A family's story

Posts tagged ‘ADHD’

Teacher Appreciation

This week was Teacher Appreciation week. Like a good parent, I made sure our boys participated in the daily activities. They brought flowers, they wore baseball caps (“hats off to teachers”), they wrote a nice sentence or word about their teachers, they wrote cards, etc, etc.

As the last day of Teacher Appreciation Week approached, I made sure I got all of the gift cards ready. I had to buy several. I had them laid out last night as I wrote a hand-written note to each teacher and specialist. Each one. Hubz’s eyes bulged from their sockets. “How many of these do we have?” “Thirteen”. “Seriously?!” “Yes. It takes a village, my man. A village.”

I had a little cramping in my hand from writing so many notes. However, it was worth it. While we have had our differences with various staff members, I still am ever grateful for all that they do for our boys. It cannot be easy to modify curriculum, make sure accommodations are being honored, and seeing to it that a stubborn four year old is learning his alphabet. We may not always see eye-to-eye on everything, but I do respect them for their dedication and hard work.

Jake may not act out, and we never hear about negative behavior. However, he requires a lot of redirection, check-in, and encouragement. A lot. If he’s on the right path, he needs to be told that, and encouraged to keep going. If he gets confused, he needs to be shown what is supposed to be done. He processes information differently…he is a little slower than an average child, but given the time, he answers the questions correctly. It can’t be easy for the general education teacher to be able to give him what he needs while she’s juggling 20-some other students and their needs, as well. Somehow, it has been happening. Since our struggles mid-year, Jake is coming along. He struggles, yes, but he is also finding areas of success. And when he does get those good grades, oh, how he beams. His pride is evident.

Tate is impulsive, and wants to blow through everything. He’s smart, too, which means that even when he blows through it, he often gets it right..but he misses the concept, and it often needs to be retaught. He requires constant one-on-one help to get through academic tasks. We are absolutely appreciative of his teacher’s ability to tailor the curriculum to each child’s needs. His special education teacher has a knack for customizing the curriculum for each child so that he or she can learn it and retain it. She is amazing. She is patient, strict about adhering to the IEP and BIP, and she doesn’t let Tate use his cuteness to skip out of the hard stuff. As a result, he has made huge gains and is hitting his goals. Whoohoo!!!

Cole is a bundle of energy. He is also such a sponge. He loves to learn. He is full of “why” and “how” and “what” questions. He also retains the knowledge. He is also stubborn and doesn’t always want to learn his letters or apply the phonics he is learning…but he’s getting there. We are grateful that his teacher has been able to harness his energy and love of learning to get him where he is today. When he entered preschool this year, he knew a few letters, a few numbers, and barely knew his name. Now, he is doing much, much better. She recommended him for kindergarten..and we know her hard work is behind much of his success.

The aides in Tate and Cole’s classrooms are wonderful. I don’t know how they keep it together with all of the demands, but they do. They are patient and caring. We never worry about our boys in those rooms, because they really do care for our babies as if they were their own. And even better? They treat our kids with respect. These aides should give lessons to other aides. They just do it right.

The specialists that work with Tate and Jake deserve credit, too. Our boys aren’t always keen about going to OT, but she has been working harder at pushing them to their abilities..and we are seeing results. Both Tate and Jake are progressing. Tate’s handwriting is getting much more legible, and Jake is more comfortable with his assistive technology. Jake isn’t fighting his OT weekly, either, which is progress. The social worker gets both boys to work through their anxiety. She helps them through the tough stuff (like socializing and conversation). She knows when they need the law laid down, and when they need a big hug. She is nothing short of amazing. Oh, and the speech therapist…she’s young, and energetic, and full of great ideas. Our boys really enjoy speech this year…which is awesome! This is the first year in a long time where Jake is meeting speech goals. Tate has met his, too. She has a way of getting through to them, and I love that they are comfortable with her. I really hope she is back next year!! (It probably doesn’t hurt that she’s a cute little thing, too.)

So, while we can’t give the teachers and specialists what they are truly worth monetarily, I hope that they know that we would if we could. They are helping our boys find their way in this crazy world, and we are grateful for what they do for them. We are blessed that our boys have the teachers that they do, and that they have support staff that are able to handle their needs, as well. I hope they understand how much this family appreciates them…

Behavior is Communication

Yesterday we had another IEP meeting for Jake. This one was to discuss the findings in the behaviorist’s Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA). She also had a Behavior Improvement Plan (BIP) proposal for him. We also discussed how much more he can rely upon the assistive technology in the classroom to assist in learning and accomplishing his goals. The meeting went fairly well. For the first time in a while, I feel hopeful about the rest of Jake’s 4th grade experience.

Essentially, Jake avoids tasks that are difficult…or that he perceives to be difficult. His preferred method of escape is to engage in a pretend play where he either uses small objects as his characters in his story, or he’ll draw his characters/animals and let them live in this fantasy story that he spins during instructional time. The behavior occurs 100%…yes, 100% of the time during large group instruction in the regular education setting. The problem? While he’s not disruptive to the class, he is disrupting and sabotaging his own learning. He misses the general lesson and explanation and then is lost when it comes time to do an in-class assignment. Case in point, last week he was observed during Social Studies. He engaged in his little play thing during the 20 minute discussion, lecture, only pausing when he was directly called upon by the teacher. Then, they had a worksheet to fill out, and he had no idea how to do it. He broke down in tears and ultimately ended up failing the worksheet. *sigh*

Another issue that was discovered is that he finds silent reading time to be very difficult. The behaviorist thinks it is that it is partially his sensory needs that get in the way, and that he just finds reading too exhausting. So, he’ll go through multiple books, flipping through them to look at pages. He never reads any of the books. (We see this at home at night when we do reading before bed. He just looks at pictures, and never reads the words.) One thing at home that has helped is to have him use his Read2go app on his iPad. With that app, books are read to him and highlight each word as they are read, so he isn’t missing anything or getting tripped up on more difficult words. He is engaged and has enjoyed a few books that way.

So, starting today at school, we sent in his home iPad with the app and his headphones. While we wait for the district to provide him with his own dedicated iPad, we will send his back and forth to home and school. He will be able to actually make productive use of his reading time. Also, he’ll be able to go in the reading corner and read in a sensory-friendly position. At home, he likes to be upside down or dangle his feet over the edge of the chair or bed. But he is reading and getting exposure to literature, so we’ll take it.

On the assistive technology front, the consultant is going to request that Jake gets his own iPad from the district. Then he’ll have access to his books from home on the Read2go app, and he’ll be able to use Paper Port Notes, Learning Ally, and a few other apps to help him with school assignments. A huge benefit is that his textbooks are available on the Learning Ally app, as long as an authorized educator downloads them for him. It would be huge for him to have all of his books available to listen to, rather than just read them on his own. The apps help him track during reading much more successfully than when he does it with his finger.

To address his pretend play during instruction time, we are going to try to have him doodle on some bubble letters. He can color them in, make some designs, scribble, etc, but he will have to have his hands on his desk during the class instruction. He has to engage in the doodling for 5 minute intervals. If he does that without issue, the teacher will increase it incrementally to see how long he can go over the  next few weeks. The behaviorist discussed how doodling (like vines, or letters, or scribbles or flowers) can actually be functional and help any of us attend during a lecture or discussion. Jake’s drawings don’t serve the same purpose, because he enters his own world and taps into that pleasure source where it is comforting and overrides all the “hard” aspects of school. If he can learn to just doodle to help him pay attention during class, it would help. He can draw his pictures and do his little pretend play during his free time.

The upside to this whole process is that we found out how much Jake is capable of doing. He is actually quite smart, and even when he escapes the hard part of learning, he is still achieving B’s and C’s with accommodations and modifications. He has capitalized on these learned behaviors to escape the difficulty of new material and topics. Learning new material is hard. It is challenging. And because he’s been allowed to just quietly go about his merry way for the past 4 years, he has learned that he can avoid the difficulty by quietly engaging in his own world. But that isn’t going to help him learn and be prepared for educational settings as he gets older.

Imagine how much closer to grade-level he’d be if he were more present during the instruction part of the day. Imagine how much more he’d learn if he were able to successfully participate in the class activities and discussions in his general education classroom! Surprisingly, when he’s in his resource room, he is much more on topic and engaged. He is able to be a part of the group discussions and keep up with the instruction. The behaviorist only saw the avoidance behaviors during individual work time, when he should be working on a worksheet or reading a chapter on his own.

Our goal, here, is to get him more engaged in the classroom, and get him more functionally participatory in the setting. If this proves to be too challenging for him, we have our answer that he does belong in a more restricted environment. But, for now, we are going to try to help him learn how to be successful in a regular education setting…which is where Hubz and I, and a few others, think he belongs!

Try Something New

 

With kids, trying something new can be a little scary. With special needs kids, trying something new can be downright horrifying. Will they tolerate noise? Will they be okay out of routine? Will they enjoy themselves? Will they use their manners? Will they use expected social behavior? Will they communicate their needs to us? The list goes on and on and on…However, we only truly grow when we have these new experiences and determine whether or not we like them, and whether or not we want to incorporate them into our lives.

Last Saturday Hubz had a suggestion to beat the winter doldrums. He suggested roller skating–again. Now, we had toyed around with the idea of going roller skating since last summer when Tate would try to wear our neighbor’s roller skates around the block. I had always put it off–finding something else for us to do instead. The thought of wrangling our three boys onto a rink, while all of us were wearing wheels was a bit daunting. On Saturday, though, I had run out of alternate plans and excuses. We had ZERO going on that day. We had a lot of boredom and ennui with the TV programming and being in the house together–since winter just doesn’t want to loosen its grip on our area! I hesitantly agreed to go roller skating with all three boys.

Hubz’s suggestion was met with mixed emotion. Tate and Cole were willing to try it out. Jake wasn’t too sure. We sold it to the kids as a fun-filled activity, where there were some arcade games and fun with their cousins. (Hubz asked his sister’s family to join us there..and luckily they were free!)

I started to feel overwhelmed as we waited to get into the rink. It was crowded. I think everyone in our area had a similar idea–let’s go do something active INSIDE while it was frigid OUTSIDE. And it was dark, with strobe-lights and flashing lights. And, of course, it was LOUD. Music blared from the speakers. Kids shrieked with glee–and fear. Everyone was talking over each other to try to be heard…I felt my heart rate increase, but tried to play it cool for the kids. We found Hubz’s sister and the kids. They were already in their skates.

I made my way to the counter to obtain skates for our ragtag bunch. The staff member who waited on me called me “ma’am”. Ugh. Gut punch. I felt really, really old, anyway, and then he “ma’am-ed” me. I asked for the five various sizes of skates, and he eagerly brought them to me. I noticed that they had these walker-like contraptions for beginner skaters–or skaters who might not be super coordinated once they had wheels on their feet. I asked for two.

Getting skates on three children, none of whom had ever really been skating before, was a sight. There was sighing. There was whining. There was scripting. There was reassurance being handed out like candy. “You will be fine.” was my script of choice. By the time all five of us had skates laced up and ready to go, Hubz and I had droplets of sweat on our brow. Hubz shot me a look and asked what he had been thinking. I just wryly smiled back at him.

We entered the rink with trepidation. BAM! Jake was down. BAM! Tate was down. Cole was a speed-demon with that walker- thing. Of course he fell a few times, but he got right back up and skated around the rink again. His issue was that he got bored with skating around in circles and wanted to sit down right-in-the-middle-of-the-rink….which is highly frowned upon by the teeny-bopper “refs” who rule the roost there. Oy!! (Also, did you know that you cannot wear your hipster-Vera-Bradley-mom-bag while roller skating? Yeah, me either. I spent about $1.50 putting things into that darned locker that day…)

For a little while, things seemed ok. All three boys were trying…and that gave me and Hubz a little relief. But, just as soon as we were like, “Ok, this is cool”, things started to unravel. Jake did not like it. He cried in frustration. It was too loud.  Too demanding. He struggled to stay up, and he was slightly too tall for the “walker”, so his back was starting to hurt. He was done about 30 minutes into our “fun” day.  To his credit, Jake did keep trying, and he listened to suggestions to try to make the experience a bit easier. However, skating was just not his thing that day.

Tate, however, loved it. He loves  movement. He loves repetition. He loved going around in circles over and over and over again. He loved the breeze on his face when he went faster with Hubz. He loved the bumps of the floor beneath his feet. The constant rhythm of the wheels going round and round and round. I think he also really enjoyed the pattern of the lights that were flashing about us. He lasted the longest of our 3, going around a few times with just Hubz, as I sat with our two other boys who were even over the arcade portion of the visit.

Cole was just lazy. He did his laps around the rink. When nothing super exciting like ninja-skaters or Jedi-knights came out of the woodwork, I think he was bored. “This is it?!” He wanted to play chase games with his cousin…and he knew that he would be much faster on foot than on those stinkin’ skates.

We wrapped it up after about an hour. The kids were done, and Hubz, his sister, brother-in-law, and I were suffering from throbbing ears and headaches. (Seriously, what the heck was with the strobe lights and fog machines and concert-noise-level music?! Ohhh…that’s why that kid “ma’am”-ed me….)

As much as I didn’t want to go, I’m glad that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and tried something new. We never know what an experience will hold unless we try….and we learned that skating does not hold much allure for at least one of our children. The other two may happily go again in the future…and we know that Tate will filter out the unfavorable parts because he loves the motion and repetition.

**On a side note, if you’ve been to a roller rink on a Saturday afternoon in February, have you ever noticed that some of the adults there are stuck in a time warp? I was all, wow, the 80’s never left…the big hair, the moves, some of the music, the outfits. It was like I was 12 again…..

The Light

The end of January and the beginning of February were a big, gray bucket of suck. I don’t care what anyone tells you, but when you have a child who is hurting, and you’re grasping at straws to try to figure out how to help that child, it rips you apart in ways that have lasting marks.

We spent a lot of time over the past month hashing out ways to help Jake. Ways to make life easier for him. Actions that we (and the school) could take to help him find his happy…his calm. It was an arduous task. It threw us WAY out of our comfort zone. Every time I was going to take the easy way, though, I’d ask myself….”Is this RIGHT?” Many times, I felt it was not. A few weeks after our lives were thrown upside own, we are finding our way to the light. I’m noticing more “hope-y” things in our days, in our moments. That is so important. And, amazingly, as we were going through the struggles with Jake, Tate has been coming into his own.

Juggling three kids is one of the most difficult jobs I have ever, EVER had. I wish I could talk to my mom about it. She did it with such aplomb. She made it look easy. I wish I knew her secrets. (Even if they were that she’d down a box of chocolate every night after we were in bed…) I try to meet all of their needs. I feel like I’m flailing and stumbling and bumbling around..but then the kids do something awesome, and I’m encouraged…maybe I’m not totally botching this parenting gig.

We’re seeing the light…we’re finding our way out of this bucket of suck. Just yesterday, Jake told me that he had a great day at school. He’s been more open with me ever since we had our big talk earlier this month. When Hubz and I talked to him and shared some of our childhood fears and struggles, I think that made Jake see that we weren’t these superhumans….we are kind of like him. Or he’s like us. Anyway, I hear more about what’s hard, what’s not, what makes him happy, and what he finds frustrating. These conversations, while not always the easiest to have (I have to put on my SLP/Social Worker hat), are valuable to get insight into his life. I can honestly say that since he told us about the bullying incidents at school, he is happier. He is less withdrawn. His anxiety isn’t nearly as high as it was. He isn’t upset about going to school. He knows he has safe places there. And that makes my heart happy.

Jake is also less afraid to ask us to explain what we are talking about. Hubz and I sometimes forget that we’re smarter than the average bear. Not to toot our own horns, but we use advanced vocabulary and idioms, sarcasm, and the like. Having two children with speech and language issues and learning how to communicate with them is something that we’re still learning. We’re much better, but it is a process. Since Hubz and I had our big talk with Jake, Jake will ask me to explain what I’m saying more. If I use a word he is unfamiliar with, he doesn’t just let it go, he is asking what I mean. I have also been watching his cues, and when I can see that he doesn’t understand, I’ll ask if he wants me to explain my words. Often he’ll nod sheepishly…and I explain what I’m talking about in a 10-year-old-friendly way.

I feel good about getting some therapy lined up for Jake, as well. We are seeing his psychiatrist this Saturday to discuss his medications, anxiety, and focus. In 2 weeks he will start to see a pediatric psychologist who specializes in anxiety and ADHD. I hope that it helps him to talk to someone who is a neutral party and can just let him get the weight of the world off of his little shoulders.

As we have been preoccupied with all things Jake and 4th grade, Tate has been really coming along. I know parents of autistics say it all of the time, but the progress happens little by little and then BAM!, you realize that your child is doing something that at one time was thought to be damn near impossible. For instance? Tate is having conversations with his peers! During ABA, they read social stories and model conversation starters. He is generalizing these with us AND with his friends at school. During ABA they are modeling appropriate ways to get attention, such as, “Hey there!” or “Hi, (insert person’s name)!” or “I really like your new shirt!”. Tate generalized this at school, complimenting his teacher on her headband, and one of his aides on her sweater. He told one of the girls that he liked her shoes, too. LOVE IT! This is a HUGE step for my kiddo…I’m so proud of him!

Another thing that Tate has been doing is that he asks to have privacy. He escapes to the living room, or goes under the dining room table, or even goes upstairs to our homework room. When he is alone, he does some of his stimmy behaviors or echolalia. He knows he needs it. And we all know he needs it. The beauty is that more times than not, he is able to re-engage with us after a period of his stimmies. I am so proud of him for advocating for himself. And I’m proud of Jake and Cole for respecting the fact that Tate sometimes needs to immerse himself in his stims.

So, even though we have had our bumps and bruises lately, we still have plenty to enjoy. We are emerging from that hard place and into some hope and happy times. And the light feels great.

But Wait….

You know that scene from A Christmas Story where Ralphie FINALLY gets his chance to tell Santa that he wants the Daisy Red Rider Carbine Action BB Gun….and he draws a total blank? When Santa suggests a football, he nods along, not sure what to do with himself…just kind of frozen in the moment? And, how once the elf puts him on the slide and out of the way, with a football on the way for his big gift, Ralphie jumps into action and awareness?

Well, that pretty much sums up how things have been going here with Jake’s education the past few weeks. We have been in a whirlwind of activity. I know that I had mentioned that Jake had an IEP meeting coming up on the 30th of January. Let’s just say that it didn’t go quite as we had hoped, and let’s just say that placement changes were encouraged, and only once we had a few moments to actually breathe and take it all in did it seem like the placement was a *wee* bit premature and a *wee* bit too restrictive for our liking. We THANKFULLY did not sign when we left that morning. And we THANKFULLY observed the new placement and voiced our concerns with the coordinator of special services. And we THANKFULLY spoke VERY FRANKLY with Jake and made some discoveries that were heartbreaking.

Jake’s anxiety and stress were at fever pitch. He was miserable. He was not able to pull it together in school to learn or demonstrate that he knew what had been taught. The staff was incredibly frustrated. They feel that they have tried everything. Something was broken. During the first weekend of February we sat down to talk to Jake about his schoolwork, anxiety and struggles at school. We also wanted to see how he felt about being in a smaller environment for his entire day…instead of for most of it. After promising that he wouldn’t get into trouble…and that no one else would get into trouble…Jake spilled his soul. He is being bullied. Other kids in the class are being bullied. By one kid. ONE KID.

Jake said he liked the resource room, but he also really likes being with all of the other kids. He admitted that he was scared to go back to his class. He didn’t feel comfortable in there all the time. He indicated that this child made him feel scared and upset. He said when the child talked to him, Jake’s head got fuzzy and his knees felt squishy. I probed more…I think Jake was having the “fight or flight” response a lot during his day. NO WONDER he was so heightened and dysregulated and unable to hold it together. I wrote to his team…and I know that I was not the only parent to bring up the bully situation lately. And yet, that bully is still in the classroom….

We also strongly suspect that some of Jake’s avoidance behaviors are learned and reinforced. We were told more than once over the past few weeks that when he gets really stubborn and quiet and does his little shake thing where he won’t do the work (he’s avoiding curriculum that is difficult for him) some of the staff let him just do what he wants…like sit there and take as much time as he wants to regulate. Or to sit there and draw so that he can calm down. Or he purposely knocks his paper on the floor and goes under the table to pick it up and takes a few minutes…and they let it happen. Because, well, he needs breaks. You might be thinking, Nomygodtheydidnot. But, yeah, they did…

Hubz and I aren’t saying that a more restrictive environment is never a possibility…but we are saying that we want to exhaust all options before we get to that point.

We had a second IEP meeting the other day to get a Functional Behavior Analysis done for Jake in his current setting. We really want the behavior analyst to observe and give us some data and information surrounding what is producing the anxiety at school. We have our ideas. The members of the IEP team have theirs. We are not exactly on the same page. At points during our meeting, I honestly felt like we weren’t even in the same book.

We meet again in March. By that time, he should be more comfortable with using his assistive technology at home and in the classroom. The behavior analyst will have enough observations and interviewing and data collected to address the FBA. With that, we should hopefully be able to put a BIP into place for the remainder of the school year. Aaaandd, we’ll meet again at the end of the year to determine placement for next year.

One thing I truly do not understand in this whole process is how we got from the IEP in October where things were going ok…not super-duper fantastic, but ok, to well, he needs to be in a really restrictive environment. It’s like going from the first chapter in the first book of a trilogy to the climax of the entire story arc at the end of the third book. ARGH!!!

AAAAaaand another thing…as a parent it is incredibly frustrating to have 2 children in the same district…in the same SCHOOL, and one is getting the right supports and curriculum and so on and so forth..and the other is just…not. It makes my head spin…my heart ache…and stirs some passions within that I didn’t know existed.

I will guarantee one thing….they’re going to hear me roar.

Heavy

I’m having a “heavy” day. It didn’t start out that way…as I crept up the stairs quietly this morning after my treadmill work-out, I heard Tate and Jake playing in their room. There were giggles. There was playful banter. It made me feel light, airy, and as if things were all right.

We all came downstairs, and Tate started to script about his teacher. He spent most of the time as he tried to fall asleep last night doing the same thing. She’s out for another 3 weeks due to medical complications/condition/crisis. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for her to be dealing with whatever she’s dealing with. And as a special education teacher, she has the added stress of knowing how much her absence impacts each of those kids…all differently. Tate is working through it. He did great the first two days back at school, but I think the reality of the absence of his teacher is really hitting him. I let him script, and I started to lose that light, airy feeling from earlier.

As we ate breakfast, Hubz started to chat up the boys about Science Night. See, our PTO is sponsoring a Science Night at the school. Hubz is planning on taking Jake and Cole. Tate might be up for it…or might not. He’ll be a game-time decision. Hubz was trying to talk it up to the boys this morning. My engineer husband lives for science. Jake, who typically loves science, started to poo-poo the idea of attending the science night. A cloud covered his face. His body language changed. He started to put up a few barriers. For Jake, Friday night  means putting on pj’s, watching a bit of TV and eating some snacks with all of us at home. Hubz tried a different approach…showed him a few pictures of some of the experiments that will be done in the presentation. Jake conceded to going, but he’s not excited about it. He then perseverated on it the rest of the morning. Tried to convince us that he was excited to go. (More like trying to convince himself that it’s going to be fun.) Cole is game for anything. I know he’ll love it.  I felt a bit heavier.

During car pool this morning, the kids were talking excitedly about being able to get outside and enjoy the snow over the weekend. Depending on how much rain we get, there should still be enough snow for the kids to fashion into forts and snowmen and snowballs, etc. Jake made a little squeak sound that he tends to use when he’s genuinely excited. Upon that squeak, the neighbor boy fished for Jake’s attention. He made sure to tell Jake that his sister (who was sitting next to Jake and is Jake’s age), yelled at him (the neighbor boy) the other day in their mini-van for making “weird noises like Jake”. Our neighbor boy made sure to tell Jake that his sister said it is annoying and very weird. Jake got quiet and started to ramble, as he does when he’s embarrassed. Our neighbor girl turned a nice shade of crimson and hit her brother. She tried to back-track with Jake, and he mumbled that it was ok. (But I know it wasn’t.) I asked them to all be considerate of each other and be nice. I wished them a good day and as Jake kissed my cheek goodbye, I had to look away so he didn’t see the tears welling up in my eyes. The heaviness started to weigh on my heart.

Once I dropped Cole off at preschool, I did a quick Target run. I needed a few toiletries, and wanted to get a couple “active” clothing items while they were still on sale. As I was checking out, my phone began to ring. It was the school. As I answered the phone, the boys’ school social worker first let me know that there was no emergency (so that at least calmed my heart-rate down), but also wanted to know that she had Tate in her office. He was using A LOT of “potty” talk AND was echolalic with the word “guns”. It had been going on since he was in bus line this morning. My heart sunk…ugh. She said that the moment he walked into the school (where there is a picture of a gun with a “ghostbuster” sign over it because of the new concealed-carry law in our state that allows people to have concealed weapons on their person…just not in a school), he started saying, “No guns”  constantly. Every time he said it he got a reaction. It was a vicious cycle. They took him to see the principal. He had to talk with her. (I can only imagine how that went.) Then he went to the social worker’s office, and they did his social story about expected language at school..and expected behavior. He calmed down and regulated, so she wanted to call me to let me know what had happened, and to let him talk to me.

Tate struggles with the phone and conversation. But he did tell me he was sorry he said potty words. And then he said, “Mommy, I can’t say “guns” or “no guns”. I need to try something else.” Well, at least the social story stuck with him. I asked if he was feeling ok. He said, “Yes I am.” I asked if he wanted to stay at school. He said, “Yes I do!”. So, I chatted briefly with the social worker. We agreed that the absence of his teacher is really hard for him. We also agree that he REALLY, REALLY wants to have the attention of his peers. Unfortunately, social situations and interactions are difficult for him, so when he’s already overloaded (as he is with the absence of his teacher AND the getting back into school routine), he falls back onto reactionary measures to get any type of attention. And it works.

Thankfully the social worker gets it. She is going to work with the class a bit more closely. They are all out of sorts. She’s going to work with Tate on conversation and attention starters that have some more positive connotations…and hopefully he can use those in his toolbox to interact with his peers. She’s also trying to figure out how to get rid of the signs..or a work-around them because we know that they have to be there legally.

And now, I feel quite heavy. I’m pushing through the heaviness…I am. But I am also allowed to feel it and to let it speak to me. I am using it to try to understand the “why” behind my children’s behavior. And it is helping me formulate some reaction to today’s events. It really is.

P.S. The more I think about it, the more I am irritated that Tate had to talk to the principal. Seriously, he’s not saying the word to be naughty or to be a menace to society. He is anything but that. He is truly using the words to provoke reactions from his peers so that he can interact with them. He needs guidance with navigating the social waters at school. And they need to take those damned pictures of guns down. Because, really, when it comes down to it, my autistic son, and others, have been taught to respond to visual cues their entire lives. You can’t put a picture like THAT up on EVERY.SINGLE.ENTRANCE of a school and expect kids NOT to have a reaction. For seriousness’ sake!!!!

Fresh Start

In case anyone out there was wondering, I did not get swallowed up by the Polar Vortex…rest assured, I was mostly loafing around and enjoying time at home with my family. Until Sunday. When they were supposed to be getting ready for school, and instead, we got “the call” from the district that it was too cold to send our children outside, so we were stuck with them for another day…or two.

To recap December:

-Tate’s teacher missed the last 2 weeks of school. She had medical emergencies and what-not. (I’m thinking she’s struggling with fertility/pregnancy, and that kind of breaks my heart.) Anyway, despite the chaos of the end of the year and her absence, he did pretty well. Oh, and he had a nasty cold, poor kid.

-Jake’s resource teacher missed the last 3 weeks of school before break. Thankfully, the substitute was consistent through those weeks, and with his arsenal of tools in his toolbox, he coped pretty well. He was totally “over” school by December 1st. His grades showed this..but we are approaching the end of the 2nd trimester with renewed zest and excitement. (And a new tutor!!)

-On the Thursday prior to break, Jake’s class did a poetry slam. Nothing beats a 4th grade poetry slam, with some musical entertainment by the 4th grade orchestra. Jake enjoyed playing “Jingle Bells” and “Dreidel” for the parents on his viola. He was at the end of the line of his class for reading poetry. First, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. Some of those kids are really talented! Secondly, Jake was quite nervous to read his poems. He hated the poetry unit. Hated being an understatement. He abhored it with all his might. Once it was his turn, he sat on the chair and looked like he was either going to bolt or throw up…possibly both. He looked at me. I gave him a nod of encouragement. He looked to his teacher. She gave him a thumbs up and mouthed, “You’ve got this!”. He took a deep breath. He looked up. He took another deep breath. And then he read his poems for the group–with just the right amount of speed. When he was finished, he was BEAMING! His teacher and I were both doing victory dances for him. And we both gave him congratulatory hugs. It was a HUGE accomplishment for him…and he DID IT!

– Cole was very excited about Christmas. His list ended up being about 3 times as long as he is tall. He loves preschool. He was sad that there was a 2-week break.

-Christmas was wonderful. We all enjoyed our gifts, nothing was overly done, and we had to return very little.  Jake loved his Angry Birds Go! set, Tate was over-the-moon about his Doc McStuffins playset, and Cole was entranced with his Legos and Kreo Transformers. Oh! And my dad got the boys a WiiU. They love it. And thankfully, Hubz is patient and played the games with them…because games make me dizzy, nauseated, and frustrated…and that’s before I have to help any of the kids with their characters!

-New Year’s Eve was laid back and quiet. It started to snow by noon…and continued the rest of the day. I had bought crab legs and scallops for Hubz and me. The kids had pizza. We really enjoyed our last day and night of 2013. And, in typical fashion, I couldn’t make it until midnight. I was out by 11:15!

Our first week of 2014 was fairly laid back. Due to weather (continuous snow for 40-some hours), extreme cold, and the like, we were hermits for most of it. We ventured out occasionally, and Hubz and I even had a date night on Saturday prior to the real frigid weather…but during a nice snow-storm that almost derailed our plans. We got to go to dinner at a steakhouse (which is ironic, since I don’t eat red meat), enjoy conversation with other adults (we went with 2 other couples), and then came home to enjoy a few glasses of wine and hang out. It was great!!

Sunday morning I ventured out in the winter wonderland to get our boys. Oh.My.God. It was awful!! They didn’t plow many of the roads, and the mini-van slipped and slid all over the place. I barely broke 35 mph, and my knuckles were white the entire drive there and back. (And it was really hard to drive back with Cole’s constant chatter, Tate’s vocal stims, and Jake’s need for reiterating our schedule for the rest of the day.) Once we were home, I planted myself on the couch, pulled my Packer fleece blanket over my legs, and pretty much refused to move unless absolutely necessary. (Of course, my team fell apart during their playoff game and lost…again. Blargh.)

By 1:00 pm on Sunday, we knew that the boys were not going to school due to the arrival of the Polar Vortex. (You need the deep-voiced movie guy to say it, for full effect.) It was cold. Silly cold. Our “high” on Monday was -12. Wind chill was -35. I was glad that I didn’t have to venture out in the frigid air. I opened the door for Tate’s therapist, and quite literally, the cold air took my breath away. I was hopeful that temps would rebound enough on Tuesday for the boys to go to school. I pulled out all of my tricks…we colored, we read, we played games, I had them pretend to go to the jungle and be animal rescuers (which really ticked of Jake because they weren’t ACTUALLY transported to the jungle…oy! literal thinkers!!!), and we played Legos, Jake practiced viola, we made a fort, and the list goes on…During Tate’s therapy, the phone rang. It was the district number. I went numb…but yes, it was “the call”…no school on Tuesday, either.

Tuesday did us all in. We were all tired of each other. No one wanted to play any more. No one wanted to watch TV. No one wanted to be near another member of our family. Hubz was the lucky one. He was able to escape to the office. Lucky man. Tate got to escape downstairs for therapy, so he at least had a break. The rest of us had to tolerate each other for the next few hours. It pretty much broke us all.

When Hubz got home, he noted our harried looks and frazzled interactions with each other. I told him we were all DONE. We put the kids to bed early last night. No one objected, so I think that was a sign…

And this morning, all was right with the world as they headed off to school for the first time in 2014…and I headed over to Target to buy a few items that we decimated during our hibernation…and got a Caramel Flan Latte from Starbucks. Mmmmmm….a good treat to celebrate the first peace of no kids in the house in 2014.

 

 

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