Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's a Rule!

Every time we go anywhere, no matter how routine, we review the rules for that place with GL. He doesn't come up with the same rules every day, so that lets me know which rules he's forgetting. Of course, sometimes he makes up his own. As we were preparing to leave for the library yesterday, I asked, "What are the rules for the library?"

He answered, "No shouting, no yelling, no red meat!"

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Monday, August 29, 2011

School Pictures

School pictures were today. Taking pictures before school actually starts, so people can come in, get their photo taken, and leave, without hanging around waiting all day and wasting the better part of a school day—why didn't they think of that when I was in school?

I got GL cleaned up, and we walked to the school. He insisted on taking his weighted lap blanket. We must have hit it at a good time—there was only one person ahead of us. He was too cool to smile for his picture, so his mama made him sit again, and smile this time. No one shows up your pretensions of coolness like Mama! GL insisted on holding his blanket for the picture. I did convince him to hold it in his lap instead of hugging it like a teddy bear. As soon as she saw the blanket, the photographer visibly relaxed. She treated GL with dignity and respect—she didn't talk down to him—but with an extra helping of patience and gentleness. Sometimes having something that marks you as different can be good.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why we home schooled our autistic son

Year after year, we faced skepticism at every turn about our decision to home school GL. First we would get a halfhearted defense of the idea that only a professional can teach a child, especially an autistic child, to read and write. (When we had him tested for public school enrollment, those very professionals were amazed to find his reading, vocabulary, and verbal skills far beyond what they would expect, given his cognitive abilities. His math skills are much more in line with what they would expect. His handwriting is messy, which is not surprising, given his poor fine motor skills. They are providing PT and OT. And he can't spell worth a darn.) His skills are all over the map, but patient teaching and individual attention day after day, year after year, from someone who knows him very well, and with no change of teachers in ten years, have allowed him to make the most of the abilities he has.

When they see that line will fail, everyone throws down what they believe to be the trump card: "But what about socialization?" It has apparently become an article of faith in America that:

1. Social skills are the sine qua non, the ne plus ultra, the raison d'être, the 42, and the e pluribus unum, of not only education, but employment, life, the universe, and everything,
2. Public school is the only place social skills can be learned, 
3. Unstructured social situations (the playground, the locker room) with little to no adult supervision, where the kids are encouraged to "work things out for themselves" and adults don't generally intervene until there is bloodshed, a broken bone, or severe bruising, and then more likely than not will take the side of the aggressor, are the best places to learn social skills.  (Bullying and not getting caught are social skills, after all.) 

Call me a heretic. I believe the purpose of education is academic learning. I've met plenty of socially well-adjusted home schoolers. I've met plenty of socially inept people who still earn a good living. There is more to life than socializing, which I believe is overrated. The happiest and most productive members of any group are those who first know themselves well as individuals. God is more concerned with your treating people ethically, morally, and kindly than with your making them like you. 

People on the autism spectrum don't just lack certain social skills their peers take for granted, they often also lack the ability to read the social cues by which their peers typically learn these skills. If they can't absorb these skills by osmosis, they must be explicitly taught, which most public schools are slow to do. Expecting a child with autism to just pick up social skills along with academics, and without being taught is like expecting a child with extremely poor vision to learn to read without glasses. Expecting him to learn social skills on the playground or in the locker room is like teaching him to swim by nicking an artery and throwing him to the sharks.

I've seen situations like this one happen far too often. To a bully, an autistic kid is the perfect victim: www.helpinghandschildren.com/zform/Bullying.pptx
(He also has OCD.)

These facts, coupled with the facts that GL will do anything other kids tell him to, and confess to anything he is accused of, whether he did it or not, led us to keep him out of public school until now, even if it meant giving up services he would otherwise qualify for. Looking beyond high school, his options are to sit around watching TV all day, while someone else pays the bills, or enter some type of vocational program. He may or may not be self-supporting, but he needs useful work. (I suspect he will make some money, but not enough to live on.) He's gone about as far as he is likely to go academically, but at this point, the public school looks like our best connection and transition to vocational programs. We have enrolled him with fear and trembling.

When we made this decision, we waited a year to enroll him so he would be entering high school. The cruelest people I've met are middle schoolers and adults who never progressed emotionally beyond middle school or high school. We had him tested and got an IEP written during spring semester. He starts high school next week. So far, everything looks encouraging. School staff have all been friendly, helpful, and understanding. They've been supportive of our making the best choices for GL, whether we chose to enroll him or not. They've had only good things to say about his accomplishments while home schooled. They listened when we told them about our observations and experience. They put everything in his IEP that we asked for. He visited his class a few times last year, and both Sp.Ed. and regular students recognized him and greeted him in the hallway.

But the most important thing we've learned from other autism parents' stories is: Don't. Trust. Anyone. Or prehaps, Trust, but verify.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

GL must be having a good day today...

I'm not counting the minutes till his bedtime yet. I usually start the countdown about 4 p.m.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Can Do It Myself!

I've recommended autismherd before, but  this post is especially good. So often, we do things for our kids just because it's less messy or easier. That's why I make GL take out the trash.  When I told one of the professionals who work with him about his taking out the trash, she commented that verbal prompts are the hardest to fade, so I transitioned him to a written checklist, with each step listed as a one-word instruction. He made the transition well, and began to acquire the skill of working from a written checklist.

Although I try not to, I do fall into the pattern of helping him with tasks he could do himself, at least for certain tasks. For example, one of the few foods he eats is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but he wouldn't eat the crusts. He was a bit messy. He could make his own sandwiches; he just couldn't cut the crusts off. He would take a few bites out of the middle of the sandwich and throw the rest away. Yes, it was every bit as messy as it sounds. If I asked him to pull off the crusts, he pulled off and threw away more than he ate. For a while, I made sandwiches for him. It was less messy, but I seemed to spend all day making sandwiches. If there were a sandwich-making machine, I would have bought it. Then I tried cutting off the crusts for him, and having him make his own sandwiches. That worked. After a couple of years, I got tired of cutting off his crusts. One day, I asked him if he could try eating a sandwich with the crusts on. Apparently he was ready. He tried it, and has been making his own sandwiches ever since. But there is a fossilized layer of peanut butter and jelly on every surface he touches.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We're Working on That

We're always on the lookout for those little skills everyone else takes for granted but GL seems to miss. On the way to the library this morning, he said, "I have to go to the bathroom. Is there a bathroom at the library?"
I told him there was. When we got there, I showed him the location of the restrooms. Then I thought I'd make sure he could read the signs. I pointed to the sign over the men's room. "What does that say?"
He answered confidently, "Men!"
I pointed to the sign over the women's. "What does that say?"
I asked him, "Which one do you use?"
I guess we need to work on that.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

My Kind of Town

There are two traffic lights in our town. They are about a mile and a half apart. On a Friday night, I can stand in the middle of Main Street, see the light at the south end of town, turn around, and see the light at the north end of town.


Vacation- Day 6

Friday is always the best day, the shortest day, and the worst day of camp. Because it’s the last day of camp. In the morning the Moms group practised our skit for the talent show at the close of camp.
All the different age groups of kids were in their own groups. Each age group also had a skit. The Moms group got to perform first, because we all wanted to have good seats to watch our kids in the talent show. The theme of camp this year was “Shake it up cafe,(finding God’s recipe for your life).” All the skits tried to use the theme. The Moms got a little side tracked, because of our name. Our group was called the Mama Mias. We had some wonderfully creative ladies(I mean you! Shelly & Kelly!) that rewrote the ABBA song” Dancing Queen” for our skit. It was so super, I’m going to share it here. To get the full affect you have to hum “Dancing Queen” to yourself. You have to!

Cooking Queens
Chop it up
Throw it in
Having the time of our lives

Rachael Ray
Paula Dean
You only envy me

6 am and the crock pots full
Carrots chopped and they’re cooking slow
Stirring up the batter
Getting out the platters
We’re in the breakfast zone

No one else can cook like us
We get you ready in time for the bus

Lunch box in your backpack
Gogurt for snack
Have a great day!
and when we get the chance

Chop it up
Throw it in
Having the time of our lives

We are the cooking Queens
Counters clean
it’s only 6:15!

Cooking Queens feel the heat from the sizzling meat
Oh ya
Chop it up
Throw it in
Having the time of our lives

After the Moms all of our fantastic kids also had skits, too many to recount here. It was a unbelievable day. Goldilocks made it through a group picnic that included everyone involved with camp. That’s a couple hundred people with a kid who HATES crowds. He did so well. I’m so proud of him. He asked if we could take our food to the Moms tent instead of the main eating tent. We ate there with only a few other families with the same crowd issue. We had a peaceful lunch. Both boys even entertained themselves while I took a few minutes to teach the “Hugs & Kisses” bracelet to a Mom that had been volunteering when I taught it earlier in the week. The best part of the whole day was that I was in PJs at an insanely early hour. I did take the boys back to the pool after dinner in our room, but when we returned from the pool, back into PJs I went. I’m lazy on vacation, but isn’t that the point?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vacation- Day 5

Today Mom's camp began with a wonderful communion service. It was the first time that I ever had the joy of breaking the bread for another person,while sharing the words of the communion "The body of Christ broken for you" and with the wine "The blood of Christ shred for you" It was very touching.
Later in the day, I taught the "Hugs & Kisses" pattern of beading to three other Moms. The Ladies I taught were quick studies they had the pattern half way finished in just a few hours. Man,I'm proud of you,Emily,Pam,and Cindy. Again I promise pictures will come after I get home. Again today I had too much sun & ended up with a killer headache. The boys were so patient as I took a nap in the middle of the day. I almost didn't believe these were our kids, taking good care of sick Mama instead of whining & complaining that they didn't have as much time as they wanted in the pool. Sometimes our kids surprise me in a good way.

How to Care for Your Smartphone


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vacation- Day 4

Today, I led the craft at camp. We beaded cheese knives & wine charms. It was fun. Even the most un-crafty Moms could do this craft. In years past, many of the less skilled crafters didn't care for the crafts because they required more experience than most of them had. Nobody wants to do a craft that they can't do well. This year I think everyone enjoyed it. Pics will be posted after we get home, as I forgot my USB cord. I will also post pics of some of my own crafts at that time.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Vacation- Days 2 & 3

Day 2- We had a super time. I learned much in the Moms group about de-junking & getting Goldilocks ready for school (our boy is going to public high-school in just a few weeks! Sob!) and had a fun craft,tie-dye. Unfortunately I also got a monster sun related headache, so when the boys when to bed at 7:30pm so did I.

Day 3- We got to camp on time!!!!! Yeah me! (I'm not so good at being on time on vacation) The boys ran off without even saying good-bye. You got to know them to know that shows how much they love this camp. I had a super time again. Today we talked about refocusing, with God as the center of our focus. And all the rest falls into place. I also got to show off my beading projects to my friends. I am beginning to be a crafter, like the kind who do craft shows, but I first wanted to show my work to those I know & trust. This group of Moms is so great! I not only got feedback on my skills, I sold a lot of my projects & had a couple of special orders. I just finished the special orders and noticed it's almost vacation Day 4. I'd better get to bed.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Vacation- Day 1

The boys & I are at the hotel on our first day of vacation. We are having a great time, but I've already had a minor injury. I got kicked by Brother Bear in my voice box as we were both diving for the same dive stick in the pool. I'm fine, just a little sore. We miss Papa Bear (His idea of a restful vacation is staying at home alone.), but are looking forward to Christian Disciple Farm Camp in the morning. I am helping with the bead craft at camp this year, I can't wait.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Favorite Blogs

I've added to the lists of my favorite autism blogs and my favorite home school blogs. (See sidebar.) Visit, comment, share the love!


Jewel has a new Fan!

The first and last time I heard Jewel, I thought, "Whatever." But she got GL to sleep during the day when he really needed it. He has been calm ever since he woke up.

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Resting at Last!

 MB and BB spent the morning getting organized and starting to pack for camp next week. It's a camp for people with disabilities and their families. GL will have a one-on-one buddy to assist him as needed with each activity. MB will go to the Moms' group, and not have to worry about him. BB will be in a mixed group, some disabled and some sibs, but a different group from his brother. It's the only way to convince him he's "off-duty". No, we don't ask him to look after his brother, but he tends to think of himself as a third parent, despite our efforts to convince him otherwise.

I think we are starting to feel a bit better, but we still all have the sniffles and feel tired and out of sorts. GL never admits to being tired, sick, or in pain. He just gets irritable and looks for someone (usually BB) to pick a fight with. He wouldn't stop annoying everyone, hitting his brother, or hitting himself, so I gave him his PRN. It didn't seem to help. He insisted that he felt fine (as usual) but I noticed a cough and a sniffle, so I gave him Tylenol and Benadryl. MB had some errands to run, and she took BB so they could both get a break.

GL would lie on the couch, start to close his eyes, then hop up and run to another room. A minute or so later, he would be back on the couch. I put on some music and convinced him to take his shoes off. Then I went to the kitchen and started preparing a batch of soup for the Crock-Pot. In a few minutes, he was asleep. He never sleeps during the day. I know we may pay for it tonight, but I think it's worth it.

P.S. He's up now, but he slept for an hour and a half in the middle of the day. I think he needed it.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Mama Bear found a new job, which she started this week. It's full-time, with benefits, but pays 20% less than her old job, so we are considering where to go from here.

We all have some kind of sinus / allergy thing, with headache, runny nose, irritated eyes, and sore throat. Even GL got it this time. BB ran a fever briefly, but so far, no one else has. We're all taking cold medicine at night, otherwise we keep waking up because we can't breathe. If we take it during the day, we get sleepy, but without it, the pain makes it hard to focus.  Pray this passes quickly.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A phone number you should know

When our family is sick, it’s hardest on Goldilocks. No, he doesn’t catch the worst case of the bug. Quite the opposite. That’s why it’s so hard on him. He doesn’t understand that we are sick and have absolutely no desire to go to the store, beach, or the big library in the next town down the road. When I’m sick, 20 minutes in the car so he can spend 5 minutes in the fancy library is not tops on my list. The last few days our family has been sick. It seems to be an allergy based cold. It starts with allergy symptoms then drains the life out of you one drop at a time. There have been many sneezes, coughs, headaches, and sore throats. Everyone just wants to be left alone. Everyone except Goldilocks! He, on the other hand, has spent three days searching for the cruise director. He wants someone to entertain him every minute of the day. Well, last night I had had enough. I told him he had “no right to be so nasty go to your room and calm down.”
I was not ready for his reply: “I have to be nasty, God said so. You can call him to check, his number is 55-0795!”