It was a rough morning around here, a 4 X and only 1 star morning…but I’m not going to write about that, because as much as we swing from good to bad and back again, sometimes within the same 30 seconds, there has been a lot of good in the last week. Instead of writing a bunch of individual posts, I’m lumping it all together into one (giant?) post. So here goes…
First, last week I received the following email from the Roc’s teacher,
“Hi there!!!! Roc earned his 15th straw today!!! He has been saving them and every time I ask him, he says he is saving to have lunch with his teachers. So— tomorrow his is going to have lunch with us as a reward for great behavior! I just wanted to let you know! He had a good day! I am doing assessments on him for report cards and he is flying high! Things that even last year he was not able to do or needed a lot of help with he is doing all by himself!!! YAY!”
I had to write back to be reminded of how the straw system works, it’s a positive behavior system they started this year. When they catch the kids doing something good they get a straw in their name pocket. When they earn 5 straws they can cash them in for a prize, 10 for computer time, 15 to have lunch in the room with the teachers, and 20 they can help teach morning meeting. When the Roc got to 5 and then 10 straws they reminded him he could cash them in, but each time he said he was saving them to have lunch with his teachers. How cute!
When the big day arrived he was excited, but wouldn’t talk to me about it. After school the teachers sent me a photo of him sitting between the regular ed and special ed teachers with a big silly grin on his face. They said he was great during lunch, all smiles, and that the teacher next door and the school nurse came and had lunch with him too! The special ed teacher brought in a big jar of pickles to share and he devoured them!
I posted a status on my facebook page about him having lunch with his teachers as a reward for his good behavior and that there are just some things you never expect when handed the autism diagnosis. I wanted to say more though, because when your child gets that diagnosis suddenly nothing is taken for granted, everything is sharper, more intense, both the joy and the pain, but especially the joy. I’ve kept my dreams for him, buoyed and carried by hope, but they are not as focused as they once were, I left more room open for leeway, in whatever form it might be. I always wanted him to be mainstreamed, and after some behavior problems (hitting, biting, acting out – things that would horrify the women I know with typical children) in preschool I was worried about kindergarten. Worried about his ability to regulate himself, express himself, and learn in an often chaotic environment. So for any other kid, any other parent, getting the note that their child earned good behavior straws, and enough to have lunch with his teachers, would be a source of happiness and pride, of that I am sure. But for my child, for this mama, it is so much deeper…and if you walk in my shoes, you know just what I mean.
On Sunday GC went to play (his last) round of golf for the season and the Roc and I had to whittle the day away together. Of course my boy wanted to be outside and so we went to the dog park for a few hours and then later we to a private school nearby where there are two basketball hoops, shorter than regulation, but taller than our 6 foot hoop at home. GC had taken him there the day before and said he had a blast. The kid has just loves basketball.
He had me shooting along with him and doing the skills they work on in APE. After he played for almost an hour he asked to go on the little playground right next to the school. No one was around the school, we had the whole place to ourselves, so I said sure and parked myself on a nearby bench. I stretched out on my back and watched the clouds,
I even closed my eyes,
until I heard the Roc say, “Uh oh Mommy! I need help!!!”
I have never seen him attempt a ladder like this and was shocked to find him atop it! He is usually very insecure about leaving the ground in this fashion and would prefer to walk up steps than climb anything. I figured it was a one time thing, but no, as soon as he slid down the slide he went right back and climbed it again (with a little help from me at the top.) The physical skills he’s gained in the last year continue to surprise and amaze me. I love these kinds of surprises! We had a good day together.
On Tuesday I had the first conference of the year for the Roc and again I had to pat myself on the back for pushing to have him repeat kindergarten. He’s doing so much of the kindergarten work independently this year! The teachers raved about how well he is doing, how much more they hear him talk and answer questions, how relaxed and more confident he seems this year. He is retaining the sight words they are working on, when last year he could sometimes pick them out of a group both visually and verbally, though not consistently, and not at home. He is following directions and attempting the “work at the table” activities by himself and often doing them correctly. Last year he had to be prodded along, each step of the way, many of his sheets coming home highlighted for him to trace. He is doing writing in small group instead of being pulled aside individually like last year, and he is starting to sound out words. He is drawing pictures to represent things, adding more detail, and actually coloring inside the lines, all things he couldn’t do last year. They have found good slots of time for his pull out services and everyone, everyone said how much they enjoy him and that he is very pleasant. The bathroom isn’t scary this year like it was last year, and he even gets in trouble for goofing off in the boys room. I asked if they had any fire drills yet, and they had had 2 already this year, and he never balked, and he never mentioned it at home! Of course there are things to work on, and we had our annual IEP meeting directly following the conference, and came up with some new goals for this school year. We got to meet the guidance counselor who is facilitating the social skills group, and of course, she loves working with the Roc too. At the end of the meeting the special ed coordinator said that it has been great that we’ve met so many times this year (this was our 4th IEP meeting in 2010) and that we have a great team working for the Roc. Now that the educational label has been corrected, we’ve discussed his needs due to autism, come up with some new goals to address some of his language and social issues, and many of his services up’d I am confident that we are doing everything we can during the school day for him. As GC and I were leaving the door to the Roc’s classroom was open and we were able to peak in and see him sitting at a little table, working on something, reaching for a crayon, fully engaged in the activity at hand. The regular ed teacher was nearby, but not directly helping him, at that moment he was functioning just like any other kindergarten. Exactly what I wanted for him.
On Tuesday night I went to the first night of a series of Parent Education and Training sessions. GC and I were one of twelve families of children with autism in our school district who were invited to attend these once a month sessions. Unfortunately, we do not have child care so I attend alone and GC stays home with the Roc. This first session was about writing behavioral objectives and data collection. We learned how to select a target skills we want to increase and our first assignment is to write the behavioral objective for two target skills and then take data on those skills until we met with our personal liaison, who comes to our house once a month between the sessions to answer questions, take data on what we’ve learned and how we are applying it, and to help us if we are struggling with the assignment. I left feeling excited knowing that I am going to be learning some very useful tools in how to handle the Roc and how to teach him some very necessary skills.
I’ve been saying it a lot lately to GC, to myself, to anyone who will listen to me – I love our blogging community. I do. Never have I felt so connected to people who “get it.” Just this week Shivon started up a movement to help Nik’s parents get an iPad to help him communicate, something they would have had to save and save a long time to acquire. $850 was raised in less than 2 days. I love our blogging community. Today I got to speak with Jess, someone whose writing I admire and always identify with. A beautiful woman, both inside and out, a wonderful mother, an amazing writer (I said that already? Oh well, it’s true) and an awesome support. When I wrote about the struggles we were having with the Roc I got many wonderful comments of support, encouragement, and advice from my fellow mommy bloggers. I was so thankful for all the suggestions I received and started an email dialogue with Jess which turned into us having a conversation on the phone this morning. How lovely to hear her voice, she’s just as nice as you would think, and she explained some of what she learned about the principles of ABA and how they applied them at home with their daughter. I have some new ideas to try out with the Roc now. I love our blogging community.
Finally, the Roc has been all about tractors lately, specifically combine tractors, which is what he is asking Santa for this year. He regularly asks GC or I to play “plow the field” upstairs, which involves driving his trucks (tractors) around and around upstairs, often through all the tiny bits of ripped up wrapping paper he has strewn across the floor (which we totally allow–hello, play dirt or snow! use your imagination!) Tonight after dinner when he asked to draw a picture I figured it would be another house/driveway/tree/garden combo that has been the drawing of choice since school started, so it surprised me when he asked me how to draw a tractor. Unfortunately for him GC is having a guys night out (in actually – they are playing board games! I love my geeky husband!) and he is the artist, not me. I flipped over an envelope and drew two circles for the wheels and an L for a seat, gave him a big sheet of paper and he went with it. Was I ever surprised when he called me over to look at his first drawing.
He kept going after that, forgoing his bath in favor of tractor drawings.
He was so proud of those combine tractors and now I have no doubt that he is going to flip his lid when he opens this on Christmas morning:
I can’t wait!!!
Of this GIANT post…
about all the good stuff!