Tuesday, December 29, 2015

More Moments in Song

James has a lot of time on his hands lately, and was rewatching Jack's Big Music Show. He kept showing me this video, asking me if I remembered it. Yes, but the memory is getting fuzzy.

We started getting silly on the sofa, wrapping each other in blankets and making up verses to the song. It made a nice end to a crazy, hectic day. Belonging feels good, especially affirmed with music.

Monday, December 28, 2015

All Over Presents

Predictably, videos and books were the biggest excitements for James, followed closely by a Joe Cool shirt that we can't wait to show off at school. Big sister's keyboard with sound effects, however, was a strong attraction:

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Morning Of ...

James woke up 3 times after 3:00am, asking if it was Christmas. I finally had to tell him Christmas started after 7:00 am. He played a few games while waiting for teen sister to awake. Both kids settled on the sofa to open their stockings over croissants and morning beverages. Then it was present time!

Many rippings and exclamations of excitement later we are enjoying the warm house on a frosty morning. The kids have swapped videos to their satisfaction and James is watching his long-desired Cars DVD -- without scratches! I can hear him jumping up in down int he next room with happiness.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Twas the Afternoon Before ...

After working a half day this morning, I am home with the kids. Friends are over. It is now preparation time. James enjoys making Christmas cookies. It is one of our Christmas traditions, along with trimming the tree, visiting holiday lights around the neighbourhood, and singing.

The paper all over the table in the background? Hello, Triennial IEP (still in progress)!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Falling Into Calm

I saw this article on My Autism Team about how non-verbal children try to communicate with people and all I could think of was "YES!!!"

I remember this, and this, and  this time.  How James adores Wall-e at home, because the robots communicate without words for so much of the story.

Even more, my own connection to the importance of spending chunks of quiet time with both kids. Over the past five years of sad things, frustrating things, falling apart things ... I have learned to "fall into calm." When the kids are hurt, storming, and all my mom plans and attempts at "normal life"stick their figurative tongues out at me and implode, stress levels soaring like a rocket launch, I have found that lowering my voice and imagining grounding images to make myself an anchor of calm is the most effective thing I can do. It also helps me "hear" what they are trying to say.

It makes sense, after all. These hyper sensitive people, whose nervous systems have already gone critical, don't need shouting or scolding. They are immune to embarrassment in this moment -- that's all my own show. Their ability to cope, regroup, and express are different and stuck from what most people know. There is a real person, trapped in there: sad, angry, hurt, frustrated as heck, and alone.

Who is there to model a more effective, socially acceptable behaviour? Well, often, me. And it is so easy to want to hush them and not make a scene. Clean up the messy behaviours. Assume you know what's going on (or worse, you're so tired and burnt out you just want it to stop) ... when I can get myself to stop and spend time with James and his sister, shutting out the Should and Expectations, I always learn something new about them, and realize I have been missing cues from them.

The best quality time experiences are lovely, lazy parcels of just being together and enjoying Right Now. And there are so man ways to open up to each other: playing, touch, drawing, photos, playing in nature, or music. Sometimes the best revelations and connections come from being able to fall into calm while surrounding by messy, howling chaos. Because sometimes this is when the kids most need us to hear what they are trying to say, in their own ways.

And do they appreciate that extra, focused time with them? Yes, they do.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Letter to Santa

Oh yes, James still believes.

He has been talking and obsessing over the Cars movies from Pixar. I think I've finally convinced him that the third movie won't get here until 2017.

The closer we get to Christmas, the juniper James gets about Santa and will he bring presents? It get very hard to focus him on homework. He would much rather look at Christmas lights.

Tonight, I got him to write his letter to Santa after math and reading. We posted it at our Town Green. It was a win-win winter evening!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Gift Ideas for Kids on the Spectrum

I am "behind" with Christmas, having been overwhelmed with some very un-Chrimassy things.

However, some good news came through late this week, and one of the wonderful, relieving things is that I can relax a bit and enjoy the holiday season more than I thought I could.

I already have some gifts. I can think about getting a tree, baking cookies, and using the Christmas savings for, well, Christmas. So I sat down with James and Amazon, our online virtual encyclopedia of world shopping, and asked him what he thought would make good Christmas presents. Without further ado, here are his choices:

Pictionary Card Set: 
 - J:  "I have not played it before, but I will like to."
 - Me: "You mean, you like to play with pictures?"
 - J: "Yeah!"

Laser Pegs: Helicopter building Set
 - Me: "What do you like about his?"
 - J: "I turn the helicopter on, and it spins around."
 - Me: "Do you like that it lights up too?"
 - J: "Yes!"

Frisbee Ring Flyers:
 - J: "I like these because you get to throw these to someone."
 - Me: "You mean, play with someone?"
 - J: "Yes, outside, with my friend, Penny."

Boy's Sports Watch:
 - J: "I love the watch so much. I have to run and jog all the time, with my friend, Ms Jackie."
 - Me: "How Does it help?"
 - J: "You can hold it for 5 more seconds."
 - Me: "Would you use it at home?"
 - J: "Yes."
 - Me: "Have you ever worn a watch on your wrist?"
 - J: "Yes, when Ms Penny was teaching me how to jog. That's how she showed me."

VTech Call and Chat Learning Phone:
 - Me: "What do you like about this toy?"
 - J: "I like the microphone. I use it to call my friends (writes names with left finger in the air)"
 - Me: "Can you tell me the names of your friends? I am really bad with reading reading names in the air."
 - J: "Junior and Mark!"
 - Me: "Well, I don't think it's a real phone that you can use to call your friends. You can pretend to call them."
 - J: "What is the microphone for? Can I see it? Can we use it?"
 - Me: "Yes, you can use it to talk to the bird. Would you like to do that?"
 - J: " Yes!"

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A New Moon

Found a new book for James' reading favourites:

Harold and the Purple Crayon. I loved this book too, when I was in grammar school, and made my own books about how I would use a magic crayon. I can't remember specifics, but mermaids, talking animals, and waterfalls made for exciting flights of fancy.

I can tell James was excited about this book because his reading grew almost as animated as it is for Where the Wild Things Are. I think James also enjoys being able to read a book out loud without too much difficulty. The strong visuals are appealing as well.

Meanwhile, we are down to the last 2 chapters in our Magic School Bus book!

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

When Worlds Are Cross-Compatible

I know time is passing: I have kids and a garden. I know technology constantly evolves - I work with it. Sometimes, I am also not paying attention, so I get surprised when sometimes the way I used to do things ... gets replaced by an app.

Our old fax machine stopped working soon after I stopped my telecommuting work almost eight years ago and we never thought to replace it. I was not working so could make copies and take or mail them to where they needed to go.

More places increasingly accept photos that were taken with and emailed from a cell phone. HIPAA means that more records are being shared securely in PDF format.

Over the past year we've had to fax a lot of documents suddenly: applications for financial programs, job hunting, medical records, and school programs. Even though faxes are still needed, it's getting harder to find places to send them.

To keep cash outflow down, I haven't updated my phone since 2011 (which is almost as bad as a flip open phone in the tech industry). My Kindle takes nice pictures, but not PDF-worthy ones. The Kindle does have an app for translating photos into scanned documents, which then upload to the Cloud. Finally, I get Cloud Computing. Tonight I take Tiny Scanner out on the Cloud for a drive.

I really want to Evolution Elves to take away my home office clutter:

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Reading Together

For much of this Fall, I have been lax about reading with James. He has three favourite books he likes to bring out for his homework reading assignments: Where the Wild Things Are, Chicken Noodle Soup With Rice, and The Cat in the Hat.

I tried reading the library books that came home from school with him (that he supposedly picked out): Sharks, American Colonies, and another 5th-grade book about characters based on American history. After two sentences, James became violently bored and it was truly difficult to keep him focused, even sharing turns reading to each other.

So I went to our bookshelves. Goodness knows, there are enough paperbacks in this household, where almost every room sports a bookcase and the garage is a library-in-training. In James' own room, I picked out a Magic School Bus adventure: The Search for the Missing Bones. We've been reading it slowly over the past few weeks. It's just about right for James' reading level and captures his interest so he now gets excited when he sees the book cover.

With the weather getting colder, the kids getting older and tough things happening, it's sometimes hard to put aside the time for reading together for 20 minutes. But I do love our time curled up on the sofa together. Reading. Exploring. Sharing.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Weekend Chores

James is ten, almost eleven. One of the things I have been working with him includes learning skills to live more independently. James is good when self-directed, or working off a chart.

This morning, we worked on gathering laundry and gathering for washing. Laundry takes the longest, but he is getting better at it. I still have to watch him load the washer because sometimes things he throws in his laundry basket should be be added to the washer, such as stray toy building bricks, his jacket, or a plastic bag of dirty clothes (from an outing).

Washing dishes is tougher for James, with the slippery dishes and difficulty he has making one hand grip a cup or plate and the other a sponge to administer a scrubbing. I've found it's best to try with plasticware ... and have a spare shirt and pants handy when he gets his first set splashed with water.

Last weekend we straightened the DVDs and VHS tapes.

Baby steps!

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Trader Joe's and Conversations

James and I made our weekly Trader Joe's run this morning. Later than usual, but we got lucky and hit a lull.

The weather is still damp, cold, and grey. Low lying cloud whisps hovered above the vineyards and hugged the bottoms of the foothills. The air was loaded with moisture. Armed with a grocery list, bags, bottle returns, and a reading test with a 100% grade, we took a cart and headed in.

Wow, Trader Joe's has a ton of holiday food and treats. Despite the awful week, I am comforted by the festive packaging and the helpful crew in our local store. James found Schroeder  (he's in the stuffing section today, Santa Rosa folks) and collected his sucker. He helped me get items from our list. He chose a new type of cookies to try in his lunch.

On our way out, he ran into one of his crew friends, and showed off his history test. Even though the crew member was busy, he took a moment to look at the paper and listen to James. He then gave him a high-five for his grade. Guess who got another sucker?

On the way home, I asked James about his music class at school. He told me they were practicing rhythms with sticks. He said he was alone with his aide. After some more questions about why he wasn't with the mainstream class, I understood: a leaf blower was being used outside the music class, so James got to go to a quieter room with his aide and practice.

Then we sang some of out favourite Christmas carols. Small things. They help.

PS: Trader Joe's is running a Customer Choice Awards contest. Nominate your favourites through tomorrow, December 6th.

Friday, December 04, 2015

A Haunting Week

This has been a week that laid me low. James' triennial IEP is still in progress (we started end of October) and no one is going to be really happy about the final result. I am very discouraged about the gap between my perceived service needs for James, the IEP I agreed to last June, and what is now being offered by the district. It seems to be a grey area, as concessions have been made on both sides, nothing is hugely out of compliance in this new version of the IEP, but I am disappointed and have lost faith. This is what happened to James when I agreed to move him out of Full Inclusion and into Special Day Class.

If any on-the-fence parent is reading this, listen to your inner voice: don't move your child out of Full Inclusion if you don't feel right about it.

I do recognize that James got less out of Full Inclusion every year, due to his developmental delays and processing issues. I do recognize his school is giving it their best with what they've got and there are good people trying to work with us. It's just not enough for James.

If I made more money, I'd shell out for outside services and soldier on, grumbling along the way. I don't have that option. I have other issues that are now more important. Big changes in the family (it's coming apart), mental illness issues that desperately need addressing, and extreme financial crisis. Right now it's constant, never-ending, and no resolution or coping schedule in sight.

Then Wednesday, the massacre at a Regional Service Center in our state. Just like the one we go to for James, but in another region. It's gutted me. Not only because an organization that's part of our lives became a target for murderers, or because of the horrible loss of many kind people with families near a big holiday, but because of a worst-case outcome between mental illness, despair, the huge and dangerous (and widening) gaps of haves and have nots, and guns.

The Us is trying to exterminate Them. Think Trump hate, Planned Parenthood attacks and defunding, police shootings, and radical religions of any kind.

Guns are protected more than people. I still cannot believe this.

Our country is ignoring history and turning into a place of fear, hate, and exclusion for those "not like us". I am looking at you, US Governors who want to exclude Syrian refugees. How long before this "Them" turns me and my family into "Them"? It doesn't feel like a large step. So yeah, now I feel threatened too, in my own country. 

And for me, I am not making enough money. Wages in my area are horrible and not what they were, pre-recession. I cannot support my family and it is breaking apart. I feel stranded. I know I am not alone. Not looking to throw a pity party. I do have some help and support. This is how I feel when I am laid low. I am pretty sure it's going to get worse before it gets better. I hope I can take it. I'm pretty sure I can.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Disneyland, at Age Ten

We took a long-deferred vacation to LA a few weeks back. James was excited to go back and ride Small World, Alice, and the Nemo subs. He was so excited that he had trouble finishing his waffle breakfast at the "Letter Q Hotel" (James' name for Quality Inn and Suites).

We like staying at the Letter Q because we know what to expect and have good vacation trip memories. The price is good for the quality, and they have free breakfast, with make-your-own waffles, which the kids have loved.

Even though this local was right next to a construction zone (and had lost about a third of their property to the new development) the noise was not the issue I'd feared. We enjoyed a quiet room and filling breakfast every morning.

At Disneyland, James humoured me and went on the teacups. I tried to keep the spinning to a minimum, because he does not enjoy it very much any more. Yes, we rode It's a Small World every morning. I do enjoy the holiday version, though, and we usually end up singing carols on the ride.

Two new favourite rides emerged from our trip: James became a fan of the Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters, and especially the Star Tours rides. Wow! I guess all the repeated YouTube viewings of Star Tours and ep. 7's buzz overcame his dislike of sudden shifts and drops. It was so neat watching James enjoy the more immersive rides. The newer system that replaced the old Guest Assistance card helped us out with the crowds too. More on that later.

We also got James on Soarin' Over California once, which was a huge thing. We celebrated with a few rounds of Monster's Inc. Ride. Olaf was at home next door, so we played in the snow and went sledding. Seriously! Unfortunately Elsa was at the end of her meet and greet. James would have liked to say hello. We had a great race in a red race car in Radiator Springs  It is nice that Disneyland and California Adventure are places where he can do things, like other kids.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Movie Review: Peanuts Movie

Wrapping up a long holiday weekend after a super-stressful couple of weeks. We wanted a family movie, and considered The Good Dinosaur. When I looked up the movie times, I saw a reminder ad for the monthly Sensory Sensitive Films. For November, it was the Peanuts Movie. Sold!

What is a sensory sensitive movie showing? It's:
  • Leaving the lights partially up ...
  • Turning the soundtrack much lower than regular showings ...
  • Creating a welcome environment for families with members who cannot tolerate loud noises, sit still through a movie, or have verbal stims to help get them through something exciting like a movie out in public.
Our local theatre provides this on the last Saturday of each month at 10:00 am, and I salute the heck out of them for this!
Back to the movie ... James knows the Peanuts gang. He may not have grown up reading them in the newspapers the way I did, and we don't have TV, so he's missed the TV specials on holidays, but the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack is a perennial favourite at home and on car trips. Every week on our shopping trip, James looks for Peanuts character dolls in our local Trader Joe's -- James has friends among the crew members, who "help"him look -- he loves his lollipop reward for finding their hideout in the store. We've visited Snoopy's Ice Arena, toured the Charles Schultz Museum (which also sponsors traveling Science Exhibits for our schools), and cursed the Red Barron in the skies overhead during our annual air show at the Charles M. Schultz airport -- of course we wanted to see this movie!

Two thumbs up for a well-done tribute to the series and characters. I was not sold on the 3D-ish animated treatment until I saw it onscreen -- it's a simple (to look at), charming mix of old and new that I think works very well. The characters look, sound, and feel very true to what I grew up with. Snoopy, who I feel became much larger and complicated than originally intended, was, to me, very recognizable. All his personae were there: good dog/Charlie Brown's ally, WWI Flying Ace, Joe Cool, Dark & Stormy Night writer, and Woodstock's friend. Charlie Brown's honesty, compassion, and staying true to himself despite all his bad luck shines through in a very refreshing way that I think has been missing from recent Peanuts animations.

The plot is simple, like Peanuts was written/drawn for the newspapers, and the kids are refreshingly kid-like and timeless, without being cloying or too mature. A lot of familiar and well-loved themes are woven into the simple story in a way that feels like snuggling down in a familiar patchwork quit that visually cues happy memories. If you like the Peanuts gang, you should definitely see this movie. If you are looking for modern re-imaginings classics, like Cat In the Hat, The Grinch, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, or the Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, this is probably not for you.

Speaking as a parent of sensory-overloaded kids, having the soundtrack down low was a big help. I really liked the way the dogfights were not too loud or chaotic and the planes sounded realistic, but reproduced on a muted level. While James squirmed and started asking if the movie was going to be over before we hit the 2/3 way through mark, the vignettes were short and attention-getting. I enjoyed being able to redirect James by connecting his local experiences with the Peanuts characters to the characters onscreen, without feeling like I was detracting from the movie experience of the rest of the audience. Twice, James had to use the bathroom, and because the lights were partially up, this was not a big deal. A couple times we heard verbal stims from other audience members, and felt right at home.

Definitely, I give the movie, theatre, and film series two big Thumbs Up. We plan to return for next month's movie: The Good Dinosaur.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Testing, Testing ... Marin County Calling

Saturday morning. An hour car ride, for a morning's worth of testing. Hitting a wall, but persevering.

It was sunny, clear, and cold at home as we got into the car at 7 and headed south on 101. Over the Petaluma Hill, a cold greyish mauve fog bank lurked over the hilltops. Ghostly, white-translucent  scarves of ground fog shrouded dells, grapevines, and leafless trees. We wondered if we would see fog over the ocean, and hear, as James calls it, the "Foggy Horn."

By Novato, however, we were back into sunshine. James decided he wanted to listed to the Disneyland CD. We had fun listening to soundtracks for rides the rest of the way in. Star Tours won, with 4 repeats. He has watched the YouTube videos of the original ride so many times that we can recite the script in time to the sound track. He does a pretty decent R2 verbalization.

The testing office has a beautiful view of Mt Tam. The trees along Fourth St. are flaming autumnal colours. All this is some nice quiet time. There is plenty of work waiting for me at home.

Enjoying being in the moment.

Still looking for answers. James is worth it.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Shabam! Fall. Triennial IEP. Too Much.

Counting down to James' triennial IEP. So not looking forward to it. He is supposed to be in 5th grade. Everything has been coming home marked "4th Grade." I am being told that everything is blended. Indeed? Why is it all marked 4th grade? When did who decide to hold him back him a year? Because I sure as heck was left out of that loop.

James is pretty happy. They have him doing 2nd grade math that he mastered 2 years ago, adding 4 addition math problems a night. He had been doing long division last year. He is playing games on the computer a lot. Gah!

The ElastiMom Mantra Explained
Fall is here, bringing milder weather and the promise of some rain and relief from our high threat of fire. James is excited for Halloween. He will be the only trick-or-treater from our household this year. For a change, he has decided he wants to be Mr. Incredible (and so he is!) -- I am thinking we can get away with using his Incredibles PJs and some long red pants ...

Life keeps throwing my tough things. I wish I could be like Elastigirl and be Super Flexible and punch out the IEPs. I wish I had Edna Mode on my side. She could make me an ElastiMom Super Suit to wear to the IEP meeting and prevail for my kiddo.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

First Day 2015

Not sure how I feel about this school year. For the first time in 6 years, James is not starting out as Full inclusion. It's heartbreaking for me but James seems to like it. It's been his easiest start back in years.

Glad it is easy for him because everything else is a mess, from the constant construction on-site all year to the fact that no one still can tell me what his Special Day Class routine is like to the fact that the district is asking me if I have the original signatures page for the IEP meeting we had in June.

On top of that, the comparison between the organization and seemingly effortless support at his sister's new school and the broken mess from his school district ... after all our efforts ... I must confess, I broke down and cried after dropping him off that morning. I feel like I've failed him and he's being lost down a hole.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Science Experiment: 4th Grade

While doing housecleaning and photo organization, I came across James's science project this year from Fourth Grade. He was so excited to do this experiment and write-up poster with me, probably because it was simple and not drawn out.

He made illustrations and gave me the words and some observations to use. He helped cut and paste the computer print outs from the PowerPoint presentation file I used to create the paragraphs of text.

We had a pretty fun time and he was chuffed!

Extreme Dental Visit

James has been seeing a pediatric dentist regularly since he was 3.  For several years, his teeth would get cleaned and checked. While James does not like sugary foods or sodas, he also won't brush or floss properly without an assist. We don't always make sure he does a thorough job, as we are usually exhausted by day's end.

This caught up with James last year: a cavity was discovered. Because it is difficult to get James to sit still for a cleaning and impossible to get him to sit still for x-rays, his dentist recommended sedation dentistry. Because he screams and freaks out over needles and whirring noises by his ears, she recommended general anesthesia (GA) - quote for which was $800, which we don't have.

Turns out there is a special program for kids with issues like James'. We could get it from his health care HMO. Catch: they only offer this in a service area that is over an hour away.

So I did phone consults and health histories. The day before his procedure his Dad took him to the pre-op physical at a facility an hour+ away. I spoke with four different people about GA and James. The week of the procedure, I worked 10-hour days so I could take a day to accompany him to the almost 2-hour away hospital without losing pay. He started fasting 12 hours before his procedure.

We got there early and signed in. James got his wrist bracelet and a number code, so I could track his progress on the Outpatient Surgery Board. We've been here before. What was different this time was that James' number showed no status - not even that of "waiting room," which some others showed. I was concerned about this because (1) James has a history of wandering and (2) I wanted to make sure they knew he was here so they didn't give his slot away as a no-show. It took a few minutes, but I was able to talk with someone who could not find him in the system, even though he'd checked in. Yikes!

Within 5 minutes we were called back to the prep area. I noticed that James' number now showed a proper status and I was assured we were not only on time, we were an hour early. The nurses, staff, and surgeon were all super nice. We had James changed into a hospital gown and up in a gurney in no time. He had his blankets and found Nick Jr., which kept him busy for most of our 2-hour wait.

I had a final GA consult and got some expert help from a nurse to get James to take the initial oral sedation. I checked all the procedures he was going to get with the nurses: tooth cleaning, first dental x-rays. at least one cavity filled and dental sealants. They would also take blood for several lab tests that had been postponed due to James' fear of needles. I gave James an overview of the procedures and told him I would be there with him until he went to sleep and when he woke up.

It was a long afternoon. I had some lunch, read a book, and took some walks up and down the hospital corridors. At last it showed he was being taken to recovery. It took a while, but he started waking up. And he wasn't happy. While the type of GA used made him less contentious, he  REALLY hated the sore feeling from having the breathing tube in his nose and throat. Despite  warnings to his team, James ripped the IV out of his foot. He really hates needles too.

An hour later, a helpful orderly helped wheel James outside. Fortunately I had been able to park so close to the hospital that could see James the whole time I picked up the car and drove back to pick him up. Then we had a 2 hour ride home with James moaning (and occasionally roaring) in the back seat. It took him a while to realize that a tooth was missing (a loose baby tooth). He didn't like that either. Turns out he had 4 cavities. Luckily none of them were serious, but we do need to step up the oral hygiene. I don't think either of us wants another extreme trip to the dentist any time soon.

Eating Out

It is getting harder and harder to get James to sit down at a table for a meal. Doesn't matter if it is at home, dining out, plain chair, or padded seat ... He will not sit properly for more than half a minute.

 Enter dinner at a place called The Healdsburger. It used to be an A&W Drive-in, back in my day. So nice they've kept the best of the past while updating for current residents and visiting foodies.

After a rough couple of weeks, I took the kids there for dinner. This is how James waited for our food (one table away).

And this is how he ate it:

We will keep practicing sitting at meals, but it is nice to find a place that allows kids to roam around when dining out.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Happiness Is ...

Finding and playing with all our pals from Peanuts.

While we don't have a warm puppy, we do have two sweet cats!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer Evening Swim Class

I signed James up for swim classes again this summer with our town's Park & Rec. I have missed coming here.

Group swim lessons are one of the rare activities my kids have been able to share with others. The program is homegrown, with local teens teaching the kids. The setting, tucked away in the trees, is idyllic.

Summer is here and we are out in it!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kimochis: Managing Emotions

Something new from James' ongoing sessions at the Swain Center: Kimochis.
Photo courtesy of The Kimochis® Feeling Lessons

I saw the handouts last week and thought: "Cute! Hmmm, why??" Then I completed the behaviours homework with James today and understood: the toys are something visual and tactile that James can use to understand emotions, body language from others, and learn how to better interact with other and regulate himself.

Each animal is identified with an emotion, and comes with a back story/history. The kids will learn more through a process that looks like it blends story boarding, picture schedulers, and PECS.

Like his biofeedback sessions, these lessons will visually help him connect what is going on inside him with the world and people around him.

This is all my take-away. For more about the actual program, see them online.

I had no idea this was out there. I am excited to see where this takes us.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Stripes

James and I are hanging out at the Town Green while the vacuum cleaner runs at home. He enjoyed an ice cream cone and we are scripting from Basil of Baker Street and the Upside Down Show.

Professor Rattigan is a naughty rat, and fell out of a tree into the water. I am showing James how to pantomime ringing Mrs. Foyle's hand bell.

The afternoon shadows grow look long while we play and laugh.

And now, here come .... Lefty and Knuckles: Action Fingers! Good times!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Playing Around

For someone who does not like the noises of stove fans, hair dryers, or a coffee grinder, he can sure get a lot of inexplicable enjoyment from sonic-ing about!
It's the 11th Doctor's. I love the Captain America t-shirt too.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Chores on a Summer Schedule

With summer and increased time at home during the day, I am ramping up again with Chores. James has a few standard chores to help keep the home running. I've come up with lists but they tend to fade out of use after a while. Plus every time our schedules change, chores change. It sounds trivial, but it's not when therapy sessions and special routines to accomplish what many do without thinking means changes often result in Stratego/Jenga like juggling sessions. Things tend to get left off now and then.

I started with simple cards that could be put into pockets when the chore was done, as this mirrored what was done in their classrooms. I periodically surf the web and Pinterest, looking for additional ideas. Currently I think we are in synch with this Daily/Weekly Chores chart, and the blog post that accompanies it is very useful as well.

Image of downloadable chart courtesy of Living Well Spending Less.
This week James is also going back to earning iPad time for making bad behavioural choices (our current GoAnimate and pants-pulling issues). I had him help me pick the plums in our back yard, both our of the lawn and storing the ones I picked into a basket. He has a hard time staying outside because of the flying insects, but we continue to expose him to various outside sensory issues, hoping that repetition will help ease the anxiety. And, I did need help!

About half an hour's picking. And no bad behaviours happened.

What do you use to help keep chores on track?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Summer Reading Program 2015!

Regular school's out! We've hit 100 degrees and the days are long. It's summer! Our Sonoma County Library has another wonderful theme for summer reading: Every Hero Has a Story:

For the first time in years, I got both kids to sign up the actual first week of the program. Yay, progress!! James went up to the Resource Desk and asked to sign up. He filled out his entire card as directed by the librarian and filed it away on his own. I am celebrating this independent accomplishment with mental high fives and whooping and a "nice work!" out loud.

I picked out a book for James, and then he picked one out for himself:

Minnie and Moo Go to the Moon was my choice, because it was silly and a non-threatening gateway book to reading. James pulled out Brickbeard's Treasure and gleefully waved it around. On we read!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Reading Ignition App

This year, we finally acted on the reading app information that the school sent home in James' backpack for months (maybe even back over a year), and we are so glad that we did. The note was to let us know that if we had internet access at home, James could logon and use the reading program offered in the Special Day Class. This is a good tool, because while James can read and spell really well, his comprehension is not very good.

The learning system is called Lexia, and despite severe budget cuts that have plagued California public schools for as long as my kids have been school-aged, the Special Ed teachers have so far been able to make this program available for the kids.

James really enjoys playing around and finishing modules, spelling words, answering questions, filling in gaps, and using prefixes/suffixes. The exercises come at a topic from several different angles so that James is left with a multidimensional understanding of reading that was completely missing before. He sees Lexia time as a treat.

We just found out that parents can purchase a Lexia license a year at a time. Yes, we are now looking to budget for that too.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sports Challenge

James needs more regular exercise. He has low muscle tone to begin with. His extreme weight loss last year has made his already skinny frame more frail. He is also growing like a weed.

Because James is happiest in a familiar environment that is quiet, and happiest yet when online, incorporating physical activities are tough.

At school, James will use a foam football to interact with other kids and toss the ball around. His adaptive PE coach has been super encouraging him to jump rope with others and his regular PE class had a great week of bikes. James' sister takes him on walks around our neighbourhood or to a local park. I try to take James with me on weekly grocery shopping runs and swim play sessions at the pool.

James's Dad gets him out to parks and took him to the always fantastic Wonder League baseball program. This year saw some wonderful changes to the program, including earlier start times, warm up practice, and great groups of Buddies for all the players. While James was reluctant to play at times, he loved the attention. He started switch hitting and running after grounders. He actually started to hit pitches near the end of the season, and the week cheer section showed up, he ate up his personal rooting section as he rounded third base.

I wish we could find a local, affordable sports activity for him that he would enjoy. It's always good to have options outside the Xbox.