1. Workout- Today I took a walk. Not a long walk- I moved quickly but only had about 15 minutes between patients so it wasn't much. Tonight I did a little lifting- not the entire workout, just a bit. I'm not going to tell you it was great! amazing! seriously sweaty! but I am going to tell you that I'm glad I did it. If I wasn't writing these posts I would have most likely skipped it, but even that brief burst helped me make it through the afternoon without feeling like I wanted to kick somebody.... not professional... just true. I read an article/excerpt a few years ago from Dan E. Burns, author of Saving Ben- a book he wrote about his son who has autism. The portion of the article that I've read and re-read follows-
"Aerobic exercise generates new brain cells in specific areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory. It enhances neuronal connection and brain plasticity and improves the brain's potential to log and process new information.
I love this- It helps our entire family- we walk together, we swim (doggy paddle, float, splash) together, we hike through Moraine View together. I think this challenge has reminded me (again, and again, and again I need these reminders) that exercise needs to be every day, it needs to be fun, and it is GOOOOOOOOOD for us.
Sounds too good to be true? I thought so too. But check it out in John J. Ratey's book Spark: the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Exercise alone cannot rebuild the brain - that requires a combination of therapies. But constant aerobic exercise can create the environment for growth, connection, more brain pathways and function, a solid base for more advanced treatment. It can jump start the brain.
So run, swim, or bike with your child. While you're at it, here's how to make the most of your aerobic adventures:
1. Use exercise to teach speech. Because physical activity is rewarding for most children with autism, it can be used as a motivator. Ask your child questions that require answering with words other than "yes" and "no." Go fast or slow? Whose turn? Want to swim or ride a bike? Let's (go, run, swim)!
2. Take 5-10 minute exercise breaks during discrete trial therapy (ABA) drills. When Ben was five years old, we had an apartment overlooking a swimming pool. During drill breaks, Ben and I would take a quick dip. He'd come back refreshed, stims and pending meltdown washed away, ready and willing to learn.
3. Make movies and photos of your aerobic activities and talk about them with your child. Keep a diary of your exercise ventures together with photographs. It will make a great book that you can read to your child, or that someday, perhaps, she or he can read to you.
4. Finally, use exercise to take a break from autism. Everyday life is stressful for parents and children. Exercise releases endorphins and reduces anxiety, depression, and stress. It took years of practice and pushing Ben, both physically and psychologically, but today he bikes with me as if he were born for it. The brain likes novel stimulation, so we explore state parks for new aerobic opportunities and scenic delights. It's a pleasure to swim with him. And now he can outrun me."
2. I'm thankful for our new router. I kid you not, It has made this whole internet experience 1001 x better! When the kids are asleep and the laundry is put away (or ignored) I jump online and veg- I connect socially with my FX family, I catch up on blogs I love, I shop... uh huh. And now it's quick and AMAZING!!! shallow, shallow but true, true, true!!
3. Outfit- this, peeps, has become the hardest part of these posts for me- But this is a blog about clothes?? and outfits?? and bargains?? every time i have someone take my picture (or take my own in the bathroom mirror) i look in my eyes and think... why aren't you happy? I've always 'talked with my eyes'- bugged them out more than necessary, raised my eyebrows in silent snark, blinked them at babies to soothe, and generally sent beams of love rolling out of them- crazy mental picture, but i'm into the whole visualization thing... This is the verse that seems to weigh heavy on my heart right now
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17v22.
I don't really want to talk too much about grief and tears and a broken spirit, but maybe that's the problem. I didn't want my sweet baby girl to have deficits- i didn't want her to struggle in so many different ways... I wanted the neuro-typical baby that the amazing doctors at RGI told me I would have. I wanted a playmate for her brothers and a caretaker to ease the burden Bo would carry. So I didn't talk about it. I kept it inside and the grief multiplied and spread and wore me down.
And it's true- she doesn't have Fragile X... but she does have deficits and delays.... and it breaks my heart. and, for a while, and maybe still, I let the grief and the anger and the stress of doing it alllllll over again (pt, ot, st, dt, ieps, developmental pediatrician, geneticist, pediatric neurologist, fear, anger, tears, tears, tears) steal my joy and drain my happy away. I was brittle... and my eyes show it. Who do I think I am? Do I not know people who have more than 1 child with a disability, who deal with every struggle, every day, and a million more that I've never thought of? Did I think I was automatically exempt, secondary to Fragile X? Paid whatever cosmic price needed to be paid to even the ledgers and now I'd have sunshine and happiness and rainbows flying out my arse? ... i guess I did. ridiculous. and so down, down, down into the pit I fell. and just when I think I was climbing out something would push me back in again. I'd love to say 'I let something push me back' but the truth is, i was holding on tooth and nail to the little bit of happy and focus I could find- I wasn't giving my joy away, grief was taking, taking, taking it. I learned a lot more about depression and anger than I ever thought I would. I've learned that unless you have fought the darkness you have NO IDEA what it's all about. I've learned about To Write Love on Her Arms and I wrapped myself up in living, in putting joy and love and peace back into my heart.
so. there it is. we have 3 beautiful, amazing children, 2 of whom happen to have deficits and delays and struggles that, unless a miracle occurs, they will battle their entire life. And I am their momma... and I will do every.single.little.thing. in my power to wrap all 3 of them in the bone deep knowledge that I love them, that I'm proud of them,that I think they are amazing and shiny and wonderful, and I will help them be the very best 'them' possible.
and here I thought I'd just choose a different, older picture. one where you can't see my eyes.