Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mom... She Said the S-T word!!!!!

James adores chess.  It is a game that he can win because no one else in the house really plays it.  The set that we have is a training set and it has the different moves each piece can make.  Sounds simple, doesn't it?  The concept of chess eludes me. My husband will play with him and they are fairly well matched. My daughter on the other hand, "chess me no likey!" We were talking about chess at supper the other night and James challenged her to a match.  She indicated that the game would be over very quickly because she would make nothing but stupid moves. James looked at her and told me that she had just said the "S-T" word.  She quickly changed the word to "Dumb" and he immediately did the same thing only said that she was using the "D" word. My husband chimed in and gave another alternative, "inadvisable," whereon James immediately smiled at him and said, "Dad, that is an "I" word!"

No wonder no one wants to play chess with him; everything they say will be broken down and turned into a spelling of phonics lesson!  So today I choose to find my bliss knowing that James has mastered the basics of chess,  annoying his sister and making me smile all through his wit.  Chess anyone?  It is your move!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Award Ceremony... YIPPEE... OH NO.....

Award ceremonies are supposed to be magical.  It is a chance to see our children get recognized for the amazing work they do during the school day.  I always look forward to them but also dread them at the same time.  This week James was given the Stars and Stripes award for academic success.  It is akin to the honor roll but 2nd graders are too young for the school honor roll so I call this one the "baby honor roll."  He received the same award last semester also.
For most kids, this would be the highlight of their day.  A chance to show their parents all of the amazing work they have done while in school.  For James, it was fine until he saw that some kids were getting perfect attendance medals.  It happened in a heartbeat... James was heartbroken! He is a very black and white guy.  If he can't have what he wants then he wants nothing!!  I saw him fight back the emotion and he did very well for a while.  The more kids who received this very special medal, the more unhappy he became.  To put this into perspective, of the approximate 250 kids in the assembly, 10-15 got this award.  To be honest, I haven't figured out how any children in this age range manages not to be sick during the school year, not only there every day but never late and never picked up early.  At the end of the assembly, I could see that James was about to lose it so I indicated to him to come and get a hug.  As he melted into my body, the raw emotion erupted.
I am a seasoned Autism mom.  I can handle anything from anxiety to major meltdowns.  Seeing my little man in such pain touched me in a way that few things in this world do.  I can count on one hand the times that James has exhibited this type of intense real emotion.  At that moment, my mind started soaring to what I could do to heal him and support him emotionally. (Can't help it... I'm a Libra and a natural fixer) I came up with a few medal awards he could have gotten such as, "most thoughtful child for being absent a few times this year giving his teacher a much earned break" or "kid most likely to make a difference in the classroom when he is absent." Those may sound negative to you but to James he doesn't really care what the medal is for as long as it is on a lanyard and he gets to wear it proudly.
ran home and created one for him and delivered it to school for the psychologist to give to him when she checked in with him later in the day.   It read:

 Perfect attendance award
given to James for 3122
consecutive days of being my
favorite son!!

Today I choose to find my bliss knowing that I can still make my little man feel better with 15 words, an Angry Bird lanyard and, a hug.  I don't know what turned his day around but he had a perfect one!  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Active and Inventive Dressing and Undressing

James is very active!  He moves a lot when he needs to get dressed and undressed. I think it is a shimmy thing, if he wiggles, then the clothes get on and off easier.  Items that are taken off are always karate chopped or punted across the room.  I spend my mornings, after dropping him off at school, following the path of discarded clothing that usually ends up in several rooms.  At this point, I have decided to pick my battles and be grateful that he is showing independence in this life skill.  I will tackle the clothing organization later, when he is old enough to wash his own clothes.
One of my biggest battles in the morning involves finding and getting James' shoes on his feet.  I can't tell you how many times I have called my husband at work and quickly asked, "where are the shoes?" My husband is a ponderer.  Drives me crazy, especially when we are running late!  He will often think for what seems like an eternity (usually 30 seconds or so), and say something like, "Well they could be several places.  Have you looked in the ... or the... you might want to try the..." By this time, I am fit to be tied and my daughter is panicking and looking at the time, knowing that she is going to be late to chemistry AGAIN!  I am feeling a sense of relief with only 4 days left in the school year.  I only have to do the mad hunt 4 more times, and then I have 10 weeks before I need to start it up again.
So today, I find my bliss knowing that James is starting to show some independence in dressing and undressing.  He is creative in his method.  I also choose to find my bliss knowing that very few people on the planet have ever run all over the house looking for shoes, only to find them right in front of their noses.  Next time I am looking, this will certainly be the first place I will try!!

Monday, May 28, 2012

SHHHHHHHHH... Anxiety...........SHHHHHHHHH... I am Watching a Play!!!

As I have said in previous posts, James is riddled with anxiety.  We never really know when it will rear its ugly head but it happened again last night.  I announced at supper that we would be watching the Royal Albert Hall performance of the Phantom of the Opera sometime in the evening.  James adores the music to the show and has watched the movie many times.  However, I learned last night that to him the movie is real and the play really isn't.
James snuggled into a chair as the play started  running and rambled though his anxiety as he heard the beginning of the orchestration.  I knew he was excited because he started talking very fast but this could also be the anxiety working its magic.  Anyway, this is pretty much how it went "Okaymomthisisn'tthemoviewhichIdon'tlikebuttheplaywiththemusicIdolikeandIcansingthemusictotheplayIdolikebuthemovie istooscaryandtheplayisn'trealitisjustthemusicandthepeoplesingingthemusicIlike"
I attempted to sooth his nerves and was greeted with a big "SHHHHHHHHHH, I am watching the play!"

So I shushed and continued watching the play.  James was certainly enjoying it very much and pushed his bath time several times with the "Not now dad, I am watching the play that I like."  He hummed and sang to the music and had a fantastic time.  Soon the show got to the point where the Phantom takes Christine into his lair to train her some more.  She swoons after the Music of the Night song and awakes the next morning still unsure of where she is. She hears the organ playing and goes to investigate.   Now, James loves the unveiling of the Phantom and cheers him on like one would cheer on a favorite team at a sports event.  Something about the character moves him and his empathy kicks in. (This is the clip from the movie as I couldn't find one from the live performance but the music is the same.)
As the mask is torn off of his face, the Phantom uses some strong words (well strong for this show).  James looked at me and said "OOOOOOOH, he said some bad words!  He is in trouble!" I smiled at him an asked if he thought the Phantom would have to write sentences for breaking that rule.  James smiled with unbridled glee and said, "Yeah, make him write sentences, that will teach him!!!" and went back to watching the play.  (James sometimes has to write sentences at school for not following the rules)
Today I choose to find my bliss knowing that my kids have amazing taste in music and know what the rules are in our house.  Whether or not they decide to follow those rules is quite another topic but last night, James remembered that we generally don't use strong words in our house.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Helpful Obsession! Huh?

I know that it is often very easy for us to see our kids' many obsessions as harmful.  Our kids spend so much time with them that they often don't have time for meaningful ventures.  Or do they?
Today we forgot to get cat food at the store and James chimed in with this gem... "If we don't get them food they will go on a RAMPAGE!!" Whoa... big word for a language delayed little man.  "Wow Jamesie... where did you learn such a big word?" "From Pokemon and Reshiram on my game!"  "Do you know what Rampage means?" "UHHH No." "Well what does Reshiram look like when he goes on a rampage?" "He looks MAD and crazy!" "So can you now guess what Rampage means?" "Rampage means MAD and crazy!"
Vocabulary lesson done for the day.  Hopefully your day will be Rampage free and you are able to find you Bliss.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What is "Smolder?" UHHHHHH...

Kids are often a mystery.  James is no exception.  When it comes to preferred entertainment, my little man is all "not what you will expect!" He adores chic flic classics like Sense and SensibilityPride and Prejudice and My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  The first 2 I get because he got his name from Jane Austen (James Austen).  In the Greek one, he thinks that the dad is hysterical  (I guess Windex tickles him)!  James adores musicals such as State Fair, Singing in the Rain, Meet me in St. Louis, Hello Dolly, and RENT (go ahead and judge if you must, BUT James can do a dead on Roger and sing all of his songs, minus some choice words).  When it comes to the traditional kid movies, he likes the basic boy ones: CARS, Lion King, Speed Racer, and the like, but, when push comes to shove, there are two that are his definite GO TO movies: Enchanted and Tangled.   I have listened to them a gazillion times in the car, and he knows them word for word.  Yesterday, while watching Tangled, he got so sad and I asked why.  He stated, "I am sad for him because she broke his smolder!"

So what exactly is smolder?  Not really sure I want to know, but James knew and that is why he was so sad.  According to James, "A Smolder" is a persons lips, and when they get broken you can't give your mommy a kiss anymore.  Sweet man I have!  So worried about my feelings!  I am a little worried that James will decide to adopt the smolder routine when he wants to kiss a girl that isn't me and his smolder will get broken.  I guess I will have to show him how this translates to the real world as opposed to the animated world to see if it makes a difference.

It's not pretty, James, and real, 3 dimensional girls don't fall for it, if they do... RUN!!  Stick to your amazing smile and you will be fine, but remember girls are often at war with themselves and it is usually a battle that you want nothing to do with
So for now, stick to Pokemon, Mario, and your buddy Rodger. They are constant and can't break their lips!  Gosh, I dodged another tricky conversation today.  It was right up there with the dreaded "where do babies come from" that  my daughter asked when she was about 3.  I simply told her that babies come from the hospital and she seemed content with that answer.  I prefer to keep the smolder simmering on the back burner for a few more years, just long enough for me to build the tower to keep all the girls away who are after James for his amazing green eyes, curly hair, and infectious smile!

Friday, May 25, 2012

25 Words and I am Renewed!!!

Wasn't sure what I was going to do today because it is the one year anniversary of the worst day of my life so I was really feeling horrible.  My family is scattered in schools and work and here I am alone again at the computer trying to find my bliss.  I got on Facebook to get up to date on my three pages and got a wonderful surprise on my The Invisible Village page.  There was a message waiting for me from The Golden Hat Foundation.  For those of you who don't know about The Golden Hat Foundation it "is a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers for people with autism around the world." or on Facebook 
 'The Golden Hat: Talking Back To Autism' Book - Click to Enlarge  Kate Winslet, (actress) is the primary public face for this project.  She is featured on the cover of the book which she authored with two autism authorities (a mum and her nonverbal son with a lot to say about his autism.) The book was inspired by a poem that Keli (the young boy) wrote about a boy who couldn't talk but his golden hat could and one day the hat became lost.  
Some days I find my bliss in the funny side of Autism and others like today I find my bliss in knowing that in some small way I am heard and acknowledged.  This morning, the 25 word message from The Golden Hat Foundation gave me hope that my passion is appreciated.  I don't have the backing for a large foundation and I don't have thousands of people who are involved in my personal cause to show the world how wonderful my Autism world is, but I do have a very special message saying that 19 hours ago, I was heard as a writer and Autism mum.  The message had a picture of Kate Winslet as the profile picture and I don't know if she wrote the comment or not but today I was heard and James' world was valued.  
So today, take time to find what makes your child wonderfully unique and celebrate it! I leave you with James' attempt at stand up comedy (I challenge you to try not to laugh) click here (he had just put Kiefer down and was terribly worried about the fur on his fingers but held it together to get this wonderful clip)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

IEP... TAKE 3...

Sometimes it takes more than one meeting to get it right!  We had the big IEP meeting at the end of April.  Everything was going swimmingly until it wasn't.  We had the second IEP less than 2 weeks later.  Everything was going swimmingly until it wasn't.  We now have the third IEP set up for next Wednesday because the system drowned!  I hope we can resuscitate it because the bones are really good.  
James was thriving and succeeding independently but the life vest was a one sized fits all and it defeated him.  James requires very special attention to allow him to be independent.  A lot of that attention is ignoring what he is doing because it is the quickest, cleanest way to get it to stop.  James is so smart that he knows how to sabotage the best rescue efforts, (he is so like his daddy in this way!)!  That is one of his many superpowers!
The strange thing that has become very apparent to me through this situation is that sometimes the IEP is more hurtful than helpful.   In the past, I have always looked at the IEP as a tool that gave James power.  The power to succeed.  The power to be independent.  Unfortunately, I now have a more jaundiced view of it.  The IEP can also magnify the child to the point where those following it can't see that James is still a child not just a behavior, deficit or label.  He is looked at so closely that the main focus is lost.  The brilliance of the whole child is altered.  The deficits, labels, and behaviors become the child and if he happens to stray from the perfection dictated for on the page he is called out.  Not to say that the IEP isn't a very valuable tool, it is... but it is a tool.  It isn't the finished product.  The IEP tends not to look at the whole picture.  However, it is through the whole picture that beautyof the child is seen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

School is Calling Again!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

Sometimes I just can't handle it. I know we have all done it.  Our cell rings and we see that it is the school calling and we let it go to voicemail. Come on, you know you have done it.  I do it so that I can listen to the voice mail to see why they are calling.  Is he hurt?  Did he have a seizure? Did he hurt someone? Does he need an extra set of clothes?  What did he do, say, or break, and who do I have to apologize to or pay?  In our fragile ASD world we live on edge, not the edge, just edge!  Every phone call is a potential disaster, every email could be another nail in the door of "stay out or else!"  Until, eventually, you just stop answering the phone and let your partner deal with this crisis for once.  You forward the email to him or her and say "Please handle this--but be diplomatic!"
It happened yesterday.  I was enjoying my shopping trip at Costco and was on the phone with the ASD case manager trying to find out about ADHD clinics, and my phone indicated another call was waiting.  I let it go to voicemail.  When I checked to see who the missed call was from and it brought up my son's school, I thought "Oh heavens, what has he done now?  There are only 8 days left of school, hasn't he done everything already this year?"  I forced myself to listen to the message. The voice was his classroom teacher's.  She wanted to relay a very sweet story to me about something that happened just before the kids went to music and she would be available to talk for the next half hour or so.
I called her back immediately because I love wonderful James stories.  She started telling me how he had choked her up today during the making of the class memory book (notice ~ not choked her {that was kindergarten and James is now in 2nd grade}).  The kids were being asked to pick friends and tell what they liked about them.  Some of the kids were saying comments such as "you're funny," "you're nice," etc. ... James thought and attributed the 6 pillars of character to his friends with such honesty and astuteness he touched his teacher and aide in a very special way.  She went on to tell me that over half of the class chose James as a friend to say something nice about.  Couldn't be PROUDER of my little man!  In the middle of the frozen section of Costco, I beamed!
2nd grade  has been by far the best of the tough years.  James has many friends (though he only knows about 1/3 of the names of the kids in the class).  He has made amazing progress and now intellectually knows the 6 pillars of character.  As a parent, I know the first step to doing something is knowing what to do.  Next year, with the knowledge fully under his belt, he will have more time to put the pillars into practice, making them second nature.  Not to say that he doesn't already show that he knows the pillars, but this year he has been more like Hercules trying to push the pillars into his comfort zone.  Next year, he will stand strong with them not against them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ASD Hoarders or Really Clever Marketing Strategies

I'm sure if you look into any home where there is a child with ASD you will find a lot of stuff.  Not necessarily typical stuff but stuff that excites the child.  Could be can openers, magnets, twistable crayons, scraps of paper, Barbies, random bits of this and that... doesn't really matter what it is... there's stuff!
My son loves stuff and some of his favorites are Pokemon cards and figurines, Angry Bird figurines and stuffed animals, baseball and football cards, balls, rocks, small scraps of wood, things that sparkle... He is a certifiable hoarder and I am not sure if he would be naturally or if I have enabled him in this TV-worthy venture.  Like most ASD parents, when I know that my son has an interest in something, I run with it and make sure he has access to it and all of its cousins, aunts, uncles, once/twice removed and so on until our home is overrun with James' obsession.
With the ASD numbers on the rise, toy marketers must be taking this into consideration with production.  They must be giddy with glee knowing that our kids spend time on smart phones and tablets playing games that naturally translate into little trinkets that we will snatch up by the millions to see the hint of love on our kids' faces.  I get more random hugs from James when I present him with a new trinket than I do any other time.
James loves crystals and he carries them with him.  They sparkle in the sun and make cool images on the ground.  He hunts for these treasures in the back yard at my father-in-law's house.  I don't know for sure if they are a natural find or a planted pleasure my father-in-law places where he knows James will look.  All I know is that when one is found, there is great happiness!
James is under strict orders not to bring stuff into school as it distracts him from his work.  This has been a really hard lesson for him and we have had many meltdowns over it.  I have had to frisk him, email his teacher and give her a heads up to have him empty his pockets before entering the class and threaten to toss his treasures in the trash if he takes them into school.
This morning, James shared a very special moment with me.  They don't happen often because James can be very sneaky with his stuff.  I dropped James off at the curb and started to drive away.  I just happened to look back and saw him heading back towards the car with his hand in his pocket.  I rolled down the window, and he deposited his beloved crystal into my hand!  I couldn't have be more proud of him at that moment.  He gave a piece of himself to me that I wasn't entitled to and yet it was given.  So today James' two most special things, Rodger and his beloved crystal will spend time together until it is time to get him from school at 2:22.  Chances are there will also be a very special something that James isn't expecting.  I am such a sucker when it comes to my little man "manning up" and following the most difficult rules in the book!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Oh, It is Monday in a BIG WAY Today!

Some Mondays come into our life and all is well.  Not a care in the world and the sun is shining!  Today isn't one of those Monday's!  Couldn't get James to get out of bed, couldn't get him to eat breakfast or even think about smiling.  So I dressed him in his new shirt, had my daughter do a photo shoot and sent him off to school.  Good thing Astra was able to get the bits of a smile from him.  Some days are just Monday to the core and I hope this one starts looking up.

I always try to provide a positive outlook on the days and today is not the exception.  I am positive that Monday will go into Tuesday.  I am positive that James will have a day.  I am positive that we will all survive this one.  I am positive that summer vacation will be here in 9 days.  I am positive that James drips with pure awesomeness!  Maybe those who see his shirt will become blinded by it and see him as I see him everyday.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Try It... You May Like It... Or Maybe NOT!!

If you poke at things they
often taste better 
Okay, time for a sip

James is super sensory and one of his troubles comes with temperatures of foods and drinks.  He tries to like the gadgets he sees on TV because they are cool and other kids really like them.  One of our recent purchases was for a slushy maker because my daughter loves slushy drinks.  He soooooo desperately wanted to make this a wonderful experience for himself and he really tried but as you will see the pictures tell the true story.

For those of us who know him
this is a forced smile
happy dance

going in for another try...

For anyone who is curious how this turned out...
 Sad lonely lemonade slushy left
alone at the table. He may try again another
day but for today... the experience is done

Friday, May 18, 2012

Why is it Okay for the Cat BUT not for my ASD child

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome
One of my favorite books about Autism is called All Cat's Have Asperger Syndrome.  It looks at many typical Aspbergian traits and shows how cats all have the same traits.  Well, I sometimes wish my son was allowed to be like a cat and looked at as cute and cuddly when he displayed many of his Classic Autism traits.  We have 4 cats and they are part of the family.  They all display many traits that we have been trying to help James with over the years.  Let's take a look and see what they are able to get away with and he isn't.

It is okay for our cats to looooove inanimate objects, but we try to have James socialize with people so he gets practice with social relationships.  The cool things about inanimate objects is that they make no judgement.  They have no feelings one way or another about how the relationship goes or doesn't go.  They don't make promises and break them.  They are always there when needed.  I am sure some days James would much rather have a relationship with the chips, like Kiefer does, than struggle with tricky social situations!

It is okay for our cats to find a quiet place to hide.  When James hides, we try to draw him out so that he can have the benefit of a larger world.  James loves tiny places and can often be found in a closet, under the table, or behind something.  Hobbit is our scaredy cat. He loves quiet places and to not be fussed with.  He gets overwhelmed quicker than any of our other cats.  He is the first to run anytime James comes in the room, even if James enters on tiptoes.  Hiding is his specialty.  I am sure some days James would much rather hide, like Hobbit does, than struggle with sensory overload!
It is okay for our cats to torture our bodies in the name of cat love.  They headbutt us, knead our bodies, walk on us, sleep on our faces, you name it, and they do it.  James isn't allowed to hurt other people.  His headbutt can put someone in the hospital.  He has to be reminded to be gentle with the people in his world. I am sure some days James would much rather be able to show his affection as naturally as he feels it, like Hobbit does, than struggle with remembering to control his body all the time.
Hobbit, Abra, Astra, and Kiefer
It is okay for our cats to eat the same food everyday and be as messy as they want.  They never get a choice, they are never asked to eat their food with a fork, they just are allowed to eat in a way that fits their mood.  They can eat alone or in a group.  I am sure James would love never to be asked to try a new food. Being a picky eater is his specialty.  I am sure he would much rather eat upstairs every night with the same food and never have to deal with the unfamiliar.

It is okay for our cats to use things in unusual ways.  For James, we worked very hard to get him to use toys and materials in an appropriate way.  Cars are driven on pretend roads, crayons are for coloring with on paper, washing machines are not for anything but washing clothes.  I am sure he would love to let his creative juices run freely and see what happens when he pours lemonade in dryer, or puts a sandwich in the DVD player.
Hobbit and Kiefer
It is okay for our cats to stop "working" and take a break whenever they want, for as long as they want.  They are allowed free reign of where they are able to sleep. They are not limited to a chair, couch, or bed.  James has to work even when he is tired.  He needs to "earn" a break and has a time limit placed on it.  I am sure James would much rather be allowed to be lazy and take a break whenever he wants and for as long as he wants, so he can do what he wants.

check out the nifty potty schedule
behind James and Astra
It is okay for the cats not to follow a routine.  They can do everything the way they want, and can switch it up every time if they like.  They don't know anything about social stories or if/then charts.  Their days are not run by a visual schedule.  They are allowed to be free thinkers if they choose to think.  I am sure James would much rather do things his own way, as it is faster and often has less steps. However, we need him to know the steps before he becomes a free and independent thinker.
It is okay to be who you are without the weight of your labels.  James' cat is named Abracadabra Crackadoo (guess who named him), and he is by far the sweetest, calmest, and most loving cat of the bunch!   He sleeps all day and sleeps all night, just the purrfect cat.  He keeps Hobbit in line when he is spastic.  He makes sure Astra gets her exercise, and he allows Kiefer to have his space.  Labels are fine on soup cans, and can be helpful in getting services that are needed for educational success. However, sometimes it is fun to take all the labels off the can and just be surprised with what you get when you open it.  It is okay to hope that you don't open sauerkraut if you really want peaches, but revel in the possibilities!!!
Abracadabra Crackadoo

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Money Makes the World Go Around..... and Around..... and Around

click here for the song
As we all know, Money Makes the World Go Around.  Our kids know this very well!  This very famous song from the show Cabaret (1972), shows us that money is important for basic needs and some luxuries.  For most of our kids, they are very familiar with the token economies that are very popular in behavior modification programs.  James has had a HUGE relapse in his need for frequent reinforcement.  He used to be able to go several days with the promise of something cool for his points he was earning at school.  Now every step, breath, movement he makes, he expects something in return.  I know it is just a matter of time before we get him back on track, but, for now, his need for this system is breaking us financially.
I spent much of today plotting, I mean planning, a new reinforcement system that hopefully will pass the cool reinforcement test.  I am trying to move away from the immediate reinforcement and have him instead wait for bigger payoffs, I mean payment, for service.  Those of us who hold jobs, get paid, and, right now, James' job is to get his behavior back in check so he can be in the world without making it angry at him.

I happened to find the most amazing site while looking for a program to print out fake bills to use as part of his plan:  click here for money site.  It occurred to me that no matter what form of "money" you use as payment, if our kids eventually don't learn how to do things for the pure enjoyment of a job well done, their lives will be poorer for it.  Maybe too philosophical for now, but I will keep trying to instill this desire into James.  For now, I am thankful that I can occasionally get him to do things "just cuz", and, for those times when I need a stronger payment package, I still have a Mark, a Yen, a Buck and a Pound.

to make the world go round no matter what face you
put on it, sometimes payment for simply breathing still doesn't seem worth the money!
My little man may be trouble with a capital T some of the time, but he is always worth a million. It says so... on the bill below!

ASD Kids Lack Empathy..... Right!!!!

Empathy... putting oneself in the shoes of another and feeling what they feel.  It is by far one of the hardest things to teach.  Our kids are rote learners and transferring what they have learned to natural situations can often be, well, clunky.   We have all seen our kids struggle with understanding the emotions of others; how much more difficult is it to understand how those feelings make another person feel.  Happy, sad, angry... they all can be very different for two people.  A person may feel great happiness running barefoot on the beach with the sand squishing between their toes.  To a sensory kid, like most of our ASD kids, this experience may be one of the worst ones they can imagine.  Empathy requires an immense understanding of how to experience things without prejudice.
James is the Prince of anti-prejudice.  He feels that everyone should be treated the same way, as long as it benefits him.  He bestows wisdom and other trinkets on his subjects in hopes of gaining good stuff in return.  Recently, he bestowed germs that attacked 3/4ths of the population of the kingdom.  When he found that given germs that had made his beloved sister ill, he refused to do any work so that he could segregate himself from the "peasants" to protect them from further contamination. The queen, being the only member of the kingdom not to fall ill, handed him a mask and told him to get back to the task at hand (occupational therapy).  His plan foiled, he begrudgingly returned to the Interactive Metronome dragon and had the best session yet, getting many burst, which made him giddy with princely pride!! click here 
So empathy... James has it in spades!! His sister sick today and unable to go to school offered yet another opportunity to play the empathy card.  My husband dropped him off at school and not 40 minutes later we received a call, "Good morning,  we have James in the office.  He says he has a cold and wants to come home."  My husband responded, "Yeah, he has had it since the weekend and he is fine.  Send him back to class!"  Foiled again!! What good is empathy if you can't use it to your benefit?  I hope James continues to search for the answer to that question.  As for today, the answer is not one he necessarily wanted to hear.  I guess he still has some growing to do in understanding this difficult topic.
James is going to make Empathy work for him even if it hurts
the other person!  When this picture was taken, we all feared
for our health every time that little man gave us a hug!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mom... Let Me Give You an Zample

James loves to ask questions about what he was like as a baby.  The most common topic of conversation is around food.  A lot of kids on the spectrum are picky eaters.  A lot of kids on the spectrum eat strange things.  A lot of kids on the spectrum don't eat regular portioned meals.  Lots of kids on the spectrum have sensory issues around food.  James is no exception. I can count the foods that James will eat on just over one hand (not including fruit) pizza, noodles (this includes pasta, apparently there is a difference), chicken, fish sticks, french fries, some other breaded fish but not all the time, monkey bread, and I believe that is about it.  Now, when there is a food on the table that James may like he will ask if he liked it as a baby.  I ALWAYS say "yes".  Sometimes he will sniff it and dismiss it immediately.  Sometimes he will put it in his mouth for a moment and spit it back out.  Sometimes he will actually swallow it.  The days that he swallows and concedes that he likes it again are EPIC for me.  One of the catch phrases that he uses frequently is "let me give an zample".  Typically his zample is about how as a two year old he loved to eat the dry cat food but now he doesn't like it and he attributes that to a change in taste.  However, I attribute it to getting some taste about the foods he eats!
One food group that is totally missing from his diet are vegetables, unless you count french fries and onion rings.  James also loves ketchup which is typically considered vegetable even though I am reminded it is a FRUIT every time I talk about it.  I challenge anyone to make jelly out of a tomato and spread it on their pancakes or toast in the morning!  Yeccchhh! I'd rather eat the dry cat food! James loves music so maybe if the vegetables would sing to him, he would eat them.  click here Somehow I doubt classically trained vegetables will sway his lack of enthusiasm for these crunchy treats!  Maybe going the superhero path would help him want to try more vegetables.  
I was too old to get to see Sesame Street as a young kid but loooove it now as a mum.  One of my favorite characters is Captain Vegetable click here.  He was instrumental in getting an entire generation to try new foods.  He was a superhero like Batman and Superman.  My kids both love the Cookie Monster and it doesn't matter how many songs he sings about fruits and vegetables he always goes back to his love COOKIES click here.  James is way too smart to fall for that trick so maybe we should try it in another language click here. For as we know, everything always sounds better in a foreign language!
I was always told that my job was to provide a variety of foods and James' job was to eat what he needs.  The problem with this is James runs away from the table if something is on his plate that he doesn't want.  So I decided that it was my job to cook the foods that he likes, fill him up on vitamins and get on with life.  He is a snake and eats one good meal a day and then snacks the rest of the day.  Works for him and I always know what to make for his meals.  None of this creative cooking stuff.  Keepin' it simple and the same everyday.  That is what is on the menu every day at our house.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

History in 30 Words or Less! Brilliant!!!!

My husband loves history.  He can happily ramble on for hours about the Peloponnesian War or the Byzantine Empire.  He finds comfort in the knowledge that he knows more about history than 99% of the population.  
James' sister also adores history.  She is passionate about justice and currently her history class is discussing the different historical acts of genocide.  She is appalled that in Rwanda  the genocide wasn't classified during the course of its reign of terror until about 10 days before the massacre stopped.  Certainly nothing funny about that history!  
My favorite history lessons are taught to me by my son.  He just had another installment the other night during supper.  
"Once upon a time, our first president, George Washington, fought the kingdom and brought our country together. Then he went into a movie theater and got shooted."
Awesome!! Over 100 years of pertinent early American political history in 27 words!  Now that is history that I can understand and appreciate in my busy life.  No offence to the historians out there, but James' history account made me laugh while the actual history, not so much!!  

Look, he got a preschool degree  so he must
 be an authority on history, well at least  play dough,
 building with blocks, and painting!  Now that is historic!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Let's Play VS Stop Playing

All of us probably remember the dreaded ADOS evaluation that helped to diagnose our children somewhere on the Autism spectrum.  One of the worst parts for me was the pretend birthday party.  When James was presented with this part of the test I was told I couldn't say anything to him.  Here is what I was saying in my head, "Jamesie, DON'T eat the candle!  Jamesie, dolls are NOT for throwing!  Jamesie, the play dough DOESN'T go in your ear!" I was soooo glad when that experience ended because I could again protect my son from the unknowns of pretending.

Lack of pretend play is a big tell tale sign of Autism.  James basically drove cars on the wall, windowsill, peoples bodies, and hummed.  That is what he did everyday ~ all day long.  After his diagnosis it became our mission to teach him about pretend play.  We built cities with blocks and drove cars on make believe roads, we used puppets to do things that we wanted him to do, we became pretend play experts.  James eventually started to catch on and loved dressing up and "becoming" the character.  His pretend play was very rote.  It barely deviated from his taught script.  Eventually he started to request to have things that would help him in his play.  He loved knights so a sword and shield were favorite items.  He defended his "kingdom" from all invaders and kept us all safe.
James has come a long way in his pretend play
ventures.  He loves to role play with his friends.  They play wonderful games of Pokemon, Goku and other boy things.  Sometimes it seems like James' pretend play gets to real for others and I get phone calls or emails from the school indicating that James needs to stay after school for detention because he hurt another student while they were playing or more likely the other kids stopped playing and James didn't realize it (social pragmatics suck some of the time).  I hate it when he has to do that but he needs a lot of repetition to learn social skills so this is all part of that experience.  Also if he didn't have to go to the principals office, I would never get letters like this.  I guess we may have allowed pretend play to go on too long.  Is there a ADOS test for that problem on the spectrum?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ah it is Mother's Day Again!!

I got up early to call my mum today to wish her a Happy Mother's Day.  We enjoyed our chat and, during the call, James showed up in the loft, bouncing because he had found his Wii cords.  He heard me on the phone saying "Happy Mother's Day" to my mum, but it didn't register to him what day it is.  Does it really matter if he knows that today is Mother's Day?  Does it really matter if he takes time away from his Wii to say "I love you mom!"?  Does it really matter that my teen daughter is still sleeping or just in her room texting with her friends?  Does it really matter if I can still hear my husband snoring in the next room?  Today is just Sunday.  A day reserved for finishing house work and preparing for the week.  After all, in my house, everyday is Mother's Day!  Momma's rules, momma's choice for what to cook for the family, momma's choice for what James will wear to school, momma's choice to freeze my kids in time so I won't feel like they are slipping away as they grow older ABBA click here.
Today I choose to live in the past and let the future wait.  I choose to not listen to the silence of the inaudible "I love you'"s and instead bask in the unspoken knowledge that I am loved.  Today is today and "fiddle de dee, tomorrow is another day"
To all the mum's, mommies, ma's, mom's, mother's, , or the brief coveted eye contact from your special little one that you know translates into I LOVE YOU, the very happiest of days today.  I know that mine will be pretty normal, but I do have one special remembrance from May 13th 2007.  It was the first time James said "I Love You" without it being solicited or parroted.  That was the best gift from that little man and I am good for eternity!! 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Follow the Rules!!! or Someone Will Get Hurt!!

I woke up this morning and switched on Facebook and discovered a posting from that made me giggle.  Some baseball player, who I don't know, got upset by the way the game had gone and lost his temper in the tunnel.  The way he chose to deal with his frustration was to throw his bat at the wall of the tunnel and it bounced back and hit him in the eye!  click here for the story
How often do we work with our ASD kids on thinking about the consequences before you do something?  1,000,000 times a day at least in my house.  My daughter and I just saw Avenue Q and two of my favorite puppets were the "Bad Idea Bears"!  Basically, they are the voices in the heads of the characters that are trying to get them to do the wrong thing for the "right reasons", like spending more money on a case of beer because in the long run you will save money.  Sounds reasonable, right?  
Social pragmatics is very tricky for most of our kids.  They struggle with all of the cues needed to be involved in social interactions.  One of the things most of our kids are terrific at is following the rules. Once they know the rules, because they are black and white thinkers, those rules become law!  Following the rules makes everyone feel safe and happy!!   
James loves to "play" sports and our house is perfectly set up for inside sports fun!  The one main rule is only use soft equipment.  He plays soccer, volleyball, football, baseball, bowling, etc... and we all try to stay out of his way.  Using the correct equipment for the game makes everyone feel a lot more at easy.  Everyone in my house has at one time of another been on the wrong end of a flying something that wasn't soft!  We all love to see him happy but none of us like to get injured in the process.  His sister is the master at keeping out of his way by being in her room 99.99% of the time she is home.  When she is with him, she knows how to stay out of his way!  They have fun together, which is important, but, more important to me is that they play by the rules!! 
In response to the video that was posted about the grown man baseball player getting injured because he didn't follow the rules of basic physics, James and I made the following training video.  Enjoy!! click here for Injuries are Yucky Baseball Training video  Today, I choose to find my bliss knowing that my little man has more sense than some adults.  I also choose to find my bliss in the fact that everyone needs to learn new things every day.  And finally I choose to find my bliss in the fact that rules are followed, most of the time, in my house and no one has a yucky injury (well for the moment anyway!!)
James has his game face on and wants everyone
to play safely.  Follow the rules, but if you decide
to listen to the Bad Idea Bears instead, hope that
karma, fate, Murphy's law and your mum aren't watching!! 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ah... Memories... YO, Amnesia Where are You???

blurry picture was not intentional but represents
 his kindergarten year perfectly!
(I had a completely different blog planned for today well to be accurate, 3 but they will come another time.)
I woke up to a wonderful blog by one of my favorite Autism bloggers Homestyle Mama (with a side of Autism) click here.  She was lamenting the reality of kindergarten orientation and I remembered James' kindergarten year.  So here I am remembering what he was like at 6 and he got upset.  Can you say DUCK!!!!!! Or maybe FOUR!!!!!!! Both of those phrases signify that everyone should protect their heads because something is flying!  In James' case, it was classroom chairs!  He tried as hard as he could that year to teach those unteachable chairs how to fly but no matter how many times he showed them, they always needed help!
Transitions were horrible!! Not just big transitions like weekends and vacations but going from point A to point B in the classroom!  Way to many things to touch and get interested in.  He had a solid 5 weeks of RED behavior after Christmas break!  James was in a typical classroom with aide support and eventually kindergarten was over and the prospect of a new and wonderful year in first grade was just 11 weeks away.
First grade also started out rocky because his aide burned out in the first week.  I remember pulling up to drop him off and seeing her waiting for him at the curb.  She literally looked like she had just completed a full marathon and the day hadn't even begun.  I called to James' clinical supervisor and relayed my concern and a new aide was in place immediately.  James no longer threw chairs when upset ~ he pushed kids.  Okay, not a great substitute but I looked at it as progress!  4 aides later..... We finished 1st grade.  My husband and I had made a decision to find a k-8th grade school for James because we didn't want him to have the middle school nightmare that we both did with all of his other challenges (well that is our story and we are sticking to it [sub story is the second grade teachers at the school where he was were already starting to look nervous]).  Ah new school and a new chance for a clean start.
Second grade was our chance.  James had made remarkable progress and was on track for a wonderful year!  He made friends very easily (although with only 3 weeks left in the school year, he still only knows about 1/3 of the kids names).  He is a superstar and keeping up academically.  In fact he made the "baby" honor roll (the official one doesn't start until 4th grade) and for the most part is ready for 3rd grade.  He proved to be "typical" in the classroom, through the data, as compared to other children in the class.  He was fully faded from his Autism aide in early April because the data showed he was "typical". He still has his moments but his charm and intelligence shine.  James has a new way of showing he is upset... he stomps his foot and pounds the table.  Progress indeed!  I keep telling myself that 2 years ago he would have thrown a chair so I will take the foot stomping over the flying furniture any day!
James when he gets to do "home school" momma
when he goes to school and she gets a break
I am currently on day 2 of "school at home" because of too many things to mention here while we wait for the emergency IEP to get an aide back in the classroom for the rest of the school year.  For all of the home schooling families out there, OMG you are my new heroes.  You have to be the strongest people on the planet.  Not just emotionally but physically!  I have gone through my arsenal of tricks to get James to write a spelling paragraph, 5 sentences,  using 8 words.   This weeks words don't inspire me any more than they inspire him {useless, clueless, jobless, shapeless, helpless, playful, hopeful, harmful, shameful, wonderful, soundless, carefully, beautiful, forgetful, fearless, grateful} but I bet I could write a 5 sentence paragraph! James knows that because of my physical limitations I can't physically make him do anything so I have to rely on my superpower of being the master of one up-man-ship.  So far nothing has worked.  Just before I sat down to write this blog, I lured him out of his room with the "let's call Papa" card because James wants him to bring wood to make a hockey stick.  Nope, nada, nyet, nein!!!! So I trumped his "Nope" with my "well, I am not going to call Papa until you write your paragraph"  Ready to have him rush down and get right to work because I had played my best card I was stunned when I heard "OOOOOOOOH look who has a temper!" (SLAM went the door and TV and giggling commenced)    
 help me !!
James when he has to go to school and 
momma when she has to do school at home
James' favorite "school at home" aide!!  (Astra)