Saturday, September 29, 2012

Training the para

Yep, apparently the majority of the training of Joey's new para is falling on me. So I put together an awesome powerpoint, starting at the beginning ("What is autism?") and tossing in all sorts of awesome tips for Speaking Joey. He actually had a decent day on Friday. I should do this a few times a year!

The first thing about my Speaking Joey guide is to remind the viewer that they should toss anything they picked up from pop media and culture about autism. None of it really applies to Joey, or not in ways you expect if you are stuck in the pop media model of what autistic people are like.

Dr. Grandin's idea of thinking in pictures and attaching every example she has ever seen of a noun to that word may seem a fascinating insight about autistic people- and it is. But with Joey, you need to apply that not just to word labels. He uses this technique of filing every word and sentence and paragraph he's ever heard or seen, and using them as placemarkers in language. When he needs a word or sentence, he zips through his catalogue and comes up with the one he wants, and puts in the relevant words as needed. The result at least sounds relevant, if not exactly what you would expect him to say. If he has no sentence in his arsenal to use, what comes out as he tries to construct one himself is an odd word-salad that has to be untangled.

Autistic people are often portrayed as needing sameness and ritual. This is mostly true. But for Joey, that translates to needing to know what is coming in terms of what the activity will be, when it will be, and who he will be doing it with. He tolerates subs at school really well if I know the night before that there will be one. He likes routines in his days as most kids do. However, when there is a sudden change, he can't process and recover as quickly as most kids.

The presentation goes over how to keep Joey participating and coping smoothly. Safe spaces, breaks, maintaining engagement/avoiding boredom, paying attention to his cues and communication style. It then goes into what to do if something goes wrong- how to handle different kinds of meltdowns, different types of bolting, and how to redirect him and de-escalate a situation. He goes through his strengths and specific issues, his likes and motivators, and things that we, as his parents, just know to do and say and think about, every minute of every day or every situation.

I understand this has now been printed out, studied, and distributed not only to the new para, but to all his teachers, with plans of distribution to the admin.

I should do this a few times a year. He had a fabulous Friday.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wow, a first!

We were selected in a list of awesome autism-related blogs by! We've never been included in that kind of thing before! And it looks like I am in excellent company- whoever their judges are have good taste in blogs. Check them out!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Then a Storm Blows Up

I was really looking forward to tomorrow.

I've been running about like a crazy woman who beats up turkeys with santa hats, getting kids settled into school, getting new speech evals and OT sessions and appointments for more evals. Also, teaching classes and trying to get stuff up in my Etsy shop. And clean my house, which still looks like a tornado blew through after the bomb went off. Oh, and there's baseball. And my ETS job. And some other stuff. And trying to get Joey transitioned. Yay, me.

Tomorrow is the first day I was really going to take some time off for just me, doing me stuff, while petting cats. The morning would be spent working my ETS job, and then the afternoon I was going to sit on a couch, playing autumn favorites like Disney's Ichabod Crane and maybe a bit of Harry Potter or Fellowship of the Ring, I hadn't really decided yet. I was going to finish making hair scrunchies and maybe bake some cookies. I was going to clean the front hall.

And none of it is going to happen.

Instead, I will be at school, sitting in on Joey's math class to figure out what the cow is going on in there. He keeps bolting from it- sometimes twice in a single lesson. The new para they tossed at us yesterday, without warning, has no experience with autism or even working in education (her parents, yes. Her, no. Apparently her college degree is in business). I feel for her. She's about to have an unhappy parent come crashing into her life on Day 3 of her first real job ever and give her what-for. That's what happens when your boss tosses you into a job when a child's safety and life are on the line, without training you, transitioning you, or even informing your new co-workers that would be arriving. Talk about "no support." Sheesh, poor girl.

My first priority, however, is my Joey. He needs appropriate support available to him at all times, and he needs it three weeks ago- well, five months ago, actually, but let's start with where we are. If he can run out of a classroom and across a hall, he can just as easily run out a door to the parking lot. He needs his academics to be brought back up to par. We started at this school reading four grade levels high; now we are "below basic." They never bothered to hire an autism specialist for the school, they just borrow the one from the lower elementary.

I can't let him lose more time- academically, functionally, emotionally. We're already trying to dig our way out of the pit he's already fallen into. We've worked too hard to let him down now. He's worked too hard. Ichabod will have to wait.