Creep and crawl challenge

We are adding a new intervention, BrainHighways. This helps integrate primitive reflexes so that the big brain will be more dominant. The big brain (Cortex) is responsible for advance skills like speech and social interaction, but is overpowered by the baby brain (midbrain and pons) if the baby brain was not integrated. The baby brain matures, or is integrated, when baby creeps and crawls. Nathan missed out on much of these on because of his cerebral palsy (limited ability to move his limbs). We were also in a hurry to get him to walk, not knowing how important creeping and crawling was to brain development. But anyways, we’re making up for the lost creeping and crawling time.
As a result of hours and hours of creeping floor time, I’ve notice Nathan’s ability to answer my questions or respond to my commands have shortened.
I realised how challenging it is to ask Nathan to do something super hard for him. My fears and frustration crept in again. I was crying all over again wondering how I could get Nathan to do, and like, exercises that I know will change his life. Maybe as a direct response to my frustrations, Nathan started hating creeping and crawling. He started to bang his head on the floor as a violent protest and be excused from the exercises. Even I wanted to stop the program. But I know I would hate myself for not continuing with one of the few programs that have great results for children and adults with special needs.  

In have been blessed with The Son-Rise Program(r), which helped my find my way out of this dilemma. These are the changes I made:

1. Change my belief that the exercise was hard for Nathan and it was hard for me to motivate him.  

2. Let go of the times when he does not want to exercise….until the next invitation to creep again.

3. Think of each exercise as an investment for tomorrow’s exercise, instead of a task that just has to be done today. During the exercises allowed him to rest, to make his mind drift and return before asking him to move again. In other words I allowed him to simply enjoy the exercise and not be pressured to do it. I used to pull and tug him to get his creeping laps done until the 30minute time was up. That led to so much resistance, eventually whining/crying and then head banging.

4. Be present with every creep or crawl. I tuned in with my attitude of enjoying the songs I sang while creeping and crawling, instead of constantly looking at the clock asking “when will this finally be over?”

5. And of course, I said my prayers whenever I was emotional too weak to keep trying. Those really have the best results!

Amor, by they way, also benefits from BH, but really enjoys it and even asks me to creep and crawl with her. 

In the photo: L to R: Amor, Ian and Nathan creeping to build their Brainhighways.

Travel trooper

I have always hated vacations because it’s never really a vacation if you have special needs kids plus the journey is usually just filled with tantrums that I had to manage. But my twins are doing so much better and I’m more excited about family reunion than the stress of traveling.  
Nathan was such a trooper during our 23-hour travel from Singapore to Virginia. I had been preparing the kids about this long trip, mostly to avoid or minimise tantrums, but I never really knew how much Nathan understood or if he was even listening. On the big day, Nathan had a smile on his face so I asked him. 

Me: Nathan, what will be be riding later?

Nathan: A taxi.

Me: Of course! Where will the taxi bring us?

Nathan: To the airport.

Me: Yes, what will we ride at the airport?

Nathan: An airplane.

Me: Yes! Where will be go?

Nathan: To America.

Me: Yey! And who will we visit in America?

Nathan: Tita Fevi!

Apparently, Nathan knew perfectly well what was going on.

As for the trip, Nathan, was super good. Once in a while he would have light crying sounds (as if he knew not to bother other passengers). Then he would tap me and ask, “I want to ride the wheelchair and go na?” I would explain to him that the plane was still in the air and had several hours more to go and he would be good with that!  

Nathan is such a good traveller! And so is his twin sister, Amor, who was true to her word and said she would be a big sister and be quiet in case Nathan cried and I needed to settle him.

Intentional speech…persistent, yet patient

I was in the shower when I heard knocking. I though it would be my other kids but surprised it was Nathan. Still skeptical if he was actually knocking or just stimming and tapping on the door, I asked, “Who is it?” Nathan echoed, “Who is it”. I tried to answer in a way that would help. “Is it….NATHAN?” I coached. “Nathan!” He answered accurately!

“What do you need Nathan?” I continued our conversation through the closed door. “You want banana?” He asked. He still gets his pronouns mixed up, but correctly saying pronouns is a social skill that is achieved 2 stages ahead of the current son-rise social developmental stage that he is on, so we’re not in a rush to fix that until he is more ready.

I answered with a task for him, “Mama is still taking a shower, can you go to Ate Juliet in the kitchen and ask for a banana?” I then heard Nathan walking away saying, “Ate Juliet, give me banana please.”

A few minutes later I heard the same knocking. I asked “Who is it?” Nathan insists, “Mama, I want banana please.” Maybe Juliet did not hear him because we usually keep the kitchen door closed. I asked him to try again saying that Juliet has to see his face when he’s asking. Nathan walks away again with a louder, “Ate Juliet, give me banana please!”

After my shower, Nathan already spoke to Juliet, got his banana and was satisfied!

Imagine that! Three years ago, before we found The Son-Rise Program(r), Nathan could not even tell us that he was hungry. He was 5-years-old back then and had no intentional speech. He would use tantrums, even aggression, to try to communicate his needs and we just became good to figuring him out.

Today, Nathan not only tells us exactly what he needs, he can be very, very persistent and yet very patient while requesting. What an amazing journey it has already been. The future is exciting for us!

Blessed with The Son-Rise Program(r)!

In the photo Nathan eating his most favorite snack, bananas!


Her Weaknesses have turned into her Strengths!

When Amor was a toddler, she had hearing sensory issues. She would always freakout with the sounds of the vacuum cleaner, public toilet hand dryer and even an electric toothbrush. Son-Rise had greatly helped her overcome it! There may still be a bit of lingering sensitivity, in the sense that she can hear a conversation on the other bedroom that we normally would not notice. But that’s what’s amazing. Since it does not bother her anymore, she can use it instead of hate it. If she wants to, she can use this unique talent and work as a spy or work for NBI when she grows up 😉

Since Amor could not hear songs the way we do, she naturally could not sing them correctly. She was so out of tune and her melody was so off. Nevertheless, I always cheered for her! Despite her hearing issues, I was so happy that she kept singing. Practice has truly made her singing perfect! As she has been overcoming hearing issues, her singing voice has developed beautifully! The greatness of her voice and her eagerness to sing, always gets her to sing solo in most of her school events! Yep, her determination can get her to be a great singer, if she wants.

Amor has a speech delay. At age 3, she could only say a handful of words. Today, though she can engage in meaningful conversations, she is still not at par with her peers. However, she has an amazing ability to pick-up several languages. Last night she was singing the Chinese version is Frozen’s “Let it go”. She picked it up from YouTube and I’m pretty sure it was close to accurate. Back in Japan, she would response to our Japanese translator in Japanese! I had to ask and was told her answers were always appropriate. She also picked-up lots of Japanese from her classmates and used them appropriately. Here in Singapore, she quickly adapted to Singling. At home, she can translate what my husband and I are saying in Filipino. She has a potential career in Linguistics!

She’s only 8 and already I know whatever she chooses to do in life, she will be amazing at it!

We are so blessed to have found Son-Rise. Us seeing everything she does as beautiful, and not as a handicap, has certainly helped her overcome many challenges!

God has blessed us with Amor!


Ease at the playground

Bringing Amor to the playground is getting so much easier for me!

Initially Amor would grab all the kid’s toys, scooters and bikes and shout, “MINE!” Guess how many kids must have hated her?

It took so much son-rise powers out of me to get some kids on our side and help her. I told them that they could help Amor be more polite by demonstrating politeness. Sure enough, as more kids became more patient with Amor, she would put down her defenses/settle her sensory issues and the sweet little girl in her would emerge. As for the other kids who were not onboard…well, we didn’t need to make friends with everyone or please everyone 🙂

Just this week, we were at the playground again and for that day, I didn’t feel like trying to control the world around Amor. I decided I would watch from a distance and see how she “fends” for herself. I was also ready to accept consequences, even a possible heartache,from someone bullying her, running away from her, ganging up on her, or telling other kids, “Don’t play with her!” or “Dont talk to her!”…Yup, we have experienced all those at some point in the past.

So I sat back and watched Amor run to grab a scooter. With my eyes ready to roll, I told myself, “Oh boy, here we go again.” As predicted a girl came to rescue her scooter, hands on her hips, with a strict look on her face. I was too far to hear their exchange of words. But instead of stubbornly running off with the scooter, Amor dropped her hands and walked away. I think my jaw dropped when I saw that. Amor has always been stubborn enough not to care who owned the scooter and just run off with it. But wait…Amor walked back towards the scooter, held it and observed the owner come back with the same hand-on-hips and grin on her face. Woohoo!!! my daughter is not only learning, but also experimenting on reading social cues. She’s accurately reading social cues and making her own fantastic decisions on how to respond! From the reaction she got a second time, Amor decided to let go of the scooter and walk away permanently! Woohoo that’s my princess!!!!

So much progress in such a short amount of time! I know it’s because of Amor’s “weekend” Son-Rise Program(r)….or I should call it “daughter”-rise program 😉
Because we have friends who come over to love and play with her and build relationship, Amor better understands the concept of friendship and what friendship is not.

In the photo is Amor trying to climb the monkey bars, inspired by watching the other girls climb.


Crying and whining tips for volunteers

Last Monday, Nathan was crying in his session with Tita Aldhel. Aldhel handled the crying very well:
1. She was really calm thus, not rewarding/reinforcing the crying.
2. She was a good detective, based on what preceded the crying, her best guess was that Nathan wanted to share an experience about riding the air plane, smilie faces in the mirror, etc. but cried when he could not express more.
3. She presented many alternatives to Nathan like sensory squeezes, toys or a glass water.

To add to the list, we were given more tips on crying and whining at the SR Intensive:
1. Move SLOWLY. Just as Aldhel was very clam, don’t make the crying/whining move you.
2. Yet, maintain the “YES” attitude. We always want to be user-friendly in order to continuously build the relationship. For example, you can express, “I really want to help you but you know what? I cannot understand you want when you whine. If you use your words I can understand you better and I can get you what you need right away!”
3. ACT LIKE A DUMMY. Example, you can offer “Nathan when you’re whining, I can’t understand what you want. I really want to help. Is it a glass of water that you want?… Maybe you want to squeeze?…”
4. Use a lot of EXPLANATIONS and PAUSE to give Nathan time to process what you said. Explain and believe that Nathan can understand what kids his age are told. I believe he can. The child facilitators noticed that it took 8 seconds before Nathan responded to their requests.
5. As soon as Nathan uses words or shows a good attempt, move FAST! Let him know that his words are very effective and can get him his needs fast while whining is less effective.

Anything is achievable

When I see a 3-year-old, climb up on the wrong end of the slide, I think, “Wow, strong kid!”

When I see my 7-year-old climb up, turn around half way and slide himself down, I think, “FANTASTIC!” Even with his Cerebral Palsy (limited ability to walk or move lower limbs), Nathan can achieve anything he sets his mind on doing! While celebrating his climb, I must have sounded like a whole stadium cheering for their favorite sports team.


Eye-contact made easy

Although Nathan’s eye-contact has improved dramatically since we started our son-rise program, he still tends to look away when asking for something.

Today, Nathan looked straight into his volunteers eyes, maintained eye-contact and asked, “Tito Caesar hammock swing please.”

Eye-contact is such a breeze if Nathan’s having fun!


Ian my neurotypical

When you have kids with special needs and your neurotypical excels, it’s the most fascinating feeling!

Here’s my 4-year-old neurotypical, Ian, who just got a Certificate of Excellence for listening well and always doing his best!

I am fascinated because I do not spend so much time with him as I do for my son with autism. So Ian excels, almost all on his own. The only investment we put in is when we tell him how proud we are of him, we praise him for how good he is at following instructions, how kind he is whenever he gives way to Nathan and Amor (most of the time 😉 )
and that we feel so blessed because we have him!

I’m so glad I found Son-Rise because it has taught me how to raise my whole family.


Universal Principles in Raising Kids, Special or Not

When Nathan’s autism was unraveling, I refused to take advice from friends who did not have any special needs kids. I thought “They have no idea how difficult it is raising a special needs child!”

But as a grew to understand autism especially through the lens of the Son-Rise Program, I realized “Why should we have a different set of guidelines just because my child has autism?”

The same principles that make typical kids successful, apply and can help kids with autism flourish and even go as far as recover from autism. Son-Rise simply takes those universal principles and provides practical applications.

My friend who didn’t have a special child said: kids are like a bucket with a hole at the bottom. While trying to fill them with love, you can be overwhelmed by how fast it seems to drain down the hole. As soon as you give them their orange juice, they ask for their snack, then they ask for an activity to do, then they ask that you sit and play with then. Like you always have to keep proving your love to them. The more you ignore them the more the want your attention.

Finally that good friend of mine found her best-parenting-for-non-special-kids resource, which told her to give and give and give at a rate faster than the flow out. When her child was filled to the top with her proven love, he told her, “Ok mom (I’m confident now) I’ll go to the playground on my own (and give you your you-time).”

In the same manner Son-Rise keeps giving “Full Control” until the child says, “Ok we can go your way now.” The more we give Nathan, the more he allows flexibility, something typically difficult for a child with autism.