Friday, December 21, 2012

Five years already!

Today, it's already been 5 years that Cédric was born!!
Of course, time flies and it seems only yesterday to me that I held him in my arms for the first time. But if I think carefully, we've had 5 very full years.At only 5 years old, Cédric has been to France 3 times, to Florida 3 times and to the Dominican Republic once. So we've traveled quite a bit.
One of the positive sides of Cédric's journey and his developmental rythm is that Ive 'kept my baby a little longer than most people. Of course, I could do without the diapers, but I wouldn't give up the awesome hugs and kisses I get for anything in the world!
This special day for him was also another chance for me to realize how lucky we are for the way he's taken care of at school. From the special education teacher and the teacher aids assigned to his case, to the principal, and including the teacher and teacher aid of his regular classroom and even some people who are technically not involved with him, everyone does their best to take great care of him, tries to make his days productive but pleasant, and make exceptions for him. All of them seem very attached to Cédric and seem to hold a special place for him in their heart. Today more than ever, I witnessed their love and devotion, in the thoughtful gifts, but mostly in the hugs, the kisses, the smiles, the songs, and for Cédric, who is very affectionate, it's crucial and it warmed my heart.
 Today, Cédric received a few gifts and Happy Birthday was sung to him 5 times (his teachers, his classmates, his maternal grand-parents, his paternal grand-parents, and Mom and Dad). Tomorrow, we'll celebrate his birthday with a few carefully chosen friends, we'll sing Happy Birthday Cédric once more time, and we'll give him his big gift: a sensory swing. Thank you to all those who participated in that gift!

And please join me in wishing a happy birthday to a very loving, beautiful, special, BIG boy, if only with a little thought or prayer for him!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dog tales!

After a busy summer, I finally have a moment of calm to write.

As the title, suggests, recent events have led me to talk about dogs!
I've been meaning to talk about Schatzie, our dachshund, for a long time, to share the many similarities between her and Cédric.
Saddly, because of back problems that gave her unbearable pain, Schatzie left us for eternal, pain-free rest, but I still want to talk about her, to honour the memory of a this one-of-a-kind little dog.

In the past couple of years, I noticed similarities between Schatzie and Cédric that made me wonder. Schatzie had anxiety attacks and was very sensitive to routine change and separation, she was clumsy to the point of hitting her nose when turning her head, she had food intolerances, she didn't play with toys the way you would expect, she was impulsive and a flight risk (and therefore alway on leash or attached in front of the house), she even had some sensory sensitivities and preferred lying down on me if I had my soft pjs on. All this led me to joke that she was on the autism spectrum!! Of course it was only a joke, which I hope won't offend anyone. It just really amused us to notice these similarities between them, and Dave and I joked a few times about the possibility that our parenting style had something to do with all of Cédric and Schatzie's behaviours...
Now that she's gone, I must add that she was an extraordinary dog, with an unmatched sweet personality and full of humour and happiness. She was Cédric's first dog and she never hurt him, even though the opposite is not true. He pulled on her hair and walked on her tail a couple of times (without any mean intention) and shes always reacted by leaving or giving him a little kiss. We will miss her a lot!

I wasn't planning on talking about her death that I hoped would happen in a long time, but such is life. One of the hardest parts of Schatzie's decline was explaining it to Cédric. I think he noticed that she wasn't as active and as much around in the last few weeks. Twice at the very end, she came out in the kitchen while we ate and Cédric started crying for no reason. Did he feel our worry and sadness, or maybe even Schatzie's pain? I talked to him a few times, to tell him she was in pain and she might leave us.. I debated a lot about the idea of allowing him to say good-bye. But she was in so much pain, she wasn't herself anymore, and I don't think he would have understood. To this day, I don't know if he is conscious of her death. After we had Schatzie put to sleep I talked to him a few times about the fact that she was in too much pain and that she had left us for ever. But is is very hard for me not knowing if he understands, not knowing if he misses her as much as I do, and not knowing if I handled the situation the best way for him.

And what followed makes me wonder just as much... I knew I wanted another dog right away. I couldn't bear the thought of coming to an empty house without a wagging tail, without wet kisses, without soft hair to pet. But there were decisions to make and as with all our decisioins, theyr were made more complex by autism.
We first thought of adopting a retired racing greyhound. But after meeting ne with Cédric, it turned out he was a little scared of such a big dog and their size created risks, in the stairs for example. After eliminating that option, we had to decide between an adult dog and a puppy. With Cédric, I thought an adult dog would be calmer and therefore a better idea, and it would be easier than a puppy to take care of. But someone suggested that a puppy gets used to whatever it's raised with, whereas an adult dog already had a personality with preferences, fears, etc., and that a young puppy would be more apt to getting used to Cédric and, for example, not bite him out of fear. So we decided on a puppy and chose a medium size breed so that Cédric wouldn't be scared but also couldn't hurt the dog too much, with a calm temperament so as not to make Cédric more active than he is, and who wouldn't shed too much.

So let me introduce you to Kimura, our little shiba inu female:

All that remains is to make sure to raise her so that she's as tolerant of Cédric as Schatzie was and hope that Cédric gets attached to her and is careful with her. Piece of cake, right? :/
For now, he seems to find her cute but he's a little jealous of the attention we give her!

Sunday, June 17, 2012


As today is father's day, Happy Father's Day to all the Dads reading this post, but mostly Happy Father's Day to Dave, Cédric's Dad.
A little post to say thank you.
Thank you for being a Dad who changes diapers without complaining (when it's been 4 and a half years and it's not over, it really counts!!), a Dad who helps feeding, a Dad who gives baths, a Dad who brushes teeth and puts to bed (and sings the same three songs over and over because he doesn't know any others, lol), a Dad who works hard, a Dad who researched recipes and possible therapies to help his little man, and a Dad who gives lots of kisses!!

Cédric couldn't have chosen his Dad better (and I'm pretty happy with my choice too ;)).
Big Love

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

We need holidays...

I was planning on talking about something else, but today's events are worth sharing!

On Monday, I received a note from Cédric's teacher telling me his class would go bowling this afternoon. That didn't worry me as he's been bowling with the school before, and no permission slip was required.
At noon today, on my way to school to feed Cédric, it struck me that usually, when there is an outing, the school asks me to drive Cédric because the bus is not equipped for his harness. Hmm, weird...

When I arrived, one of the teacher's aids who works with him asked me if he was going and I told her I wasn't too sure... After recess, I therefore asked his teacher and the teacher in charge of special education, who were coming towards me together, if Cédric was going. There had been a communication "omission" and the former had forgotten to warn the latter who takes care of logistics and therefore of contacting me to organize outings. I asked the teacher's aid who takes care of him in the afternoon if she intended of taking him and she said yes.
So off we went with Cédric  to my car (as the bus had left without waiting for the teacher's aids) and there: Oops! No car seat!! I had put it in the car of the person who takes care of him for respite yesterday and had not taken the time to put it back in mine... We therefore had to walk the crying little man back to school (the tears dried fast with a snack, music and a wagon ride) and no bowling for him!
We concluded (with humour) that we made a nice team and I believe all these ladies, myself included, need a holiday!
Thank God, Cédric is easily distracted. For some autistic children, these last minute changes could have been devastating.

A little anecdote that might seem trivial but shows nonetheless all the small extra obstacles and the constant need for organisation added to our daily life ;)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Here it goes!

I probably should have created this blog a long time ago, to document Cédric's journey, the steps and associated feelings, if only for my own sake. Better late than  never, right? So I'm doing it now for myself, so that those who know him can follow his journey and maybe understand it better, and so that others in similar situations can benefit from our experiences and maybe make theirs easier.

It's hard to start and to limit myself, but I must start somewhere!
In this first post, I want to start by telling you what we went through to get a diagnosis.
April 2nd 2012, Cédric officially received an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. But the journey start way earlier! Since he was very young, Cédric always did things at his own pace and his own way. Dave and I realized early that he didn't follow "the norm". He generally would reach a developmental milestone a week or two after the limit given by the Health Unit. The gap did widen later.
Here's a summary of the (many, slow and painful) steps that led to a diagnosis:

  • Summer 2009: appointment with our family doctor to discuss the delays we observed and possible causes (Cédric is 18 months, speaks very little and does not walk);
  • September 2009: Cédric is evaluated by a speech pathologist, physiotherapist and developmental consultant who all conclude that there are global delays;
  • January 2010: appointment with a neurologist who does not see any neurological causes to Cédric's delays and says tests would be a waste of time and wouldn't reveal anything (Cédric is now 2 years old and walks but clumsily, tripping and falling often, and still doesn't speak much);
  • February 2011: appointment with a developmental pediatrician who refuses to give a diagnosis and only accepts to says there are signs of developmental delays at our insistence that we need something to insure services at school, which Cédric starts in September (Cédric is 3 years old, walks but does not run or jump, plays with very few toys and still speaks very little and not in sentences);
  • March 2011: appointment with a geneticist who does not see signs of genetic syndroms (and some testing confirms there is not genetic cause);
  • October 2011: appointment with a pediatrician who refers us to the children's hospital in Ottawa, CHEO (Cédric is almost 4 years old, still shows delays in all areas or development, both motor and cognitive skills, and also shows delays in social skills);
  • February 2012: appointment with pediatricians at CHEO who refuse to give a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and only agree to confirm a global developmental delay;
  • April 2012: appointment via teleconference with a pediatric psychiatrist who accepts at last to give Cédric a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder!!
It therefore took close to 3 years between the first hints that something in Cédric's development was different and the official diagnosis.

But more than being slow, the journey was frustrating. At first, Dave and I liked the idea of not having a diagnosis because everybody, doctors and professionals included, said Cédric might just be developing a little slower than average without there being a medical cause to it, and it was reassuring to hang on to the idea that he might catch up with his peers all of a sudden and reach the norm. Eventually, just after he turned 3, it became more frustrating. We were preparing for Cédric starting school and his delays and needs seemed worse in that light. His sensory needs especially were almost a handicap (need to have his feet on something, need to rock, mouth games and noises, constant screaming, ...). His sleep deteriorated significantly and he started having tantrums which were never violent but very frequent, loud and long-lasting. It became hard to do anything or have him babysat and we started feeling the need for respite (with qualified people watching him). This is what really started the "hunt for a diagnosis", because every agency providing respite requires an official diagnosis! I feel it's important here to specify that we weren't trying to fit Cédric in a box but rather to find resources to help him, which is easier to do if we know the cause of the problem and how it works, as well as to help us with respite and access to services.
The strangest part is that, up until then,every doctor and professional we had seen had refused to give a diagnosis, but had said that didn't "think" it was autism, among other things because Cédric was "too social". In the start of the summer of 2011, we started wondering is that "counter-diagnosis" could be wrong. We noticed that Cédric, despite being social, had no understanding of social norms, that his sensory needs were very high, that his language was very delayed, limited to certain topics, and that the concept of conversation eluded him, that he plays with few toys and not in the expected way, and mostly that his digestive system was abnormal and seemed linked to his behaviour: all typical signs of autism! We started asking professionals again and they didn't seem sure either way. All seemed to think it was a possibility but had doubts, but none were able to explain their doubts and more importantly nobody was able to offer a different diagnosis that might explain better his way of being and acting... This is what made us insist to get an appointment at CHEO (the hospital located 800km from our hometown). That appointment was a total fiasco, the worse consultation of our entire journey, the most frustrating because both pediatricians there, one of whom specialized in children with developmental delays, seemed to refuse to give a diagnosis or even to agree that his symptoms pointed to autism, but neither had any better explanation. They insisted only a pediatric psychologist could give such a diagnosis (but we know some children, not to say many, who were diagnosed by a pediatrician or even a family doctor!). When we got back home, I started the hunt for a psychiatrist and after a lot of work and many phone calls, I managed to get a teleconference with pediatric psychiatrist at the children's hospital in Toronto. I filled a diagnostic questionnaire for autism on which Cédric got a pretty high score. After reviewing it, the psychiatrist observed Cédric and talked with us for about an hour. She almost redirected us to yet another agency in Toronto, but finally accepted to give us the diagnosis herself.
As for the positive note: her official diagnosis states first (and to me foremost) that "Cédric is an exceptionally beautiful 4-year-old boy with big eyes and chubby cheeks". Not every parent can say that have a doctor's note that their child is handsome :D

As to my feelings regarding all of this, I originally wanted to understand and therefore seeked a diagnosis to be able to research it and know everything on the subject to help Cédric better. After a while and a lot of research, I realized that a diagnosis might give me some answers but that in most cases children are unique and nothing is certain (the likelihood and rate of development, the possibility to function "normally" in society, etc.). I decided at that point (around the time he turned 3, I think) to take things one day at a time, hence the name of this blog!

Friday, June 1, 2012


Before I dive in, I thought it would be appropriate to start with introductions!
Our little family is made of:
  • Dave, my husband, who is a financial advisor, a musician (guitar), who does Jui Jitsu to unwind and stay fit and who is a geek in his free time;
  • myself, Marie-France, an expat from France living in Canada, French as a Second Language teacher by trade but stay-at-home mom by vocation, who does yoga and digital scrapbooking to relax and who by force of circumstances became a "Mother warrior" to ensure the well-being of her little man;
  • Schatzie, our dog, a long-haired dachshund (or how we like to say a mouldy wiener) who is soft and sensitive, full of energy and a little loud;
  • and of course Cédric, our son, the reason behind this blog, a little man who is almost always in a good mood, full of humour and energy, tender and affectionate, who loves music and technology just like his Dad, and who happens to be on the autism spectrum!
This is us:

The point of this blog is to share our experience. Among other things, frustrations and progress, paperwork and interventions, classic and alternative treatments (nutrional supplements and Heilkunst homeopathy), recipes, quotes, and anything else I might think of!
Thanks for reading :)