couple feet so he can be directly next to Lauren in her chair. At one point he just leaned over and rested his huge head in her lap. It was really sweet. Ryan absolutely loved the whole thing. And after the Titanic exhibit there was a kids play area with an ambulance the kids could "drive". Then there was an autoworker exhibit.

It was such an awesome day. I'm not sure if it is maybe our behavior medicine kicking in, or the fact that we had Monte with us, or a combination of both. But the stars aligned yesterday and it was amazing. Our whole lives generally revolve around Lauren's behavior, so it was really awesome to have such a great day. The day before my twin sister and I attempted Costco with Lauren...sans Monte because I couldn't find his pack. If you happened to be at our Costco and saw two adult women attempting to wrangle an angry and very flexible five year old into a ridiculously tall shopping cart, it wasn't us. Nope, no sirree. Not us.


As a side note, anyone that knows our Ryan in real life knows he is seriously such a great kid. He's also a little quirky and speaks like an adult. It's been my favorite thing about him since he was two years old and started talking. It used to be scripting from Thomas the Train, and hearing a little kid use correct train terminology was hilarious. Here's a few snippets from our museum visit yesterday:

-Oh, so they excluded the other half (of the 3D model of the ship, so you could see the inside)
-I'm concerned it's not safe. Have you checked the data? (He initially thought we were getting on an actual ship made to be a replica of the Titanic)
-I am not getting in a submarine. I don't have enough bravery.
-I think it took a million blueprints to build the Titanic