Find Out What Jen Finds

My journey on the spectrum of life … and the lessons I learn along the way …
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about Excuses: Reasons to Celebrate!

  • May 24, 2010 9:52 pm

I recently started a list on my phone called ‘Phrases that totally worked.’ I add to it whenever something surprisingly effective comes out of my mouth for the first time without my having a whole lot of forethought. Most are in the Parenting category. When I see it has ‘worked,’ I often go through shock & awe, and then pat myself on the back and pray it works the next time. Here is my favorite so far:

“Stop making excuses and follow my directions.”

This resulted in immediate compliance with NO lingering foul mood. I know! I had to inconspicuously pick my jaw off the floor and replace the ‘I’ve Had It’ adult-whine posture with a more confident ‘That’s Right…I’m the Boss…and I Totally Plan to Say Smart Stuff Like that all the Time cause I’m Smart and all’ stance.

I realized The Elder had reached a developmental milestone!

“…children master a variety of alternative strategies for resolving conflict. They can cajole the adversary, use bargaining, suggest compromise or cooperation (like turn-taking), and redirect conflict through humor.”

The School Years: Psychosocial Development – Social Problem-Solving Skills. The Developing Person Through The Life Span – (Berger)

So what’s the big deal? All 1st graders have mastered the art of manipulation, right? Yes! It’s ‘normal’! Yay! I haven’t decided if I’m more excited about his being developmentally on track or about his finally catching up with his nonverbal abilities!

For so long The Elder didnt say anything longer than 2-3 word phrases and only when prompted (and re-prompted). If he needed to initiate communication, it was physical and completely unrelated to his desire or need. For example, instead of pointing to a drink if he was thirsty, he would strip naked or throw his glasses across the room. It was as if he was fed up that no one was attending to his mental request after repeatedly thinking it. ‘Come on, people! If I’ve telepathically tried to connect with you once, I’ve done it a thousand times. It goes in my ear and out your ear! What do I have to do to get heard around here? Sheesh.’

When he was finally verbal, I heavily relied on listening to everything he would say in order to fully understand his triggers. And after some super-sleuthing, it would often fill in the gaps of why past meltdowns occurred. It was fascinating to finally learn the Reasons for his behaviors.

“How children think is as important as what they know.”

The School Years: Cognitive Development – The Legacy of Piaget. The Developing Person Through The Life Span – (Berger)

His Reasons were always literal (raw is more accurate) and logical (tho not obviously connected). While the former is to be expected, his logic far surpasses his age level. When he was 3 he tested beyond Kindergarten (he actually beat the test because it ran out of questions). At 4, his age equivalence was 11 years, 9 months. Because of this, I think there were a lot of unfair expectations for him to be more pragmatically mature. That discrepancy has been hard to parent, especially before awareness, but I imagine it is even harder to have.

Because of early intervention and inclusion, I think that gap is closing as he practices conversational skills. I noticed that his barrage of Reasons became Excuses when I, The Mom, couldn’t find an underlying connection between his words, body language, and past experiences. The usual and oh-so-confusing ‘complacent’ or ‘defiant’ reactions would then be displayed with integrity.

Do you know how freeing that feels? My brain gets to put the magnifying glass down more often…at least until adolescence…knock on wood…

How could you vote out this cute face? #ASD

  • December 15, 2008 9:57 pm

Alex Barton

Here is the most recent update on his story.

Recently, I was sharing this story with The AP and showed her a couple of uTube videos about it. My purpose was to try to explain to her why I was so physically sick over The Elder being in kindergarten and getting these notes home.

I’m not sure what all I have blogged about The Elder Kindergarten experience. I would have to scroll through a couple of “lazy” tweet posts and some Success Sundays that may or may not be a week apart and may or may not be on a Sunday. I apologize for the lack of posts, but it has been a new era of unknowns, uncertainties, and anxieties.

Don’t get me wrong…The Elder is doing much better than I expected. Not that I had low expectations of him. I’m very much an optimist and believe in the best. However, he has EXCEEDED my optimism. And I can say right now it is a result of the kind of support we are getting from the school. That’s right. I said SUPPORT and SCHOOL in the same sentence and there wasn’t a NO or NOT in it either. The K Teacher is just so amazing. She actually makes eye contact with me at the pickup line! And…and…and……she smiles and waves at me. I know! And when I volunteer in the classroom (only twice so far, but I wanted to do it more often), she….talks to me. Crazy! And it isn’t yelling and it isn’t with furrowed brows or with condescending judgmental looks. At first, the “normalcy” of her behavior made me a little uncomfortable. At times it still does until I just get over my self-conscious self.

Well, the Alex Barton topic came up after a really difficult Thursday. October 29th to be exact. He had hit a few people in the cafeteria, he had thrown his shoes at 2 people (hitting them), and he had removed all the other students’ clips from the board that indicated which “center” they were stationed. I talked to him about it afterward. “What happened at school today?” in the same jovial tone I do everyday, and he gave me names of who he hurt and tried to explain to him what they might be feeling, such as fear. We sat down and wrote I’m sorry notes to the children. But now…I knew their names now. I don’t know if that was good or bad. But it didn’t feel good. Especially since I was volunteering in his classroom for the first time the very next day for the Fall Party. I actually felt like the children were judging me. How silly is that? But it was the parents that I was actually afraid to converse with. They’d ask who my child was and when I would point out The Elder it was like they gave me the “courtesy nod” and moved on. I know now that all of that was in my head. But when you read about stories like Alex Barton’s, how can you NOT have those fears? Fears that his classmates don’t want him there. And based on my past experiences, the fears that the adults don’t want him there? I got teary when I signed in at the office in total panick of what to expect when I got there. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. The lunchroom lady who lines them all up approached me while I was eating lunch with him (LOVED that!) and told me about some of the things he had been doing that was getting him in trouble there. But she ended with a very cheery and perky, “I love him, he’s so sweet.” Talk about a tension release!

Since then I have volunteered one other time and my fears were calmed even more to hear the other moms who volunteer more regularly tell me how sweet he is. Whew! THAT is why I want to volunteer more often. So much for good service to the school…it’s for my own emotional health! The Super Doc would be proud…

His new case manager is great too. She is a good communicator, she knows him inside and out and exactly how to turn him around. She even had him call me on my cell phone to leave me a message on my voicemail to help him remember to bring his library book back to school. Evidently a meltdown was about to ensue over the fact that he couldn’t check out a new book with one outstanding and wouldn’t get to take his test. (He has been signed up for the 2nd grade book club at the school library. The K teacher was already sending an extra book home for him to read, but he started to refuse them because he prefers the library books. He gets to take a test on them for comprehension and he has gotten 5 out of 5 right on most of them, 4/5 right on the others. He wants to take the tests. nerd.) But back to the resource teacher. She has even given me her cell phone number. Her personal cell phone number. Little does she know that I totally abused that knowledge with The Teacher. Funny though, I haven’t called her in a while. I’ll get on that.

And then lastly, The new Asst Principal. He was a Special Educator for 13 years and this was his first year in administration. He told us during the last IEP meeting (when we were having the meeting in one room, and he was in the other room because he was sent to the office for having a meltdown in the classroom. He didn’t know we were there) that he knew more about autism than he did about adminstration. That made me feel really good. kinda.

Then The Elder got his first pink slip last week. He has an official school record. My heart sunk.

He’s had a really good week this week. But the thing is is that it is so sporadic. It changes week to week, day to day, hour by hour. Am I overreacting? Is this normal? Is this ASD? He has a bomb inside of him that has NO fuse. It’s either dormant or it’s exploding. There’s no ticking involved. But you take him aside later when he has calmed down and he knows exactly what he did wrong and what he should have done. Fortunately The Resource Teacher understands that he isn’t doing the misbehavior on purpose, he just can’t control his impulses. But because he has no empathy or a bland affect it makes him look heartless or aloof or apathetic to often very serious situations, even though he understands them as we do. It’s so difficult to decode him at times.

What I’m excited about though is that we have a meeting with the OT on Thursday to give us the results of his evaluation. I pray he gets services because I think that would help a lot. He’s been getting in trouble in the lunchline for running into people, (When I was there, I saw that he was pretending to be shunting cars on a railroad. But hey! He was pretending!), leaning/laying on top of people during carpet time, and tearing and crumpling his papers. I had started the joint compressions again. He likes them a lot. He even tries to do them on himself. Gets tricky when it comes to compressing his elbow and shoulder.

We are also getting a behavior specialist observe him in the classroom. The Resource Teacher is very excited about that. That’s really going to make a difference if she can pin point which scenarios tend to trigger the meltdowns. It’s funny because as his mother, I can anticipate meltdowns in the heat of the moment, but if you were to ask me, “so what triggers your son’s meltdowns?” I would look like a fool because I couldn’t tell you. Not without giving you specific examples, but that doesn’t help someone who needs to be able to generalize it for a classroom.

So hopefully I’ll get to post again before the holidays to update on the OT meeting. If not, Happy Holidays!

Find Out What Happened to Jen’s Blog

  • October 12, 2008 12:33 am

I was locked out! 8-O

Thankfully it wasn’t a server problem so everyone was able to read and comment but I couldn’t moderate first-time commenters to have it post. But thanks for the emails (and comments) and phone calls that I got with your concern of our whereabouts.

Looks like the lastest upgrade to the Open ID plugin was a bust (as discovered be The Hub). So I’ll have to find a different one but I don’t think anyone who is currently commenting is using it. As a matter of fact, someone with a blogspot address should see if it is taking your URL yet.

If you are wanting to Mr. Linky your post for this week’s Success Sunday, post it on the previous one.

Soooo much to update and journal on, including The Elder’s IEP meeting but that might take a while because I typed it up in my DayNotez in very raw form. A cut and paste would make NO sense to the General Public.

However I will give you an up-to-date quip.

Let me give a little bit of background information. Fridays are usually family movie night, but since last night The Hub and I went bowling for an event (I do better at the Wii though), we had to defer the movie to today. Well we were going to go to a party instead but they totally were NOT in the mood for a 45 minute drive to a party that starts about an hour before their regular bedtime. It gives me the heebie jeebies just thinking about the potential chaos we might have endured! However they did start to lighten up (with some threats) enough to go ahead and watch a movie.*I guess I do too.I got some really cute popcorn holders ($1 each at the Target Hot Spot) and they eat a LOT less popcorn that way too*.

Now, The Elder has been SUPER sensory lately and licking everything.**Yet, this is the guy who won’t eat French Toast (GFCF of course) that has black spots on it. I try to explain to him that it was cinnamon, but I just get the “It’s barnacles! It’s boring!” typical response.He was even licking the inside of the VHS tape case before the movie even started. I’ve seen him licking his shoes, licking the legos, licking his brother, I mean, everything!

So when The Hub asked which movie we should watch, I replied, “Osmosis Jones, because it’s about germs.” If you haven’t seen the movie, it is half cartoon and half not. Bill Murray plays Frank, and his body is the “City of Frank” where germs, organs, bodily fluids, etc. are all animated and portrayed as a micro-universe or such. It is a very clever movie. Me likey witty.

Anyhoo, when the movie first introduces the above concept, you see Frank eating an egg that had fallen on the ground and the camera follows it down his throat. In attempt to explain that to The Elder I said:

Me: See? We are now going inside of his body.
The Elder: No, that’s not it. We are just watching.
Me: (I pause to enjoy my amusement) You’re right, I didn’t mean to be so literal.
The Hub and I make eye contact and snicker while The Elder continues to watch like nothing happened.

Maybe about 10 minutes into the movie I look at The Hub and say, “I guess this isn’t an kids movie” I look around and neither of them are paying attention to the movie. Either their back was to the TV or their head was inside a bookshelf or something other than watching the screen. From the very beginning The Younger was playing with a puzzle so he was never really engaged in the movie to begin with. I think he was just excited to have his own little popcorn box (which he knocked over and lost his popcorn and The Skipper Dog ended up partaking). The most exciting part to The Elder is realizing that Osmosis Jones is the same as Marty on Madagascar (Chris Rock).

The Elder: When is the funny part?
Me: (looking at him confused, but totally seeing his point) You don’t think it’s funny?

The Younger continued to work on his puzzle (the same one over and over again for most of the 90min movie) and The Elder started playing with the invisible ink and black light pen he got because we he sold for him at least 10 coupon books on behalf of his classroom. Then he started going through the VHS tapes and DVDs and pulling them all out. The Younger decided to join him.

By the end of the movie (I did prep them for the funny part at the end and they laughed hysterically as if they were waiting for that for years), all of the movies were off the shelves, on the floor, on the futon, etc. The good news is that there never was a meltdown and they never said “I don’t like that” or “Let’s watch a different movie.”

But they gave us some pretty strong hints…