Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ask. It's OK.

The doorbell rang.  As I answered the door I noticed our mailman, Tim, standing there with a big grin on his face with our mail and a pen in his hand. 

"Need your signature again.  In all my years I've never run across a school district who sends out so much certified mail," he told me.  Still grinning from ear to ear.

I laughed and told him there will be much more to come as long as my son goes to school here.  With that, he gave me an inquisitive look.

I went on and told him that my son was autistic and he is in an autistic classroom.  What I was signing for was probably the NOREP for him to go to ESY (extended school year).

His smile disappeared.  He paused. Then what I absolutely love came next, questions!  Lots of questions from Tim, the mailman.  This is where we, as parents, can really give someone a glimpse into what autism is. 

His first question or statement was, can you guess?  "Oh, autism.  That's where they genius IQs.  Asberger's? or something like that?"

Asperger's.  And yes, they can be really smart but so can nonverbal children.  (I really don't like functioning labels but this was the only thing he knew about autism.)  Autism is such a spectrum and every child is so very different.  I went on and told him a little about my son and his autism diagnosis.  Like he was non verbal and a couple of years ago he started reading.

Then he started shaking his head and what came next?  "Oh, so sorry to hear about your son.  How do you handle it.  So sorry."  I told him it's OK and he is a fantastic boy!  He is constantly learning and progressing and growing!

Tim proceeded to state that he doesn't ever see him playing outside.  I told him that my son is heat sensitive and when the sun is out, he is usually inside.  He hates to be hot and even in the deep summer months, he will be pale white.  Hubby and I joke that he will actually turn translucent one day. 

After a few seconds of quiet, he proceeded to tell me that his life changed so much when his parents became unable to care for his sister.  She is wheelchair bound and Tim took her in.  He told me it changed his whole life.  I assured him our lives had changed for the better.  He agreed and his smile returned.  And with that, he hopped back into his car and continued to deliver the mail.

It's the small conversations that have a big impact. Who would've thought that a simple piece of mail turned into some autism awareness.  I'm happy Tim and I had this conversation.

Ask me about my son's autism.  It's OK.  Grab some coffee and let's talk. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Homework. Math. Ugh.

Homework.  Who likes homework?  Yes?  Then you are the minority.  Lol.  My daughter complains everyday about it.  My son hears it and then stresses over it because she stresses over it.  He is autistic and works really hard on his academics when he is in school. When he gets home, that's a different story.

Back in 2013 I wrote about how he voluntarily, wanted to do his homework and wanted absolutely no help.  It was a fantastic experience because I heard him actually read for the first time.  "In His Own Time"  ((Bragging here but that very blog was also included in a book called This Extraordinary Life by Rachel S. Quatkemeyer along with many other bloggers.  Click on the link to purchase.))

Back to his homework.

Homework has been getting more difficult.  Some nights are better than others.  Last night when I opened his folder and pulled out his homework, my heart sank.  Math.  We're talking addition, subtraction, money and multiplication all on one worksheet.  He gets stressed over a sheet of just addition and now there were all these other problems. 

He is remarkable because he remembers when has homework.  I never remind him.  I let him choose when he wants to do it.  Either immediately after school, right before bed or in the morning.  He chose in the morning.  Ugh. 

What goes through my head is 'there goes his school day if he gets frustrated', right?  So, as patiently as I could, I waited for him to say, "Time to do my homework."

Oh boy, here we go.  Pencil ready.  He saw the worksheet and immediately became stressed.  Pulled on his hair.  His face became red.  The whining started.

Quickly, I grabbed a blank sheet of paper, covered up the worksheet and was careful to only show one line at a time.  This calmed him down somewhat.  When he was done with a line, I would move the blank sheet down.  He eventually got through the entire sheet and was so relieved when it was all was I.

He did it.  He got through it.  So proud of him. 

Addition, Subtraction, Money, Multiplication

Thursday, January 8, 2015

An Inclusion Perk

My son has been in an autistic support classroom all of his young life.  This is what he needs in order to learn.  One on one learning is key for his education. 
He also needs to be with other NT children so he can learn social behaviors from them.  (All the good ones hopefully.)  With inclusion comes so many challenges but so far he is doing well. When he is in his inclusion classes, which consist of all the specials, science, social studies, and homeroom, he is challenged with his speech and social skills.  He does his best to fit in and pay attention to his peers.  This is exhausting to him. 
Have you ever walked into a room with people you don't really know and have to try to break into conversation?  It is difficult for typical adults to do let alone a child.  Where do you start with small talk?  What do you have in common?  He has been working hard on circles of communication.  This is the back and forth we NTs call conversation.  This has been a difficult task for my boy.  He tries very hard and is getting better. 

Back to the classroom.  Fifth grade can be brutal.  Remember those days?  The social pressure.  The teasing.  The 'wonder what she's saying about me' times?  OK.  Maybe not for you but for me, I didn't really like school.  If it wasn't for my very best friend always being by my side I'd be a wreck!!  (Love you Janel.)  Anyway...... my son.  He is in the inclusion classroom 39% of his day.  All of the classwork is modified for him, love his school and teachers.  When the room is divided up into small groups, he also goes off into one of those groups and always has partners.  Last year he was included in a PowerPoint presentation lesson and worked well with his group.  PowerPoint!  I don't even know how to do that. 
He doesn't get invited to birthday parties.  He doesn't go to a friend's house after school.  If you ask him who his friend is he answers his sister or his uncle. 
Where am I going with this? 
I opened up his backpack this morning, the day after his birthday, and took out a notebook I never saw before.  In his inclusion classroom, each child wrote my son a note.  Most of the notes were about him being a good friend.  How the kids enjoy his company.  Think he's funny.  And more importantly, hoping he gets a really good gift.  Lol.  This was an inclusion perk I really appreciated.  I read through them and started to get teary eyed.  (Can't stand being mushy!!)  I've included some samples of what the kids wrote.  I love each one.  When he is feeling down, we are going to bring this notebook out and read them. 

By the way, he said he had an awesome birthday and came to me at 12:30am, crying to tell me he wishes his birthday didn't have to end.  Or in his words, "No more birthday.  I have to wait for next year.  Bye birthday."  Then he sobbed his way to sleep. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Most Perfect Sound in the World

He is off to the left in front of the
There he stood.  On the stage with a giant spotlight on him.  He stood with pride in front of his entire 5th grade class overlooking a packed auditorium.  The music started.  Waiting patiently for his cue to sing.  Then it was time.  It was his turn to shine.  A voice so beautiful filled the room.  His falsetto was breathtaking and his pitch was perfect.  I couldn't help my quivering chin.  My eyes filled with tears without warning.  Proud doesn't even begin to describe this moment in time. 

His music teacher told us he could sing.  He wouldn't sing for us. 

His autistic support teacher told us he had a beautiful voice.  He wouldn't practice for us. 

We put our faith in their hands that he could do it.  They said he could.  He did. 

He was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4 but we knew earlier.  He was non verbal for many years then slowly words came.  Scripting was and still is huge.  Verbal stims are everyday.  It is what we are used to and it makes him feel good.  We don't stop them.  We usually hear singing through his scripting and even then it is sprinkled with funny voices and stims thrown in.  But on this glorious night we heard an angelic voice fill the auditorium and it was the most perfect sound in the world. 

Singing his solo in front of a packed auditorium. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Art Room Paintings

We moved into our new home over 2 years ago and we had an extra room, an extra bedroom that is.  We don't get overnight guests so with some thought, my daughter and I decided on an arts and crafts room.  I wanted to scrapbook and she wanted to everything else Michael's and AC Moore had to offer.  Lol.  BUT I wanted this space to be for everyone so a bit more planning went into it. 

With my son's permission, all of his LEGO's and K'nects were organized and placed into a part of the room, then daughter decided she wanted LEGO's also so she has a section for hers as well.  I changed the closet into all craft storage filled with tons of labeled photo boxes and made a table.  Yes, I made a big art table made out of a door.  It gives us lots of space and overall it is working for us.  All my scrapbooking things are there but still untouched.  I'll get to it. 

While watching a TV show, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, (I watch it because of the drama....don't judge me) one of the women had shown a painting mural in her home.  It was a bunch of small canvas paintings her family and friends had painted over time and I really loved how it looked.  So I thought we could give it a try. Packed up the kids and off to Michael's we went for supplies. 

Side note.  Now, one of my favorite facebook pages is Autism Art Project.  That page is filled with beautiful artwork from the creator, Beth and sprinkled with artwork from her son.  She also shares her adventures into their world of autism.  It's one of the pages I do read often.  If you haven't checked them out, you won't be sorry.  She is an amazing artist.  

My family decided that once a season we would all gather in the art room and paint together.  The first time my son didn't really like it.  He took black paint and angrily painted 2 eyes and a mouth then yelled and stormed out.  We all remained calm and kept painting.  Eventually he came back into the room and asked to paint another picture, this time of a red flower.  He got another canvas and it came out beautifully!!! 

So, I am presenting our little family project representing spring, summer and fall of 2014. I'm hoping to eventually cover the entire wall with our work. 

Spring, Summer and Fall of 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Friendship and Drums

UPS came to my house yesterday and delivered a surprise package for my son.  A snare drum.  A very loud, very awesome snare drum. 

Last week I  told you about his music teacher who did his own research about autism and decided on an out of the box way to teach my son.  This technique was going to be used for a while until the teacher thought he could handle learning how to read sheet music.  Being a black and white thinker, my son decided he couldn't practice unless he had his very own snare drum.  Tricky little guy. 

I received a call from my dear friend and her hubby who live out of town and they wanted to give my son a drum.  Do you have a friend who you've known your entire life that even when you don't talk often it's like you pick up where you've left off without any hesitation?  That type of friend. 

So excited to see what was inside!

Her hubby was a drummer for many, many years and wanted to pass on one of his.  Floored at the generosity, I accepted but didn't tell my son. 

As we were waiting for the drum, he had another lesson.  This week his teacher decided to introduce him to actual sheet music because he nailed the previous weeks lesson work. Without practicing.  Yes, I'm bragging. 

Back to the drum.  He opened the box and was so excited!  My drum!  I have a drum!!  Thank you! Thank you!  He ran up the steps and brought down his sheet music and sticks and started drumming.  Drummed all night long. 

Drumming away.

Dear friend and hubby, thank you so much for the snare drum and thank you very much for the earplugs.  They help.  How come I didn't realize how LOUD drums were?  LOL.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Musically Inclined


Music seems to be 'his thing' so far this year and we couldn't be happier.  In July he told us he wanted to play drums.  Thinking it may be a phase, I didn't pursue lessons.  We signed his sister up at the end of the last school year for Viola lessons and in July is when we went to rent her instrument.  He loved the smell of the old music store, the creaking of the wooden floor and was immediately drawn to all the instruments and music books.  That's when he started insisting on drum lessons. 

When school started his teacher asked if I'd think he'd be interested in joining Chorus.  We decided to give it a shot and he was fantastic!  The Chorus teacher asked if he could sing a solo at the Winter Concert because his voice was beautiful.  Awesome right?  What is funny about that is we hear tons of verbal stimming and not so much singing.  Verbal stims rank high in this house but apparently this boy can sing and can hold a tune.  Didn't get that from me.  LOL.

During parent teacher night we met with the Music Teacher and told her about his interest in drum lessons.  Because the school year already started and percussion lessons were already filled for the year our other option was to find him a private instructor.  Now, in our household, we were pretty much filled with after school obligations.  Like so many other autism families, he has therapies after school.  We have tried many over the years but currently he goes to an after school therapeutic socialization group, also swim, speech and occupational therapy weekly.  Not to mention his sister's activities.  So to fit in drum lessons? That was going to be tough.

His wonderful Music Teacher gave us a place where we could check out for lessons.  Over the phone I asked if this instructor had any experience with teaching children on the spectrum.  Guess what they said?  No.  My first feeling was 'then they can't teach my son' but I made an appointment to see if the instructor and my boy would mesh.  He really wanted to learn how to drum.

We went to meet the instructor and he was very open to learning how to teach my son.  We spoke about his learning techniques, interests and most importantly, the instructor let my son go to town on a drum set.  Interested in what he was hearing, we decided to move ahead with lessons.  Just so happened that the day and time slot that was open for lessons, we didn't have anything planned.  Fate.  Plan old 'this is suppose to happen' fate.

What a fantastic lesson! The instructor went ahead and decided on an 'out of the box' teaching method.  How refreshing to have someone else do most of the work. I don't know who was more excited, my son, the instructor or me!  Turns out he has some natural ability when it comes to music and because he wants to do it, he listens to the instructor.  I promised to keep the GJOP readers updated and I will but for now, the boy wants a snare drum.  Have to find a non expensive snare drum.  Any ideas? 

This is how he is learning.  Instead of notes for now,
 he is learning right and left.  After a few weeks, it will
be converted to notes.  Loving his music instructor!