Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Phone Call!

the telephone is ringing

That is one big phone. I realized, after taking this shot, that some explanations are in order. James is used to talking on cell and iPhones ...

For more great images or to join in the fun, Visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs
and ... Wordless Wednesday

Monday, March 29, 2010

Magic Marker Monday: Shapes

For a long time I could not put posters or pictures on James' walls, as he would pull them off and try to rip and eat them. Then his preschool started sending home his school projects, and I thought "What the hey?" and hung them up with tape. Amazingly, they stay up (unless he has a major temper tantrum, which is rarely).

His room immediately took on a more inhabited, personal look. You could tell a boy lived there. A boy who liked his shapes, was learning his colours, and was excited by:

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of his latest progress with shapes, but James' SHAPE assistant told me last week that James will make his IEP shapes (the lines, circles, and crosses specified in his IEP as precursors to making letters) all by himself just fine on the classroom whiteboard at his afternoon preschool.

We've have some problems getting him to do this on paper. I am wondering if it has to do with the fact that his Dad and I notice him using his left hand more and more and his morning class is still waiting to see what happens his a dominant hand?

I do not discount the novelty and excitement that writing on a whiteboard like a Big Kid can produce! I think it's also time to trot out the chalkboard and a new carton of chalk.

Meanwhile, his sister is busy getting him to write his own name. Okay, *that* is something I should try and capture for posterity.

Visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.
Special Needs Blog

Friday, March 26, 2010

New Words, More James

New this week from James (to his sister): "Go away. Is MINE!"

And when his sister wrestles with him to move him or remove something of hers from his grasp: "No. Stop it. Heeeeeep! My arm! I hurting!" (whether or not his arm is involved or anywhere near being hurt)

When he sees me at the second school for the afternoon pickup, his face really lights up and he runs and LEAPS into my arms, crying "Mommy! Mommy-Mommy-Mommy!!!!"

And in the backyard, to his sister: "Hey, Come on! Let's go onna swing!" They both love the 2-seater swing. Too bad the bolts are shaking loose -- yikes!

James volunteers information when riding in the car now: "O'ver dere -- is David's house." "I see a tree." "Hi, moo-cow! I see you!"

He picks out his clothes, helps clean up after dinner, and helps pick things up off the floor. He also has strategies for when he doesn't want to do something. The first is usually "I go to the bathroom!" (because he knows we are keen on potty training; the little stinker!). The other method is to pretend to fall on the floor (crying "I go to sleep now!") onto his tummy and snore.

He wants to go for walks. He will now play out back by himself and talk to the neighbours through the fences. If I am working too long in the home office, he comes in to find me for a quick hug.

We have had quite a week!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Books

James has a new book love:
James reading book in bed

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!
Will ya go to bed soon?
James looks down
(not likely!)

For more great images or to join in the fun, Visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs
and ... Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Good Times - Say YES!

I was looking back through photos and found one from this past December that kind of captures a mood that James gets in. He's playful, and pouring on the charm. He wants something, and he accompanies his winning charm with the phrase "Mommy. Says. YES!!!!"

Like so:
James and his dream sucker

Dream on, kiddo! (but you get big points for your approach)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

SOOC Saturday: Gold Coins

How was your St. Patrick's Day? Ours was Very Green. We wore green, had a little green food (apples), and we hunted for gold on the Town Green.

gold coin hunting on the Town Green

James' sister's class was invited to participate in the town's first ever Gold Coin Hunt on the Windsor Town Green. As a sibling, James was able to attend. He mostly had fun running around the lawns with the other kids and testing his balance by walking on the low curbs around their edges. He was all about fun in the sun, being able to run about and yell freely, and not spending another day in the house sick with a cold.
kids happily running amok on the Town Green

His sister, however, struck gold ... in more ways than one:
gold coin booty

McD voucher

We love the Town Green. We have had many picnics here on the lawns, played at the playground, and been fascinated with the fountains. We've enjoyed some of their Summer Music concerts (the kids love dancing to live music). We've wrapped up in blankets and watched movies there for free, under the stars.

The City of Windsor's Parks and Rec Dept. has many great programs that use the Green as well. James has enjoyed 2 summers of their preschool summer camp sessions. At first, I had to have an initial interview with the program and Park directors to make sure the programs and James would be a good fit.

They listened to me talk about James as a person and were happy to try having him, even though for the first year he could barely speak words and was still in pull ups. James quickly won over staff and co-campers, and he loved being able to go to camp and have fun new things to do with such fun and supportive people. After each session, his language and communication skills would take huge jumps forward. This is what inspired us to try having James try being in a mainstream program outside of his Special Day class.

So I guess that James too has struck gold on the Town Green!

The Slurping Life is ready for Spring. Visit Melody and check out SOOC Saturday/Sunday entries past & present. No cropping or fixing -- it's life, straight out of the camera.

SOOC Saturday


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Thank You!

James says thank you for the gelato and fundraiser support

Thank you, everyone! Because of your support, Powell's in Windsor had one of their most successful fundraising event days ever!

Even though James stayed home from school, finishing up a cold, he did enjoy getting a chance to be out in the warm morning sunshine, and enjoy a vanilla gelato on a bench with his mom and a friend.

For more great images or to join in the fun, Visit Wordless Wednesday

Special Exposure Wednesday is on a break this week. Sending good thoughts and prayers to a special little one this week instead.
5 Minutes for Special Needs

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tackle It Tuesday: Fundraising Day!

We are soon off to Powell's, to take part in the fundraiser that's happening at their Windsor store today. It supports the CATS Program (which you can read more about here, or check out the link at the top left corner of this page).

If you're in the neighbourhood, please stop on by! You can download & print a flier by clicking on the image below. Please bring the flier with you and present it to the cashier at time of purchase.

Do we love the CATS Program? Oh yes, we do! Do we love Powell's? You betchya! Are we ready for gelato and easter/spring candy?
love powells

Oh. Yeah!

I have learned a lot as I helped set this up -- now I am off to tackle the shopping part! What is your mission? Read and be inspired at Tackle It Tuesday on 5 Minutes for Mom. Post your own story to share with other Tacklers.
Tackle It Tuesday Meme

Monday, March 15, 2010

Magic Marker Monday: Hand Out

James hand

This little project from Valentine's Day just keep on giving. I was stumped for an idea of personal (but not too overboard) cards that I could make with James for his teachers and aids. They do add up. So I settled on tracing his hand and cutting it out from coloured paper. James helped me fold another piece of paper and helped me position and tape it down (oh, how that guy loves tape!).

I added a little extra slit where the base of the thumb curves into the palm of the hand, and would then insert a cut-out heart, suitably decorate. I helped James write his name under a special message inside.

Well, the hand paper looks good in a reverse cutout, so I sent a few of those cards to family members. I've also used the original idea with a star and a triangle as well for a birthday or gift card. I like the simplicity and personality. I like that James helps and is a part of the process.

I have saved a few of the hand silhouettes because his hand will never be this small again. Scrapbook, here we come!

Visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.
Special Needs Blog

CATS Program & Why We Love It

During our first year of Preschool with James, my husband and I were still struggling with the whole concept of our son being on the spectrum with autistic disorder, as well as what that meant and what we could do to help and support James. His teacher told us about Dr. Lorna Catford and the CATS Program at Sonoma Statue University (SSU). We decided to give a call and find out more about it and what it could do for us.

A lot, as it turns out. The Collaborative Autism Training & Support (CATS) Program reaches out to professionals who work with children and families of children on the autism spectrum, as well as the children and their families. A series of seminars are made available to the public. The speakers are professionals in the field as well as families who are dealing with autism and other special needs. Students sign up for a semester of courses, seminars, and working in the field with families who signed up to participate. As a participating parent, I was welcome to attend seminars and could use the SSU library to do some research of my own, if I wanted to.

I got very excited when I found out about this. I talked it over with my husband, who agreed, and signed us up for the next semester that Fall. Our student was wonderful. She initially took the class because it was a good schedule fit and in line with her intent to become a teacher. She already had several years of working with children in a swim program at the local YMCA.

We ended up learning from each other, and had a great time taking the kids out to the heated, indoor pool at the YMCA to get them used to the water and to get James feeling a little more in touch with his body and comfortable about being in the water. It was nice for me to get some help.

An unexpected wonderful experience was being in a room full of loving and concerned parents, talking about our kids. We just whooshed with relief to be able to talk with people who had some very similar experiences!

The End of Semester Party the students put on was AWESOME! James loved it, and actually started participating in some of the activity centers they'd set up. My daughter won a raffle and staggered home under a gigundous bag of craft supplies. I was actually out after 5pm, sharing good eats and socializing. It was a wonderful feeling.

The program gave to much to us that we'd like to give something back ... so tomorrow there will be a fundraiser for the CATS Program at the Windsor Powell's on the Town Green. If you're around, please consider downloading and printing out a flier. All day tomorrow, 3/16, when you present this flier to Powell's at the time of your purchase, 20% of what you buy will be donated to support this wonderful, community-based program.

Easter candy, gelato, Mad Libs, clucking mechanical chickens stuffed with treats ... Powell's has literally thousand of good reasons to come in and browse. The CATS Program is a great reason to buy a treat or two tomorrow.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

SOOC Sunday: Barrel Tasting Weekend

barrel taster, a fine vintage

This week I caught James at the school playground, hanging out in the metal barrel. It used to take a lot of coaxing to get him to climb on it at the beginning. Now he looks like he's feeling more at home.

Even though he is hungry for a taste of adventure and play, he is also learning to find new places to hang out, while enjoying the art of being mellow.

Just in time for barrel tasting weekend here in the wine country!

If there are any other locals reading this blog, just a shout out that there will be a fundraiser for the CATS Program on Tuesday, March 16th, at the Windsor Powell's. You must bring a flier to participate.

The Slurping Life encourages you to be good to yourself. Visit Melody and check out SOOC Saturday/Sunday entries past & present. No cropping or fixing -- it's life, straight out of the camera.

SOOC button


Friday, March 12, 2010

Transitional IEP

Today brought something I'd been hearing about for the past 2 years: James' Transitional IEP as we start planning in earnest for Kindergarten this coming Fall. Compared to some other things we'd been through, it was mild and not the big verklempt moment that I'd been expecting. I am assuming now that will start hitting me mid-April, as we begin to prepare for James to leave his loving little preschool environment and head out into the larger waters of KinderOcean.

It helps that the meeting was held at the school my daughter currently attends, and that it looks as though services will be maintained in a full-inclusion environment. Although nothing can be finalized until all forms are completed, signed, and triplicated with blood offerings. Made that last part up -- I think.

What a difference between then

and now

surf is up

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Philosophy 4 Moms

Tubbie Toast outlook

When Life gives your preschooler a Teletubbies fixation, make Tubbie Toast (aka pancakes with whipped cream faces) together after dinner. Preferably on the fun Halloween dinner plates.

Biiiiiiiiiiig Huuuuuuuug!

Po sez: Pass it on ...

For more great images or to join in the fun, Visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs

and ... Wordless Wednesday

Monday, March 08, 2010

Magic Marker Monday: Picasso Bear

I'll bet Picasso or Chagall would have loved this bear that James made:

There is something endearing about a nose and mouth in one ear!

Visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.
Special Needs Blog

Sunday, March 07, 2010

SOOC Sunday: Secret Smile

this smiles says that James has a secret

I love this new face. James has a secret. Or two or three.

He's using words in sentences and phrases. His Nana is starting to be able to understand him when she's driving and he's in the back seat. He's using the bathroom all by himself at school sometimes.

Today we sat through an entire Irish Dance show and he loved every minute of the music and dance. He talked to me and asked questions in a very nice indoor voice during the performance.

This week, he could be heard counting to 20 (with an assist at 13 and 15) so he could play hide and go seek with his big sister and older cousins in their home. He did a good job, too!

He sings himself to sleep at night and is reading books to himself. He has taught himself to write the first three letters of his name. I know because I saw him writing on the carpet with his finger. He is starting to use his left hand and foot more than his right.

I tell his teacher this and we celebrate.

Sometimes it is the teacher or SHAPE assistant who tells me "Did you know that James can play catch with another boy?" or "I asked James what he thought of something ... and he *told* me!" And we celebrate.

The Slurping Life celebrates the classics. Visit Melody and check out SOOC Saturday/Sunday entries past & present. No cropping or fixing -- it's life, straight out of the camera.

SOOC Saturday


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Educational Cuts Protest (A Love Rant)

So today there were many protests in California over more proposed budget cuts to public education in California.

As a mom of a child on the autism spectrum who is in the public school system, I have seen services whacked for my son from both sides. Rules were changed as to how respite care funds can be used, and the pool of available funds keeps dwindling each year. If James needed in-home health care or I needed someone to help me lift and care for him, I'd be looking at the threat of a whole lotta nothing in the area of home health services. Our classrooms have lost their aids and class sizes are increasing.

Class sizes; yeah. Regular class sizes go up because teachers are let go. Special needs classes are going up because the official stats are now 1 in 90 children are being diagnosed with autism. That has been reinterpreted as a new diagnosis of autism every 20 minutes.

The teachers have seen budgets and programs slashed and colleagues' jobs axed. There are fewer people to help them do their jobs. There are fewer or no funds for school maintenance or capital improvements. Books are lacking. Parents pool what shrinking money they have and buy tissue and pencils for the classrooms. Scholastic book fairs are now a lifesaver that enable parents help provide books for learning modules in their child's classroom.

Here are some pictures from the pink slip row in the parking lot at my daughter's school this morning:
pink slip auto row

severe educational budget cuts are a lesson plan for disaster

schools are not broken, they're broke

And the problem does not go away for higher education. UC students are being hit with a 32% tuition increase, which is insane in this economy. As a 1986 alumni of UCSC, I am outraged at the grossly exorbitant wages being paid to these men who look after themselves and their buddies more than for the UC educational system.

To me it's exactly the same as the banking & corporate industries rewarding themselves for bad management. We hear the same excuses of needing to pay what everyone else is paying in terms of compensation. Mister, you are looking in the wrong salary pond. Take a good look at the second-rate tier and the Loser categories, because that's the level at which you are actually performing. Take a good freakin' look at MY salary (or lack thereof) and let's compare what's "reasonable cost." I am telling you now I can't afford your luxuries. Not won't support -- I. Can't. Afford. Them.

Here's a thought: earn your keep. Do the job right and then let's discuss pay incentives. That goes triple for our state and federal elected representatives. Reward the heroes in the trenches for a change.

I've volunteered in all my childrens' classrooms and the dedication and hard work these people put into their jobs and my kids just blows me away. THEY are the people who deserve to be rewarded in the budget wars. Because then my kids win too. Our future is brighter. We support each other, instead the egos and bank accounts of a few.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Special Exposure/Wordless Wednesday: Looking at Sis

This week's Special Exposure/Wordless Wednesday photo is brought to you by James' sister, who just started using my camera.

I think she got a nice one. It's interesting to see how he looks at and holds still for her. I think she got a different response from him than I would have. She is his hero and he watches her closely, trying to do the things that she does. Even though James is seated, I get a sense that he is on tiptoes, trying to reach high enough for her approval.

For more great images or to join in the fun, Visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs
and ... Wordless Wednesday

Monday, March 01, 2010

Magic Marker Monday: Valentine Work

I got to volunteer the week James had the letter "V" for his preschool class assignment.

James loves finger painting. My trouble is that he likes to paint his face and shirts as much as the paper, so I like to keep an eye on him. I let him swirl first the purple, then the red colours with his fingers.

I could not resist having him make a left hand print in purple and a right one with the red. He is growing so quickly that I want to preserve these fleeting moments of childhood for him.

James has grown a quarter of an inch in two weeks. Yikes! More of him to love.

Visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.
Special Needs Blog