Thursday, August 29, 2013

When Dancing Goes Bad

Found this on Sheri Venner's site

I am borrowing this image tonight. I really need it. It's been a stinker of a day on all counts.

The kind that makes you feel like you feel like you are under constantly attack, and to cry would be fatal. Because you have to go on. But not good things keep happening.

Definitely the phone call from James' school to come quick, there was a situation with him in the bathroom was a tough one to get. Turns out he was dancing there, sans pants, socks, or shoes, and singing lalalalala at the top of his voice, refusing to come out. Thank heavens his undies were still on. And this is a new one. It's his second big melt-down in a week.

My lunch hour went to flying to the school, getting him to calm down and come out (along with his Dad, who brought him clean pants). James went home with his Dad and I stayed behind to try and figure out what the heck happened and brainstorm plans to head off/deal with similar situations. We had some good ideas. More breaks, in essence, until he settled better into the new grade/school year routines. And options for working in a quieter, pull-out room. Also, more extra clothes in his backpack.

He has a really great team working with him. I hope we can get him back on track. I know he did not enjoy the washing he got in the tub tonight. I made sure he understood it was because he spent time in the bathroom at school, and that his hair was washed because he also (I was told) laid down on the boys' bathroom floor and refused to get up. Oh my goddess.

At bedtime, he kept telling me about his saga in the bathroom. He still hasn't told me why he did it. I don't know if he can. I told him places for dancing at school included the playground, parties, and the O/T room. They did not include the classroom or the bathrooms. I hope he heard this.

And no, his homework did not all get done. He did get dinner, cleaned up, and into bed on time. And tomorrow is another day.

The incident today at school is just one of several hard things I had to deal with today. I am not going into the others here.  Suffice to say I like this quote from Winston Churchill:
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Also, the quote from Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven:
"To let understanding stop at what cannot be understoof is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven."  - Chuang Tzu

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It Must Be School Time Again ...

After work meetings across town, checkbook out.

Tectonic plates of the Earth spread out on the kitchen table, and evening dates with math and spelling.

New levels of story books being checked out of the library.

Stricter bedtimes.

Communication logs to read and sign.

French toast for breakfast.

No iPad until mid-afternoon.

Sneakers on feet.

Deep breathing as the morning commute just hit the stress jackpot of more drivers on the road combined with frequent traffic stops as construction zones start dirt-hauling convoys across major roadways.

Later and later sunrises over the back fence, under the leaves of the waving grapevines.

Tree-lined avenues' fading green; living tunnels, with ceiling and walls alight with gold.

Wistful-looking sunsets, souvenirs of the summer that was.

We've already started counting the days until Christmas.

Magic Marker Monday: Picto Name

We've seen letters like these before, when James was in a mainstream preschool in the afternoons. This time he was able to do more colouring himself, and work on cutting and pasting the letters himself.

A very festive project from summer school!

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

           Special Needs Blog                         Photobucket

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Homework Duty Divided

One very nice dividend of James' Dad working closer to home: now we can share homework duty!

It was sweet to hear James read to his Dad from the big purple chair. He did a great job too. Then they did math card drills. I got a set each of addition and subtraction cards from the Dollar Store this summer. I have a feeling, though, that he prefers the cards his aide made for him.

His reading homework.
I used the microwave timer to make sure they hit the allotted minutes of work. I was in the kitchen, filling out forms. Ye gods and little fishes, such a lot of paperwork for parents!

I'll get my turn of reading and addition math flash cards at bedtime. Piece of cake.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: River Birds

I took these pictures at the beginning of summer, during a weekend on the River. James and I hung out on the deck, enjoying the calm summer morning and watching our aviary visitors across the way.

A family of egrets: parents and well-grown offspring

The ducks accompanied the egrets as they moved upstream. 

Enter a great blue heron, stage left.

They all slowly foraged their way upstream.
Such a relaxing way to start the day!

For more images from the heart and to share some of yours,
visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs

               and ... Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

First Day, of the Third Grade

Well James has started back to school. Not our best start, but he's in a great classroom with an awesome aide, so I have a good feeling about this year.

“Life is about not knowing, having
to change, taking the moment and
making the best of it"
No back to school pictures today, as the sinus infection hasn't quite left yet and anxiety had him literally twisting with nerves. Once he saw the kids (girls, really) in his class, he perked up. One of his previous classmates greeted him with a "Hi, James!" and a big smile. She's one of his favourite people, so I know that helped.

His aide reports he did a lot of testing behaviours with her, before settling down to classroom routine. They did flash cards, reading, and writing. Thank you!

I was a bit frazzled myself. The morning commutes go through 3 of the 4 construction projects currently in full swing. We were stopped to allow sanding of a road and cleanup from a crash and new parents froze at intersections. Thank goodness his sister got to school on time, James' school expected first day delays, and I'd let work know I'd be in late.

I did pick him up early today so he could get some extra rest, and he was definitely happier than the past few days. I saw a few side looks too from some kids who are new to James and the noises he can make. It was the "weirdo!" look. It's always something, isn't it?

Looking forward to a much better year than last.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Special Needs Ryan Gosling Returns to Friday/Sunday!

Oh Ryan, How I've missed seeing you at Sunday's on Fridays. So happy to see you again!

Oh thank heaven. The meltdowns were getting awful.

Did he just say "allons-y" or was it "Geronimo"?

Hey Girl, want to enjoy a creative way to vent some stress and smile? Head on over to Sunday's site, grab the photo of the week, create, and share:

Magic Marker Monday: Outdoor Paints

When the kids were littler, I used to set up an indoor easel and paper for them to use for finger painting projects.

As they got bigger, I moved the easel outdoors. For some reason, this put a damper on the finger paints, although they continued to use the chalk board side.

This weekend, I went out back to take some end-of-summer pictures and discovered that someone *cough James' sister cough* had discovered a new use for the outdoor paints:

Thank goodness they're acrylics!

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

             Special Needs Blog                       Photobucket

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Social Stories, Electronic Style

One of the most helpful tools I've found to help deal with James' anxiety and to prepare him for new things is the use of Social Stories. Sometimes I can get lucky and find them online. Sometimes I have to make up my own.

There are sites like these out there - just search the web!

At first, I thought I'd write them down nicely, find some illustrations, and staple them together in a book, so we could keep using them. Yeah, well, I know. We all learn by doing, right?

Most of the I do with James Social Stories are verbal, with a few visual aides to help anchor the message. Some children's books out there make great Social Stories. Curious George is great for us, because the messages in those stories are great for James, and he loves to memorize them. I am a big fan of such  TV episodes as "Doctor Monkey" (because for a while, James was anxious about going to the doctor's office), and "Curious George On TIme" (which helped us learn about time, paralleling his class work).

I've also found that videos can be a great planning tool and animated Social Story device for James. I was reminded of that this morning, when he wanted to watch Disneyland rides using YouTube. I started using the videos to prep him for going on new rides he might not have wanted to try without first "riding" them in the safety of his own home.

It's not foolproof, but the success rate for James trying a new ride is much higher if he can preview them. I think the best example of that was Radiator Springs Racers. I knew that the fast speed, ups and downs, and lack of control during the ride would be hard for him to deal with. The fact that we were in a car-like vehicle, coupled with his repeated advanced viewing of the ride meant that the new ride quickly became a new favourite ride.

What other kinds of Social Stories have you found to be successful?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sick Boy, First Day of School Girl

James has not been feeling well for the past 2 weeks. What started as a sore throat blossomed into a cold, which oozed into a sinus infection, creating post-nasal drip, which set up a nasty reaction with said sore throat ...

From WebMD, which has some
great info about coughs
We've tried steamy bathroom sessions, lots of water, rest, and simple routines for him. It's not getting better; he keeps relapsing. Last weekend I took him in to the doctor, who thought he might be starting a sinus infection and prescribed antibiotics and refilled his anti-nausea meds.

Today was his sister's first day of school. For months, she's planned to show up at the first day of school with purple hair. As long as it wasn't permanent or semi-permanent, it was okay with her principal and parents. This morning - James started moaning and acting like he was going to throw up.

I quickly called in and got him a doctor appointment. My husband got ready in record time to drive our daughter to her first day of school, me to work, and then James to his appointment. It was that extra chaos twist out of nowhere that seems common with special needs families.

Good thing my daughter and I prepped the night before for lunches, backpacks, and clothing ... because I made sure I had the time to turn her hair purple. It wasn't right that her long-planned feat for opening day of school to evaporate, dang it! Splat chalk is a very fun thing, by the way.

Good thing I made extra coffee. Because over the past 2 weeks I think I've been able to sleep through the night about 4 times, and I am tired.

Good thing that my husband was able to take James in so promptly. His pediatrician couldn't find anything new, but she did recommend staggering the evening meds. So we did, and I used one of the anti-nausea pills (well, half of one eventually made it into James) to help keep the antibiotic and cough medicines down.

Now I am listening to the crickets sing away madly, outside our quiet house. I am hoping for lots of healing sleep tonight for us all.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Summer's Wane

Another slow and sunny afternoon at the Ranch. James' sister and I picked apples, and watched the sun go down. California is beautiful in the summer.

With school starting soon, and our routines in constant juggle mode, peaceful afternoons like this are much appreciated!

For more images from the heart and to share some of yours,
visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs

               and ... Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Rides

James did something new at the County Fair this year - rides!

In previous years, he'd frantically tell me "No, I don't wanna!" The noise from both the rides, their soundtracks, and their passengers, combined with the excessive motion, were a big sensory overload for him. He'd watch from the Midway for a while, once he was assured he didn't have to get too close to an attraction.

The biggest thing was he volunteered "I want to ride on the caterpillar." Wow. I took James on Big Thunder once (at his request - he loves trains and everyone else was going on it) and had to physically restrain him from jumping off the whole way.

It set a new tone for enjoying the rides this year, and I took a few pictures to celebrate:

Even better? Because we got in free by doing contest entries, I had that money to buy lots of ride tickets!

For more images from the heart and to share some of yours,
visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs

               and ... Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

People Who Shine

For various reasons, I have been reflecting on a line from one of my favourite movies:

"Character is what you are in the dark."
Buckaroo Banzai rocks, just saying.

Yes, things are dark. And then there are people who come across our dark patches, and shine. They can mean so much by just being who they are.

We were so lucky to have met with one for James' second aide last school year. She wrote simple affirmations for him that made all the difference. Really, the words written on a 3x5 card that read "I am smart" and "I can do this" made a blazingly positive change for the better for him in school, and encouraged me to change direction myself.

The man at the craft and hobby hall at the county fair, who made a decision to being his miniature train park project to the public and spend all afternoon at the table so he could share his excitement with others, and make the time to ask kids to take a look. He then encouraged them to share what they thought and he *listened.* It's rather rare for someone to give others the time and space to form original thoughts and then receiving their perspectives with relaxed and obvious delight.

Tonight, another person shone brightly for us -- the woman who cuts our hair. It's a bit of a drive to get to her workplace, so I don't see her often. She does a fabulous job with cutting my daughter's long hair and giving me a clean, yet sassy, look. Always friendly and encouraging, we love to visit with her. For a few months, I'd been thinking she'd be the perfect person to give James his first non-mom hair cut. She works with horses, has children of her own, and James has been on hand a few times while we had our hair done.

James is also going through a phase of imitating his older sister, so I figured that might further help him get his first hair cut from a professional. I called and discussed it with her, outlining his sensitivities and reactions and asking if she'd be willing to try giving an autistic 8 year-old his first haircut in a shop. Bless her, she said yes. And not only that, she was upbeat about it.

But she did not just cut his hair - oh no. She asked his permission to cut his hair first, and told him it would make her happy if he let her try. She talked gently and coaxingly through the swift cut, and he never once shrieked or twisted, although he did flinch. When he became apprehensive, she let him touch and hold the scissors or comb so he could get used to it. After, she thanked him and told him how handsome he looked. James grew an inch taller at that, I tell you.

Best part for James? She played hide-and-go-seek with him all the time my hair colour was setting. Right there in the salon! Luckily, it was after regular hours. While she was cutting my hair, James and his sister took turns playing the game in the many rooms and hallways. Then it got quiet, so we sought the kids out. They were in a massage room, playing. Both kids got suckers and on the ride home I played the car CD, which was Christmas instrumentals. They were very happy and have already asked how soon could we go back.

I can never thank people like her enough. They pick me up and keep me going. And I am so grateful for the reminder of light in the dark.