Wednesday, January 18, 2017

AI Buddy

James got a Kindle Fire for his birthday last week. He was very happy to play the apps and watch YouTube video of his beloved Monsters, Inc. Run game. Today, he discovered Alexa.

Siri's cousin is in da house! Here are some highlights:
Oh. My. Goodness.

J: Are you doing ok?
A: I am good; ready to help.

J: What is your favorite colour?
A: I like seafoam.
A: Infrared is pretty nifty.

J: Where Are You?
A: I am here and my head is in The Cloud.

and, the ever amusing:
J: Can you Sing for me?
A: Who me? I couldn't. I ... hit it!

PS: We just discovered she will sing "Happy Birthday" to you. He got the biggest grin on his face and bounced in time the whole way through.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Food Prep Pep

James has been upping his survival skills by learning to prepare some food for himself: toasting frozen waffles, assembling snacks for his lunch bag, and cooking his chicken nuggets.

This may not sound like much, but small starts are big things with us.

Over the winter break we even made and baked chocolate chip cookies from scratch because a friend with a bad cold sent out a distress call for cookies via social media and we thought "what the heck - why not?"

The cookies were weirdly shaped, but completely delicieux.

From the movie Ratatouille: (Gusteau) "You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul."

Cooking, autism ... it's your life - go for it!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Way Cold

We had an arctic chaser to our latest Pineapple Express. The watering can, wheel barrow, and assorted pots and jars turned from rainwater collectors to ice machines.

James jumps around excitedly as we bustle about on our morning chores: "Look at the little snow! It's like feathers, Mother!"





Saturday, December 17, 2016

Gift of Conversation

Last night I went out (!) for my company's holiday party. I was frustrated because I was running late. Luckily, James was staying at home with friends and had already had dinner. I ended up enjoying the evening and coming back home after James went to bed and had a blissful night's sleep.

James let me sleep in until around 7, a good hour and a half later than usual. He also did not wake up in a panic at 3am, calling for me (which he has done in the past when I return home after he has fallen asleep).

Instead, he  politely knocked before entering, calling "Are your here, Mother? Did you come home last night?" He then came in to sit by my bed and we talked together about my night out, Christmas, and trips to Disneyland. It was so pleasant and I was secretly elated with James' new conversational abilities.

He is such a neat kid, and for years I longed to hear what he was thinking. So while I was listening and smiling with him this morning, inside I was saying "YES!!!!"


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Gift Giving and Autism

Gift Ideas for Autistic Kids

One would think that after almost 9 years of making Autism's acquaintance, I would be better at this. Alas, the thrill is still there: What to get for Christmas and James' birthday (which lands about 2 weeks after Christmas)?

With autism in the mix, I need to blend several areas of information together and throw "normal" out the window. It's not such a bad thing.

Consider

There are the things that James likes: Caillou (still, heaven help me), Curious George, Thomas Train, Baby Einstein, Upside Down Show, spinny things, gears, music, Pixar.

James' abilities: He is young and playful for his age, has some fine motor skills strengths and challenges, processing delays, and a fickle attention span. His dream is to play games on a Playstation, iPad, iPhone of his own for hours at a time and play arcade games like speedboat racers. He hates flies and gets anxious with outdoor sports and staying with a group.

There are the typical gifts for almost 12 year-old: iPad, iPod touch, cell phone, computer/Xbox, clothes, science/art/magic kits, skate boards, bikes.

There are the fun classic kid presents: Lego, puzzles, solar-powered toys, build your own computer/robot, books, movies, sports gear, toy vehicles, yo-yos, kites.

Discern

Your kid + autism = unique for them gifts. Here are some Christmas presents ideas for 2016:
  • All 3 Toy Story movies in one DVD collection and Inside Out: letters to Santa and Social Communication therapy, thank you!
  • Maps from AAA: he has been carrying them all over lately, placing cities and travel routes; thank you, CSAA membership!
  • This nifty kids smart watch:
    VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch DX, Royal Blue (2nd Generation) (seriously, just read the features - I am jealous!). James will love the voice and picture filters!
  • This smart little DIY marble run: After a frustrating experience with the taller, bendy multi-piece ones, I am hoping for true multi-time use and enjoyment with the Kengadget Crazy Ball Marble Run Set

For a birthday:

  • music lessons (probably piano with a local family that teaches music out of their home)
  • another movie -- digital purchase because...
  • a Kindle Fire with a case
Your mileage may vary with a Kindle. I thought long and hard about it myself, as James has smashed some of his most favourite Apple electronics lately when in a temper and I will not replace them. The Apple IDs and iTunes are driving me nuts with their user unfriendliness.

The Kindle is not locked down very much, so I will let him use it on a limited time basis for good behaviour. It will be his. I am not getting the special kids' subscription or a warranty. I am making it very clear that he breaks it, no more Kindle. It was $33 on a Cyber Monday special with free shipping so the cost is not bad. He can use my Prime membership to watch movies and use his PBS Kids subscription, take videos and pictures, access digital books from our public library. I find it very easy to add apps and borrow/purchase/download media. Did I mention I got a really good deal on this?

There will always be clothes too, like nice big boy PJs, shirts, and pants. James is growing like a weed!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Holidays, Homework, Hornsby

Well, it's Tuesday night and another fun, action-packed 10-hour day is finally calming down.

Holidays

Due to way the heck overload on the visits to doctors and medical places in general, sometimes have this amazing schedule: work by 6:00 am (5:30, upon occasion), lunch around 10:30 am. Big "lunch" break that is actually used for medical/appointment runs.

I must say, we live in a beautiful  region. The trees are still flaming gold and red, brilliantly lit under stormy skies by stray ray from a Fall sun and framed by dark wet branches and trunks. Gold leaves lie in piles on the ground. The vineyards retain some colours yet as well. I see ravens, egrets, and countless other birds. Rainbows happen.

Traffic happens too, and drivers panicked by the recent election and rain on the roadways, but I digress.

Then back mid-afternoon for a couple hours of wrap up, to depart around 5:00 pm in the deepening gloom to pick up James from Boys and Girls Club (BAGC). Or is it the BAGC? Mr. Tumnus greets me at the door. A huge painting of a Lion proudly looks out over the room from a wall. Three snowy trees with beavers under them have displaced the Lost and Found table. On top of the backpack cubbies is a curious wardrobe. A castle gleams, far in the distance!

As we drive to the library or home, we take new streets, hoping to see new Christmas lights along the way. Christmas songs have been known to be sung.

Homework

Dang, what a difference a good teacher and IEP team makes! We are starting to receive Math sheets, Reading and content analysis, and more advanced spelling lists. James usually whips through this, sometimes at the BAGC's Power Hour (read "homework time"), sometimes at the desk in his room, but most often with me. He is much more independent when he works, and I am proud of him.

He has been asking about Egypt and Greece, so I know he is taking in some history. 

Every now and then it is hard to get James to focus. He falls apart as I watch. He is almost 12, so I make him some more dinner. That usually makes a big change for the better. He is getting much better at keeping track of his homework and putting it in his folder, then the folder in his backpack.

Hornsby

Sometimes, there is too much cacophony in the house. At times like this, I break out music. James likes Mozart and Bach. I like Christmas music and ... Bruce Hornsby. I play YouTube videos so James can watch him play. I also like Bruce Hornsby best during his live performances. After all the hectic craziness of the day, I find his music to be rich, full of life, and relaxing.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Ieine Kliene Nacht Music

Instead of reading together at night before bed, James has been asking for me to play videos of classical music. He picks the titles from his Baby Einstein DVD collection. Last night, we were fascinated by this recording:


Wow! I can literally "see" the music. It's fascinating that someone could think up these intricate interweaving of music and then note it down. I wonder if Mozart saw this in his head?

It reminds me of the Matrix:



... which is probably why James likes it!