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Sunday, May 22, 2011

The BIT is Back

Well, it took another round of Brain Integration Therapy (see a few previous posts on this) to inspire me out of my grief-driven absence from blogging.  To recap, my dad died in February, and since then I have found it virtually impossible to put emotions of any kind, especially related to Finbar and his autism, down on paper. And while I have started blog entries several times over the last two months and not finished them, a recent round of Brain Integration Therapy (BIT) has positively affected Finbar in ways that have allowed me some space to breath, lift my spirits, reflect - and blog.

I find myself thankful once again, for the simple gesture of a mom, another mom of a child with special needs, a gesture that is changing my life for the better.  Raising children to be good kids is a moving target. It feels like sand shifting beneath your feet.  Raising a child with special needs is a target moving at lightning speed and sand that shifts constantly - you never seem to be able to stop chasing that target or get your footing for more than a second. You never get a break from thinking about and trying things that will move your child and  your own life closer to normal.  This mom friend lived that way for the past 6 years with her son, and knew that I did too.  This friend, who was really just an acquaintance a few years ago, was the one who encouraged me to try Vitamin B-12 shots, even meeting me in a parking lot a few years ago to hand me some of her numbing cream that helped Finbar not feel the prick of the B-12 shot in his butt.  That in itself was a life changing gesture.  "Best bang for your buck" she told me.  After B-12 shots, Finbar began to notice and take an interest in other children for the first time. And it only cost me a few hundred dollars. Thanks friend :)

Shortly thereafter, my friend moved to Boulder, CO with her son who is a year older than Finbar and who also has major sensory, social and anxiety issues like Finbar.    Last summer, when I was out in Boulder doing the Sensory Learning Center, I met up with her and she, being noticeably changed in a more centered and optimistic way, shared with me the impact that BIT had on her son, her life and their well being.  I will never forget sitting across the table from her at Starbucks, jaw wide open in amazement,  as she went on and on describing the various problems that were disappearing from her and her son's life thanks to BIT. As she described one gain after another, she was so relaxed and hopeful and knowingly positive that her life was going to continue to get much easier after years of, well, hell raising a child with social and emotional issues.  I yearned to feel that hopeful and relaxed.  Could that really happen to me, to Finbar, to my family?  She urged me to try BIT, saying that she was in the process of being trained to be a BIT practitioner so she could help other moms like me.

So Finbar did one round of BIT last August.  Because of my friend's recommendation, a BIT practitioner squeezed Finbar in and we drove back from our vacation in the Grand Canyon to Boulder to do the therapy.  Immediately my husband and I noticed that Finbar was a different kid.

So then another round of BIT occurred in November (see a previous post).  After both sessions we saw subtle/gradual and some immediate progress, mainly on the social and emotional side.  Finbar now wanted to make friends and was willing to take social and emotional risks to do so. This was a big, awkward step for him, as it would be for any child with autism. There were also many physical/well-being gains. And one big dose of confidence and independence.

However, after the second round of BIT Finbar had also developed verbal and physical tics to a very worrying degree. These continued for a few months and had begun to subside right about the time that my father died. But after my father's death, Finbar became very unravelled for a couple of weeks and the tics and autistic traits intensified.  Not only was I devastated by my father's death, I was hopeless about Finbar's improvement.    Finally when he seemed somewhat stablised, my friend called to check in and to say that she and another practitioner would be coming to Santa Barbara and wanted to offer more BIT to Finbar.  Desperate, I gladly took her up on the offer.  Here is how the results of this last round of BIT went down:

Get rid of verbal and physical tics:    check
Have consistently dry pants at night:   check
Calm down the nervous system and social anxiety:    check
Ride a two wheel bike immediately:     check
Increased focus:      check
Bonus improvements not asked for:  long snuggles and increased hugs for mommy and even little brother Declan.  New and deeper friendships at school.  Long phone conversations with crazy Aunt Zanny (he even declared her to be his camping partner on our upcoming trip to Disneyworld).  Singing solo at a school performance and signing up to try out for the school talent show (reciting a poem).  Scolds me if I try to dress him myself or buckle up his car seat.  He eats spinach on his pizza.  He loves to write spontaneously and he write me and other people notes and letters constantly.  He asked to go to soccer camp (he detested soccer before).  He can now sit through a movie and take it all in.   And best of all he apologizes immediately and frequently for any "old" Finbar behavior, that is the socio-emotional behavior of a 3 or 4 yr old, which just a few months ago was the norm.
Dr. Balbinder, Finbar's favored  BIT practitioner

Most of all, what BIT has done for Finbar is to allow the veil of his autistic traits to begin to come down and his true character to show. And what a character he is. And he likes to flaunt it!  Yesterday as we were walking back home from school, a group of very cute 5th grade girls started yelling and waving, "hey, there's finbar!! Hey Finbar!! (wave wave)". Whaaaat?  My son  is popular with the older girls?  According the the school principal with whom I had just spoken, the older girls at school think he is hilariously funny.  They are right. He IS, now that he is not lost in the world of stimming and social dysfunction.  And he now likes to play up the older brother character.  Tonite he called me from his grandmother's house to calmly inform me that Declan was having a tantrum and not behaving for Grandma, so he suggested that I  drive over quickly and bring his toothbrush so that Declan will stop tantrumming.

Today we were invited over to "M"s house for dinner.  "M" who is a girl in Finbar's class, is Finbar's one true friend.  He adores her and with good reason. She is very smart, very pretty and very sweet and she appreciates Finbar's humor and wit. What more could one ask for in a daughter in law?  As I watched Finbar and "M" play some version of soccer or rugby, not sure which, and "M" lifted my son up in the air (his suggestion) cheering him on after scoring a goal I thought, my my we have come a long way in just a few short weeks.  My son has a friend, a wanna-be girlfriend and is playing soccer with her! 3 months ago coming off the plane from my dad's funeral, I thought we would have to medicate him to get through life with our sanity intact.

So next weekend Finbar is getting another round of BIT.  I'm hoping out of this round that perhaps his "executive functioning" a.k.a.  organisation and planning skills improve.  This so that I don't have to sound like a broken record player that I have become.  "Finbar, it's time for bed. Go take off your clothes and get into the tub. I SAID take off your clothes and get into the tub.  IF YOU DON'T get into the tub now you will have no bedtime stories...WHAT did i just tell you???"

And with all this progress, I have decided to undergo a "bit" of BIT myself next weekend.  You see, the theoretical premise of BIT is that brain imbalances that result in abnormal behavior are caused by trauma and stress.  Parts of the brain shut down to cope.  As my friend pointed out, we moms of special needs kids are traumatised and stressed. We live in a constant state of red alert and hypervigilance. YES I DO LIVE THAT WAY I thought as she said this.  So we need a bit of rebalancing ourselves she suggested. You can say THAT again.  My brain has indeed shut down to cope. I'd like my short term memory back PRONTO.  Look for a personal account of BIT after Memorial Day :)