Friday, June 04, 2010

A little shine

Joey is going into third grade in the fall, and that means a new school, because our little system breaks up elementary into upper and lower. Yesterday was the Parent Orientation for the new school. Of course I went. Turned out to be something they could have emailed us, but whatever. I did get to see some folks, and I took Joey with me so he could see more of his new school.

But the best part was the slide with the mission statement (which I notice is not their official mission statement), some ramble about providing the kids the best possible education blah blah blah. And all I could think of was, "... unless we're waxing the floors that day."

And then connected that with Joey's use of the word "wax."

People looked at me funny when I started giggling, but whatever.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Because That's The Way I Roll.

I signed Andy up for T-Ball. This is very exciting, and Andy is very happy about it. When I got the phone call about the practices, it was a little odd. "You're on the Red Team," the message said. "Practices start next week. Oh, by the way, we don't have a head coach for the Red Team yet. If you know anybody who can help us out, give us a call."

Well, I thought, I don't know anything about baseball. It's a pretty popular program. One of the dads will hear that and pick it up, no problem. Besides, I'd like to be able to just sit with some of these other moms and dads and get a little taste of normalcy for a bit.

We turned up at the first practice, and Andy was happy to find he knew several of the kids (there are 30 kids, and only one is a girl). I knew some of the moms, and even a couple of the dads. I got to talking to one older gentleman, a granddad; Andy didn't know the boy, but soon made buddies with him. We all stood about chatting, waiting for the coaches to show up, and realizing there were two teams here- Gray and Red. Some of the moms were in book clubs, chatting about the books they were reading. Chatter of TV shows I have never even heard of. Some talk of who would be "suckered" into being the "team mom" for each team (and thus organize post-game snacks each week). Guess where that conversation was heading. After all, these were all busy people. They had jobs and kids and bookclubs to do.

When the coach (note the singular) showed up, we all gathered in to hear what was up: the program had called him pleading for him to please coach a team, and then they decided he would coach both teams, but he needed assistant coaches. He wanted two from each team, and he had two from the Gray team already signed up. One was a young dad who seemed to know a good deal about baseball, and a mom who was already wearing a gray shirt and a baseball cap. Could he get two volunteers from the Red team? Because if he couldn't, the program would have to be cancelled, and there would be no season.

There was a moment of deafening silence. Eyes found the ground, the kids, the cars, the sky. Just a moment, when things became very, very clear. Given the choice between volunteering or disappointing their kids by canceling the program, crickets were starting to chirp.

No, I didn't speak up first. Remember, I know nothing about baseball. Or coaching. And I am very, very fat. Did I mention I am not an athlete in any way, shape, or form?

Granddad spoke up first. But I knew from that moment of silence that without another voice, Andy wouldn't be able to play, and that wasn't the right choice. These kids should be able to play. It wasn't their fault that coaches weren't lined up for them. And it's T-Ball, how hard can it be?

So you can just call me Coach Andymom. Granddad and I looked at each other and laughed. In a sea of parents, we knew it was the right thing to do. But I know it's going to be a fabulous experience, because Granddad waved me on to the field with him saying, "Well, they're ours, now. Let' show all these folks what fun really is!"

They all obliged by standing outside the field fence chatting together and reading their books while we had a blast playing with their kids. The Red Team may not win many games, but we're going to have a lot of fun playing them.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Mommy, Take My Picture!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

My nose knows

I think my body is trying to tell me something.

I have been really sensitive to smells- like, the way I was when I was young, or pregnant. Strange things bother me. I can't take the smell of potato chips or Cheetos. I took the boys for half-price Happy Meals, and gagged as I passed the food back, the smell of the fried food! Argh! Two weeks ago, neither of these scents would bother me. Today? Gag. Chocolate hasn't turned me on, either, lately.

Fortunately, staying away from chips and bad junk food isn't much of a loss. But please, dear nose, don't take away my love of gingerbread or grandmother's rose. Leave me my honeysuckle. Don't mess with my sandalwood soap. Thanks.

Monday, May 31, 2010

All for one, and one for all

Trying to find programs and settings that are appropriate for Joey can be very tricky. He is something of the poster child for "if you've seen one child with autism, you've seen one child with autism." His use of language is unique, yet he does speak and communicate. He has the social disability of autism, but craves being social (That autistic kid who stares out the window? That's not my kid). He can handle a variety of settings and an elaborate schedule, have 15 different teachers and four whole different classes of schoolmates, but he has to know exactly when he will go to which place and what to expect there. In trying to piece together placements, I get a lot of comments to the tune of, "Oh, let's put Joey here, he'll be such a big help to [someone else's kid]!"

Riding out to Grandma's, the boys are already hot and tired, and its not even 10 am. Andy is screaming for silence. Joey is chanting, but there are no words there, no soundification, just odd tones and squeals. It isn't his usual stim. The more Andy squeals for quiet, the louder Joey chants.

"What's up, Buddy?" I call back, a cue to them that Mommy has had enough of the noise and bickering.
"I wan Doey t'stop dat NOISE!" Andy complains.
"I'm being Ethan*!" Joey giggles, and goes into another round of the chant. I frown. Ethan is a child in Joey's class, and it hits me how exactly Joey is copying the non-verbal child. I know Joey gets upset when he knows he is being mocked; but this isn't exactly mocking, it is taking on another's oral stim, though he has taken it on partly because the sounds amuse him.

Joey helps Ethan. He is a good model for classroom behavior, for oral communication, for regulation, compared to where Ethan is in his development. What does Ethan do for Joey?

"We need to be respectful of our classmates and friends, even when they aren't here," I remind him. "Please find something else to say." But there are no current chants to redirect him, and he soon lapses into Ethan Sounds. He's hot, he's tired, the sounds are amusing and comforting, and they vibrate his mouth in a way I know he particularly likes.

Last year, there was a parent who complained about Joey being in a mainstream class with their child. They were unaware that I was the parent of "that child", standing next to them as they demanded what my child did for theirs. If teaching their child acceptance and patience wasn't enough for them, perhaps Joey also taught their child math? After all, Joey's a shining star in the subject. But what do other kids teach other kids? Social skills? Language use? The latest cultural trends? Can't my child have something different to offer? Another way of thinking about the world and expressing those thoughts, maybe?

Yet we face the issue of Ethan Sounds, and often the behaviors of other children. Just like normal kids who pick up bad habits and bad words from school, Joey picks up on what his classmates do. Only to be honest, if a regular kid grows up to say "damn!" (or worse), they won't become a social pariah, even if we find the word crude. But a child who picks up biting, or soundification, or a plethora of ritualized and repetitive behaviors to then ritualize and repeat, will find themselves in a difficult position to find employment. When a non-autistic child picks up a poor adult behavior, it blends in with the crowd of poor adult behaviors that have become social norms. When an autistic child picks up on poor adult behavior, it appears to be magnified and make them stand out all the more.

Yet we must weave together strengths and weaknesses, create a fabric of services and educational models that can hold everyone, and act as a safety net when they stumble. Everyone has something to share. That is what inclusion is all about.

*Name changed.