Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Notes from a plane on what we did in September


September has been a month of ceaseless toil and business trips( three business trips in one month and many 12-14 hour workdays in those business trips  )  .

 I am trying to gather up the memories of this month before I forget

Thankfully I took pictures which makes it so much easier ( what did one do before the camera phone ?)

Refocus on Floortime  

In some part of this month, I noticed  a dullness in the way R was.

A repetitiveness in all his passtimes and I was worried about this.

Its not just about screen- time.

DH and I don't worry too much about screen time because between school and therapy - his overall free time is very limited.

And because he works so hard - we really don't want to plan out every hour of his day

 (Like all of us- doesn't an autie - deserve to have a balance of work and what he considers play? )

Plus, I also think its okay for me and DH to sometimes just be lazy and watch some TV and drink cups of tea.

That being said,  I do worry about the quality of computer time.

 So its okay when he is looking for EFL videos and learning vocabulary or watching videos

But it does not feel  okay at all, if he rewinds and fast forwards the same video over and over again

I was discussing this with Miss Gypsi .

Her idea was that  we need to remind him of all the other stuff that there is to do!

At this, a light bulb went on in my head

( how many times must I learn the same thing over and over again? )

I dedicate an entire weekend to playing and high affect activities  and R is literally a different child

Real, high quality attention is like sunshine to R

I try to make every activity and chore fun

We do bubble baths instead of regular baths .

When he rejects my ideas of turning the bubbles into snow - I do exactly what he wants to do ( which is make the bubbles fly in the sky )

I try to  get him to notice aspects in everyday chores that I know will interest him. I want him to notice

Like,   pumpkin patches outside grocery stores


I get him to think about everything - when I make Pizza- I get him to make to help him spread the tomato sauce and cheese.


The trick, I think is to prevent the constant narrowing of the world that happens in times of stress ( as school and hard work are always great stressors ) 

Of course, the best thing to build in your child is the desire to open up their mind and explore their world and this can only happen if it looks like  fun.

So the rules are

Find new things

Make the new things  fun

Pretend Play 


I bring out all the Thomas the Trains and we read rhymes about them

( I am struck by how rudimentary his play is and how its stopped at what was taught to him.We formally stopped pretend play a few months ago to focus on the very important "Reading Comprehension"  - but then I also remember what a great gift it is that .1.   he retains the learning and 2. he is teachable )
We try and find other things that will interest him .

DH gets him a pin wheel which we have a lot of fun with .

I think R thinks that the pin wheel is a flower ( as the pinwheel we have in our house is stuck in the ground ) and he smells it carefully

I love the way his mind works

The focus back on Floortime and on R again has a remarkable effect on all of us I think.

DH and I are never happier than when we see R blossoming

I am always touched by how little it takes to make  R happy.

The other day he  asks for (yet) another set of foam numbers.

DH and I remind ourselves that its important to him - even though its a very childish toy

OMG he is so happy with these numbers.

My eyes fill with tears as he does his happy jig in Walmart after we check out with the numbers in the bag

I resolve to throw out the "appropriateness of a toy for his age" measure that I sometimes( thankfully not always )  have

When I see him dancing, I am simply ashamed that I ever thought dismissively of these 5 dollar foam numbers

Fall 


The first leaves of fall have come .. it maybe my favorite things in the world.

I spend as much time as we can outside - especially when we are at the cabin.




DH working on his various projects -

The torrential rain makes a great gaping hole in our front area and DH builds a retaining wall.

 Having an engineer as your husband is really super helpful !

DH works,

While R and I play and lounge about on Saturday- which I have firmly told DH is the day of no "shoulds"



Birthday 
I had a birthday in September .

I love the 30's.

I make the mistake of letting R choose where we should go. Since his criteria is based on which restaurant gets him the best color combination of crayons ( red and green for Coke and Sprite ) he chooses Applebees

DH gets me these lovely  lovely flowers.

  I have bought my official present earlier ( a handbag ).This is our procedure now - we get a gift that we want. But we also do something extra like card and flowers for me and card and candy for DH .

  This sounds unromantic but it really takes the pressure off thinking what to get for each other and really cards and flowers from DH are what I really want from him!

 Thank you to all of you who wished me on Face book
Business Trips

I feel like I always complain about traveling - but its really not all bad.

The long days while traveling - like yesterday, a day that started at 5 am and ended at 10.30 is quite brutal -

But its mostly my planning which results in this as I like to pack as much work into each day in order to minimize my days out of town

At the same time - I suddenly do find the time to blog.

In fact dear friends, thanks to the WiFi and the enforced free-time I am able to get back to my much loved blogging from a plane.

Plus I really do enjoy working while still missing my DH and R painfully at odd moments.

 While making a cup of tea, I will suddenly remember how my DH wraps the string of his tea bag round and round the handle of the cup.
 Sometimes I will use our unique family language and realize  that no one else gets the meaning.

Like I will use R-speak and say " its gone.. Oh no" when I cannot find something and realize that none of my colleagues know our secret language and are wondering why I speak with such melodrama

I end this post my dear friends.

 Please forgive me for its length and the editing errors as the ipad is really not an ideal tool for blogging.

I have missed you - promise to visit all your blogs soon !

Sunday, September 4, 2011

What I learned from some First Graders about Acceptance


Small kids are usually accepting of differences.

This is what most of my friends tell me

But they also need to be explained the reason for these differences

A friend of mine with with a neurotypical daughter gave me this valuable insight. She  said that she had showed her daughter that she should reach out to one of her classmates who has autism. Until then her daughter( a very kind and sweer child )  had never considered the possibility, that a child that did not reach out - could have wanted friends - and just did not know how to. 

DH and I thought it would be good to talk  R’s classmates about R – his differences and the reasons for these differences – in order to help R be more accepted in his class . ( without any mention of any diagnoses of course )
So one hot Friday afternoon – armed with popsicles – we set out to talk to his class

We sat in a shady spot  - the kids in a circle – and us with them too ( me, quashing any qualms about what the grass was doing to my silk dress from work )

We handed out the popsicles and were clearly too slow as a couple of the kids bleated from the back  -“Why did I and L not get any popsicles?

After they were assured that they were not being singled out and neglected we asked them if they knew who we were

Kids “R’s Parents” “R’s Mom and Dad

Us : How do you know ?

Kids : “Because his dad drops him in the morning ?

Us : “Do you all know R ?”

Kids : Yes Yes Yes!

Us : “What do you know about him

Kids answer

He is a cool kid"
“He is very quiet”
“He is a nice boy”

I felt little tears pricking at the back of my eyes

Us : Have you noticed anything different about him

Silence

One boy from the back “ He has a lot of things written down on his desk .. he reads those things and then he does those things”

Us : Do you know why he does that ?

17 heads were shaken to indicate no

US: “Do you know something special about R .. he could read when he was 3 years old ? But he only started to speak a year ago. So reading has always been easier to him.”

Kids nod heads  

One boy : I could read when I was only 9 years old (all the kids are  6-7 years old by the way – but we decided to not nitpick J )

One kid : Sometimes he moves his hands like this .. why does he do  that ?

Us : We use Mom –nos’s example “ when you sit for a very long time .. do your feet feel all funny “

Kids : yes yes yes ( one dissenting voice says – “mine never do” – but we ignore it as its clearly an attempt at attention  )

Us : What do you do when you feel that away

Kids : “All tingly” .. “we shake our leg” “we walk

Us : Well , some children’s body can feel that way all the time and so they need shake their body from time to time so they can feel okay

Kids : oh

His teacher says : “Do you remember when we read the book about how everybody is different  … how some children learn differently … and we need to accept them ?”

One angelic-looking ghoul chimes up : “Is that they one where everybody’s head got chopped up in the end ?” she adds with satisfaction .. “into little pieces “

Teacher turns to us hastily and assures us that no books on massacres are being read in First grade

She turns to the class; “No the book where we learned that children learn differently ..

Kids : Yes

Teacher : “And how can we be friends with R ? We can talk to him about the things he is interested in ..”
She points to the book we write on R and have handed out two copies to the kids ( basically the book comprises – a picture and a sentence per page and talks about all the cool things about R.  And also adds that he is only now learning how to talk and make friends )

Teacher continues: “Like words and numbers and that is what we are learning in First grade.. and we need to be patient”

She turns to us “ I need to go inside to get the waste paper basket for the popsicles ..can you wait here “
Once she leaves the kids assure us “You know how good R is .. he has never got a pink slip”
Another kids “Well its actually a red slip “

Dissent breaks out as to exactly what color it is – but the general consensus is that it’s a VERY BAD THING to get

The kids explain all the laws of the slips – and there is clearly a lot of confusion

But it occurs to me that each child is really most concerned about their own life and not getting into trouble themselves.

And does not really spend all day wondering why R is different.

Its an obvious truth but something I did not realize

( its like realizing after you spend all your high-school years wondering what-everyone-thought-of-you. Only to realise that everyone was too busy wondering what-everyone-thought-of-them)

Kids say pointedly  : “We have given R some compliments today

And I remember they are doing this in their school – this chain of giving compliments

US : “Well we want to give you a compliment too .. you guys are amazing

We tell his teacher and his resource room teacher that we were so worried that R would get picked on .  

And instead these kids are so accepting and just plain nice !

And they assure us that it never happens here – even in the more grown up classes

The resource teacher says  “Sometimes as they grow up, in fact they get too protective and wont let the teacher correct the child

I assure her fervently that if THAT is the problem we have to worry about , we will be very grateful to them and the kids and the parents of the kids who are raising them !

Of course things are far from perfect for R socially

For R, friendship with peers ( for he has many good relationships with grown ups ) is one of his biggest challenges.

He has no friends his age and has neither the know-why, nor the know-how of friendship

( And I am always reminded of this uncomfortably when I read R’s favorite bed time story these days – “Lizzy’s Friends”- story of a child with no friends - alone everywhere.

Lizzy makes friends with the paper toys she makes through Origami and imagines they are alive.

Even though,  I tell R, that the giant pile of books by his nightstand are his friends like Lizzy’s paper toys are hers – it gives me a great pang. My friends ,you guys,  online and inlife – mean so much to me - you see )

While I am very aware of all of these challenges  

To know that when he goes to school, he goes in an atmosphere of casual acceptance , means just so much .

Thank you first graders, thank you teachers and  thank you parents who are raising these great kids.

This post is written for hopeful parents and will be published there on the 5th.

Floortime Lite Mama

On my life as the mother of an adorable 5 year old with Autism and Apraxia