Saturday, June 19, 2010

Weekend Endeavor: Win and Fail

Happy summer, everybody! School's out, and it is time to celebrate! We kicked off our summer season with a trip to the pool with our across-the-street-neighbor we adore, a rousing success. Then we got to stay up to watch a few extra Looney Tunes, before bouncing to bed. They were so excited, it was well after 9 before they dropped off.

Then we had Andy's game this morning. Coaching the T-Ball has been an adventure. The other team look snappy, but they are handling things in ways I just think aren't good for 6-year-olds. Encouraging base-stealing in T-Ball? Trying to play through a thunderstorm? Seriously, there are ways of teaching competition without teaching to put others down or that you're so-all-that and better than the other. Our team is learning about respect, teamwork, and having fun. We're working on hitting the ball and what the different positions are. We change up and let kids try different things, and rotate who is in the busier parts of the field so everybody gets a chance to make a play.

"You need somebody else on first base!" the volunteer-parent-umpire pulled me aside to whisper. Yes, we have a kid who is a great first base player. We decided to put him back on first base for the third inning, but let a couple other kids try it out for the first two innings. And yeah, they needed help and work and instruction and practice. So we gave them some. It isn't like we're keeping score, people!

Then there was the irate parent who had a kid who was supposed to be on the other team, but was then told they had moved him to our team, but the wasn't on our roster, he was on the other team's roster, and naturally the parents were upset. I solved that one quickly. "Thank you, Ma'm; he's now on the Red Team, and we're happy to have him. Here, dear, put on this shirt. You're number 6. Go Red!" Yes, the kid needed lots of extra help today. He actually hit the ball on his second at-bat, and was so proud. In the third inning, he made it all the way to homeplate. He was almost as proud of himself as I was of him!

Respect, Teamwork. Fun. It will take them much farther in life than "screw the other team."

Then we got Joey to Toy Story 3, and I believe my son is in love. He went with his Daddy, just him and his Daddy, and saw the movie he has been waiting for... for months. Dreams can come true, people.

Andy and I went to Walmart. I am making some trellises for my morning glories and I wanted paint. He wanted Zhu Zhu Pets. He settled for a couple new beds for the new pets Grandma just got him. We will not discuss how it might take me about 15 minute to stitch one up at home, and be a tenth of the price. No, we will not. We then went home and let him play with his Zhu Zhu Pets while I made fruit salad for a picnic-party for some folks I knew in high school.

Now, I must say the point of me going to this picnic was a little complicated. For one, I had actually been invited. I was never invited to anything when I was in high school. For two, the person who invited me was not only the person setting it up, but it is a person I would actually like to see and speak to, and there aren't many of those from high school. If you remember me mentioning it before, I hated high school. There was also a possibility of there being plenty of other kids there, since most of the folks I knew who had been invited to the party has micro-blogged about having kids.

So picked the boys up from the movies, picked up JoeyAndyDad's shiny new toy (a blue Jeep!), and then after a nice spin in the new car, we were off to the party. I am sure most of you are screaming or moaning at the screen already. How much of an idiot can I be? All that in one day? And Joey at a party full of people he doesn't know, after having been to the movies? Please don't break your computer screen bonking your head against it. They're expensive to replace.

So the picnic was Epic FAIL. Joey was hot. He was tired. They had a DJ, and the volume would be normal for most of us- we were having conversations without having to raise our voices or anything- but it was too loud for Joey. Andy made a little friends, but that was the only other child there over the age of, oh, two. I tried taking him to the far side of the house, to increased shade and muffling of the music, but it was already too late. I should have known when to pack it in. Poor JOey was completely overwhelmed, and the meltdown as dramatic as I have seen in a long time. My friend who invited me kindly helped me get Joey to the car, with our chairs and cooler, and grab Andy, and everything, to facilitate our hasty retreat. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We stopped at Grandma's for hugs and kisses and regaining our bearings before heading home for dinner and bed. The boys played with their Zhu Zhu Pets in the nice quiet, cool basement for a bit before being dunked in the bathtub and passing out. I then proceeded to read Joey's eval report that came in the mail today. Eep.

Ups and downs. And that was just the first day of summer. Whew!

Friday, June 18, 2010

End of an Era

Joey graduated from second grade today. He will be moving on the upper elementary, that new school where the idea of teaching social skills and increasing language development seem to be alien concepts, and waxed floors trump all else. Today, Joey finished his life at the lower elementary, and we said goodbye to the team of Ms. H and Ms. Macy, who have supported him and had his back for three years.

The second graders presented what they had learned in a serious of songs, by class, to the school. Joey's class did social studies, singing about China and Egypt (Joey's half of the class did the Egypt Song, and he was so happy, he loves Egypt stuff). Then they has a slide show of their year, each class showing a few pictures and set to music; Joey had some darling pictures there. The kids got excited to see themselves on screen, and sang along with some of the songs. It was adorable.

However, you can imagine the hub-bub when the lights came on. The noise crescendoed when it was discovered one of the classes was left out, and it was announced that the missing slides would be fetched and the children all get to see them. Joey was unhappy, and came to me to sit in my lap and be hugged. The noise was too much. Ms. Macy came for him, asked if he needed a break, and he said yes; and even after more hugs, and some wistful looks in my direction, he decided he still needed to get out of the noise and be quiet for a bit. I was so proud of him when he told Ms. Macy he still needed a break, that it was too loud. As the rest of school- including his other two autistic classmates- got to their feet in an impromptu celebration dance and sing-along while waiting for the missing slides, Joey and Ms. Macy slipped quietly away from the auditorium and the din.

My baby is growing up. He's leaving second grade. He can control himself, ask for hugs and accept a break instead of melting down when overwhelmed. He can stand in front of his school and sing and sign about Egypt. He's doing so well. But he can't join into an impromptu celebration, and dance with his classmates, and squeal and wiggle with them. In the midst of such progress, there is also that reminder of the gulf that stands between my child and his ability to live in a society not made for him. Will the next set of school folks understand? How long will it take for them to understand, to pick up on the communication and cues he gives us that are not words? How much will he suffer until they do?

School's Out!

Joey's last hurrah as a second grader:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

IEP Worlds: Thank You Rachel

This post should be basic reading for all educators, all congressmen, anyone who has anything to say or think or do with special needs kids, with the education system, with IEPs:

I'm Sorry, Your Child Is Stupid

The assumptions of schools and school personnel that it is acceptable to allow kids to underperform, to pigeon-hole them into programs, that they "can't make a program for just one child!" and other such nonsense must end.


Start with the assumption that given appropriate services, all children can excel. If the child is not thriving and progressing as any non-disabled peer would do, start thinking about whether you are providing appropriate services. Does the child have access to communication skills (not just speech skills- communication skills)? Does the child have an appropriate sensory environment? Are the methods being used to teach the child appropriate?

Only when all that is exhausted should modification to education be even dreamed of. And it should take years to get there. Just as it now often takes years to get appropriate services in place, if they ever are actually put into place and practiced.

With a proactive, positive attitude, creative solutions can be easier to find and implement. Assuming competence means you are more likely to push a child to competence. It works with non-disabled people, I assure you- if you expect them to do A, B, and C, I find the vast majority of them do. This should be no surprise to formally trained educators.

So why is it? Why is discrimination against people, simply because they have challenges, considered acceptable in our society? Are we really that stupid?

Following in tiny, doomed footsteps

Andy has had a penchant for collecting ants. At the bus stop in the mornings, he has scrambled to collect ants in various containers (including a pencil eraser...) and then handing them over to me as his "ant farm" for me to watch. Every afternoon I have had to break the news that Mommy didn't keep the ants.

So today, I found an old ant farm thingee we got as a prize at the beach a few years back, put some sand in it, and shall await his return from school, triumphant. No, I am not going to order ants. I'm going to let Andy collect them and put them into the Chamber of Ant Death. See, I hate ants. I'm not into wholesale slaughter, as I know they are good for the ecosystem and stuff, but I hate ants. The least they can do to earn their keep on this planet is entertain my child.

So in the grand ant tradition, we are going to slaughter some ants today, by corking them up in a little plastic thing with some sand and seeing what happens. I plan to hide the bodies after Andy goes to bed.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Awards Day

Today is awards day at school! Joey is getting a math award this morning! We know because the school tells us with a little note when your kid is getting something so you can show up and take pictures.

Now folks, I am a great believer in awards and that not everybody should get one. An award is recognition of outstanding achievement, special effort, and serious work. If everybody gets an award, they lose their value.

Joey earns his awards, just like everybody else. When he gets the math award, its because he's done the same work and performed at the outstanding level like everybody else who gets it.

Andy, as far as I know, is not getting an award today. I have no note. I am going anyway. He may not be getting an award from the school, but if there is any little guy who has earned one, it's Andy. He has had a brilliant year of school. He's managed to stay in there all year, not one trip to Ms. T. He's made friends and been a good friend. He's gotten through the year being able to do his work, participate in his class, and enjoy his year. For my little guy, whose ADHD has gone mostly unrecognized by his school, this is huge. Absolutely stunning.

So I'm going in to cheer for both my little dudes. They've done fabulous. They are both my heros.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Too Hot Outside? Craft Time!

It was Way Too Hot today. Its only June, dangnabbit! On top of that, we had a thunderstorm about noonish, which only served to make everything steamy. Oh, and I had a flat tire. I mean, seriously flat. Like, it came off the rim flat. It was FLAT. Pancakes would do it no justice.

So while we waited for JoeyAndyDad to wave his magic wand and get the tire fixed so we could go to the pool, we got out our Handy Dandy Craft Box and pulled out... paint-it-yourself clocks. I love paint-it-yourself stuff. Hand them the thing, the paint, and stand back. Woo-hoo!

We're waiting for them to dry before putting on the final touches, but they are both very happy. And when the tire got fixed, they got to go swimming, too. Win!