Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Mini Miracle

Easter this year is lower-key than in the past. I am working full-time, money is tight, and the kids are older. The Bunny still left baskets decorated and full of goodies and we are going to an egg hunt at the grandparents' later today with cousins.

James woke us with "It's not Easter yet?" at about 6:30 this morning, and then proceeded to snuggle with me in the big purple armchair for a good 20 minutes, happily wriggling and humming. He was more interested in using his iPad than Easter, but Big Sister encouraged him to get on the sofa so they could look through their baskets together.

After breakfast, we took showers and James had a bath. He asked to wash himself and then ... proceeded to start washing his hair on his own and asked me to cut his hair after.

Yes, yes, YES!!!!!

OMG, I am so excited. He's never done this before. I am still used to the screaming that accompanied getting hair wet and the mental fortitude required to get him into his bath and out again. To say nothing of the rodeo atmosphere of trying to trim James' hair as the thrashed, wriggled, bucked and whined, trying to escape the sensation of sharp pointy things near his ears (with his "No, no no!!!" ringing in my ears).

Now he is scrubbed and trimmed, proudly wearing his new Minion t-shirt and snacking on Minion cheese bites. He is also hugging his stuffed bunny and looks supremely happy.

Thank you, Easter! And I am so proud of my guy - he is growing up and showing initiative.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Autism Awareness Month: Apps for Us

Technology is balance  act, for parents of kids on the spectrum. It can help the nonverbal be expressive. It can feed their visual strengths. Be a great tool for learning.

And if your kid is like mine, they will latch onto movies or an iPad or mobile device and focus only on that for hours.

And if you are tired and sleep-deprived, like I am, at first you're all

... and then um, oh. I guess that's not such a good idea, to have them obsess over something that is not a substitute for interacting with people and the world.

After six years of learning about autism, I probably let James have too much time with technology. He seems so happy when using it and being able to have iPad time is a great incentive for positive behaviours and rewarding good work. I also need a break from constantly being "on" and now, working full-time and making sure the school routines run smoothly(ish) once the kids are home. Oh, that is such an easy trap to fall  into.

However, a nice benefit of Autism Awareness month is that there are interesting, non-Angry Birds/Minecraft/Star Wars/LEGO apps that are offered for free.

I thought this one looked interesting:
Articulation Station

James actually plays math and spelling apps for fun on his iPad, so this might also be worth a try:
 Splash Math App
Splash Math
And there are websites devoted to apps for interested parents to check out. It's kind of like trick-or-teating for apps for our kids. What did you find?

Friday, April 04, 2014

Program, Interrupted

I've been trying to get James to bed for almost an hour. Normally this is not difficult. We know we are very lucky in that respect.

Not tonight, though. Oh no. James has been upset, wailing, in tears, and with a distraught face that would sink an armada of tender hearts.


Yup.  These are noises James can tolerate without a problem:

Flies sharing his space ... will freak him out every time. He hates their buzzing more than leaf blowers. That is saying a lot.

He only calmed down when I showed him there were no flies in his room and sang to him -- lots of songs from my mom and grandmother, and half a dozen Disney movie tunes.

And when I thought I had him down? Bathroom visit. We went through the whole routine again.

That fly is so toast if *I* see him!

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Spelling Out Perception

Words and James have been fickle friends. For almost a year, I wasn't sure if he'd ever be able to verbally communicate. For many years after that, his words and speech were difficult to understand. James had extreme difficulty in holding a pencil, let along writing. 

This year, a lot of hard work from us all is paying off. James is expanding his expressive and social verbal skills. In a recent questionnaire, he said what he most wanted to learn in school is "vocabulary." 

Spelling homework, however, is still the bane of his homework experience. His teacher and aide do a nice switch-up throughout the week. Writing the words multiple times, sorting them alphabetically, creating sentences with them ... it's still tough to shepherd him through the practice ... and keep him in his seat!

James' wonderful aide makes him little spelling cards every week. He keys in on the colours and traces over her letters in pencil. They can sound out the components of the words together.

Spacing and control have also been issues for James. This year, we focused on getting him to start practicing spelling on binder paper. His O/T said that it was hard for him to visually keep track of the faint blue lines -- that was why his writing rolled like an oscilloscope. So I started to rule the binder paper with pencil, and when that was still not enough, black marker. And when the words get longer (and his patience shorter), I add smaller pencil lines for each letter. 

James is a visual guy. He does well on his spelling tests and has progressed from 6 words a week to 20. He loves reading signs aloud with the enthusiasm of a first grader whose world just grew another dimension: Words.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Autism Awareness: Always

It's April 2nd, and World Autism Awareness Day is almost over. I have not put blue lights out or done much writing lately, but I am awware. Every day.

Autism has punched us in the gut and wrung our hearts. It's given me a new appreciation of what I really do have, and many more blessings in the little things in life meaning so much.

  • My son's hand in mine. Being able to have him tell me what happened in his day. 
  • Conquering hopscotch. 
  • Watching him write. 
  • Hearing him read all the road signs or playing the alphabet game on the way to school. 
  • Finding out he chose to play football with his classmates at free choice, instead of playing games on the computer. 
  • Watching him "conduct" music from the very back of the multipurpose room during his sister's chorus performance. Having his help with household chores.

  • The pat on my back and whispered "It's okay, Sweetie, it's oooo-kaaaay!" when he sees me upset or sad.

  • The Trader Joe's lady, who waits for him to come visit with her after he finds the Peanuts character in the store. 
  • The boys in his class who hang out of car windows and yell "Hi, James!" during after school pickup as we walk to our car. 
  • Seeing peoples' faces soften as he skips past them. 
All special things I might have been too busy to notice, if I had not been made aware.

What would I hope for others to be aware of? Please don't put people in an autism box. Please don't get too caught up on test scores and check boxes. Please don't see a price tag or something dangerous.

Listen to the parents. Take a good look at all the little things, and be aware that they matter, and you can help make them happen.

Help us. Help us find answers, solutions, and a better future together.

One thing I will be doing, is walking this month to raise money and awareness for Autism Speaks . Please help, if you can, and thank you.