Monday, October 31, 2011

Magic Marker Monday: Happy Halloween!

One of my favourite things to do - drawing pictures together. Have a happy and safe Halloween!

For more great masterpieces or to share some of your own,
visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Subconcious Memo

I had a weird dream last night. We suddenly had 3 children; same 2 plus another boy. He was younger than James, wild black hair, and always laughing and tearing about. You know how kooky dreams can be. I spent what felt like hours, wondering how we could be so stupid as to think we could handle another child, how I could keep forgetting about him, and where he was going to sleep and sit at the dinner table.

Just for fun, in the dream my husband phoned me to say that the music teacher (from our daughter's piano lessons, which she has refused to continue) got all excited because he whipped through 65 pages in the music book in one sitting and is a bona fide child prodigy!

I woke up very confused and then sighed with relief when I realized it was only real in the dream. Then I thought about it. Why did I have this dream?

Not long after, James woke up. As usual, he began his day with thumping the bed as he got out, announcing loudly "I want to use the bathroom!" After his pilgrimage, I had him play quietly in his room for longer than most mornings. It is Sunday, after all.

As I was slowly getting coffee ready and making breakfast, I heard James asking me for help. It was to open the package for a Mach 5 car he'd received almost a year ago. He thanked me, finished removing the car from the plastic, and began to play with it. Not so unusual for a 6 year-old, but it's a new step for James, who loves looking at things, but rarely plays with them.

This made me remember that his teachers and family have all noticed that James is starting conversations, and that talking with him involves less questions and more exchanges. That James is starting to draw pictures, rather than shapes, words, and random lines. Trying to engage others in play. Able to follow directions and make comments while he was staying on-task.

So now I am thinking that the real boy who's always been inside James is now coming out to play. And that it's so new that I dreamed about him as another child.

James, 2008

James, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

SOOC: Almost Halloween!

We've been decorating and anticipating. This morning, while taking some pics of our handiwork, I accidentally discovered the Magic Lens feature on my digital camera. Woo-hoo! What spooky fun!

I like the way the morning light glows inside the pumpkins.

Accidental Magic lens!

Our Halloween Tree, insipred by Ray Bradbury and Frontierland in Disneyland.

The Gruesomes, regular lens.

Close-up, darker exposure.

Magic Lens!

Different Magic Lens feature ... I can almost hear him laughing.
(yes, those are Christmas snowflakes overhead from last year - shhhh!)

And because we're in California: Halloween roses!

With the Macro on.

How are your Halloween preparations coming along?

Here's to another week of participating in the SOOC action at Marvelous Mommy's blog.
Come on over to see more or join in!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Son of IEP (or: IEP, Part III)

We're still working on James' IEP!

My latest round included an hour of careful review of the 23-page draft plus 3 pages of meeting notes and making comments in the margins. I thought it would take a mere 20 minutes. After all, we'd already put 3 hours into meetings to discuss all this, right?

Silly Mommy. Cue the FAIL buzzer sound.

Somehow, seeing discussed items in print raises even more questions for me, hence margin notes and the need to check in again with the Services Coordinator. 

In particular, I had questions about the goals stated in two different places about the time (percentage-wise) James would be on-task, in class. They seemed to contradict each other, and I did not want James to be pulled out of class if an in-classroom solution could be found.

I also wanted to know James' schedule of services. He's currently pulled out for speech (twice weekly), O/T (weekly, up from a set number of hours a month),  and adaptive P.E. (weekly). It's good for me to have this schedule at home so I can do my part to ensure he's at school at those times to get his services. Because outside appointments will happen.

Shared info from Behavourist meeting almost 2 weeks ago, including her caveat that she is contracted to support the family, but the school is welcome to call her to ask questions and discuss issues (thanks to the lovely confidentiality forms we all signed last school year).

Requested the addition of a pronoun goal for speech. James keeps using them in exact opposites (he/him/his for a girl and she/her/hers for a boy) and referring to others when he's really trying to tell us how he's feeling.

And yes, THIS year I checked to make sure James was signed up for the extended school year, so he would be eligible for summer school (if it's not going to be like it was last year). Pause for Kuzco victory dance.

There were some other items, but I can't clearly recall them now. What I did do was take most of a week to review the IEP draft and then raced over to the school at 4pm on a Friday so I could hand it in to the Coordinator and ask her a few questions. She was very patient and even cleared up the on-task/time in class confusion on my part, as well as addressed my notes on almost every page. Phew! She handed me her pen and I signed off.

She also made it a point to tell me that she spent a few hours with James in the classroom this morning and that she both enjoyed herself and was excited about how much progress he has made. That made me feel so good. I appreciate so much that she has been going the extra 10 miles for us.

I did not keep an IEP draft for myself, because it's now going to be retyped and recopied for the whole team. Meanwhile, James has an awesome set of goals in place for him this coming year, and the work has already begun.

Can hardly wait for Part IV: Epilogue (in which I review the final format and call it good. Or not.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: True Spunk

He'd already been through the morning routine and a day of school. Instead of going home, which is the usual Wednesday Routine, James was whisked into the van and onto a highway full of very bad traffic and construction work. For 65 miles and almost 2 hours.

Then he got to ride an elevator and meet strange people who knew his Mom way back when. He was exclaimed over and offered lemon and ginger ice cream. He took it all calmly and played on my smart phone. Then we made our way to a waiting area, where he broke down in tears and "Nooooo, Mommy!" until I let him shut himself inside the little playhouse and handed his snacks to him through the window. We waited about 15 minutes.

THEN, he was assessed by a physical therapist for almost 45 minutes. This is what he looked like toward the end of that session:

Then we went home. Except for the waiting room (pre-snack), I never saw him unhappy. This boy has True Spunk, and I love him so.

5 Minutes for Special Needs
Come see what others have shared for their Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs. Add your special photos and add some pizazz to the middle of your week.

And while there are a couple of paragraphs on this page, the photos say more. Join the fun and see more stories at Wordless Wednesday            

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tackle It Tuesday: Work Area

This school year, both kids are ramping up in academics (grades 1 & 3). The breakfast table wasn't going to cut it anymore for homework. Only James' sister has a desk in her room, and it's rather snowed under by Squinkies, at present.

Over the summer, I knew some changes were in order. The kids needed a homework center. That meant the toy shelf needed to go. That make me weepy, because that's been our fun center for many years. It's lasted longer because James is a bit behind the developmental curve with toys and we keep inheriting cool new things (like the Disney Potato Head family and a very cool box full of characters from Monsters Inc, as well as the interactive Scare Floor).

Work Area Before:

However, it's been a worthwhile project. Over the summer, I found a used desk for $10 at the Salvation Army. The toy bookcase got moved in September, after we'd started settling into the new school year.

The new work area got set up recently. The kids are very excited to use the Homework Desk. Their calendars that they make in school get posted to the wall. Each of them has a folder for their homework and school notices. The lamp was on sale at WalMart (bulb included) for $9. A folding chair from the dump (about $1) with a pillow makes a great seat.

Markers, crayons, and paper moved out of the kitchen cabinets and into some desk drawers:

Lolli at 5 Minutes for Mom had the same challenge for her Tackle It Tuesday. What challenged you lately? Do you have an idea to share from your own homework center? Hop on over to share and view creativity on Tackle It Tuesday.

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

Monday, October 24, 2011

Magic Marker Monday: Cut Ups

Our experiments with cutouts continue. And now we're getting a little ... free-form.

Exhibit A: The Cow Thing?
James brought this home from school.
I don't know what it is, but I like it!

 James' sister is on a roll and doing everything on her own. Wow!
She saves the cut-outs for negative space art.
Maybe the Mary Blair exhibit at Disneyland wore off on her?

Love the secret hidden message ...

... and extra picture!

Total Grrrrl Art

To see some fun seasonal arts and crafts, or to share some of your own,
visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

IEP, Part II

Met last week with James' Services Coordinator to continue and wrap up James' IEP. She'd had time to meet with his aide and teacher before our sit down. There was that pesky behaviour report  to sort through and distill into goals and measurables, remember.

The meeting started with a recap of behviours covered in the outside therapist's report that had also been observed in the classroom (which was almost all of them). Basically, when left with unstructured (and unsupervised) time, James responds by wandering, bumping, and misusing common objects to get attention from others. A related issue is that it can be difficult to keep James focused on a task that does not involve computers, although once he starts a worksheet or a reading assignment, he will work steadily, but with constant prompting.

One of the goals we discussed looks like they will be for James to remain seated through tasks with a minimum of prompting 80% of the time. The other will probably be for James to choose from a selection of activities or items from a sensory box to self-regulate during unstructured time.

Great schedulers from
Tools and visual aids mentioned in the report were then reviewed and weighed. The visual scheduler has been helpful in the past, but has been difficult to integrate in this year's classroom setting. The countdown clock, on the other hand, has been extremely effective for James. The Behavioural Therapist suggested coming up with a clipboard of activities that James can choose from for unstructured time. I like this idea for both home and school, and hope it will be another useful tool.

We discussed how James was doing with his classwork.  Pretty well, it turns out. He's aced three spelling tests and knows his numbers up to at least 100. He is in the lowest reading group in the class, but is one of the better readers in that group. His writing has improved enormously over the summer and he can now use the classroom paper instead of a blank or specially ruled sheet. He is extremely motivated to work with his class and is getting very good about asking for what he needs to keep up with the pace of the day.

Grade 1 math
"More" and "less" are pretty confusing for him, and I am working to get him to recognize plus and minus signs, and what they mean in math. James' teacher has sent home a math workbook so I continue to work on math with him at home. She checks in with me almost every week via email, letting me know the good and needs work highlights as they come up.

Every time I talk with someone on James' support team, I learn new things. That morning, I learned that it was unusual for a teacher to take on a full inclusion student as one of her regular kids and follow along with his goals and progress so closely as James' teacher is doing this year. We've been fortunate to have had teachers for James who observed and included him as much as possible in the classroom setting that I guess I took it a bit for granted, even though I was happy it was happening.

I lost track of how much time we met -- easily a half hour and probably over that. There's still more -- now comes my review and final comments before signing off. Almost there!
Countdown clock from

Saturday, October 22, 2011

SOOC: Halloweening

This year, James has been anticipating Halloween with great excitement. Almost every day he asks if we are going Trick-or-Treating tonight. His sister keeps showing him on their calendars how many more days until the big event. Last night, he practiced Trick-or-Treating before bedtime with his sister.

The really big thing James has been looking for is Halloween decoration on houses. As reported, I haven't seen early as many as in years past, but thank goodness more and more people are getting into the spirit and decorating their homes. Every day, we drive or walk around and look for more decorations.

This weekend, we added to our own with a test carved pumpkin by James' Big Sister. While she was carving, I got distracted by all the orange hues in the pumpkin innards and shell.

Late to the party but enjoying another week of participating in the SOOC action at Marvelous Mommy's blog. Come on over to see more or join in!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Beach

Last weekend, we went with friends to Natural Bridges State Park, where we enjoyed a picnic lunch, hiked to see the Monarch Butterflies, and spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach. James' Dad captured some great moments. Wow, we had a great time!

5 Minutes for Special Needs
Come see what others have shared for their Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs. Add your special photos and add some pizazz to the middle of your week.

And while there are a couple of sentences on this page, the photos say more. Join the fun and see more stories at Wordless Wednesday