Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

Don’t Tell Ace I Said This December 5, 2017

Psst, come a little closer.  I have something to tell you; but I don’t want the kid to hear.

 

He missed his bus for school which meant he missed an entire day of school – And even though I wasn’t happy about it, it kind of worked out nicely.

 

Normally, his missing the bus would have unleashed The Kraken on him.  But here’s the thing – At the end of the day, he really is a great kid and I know it wasn’t done on purpose.  It was the first time it’s happened and he had been up late the night before suffering with stomach issues.

 

Under normal circumstances, if something like that had happened, while it wouldn’t be at all convenient, Shaunie possibly could have gone back home from work to take him to school.  This week though, she’s in a different office – much further way – doing a training.  I definitely was not going back home to take him.  Under the best of circumstances I work too far away.

 

I’m a Mom though so, I got some stuff done and then left work early so that I could put him out of his misery.  Both from being home alone all day and from worrying about what punishment he was going to get.

 

When I got home, I asked how his day had been.  His response was hilarious … “I don’t know how to answer that.  I feel like I shouldn’t say it was good.”

He had done both his Monday and Tuesday chore, had read a book, had brought the trash can to the back of the house, had vacuumed and had folded his brothers laundry.

The kid was pulling out all the stops.

 

I had finished making dinner and cleaning up the kitchen before Shaunie and Jay came in.  In fact, I was sitting on the couch simultaneously talking with Ace and scrolling Facebook when Jay bounced up the stairs.  That’s UNHEARD OF.  We all got to sit at the real dining table and have dinner together.  Not our usual of “kids sit on bar stools by the island” while adults run around and then adults eat later while kids are doing final bed time prep.  We talked about how Jays day had been and laughed at corny jokes and discussed the upcoming weekend and congratulated Shaunie on doing well on her test.

 

By 7 pm, we were in the living room hanging out.  Jay, Ace and Shaunie had a wrestling competition.  Not me.  I don’t wrestle.  I’m the bell.  *ding*

Spoiler Alert: In the finals, Ace beat Jay and then Shaunie beat Ace.

 

The wrestling lasted for quite a while and then it was time to get everyone ready for bed.  By 8:10, the boys were knocked out and Shaunie and I settled down to eat an apple pie thing that we found and love but aren’t willing to share with the kids because it’s not cheap.  🙂

 

So, yeah, the kid fell back asleep after initially waking up and missed his bus and that’s not ok, so he did get a lecture about it because that’s what responsible parents do – but – we’ve all been there; life happens; and in the end, it allowed us to have a nice evening together.

 

 

 

Courtesy of Jay

What does an ill tempered cow do?

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Cause udder destruction.

 

The Sandwich That Was Left February 1, 2017

 

Jay left his sandwich at home and as one would expect – it spiraled out of control and affected everyone in his path like a tornado.

 

At 7:00 am a phone call came in informing Shaunie that Jay had left his sandwich at home and he was already eating his snacks.

Since she was already at work (40 minutes away) and she was in the middle of an audit, she said she was sorry but no she would not be able to go back home and bring it to him.

I was an hour away and it was the last day of the month (my busiest time) so it’s a good thing they didn’t even bother to call me.

Shaunie called to tell me about it and we both agreed that he’d have to suck it up and just get something from the cafeteria.

At 9:06 am, we got an email from his general ed class teacher saying:

Jay came in today with an empty lunch bag and said that he already ate his lunch this morning. I went ahead and had him make a lunch choice (meaning she had him choose something from the cafeteria menu) so that he at least has something to eat at lunch time. I know that his tastes are limited so we’ll see what we can find for him, but I just wanted to let you know!

 

I thanked her for that and continued working.

At 12:30 pm we got another email.  This time from the special ed teacher saying:

This morning, when he was in [his morning program], I  heard him screaming at someone. When I went down to see what was wrong, he didn’t want to say anything. It was clear he had been crying because he had dried tears on his face. I had him come to the resource room to calm himself. He made it to his gen ed class on time but came back saying that he needed a break. He has been in the resource room a few times this morning and continues to say that he is having a bad day. I explained to him that everyone has a bad day and I asked him again if he wanted to talk about it. He just said that he doesn’t want to go back to [his morning program]. I am still not sure what happened because he won’t say. Hopefully he will let you know what happened.

 

I let her know about his missing sandwich and of his gen ed teachers offer of a cafeteria lunch and continued working.

She replied saying:

We offered him snacks from the resource room this morning and that seemed to calm him for a little while. But he came back and said that he needed a break. We tried to get him to eat more but he didn’t want anything else and he said that he didn’t want to go to the cafeteria. I told him that I was going to email you because I didn’t know what was going on. He asked if he had to apologize and I told him no, he didn’t do anything to me. I was just trying to see why he was upset. I hope he has a better night. I am going to check on him before I leave in a few minutes.

 

His teachers are so patient with him and I truly appreciate that.  I know it must be especially difficult on his gen ed teacher when he has an off day.  There is no way that him going back and forth to the resource room is not a disruption in her class.

 

When I came home he was still visibly upset and didn’t want to talk to me and just stood against the wall hugging himself.

I was gentle.

First I asked him if he’d had dinner as yet.

Yes.  Noodles.

Then I asked him to come and sit with me.  I asked him how his day had been to which he of course responded that it had not been a good day.  I asked him to explain why and after going around many circles:  I was upset.  But why?  Because I was angry.  What made you angry?  I was yelling.  Who were you yelling at?  My teacher.  Why were you yelling?  I was mad.  OK, what were you so mad about?  I wasn’t having a good day.  What made you have a bad day?  I was crying.

This is how our conversations go.  It takes time, but we get there.

Eventually after our many circles and him coming up with many reasons (none of which were the real problem) he finally blurted out “I left my sandwich at home.”

I told him that I understood that he was upset and that he had been hungry.  Then I asked him if his teachers had tried to help.  He said yes.  I asked him if they offered him food from the cafeteria.  We had another very round about conversation until after a while, with a choked up voice, he said “But I can’t get something from the cafeteria because it’s not free in there and I didn’t have any money. I can’t just take it.”

 

Now – Truth be told, all along I was feeling more sorry for his teachers than him but at this point you know I felt bad.  The poor kid didn’t understand that even without money his teachers would have found a way to get him lunch and then we would have settled the score later.  Even though they had offered it to him, he still assumed he couldn’t get lunch so he went hungry all day.

 

We hugged it out on the couch and then he went upstairs to write apology letters to his teachers for his behavior.  I knew then that I had my own letter (email) to write.  I don’t expect that he will forget his food again any time soon, but with the help of his amazing teachers, we will come up with a plan – just in case.

 

He closed his day harassing his brother and dancing in our room and went to sleep with a smile and a full tummy.  All’s well that ends well.

 

Going Clubbing October 17, 2016

The older boy has joined 5 clubs at his school.

Some of Ace’s clubs meet in the morning before school starts and some of them meet after school.  He’s now officially in the chorus, the gardening club, the Lego club, the engineering club and the Math 24 club.

 

Some of them don’t surprise me.  Lego and engineering namely.  Both of those are right up his alley.  Building things and entering contests and using power tools and soldering irons.

Some of them scare me a little bit.  See the last sentence about the power tools and soldering irons.  He’s my “clumsy, gets easily excited and often acts before thinking” kid.   I’m just hoping that at the end of the school year, he has neither gotten hurt, nor caused anyone else to get hurt.

Some of them surprise me.  Math 24 and gardening certainly do.  Chorus surprised me the most though.  I mean, he loves to sing, but if I’m being honest, he’s not a great singer.  Also, the types of songs that they learn in chorus are not really the types of songs he usually enjoys.  None-the-less, he’s been practicing and I have purchased the shirt he will need for their November show.

Apparently in the gardening club, they will do some planting, but they will also spend time learning about seeds and bulbs and will try out various nuts and herbs.  That should be interesting.  At home, it’s a struggle getting him to put any green food in his mouth.

 

I think it’s good for kids to get involved in extra-curricular activities.  I believe in an enriched school experience.  I think it’s good to spend time with and get to know different types of children and have friends that bring out different sides of yourself.  I think it’s good to get to know your teachers in a way that’s different from knowing them in the classroom.  I think elementary school is the perfect place to begin to explore all that life has to offer and figure out what it is exactly that you love to do.  I think kids like Ace benefit from having a lot to do and many ways to keep busy.

 

We have discovered that it can sometimes be difficult to fit in regular life things around all his clubs, such as dentist appointments, but we will do our best to work around him and his now very busy schedule.

 

In all my excitement, I almost forgot to let him know that while we support all his activities, it’s still a privilege and if his grades start to suffer, we will make him cut back.  Shaunie was there to add her voice of reason as I happily signed off on yet another approval form.

I may be as enthusiastic about all of this as I am also because I am really impressed that his school even has all these offerings; and pretty much for free.  (The only cost to us has been the Chorus shirt).

Shaunie is less impressed and rolls her eyes at my awe.  She tried her hand at a lot of things as a kid but she didn’t grow up in a country where the only options were brownies for girls and cub scouts for boys.

 

For My Enjoyment October 11, 2016

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 9:05 am
Tags: , , ,

This is a purely selfish post.  I assume most people will not be as amused by any of this as I am.  If this were back in the day when people kept photo albums, I would put these pictures there and that would be it.  Now, I get to put it on my blog for posterity sake.

 

OK, so here goes.  Below are 3 pictures that I took of school work that came home in Jays school bag.  Each of the 3 sheets shows his answers – Which while they are correct and I am so proud of how well he is doing in school – Was not what caught my eye.  My boy illustrated his work.  I will go on a limb and say he was probably the only kid who did that so I hope it brought some cheer to his teachers day when she checked it.

 

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In the above picture, the drawings that I am particularly fond of are the “wonder” and the “cricket”.  I also got a kick out of him drawing a Christmas tree for “marry”.  I am guessing that he thought the word was “merry”.  I do kind of wish that he had drawn something for marry.  I’m interested to know what his idea of marriage is.  What the picture doesn’t show is that he had erased the E in sundae and written in a Y.  Most likely because he didn’t know what a sundae was and thought there had been an error.  The E was put back in it’s rightful place and he drew an ice-cream cone.  So funny!

 

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In the above picture, I like the untied shoe lace but mostly, I am in love with the attention to detail.  Notably, the light on the dentists head and the closed eyes as the person uses the napkin.

 

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In the above picture, he not only drew pictures for each part of the compound word, but then also one for the compound word itself.  I love how he drew “soft”, and I am sort of relieved that he didn’t know how to draw “birth”.  There’s time to get to that.  The birthday hat took me more time to figure out than it should have.  My absolute favourite though, is the sunburned person.  You can see the dark colour and the heat radiating off them.  It’s fabulous!

 

 

 

Learning Style October 6, 2016

 

I am not an auditory learner.  I tune things out too easily.  This may be why I never understood the need for a “quiet room” inside my college library.  Libraries are already pretty quiet places.  I studied at the Dunkin Donuts in the middle of our student center.  The noise just never bothered me.  Sitting in a huge lecture hall while a professor rambled on and on was about as helpful to me as if my textbooks had all been written in braille.

I need a visual.  I like charts and images and I like to take notes.  I took A LOT of notes and the margins of my text books were full of drawings or arrows or additional tidbits.  For some reason, seeing the words, in my own handwriting, and even in different colours, solidified things in my brain.  During a test, I would recall words I had written and I could picture it perfectly … It’s position on the page (top left corner), the green ink, the exact swirl of that particular S, the pink arrow I had drawn connecting it to some other point further down on the page.

 

I have my Grandma to thank for that.  She taught me that there were different strategies for studying and it was important that each person finds what works for them.  She helped me to find MY way.  I think it was important to her because she never felt like she was as successful as she could have been in school.  Back then schools took a one size fits all approach.  If you couldn’t learn the way they had taught it, then YOU were the problem.  She grew up thinking that she wasn’t smart.  In fact, she was a very talented artist and was able to connect to what an author was saying in a way that never got tapped into.  I would have been lost while learning Shakespeare if not for her.

I remember her sister, who was a math teacher, telling me that she remembers almost everything she hears and she would get very distracted in the classroom if her students were being loud.  She would see words on a page and they would quickly disappear from her memory bank.  She kept a small device into which she verbally recorded information that she needed to know and store for a long time.

 

Ace is a really smart kid but he doesn’t test particularly well.  We have spent time trying to find his “thing”.

It appears that his teacher has lead him to something that he responds well to.  Mnemonics and catchy songs.  He used that strategy to remember information about the continents and oceans.  I think it’s great.  I would have never come up with that plan because my brain doesn’t work that way.  The problem is that I don’t know any mnemonics or catchy educational songs and I am not creative enough to create any.  We will have to see how we can get him to make his own.  But at least this is a start.

Jay is a video lover.  He can watch a video and report back to you everything that was on that video after watching it just a couple of times.  We have used YouTube videos to help him learn about addition and subtraction, as well as molecules and atoms among other things.  It’s quite remarkable.  He has a science test this week and has been watching videos on the water cycle.  As I was washing dishes, I quizzed him and he did a good job of answering my questions – even though he can’t properly pronounce the word “precipitation”.

 

The key to good teaching and effective learning is tapping into what works for each individual.

I guess I’m putting this out here in case it helps someone else.  Sometimes what seems like it should be obvious, isn’t.  If your child is having a hard time remembering things, take a different approach.  If that doesn’t work, take a different one.  Everyone has something that works for them.  It may take some out of the box thinking.  You may need to enlist the help of someone who thinks differently than you.  Get some new ideas.  It’s worth the effort.

 

70 Damn Percent August 24, 2016

 

That’s what I friggin get.

I came here and talked about how calm I am heading towards the start of the new school year.

Well, that calm has gone down the toilet.

The place the kids used to go before and after school raised their prices by 70%.  Yeah.  SEVENTY damn percent.  We can no longer afford it.  I mean, we could afford it but then we’d be homeless, so personally, I don’t think that’s a good option.

 

So now, with less than 2 weeks left before the start of the new school year we are scrambling to find an appropriate child care provider.

 

There are logistics issues.

The former place had opening and closing times that were very convenient for us.  The options we have now [due to what we can afford] don’t open until later in the morning and they close earlier.  That means if I drop the kids off, I will not be able to get to work at my customary time – which is fine because I can change my hours and just stay later but then I will hit more traffic (I already hit A LOT) and I’m not sure I’ll get back to the facility in time to pick the boys up.

 

Yes I do have help from Shaunee so under normal circumstances we should be able to figure it out – But sometimes she travels for work – It could be for a week or a month at a time – so I need to be able to do drop offs and pick ups on my own if necessary.

 

Every time we have to find a new care giver for Jay it fills me with anxiety.  Even though he’s come a long way, he still needs help and accommodations.  Will they get frustrated with him when he doesn’t want to eat the snack they prepared?  On the days that he wants to, will they allow him to sit inside and draw pictures while everyone else is outside playing tag?  How will they treat him when he yells at another student for taking one of “his” toys?

Each and every time I take him somewhere new and leave him with new people, it’s in the back on my mind that they (whoever they are) will not be equipped to handle his needs.  Maybe they won’t want to “deal” with him.  Maybe they will try.  Maybe they will try really hard even but then call and ask that he be picked up; and not brought back.  THEN WHAT?

 

But the real sucky part about this for me – As the parent of an autistic boy – Is that the boys were happy there.  They were liked and well taken care of.  They were comfortable.  They had made friends.

We made a big change in April when we moved and my children – who like consistency and routine – had a lot of new things thrown at them.  They were marvelous through it all.  But I would really have liked to keep any additional changes to a minimum for a while.

Now, no matter where we decide to send them, they will have to get used to a new routine, new staff, new children, a new environment and culture.

They will be fine; they are amazing boys who have shown their ability to adjust is top notch.

This may turn out to be a great thing.  In time, they may be even happier and more liked and have even more friends.  The staff may be even sweeter to my Jay and more loving to my Ace.  But it still makes me so mad.

 

Respectfully Eligible June 6, 2016

Every 3 years Jay gets re-evaluated by the school district to make sure that he still fits the criteria to be on the autism spectrum and is still therefore eligible for special education services.  He was due as of June 2016.  I am happy that his re-evaluation due date came up after he began at his new school and wasn’t done in NJ before we moved.

The evaluation done by this new school district was very comprehensive and we had a meeting this morning to go over their results.  I had been given a copy of all the reports prior to the meeting.  There were reports from the school psychologist, the educational diagnostician, the speech language pathologist, his resource room (autism room) teacher and his general education classroom teacher.  All were in attendance along with the school Vice Principal.

No-one was surprised that he does still meet the criteria for eligibility and all agree that in 3rd grade he will continue to be in a general education setting with an aide.

I’m not going to go over the details of each report or all that we talked about but there is one main thing that I want to make note of.

 

I was struck by the respect with which everyone spoke about Jay.  

 

Yes they had to give him certain tests and they had to assign number scores to him – not all of which were great – BUT in multiple different ways and at multiple different times each person in attendance talked about how they know and made sure to document that test results do not accurately reflect HIM.  They talked about his sense of humour and his smile.  They said they are learning from him as much as he is learning from them.  They had a full page showing his areas of strength that cannot be tabulated or tracked through testing.  They talked about him teaching other students a different way to tackle a math problem when he saw that they were not picking up the material.

His classroom teacher said that when he’s been working diligently on something for a while and then starts to get uncooperative and demands his book* she knows that what he’s really saying is “Ms C, I need a break.”  She recognizes that his behaviour IS communication.  It’s not just something to be curved or corrected.

Respect.

 

They marveled at his drawing and his penmanship and memory and executive functioning (planning) skills.

 

They listened to me.

The vice principal said “We love when parents write a lot in the ‘parents input’ section. After all you are the expert on your child.”

 

Each person had at least one funny or sweet story to share about an interaction they had personally had with him or witnessed.

 

They told me that a spot was open at Ace’s school for September but it would be my decision if I pulled him out of this school and sent him there or not.  They spoke very highly of that schools special education program but made it very clear that they have come to love him and would be happy if we decided to leave him there.  They tried to sweeten the pot by telling me about the gardening club they have for 3rd and 4th graders.  They know him.  He’s a gardening club kinda kid.

 

Overall, I left that meeting feeling good about my boy and his placement and his support.  He is getting everything he needs to be as successful as he can be.  They said things like “even though he doesn’t appear to be paying attention we know better” and “as members of team Jay …”.

 

I once used to dread meetings like this one.  They used to leave me feeling sad.  It was all … “below average, significant delay, oppositional, area of weakness, tantrum, become frustrated, 1st percentile“.

Some of those words are still in the reports, but also there now are … “Jays interests, readily complied, requires minimal assistance, area of strength, has formed relationship with peers, smart, delightful“.

 

This boy of mine is making so much good progress.  It’s not an easy road.  We are already talking about middle school and making sure he’s ready and what puberty may or may not bring.  It’s a little scary.  But I do believe that everyone involved is fully invested in helping him and we’ll get through it.  There’s one more week of school and then it’s summer break (and summer camp) then third freaking grade.

 

 

 

 

*His book is a teacher made stack of white papers stapled together that he gets to draw pictures in.  It helps him to regulate when he’s overstimulated.  It’s also used as a treat/motivator to get him to complete less preferred activities/assignments.

 

p.s.  People often ask if Jay is high or low functioning.  It’s a question that I hate because there’s no easy way to answer.  Autism is not a black and white type of disorder.  In some ways he’s considered high functioning and in others he’s considered moderately impacted.  In others still he can probably be considered severe.  On his test results his scores swung widely; often in ways that didn’t really make sense. He actually scored higher than average in some “areas of weakness” and then abysmally in some of his “known areas of strength”.  So in short, the answer to that question is … It depends on what aspect of his life you’re asking about specifically and also what other factors are affecting his mood at any given time.

 

Test Frustration June 17, 2015

I’m frustrated.

I’m angry.

He’s failed his science test.  Again.

We studied the material.

The two of us – together.

I knew all about populations and habitats and migration patterns and evolutionary adaptations.

HE knew it.  He knew all about populations and habitats and migration patterns and evolutionary adaptations.

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I really don’t know what else to do.  School work doesn’t come easy to him.  It takes a lot of effort on both our parts for him to get B’s and C’s.  I feel like it shouldn’t be this hard.  It’s elementary school.

It’s probably not fair to think like this but I never had to study in elementary school.  I got straight A’s anyway.

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Is it him?  Is he rushing through the tests and being careless?

Is it me?  Am I not doing enough, or not doing the right thing, to help him?

When I ask him what the issue is or what will help, he shrugs.

I get more frustrated and more angry.

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I spoke with a couple of friends.  One is the parent of 2 boys ages, 7 and 10.  One is a high school science teacher.

Both basically told me to chill out.

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Remember” she said.  “As frustrated as you are, it’s frustrating for him too.  No kid WANTS to fail.”

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“I’m sorry, I know it’s hard” he said.  “Talk to him.  Show your concern, not your anger.  It could be that something at school is bothering him.”

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The test results don’t reflect his knowledge” she said.

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He gave me jokes.  Made me laugh.  I relaxed.

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I have amazing friends.

This morning I sent an e-mail to his teacher.  I asked questions and I made accommodation suggestions.  We will see what she says. She always responds with something helpful or insightful.

I will keep trying to think of new ideas.

I will implement some of the strategies my teacher friend gave me.

I will not quit.  I will be patient.  I will talk with him.  Turn that shrug into conversation.  Together, we will figure out what his best learning style and test taking style is.

We are both supported.  It’s a blessing.

He has an entire team of people wanting him to do well and willing to do what it takes to help him.

 

Jay’s Start September 11, 2014

Jay started transitioning to an inclusion class this year.  Meaning that (along with an aide) he spends the first half of his school day in a class that has mostly general education students vs his self-contained class that only has autistic students.  Actually, he’s the only special ed child in his inclusion class.  The class has 16 other students with 2 teachers.  If it goes well, the plan is to have him stay in the inclusion class for the entire day.  That’s the goal.  If it helps him to be a more successful student and a happy child.  It’s not the goal just for the sake of saying he’s in an inclusion class so that means he’s somehow better than others or because it means that he’s on some arbitrary higher rung on the “functionality” ladder.

I haven’t been as nervous about it as I thought I would be.  Maybe because we’ve said all along that at any time, if it wasn’t working, we would revisit the plan.  If it doesn’t work and he needs to go back to the self-contained class that will be ok.  I won’t see it as a failure.  Maybe it’s something that just needs to be tried again at a later time.  Or never.  It’s all about finding what works best for my boy.

Maybe my lack of nerves is also because I see how different he is now compared to last year.  He’s more mature.  He understands more.  He’s less volatile.  He’s more communicative.  He clearly understands himself and his own needs and moods better.  If something isn’t working I have faith that we will know and he may even be able to help us figure out what will be better.

 

At the open house/meet and greet with the teachers night, I was excited to hear what they had to say about how the school year has been going so far.  Every evening I ask Jay how school was and he tells me it was either good or fun.  Those are the 2 words that he rotates between.  When I push him to tell me what he did all day, he only tells me about breakfast, lunch and snack time.  Not exactly what I’m looking for but he’s happy about going to school in the morning and he does his homework without any issues.  That tells me A LOT!!!

 

I left the open house meeting feeling good about where we are and what we have in place for Jay.  All his teachers seem to really care about him.  They want him to succeed and they see his success as a team effort.  They seem to already understand or want to understand him.  They talked about his strengths and cuteness and smarts and improvements more than they talked about his challenges.  I could have sat there and listened to them all night.  They said that he sits and pays attention and he raises his hand to answer questions and actively participates in every way.  They told me that his favourite part of the day is when they do reading.  He loves to read they said.  They said that he follows the class rules and tells the other students to follow the rules also.  (eg, no running).

 

The bottom line is that Jay’s school year is off to a good start and I’m really proud of him and hopeful that it will continue this way.