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Helping My Son With Autism and Epilepsy Emerge From His Pandemic Bubble

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My son Dominic recently finished 11th grade. He did part of 10th grade and all of 11th grade virtually. While virtual learning has been good in some ways, there definitely has been one huge disadvantage. He has had seven seizures since March of 2020. 

All of Dominic’s seizures, except the very first one, have been caused by anxiety/stress/change of routine. Each time he has had a seizure, I have had to call his pediatric neurologist and we discuss his medications. At Dominic’s most recent in-person appointment, the pediatric neurologist basically said Dominic was at the top limits on his two current anti-seizure medications and she was very concerned about adding a third, especially since he was continuing to have seizures. After some discussion, since Dominic also has generalized anxiety disorder, we decided to treat the anxiety with a low dose of an antidepressant. Thank goodness he hasn’t had any side effects and he has had only one very small seizure since he started taking the new medication, so I would say it’s a success!

We did have the option of sending Dominic back in person a few months ago, but given he had not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine yet, the hubby and I decided it would be better and less disruptive to let him continue the remainder of 11th grade virtually. During this pandemic, we added another day of private speech therapy,  private drawing classes with an awesome artist and started a Michigan cottage food business, Baked Goods By Dominic. He has had no disruption of his private music therapy, since we have a piano at our house.

Since March of 2020, he has been able to do countless puzzles, Legos and his calendars. We were given the choice a few weeks ago of sending Dominic to an optional summer program at his high school. My initial response was no, only because I didn’t know what the program would be like or how many kids would be in his class. Once I found out that it would be structured, a small class and working on skills we have been working on at home, my husband and decided together it would be really good for him. The superintendent of our school district sent an e-mail very recently that said in-person classes would resume for all students in the Fall of 2021, unless you have a medical exemption, so in retrospect, we definitely made the right decision.

This morning, I got up 15 minutes before school started and Dominic woke up 10 minutes before. He didn’t have time for me to write his schedule, have breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth or give him his medications before school started (these are things he always does before school). He did his first class in his pajamas! On top of that, the hubby is having his oil changed in his car and we had to go pick him up at the car place shortly after the first class ended! I told Dominic to put on his flip-flops and bring his breakfast with him in the car. Like my son, I also have generalized anxiety disorder, so I worried that throwing all these changes at him with basically no warning would fluster him, cause a meltdown and/or he would have a seizure. It has been like walking a tightrope since March of 2020 because of the epilepsy.  I was pleasantly surprised — he had no trouble at all! He handled it like a pro!

This morning, after we got back from the car place, Dominic had just enough time for me to write his schedule down, take his medications, brush his teeth and get dressed before his second class. I went back in forth in my head as to whether this morning would be a good time to tell him about the summer program since his morning routine had not been typical at all. Since I had already put it off for a while, I decided to take a chance.

Dominic is really into calendars, so I took the June calendar off of our fridge and told him to get the July and August calendars. I then told him I wanted to talk to him about something. I had written down all the summer program dates on a separate sheet of paper. He watched me write down every date for the summer program onto the June, July and August calendars and I also told him some of the kids that would be in the summer program. He knows three of them, so I am anticipating the transition to be smooth.

Since March of 2020, it’s like Dominic has been in a “protective bubble.” He has gone for walks and to church. That has been it. I knew at some point this time would come — he would need to leave the “bubble” and return to school. I can say with 100% certainty that both Dominic and I are ready!

Originally published: June 22, 2021
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