Back to School, Back to Routine

The last two weeks of school, parents count down the days till summer break with fervor!  Then come the final two weeks of summer break and they are excitedly counting the days before school begins again!  That’s me in a nutshell.  Yes, I intentionally used the word “nut” shell because my sons are driving me nuts right about now. Arguing, nitpicking, whining, and just plain bored. (My sons that is.)

I pity the teachers that have to corral the kids back into routines. But routine is what my son with autism needs, craves and thrives on. This is the first time since he started school that he is echoing his big brother’s sentiments about “I don’t want school to start!”. How neuro-typical of him. (smile)

Just this past June, he was sad that school was ending and that he will miss learning and his friends. Yes, he actually said that! But it only took him eight (LONG) weeks with his big brother to start picking up his habits, sayings and general silly nonsense.

I long for and dread the bedtime curfews, homework routine, and schedule we will get back on. As most of you with kids on the spectrum understand, our kiddos need structure and a schedule. They feel anxious and uncertain without it. I’d be lost without my schedule listed all neat and orderly on my iPhone. So how are our kids any different?

My son with autism used to NEED to know what was going to happen every day. Now, he’s much less anxious and more curious and aware in wanting to understand what’s expected of him each day. Biomedical treatments and behavior therapy has helped him with this tremendously. In school he learned how to read a calendar, and the concept of first, next, then and last, which was tremendously helpful for him.

Routine is good. Better yet, routine with a curve-ball throw at him sometimes is better. It’s helping him adapt to our world and not stay so rigid in his. I let him choose where he wants to be picked up after school (valet or walk to front) so he has not only a sense of control in his life but also to work with him on remembering where he is to go. If he decides, he remembers every time.

He begins second grade this year and I can’t believe how fast he is growing and catching up in development. He has a wonderful team at the school and the best teachers that make it possible for him to be mainstreamed without an aide in the classroom. He’s your typical seven-year-old boy. Laughs at YouTube videos, plays with friends, fights with his brother and thinks expressing himself is burping and farting. How blessed we are.

He’s not quite back into the routine of school yet. It’s only his second day. Given time, patience and gentle reminders he’ll be just fine. My dog on the other hand, is despondent and bored now that the house is quiet again. He’ll eventually get use to the back to school routine too.

Swimming Brings Him to Tears

I love summertime. No school, camping trips, vacations and of course, swimming. My sons are fishes and love to swim and play in the pool. The only downside is the chlorine and its effect on my son with autism. He can’t handle it; detoxing it is tough for him. It causes his emotion regulation to get wacky and by nightfall he is in tears. Crying (very sadly, not tantrums) about anything. He knows it doesn’t make sense and says he can’t help it and wants to stop crying.

See, his PST (phenol sulfur transferase) system is deficient. It doesn’t produce enough sulfates to remove toxins (like heavy metals, and phenols) from his body. Chlorine blocks sulfation, which just adds to his body’s burden. The supplement taurine helps his cells detoxify as well as being neuro-calming (inhibiting the excitation of nerve cells in the brain). But alas, chlorine will reduce taurine levels.

So do we limit his pool time? Never! We have taken steps to enhance his body’s detoxification of chlorine so he can enjoy all the summertime swimming available to him. First, we supplement with the amino acid, taurine. We give taurine with meals since it helps in bile production. Next, we have reduced chlorine exposure in the bath and shower by replacing our shower head with a “Showerwise” filtration system. It filters out the chlorine and other chemicals in our tap water. Then, we give him Epsom salt baths immediately following swimming. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate and delivers the sulfate ions directly to his blood stream (via the skin) to assist in detoxification. Lastly, we have finally finished our backyard swimming pool project and have opted for a salt system which is a healthier alternative to utilizing a chlorine and bromine sanitation system.

Sometimes it’s difficult to get to the Epsom salt bath right away after swimming, so you can make your own Epsom salt oil by dissolving 1 tsp. Epsom salts with 1 tsp. warm water and add coconut oil. A fast, easy alternative to baths that I love is dissolving equal parts of Epsom salts and warm water, then put into a spray bottle. You can spray a person’s chest or back after swimming and let dry.

One more thought on summertime fun and swimming is the sunscreen. A lot of sunscreens have harsh chemicals in them that affect our children negatively. I like the California Baby sunscreen brand, but still prefer to use as little sunscreen as possible. One way is to purchase a rash guard shirt so there are fewer areas on the body exposed to the sun.

The lazy days of summer aren’t so lazy in the homes of special needs kids, but they have just as many fun-filled summer memories!

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