Saturday, September 30, 2006

Reflections on our first year with ASD

Princess Reece (aka Little Peanut)

Well, it's been a full year since Reece's diagnosis. The roller coaster seems like it's starting to go a little smoother now. What used to feel like jolts and steep inclines and fast speeding descents seem now to be mostly average ups and downs, with only an occasional big pit here and there.

Goodness, I'm not going to be eloquent here. I feel like I should be able to write some wonderful, deeply moving tribute to this last year. I should be able to say that the worst is over and we're all doing really great! I guess that is true to some extent! Some days I'm very confident and believing that God has a plan for Reece. Other days I feel like I'm in over my head and there's nothing that I can do, and I worry that she will never fall in love, get married, hold down a job, etc. Most days are somewhere in between.

Reece graduated from Speech Therapy at the end of April, and from Occupational Therapy at the end of June. Her tantrums are few and far between, and I'm much better at handling them when they do occur. She is completely potty trained, including night times. She is sleeping through the night 95% of the time. She's doing pretty well at preschool, with her facilitator, and she loves to go! She is in ballet class, and that's a bigger challenge, but she has a very patient teacher! She is learning how to read (she can blend sounds into 3 letter words, but she doesn't get the point and purpose of it! I've tried to introduce Bob Books and she isn't interested!), and she prints (all capitals, thank you HWT) better than Austin or Riley did at this same age. She loves to color and draw!

The things she still struggles with are the need to keep everything the same all the time. And now that she's talking well, she does alot of repetitive talking (same conversations over and over, same questions over and over). She doesn't really understand how to interact with other children her own age, and this seems to be a bigger problem earlier than it was with Austin. I guess that's a girl thing... little girls are so incredibly social, and they notice that she's not! She still runs off when we're in public and I'm not holding her hand (though this is getting better!). She loves babies, and touches them even though we've talked about not touching babies without asking the mom first (this is a repetitive thing too as she will run for and touch the same baby 10-20 times, even though we've gone through the whole 'lesson'). And she still has no sense of stranger awareness (sits on the laps of strangers, hugs them, asks to go home with them). Some of these things get harder to deal with as she gets older and older, they become more obviously out of place.

I guess there's not much else to say! I'm here, we're all here, we made it through! I've learned so much this year, and I know I still have so much to learn! We just continue to plug away, for Reece's sake! :)

Disney moment: Look who I saw!

As I was coming out of the POTC ride for the first time, Capn Jack and another pirate were doing a (too short) skit! I got video of them singing "A Pirate's Life for Me!" and it was awesome! That's as close as I got though... Capn Jack ran off though, as part of the skit, I think. Surely he wasn't running away from me was he?

He's not a bad impersonator is he? He's a little larger than our real Captain, but he had the voice and the mannerisms dead on! He did need to be a little more dirty, though, IMO. :) And he had no compass. LOL

One Year Ago today

Reece was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (PDD-NOS). At some point today, I'm going to reflect on what sort of changes this past year has brought to our family, and to me personally. In some ways it seems like one of those life-changing, defining moments that causes new mourning every day. And in other ways, it feels like nothing is really all that different than before the diagnosis.

But for now, I can't even really pull my thoughts together coherently! I think I'm suffering from Post-Disney Disorder! ;)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Technical Difficulties and a Vacation

It's been 2 weeks since I last blogged! I wasn't intending to get this far behind, but our DSL went out for a week, we got a new DSL provider, and then we left to go to Disney World!

I will catch up on things tomorrow! I need a good night's sleep first! :)

Friday, September 15, 2006

TGIF 9/15

Fun Friday took on a little bit of a different flavor today. We slept in this morning, since nobody was in bed before 10 last night due to a baseball game. We had alot of housekeeping to catch up on, so we knocked that out of the way first! I had picked up a few things on Mom's Night Out so I gave those to the kids this morning. Austin got a Learn to Juggle kit, Riley got a Card Making kit, and Reece got a princess coloring book. (Borders has some really good bargain items!) They played with those while I finished up the dishes, and then the girls and I played with a new game called Square by Square. Austin worked on his VPSB exersizes, and then we all played Uno. Spanish will again be put aside in favor of a lovely fall day! There will be plenty of icky winter weather in which to learn Spanish later! :)

In other school-related news:

Wednesday we took our first field trip of the school year to the Aquarium. This was our first time by ourselves! We usually go with at least one other family! The weather was dreadful that day, and I wasn't sure we would brave it, but we did! The aquarium was not very crowded as a result, and we spent a leisurely 4.5 hours there!

Yesterday Austin had his first chapter test for Rod and Staff Grammar. He got a dismal 64%. I went over the errors with him after the grading was done, and he seemed to understand what he got wrong. He kept saying, "I got all confused!" This was his first ever grammar test, and really his first exposure to heavy-duty grammar. I probably should be happy that he got more than half correct! Anyway, we are going to move slowly forward, while reviewing what he struggles with along the way. I've also decided that we'll shoot for completing this book in 2 years rather than one. I'd rather he learn the material well!

It seems we had quite a test day yesterday... Austin had a math test and scored a 98%, and Riley got a 100% on her spelling test. She took her first math test last week and scored a 94%. I'm not sure if I posted that or not! She's doing really well with her work!

Latin is going well! The kids have learned their first 5 vocabulary words, so next week we'll move on to lesson 2. I did have Riley complete the writing assignments in the workbook, and she had no trouble with them. I was unsure if I would require that of her, but I'm glad to see that she can handle it!

Reece got a good report from her facilitator on Thursday! Her behavior is getting better (except for chapel apparently lol), and she initiated an interaction with a little girl in her class on Thursday! She just LOVES to go, which makes it very nice for all of us!

I guess that's about it! We have one more week of school before vacation! Next Tuesday is Talk Like a Pirate Day, so this weekend I have to go pick up all of our pirate books from the library! We'll also be watching POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl in honor of the day! :)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering 5 years ago

We've been trying to keep busy today, but I can't help thinking about what I was doing 5 years ago today.

Austin was in Kindergarten, Riley was at preschool, and I was pregnant with Reece. My friend Kristi (who was due with her son in a few weeks) and I decided to meet for a breakfast alone at IHOP. I never turned on the TV on 'school mornings' so I had absolutely no idea anything was going on. I even listened to a tape in the car, so I didn't hear the news on the radio. While I was waiting for Kristi to come to IHOP, I kept overhearing people talk about it. It was so confusing, though, because nobody knew what was going on.

Kristi and I ate our breakfast, and talked about going to get our Kindergarteners (her oldest is the same age as Austin and they were at the same school). We both decided not to interrupt the day of such young children who wouldn't understand.
I called my husband on the way to pick up Riley, and he asked me if I was going to pick up Austin as well. I told him no. I wonder if he thought I was nuts! (Reflecting here for a moment... I feel like such a different mom now. If that same thing were going on today I would have gotten him in a minute. Can you believe I sent him to school the day his baby sister came home from the hospital? I didn't want him to miss a moment. @@ OK, back on topic!)

My husband and I watched the news that afternoon, evening, and the days that followed. I was most concerned because I have a friend who lives on Long Island, and her husband works in the city, but I didn't know where. I couldn't get ahold of her, and finally called her on her cell phone even though I knew she was at work. She's a high school teacher, and they were having to hold many children at school because their parents couldn't get back to Long Island. But she and all of her family were safe!

We kept the news off when the kids were around. They were so little... 5 and 2.5! Austin had such a soft heart, even back then. I was afraid it would frighten him and make him feel insecure. I've been letting Austin watch the news now talking about what happened that day. We talk about it in detail! Riley hasn't asked any questions, but I would certainly be honest with her.

I won't ever forget 9-11. Ever.

Friday, September 08, 2006

TGIF 9/8

Oh, it's a gorgeous day outside in metro Atlanta today! It's 79 degrees right now at 1 PM (57% humidity so my fingers are a bit swollen lol but oh well!). The kids are playing outside having a wonderful time! They're in the backyard that is freshly mowed!

Today was Fun Friday... and we did our geography, reading, and math games. I chose Sorry! for our board game and the 4 of us played together! I read aloud from Ginger Pye while we had lunch! It's hard for me to want to call them back in to watch Spanish, since it's the first really lovely day we've had in a long time. So we'll just watch Spanish another time.

Austin's first ball game of the season is in a few hours, so they will come in for rest time at some point! But, wow, what a beautiful day it is!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fascinating quote

The following comes from the latest Timberdoodle newsletter:

"Because Krissy's autism had resulted in severe language delays, she did not naturally ask questions. Even when she became able to make her needs known with one or two word demands ("Milk, please") she was unable to ask, "Can I have milk please?" During the training phase we would constantly prompt her by saying, "Ask."

One day, out of the blue, she asked/demanded "Disneyland." "Ask!," we responded. Then began a very laborious process as she worked at remembering and saying the right words, in the right order. Finally she stammered out, "Can I go to Disneyland please?"

Why did we make her go through all that effort when we knew there was no hope for a yes answer? Krissy's autism hinders her from seeking out the most basic of relationships. When she demands something, she assumes she deserves a yes. Which implies no need for a relationship or dependence on us. As she learns to ask and not demand, she is beginning to understand that she needs us, she needs relationships. "


That last part I put in italics sums up so much of what I struggle with in Reece, and Austin to some extent. It's also why RDI places such an emphasis on the 'master/apprentice' relationship! I have noticed it especially in the younger babies and toddlers of my friends. How they naturally look to mom for recognition that it's OK to proceed. The implied "You are my comfort and my safety... I look to you for guidance". I always joke that Austin and Reece never read the study that shows that toddlers won't wander more than a certain distance from their caretaker because they recognize that the safety lies with that person.

Anyway, it was very interesting to read that story! It helps me to verbalize something that is one of the core deficits in autism. And it's also such a fine line... Reece and Austin are clearly very loving and attached to me, and to other people in their lives. But when something doesn't work out as they had planned or expected, instead of looking to me (the master) for reassurance, they throw head-long into panic mode. And I find myself trying to calm down a child who isn't going to be calmed by anything I can do or say. It's frustrating, to say the least. I'm hoping it's something we can remediate through RDI as we get more involved with it!

Salvete!!

That's "Hello" in Latin (if you're addressing more than one person! It would be Salve if you're addressing one person. Since I know there are at least 3 of you who read this blog, I can use Salvete! LOL)!

We started Latin today while Reece was at preschool! We're using Prima Latina, and the first lesson teaches us how to say hello, how to pronounce the Latin vowels (which are the same as the spanish vowels so we're ahead of the game there!), and it introduces 5 vocabulary words and derivatives, as well as an opening to prayer.

Today we looked over the vocabulary words (I had written on note cards for them), and they wrote the definition on the back. Austin also had to write a derivative, definition, and part of speech (if any were given) on the back of his cards. We went over the words with the audio CD, and that was our first day of Latin! We're going to continue Lesson 1 next week! But since Reece was gone at preschool, I felt like this was a good day to introduce something new!

I do have to admit to being surprised that one of the first vocabulary words is "toga"! Hmmm, my kind of Latin program! ;)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pictures from Austin's camera!



More about preschool


The day started yesterday with Reece waking me up at 6:30 saying, "Is it my preschool day today?" and I said yes it was. She then said, "Then why you sleeping??" :) Oh perhaps because you don't have to be at preschool for another three HOURS?? LOL

There isn't very much more to say since I didn't get any updates from the teachers other than her enjoying the art center and playing outside (which were a given!). She told me last night that one of the children cried, and that she cried because the other child was crying. I bet the noise bothered her! I'm hoping to get more details from the teachers after tomorrow!

This picture to the left is of the kids all walking up the hill to the preschool entrance! Riley had to wear her new dress, too! Austin's up ahead in a white tshirt and denim shorts. The one at the top is Reece next to her hook for her backpack!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to preschool!


Here's a picture of Reece from the parking lot at preschool! She was so very excited to go this morning! She said she had a nice day, and that's all that I care about right now! :)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Tomorrow

I already had a post titled "Tomorrow is the big day" so I am at a loss for a title tonight! Reece's first day of preschool for this year is tomorrow. I spoke with her facilitator for an hour this evening, discussing expectations, communication, and other things. I am very excited, and impressed, by Miss Amy! I hope this will all work out nicely for the both of them! I will be sure to post a picture and any details that I get tomorrow afternoon!

Friday, September 01, 2006

TGIF 9/1

Fun Friday... the kids have been looking forward to it all week! I had to make a few changes, for my sanity! We will be playing ONE board game together, and the math and thinking games will have to rotate as far as who needs mom and who doesn't! We did do our art lesson, and it was fun!

Today's line-up:

Austin
Visual Perceptual Skill Building packet
Snap It Up Multiplication

Riley
Rainbow Rock CD-rom (counted as thinking game too)

Reece
We did more OT things this morning rather than a game, since I figured she would be playing with us. She did the Sit and Spin, and then she played leap frog from couch to lovesac to the other lovesac to the loveseat.

The board game we played together was Monopoly and we had a blast with it! We played until it was time to eat lunch!

Now for the fun part of the day, we're going to see Cars again at the dollar theater! :)