Summer fun

Stroller-less at Stern Grove


Obviously I haven’t posted in a while. I’ll confess that I’ve been taking a break from autism. Not from R., and I’m not ignoring any challenges or anything. It’s just after a year of all the kindergarten research and visits, and all the meetings and so forth I just needed to think about something else for a while- having fun with my daughter.

Fun at the Arboretum.

Preschool came to an end. I’m not sure she understands that, it was bittersweet to say good-bye to the teacher she has loved for over two years.  She had an opportunity to visit her new kindergarten class. (I’ll call it a kindergarten class, but it is technically K-2). We went at the end of the day for their free play and circle time. She wasn’t too thrilled at first, she kept yelling home. I didn’t know she even knew that word. But once she got in the classroom she seemed to feel comfortable sitting in the circle time area – it was set up similarly to her classroom. She actually participated a bit.

She finally moved to a big bed. Yes she has been sleeping in a crib all this time. Every time I went to move it she would get upset. So I made the switch while she was at school and it has been fine. She loves her new bed. And I saved the crib mattress for jumping, so it is a win-win situation.

We have not used the stroller for months now. (Other than the long walk to the zoo). It used to be we could not go anywhere without it or letting her sit in a shopping cart. Now she just loves to walk around the grocery store and even noisy Costco. I swear she is the happiest person in the entire place. She grins from ear to ear, and practically prances through the store.  I remember in the baby books they would tell you to take your baby to the grocery store and label everything. Well, here we are at age five spending five minutes admiring and labeling corn.  I’m not complaining. I’m actually grateful to get to go through this period with her.

We got her hair cut very short- a pixie cut. She just loves her short hair. She even rubs her head on us now. She never did that before.

Sitting at McDonalds - I still can't believe she does this.

Her self portraits for Autism Acceptance Day

R. loves to take pictures with the iPad, and she is one of her own favorite subjects. I wanted to share these for Autism Acceptance Day.

Here are some pictures where she is using the special effects.


Why are there no donuts?

R. is going through her first noisy phase that doesn’t involve crying.  Her mouth is forming words just about from the minute she gets up until she falls asleep.  I don’t understand a lot of what she is saying, especially when she is playing on her own.  But it has the quality of sentences and there are words there.

When she asks for something she will repeat it over and over again. I imagine this might get annoying eventually, but I have to say I enjoy every word. She has been singing for longer than she has been talking, but now she can sing an entire song, both on her own and along with the CD or television.

The same child who was hitting us when we said no just a few months ago is talking back.  That’s right, when we say no bubbles she’ll say yes bubbles.

She strung together her first sentence (rather than using a complete phrase she has been taught).  She said And now chocolate and pointed to the cookies.

Before Christmas R. caught me with a stuffed Big Bird on my computer screen and ever since she demands to see it again. You know how Amazon makes suggestions based on what you are viewing? Well she figured that out and after she asks to see Big Bird she’ll ask for all the other characters.

She used to do this by just saying the name of the character and pointing if I didn’t do it fast enough.  She started saying Look at this Elmo, or Look at this Zoe followed by pointing.

She is saying yuck and ewwww to foods she doesn’t like. She says cold when she is cold and she says smell when she smells something unusual.

I feel like we are seeing the beginning of her asking questions.  She takes my finger and points to things that she wants to know what they are. It is usually Sesame Street characters, but it has been other objects too. I think I’m going to have to name the guys in Hoot’s band, she’s not happy I don’t know the real name for each of them.

She’s actually asked why a few times.  I’m never sure if that is really what I’m hearing, but it sure seems like it.  The last time she was asking for a donut and I told her we did not have any and she said why?  I didn’t respond and she tugged on me to make sure I was paying attention to her and she said it again.

We won the school lottery

We got the kindergarten placement letter over the weekend and we got our number one choice.  I’m so relieved.

Now it is time to get back to preparing for the transition IEP meeting. I think it will be next month. I’m going to try to meet with the new teacher before this meeting.  That way I can get many of my questions answered, and she doesn’t have to spend a lot of time explaining how things work in her class during the actual meeting.

There also seems to be a precedence for the current teacher to communicate with the new teacher. Being over eager, I gave each of them the other’s contact info.

Hope everyone got what they wanted!

February already?

It seemed like holidays, a stomach bug and a cold just wiped out January.  So here we are in February.

R.’s hitting has disappeared.  She is actually voicing her displeasure.  Her most common response is to say thank you and push away with one hand.  I’m sure she means no thank you, because occasionally I’ll hear a no.  She is also saying wait, stop, all done and now.  There is often still crying and screaming involved, but the words are her first response.

She also got an opportunity to spend time in the kindergarten class she has been escaping the cafeteria to get into.  Her PreK teacher made arrangements with the kindergarten teacher (all special ed) to have her students go into the kindergarten classroom for 40 minutes once a month so she can meet with the aides.  I guess this is common in the elementary grades.

R. just loved the classroom and had a good time.  Since her visit, she has not been trying to escape the cafeteria to run there.   They are going to do this once a month.  And if R. is placed in that kindergarten she will have the opportunity to go into the class regularly.

The application is in

We turned in the application for kindergarten.  After months of obsessing, we decided to take a gamble and only put two schools on the list.

These two schools are really the only places where we saw classes that we thought would be a good fit for R.

I tried hard to be objective.   I understand that there is no such thing as a perfect classroom.  I don’t want to be like one of those people on that show House Hunters refusing to buy a house because of brass fixtures.

I knew that considering R. is in the middle of the spectrum and we chose a SI (Severely Impacted) delivery model that our choices would be limited.   The reason we chose SI is because the MM (Mild Moderate) classes seemed too advanced, and we wanted a class that would give her more support.

These two classes have:

  • Teachers with a background in ABA, who use ABA style teaching in the classroom
  • TEACCH stations
  • I got a real sense that the work given to the students was individualized.
  • Mainstreaming and pull-outs were part of the daily schedule, and both teachers clearly knew how to implement this.
  • Teacher and staff dealt with problem behaviors (meltdowns, escaping) in a respectful and calm way.  Both classrooms were set up so that a child who needed extra space could have it without being removed from the classroom, and so that their behavior had less impact on the other students

When we first started touring classes, I thought that we would choose at least three, and possibly five schools.   But now that I have seen what the choices are, I just don’t want to put down a school that doesn’t have a class with the qualities that I want.

It is a gamble, and I’m not sure what the odds are.  I think we have a good chance, because both schools are near our home and one of the schools is where she is going to now.  That is not supposed to matter, but I suspect it is humans not computers doing the special ed placement assignments, so maybe it will.

The placement letters are mailed in the middle of March.   Of course I can’t wait to get the letter and know what the next steps are going to be.  But it is also kind of nice to have a few weeks of limbo.   There’s nothing I can do about kindergarten at this point.

Back to the New Year

Christmas vacation felt long, but not as bad as anticipated.   R. seemed ready for a break.  She enjoyed lounging in the morning and asking for ice cream after breakfast.  Of course I give it to her.

I think we went to the zoo six times over the break.  She has a really short attention span for the playground lately.  She runs around, plays on the equipment that she is interested in and then is ready to leave.   We have been to several different playgrounds so it is not that she is tired of the same one.

We were at a playground and a little boy hit his sister and his mother was just screaming at him.  Of course we were walking by them the moment the mother yelled We have to leave this playground right now.   R. grabbed my hand and headed for the exit.

Inspired by Jim at Blogging Lily I blew up the air mattress and she just loved it.  Every afternoon she wanted to play on it, and she would prefer to have all of her clothes removed.

She is very into playing a hello-good-bye game.   I think I have said Hello and OK bye 12,000 times over the past two weeks.  I’ll gladly say it a million more.

I was worried about getting her up this morning for school, she has been so lazy in the mornings.  But as soon as I told her that she had to get up and get ready for the bus to go to school she sat up and said take the bus.   She even ate breakfast with no encouragement.

I’m kind of avoiding the idea of New Years, because every time I see 2012 I think the year she goes to kindergarten. I’m pretty confident that more is going to happen this year than that, but it is hard to get past it.

I do hope everyone has a marvelous year!

Making the holidays our own

R. has been really into Christmas, she has watched Elmo’s Christmas Countdown every day since August.  But I don’t think she understands what Christmas is, beyond being able to recognize the common symbols.

My ancestors were Jewish, and my parents were very casual about the whole thing.   The used to give me the choice of opening all my presents on Christmas, or opening one a day until Christmas (Hanukkah style, minus the candles).  I always chose one at a time.

E’s family opened gifts on Christmas Eve.  I went along with that until last year, when it did not seem like a good idea to get R. worked up over new toys just before bedtime, so we tried doing it on Christmas morning.

This year, E agreed to do it Hanukkah style, and I think it worked out a lot better.  She actually paid attention to all her toys.  And since she ended up with more gifts than I thought, (Thanks Mom and Dad!) she still has more to see this week.

Drawing on her new whiteboard

I’ve never lived with a Christmas tree.   E. has wanted one for the past few years, but I was afraid of what R. would do.   This year I consented, if we found a small tree and used non breakable ornaments.   We never did find one we liked.

We went to a Christmas lunch at E.’s family and they had a large Christmas tree.  R. was just mesmerized.   She kept saying look at this, Christmas.   Luckily none of the ornaments were breakable.  They did not mind when R. took off the ornaments to look at, and I was shocked when she put each one back.  She just placed them on a branch, but still.

I guess we will be setting up a tree next year.

R. was actually pretty good for the family lunch.   She lasted two hours and even sat at the table for a while.

Lalaloopsy meets the ipad

A reason to behave

R. had a couple of bad days at school with hitting, but Thursday and Friday were behavior free.

It is getting much better at home too.   I’m making a real effort to use positive language and avoid saying no and don’t.

We are also all reacting to the behavior in the same way – we block her from hitting, and ignore her – no words or eye contact.

I think the biggest difference is that when she does hit, she is able to snap out of it quicker.  Even a few days ago it was like she was caught up in this cycle of having to complete the hitting behavior before she could do anything else.

It makes me really think about how much her behavior is dependent upon those around her.   That’s the case for all of us really.

Maybe I’ll never know exactly why she decided hitting is a good way to show her displeasure, although it seems like a logical reaction.   But I do know that how we reacted just made her want to do it more.   Our behavior was actually reinforcing to her, even if in the moment it seemed at least to me that we were both unhappy.

I think that a parenting lesson I am learning is that I should strive to remove any power struggles that arise.   This does not mean that she should be able to do whatever she wants.  But it does mean that I have to give her a reason to do what I ask, especially if it goes against her own desires.

I don’t think that she stopped hitting because I told her to, she stopped because she did not have much reason to do it anymore.   I do think that we are lucky that the solution has been relatively simple so far.

Behavior is back in town

I kind of knew that when they said she had no behavior issues at our IEP meeting last month that it was just a matter of time.  Now we have some new behavior issues.

Just last week she started to hit E. and I when we tell her to stop doing something.  Sometimes she will say R. no in a snotty voice and then she will try to hit us in the face.

She is really insistent about it too.  When I stop her from hitting me, she will get really mad and cry and follow me around until she can get in a smack.  She wants to hit our faces, she is tall enough that she can just about reach mine, but she has to pull E. down to reach his face.

She did it for the first time in school, she smacked an aide in the face.  Of course it had to happen during the time she was mainstreamed.  The teacher said that it has been going perfectly up until today.

She has also been running away at school.  Once she ran off when they were walking from the bus, and she ran from the cafeteria towards the SDC Kindergarten class.  The teacher said she got a look in there (it is right across from her classroom) and has been obsessed with gaining access since.

We discussed it with the behaviorist.   Regarding the hitting, we are going to make sure that we stop her before she hits us.  We will try not to use words like no or don’t, and phrase our requests in a positive way.   We are also going to say nothing when she is trying to hit us, so it does not become a power struggle.

They are going to work on teaching her to respond to the word stop, which I know she can do, just not consistently.   I asked if she could have a chance to explore the kindergarden class, to just get it out of her system.  She is very curious about new things.   They are also going to work on having her ask to leave the group.

R. was really prickly last week, and still is but not as much this week.  I was wondering if she was getting sick or if there was some cause for the changes.  This all started last week.

I also wondered if it is a developmental thing.  Maybe she is just becoming really aware that we are telling her what to do, even nagging from her perspective.   There was a time when she did not listen at all because she did not have the receptive language.  When she had the receptive language she began to follow instructions.  Maybe now that she has been doing that a while she is thinking about it more.

I know that hitting is not appropriate behavior, but I can’t help but be amused at her reaction after the fact.

I think that the running away at school is similar.  I’ve noticed when we go to the zoo recently that R. really seems to know her way around and she is asking to explore areas we have not seen.   (Usually because there is no stroller access, and she is walking holding my hand).

Maybe she never really noticed there was a classroom across the hall, or had the ability to think about how to get there when she was in another part of the building.

I certainly hope this is just a phase.