Saturday, August 09, 2008

This is Andy

Friday, August 08, 2008

Lessons at the Bug Box

It was Andy's last day of camp, and Joey has no ESY on Fridays, so I took advantage of opportunity knocking and took him for some 1:1 at the Bug Box. I printed out some worksheets from Enchanted Learning to help focus the visit- one on insects, and a book about spiders. We showed up with worksheets, crayons, and four bucks. We were ready for action.

The lady who runs the place took one look at my worksheets, one look at Joey, and said, "no charge." If you're doing homework, you get in free. How cool is that? She was expecting a school group, so we got right to business to squeeze in as much focus as I could before the group showed up, or Joey wore out.

I have a very difficult time getting Joey to focus. Half of that is that Joey has difficulty focusing, because after all, I'm mom, and home isn't school, and all that. Getting him to sit and do an activity in a sea of distraction and home is nearly impossible. However, he took focusing while at the Bug Box right in stride. We used the first sheets as a sort of scavenger hunt, so that he had to read the sheet, look for the bug, then her could write the word. Then we moved to the next bug. That had him wandering around looking for bugs, small objects in a vast visual field- he did very well, all things considered. We did get through the whole little workbook.

Then we sat ourselves in front of real, live tarantulas and talked about spiders. We read the little mini-book, looked at the spiders, talked about the spiders, and then he had to answer questions about the book and the spiders. He had to know what spinnerets were, what an exoskeleton was, and the difference between an arachnid and an insect. That last was a little sketchy for him, but we got it. He answered the questions. He finished the little worksheet.

Holy crap, I got the boy to do two assignments, focus for a whole frickin' hour, and answer questions!!! Where am I, and what has happened to my child??? I am deliriously happy. What a difference a year makes!

Thursday, August 07, 2008


When moving through life, pushing forward to bigger, better, and more progress, sometimes we see things creep back in- thing we thought were gone and left to the dust. Things we thought were better off in the dust.

One thing that is making a slow comeback here is Joey's door fetish. He loves to open and close doors. As soon as he could open and close doors, he would. He loves my buffet, with the big square doors on either end, opening and closing, opening and closing, opening and closing. We haven't gotten that bad yet, but I can see it creeping in, creeping in. He has been finding doors to open and close. He discovered at door at the OT office. Open, close. Open, close. I caught him messing with the bathroom door. Open, close. Open, close. He was waiting to get in the car and discovered the driver door was unlocked already. Open, close. Open, close.

This is not a good sign.

But also, 'tis the season. The dog days are upon us. Our schedule has been a wild mess of summer activity. Even with the morning school routines, he knows it is different- breakfast is at home, lunch is with Grandma, not at school. His other teachers and classmates aren't there. The days are shorter, there is only four of them a week. It is a breath of routine in a swirl of unpredictability. The days are hot, which exacerbates everything- Joey hates being hot. The streams are starting to cross. Joey is hot, tired, and confused. He's stressing out.

We managed to get through Shoe Day without a meltdown. The lady at the shoe store was ready, braced for the usual. She handled it very well, talking him through putting the new shoes back in the box, letting him do it himself, so that the shoes "would be all clean and white for your new teachers and new friends!" Really, she did it very well. I think she did some research in preparation for us this year.

But now we have the doors. He is starting to throw toys when frustrated with them again. He is back on Blue's Clues and Little Bear.

Tomorrow, I am taking him tot eh Bug Box, just the two of us, while Andy is at camp. I'll see if I can get him to focus on the lizards, snakes, and bugs, maybe the frogs and turtles. Maybe get him to relax a bit in a place he finds positive and fun. Maybe I'll get some extra hugs and kisses in while I'm at it.

Three more weeks until school.

Alex Barton Update 6

The latest TC Palm story mentioning Alex Barton. Are teachers really the only ones who have to keep up with their field on their own time?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Boys In Their Natural Habitats

Check out their garden In My Garden Gate.

Disability Parking in Virginia: Did You Know?

There have been a lot of comments swirling around disability parking. Here in Virginia, autism is specifically mentioned as a condition which impairs judgment while walking, and therefore have a right to disability parking. However, there is an attitude that handicapped/disability parking is only for people with visible problems walking.

Which is, of course, absurd. Here in Virginia:

People with heart conditions are permitted disability placards and plates. Can you tell a person has a heart condition by looking at them?

Did you know that deaf people are also permitted disability placards and plates? Can you tell a person is deaf by looking at them?

Did you know dementia (including Alzheimer's Disease) qualifies for a disability placard or plate? Can you tell if someone has Alzheimer's or other dementia by looking at them?

Not only autism, but any developmental disability or amentia which impairs judgment qualifies a person for a disability placard or plate. Can you tell if a person has a developmental disability or amentia by looking at them?

We have a placard for Joey. He doesn't bolt often, but when he does, it is dangerous. It has made a huge difference in our lives, when disability parking is appropriately placed next to a building, close to the entrance (as opposed to across the street or halfway down the block. Why do people do that? Those spaces help hardly anyone!) Offering disability parking that requires my child to be bused elsewhere (such as, say Williamsburg, or some of the local functions here) is also useless for us. (fortunately, Williamsburg has a lot for the taverns with a disability space, right behind the taverns we like to use. It's across a street, but at least doesn't require the shuttling- it's a real shame they shut down the other closer parking lots. If not for those tavern spots, we probably wouldn't be able to visit Williamsburg at all!) So even with the placard, life isn't all accessible and peaches and cream, but it does help a lot.

And for those folks who think you need to or should have a visible disability to have a placard and use those spots, I can only say, I hope you never need one. Seriously.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Space Lobsters

"nobody else is stronger than I am
yesterday I moved a mountain
I bet I could be your hero
I am a mighty little man"

We've been on a Steve Burns kick here. The boys are in a Blue's Clues mood, and it is hilarious to watch them shout at the TV and hear them sing the songs. If you're not up to date, Steve is 1. not dead and 2. now a rock godlet. We await his next CD, due out "soon", with bated breath.

Mommy has been checking out what Steve is doing at college- and the interviews he's been giving, and the other coolness he's been up to (gotta love a guy who randomly stopped by a kids' Blue's Clues birthday party because he saw the signs while driving by- just for fun, and because, well, he's Steve!). One thing that struck me was he said people are surprised when his real self doesn't match his TV persona- he isn't confused by colors and numbers, doesn't speak to condiments, and isn't "yokey-dopey."

But I disagree. In a way, he still is that TV Steve, in a gone-to-college kind of way. He has an excellent grasp of the absurd. This is a skill absolutely vital to raising and working with children, and perhaps more so with special needs kids (who can get through an IEP without a firm grasp of the absurd, and remain sane?)

So do check out our links to Steve Burns stuff. He's presenting himself the way children's TV folks ought to- maintaining an adult, but still wonderful and witty, persona that you would be proud to into your kids to when they get ready for grown-up stuff themselves. He's our hero. Like our Joey and our Andy, he's a mighty little man.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Bath Time

I handle the nighttime routine in the house. For the last couple years, it has been Dad washing two boys. Said boys splashing in the tub, splashing, having a good old time, while Dad struggles to wash and dry them while keeping at least half the water in the tub, before dressing Joey and Andy.

Lately, there have been a lot of complaints- about the water (too hot, too cold, sometimes simultaneously), the drying ("I don't like that, that hurts"), and the dressing ("I don't want to", meaning they want to either be naked or wear their day clothes).

Enough, I said. So, with only one night's notice, the boys are now responsible for actually undressing, bathing, drying, and dressing. Are you cringing yet?

Joey was my first victim. I explain what he's going to do, and he begins stripping down. He gets into the tub as asked and turns the water on. Then he looks at me. This is where I usually step in and do it all. I say 'Is the water the right temperature?' It isn't, so I explain how to adjust the temperature, which he then does. 'Are you ready to wash your hair?', I ask. He is, so I explain how to get the sprayer turned on (shower head attachment).  I talk him through wetting his hair, hand him the shampoo bottle, and talk him through the rest of the process. No fingers were lifted in the washing of this child. He decided when he was done- about five minutes later, got out, and I handed him the towel and told him to pick out his pajamas. He dried himself off, then took his pjs to his room and got dressed.

Joeymom was still working with Andy- something about counting to 10. He was struggling to do it in order, I think just being persnickety. So, having discussed Joey's summer reading list (which has heretofore gone unread) last night with Joeymom, I hunt down an eligible book and hand it to my big boy and have him start reading. It was Strega Nona. He got about a third of the way through tonight.

Andy did very well, too. He needed some help with the spray attachment- the bathroom walls are still dripping, I think. But overall, it was a smashing success. The real trick will be making this last, and then we can move on to brushing teeth, which should be a snap after all this.

School Funding

So last night I printed out Joey's school list and hopped over to the local Wal-mart to get Joey's supplies for the year. He needs to provide his own glue, pencils, scissors, dry erase markers, dry erase eraser, notebooks, folders, crayons, soap, ziplock bags, highlighters, tissues, paper towels, wipes, and sanitizer. This weekend was tax-free weekend here, so we also bought shoes, underwear, and socks.

The school list for Joey alone was $45, and only because Walmart does cool stuff like sell glue for $.22. Normally, these supplies would be two or three times what I paid, plus tax.

When I was in school, I think my mom bought loose-leaf paper, a binder, and pencils. Oh, and I needed a lot of erasers. Things like scissors, chalk (we didn't have dry-erase), crayons, paper towels, and soap were provided by the school. Funding for schools has been so devalued that these things now are provided by the students. I always toss in some extra, because I know several families in our classes can't afford $45 for school supplies. There are also some things not on the list that I put in, because I know they are used, like magic markers and construction paper. Teachers shouldn't be having to buy these things. But then, I don't think I should have to, either. I kinda feel like because I buy these things, the schools get less funding- because why should the general taxpayer pay for what individual families will provide?

We get stuck with that sword with therapy, too. Joey needs OT and speech to progress. The school offers minimal amounts of these services, so we supplement, paying for private therapy ourselves. Because we provide the private therapy, Joey progresses, so the school will not give us any more service. Instead of helping the school provide adequate service, I feel like I am enabling an irresponsible teenager.

You Might Be A Parent of a Special Needs Child When...

You Might Be A Parent of a Special Needs Child When...

1. Showering and sleep time are valuable, tradable commodities in your house.
2. Taking your kid(s) to the grocery store is an all-day adventure requiring all-hands-on-deck, and is referred to as an "educational opportunity."
3. You have to pay a babysitter respite worker $40 an hour, and a minimum of 4 hours, to attend a fifteen-minute meeting at school.
4. That fifteen-minute meeting ends up taking the entire four hours.
5. You have to buy a three-inch binder to hold all the necessary paperwork for any meeting or appointment about your child.
6. You have to buy a new binder every year, just for that year's paperwork.
7. You find yourself evaluating toys based on developmental and therapeutic value.
8. You have forgotten what it was like to be out of the house after 10 pm. Either you are already asleep by then, or you have to use the after-kids-are-asleep time to do things like go to the grocery store, wash clothes, clean the house, and blog.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Fifteen Years Ago

Maddy has put us to the challenge: what are ten things you would tell someone you hadn't seen in 15 years?

Fifteen years ago would be... 1993. So, I had just graduated from college. What would I want in the Alumnae Quarterly?

1. I have three more degrees now. Two Master's and a PhD. No, I'm not fully employed, thanks.
2. I did get married. You don't know him, unless you were MUDding with me. In that case, it is Tilton/Dunstable. Yes, he's beautiful, thanks. We had a lovely honeymoon in Europe.
3. I have two little boys. One is autistic. Yes, they are gorgeous, too, thanks.
4. Yes, I got to India, twice. I did get to see the Sri Laksmi at Ellora. I saw the Taj Mahal. I saw the Didarganj Yaksi. I have not gotten to Madurai yet, but I am working on it.
5. I moved back to Fredericksburg in the end. We have a lovely little house right downtown.
6. Yes, I do teach. I have taught at Germanna Community College, Mary Washington College/University of Mary Washington, University of Virginia, University of Richmond, Shenandoah University, and St. Mary's College of Maryland. No, I have no permanent full-time gig anywhere. Adjuncting sucks in pay, but is great for teaching.
7. I did a cross-country trip with my now-husband a couple years after graduation. It was fabulous. We especially liked Yellowstone.
8. I am currently learning to be a genealogist. If any of my regulars want me to practice using their family, I'll take your contact info.
9. I am getting ready to start a number of small research projects, including a project about the restoration of the Thomas Stone Historic Site, the use of Hindu images at ancient Buddhist sites, and Baltimore Realist painting. All projects are contingent on having some actual time to work on them.
10. Life is good. No, it isn't what I imagined it would be fifteen years ago, but I have my family to hug, kitties to pet, a lovely home, plenty of food in the cupboards, and plenty of clothes to wear. I enjoy my family, my garden, and friends, though I often wish I could spend more time with all of the above.

If you decide to hop into the game, feel free, and let me know!