How stuff gets done around here! (not really but it’s funny)

Hi all, it’s James here. I know I haven’t posted for a long time but I’ve been super busy with school and work. Speaking of school, I’ve been sitting here with my discrete math (blah) and listening to the Elmo movie that Joel is watching in the living room.  Just a few minutes ago, Shell asked me to grab some stuff to wash because she was going to start a load of linens. I grabbed the stuff and she proceeded to start the wash.  I got back to my work and suddenly this 5-year-old came running through the kitchen towards the laundry room with a towel.  I said, “Hey Joel!” because I know that he likes to try to make the washer his personal pool.  A few second later I heard the washer open and close and our daughter said, “He put it in the washer”!

Yeah, he’s not letting on just how much he understands us.  Just thought I would share that.

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Wordy Wednesday: Part 2 Resolution

First of all, thank you to Solodialogue and hooray for henry for the rapid responses to my previous post concerning the drop-off time of my son and the role his paraprofessional plays in that.  As always, your insight and the fact that you were “there” means so much to me and Husband.  Fortunately, the situation was resolved quite simply.  James text-messaged one of the counselors that works with Joel during the school day and filled her in on what happened and our concerns regarding the abrupt changes to Joel’s routine.  She completely understood and had already met with Joel’s paraprofessional about the situation.  The school agreed with us and we will continue to drop him off at the usual location no matter when we get there.  The way I understand it is that she (the PP) was just trying to follow the policy and was not fully aware of how it would affect Joel.  It had never once been an issue the whole of the last school year, which makes me think our previous paraprossional just overlooked it if we were ever running late and just “went with the flow” so to speak.  Husband told them we would try harder to get Joel to school at a time more conducive to the school’s tardy policy.

When we went to pick him up this afternoon, the paraprofessional was extremely gracious and it went surprisingly well.  Joel, for the first time since school has begun, did not cry or fight leaving the school.  It might have helped that we wised up and brought a popsicle from home as a bribe to get him into the car seat.  Judging by his behavior, I don’t even think it was needed.  He gave me the biggest hug (which I really needed) and didn’t fight getting into the car seat.  He had a great day, despite the craziness that occurred this morning.  He didn’t even meltdown when we got home.  I’m crossing my fingers that the transition period of the new school year is coming to an end and that Joel is feeling secure in the routine again.

I am going to chock this up as just one of those stumbling blocks on the road to becoming better aquainted with our new paraprofessional.  We have only been interacting with her for the past couple of weeks and, before today, there hadn’t been any issues.  Joel seems to like her which also reassures me.  I’ve been told by the staff that there are some people he is just more comfortable with than others, and she is one of the ones he is comfortable with.  As for her duties, I looked for information on the internet that details what her duties are and found this.  Basically, the school has a set amount of paraprofessionals who are assigned to work with the special needs children in the school who need extra attention as per their IEP.  Joel’s PP is with him from the time we drop him off to the time we pick him up.  She literally does for him what I do all day when he doesn’t have school.  The difference between she and I is that she gets a paycheck for her efforts, albeit the paycheck is probably nowhere near what she deserves.  She helps him with his school work, takes him to the bathroom and changes his pull-ups, helps him stay seated at lunch, plays with him on the playground, sits with him during storytime, provides him with the affection he needs (he’s pretty cuddly) and all of the other things he requires to make sure he gets through his day.

I know that public schools often get a bad reputation, but I have to say, we have had a very positive experience so far with our community’s school district.  The staff members are extremely warm and have been very accomodating to Joel’s needs.  I will be looking more into state-funded resources available, but I’m afraid Oklahoma is one of the many states in our nation that have not made Autism-related programs a top priority.  Because of this, there are really very few options in my very small town and why I am an Autism advocate.

 

Wordy Wednesday: I’ve Got Some Complaining To Do

Okay, so I’m a little irrate right now, but I’m going to try to maintain my cool and keep it reasonable and rational.  I am probably writing about this too soon after the fact which has a way of biting me in the arse and I figure I should get this out here in my safe place before I go full-on grouchy mom and talk to school officials.

*If you, my dear trusted readers, feel that I am making a big deal out of nothing, just let me know and I will honestly take what you say into consideration.  Many of you, my fellow bloggy parents especially, have dealt with these school issues and I seek your advice if you have any to offer.

I mentioned on Joel’s first day of school that he has a new paraprofessional working with him on a daily basis.  While it has taken me time to adjust to this new person (I really loved the woman who worked with him last year), I have tried to embrace her and treat her the same way I always treated Joel’s previous PP which is with the respect that I feel she deserves.  Despite my efforts to be friendly and open, I have felt that maybe (and this is the irrational part, so bear with me) she doesn’t like me so very much.  There.  I said it.  I’ve had people not like me throughout the course of my life for whatever reason and I have learned to trust my instincts.  I’ve tried to ignore those feelings with her and rationalize that maybe she and I are just very different on a personality level and we clash, or whatever.  The point is, and yes, I’m going to get to one, she is a significant player in Joel’s day and her attitude about things can positively and/or negatively affect how his day goes.

For example, last week there was a stomach issue that blazed through a few members of my household which caused some stress and behavioral changes for those who were affected.  Joel was one of them.  Because of this, we were about a minute or two late for school a couple of days, why? because Joel was fighting getting into his car seat.  Now, I know he has to be there at a certain time.  His dad knows this.  But, explaining this to him is where I am having difficulty because of the communication issues.

One of the mornings we were literally a couple of minutes late, the paraprofessional informed me that if we were not there before the bell rang at 8:45, we would have to drive up to the front of the school to drop him off.  I told her that it would not be an issue and busted my butt the rest of the week to make sure he would be there on time, which we were.

This morning, I pulled up to the school at precisely 8:42.  I know this because I was watching the clock like a crazy person because I did not want him to be late.  She was not there.  I waited for about a minute, not wanting to get Joel out of the car seat in case I had to put him back in, thus causing a meltdown just to drive back up to the front of the building and get him out again.  I got out of the car and walked up to the door and peered in through the window to see if I could see her in case she was just running late.  The hallway was empty.  I got back into the car and drove up to the front all the while talking to Joel in the hopes that he would understand me when I said, “Don’t freak out.  We are going to school.  We just have to go in a different door.”  Luckily, he didn’t meltdown.  What he did do was take off his shoes.  So, once I parked up front, I had to put his shoes back on and get him out of the seat.  The second his feet hit the ground, he went running.  I just barely was able to grab his hand and lead him, struggling into the building where his paraprofessional was standing in the office.  Joel ran past her and into the principal’s office where a meeting was taking place.

His paraprofessional picked him up.  He struggled to get out of her arms, which is unusual because when we drop him off at his usual location, he jumps into her arms.  But, now we were in a different environment and he wanted to explore.  So much for the importance of his usual routine.

I explained to her as politely as I could how even this very slight change threw him off, how he took off his shoes in the car and tried to run across the parking lot.  I then asked her just precisely when the bell actually does ring.  She said it rings at 8:45 a.m.  I informed her that I was there before then.  So, what time do I REALLY need to be there to avoid the craziness that this has caused?  She said 8:40 would be a better time.

**Insert mental scream**  Then why didn’t you say 8:40 a.m. last week!  We are literally talking about a two or three minute period!!

I did not say this, of course.  I took a deep breath, said goodbye to my son and walked out to my car.  If you want to get a point across to me, then treat me like an adult, but don’t try to manipulate me in such a way where it affects my son more than it affects me.  I went to my first class of the day and was barely able to concentrate because I was mentally writing this post and also mapping out how we were going to deal with this and also whether or not I might be wrong about something.

Husband and I have talked about the issue and we have decided that he will text message one of the counselors that we trust and stay in contact with during the day and let her know about our concerns for Joel and this somewhat arbitrarily strict adherence to the tardiness policy.  I understand the importance of being on time, but I highly doubt this particular person truly understands the dynamics involved in getting a child like Joel ready for school in the morning.  Yes, he loves school, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to one morning not allow me to put a shirt on him or comb his hair or brush his teeth.  Not to mention, the extremely aggravating fight we have been having with him lately about getting into his car seat, which Tardy policy or not, I am not going to put him in the car and drive with him unbuckled.  Forcing him or rushing him to comply only exacerbates the problem.

Like I said, I would highly appreciate and value any words of wisdom or advice.  And, of course, I will keep you all posted as to how this all pans out.

Therapeutic Virtual Temper Tantrum for Grown-Ups.

Everything started out so well this morning.  Joel was bathed, pull-upped, dressed and happy.  He ate some breakfast and watched Sesame Street.   I was hopeful things would continue along those lines.  He handed me his socks and shoes which is his way of saying, “Hey, let’s go to school.”  I explained to him that it was Saturday and school doesn’t happen on Saturdays.  We did, however, need bar soap.  He let me/forced me to put his socks and shoes on and we headed for the door.  He held my hand as we walked to the truck.  He cooperated as we opened the back door.  He  began to struggle as I lifted him to put him in the car seat.  I explained to him that the only way he was going to go with me to the store was if he sat in his car seat and let me buckle him up.  He still refused and tried to bypass it and climb into the part of the back seat that was not corrupted by life-saving car seats.  To show him I was completely serious about this, I brought him back into the house.

He yelled at me.  He ripped off his socks and shoes and then pushed them into my hands so that I could put them back on.  I asked Maya to go take a picture of the car seat with his I-Pad and put his socks and shoes back on.  She came back in as I was finishing with that.  I proceeded to show him the picture of the car seat and said “Car Seat.  You have to ride in this if we are going to go.”

We went back outside to the truck, this time with Maya who got into the back seat on the other side of his car seat in case he fought me again.  This time he seemed to get it and we managed to buckle him in with very little resistence.  I thanked her for her help and she wished me luck as Joel and I left for our mini adventure to the store.

He didn’t make a peep on the way.  I parked and got him out of his seat all the while verbally reminding him that he would have to ride in it when we were finished shopping.  He held my hand into the store.  I tried to put him in the cart, but he was side-tracked by a stack of plastic kids’ chairs.  I decided to do what That Cynking Feeling does when she takes her little guy grocery shopping which is allowing him to push the cart.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well this went.  I stood behind him with my hands on top of his to keep a hand on him as well as steer him along.  We found the soap and I picked some out.  I handed it to him and asked him to put it into the cart which he did.  We headed back to the front of the store toward the check out which did not (thank goodness) have a huge line.  I directed him to put the soap on the counter which he did.  The lady working the register was pretty tickled by Joel’s “helpfulness.”  She asked if he would like to carry the soap or if I wanted to.  I said he could (try) to carry it.  I paid for the soap and thanked the lady.  She said goodbye to Joel who, of course, did not respond.  Instead, he tried to push the cart around.  We put it where it belonged and walked out the store to the truck.

Of course, I was worried that he would refuse the car seat, but he didn’t fight as I put him in and buckled him up.  He gave me little kiss before I shut the door and got into the driver’s seat.  I kept telling him what a good little helper he was and cheered him on.  I also told him we were heading straight home.  Looking back, I wish I had taken a picture of our house or something and shown him that was where we were going.

When we pulled up into the driveway he didn’t make a sound.  I got out and opened his door and realized he had removed his socks and shoes on the way home.  I got him out of his seat and carried him into the house.  Before I could even shut the door he was melting down.  Big time.

I’ve talked about Joel’s meltdowns in the past and about how they can be violent.  I used up every meltdown technique I have and he slowly calmed down.  And, then he turned into the world’s biggest trouble-maker ever.  First, I made him a baked potato for lunch just the way he likes it with lots of sour cream.  He ate most of it and then dumped the rest of it out on the floor.  He did the same with his cup of milk.  Just dumped it all out onto the floor.  I sternly told him that was not appropriate behavior and cleaned it up.  Then he grabbed a bag of cereal off the counter (that I stupidly forgot to put back in the pantry this morning) and tried to dump it all out on the floor.  I was beginning to notice signs of an upcoming meltdown.  Mine.

I often joke around on this blog or try to always show the positives in my life, but I will admit, I have some low points.  I am riddled with the stress of our life, of the meltdowns and the worry.  My sister called the other night while I was feeling mildly ill to my stomach.  (I didn’t know it at the time, but there was a bit of a stomach bug going around and I was just beginning to feel the effects of it).  I told her my stomach was probably affected by the stress I had been under this week.  She was surprised that I get stressed out because normally “you’re always so happy.”  I explained to her that (A.) not only can I be happy and stressed out simultaneously, but also (B.) that I have three children, one of whom has Autism, I’m a full-time student as is my husband, and we aren’t exactly on the income level of the Rockefellars, blah, blah, blah.  I think she got my point.

But, I also get her point.  It’s the same point Husband has made in the past.  I have a problem internalizing things and not talking about my feelings.  And, every now and then, I want to scream and pull out my hair and lie down on the floor and flail my arms and legs about.  But, I’m a grown up and that isn’t very becoming of grown ups.  So, I’m having a “virtual temper tantrum” right here on my blog.

And, because I’m all for “pity parties,” everyone is invited to join in.  Pick a spot on my virtual living room floor, grab a tuft of your hair and scream about all of the things that just piss you off.

Here goes:

Okay, I’m feeling a bit better.  I’m remembering the handy adages about “Taking it one day at a time.” and “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”  Yada, yada, yada.

….gotta go, Joel is peeling paint off the kitchen drawers….

I might just actually succumb to a real temper tantrum in the very near future.

Wordless Wednesday:Joel and Jack

I love to observe how Joel interacts with our dog, Jack.  Most of the time, Jack is just another “being” in the room to Joel and receives very little attention from him.  But, every now and then, Joel takes notice of Jack’s presence and anything can happen.  Jack is such a glutton for affection that he takes whatever attention he can get.  Fortunately for Joel, Jack is also extremely patient with him.

Here is Joel attempting to “ride” Jack like a trusty steed.  The indignities of doghood!

The Joys of Transitioning

Wooo, am I glad these last couple of weeks are over!  I have missed blogging, but even moreso, I have missed all of my blogging buddies.  As soon as I wrap up this post, I am going to visit all of your blogs and get caught up on your news.

So, where to begin….

I’m sitting here at my kitchen table looking over the last few days and it is all just a blur of school supplies, to-do lists that multiplied even as I marked things off, various emtional ups and downs, financial/budgetary meetings with Husband, and even a ten-year wedding anniversary thrown in for good measure.  I won’t bore you with all the minutiae as I’m sure it’s not so very different from what was going on in just about every other household across the country whether the children involved were on the spectrum or not.  Pertinent matters it is:

One of my most previous posts centered on how to go about Joel’s haircut.  I spent several days agonizing over an event that lasted only about 20 minutes.  I took into consideration all of the ideas suggested by my contributing readers.  (Thanks again, everyone!!)  I mentioned that I would probably procrastinate, and boy did I ever.  I waited until about 45 minutes before we were expected to attend the Meet the Teacher night.  Yeah, real smart, Shell.  Anyway, after all that consideration, it all boiled down to the four of us (Husband, Maya, Will and myself) working in tandem to keep Joel still while the cutting ensued.  As much as I hated to do it, we had to wrap him up in a blanket like a human burrito while I cut his hair.  It took both Husband and Maya to hold him still.  Will’s job was to hand him chocolate chips and popsickles while we worked.  It wasn’t very elegant, but hey, his hair is shorter.

The Meet the Teacher night went very smoothly.  He sat still while his new teacher walked through the curriculum and answered any questions.  We were all very pleasantly surprised last year at how well Joel fit into the routine of school; granted, he has an occupational therapist, speech pathologist, counselor and a full-time paraprofessional to get him through the day.  The fact that there is a well-defined routine is also a major plus.  Throw in a daily recess period and you’ve got one very happy little guy.

Joel started out last school year in the Pre-K classroom, but was moved up to the Kindergarten class due to a temporary scheduling conflict that occurred one week when his usual paraprofessional was absent for personal reasons.  He did so well in the Kindergarten class that they decided to transition him there for the rest of the school year.  That has worked out even more to his advantage this year as he and his Kindergarten teacher are already familiar with each other.  So, that was a bit of a weight off our minds.

Next, we went to Will’s Meet the Teacher thing at his school, which is within walking distance of Joel’s school.  Again, Joel was quiet and well-behaved and we were able to focus on Will and what was required of him for the year.  He met his teacher, found his desk, I signed papers, etc.

Next, it was time for Maya to check out her school, which was more of a walk than we were prepared to make, so we headed toward the car to go to her school.  Apparently, we did not communicate this clearly enough to Joel who went into instant meltdown mode as we put him into his car seat.  I can only imagine how it looked as we put this screaming child into the car.  People probably thought we were kidnapping the little guy.  This meltdown was pretty bad and I was afraid we weren’t going to be able to calm him so James drove us home.  He and I pulled a still-screaming and very red-faced little Joely out of the backseat and I took him directly out to the backyard.  I know that sounds crazy, but I had a feeling it would work and it did.  I let him just roam around and gather sticks and the few pine cones that are in our yard.  James wound up taking Maya and Will to her school to get her schedule and find her locker while I stayed home with Joel.  As you can see, that was a fun evening.

Yesterday was the kids’ first day of school.  I still haven’t quite understood the logic of starting the first day on a Friday, but that was how it was done.  I was wakened sometime after 5:00 a.m. by Maya who was nervous about her first day and wanted me to help fix her hair.  I slipped on my eye glasses and attempted to make something of her hair with at least one eye open.  When it was completed and she felt it was satisfactory, I went back to bed and slept another hour or so.  I said my goodbye and good luck to Maya who left for her first day of high school.  We got the boys ready.  Joel was especially helpful and even let me brush out his hair.  He was really excited after we dropped Will off and headed toward his school.  His new paraprofessional was waiting outside for him.  This was the really bittersweet moment.  You see, we absolutely loved the PP who worked with him last year and was hoping they would be together again this year, but I guess she only works with Pre-K kiddos.  His new PP has worked with Joel so she isn’t a complete stranger.  We handed her his supplies and he wore his little backpack.  We kissed him goodbye and watched as he walked into the building with her.  And, dammit, I felt that stupid little lump form in my throat and my eyes watered.  I bit my lip and got back into the car.  This was what I had been waiting all summer for, the kids to be back in school, and there I was missing them.  All three of them.  James and I went back home and got into our own cars after a kiss goodbye and went to our separate schools.  I didn’t get to see him again until almost midnight last night when he got off work.

I am happy to report that all three of the kids had a great first day of school.  Maya even enjoyed her first day of high school which seems a bit off to me considering how much I hated my high school experience.  Will managed to avoid trouble which was a relief.  The only flaw in Joel’s day was that he fell down on the playground and scraped his nose.  Everything else went great.  I’m feeling some optimism for the rest of the school year, but I think I’ll keep my fingers crossed just to be on the safe side.

Excuses and Another Movie to Check Out

I’ve been a bad blogger mom these past couple of days on account of back-to-school craziness.  Everyone in my house is going back to school, including me and Husband, so things are hectic.  On top of that, my mom and sister came to visit this past Wednesday and that is always a circus.  Needless to say, I can’t wait for things to settle down a bit once we get into the swing of our old schedule.

Anyway, I just wanted to pop by briefly and post another movie we’ve seen in the past year that features an Autistic character.  In this case, the child with Autism is totally bad ass.  She’s a nonverbal kung fu fighter battling the mafia.  How cool is that?

Here is the trailer.

We found this one a few months ago on Netflix, but I checked to see if it is still there and currently it is unavailable to stream instantly.  The dvd, however, can be purchased on Amazon.com.  It is a lot of fun with lots of action.  If you love a good, raucous kung fu flick and have a child on the spectrum, this is for you.

Wordless Wednesday: Differing Opinions on Coffee Table Usage

Calling for Action

I came upon this article  posted on my Facebook wall this evening and, naturally was outraged.  It is a story of a 23-year-old man with Autism who has a life-threatening heart condition.  The only treatment for this uncurable condition is a heart transplant which he has been denied because of his Autism.  Yes, his Autism.  He is not a smoker, nor a drinker.  He has not acquired this disease because of any lifestyle choices he has made.  It is genetic condition he inherited from his father who died from this when he was only 27-years-old.

This is absolutely unacceptable.  To deny him a necessary treatment of this nature because of his Autism is blatant discrimination.

I am posting the link for the petition here.  If you are every bit as appalled by this then please sign it and spread the word.

Snip Snip

Well, summer break is quickly approaching it’s end (OMG!) and we are beginning back-to-school preparations.  One of the things on the to-do list is hair cuts for all three of the kids, especially for the boys.  Let’s just say, if this doesn’t happen soon, we are going to have a bunch of Sasquatch hunters camped out in our front yard with telephoto lenses just waiting for one of them to come out the front door for a photo op.

Hair cuts aren’t a problem for Will.  He absolutely loves to get his hair cut.  There is the (nonstop) chatting with the hair stylist, getting to decide on whether or not to go ultra-short or just trim the haystack to continue the Luke Skywalker look he’s been going for lately, the cool spinny chair, the smells and movement of the salon.  All of it.

Joel, on the other hand….  Yikes.

Our littlest guy has never once been to a salon for his own hair cut.  I don’t expect it to happen any time soon.  So, that means he is resigned to having a crazy scarecrow ‘do courtesy of his own mum and dad.  When I’m cutting his hair, I’m not really going for a specific look.  My only goals when cutting his hair are (1) cut his hair and (2) not cut him (or others) with the scissors.

We’ve tried having one of his hold him down while the other one quickly cuts whatever hair is sticking out, but this is dangerous because he will not sit still.  At all.  So, I’ve had to get creative in my approach.

What I do is get Joel interested in a movie or t.v. show and then stand behind him with a pair of scissors and slowly snip away at the hair on the back of his head while he is distracted.  This is extremely hit or miss because he isn’t stupid.  He can hear the scissors and feel me messing with him.   It looks something like this:

Most of the time, he catches onto what I’m up to and starts to run from me.  And, because I am that kind of person who doesn’t want to give up on something I’ve started, this happens:

Once I’ve eventually cut the hair in the back and as much on the sides as I can, I then have to resort to asking Husband to hold Joel down while I cut the rest of the hair on the sides and in the front.  If Joel is especially wiggly, we have to have Maya help hold his hands.  This doesn’t take anywhere near as long as the first part, but it is definitely stressful.  I “look forward” to going through this either this week or sometime next week, depending on how long I procrasinate.

So, fellow Autism parents out there, how do you handle hair cuts and other grooming needs with your little cuties on the Spectrum?  Or, do you have any stories about this you’d like to share?  Also, if anyone on the spectrum is reading this, what worked or does work for you?  I need all the help I can get and any input is appreciated.