Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wow! Fascinating!

I received the two books that I ordered today that will be my main source of information and planning to implement the RDI program for Austin and Reece. If you're interested, there is a website packed with information www.rdiconnect.com ! I'm only 2 chapters in to the first book and already I feel like I'm on the right track!

I am sure I'll bore you to death in the next few weeks with more ramblings about this, but I just had to share what I read tonight! This whole program hinges on the fact that children with autism have deficits in the way they relate to other people... and it's helping me to see my kids' interactions with new eyes. I remember the doctor pointing out to me that while Reece does talk and "interact" with adults, it's not really "interacting". She's mostly just talking, or reciting, and it doesn't matter what the adult happens to say. The reason that it was hard to see, and that even other adults have a hard time seeing it, is that adults are "programmed" to go with the flow of a child's line of talk. So it seems so cute that Reece comes up to tell you that there are butterflies outside, or that she is going to be a ballerina when she grows up. But she says that to everyone, it's not really an "interaction". You can ask her a question about it and she'll just move on to the next line. And when it comes to other children her own age, Reece doesn't even try to engage them. She totally ignores them. But with the help of this program, we'll help her figure out that kids her age can be lots of fun, even though they are more unpredictable than adults! :)

Now, Austin is trickier! I have been SO thrilled to see him playing football with boys in the neighborhood, and with boys at his sister's ballgames back in October. I was a little discouraged that if they decided they didn't want to play football anymore, then he wouldn't decide to do what they wanted to do. But I figured it was progress. Then I read this tonight: "In instrumental encounters, we engage other people because there is something we wish to obtain from them -- information, an object, or participation in an activity. Other people are agents, perceived as necessary only to deliver the product to us." WOW! And then the next characteristic of instrumental encounters vs. experience sharing (the goal of typical interaction): "Any partner who knows the right rules and possesses the necessary knowledge or skill will serve in an Instrumenal encounter. In this respect, partners are fairly interchangable. Futhermore, we may quickly - and in a decidedly detached manner - exchange a paterner with who we have shared experiences for a new inexperienced partner, if that new partner is more willing to provide us with what we seek out of the interaction."

This is truly eye-opening for me! Here I was seeing this new fascination with football and Austin's desire to play football with everyone he sees as being a major step into the social arena for him. In fact, at the park a few weeks ago, he stopped playing with his buddy C and started playing football with a total stranger. I was thinking "Oh how cool, he's making a friend!" but he's really not! He's just trying to find someone to play football with, and C didn't want to play football anymore. I've seen it in the neighborhood too... the boys will all be playing football, and they will get tired of it (Austin NEVER gets tired of it!) and they'll leave to play something else. Austin will just turn around and play football with the 5 year old across the street instead! It's not who he's playing with... it's the fact that someone is filling the need of his football playing.

Please don't take this to mean that I am upset by Austin's interactions (or Reece's)... on the contrary, I'm totally excited that I am understanding that what I thought it appropriate interaction is not in fact "experience sharing"! I would not have been serving Austin's best interests if I thought that he was figuring this out on his own and I didn't need to worry about it anymore! I have caught a cue! I can help him figure this out! And the strict script I was trying to get him to work on with other kids is not the way to do it! Because when the script runs out, or the other child doesn't answer the right way, Austin's left clueless! We are going to help that! This is very exciting!

Well, I'd better get to sleep, if I can! :)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Calling for backup!

(BTW, we are managing to do school today, be it ever so slowly! lol)

I have been terribly confused lately about what to do next to address Austin's problems. The auditory processing test revealed some concerns, and I'll give the report to Reece's Speech Therapist on Wednesday and see what she can pull together for us. But after that, I'm really confused. Do we proceed with dyslexia testing? Do we get a developmental evaluation? Do I call a psychologist? Psychiatrist? Podiatrist? (Just kidding on that last one!) Once I do call them, what am I asking for them to do? As you see, I'm confused.

So I called this morning and made an appointment to see the intake social worker at the office of the specialist who saw Reece. She was very helpful back in the spring about where we should start with Reece and who we should see and what we should do while we waited to see the doctor. I'm not sure that Austin will eventually see the doctor at all (appointments are booked 5-6 months out), but at least the social worker might be able to help me figure out where to turn next! The appointment is at the beginning of January, and dh will stay home with the kids while I go.

I feel better now! :)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

"Do we have to do school?"

If you are within earshot, you will surely hear that sentence uttered a hundred times a day around the Black Pearl Academy...

...by the teacher! ROFL

Oh! I have lost my motivation! If you find it, would you kindly email it to me? Or fax it? Thank you very much! :)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I should preface this post by saying that I am very new to the entire "Harry Potter" phenomenon. My mother has been encouraging me to read them to Austin for years now, and I have always said no. I really shyed away from them because of the huge outpouring of condemnation from the Christian community. But my mom is what I refer to as a "seeker" (no, she doesn't play Quidditch!). She is a person who knows about God and Jesus and is open to learning more, but has not professed that Jesus is her personal Savior. She has very negative feelings about 'the Church' in general. Mom finally got around to reading the HP books over the summer, and really loved them, and again encouraged me to read them to Austin. I told her that I would read them myself first. She lent me #1 and #2 to take on our vacation in September and I was hooked! I am currently reading #5. And in the last 10 days I've rented the first 3 movies, so I would be prepared to see Goblet in the theaters.

I really did enjoy this movie! There was alot that had to be left out, of course, because the book was so indepth and long. But overall I found it to be very, very good! I will go back to see it again as soon as I can, just to catch things that I missed the first time! :)

Pros: These 3 kids who play the main characters of Harry, Ron, and Hermione are just fantastic! The movie in general has some wonderful special effects, and the Yule Ball was beautiful! The movie did a really good job of showing the awkwardness of young teenagers, especially the boys, when it comes to the opposite sex! That was charming! I laughed at many scenes, as did the rest of the audience! I also cried in a few places! :)

Cons: I don't care for this particular Dumbledore (the actor). Or maybe it was the writers fault. But he did a couple of very 'non-Dumbledore-ish' things, and it irked me. Also, Ron has such a foul mouth! It's just not necessary. The movie just seemed to fly by from scene to scene too, because there was so much action to get in. I found myself wishing there would be an "Extended Edition" like there was for the LOTR movies! LOL

Overall it was very good! Because it is PG-13 I'm not sure if I can recommend it for younger children. However, if they have read the book (and the previous books) then they really should know what is coming. Yet, sometimes it's harder to see things on the screen than it is to read it. You really will have to know your child! I think if they can handle LOTR or Star Wars, they could handle this one.

I give it a 3.5 or maybe a 4 on the Savvy Scale.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Reece's playgroup

Ok, it sounds sort of weird to be calling it a playgroup when it's just one other child, but I can't think of a better name. Social Skills group? Social Skills lesson? Anyway, it's the time when her speech therapist works on social skills with her and a little boy who is almost 3, whom I'll call "A".

Today was the 2nd session, and I watched a little bit this time through the 2-way mirror. (Miss Marty in the office allowed Riley to do her math in there with her so there wouldn't be any concern about Riley leaving the building like she did over the summer.) Austin was working on adverbs in the hallway.

Reece and A were on the floor with Miss Alexis. They were playing with dollhouse furniture and the dolls. A's mom said they had already played with one toy and picked it up, and this was the next toy they chose. Neither Reece nor A were paying any attention to each other. Alexis was making them ask for the piece of the toy they wanted to play with, and A was having a hard time doing that. Reece asked for the swing and a baby. Alexis modeled for her how to say it in a full question format instead of just "swing and baby". Once A asked for his pieces, Alexis tried to get them to interact with each other and their pieces.

They are very good at copying, or echoing, what Alexis tells them to say, but there was no initiating of conversation. Many times A would get upset and tantrum (he spins when he gets upset) and Reece didn't even look up. That really bothers me. Alexis said later that Reece handed him the toy slide, which he wanted at one point. So that is a good thing! And a few minutes ago, she said to me "A was crying today!" and I was so excited!! (3 hours late, but that's still something good!!)

When it was time for Reece to go to Occupational Therapy, and for A to have his Speech Therapy session (Reece has hers before A comes to play), they had to clean up toys and say goodbye to each other. Alexis will say "A, say 'goodbye Reece'" and Reece said "Goodbye Reece!". Like I said, they are both very good at copying what she tells them to say, they just don't understand the meaning behind it. And trying to get them to look at each other when they talk to each other is quite a chore! But I really do think this is good for both kids!

A will be gone on vacation next week, so we won't have a session then, but they will start back in December! I'm going to make sure Reece takes a little gift to A for Christmas! :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Austin's language test

He did SO well! I have to admit being totally surprised by the way he has handled himself in these testing situations! He really focused hard, paid attention, and did his very best! He wasn't nervous at all about the test today, because it was with Reece's Speech Therapist.

I got the results of the tests today! The one test has a normal range of between 85-110, and Austin's scores on the various sub-sets were 84, 86, 91, one I can't remember and one that was 96. So they were at the bottom end of the normal range, which Alexis seemed to think was a good thing. I guess my brain prefers to see above average! lol The other test had an average of 8-11 and he had one score of a 6, one 8 and one 10, so again he came out in the low average range.

All in all, Alexis thought the results were consistent, and nothing to send up any alarms! She wants to wait to get the audiologist's results, and then make a plan of action! She suggested a few things today just in the process of discussing the test results, but said we really need to wait to get a full picture from the results the other testing. She thinks we could do a few sessions of therapy with him, but mostly teach me how to help him at home and through his school work. And there are various computer programs as well.

I'm so glad it went smoothly! That's been the biggest relief of all!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A fresh, new week!

I was just on my way to bed, but hated to leave a sad post up there glaring at everyone!

Tomorrow is Monday and that marks the beginning of a fresh week! Here is wishing a lovely week to everyone!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Lesson "Planning"

It's sort of hard to call it planning because, for Austin anyway, I am just opening up the Calvert manual and figuring out what is next! Mostly, I'm looking for things that might pose him some problems. I also try to match up how much activity we have going on in the week, in case I need to move some things around to allow me to have enough time for everything.

Tonight, while "planning", I just became overwhelmed with sadness. I don't even know if I have words to explain it. It's just that I know Calvert is a demanding curriculum, and I just don't know if Austin will be able to keep pace. Or if it is going to meet his needs.

I am feeling the weight of the many questions I can't answer right now:
How much should I push him? A little? A lot? Not at all?

Should I take science/history back to a storybook format and not worry about the 'lessons'? Just read to him and try to talk about it informally? Or do I make it even more formal, having him write out answers to questions for the practice?

Is he going to need to be a sight reader? If so, should I start writing words on notecards and drilling them?

I finally just put everything away and lay on the couch and cried. This is so hard!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Can you hear me now?

Austin can, he is just having trouble processing what he is hearing, according to the audiologist. I will have the full report in a week or so, but she did say that she could tell he was having trouble with 'auditory decoding'. I've googled that a bit and it seems to mesh with what I am seeing academically!

He is having a Language Processing eval next week, as suggested by the audiologist! And then she also suggested a psycho-edcuational evaluation to rule out dyslexia.

I'm tired, and my head is going to explode! LOL

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

No Q

This is what happens when you have a 6.5 year old who is too big for her britches!

Riley's assignment from Explode the Code Book 5 was to copy the 'qu' words, and X the picture that goes with them. I came back to find her assignment completed with these additions: on the 2 entries that weren't 'qu' words she drew an arrow and wrote "No q" next to them.

::shaking head:: What do I do with this girl?? LOL

Friday, November 04, 2005

Diva Riley

I'm not sure how much I've posted here about my newest obsession: Wicked the Musical. I heard about it through a little preview while we were waiting to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I read the book, found out the musical was much more tame, and bought the soundtrack. Somehow, in the middle of all of this, I brought Riley into my little obsession! She and I now have orchestra level tickets to see Wicked the Musical when it comes to our town next year!

Riley listened to the Wicked soundtrack to the beach and back, and for days and days on end after that! She and I love to sing the songs and we've made up our own little drama to go with it. Let me tell you, this little girl has one heck of a voice! Being that her daddy is a musician, he has taken notice. She has been asking for voice lessons for awhile now, but she's still quite young and rather, um, rambunctious! But last night, daddy was playing around with some melodies and he noticed that our little singer can figure out harmonies and hold them while someone else is singing a melody. I could see the wheels turning in his head! :)

Today, dear husband tells me that one of his friends teaches voice lessons (it's someone that he plays with often in some of the different bands), and that she is willing to take Riley on as a student! So my dear daughter begins voice lessons next Thursday afternoon! She is SO excited!

I'm glad it's with this family friend, because if it's not going to work out that Riley is too young yet, I have no doubt that she will tell Russ and not just keep taking the money! Riley is bright, and she's got a great voice, but she does not have a filter between her brain and her mouth and sometimes that causes problems! I suspect that will mellow with maturity! Ok, I PRAY it will mellow with maturity! LOL But this will be something fun for Riley that will help her with something she loves to do! :)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

On math tests and similes

Austin* had his 2nd math test today! He had a harder time with this one and ended up with an 82, which is a B minus according to my grading schedule. Not too bad, I suppose. Two of the mistakes were in not following the directions, and the other mistakes were from that darn regrouping with addition. If there are two regroupings, it just throws him off. We are back to regrouping with subtraction tomorrow. I hope my heart can take it! LOL Knowing what I know now about him probably being a visual, concrete learner (because of being on the autism spectrum), I may be placing him in Math U See when we are ready to tackle multiplication! I have a few more months to decide.

I'm proud of myself for a few things I've handled well with school this last week or so. On Monday, the lesson in Calvert was about similies. Now, I had just read in a book a few days prior, that children with autism have a hard time understanding similes and metaphors. Any part of language that is not concrete and literal. And in my own observations of Austin, I had known this to be true. So when the assignment was to have the child do pages X and Y independently, I knew that would be an exercize in frustration! So we did them together, and he didn't 'get' them. I told him he would eventually memorize what they mean, and come to understand what people are trying to say when they are using them!

Now, for those of you reading and wondering what on earth is the 'big' deal, just bear with me! In the past when things didn't work with Austin, I worried about what was wrong with Austin. I didn't consider that the method of instruction didn't connect with him. Or that he could need more time. I worried about conforming Austin to the curriculum. And that's a mistake! I've still got a long way to go, but now I'm trying to be more deliberate about finding out what will work for HIM.

*Yeah, I'm tired of the nicknames, too!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mime 101

That is on the lesson plan today as Mom/Teacher woke up with absolutely no voice! It was fading fast yesterday afternoon, and then I took the kids to the fall festival last night. I think the combination of the cool evening air and my shouting Peanut's name all night did me in!

So here I am this morning trying to tell everyone what I need them to do without saying a word! It's just not happening! LOL Thankfully 2 out of 3 children can read, so that helps somewhat! But I've given up on actual lessons today! We'll just stick to reading and trying to be good so mommy doesn't have to write out punishments on the white board! :)