Monday, August 23, 2010

Magic Marker Monday: First Kinderpiece

I opened up James' backpack this afternoon and found his first artwork from Kindergarden. The title of the first one went right to my heart:

I liked seeing him try different colours:

It's his name!

Looking forward to doing more writing work with James.

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

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Full Speed Ahead

We had one full schedule today! First we checked out a soccer game, then we joined ELI in it's third annual Wee Walk. It was foggy and cold for both morning events, so it took some encouragement to keep the kids moving and somewhat warm. James, for some reason, had to be chased down and wrestled into a jacket. Thank goodness it was bright red, because he followed his muse at the walkathon.

This event was held at a city park. Lots of vendors were there to promote their services, and they had lots of fascinating things at their tables for the little ones too. Both my kids' eyes got big when they saw the stickers, hand balls, gold fish snacks, and cute little bottles of water. I almost got them to try the jumpy. But then my daughter fussed that *I* had not brought her socks. I steered her to the sticker and beads play table instead.

James did at least four laps that I saw. I lost track after talking with the people from Red Cross and My Gym ... and then panicked when I didn't see him walking the little loop. The red jacket allowed me to quickly discover that he'd decided to take a break in some poor vendor's chair. Because he was in a snacky mood, he'd poured the goldfish treats into the cupholder and was taking his time, relaxing and munching.
The vendor was very nice and said he looked too cute to move. We ended up having a really good time (despite the cold weather) raising $35 to help support some great programs!

Then we had lunch and headed over to a local Air Show. We pulled over to the side of a rural road to watch the displays and have our ears treated to jet fighters roaring right over us. James took this aural assault much better than his sister did, to my surprise.
I think it's the F-15 ... but don't quote me!

While we watched the show, the fog melted and the day heated up. So we went to the gym and spent an hour in a largely empty pool. James asked me to tow him around so he could "kick-kick-kick-kick". He also amused himself for quite a while on the pool stairs, and enjoyed playing with me by having splash wars and jumping off the wall into my arms.

It was tough to get him into bed. He was so tired that he cried and yelled. He didn't want to wear pull ups. I felt bad, but really did not want to be woken up in the middle of the night to clean the bed if he had an accident. So help me, it's how I feel tonight. Once in bed, his sister brought him around with a rousing installment of Random TellyTubby Tales. They usually involve TubbyToast and/or TubbyCustard. They are great plot devices, in a food fight kind of way. Very soon after she wished him sweet dreams, his room grew quiet ... and he was down for the night.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Different Kind of First Friday

First Fridays used to mean Family Connection Parenting Classes run by James' preschool. Some of these were extremely helpful, and it was nice to connect with other parents of kids on the spectrum. As we crept up on the second year, it became less effective for me, as they covered the same hot topics every year. I started ducking out, feeling guilty.
End of Year First Friday Family Picnic, 2008

Once again, it's a First Friday, and I am at home, drinking coffee and looking at my To Do list, vol. IV, and remembering how happy James was on the walk to school this morning. He was extremely vocal, calling out things like "I'm walking!" and "Ooh look -- dere's a leaf!"

As we rounded a corner, we scared a group of ravens off a neighbour's yard, and they flapped away across the street to land on top of a tall street light. James struggled to capture this with expressive speech "Look! They go ... they go over dere. They go ... up, Mommy! They tall! Up High! Big!" And laughing. How I do love that boy.

Two blocks from school, with the drop-off parking lot in sight: "I'm James (hand on chest) ... and You are Mommy (hand pointing to me)." Wow. He was already getting ready for being in class. We got onto the play yard just as classes started lining up. He ran right over to his aide and gave her a hug. I got what I think of as the Push Off Wave: "Good bye, Mommy!" with the hand and palm flat out, arm straight, as to push me off ... but waving. He is polite.

I walked off, checking him out discreetly; but he was all set to start his day and happy to be there. So I came home. To drink some coffee. And grin. And enjoy a wonderful, bittersweet First Friday.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day Two of ...

Dry pants in the morning! Blueberry waffle breakfast on the sofa with his sister! Dressing himself! Walking to school together!

James paused more on the way to school, asking where people were. His sister, Nana, and Daddy were the constant ones. He also asked about his Apu and SHAPE asst. Finally I realized he kept seeing Toyota vans -- the kind his Nana drives. How to explain that this type of van is one of the 2 top popular mini vans right now? Change of subject, says I.

We talked about leaves changing colour, trucks, and familiar faces. Because we saw a few. Former classmates from various schools and programs. James got to run about a little on the playground before the line-up chime sounded. We found his Room's line-up animal:

His aide said he was excited to discover a good friend from the second (mainstream) preschool in the kinder class across the hall. We only had a minute to chat, though. James could not wave me "Good-bye, Mommy!" fast enough. Again. Well, at least some of the other Moms will talk to me ...

And on the way back home I got to:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Special Exp. / Wordless Weds: First Day

James started his first day of Kindergarten today. He was so happy!

James loved walking to school

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

Magic Marker Monday: Waiting

I met with the Full-Inclusion Coordinator at James' new school, so we could go over James' schedule and related information. Because I know she is new to the position and will be swamped with new faces and back-to-school activities, I made a cheat sheet for James, with contact names and information at the top and bullet points of his ... hmmm, how do I put this? behaviours and tips for good coping strategies. I was lucky to have almost an hour with her.

James came with me. And he took almost 150 photos with my new phone's camera to pass the time. I am really becoming a fan of letting the kids use my camera to see what they notice and focus on.

Just see some examples below:
Visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010


Last week we celebrated James' Daddy's birthday. I was looking at the pictures and one caught my eye:

James in the past has not been able to successfully blow noisemakers or get enough air into one of the party blowers to straighten it out ... until recently. In this picture, it almost looks to me like he's trying to figure out just where his mouth is and priming it for party noise use. It tickled me to see how excited he got, making them work properly.

Of course, he wasn't the only one getting into the noisemaking act. He had some company:

And oh how he likes being able to keep up with Big Sister. How we loved seeing them showing their love and excitement for their Daddy.

Friday, August 13, 2010

If It's New, He'll Try It

James saw this balance beam in the play area at the County Fair. He had to try it.

"Moooooom, don't hover!"

I wonder how hard it would be for me to try and build one myself?

T-minus 4 days to Kindergarten!!!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer at the River

Here's where we hung out this afternoon: a stretch of beach along a local River.
looking for rocks

It's been The River to me since I can remember. It feels good to be sharing it with the kids. I could actually relax because their Nana came with us, so James and his sister both got some personal attention.
James, counting the rocks on the beach

James spent some time in the water, testing his balance against the rocky, sandy bottom and the River's gentle, yet persistent, current. He threw rocks, dug in the sand, and tried to scoop real live minnows with a net. He and I had splash wars (he's holding his hands better for this than he did before) and tossed the net back and forth to each other. He picked a flower for me and even started to gather and count the rocks. Before throwing them. I'll bet that's a couple of P/T sessions right there.
beach kiddos

Felt soooooo good!

Good heavens, I adore those floaties from the Dollar Store. It gave both kids confidence to play in the water and try to swim on their own. They are bright and easy for me to spot.
it's the little things

Summer Picnics

Our local Farmers' Market sets up twice weekly in the summer. On Sundays, I like to take the kids there, to get us out of the house and see what's fresh. James loves the live music. He loves it so much that I have to keep a close watch on him, as he will almost get in their laps or try getting within an inch of the instruments. While they are being played.

It's also a great excuse to pack a lunch and picnic outdoors.
James still loves his usual menu of PB&J, apple slices, and pretzels (or something crunchy). It can be a challenge to keep him seated and restrain his bite sizes. As soon as something catches his attention, he'll leap to his feet and head toward it, regardless of what's still on his plate or in his mouth. It this James, a 5-year-old boy, or the autism? I have no idea.

I do know that we love the welcoming atmosphere of our Farmers' Market:

School starts next week. Yikes!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Calling for an Assist

I just made a call to the Swain Center, to see about getting another evaluation for James. Right after his initial assessment by the North Bay Regional Center, he started receiving treatment there twice a week with a speech therapist. After age 3, we continued to visit on a weekly basis, when school was out of session, as part of our Respite Care.

The more I see of kids and services, the luckier I feel that he got such good help up front. His therapist kept at him, and didn't let James get away with much. This is tough, because he knows how to use his charm and cute looks. She knew he needed to be pushed and found ways to successfully challenge him. Even when he was tired and cranky from going to therapy instead of napping, she got him to accomplish just a little bit more.

When it came time for his first school IEP, she helped me set better goals for him. Because the school folks were setting him goals he'd already achieved (they had not worked with him at that point), and I am not a speech specialist, this woman's help was invaluable to us. I am hoping to have her input to bring with me for a meeting with James' Kinder Team after school starts.

Perhaps I should have done this earlier, but I hate overscheduling James. He's been progressing so well with social and speech development this summer -- the sessions at the gym's Kids' Club with older kids, participating in the city's Summer Camp program, and hanging out with older cousins at the beach all helped him take advantage of some great modeling to imitate and build upon.

Now, however, I am reliving the last part of his preschool year, and the disappointment with the speech services and goals (or lack thereof). I know Kindergarten will be a whirlwind of activity and excitement. I'd REALLY like him to succeed, so am hoping that by having the Swain Center's input, we'll be off to another good beginning.

Magic Marker Monday: For Daddy

James had fun making a card for his Daddy's birthday. He'd watched his Mom and Big Sister make theirs, and knew what to do.
Within ten seconds he had red marker on his fingers, and the inside of his lower right calf -- ???

James loves having his hands outlined. He told me what we should put on the card and I drew them in. Then I held the pen out in front of him, in the middle, to see which hand he would use to grab it (I am obsessing lately with hand-eye-foot dominance lately, as in I don't see it and shouldn't this be a concern? Like I don't have enough to fuss over? Evidently ... maybe not). He reached and grabbed with his left hand. I helped him draw the J and then he finished the rest of his name, saying the letters as he started to draw them.

For more creative fun, visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Hearing Test

I recently took James to his HMO, to get his hearing and ears checked out. He's already had several hearing tests and passed them, but he's also not sat through them completely and kept the earphones on his head. Plus, the audiologist and I had some doubts that he was understanding the directions.

Here he is in the waiting room, pretending to read a book from a nearby table:

I wanted to recheck his hearing because I have concerns about how his speech is evolving -- it does not sound normal to me. Rather, it reminds me of listening to people I know who learned to speak without being able to hear very much. I tried talking with his speech therapist from school, but she said she did not notice anything different. I know deafness runs in part of my family, so while James can hear, I really, really wanted any abnormalities in his hearing architecture ruled out.

(image taken from a chart in the Audiology Department)

James did so much better with the test this time! He left the headphones on all the time. He finished all the tests. He could sometimes say when he heard a noise. Mostly, they used pointing to a picture of the word spoken, or dropping a shape into a sorting can.

He loved the shape sorter. He's hold the piece up to the ear receiving the signals, then dropped it in after he heard the signal. Early on, he saw that the test person would look out into the control room to confirm the noise had sounded. So James started checking with the person on the other side of the glass too, between taking the shape off his ear and dropping it in the corresponding shape hole.

He actually spoke about a quarter of the words for the pictures he pointed to. I am guessing this is the same audiologist he had before, because by the test's end she was exclaiming over how big he'd grown and how many more things he could do and respond to.

His ears got a clean bill of health, including the ear drums and cochlear hairs. I am so glad I got this test done. While I was looking up the counterparts to the office chart on the internet, I kept finding correlation between the hearing organ and sensory & speech development, as well as vestibular activities. This reminded me that James for a long time hated swings and walked like he was drunk; therapists told be that his vestibular system was extremely sensitive.

Now I am mad at myself that I did not connect the dots between language difficulty and vestibular sensitivity better and sooner. I am wondering what I can do now to help James with speech issues. I am wondering why the O/T and speech therapist didn't talk together more at the school. Frustration! However, at least I can be pretty secure in the knowledge that James' hearing is fine.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

SOOC: Look of Love

James and his Nana, enjoying a quiet moment at the county fair last week ...

The Slurping Life is living in the Present. Why not take a moment to visit Melody and others to check out SOOC Saturday/Sunday entries past & present. No cropping or fixing -- it's life, straight out of the camera.

SOOC Saturday


Thursday, August 05, 2010

Horsing Around at the Fair

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at the Sonoma County Fair. We started off with our bag lunch at the picnic tables in the Kids' Area. We almost didn't leave. Big sister leaped into the sand box and prepared to burrow in for the rest of the summer.

James ran about, playing with everything. What a treat for him to run about and explore so many fun new things. He really got into horsing around:

He was so cute, galloping with his horse and making it say "Neigh! Neighhhhh!!!" But wait, here's the really adorable pic:

After melting his equine-loving Nana's heart (by making his horsie give her kisses), he galloped off into the afternoon ...

Once again, it was nice to note all the progress. In addition to play acting, James noticed the rides, especially the Ferris Wheel. He had a good time with me in the house of mirrors and liked the 2-story purple slide ride with me. He told us in no uncertain terms what he did and did not want to do. I still have to watch him, because he has no concept of boundaries -- for example, he wandered up onstage in the middle of the grape juice mustache judging contest, helped himself to a cup of juice, and completely kerflumoxed the judges by being at ease and smiling at everyone ... as he started to touch the props for the magic show that was up next -- yikes!