Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Saying Goodbye to the Mountains

We are wrapping up our time in Colorado and will say goodbye to the mountains tomorrow and head for the flatlands of Nebraska to spend time with family. It has been a trip of unexpected changes in Seth's participation in Adam's Camp, our extended stay in the Winter Park area and our change of lodging from Utah to Breckenridge, CO.

After having a few days to reflect on our time at Adam's Camp I am so thankful for the experience for our whole family. Even though there were no major breakthroughs for Seth I feel the camp was a positive adventure for our whole family. Our final conference with the therapy team did not reveal any major changes needed in our therapy program at home, but it did give us some fresh ideas for approaching skills Seth is struggling with. I was very encouraged by the reports the therapists gave about Seth's ability to adapt to new social situations and learn new routines. Seth loved playing group games such as duck, duck, goose and pass the egg.

We are enjoying our time in Breckenridge, but struggling a bit with altitude sickness as our condo is at 10, 288 feet above sea level. Even Mike, who is in pretty good shape, gets winded from walking up a flight of stairs. Sunday afternoon Bella & I strolled through downtown Breckenridge and checked out the annual sidewalk sales finding some pretty good deals. Sunday night we drove down I-70 to Idaho Springs to meet friends from the Loveland for dinner. Today we all explored downtown Breckenridge and visited a couple museums and enjoyed learning about local history. Unfortunately Seth had a meltdown only about 40 minutes into our adventure so we headed back to the condo - I think he's ready to head home, or at least to the familiar surroundings of Nana and Papa's house.

We have enjoyed each part of our trip and look forward to the last few days of vacation in Nebraska with extended family. All of my siblings will be there visiting my mom and dad so it will be fun to have all the cousins together. Bella and Luke are really looking forward to seeing all the cousins and playing together. We are all also looking forward to the Bergman-Reid picnic at the Johnson Lake on Saturday night. Finally, Sunday we will head home to Iowa and plan to stay home for the rest of the summer.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wrapping Up our Amazing Camp Experience

Seth has completed 4 of 5 days of mountain therapy at Adam's Camp. The staff has reported that he has had good or great days each day. Our reunion friends left camp yesterday morning and Bella and Luke were able to join the Sibling Camp mid-week. They have had a great time the past 2 days getting to know other kids with siblings with autism. Today Mike and I joined the kids at sib camp for a canoeing outing at the reservoir here at Snow Mountain Ranch. We enjoyed the time together. Sib camp lets out at 11:45am, which gives us time to spend with Bella and Luke before picking Seth up at 2:30pm.

We are finding this camp a wonderful adventure for the whole family which is truly a blessing. Not only is Seth receiving intensive therapy and having fun at the camp, the rest of the family is able to get some respite and have fun together also. Last night we joined 3 other families for dinner at the Breford's condo. It has been a joy to meet other parents and connect with them also. The Brefords are a couple we've connected with who share our faith and were so excited for us to get to experience Adam's Camp. They were also excited that we had an 11 year old daughter who has become fast friends with our 11 year old daughter (last night we enjoyed dinner at their condo, tonight we had dinner together at our condo and the girls enjoyed the Disney channel movie together and were plotting to have a sleepover).

Over the course of our stay here in the Winter Park area we have seen 5 rainbows. It has been an amazing testimony of God's love for us and his promises to us. The beauty of God's creation is so breathtaking in this part of the country that it makes me want to shout for joy at times. This week has truly been a week of refreshment for my soul even though my body is beyond weary from many late nights and nonstop activity. Getting to share this time with amazing friends old and new has been so uplifting. First with our precious reunion friends who have known us since we were newly, newly married and prayed and supported us through our unique journey of parenting and second with other families who are walking the journey with us - facing the tremendous challenges of parenting a kiddo with autism.

I have felt the goodness of God in an amazing way this week with all that has happened that He clearly orchestrated to bring us encouragement and hope. I know it has been a great benefit to our whole family. Today we were able to meet one on one with a family therapist as part of the Adam's camp program with expertise in dealing with behavior issues and talk through strategies to implement to reduce Seth's head banging and teeth grinding. She has a strong background in ABA therapy (the type of in-home therapy we've done for 5 years with Seth and was able to give us some fresh ideas for his programming along with confirming that what we are doing is spot on.) This was a good time to get a fresh set of eyes to look at our situation.

Tomorrow we finish up camp - there are closing ceremonies and a final parent conference with Seth's therapy team to hear in depth all he has done this week and recommendations for therapy goals and methods. Then we are off to Breckenridge - no not Utah anymore. We were able to exchange our week in Utah for a condo in Breckenridge - a unit that must have become a6vailable in the past couple weeks. We are relieved to not have such a long drive ahead of us since our stay here in Colorado was extended. The big kids were a bit bummed - but Mike and I are overjoyed to not have to drive an additional 18 hours with a fairly quick turn around. We are looking forward to having some much needed downtime after 7 exciting, action-packed, but tiring days .

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Keep the Prayers Comin'

It has been quite the day. We arrived in Colorado after spending 2 days with Mike's family in Nebraska and were getting settled into our cabin for our annual small group reunion when we had a major God thing happen in our lives. After travelling to North Carolina and doing the hyperbaric therapy with Seth I was wanting to really hit him hard with therapy this summer - but this didn't seem to be in the cards as we are down a therapist at home and then would be traveling for 2 weeks on vacation. So I pretty much just resigned myself to our summer schedule and thought that perhaps the break would do him good and we could really get back to more intensive therapies in July or August.

Well this afternoon God answered a prayer that I hadn't even prayed. When we were checking in at the YMCA of the Rockies - Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park I noticed a check-in table in the main registration building for Adam's Camp. Staff were wearing t-shirts and there were bags sitting on the table that said Adam's Camp - Realizing Potentials, Developing Strengths. I thought "hmmm" - that sounds like it might be a camp for kids with disabilities.

We were the first of our reunion group to arrive at the camp and were waiting for the rest to arrive so I had the time to ask what this was all about. I spoke with the gal at the table who I later learned was the director of Adam's Camp - and mom to Adam. She told me they had five week-long camps each summer for kids with disabilities and this week was one of their autism weeks. Throughout the week the children received 5 hours of intensive therapy daily from 5 interdisciplinary therapists. Along with interventions for the affected child there is sibling camp each morning and many fun family activities. The lady at the check-in table invited me to come check it out while we were here and see if this would be something we might be interested in for next summer.

About this time the rest of our reunion group arrived and we took off for our cabin. Mike and I told our friends about this neat camp that was going on, and Mike and I wondered if there was a chance they'd had a cancellation and maybe could work Seth in. Our friends encouraged us to go check it out. Mike headed back up to the registration building and spoke with the check-in lady again. When Mike asked if there was the possibility of Seth being involved in the camp her initial response was "no" - this camp usually fills up 9 months in advance and they have people on waiting lists. But she quickly realized that indeed there had been a cancellation and the families on the wait list had been unable to get to Colorado on short notice. They told us this was a first in the 20-year history of their camp. The director also said it seems it was meant to be!

So just about an hour and a half after arriving for our reunion we were attending an orientation meeting for Adam's camp. The other families we met are amazing, the staff is incredible (speech therapist, music therapist, occupational therapist, art therapist, special ed teacher), and the way that God opened this door is pretty cool! That we just happened to be at this camp for our reunion on the first day of Adam's camp is a God thing - a God incidence as I like to call them. The stories that parents are telling us about the gains that kids make during this week are pretty astounding.

I have seen some changes in Seth over the past couple weeks - the small, but observable gains I shared about in my previous post, and a growing awareness of the world and people around him. I have had the sense that we are on the verge of something and with the door that was opened for him to attend this camp I'm hopeful that this week of intensive therapy could be a stepping stone for further growth. So, Tuesday morning Seth will begin Adam's Camp. I am amazed at how God opened this door to provide Seth the intensive therapy I was feeling he needed.

So keep those prayers coming - God is at work. The past couple weeks have been a challenge - I have struggled to keep the hope alive. This opportunity gives me the courage to continue to hope - God is obviously looking out for us and working in an amazing way to guide us to programs that can help Seth. We will probably now be in Colorado through Saturday to finish out the camp and then head onto Utah a bit late - but that's okay as this seems to be where God wants us to be for Seth.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Small But Observable Gains

We have now been home for 2 weeks and are gearing up for our next trip - a family vacation to Nebraska, Colorado and Utah. We are looking forward to some quantity and quality time together as a family after way too much separation. After I was gone for about a month we were all at home for 1 week before Mike left on a week long business trip. He will return home in time to have about 12 short hours to repack and take off for the next trip.

This week we have begun to see some positive changes in Seth. He has shown some growth in his receptive language skills. We had been working in therapy on Seth's understanding of varied instructions (give me, touch the, show me). For over 6 months we have been working on this and he has struggled to process the entire sentence. We have been putting 8-10 picture cards in front of him and giving him various instructions to "give me the chair, touch the car, show me the airplane". He had been missing the first part of the sentence and only focusing on the last word. Since returning home from North Carolina he has shown understanding of the varied instructions - which is exciting. He is also continuing to use his index finger to point to a variety of items and has been having greater success in identifying body parts.

We are hopeful that he will continue to makes gains over the next few months. I recently heard from some other parents who had done hbot who said they saw the greatest changes 3 months after completing the treatments. Mike and I have begun talking about the possibility of doing more of these treatments if we continue to see some gains. The skills he gains will not be lost if we don't do more, but we could see further growth with more treatments. We are praying about if, when and where we might do more hbot. We are also hoping to get in with a new doctor in Chicago as the doctor we had been working with in Omaha moved to Colorado.

We feel a need to continue to pursue treatments for Seth to help him grow and mature with the hopes that we will be able to keep him in our home long-term and not have to place him in a group home due to safety concerns. This is the driving force behind pursuing various treatments at this point. Thanks to all for your continued prayers - we hope we will continue to have positive gains to report in the coming weeks. I will try to post while we are on our trip to let you know how he is doing.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Happily Home

We are home in Iowa and happy to be getting settled in, although there are still several suitcases sitting upstairs waiting to be unpacked. Mike arrive safely in NC on Tuesday afternoon and we were all so happy to see each other. Seth seemed a little concerned - I think he was wondering where Bella and Luke were. Wednesday and Thursday we drove the 16 hours home to Iowa with a wonderful stop with friends who live near Indianapolis. We so enjoyed catching up with old friends and so appreciated their hospitality. Their boys were so excited to meet Seth and were wanting to learn sign language to communicate with him - it was very sweet.

Seth was very excited to see Bella & Luke and our house and they were very happy to see him too. Luke told me a few days before we returned that he was going to squeeze me with all his might when I got home and that he did - for 10 minutes or more. We enjoyed a couple days with Mike's parents, who had come out to stay with the big kids while Mike flew out to drive home with me. The timing worked out well as they were able to enjoy Bella's dance recital on Friday night before heading home. Saturday and Sunday were kind of forced rest days as Bella and I both had a stomach bug. It was good to rest in my own home - I was happy to at least have gotten home before getting sick. Seth has been a bit of a handful since we got home - hyper and getting into trouble. This afternoon he repeatedly opened the fridge and freezer doors and ran away laughing hysterically (not good for the energy bill).

We are still hoping to see some observable gains in the coming weeks and months. It is discouraging to think that we went through all this for nothing, but I am trying to keep the hope alive. I have been reminded several times since getting home that life is hard all over - we have family and friends who are going through some very challenging times in their lives with situations that are different but similar in that there seems little anyone can do to change the situation. I hold to the knowledge that God is in control, but there are days when I wish the fallen nature of this world didn't wreak such havoc on our lives. It is in these times that I cling to the hope we have in Christ's resurrection.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade -
kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded
by God's power until the coming of the salvation
that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while
you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials."
1 Peter 1:3-6

I am so thankful for the promise I have in God's Word that this life is not all that there is. There is an eternal life beyond the physical realm we are limited by here that will be so far beyond anything we can imagine. On the really tough days, when I don't know if I can make it through the coming hours this is the focus of my thoughts. A life beyond this one of suffering and great sorrow that will be all that God intended before the fall. A life of perfection where we will worship our Creator in complete holiness devoid of the sins and scars of this world. A life where we will be able to serve God completely with all we have without the restraints of our fleshly natures. I can only imagine, actually really I can't even imagine how wonderful it will be. I'm clinging to the wonder of the future promised us today.