Saturday, May 28, 2016

Angry Birds Movie: Review

So this week I found out there really is an Angry Birds movie and heard some decent buzz around it. James missed the last day of school, due to a 24-hour flu bug. I thought seeing the movie would be a good way to cheer him up and for us to have some quality time.

 Yes, it's a movie about a video game; an app. You don't need to be up on all the birds' names and characteristics, but it helps make the movie more enjoyable. You are introduced to the main Angry Birds characters and the whole community of Bird Island (who remind me of the Lotus Eaters, but never mind). Nicely done, Rovio.

There is a nice set up for both the movie and game premise. We will overlook the comedic but oddly  unnecessary heroic eagle character who has no counterpart in the game. The ending of the movie, however deals with him rather neatly.

The piggies arrive. They are gleeful. We the audience know they are wicked: cowboy hats, chaps, trampolines and all. I enjoyed the setup. It feels true to the games and doesn't try to be too clever. It does not take too long.

There are explosions! Egg nappings en masse! Weeping parents who ended up at a loss as to what to feel or do next. The angry characters and the whole Angry Birds backstory suddenly made a lot of sense. I felt like the gang at Rovio saw Inside Out and became inspired (although I know this is probably not what happened).

Spoilers (and come on, you probably already know this is going to happen)....

The Sacking of Piggie Island is glorious. I have rarely seen James so animated, so gleeful!! He spent about 20 minutes jumping around in his seat with elation, laughing and stimming with "Eeeeeeee!", punctuated with "Did you see that, Mother?! What is your favourite part?" I thought the destruction of the Piggie Town was well and lovingly executed. You can just tell the entire team took pride in demolishing the structures following the spirit of the games.

The ending, as previously stated, was well done. Not over-the-top sweet and very satisfying. We stayed all the way through the credits. James *wanted* to stay for the credits. They were fun too.

Parental Summary:
  • Not too loud soundtrack (which is amazing these days). 
  • No swearing (although there are plenty of innuendos for the grown ups). 
  • Characters got upset but they did not make James upset, which is a neat trick.
  • Main characters all got into trouble and had consequences. Very familiar for kids and well handled, I thought. This also can be a trigger for James and it was not for this movie.
  • Lots of visual gags and painted puns -- they expect their audience to be quick and on the lookout for fun stuff. 
I feel like James got a big kick out of seeing familiar characters onscreen doing their stuff and from making connections between the whole emotions angle and his Social Communications class at the Swain Center.

Full disclosure - you get an up close (from the back) view of the eagle peeing off a cliff for over a minute. James could not figure that one out and I finally had to tell him I'd have to explain later. Get you potty humour scripts ready, folks!

Five out of five gold eggs! Check it out and enjoy some family time together!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

YouTube: Power Tool for Autism Parents!

Another regular school year is coming to an end for James. It has been a stinker, complete with his school changing his program and retaining him in the 4th grade without asking or being honest with me. Totally not in compliance with his IEP. Took several meetings and a lawyer to get that undone.

Yes, there were some good things too this school year. And James is still his cheerful self. A lot of broken promises this year, that's all I'm saying.

Today is a field trip for James! The second real field trip of the school year and I am so happy he gets to be with the mainstream 5th grade class for it. It's rollerskating at a local rink.


James has trouble riding a bike, let alone roller skating. He's never attempted skating, in fact. However, breakthroughs with his social group at the Swain Center, the overall friendliness of the kids at his school, and the expanded horizons from the Boys and Girls Club after school program all contributed to him wanting to go and try.

He wanted to know how to roller skate. We have no skates. What we did have was YouTube:

Oh yeah! We watched a few of these and off he went!

Crossing my fingers - so far, no phone calls from the office!

Update: He did great! Two laps around the rink and ate 3 slices of pizza after. Yes, he did fall. No, it was not a big deal. He was so jazzed that he went. And very tired that night too!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

U is for Universe

On the upside of some extreme house cleaning: We have found the letter U!

I knew it was in there somewhere. Somewhere turned out to be in a rarely used bookshelf in the dining area, buried under cassette tapes and unused jewelry gift boxes that the kids loved to collect.

This has made James so happy. He truly is a Mr. Thing-in-their-place. Universal happiness, brought to him by the letter U.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Finding Your Own Words? Priceless.

James started saying words at age 3. Not everyone could understand them. The first time he told me he loved me, he was 4. Yes, I cried.

James has an interesting solution for communicating asking people questions he knows the answers to, scripting, and echolalia.

At 11, not everyone can understand everything James says. But he now can express himself (good and bad, this guy lets it all out). It's such a relief to feel like our communication window has opened wider.

Imagine being without words.

Autism Speaks has come up with an app to help: Able AAC. For the month of April, Autism Awareness month, it's free. FREE! Spread the word!

Saturday, April 02, 2016

April 2, And I See Blue

World Autism Awareness Day is April 2, 2016

How has your Saturday been going? I have spent mine doing errands, taking care of groceries, errands, and clean up. James is enjoying Little Einstein videos, because they discuss music and musical instruments. We played Red Ball off and on.

Why this post? 

If you don't have anyone in your life who is autistic, you may not be aware that April 2 is a kind of world-wide call to action about a developmental issue that is may look invisible, but will be a significant part of our futures.

What do I mean by calling autism invisible?

Well, autism tends to not have physical deformities. Autism presents differently for each person. For some, there is not a whole lot to see. Examples:
  • James is now doing his homework with only verbal prompts! He is 11, and his homework is basic arithmetic (this year -- last year he was doing long division, but that is a big digression) and his reading choices are pretty much "Green Eggs and Ham," "Where the Wild Things Are," and "Captain Underpants." I will supplement with multiplication tables and Chrestomanci, but am thrilled that this is the year he tackles homework without my being there right beside him.
  • James is becoming more independent, doing his laundry, taking out garbage, and helping me do the grocery run and pick up around the house. These are life skills that take perseverance to make into habit, and we were  told a couple times he'd never be able to do this. We tried anyway, and will continue to do so. Money is a tough nut to crack.
  • Last week, James was able to tell a family friend about a tough day he had at school. Because of his language delays (We were told after 6 months of speech classes that he might be non-verbal), this is huge. James started speech therapy at the age of 2 and continues to receive it at school. With his participation in a social communications class at the Swain Center, he is finally beginning to be able to let people know how he is feeling.
  • This morning, I took James with me on a breakfast errand, as he wakes up happy and bouncy. His teen sister needs a peaceful wake-up. It is a fact that siblings of kids on the autism spectrum need to be remembered, and have their needs met too. It can be sadly too easy to lose sight of, amidst IEPs, appointments, and other worries. I plan special time with my daughter because we both enjoy it and we both need a break from autism idiosyncrasies. 
  • I have to make a to do item to call, text, or email my friends. Autism can be very isolating. I can't do a Girls' Night Out or cannot attend many social events due to sensitivities and other issues. Movies are either in-home or Sensory-Friendly theater showings. Eating out can be  nerve wracking.
All this to say ... please consider that autism is alive and growing. Legislation for Autism continues to be debated. Healthcare reforms for autistic patients come and are challenged. Every 11-20 minutes, a parent or family's life take a sharp detour with a diagnosis of autism. As many families tend to fall off the social radar of many friends and family, they become unseen.

Autism will affect you, either directly or indirectly. The current large swell of previously diagnosed children are fast growing up, along with James. The benefits of early intervention are many, but what will their futures be? It is my hope that autistic adults will find their places in their communities, making a life working with others in places like the supermarket, schools, and local businesses.

Thank you, President Barack Obama, for recognizing World Autism Awareness Day.

What can you do? Be supportive of those friends or families sealing with autism. Recognize that legislation relating to IDEA, Regional Centers, and healthcare affect not only you, but also those largely unseen, growing numbers of individuals with special needs ... and send an email or make a phone call when voices are needed to continue services and programs that are designed to help them be as independent as possible.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Real Hair Cut

Guess what we did last weekend?

A real hair cut, with no tears, sitting in the chair the whole time, minimal distress, and some 11 year old street cred. Photo coming soon.

Thank you, hometown Great Clips hair salon! James picked you out and you made his day. Still making his week, in fact.

I have to give a big shout out to Ricardo, who didn't miss a beat and made James feel like a typical 11 year-old guy. His trimming technique around the ears was pure magic to watch.

One more of those "OMG, we're finally here" moments. Victory!

Birthday Boy is Eleven!

James had a very quiet birthday this year. He was sick, the weather was cold, and we were all pretty wrung out. He had presents, we made his birthday cake together using his favourite Lazy Daisy recipe. We saw The Good Dinosaur, the odd Pixar product and enjoyed pizza from Round Table.

James liked his books, movies, and Edward, from the Thomas Train Engine series. He liked the Star Wars movie we took him to, once he was feeling better and crowds had died down a bit.

His real birthday party is in a couple of weeks, once the playoff tournaments have finished at our local bowling alley. Happy birthday, James!