Thursday, November 18, 2010

Letter to Santa

Santa Claus is coming to town!  When is it the right time to tell my son there is no Santa?  I know we don't even have the turkey in the fridge, but Christmas has become a topic in our home since last weekend.  My son's comprehension level is similar to that of a 4-5 year old child even thought he turned 12 y/o this year.  His intellectual disability is keeping him innocent from certain things in life, one of them being Santa Claus.

We go through the motions and rituals, the Christmas tree set-up; the lights go up as well, making the wish list and the secret gift buying. 

Up through last year the teachers at school were still using Santa Claus as a means to keep some order in their classrooms, and Puppy still believed because I saw no reason to break his heart then. But he's a big boy now.  This year Puppy started middle school, so I'm not sure how much time is spent involving the spirit of Christmas.  He started to ask for some items he has an interest in, and for the time being I suggested we take some time during the next weekend to write a letter to Santa.  I was really hoping to buy time to think this out a little further.

Should I have a talk with his teacher and get an idea of how they approach the subject?  I suppose I could follow their lead and see how it goes.  Are there any suggestions or opinions?  I’m listening.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

School Illnesses

My son has autism, and I identify his ability to mimic to be his gift.  I believe every child has a gift or talent that they do well, and mimicking is Puppy’s gift.  My son is also rather demanding when it comes to receiving attention.  However, he chooses who he wants undivided attention from and seeks it.

So far we have had a good start on the school year without any major illnesses that have kept Puppy home.  I hope I'm not jinxing us.  However, yesterday, a classmate of his wasn't feeling well and threw up in the afternoon.  The teacher sent me a note home letting me know that Puppy was also not feeling well so that I could monitor him.

Even though it is Mrs. B's first year with my son as her student, we have spoken on several occasions and she is fully aware of the mimicking.  Her first intuition was that he’s having the same reaction to lunch as another student in Puppy’s class.  When she noticed that Puppy had not thrown up, or had real stomach pains--she decided that he was using the illness as a sign for attention.  She allowed him to put his head on his desk and rest, but waited for another sign to help her determine if he was or wasn't pulling her leg.  Luckily she was on to him and he forgot about his pain as quickly as it appeared.

This morning as Puppy and I were getting ready, he started whining that his stomach hurt and that maybe he needed to stay home or at grandmas. Everyone knows that there's nothing better than getting attention from grandparents.  He was on a roll, but I read him like a book and sent him to school.

It was around 10:30 A.M. when I received a call from the school nurse.  I thought to myself, "Here we go." Yes, he was complaining of a stomach ache and the nurse told me he threw up and I need to go pick him up.  I told her someone would be there shortly.  Then I called my mom and asked her if it was something she was able to do, pick him up and babysit him all day.  She said it wasn’t a problem but it was going to be a short while before she could pick him up and of course I said he’s fine, he’s being watched over by the nurse.

Just as I hang up, Mrs. B is texting to let me know he’s not feeling well, but she’s suspicious that he may be trying to go home because he saw the other student do it yesterday.  I agreed since that was Puppy’s conversation with me this morning.  She told me how he was forcing himself to vomit and could only spit up a little juice from breakfast.  We agreed that it would be better to keep him in school and monitor him since there wasn’t any fever or other symptoms present.  We cleared it with the school nurse and he was a little rebellious but calmed down after he noticed nothing was working to get the teacher’s undivided attention.  He finished off the day at school.
Puppy is now sleeping peacefully.  Amen.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is he listening?

Many, many times I just wonder.  How much of what I tell Puppy is he listening to?  Then I quietly laugh all by myself.  Yeah, he is listening to every word.  He simply chooses when to react or answer to my words. My son is very observant of his surroundings, this includes all that he hears be it voices or noises.

I know, this only leaves me open to give some examples.  One was just yesterday.  Last night Puppy and I attended our monthly autism support group meeting.  It was a small group of parents exchanging good conversation while Puppy was cared for in another room with other children.  Because of the interesting stories we shared, our meeting went beyond its scheduled time.  All this is fine and I have no complaints.  But waiting in the driveway at home was my sister whom had misplaced her key to enter the house.  Unfortunately, she had stressful day at work and was ready to relax and hearing we were running late was not what she wanted to hear.  On our way home I stressed to Puppy that his aunt might not be in the best of moods and he was to try and keep clear of her.  When we got home, he went to his room to get ready for his evening routines and follow through with the instructions before bedtime. He saw my sister sitting on her bed, he went up to her and softly asked her, "Are you angry?"  She simply answered, "No, I'm just tired."  He walked away calmly, smiled, squeaked in his high pitched sounds and continued with his routine.  I must say he did pretty well.  It surprised me that there were a couple of parts to my instructions and yet, he complied beautifully. These are new experiences Puppy is learning.

Another comes to mind easily.  Our mornings are not usually what I'd call hectic, but sometimes they can become stressful for me since I need to make sure Puppy is getting ready for school and taking his meds, while I am also getting myself ready for work.  So our routines start and I begin to shout down the hallway to him to get dressed, tie your shoes, brush your teeth, find your belt, put it on, etc. And like with most kids, I normally repeat myself, once, twice, three times, or more.  But then it happens...once in a while he surprises me and shows up behind me, taps me on the shoulder and says, "Mom, I'm ready."  Whew--I did my job and yes, he was listening.

But I'll finish this post with my favorite example of all.  He loves music and even insists on sleeping with the radio on all night.  He's not really particular to any specific kind of music but I influence his listening to country music because that's my favorite.  But living in a border town, the bus drivers usually tend to have Spanish/Tejano music on the bus rides. I can tell that the music moves him.  And he can sing, sing and sing if he thinks no one is around, like in the shower, for one.  Also, the schools have functions on the holidays where the special needs students have dances, and I'm told he gets up and dances. Did I mention he loves to listen to music?  So once again, yeah--he is listening, loud and clear.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I read something interesting today that I wanted to share.

-- Phil Schwarz, Vice-President,
Asperger's Association of New England wrote about ABA teaching methodologies:

"These teaching methodologies work beautifully for some autistic kids, to teach them to learn how to learn. They do so precisely because they leverage the children's specifically autistic strengths:  good memory, attention to detail, attention to patterns and to the continuation and breakage of patterns. They also break cognitive steps down into units that can be tuned to match the children's cognitive and sensory bandwidth and attention span -- both at the outset and as they increase over time."  Please look him up if you want to see his "defense" for ABA teachings.

I only wanted to post the definition he wrote because it brought me to a place where I am further understanding my son and his lack of instinct.  I already know that our days are consumed with teaching, "teaching him how to learn."

But what happens when he "learns" poor behaviors from his peers then finds it difficult to understand why his mom keeps telling him not to do it?  Someone else did it, why can't he do the same?  Puppy has no instinct to know much of what is right and what is wrong until he learns about it, and usually the hard way.

Also, he doesn't usually show interest to play with the other kids.  Mostly it's because unless he is taught to catch and throw a ball, basketball, baseball, etc., it's all Greek to him.  I sometimes forget to remember this small factor myself.  I hope that now since I wrote about it, I'll be more alert and not so quick to correct him for the chance that he did not know.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Weekend is Over

It's the first Monday on Daylight Saving Time (Central).  Puppy and I made it off to school and work, sliding out the door.  It wasn't that we didn't wake up with enough time, we just had some distractions.

Puppy and I had a pretty good weekend.  Actually it was a little rougher for Puppy because on Friday he had his wallet removed by the teacher aide and kept at school over the weekend.  His teacher had meetings all day.

I know it doesn't sound like anything serious, but for is similar to his security blanket.  He has several interests and right now, his wallet is very important to him and on top of the list.

We have begun to use Applied Behavior Analysis to help Puppy.  I am in daily communication with Puppy's teacher, and she is clear about how she practices ABA with him and she will take the time to talk to him calmly with examples for him to understand the reasons she does certain things or actions in class.

The TA let me know he had an outburst in class which resulted with her taking the wallet, but she did not go into details as to what caused the outburst and how it was addressed other than she took his wallet.  I am unsure if he should have had it taken from him by another person who is not the teacher.  Although I have to respect that the aides are familiar with the daily practices and consequences the teacher uses, the reason for keeping his wallet over the weekend may or may not have been explained to him.  Continuing with proper routines used by the teacher are important in assisting Puppy learn a lesson.

I suppose the only thing I can do is to wait until I get more information from the teacher today.  I hope he gets the wallet returned to him.  It completes him.  Puppy has autism and many times he has no control over some of the actions he does, mostly because he is unaware he is doing them.  I am not making excuses for him, but I am familiar with the words and actions he uses and I can tell when he is purposely doing something whether good or bad, and when it is done without any or much thought.  Did a teacher aide of three months classroom time able to know the difference?


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Day Off

I was going to write about taking the day off.  It just sounded too funny that it actually made for a good start of a blog.  It's only 9:30 AM and my mind is already overwhelmed with the information I read today and there's still more filling my e-mail.  This is why I wanted to take the day off.

But guess what?  As a parent, there is never a day off.  My mind went back to the morning routines and again I was getting stressed.  Don't's not a bad kind of stress, just a general stress that I get because I worry so much about Puppy.  I even wish I could keep him home and safe from the outside world, but then I snap and realize this would be far from being productive, healthy or responsible.

Keeping Puppy from attending classes at school would be a huge mistake.  We got lucky this year in that Puppy's teacher took the time and effort to educate herself about autism and not only special education in general.  We had only two other teachers like her, but then we had a setback the last 3 years.  I bet you're starting to think that for Puppy being a 6th grader, this already sounds like a lot of teachers.  As it turns out, we lived in a subdivision that required Puppy to be transferred between 3 schools for the K-2 grades because our school district's boundary lines kept changing.  In total we have been through 5 teachers and now our 6th. The only plus was that except for his Kinder year, each campus to date has had a  Structural Language Center (SLC) Unit – These units provide an educational service to students with autism or autistic like characteristics. The age levels range from 3 years old at the elementary to 22 years old at the high school.  It's a growing need in our city and the units are almost in every campus within our two districts. 

This year Puppy started middle school.  His teacher has a BA in psychology with a minor in Sociology; a MS in Special Education and is certified as an Educational Diagnostician. She is also in the process of getting national certification as a Behavior Analyst (Applied Behavior Analysis). Yea for us!  If all goes well she will be his teacher for the next three years.

I already wrote more than I had planned to write.  Maybe I'll be feeling better tonight and be able to jot down some more thoughts.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Personal

For over a year now, and I have enjoyed reading and sometimes even participating on Twitter.  Today I read some postings by some of my "imaginary" friends about blogging and I feel the same way as they do.   For me, blogging is simply a journal, diary, my log of events or issues about our's personal.

Since I'm new to blogging, I have kept my blog private because I'm not ready to share with the rest of the world all that I write.  It may also be that my grammar isn't as good as it once was and it might take away from the story or  message for the day.  I'll probably share someday, but I'm taking baby steps, baby steps.

I use my Outlook Calendar to write myself notes, doctor's appointments, school events, teacher comments, medication refills, birthdays, etc.  The calendar is a place I go to daily and it just seemed like the practical place to keep everything together.  But you know, that calendar was getting pretty tiny for some of the stuff I was keeping.  The only benefit was that I could see it all at a quick glance and I am able to maneuver between daily, weekly or monthly views, but I then have to click on icons to show extended notes, also back and forth, over and over.

Mostly, it is the one sure place where I can find all my information that was past, present, I can review it whenever necessary.  Notebooks or At-A-Glance handbooks were no longer easy for me because I was forgetting to write in it, was limited on space, and I was leaving it behind at home, or work or in the truck. But I can always find a computer and I don't have to carry the Internet calendar.  Besides, I can also access the calendar on my iphone.  Woohoo!

This will be my place to share the experiences between Puppy and myself. I probably won't write about any researched material. The truth is -- I don't have time to do research; however, I am always reading about this or that, and trying to keep up to date with the latest on the Internet. Thanks to twitter and yes, my "imaginary" friends, I have more than I can handle.  The best part is that my twitter friends narrow down most of the basics and new articles. Some of these people have been dealing with autism longer than I have, so it's comforting to know that there are several places for support and information.

You wanna hear something funny?  If you would have asked me eight, five or even three years ago if I would write about our lives and how autism is a part of it, I would have said, "No."  There was really no reason to write.  We took our days one at a time and did our best. I'll explain later why this changed, and how these days I have so much to say.  This is already my tenth or eleventh blog, lol.  This has become my personal blog and are only my own opinions and thoughts.