Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Team Daniel

Tomorrow morning we have our "Team Daniel" meeting. We are going to talk about the move to middle school, his classes, his support and general planning. I usually attend these meetings without my husband, but I felt the need to call him in to this one. I am a bit concerned about his support for next year and what's being planned. I'm not sure if I even have reason for being concerned or if I'm just being a worry wort because it is such a big move next year. But either way I think it's best to have a discussion about it now, before decisions have been reached than to wait until after and say we disagree. And for some reason, I think we'd disagree. . . so for now I'm running things over in my head deciding what should be said. Too bad my head is pounding from my more and more frequent migraines. It's hard for me to think clearly with the headaches I've been getting. Although I went to the Dr. today and got prescriptions for two different drugs to help with the relief. I'm hoping that helps. I need a clear head. The transitions in our school district are really hard on our kids and we are all working to make it as easy as possible. I'll update tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm planning and making some nurturing food for the soul.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tidy it up, Tidy it up

As I mentioned Daniel is getting into this cleaning thing. We had company all weekend and at one point Daniel was cleaning up the toys in the family room. When I remarked to my cousin that possibly Daniel is getting a (bit) obsessive, her comment was, "ahem, I wonder where he gets THAT from". I know you can't see the gesture she made with her eyes toward me. . . and I know I can be a (bit) ahem, obsessive myself. I would like to know, where is the line between being neat and well, ocd? I am not schooled in this area and am really wondering if any of you moms out there can tell me.

I think I can let it go. . . sometimes. Sometimes I can't. Daniel can't stand anything out in our family room or the kitchen. Neither can I. This is what he has gotten used to, so now when there are toys out in the FR he immediately starts perseverating that they need to be put away. I assure him that once people are actually finished with them, they will be. This weekend our visitors left our some things and Daniel just went behind and put them back where they belong. If his brother makes himself a bowl of cereal and eats it is the FR and leaves it there (usually the case) Daniel who GAGS at the cite of cereal or anywhere cereal has been, will carry the bowl to the sink in the kitchen while trying not to puke and make yet another mess. He would rather move the bowl and gag, than leave it there. The (seemingly) easy answer is to get the BROTHER to move it, but that happens 10% of the time. I'm working on it though.
Between the visitors and the party Sunday, I've been staying on top of things. Then today I had the contractor coming over who gutted my kitchen a year and a half ago. He was coming to take pictures for his business to show his work. So yet again this morning I was cleaning the kitchen. Of course that winter sun was shining bright which will show any dust on the floor or the windows, so I was maybe, well, obsessing just a wee tiny bit. But c'mon, these pictures are going to be shown to his prospective clients for years. Do I really want there to be fingerprints on my microwave?? I remember looking at the pictures when I was deciding on which contractor to use and went through saying things, like, why did they keep that old dishwasher, why did they do this, why did they do that. It makes me crazy to think someone might be doing that to MY kitchen. . . but I digress.

Daniel came in the kitchen and said, "you're cleaning the kitchen, ahhhhh I love that". He said with such happy satisfaction. The "mop" was sitting there. It isn't actually a mop, I don't know what you call it, I put these washable pads on them to clean my hardwood floors. He said, "can I mop for you?" and proceeded to run around the kitchen with the "mop" singing his favorite Bear in the Big Blue house song, c'mon everybody let's clean up the house, LET'S GO". etc etc. I looked everywhere on line and can't find this video? What's up with that?
When we finished, he sat down with a look of comfort and said, "I love the house clean, can you smell those cleaners .. . ahhhhhh". I have to say, I totally totally agree Daniel. It makes me happy. I get a bit angry myself when things are junky and it really bothers me visually. So the question is, is this the autism, ocd, or just a desire for neatness? Am I making it worse? Or am I helping him learn how to be responsible and clean up after himself and take care of his surroundings? Where is the line? Let's hear it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

And the Oscar goes to. . . .

I am in my post Oscar fog right now. I stayed up until 1:00 am last night cleaning up after my low key party. This is my 3rd year having a few of the ladies from my neighborhood over to watch the Oscars. We have a neighborhood thing going on where the guys play poker once a month and the ladies try to get out once a month. That doesn't really happen, but we try. As my turn to plan I started having these 7 women over to watch the Oscars with me. I always watched it on my own, and it's a lot more fun to share it with others. Plus I threw in a prize for guessing the most awards correctly. It makes those "best sound mixing" awards a lot more interesting when you throw in a little friendly competition.

Besides getting ready for this, I had my cousin's family here all weekend then went to the MSU basketball game on Sunday afternoon. I'm tired and I feel that scratchiness in my throat that may be an indication of my first illness of this long cold winter. I have a busy week and am thinking I won't be at full strength. I know, enough whining I'm a lucky girl to have all of this on my plate!

In my rush getting home from the basketball game I had an hour and a half to get the rest of my gathering together. Of late Daniel has been hanging around me a lot in the kitchen. He loves to watch me washing dishes and cleaning up. I have been asking him to do a few things here and there because I felt that maybe he wanted to help, but wasn't asking. It can be confusing with Daniel because his verbal nature makes you think he can just ask for something or tell you his needs and sometimes he just doesn't know how to do that. You have to read him.

Yesterday, while I was in preparation, Daniel was again at my heels. A bottle of Windex was sitting on the counter, so I asked him to clean the table. He sprayed it down and wiped it all clean. It looked pretty good. Then the vacuum was sitting in the family room right off of the kitchen. I thought, what the heck, I asked him to vacuum the f.r. He did. I went in and showed him a few areas to go over again, and he did, without getting mad at me. (Note: he can get upset when you try to show him something because he feels the need to do everything perfectly. So pointing things out like this usually means he didn't do it perfect) Meanwhile I was getting the food and drinks ready. We watch the show in the basement because we have a big screen TV and a wonderfully huge, comfortable sectional in a nicely finished basement. But that makes for a lot of trips up and down the stairs. I kept putting things on the island and Daniel would pick things up and say, "where do I put it"? I'd tell him and HE'D DO IT. It was amazing. AND extremely helpful. I don't think I would have finished on time had he not done that. He ran up and down the stairs a LOT putting things in place for me.

For a while now we have been giving him small jobs and using a job chart. He LOVES the job chart. We started simple. Brushing his teeth twice a day is on there, along with making his bed every day. This is NOT something he did regularly before the chart, but now he does. We also have things he is working on in speech. Like "Do something nice for someone". I realize that isn't a traditional "job", but with Daniel he will be much more likely to do something if you write it down. Maybe everyone of us should write down every day to, "do something nice for someone", it might be a lot nicer world?! I think after all of the wonderful things he did yesterday I'm going to have to add on to that chart. We go over it at the end of the day and check off all of the things he accomplished. It is a wonderful POSITIVE (there's that word again) way to end the day.
When all was said and done, things were ready when the guests arrived. I didn't get that red carpet out that I bought last year, because I ran out of time. But for all intensive purposes, the things that should have been done, were done. Daniel was really proud of himself for being so helpful, I was thrilled to have him with me and to be able to give him lots of positive reinforcement with compliments of his good work. Plus Daniel is learning things he needs to do if that day ever comes when he is able to go out on his own. Cleaning up, vacuuming, and really, socializing too. I think the Oscar should really go to . . . Daniel ok and maybe my husband who needed to work, but let me go to the basketball game then have my party.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


At the end of last summer I signed up for facebook. I love facebook. It is a bit embarrassing how much time I spend on it. But it has really reconnected me with a lot of my family members and I have become friends with a few people from my community that I may not have pre facebook. It can be a wonderful connector. It can also suck the time right out of your life.

One of the blogs I regularly read is Heather is an incredibly funny woman and makes her living by her blog. I admire that. Her husband also works with her and it is their families joint venture. It is one of only a few blogs that I read that isn't related to autism and I look forward to her posts. I recently read she is one of the top 35 blogs. Impressive. The link between the first two paragraphs is that on facebook there have been a lot of "lists" going around. I always do them. You fill them out and tag your friends. I think they are fun and informative. Heather put one on her blog about her partner, Jon. She suggested we, her readers, do the same, why not? I thought it might be nice for people to get a bit of a clue about MY partner in this crazy life. Even though I am the blogger, he is just as much a part of this crazy world of autism as I am. Usually, I try not to talk about him too much, but I'm throwing that out the window. This will also show that he never actually even reads my blog because he won't even mention this. . .

What are your middle names? My middle name is Marie. Todd's middle name is James. In our families James always fit's in there somewhere.

How long have you been together? You know it's been a long time when you have to stop and think and count. I always thought people were nuts when they had to do that and here I am. Lord help me when I forget what year we were married. But to answer the question, married 19 years. Dated for 5 before that. With only one small break. But we won't talk about that. . .

How long did you know each other before you started dating? Maybe a year or so. We went to the same high school and I didn't really know who he was for most of it. It wasn't until he was in my Chemistry class and I got to know him. Let's just say, Chemistry is not my thing. We weren't dating then, and I would get my bunson burner started and then say, "Toooooddd, now what?" Total foreshadowing for the rest of his life.

Who asked whom out? He called me and after a, like, 2 hour great conversation asked me out and I said no. I am sort of just remembering this. I was dating someone else. So I was doing the right thing. Good thing his ego is not bruised so easily. But I did end up breaking up with the other guy to go out with Todd.

How old are each of you? I am 41 and he is 40, but only for one more month. Then he'll be 41 like me. I just said the other day, "then we'll be the same age". He very adamantly reminded me that we will NEVER be the same age, and that I will ALWAYS be older. Whatever. I have no grey hair. Take THAT Todd.

Whose siblings do you see the most? Considering I have none, his. He has one brother. If you consider my cousin Rebecca my sister (which I do) we see her more.

Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple? Well, it has to be the autism. Sometimes we just don't see eye to eye on how to handle a situation. Or we interpret what's going on with Daniel differently. I, of course, am always right and as soon as he realizes that, things will go much smoother.

Did you go to the same school? We went to the same high school and college. I graduated high school in 1985 he in 1986. We both went to MSU and he graduated on time in June 1990, I was two terms over and graduated in March 1990. It should be noted that I worked all through the school year and he didn't. But the delayed graduation may possibly have a direct correlation with the amount of time spent in bars.

Are you from the same home town? We are both from Grand Rapids MI although he didn't always live there. He moved there in something like 6th grade.

Who is smarter? What a loaded question. But OK. Todd is much smarter than me. or is it I? When it comes to remembering information he remembers names REALLY well and I don't AT ALL. So if I've met you, or even spent a year in a class with you or even spent a whole weekend together, and I don't remember your name. I apologize. I remember numbers, so if you tell me your Visa number, I might remember that. Which Todd does not at all. Although he THINKS he does which can be really annoying because he is always sure he is right.

Who is the most sensitive? Why do you ask?? Did he say something??

Where do you eat out most as a couple? We don't usually. But we would either go to Mitchell's Fish Market, or El Azteco a staple in downtown East Lansing.

Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple? Puerto Vallarta or St John, which is further?

Who has the craziest exes? We've been together for 24 years? Who remembers exes? Oh he probably does, see the earlier question.

Who has the worst temper? Neither one of us has much of a temper, but he is more likely to snap than I am.

Who does the cooking? Let's just say that a few months ago Todd made chili for a poker party he was having and Zachary was laughing HYSTERICALLY at the image of Todd in the kitchen.

Who is more stubborn? This is tough, I'd say him. It stems from the "always being right" thing. He would never give in and say OK. Well he would, but he would roll his eyes and smirk and say "o.k." nodding his head in that super condescending way that sends me into orbit.

Who hogs the bed? Neither of us. We have a King size bed so we don't have these issues.

Who wakes up earlier? This is the easiest question I've ever had. Todd. Hands down. On the weekend we used to take turns getting up in the a.m. with the kids. On the day it was my turn to get up with them, I'd get up and start making breakfast and 10 minutes later Todd would get up. It drove me nuts. On the other day, I'd sleep for hours. We don't do that anymore.

Where was your first date? I have NO IDEA. I don't remember if we "went out" before the homecoming dance that year. I was 17! Be we did go to homecoming together. awwwww. Isn't that cute?

Who is more jealous? I don't think either of us is jealous. We are very secure in our relationship.

How long did it take to get serious? Um, we were 16 and 17. So a while.

Who eats more? We really eat about the same amount. But I don't share my food, so if he wants more, he's not getting it off of my plate.

Who does the laundry? ME. His excuse is that I used to have a complicated system of using different detergents with different clothes. I don't do that anymore, so the excuse is gone. He acts like he is unable, physically, to do the laundry. He'll stand in front of the machine and look at it with a blank stare and say, "what do I do?" Let me note that recently, my civil engineering husband, took the ENTIRE washing machine apart, fixed it for $11 (while I was waiting with bated breath to run out and go buy a front loader) then put it back together. And he acts like he can't start a load of laundry?

Who's better with the computer? Are you kidding me? He LOVES it when I call him at work and tell him the computer isn't working and ask him what to do! He can't actually SEE the computer you understand, but I still ask him how to fix it. Guess what, sometimes he does!

Who drives when you are together? Todd. Almost all the time. If I do, he spends the whole time, muttering "oh my God" under his breath and stepping on the imaginary break on that side of the car. Or saying things like "you can't even see their bumper anymore, slow down." what a wimp.

Feel free to answer some or all of the same questions about your significant other in the comments, or leave a link to your website if you prefer answering there.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Can you hear it?? Da da, da da, dat dat dat dat. The "Jaws" music. I hear it in my head. There is something out there, looming in the distance. Waiting. As it gets closer, the music speeds up, my anxiety's rise. As usual, I look in control and calm. But I can feel it getting closer to me. It's Daniel's transition to, gulp, middle school. Yup. Next year is 7th grade. In our district the 7th and 8th graders are all together. There is only one middle school and they are all there. And I'll be sending Daniel there. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

We already know he'll have a different para pro. I'm not even sure how that will look. The Special Ed Director has hinted things might be "different". (Note to self, I need to call her). My transition IEP is set for March 25. I have set up a special tour at the middle school for my husband and I. There is a day that is set up for a tour for all parents, but it's after our IEP. I already sent the email requesting a special tour. I have even gotten a response! I need a "visual" to be able to have intelligent conversation for my IEP. While on the tour we will be able to chat with the resource teacher.

I'm getting ready. I'm planning. I'm thinking about what he'll need, constantly. I need to start making a list. I can feel it closing in on me. Da da, da da. . . Right now I'm safe in a boat rocking softly in the water out in the middle of the vast ocean. I just hope that giant shark doesn't jump out of the water and pull me in.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Swimming Update

Daniel did indeed give Nikki a Valentine. He filled it out before we went into swimming. When we walked in he said, "Happy Valentines Day Nikki, I brought you a Valentine." She was so sweet about it as well as completely touched and overwhelmed. Every girl around her all said "ohhhhhhhhhhhh that's so sweet".

After swimming when we were waiting (and waiting and waiting) for Daniel to appear from the locker room we were chatting and she actually said, "I can't believe he remembered my name so fast". My response was only, "yea, well, I'm pretty sure he likes you, a lot, he remembers names of people he likes, a lot." She was so excited. Yup. He's won over yet another girl, in just 2 hours of instruction. He is too sweet. I think it's going to be a great semester.

Valentines Day

Due to the fact that tomorrow is the first day of "winter break", today is the day that both boys have their big Valentine's Day parties. For some reason this has caused quite a stir of anticipation from both of my boys. It is such a flurry of activity for Valentines day. I have been trying to recall if I felt the same way in elementary school and I can't seem to pull up any memories. I know we gave out the tiny folded up valentines to all the kids in the class, but I don't remember a "party". There must have been one, but something makes me think that in these times of commercialism they are a bit more elaborate than the 70's.

Daniel had 54, count 'em, 54 Valentines to address last night. We waited until the night before only because a math test was the day before and I thought that maybe, just maybe, his time would be better spent doing math homework than addressing valentines. I honestly thought he'd never do it all. That is a lot for him. He has a bit of a hard time with his writing. I planned to have him start and then I'd finish them for him. But last night, after we popped the brownies in the oven that he volunteered to bring into the party, we sat down with his list. His class is one of two classes that team teaches. They break into different groups for different areas, and the teachers move fluidly between classes. It's a good set up and, I think, it meets the needs of more of the students. BUT since they work together so often they do parties etc as one. Therefore, 54 Valentines. Daniel sat down and POWERED through them. He wrote the name under To: signed Daniel under "from", checked the name off of his list. I've never seen him so determined! Then he wanted to "decorate" the receptacle for the soon to be delivered valentines. Here he is working diligently:

We had a great time. He was so proud of his work! When he finished he leaned over me, hugged me (a real hug) and said, "I love you mom". Oh my heart just melted typing it. What an incredible blessing to have him able to express that to me.

Zachary, of course, my 9 year old who is a better planner than most adults I know, had his valentines done Monday. In a bag, waiting to be carried out the door, 3 days early. With no prompting from me. On a side note if he and I have one more 10 minute conversation in the morning about the advantages of which coat or combination of coats he should wear to get him through the day, I just may snap. He talks through it, of layering this with that, which gloves would be best, boots/shoes. Clearly the child has too many options. But I digress.

Daniel woke up ready to go today!! I mean what a day, band, parties then SWIMMING. Amazingly, he was telling Todd about swimming with Nikki today. Oh, he remembers her name! Last semester it took him 6 weeks to remember his coaches name and that was with me asking him the whole way there every week, "what's your coaches name? What are you going to say to her?" Then I'd say, "what's her name?" and he'd look at me blankly. Isn't it amazing that he would remember the name of the hot college girl?? My my, isn't the brain interesting? Although I clearly remember Tyson Beckford's name, but not 99% of the people my husband works with. . .

. . . . oh sorry I'm a bit distracted now. Tyson is the only reason that I am eagerly anticipating season 2 of "Make me a Super Model".

I have to say, I have now completely forgotten where I was going with this.

Todd did ask Daniel if Nikki was cute to which he replied "oh yes". We still haven't had that talk. How do you talk to a child about these things when their capacity for understanding is at such a lower level, yet their bodies are obviously developing and responding to puberty? I am at a bit of a loss. If anyone has any advice, I'd be willing to listen.

I think I'll have Daniel give Nikki a valentine. He would enjoy it. I'm sure she would too. I've found that the college students have nostalgia for things like tiny folded valentines with heart shaped suckers attached. They are still close enough to their childhood to remember it better than myself. There are times when I think it is a whole lot of work, forced on us by marketing geniuses thinking of ways to up their February revenue. But now that the work is behind me and I think of Daniel hugging and expressing his love for me, for Zachary taking joy in picking just the right valentine for each classmate, it makes me smile and be thankful. Now if Tyson Beckford would just show up at my door with freshly baked brownies that give you 6 pack abs. . . but that just may be asking for a bit too much.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Savant Skills

I have been putting some thought and discussion into savant skills for many reasons. First a friend of mine asked me to read "Al Capone Does my Shirts". (OK I think that's the title and this just goes to show my complete lack of memory for titles and names.) She is a graduate student at our local Big Ten University and the book is used as a discussion in the class she is teaching. While there are parts of the book that I really liked which included how families of workers on Alcatraz lived there, out of convenience, in the 1930's. I found that part interesting. But in terms of a book to give information about autism, it is not necessarily one I'd recommend. The book has brought some interesting conversation between said friend and I. She wanted my perspective of the book from a parent of a child with autism's view. It's hard because it's the 1930's so (most) people in the book are not doing what we now think are the correct things to help a child with autism. In my reading this for entertainment value only, I understand that. For a bunch of college age students who don't know much about autism, this could be a problem.

The character in the book, Natalie, is autistic in 1935, so of course no one realizes this is autism and as I mentioned her family lives on Alcatraz. She is a savant, and therefore my first negative of the book. It is so stereotypical it annoyed me. I did, however, end up really liking all of the kids in the book, even Piper the bratty girl in charge of all, even her father. I just felt sorry for the mother of Natalie, where most people, I assume, wouldn't like her or just thought she was awful for some of the ways she handled her daughter. I really feel that it being 1935 and not having any idea what the heck was going on with her daughter, she was doing the best that she could, and that's all any of us can do. So I don't judge this character in a book, and in my life I have moved on past judging people. We all have our own reasons for the decisions we make. Even if I don't understand it, or it isn't the choice that I would make, I can now respect their outlook. This is something I would have, I am certain, never achieved had I not been down this road of autism. It is something that, I think, makes me a much better person, and a better friend.

My fellow blogger, Mama Mara, suggested that this reverse memory of Daniel's that I have discussed in two previous blogs, may be some sort of savant skill. Which prompted me to do what I usually do in this situation, I "googled it". I haven't come up with much yet, but I did find the following paragraph in an article from the Wisconsin Medical Society.

Other skills that have been reported less often include: prodigious language (poly-glot) facility; unusual sensory discrimination in smell, touch, or vision, including synesthesia; perfect appreciation of passing time without benefit of a clock; and outstanding knowledge in specific fields such as neurophysiology, statistics, or navigation14. In Rimland's sample of 543 children with special skills, musical ability was the most frequently reported skill, followed by memory, art, pseudoverbal abilities, mathematics, maps and directions, coordination, calendar calculating, and extrasensory perception.8

To me most of these do not seem like savant skills but "autistic characteristics". Maybe they are on a different level than what I am thinking. But doesn't pretty much every autistic have "unusual sensory discrimination?" The one that got me in this was "Perfect appreciation of passing of time without benefit of a clock". I have not heard this framed in this manner and it is a huge thing in our house. For us it can be very inconvenient! No matter where we are, with or without a clock, at 12:25, "it's lunchtime". That is his lunch time at school (this year, it will change year to year if his lunch changes and he'll know the exact time). But if you are out doing errands, heaven forbid if it's 12:25 and lunch isn't there. He also is very good with navigation as noted and can tell you how to get anywhere, (that he's been before) and of course gets annoyed if you change it. For instance, I am stuck at a light and can't turn left, so I go straight to cut through a neighborhood, he gets very upset with me. I have however, for the most part managed to turn it into a joke and say that "I'm going the sneaky way" and we sneak sneak around until we end up on the correct straight and narrow path, for my little Pinocchio.

We have discussed musical ability. He doesn't seem to be any sort of genius, but he does have perfect pitch, can listen to a symphony and pick out which instrument is playing by ear and has picked up his baritone with some ease, seemingly playing the music "by ear". I have also on more than one occasion been CERTAIN he has esp. When this was referenced above it took me by surprise. I would normally never put that out there as that sounds really "crazy". But there it is in the article. A lot of people don't even believe in esp, but I, in fact, do. I swear there have been times that I am SURE Daniel has known exactly what I'm thinking in a very, Twilight Zone sort of way. It seems so ridiculous, I usually put it out of my mind. But think about it. He wouldn't realize that not everyone can do this, sort of like his repeating backwards. The brain is very mysterious and we know their brains function differently, so why not esp is some cases?

I just don't see some of the skills in this article as being savant. Am I missing something? If Daniel was playing his music backwards, that would be a savant skill. He doesn't do the crazy math thing or know that May 11, 1985 was a Thursday (I'm making that up). These are what I think of as savant skills. Or the kid in "Born on a Blue Day" who sees numbers in color. Amazing.

None of it really matters. He is who he is. I love who he is. I really don't think (and I get this question often) that I'd change who he is. The magic question of "if you could make him a nt (neuro typical) today, would you?" That is difficult, because as a mother, he wouldn't be Daniel if he was nt. Also as a mother, there are a lot of things that would be a whole lot less frustrating for him if he were nt. Part of me would love to help him by taking that frustration away, but then again, wouldn't he have a whole set of new issues to deal with? I really hate that question, although it is thought provoking. Doesn't the thought of being able to change him into a neuro typical kid judging who he is? Who he will become? As I said, I'm past that. I'm not judging. If we as parents can't accept our kids for who they are, how do we expect the general population to? It was a long painful road to get to this non-judgemental place. I've worked very hard to get here. I've been told I make it look easy. Here's a shocker, it isn't easy. But I'm here and I'm looking forward to all of the possibilities ahead for Daniel, savant skills or not.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A New Semester

Yesterday was the beginning of spring semester swim. Daniel started swimming with the MSU Department of Kinesiology when he was six years old. For more information about this program, click here. He is twelve now. I can't believe it's been that long. It's one of those things that becomes a part of your routine and it's just always there.

He loves swimming. LOVES swimming. He learned to swim independently in this class about the 3rd or 4th semester into it. It is set up like a lab for a Kinesiology class. You need to have some sort of disability to be enrolled. It can be physical or otherwise. You get a college student all to yourself. As with any time you are dealing with, ya know, people. That can be a good or a bad thing. If you get a student who is scared out of their mind to be in a pool once a week with a child with a disability, or worse yet, just doesn't want to be there. It might not work out. If you get a student who cannot, cannot stop talking continuously and doesn't know when to back off it may not go well. Or you can get the match made in heaven and have a blissful semester. You never know. But one thing is for sure. Either way both parties, Daniel and his MSU student, will learn a lot.

Each semester I get a bit nervous about who we will "get". Each time we fill out an information sheet to give the new coach "need to know" information. My biggest need to know is always. DON'T TALK TOO MUCH. Stay on point. The language overwhelms him and he'll get frustrated not understanding you. He appears to understand and doesn't always. For people who chit chat all the time, this can be hard. And since the switch to girls being his coaches, this has been more of a challenge. Please don't complain to me that that is sexist. I have done my own personal study over six years and girls talk more. It's a fact. And since he has learned to independently navigate the locker room, he has been getting girls assigned to him.

The MSU students are supposed to call you ahead of time and ask questions and introduce themselves. This is something that the girls excel at compared to the guys. Most guys have completely ignored this part of the procedure. They seem to have some sort of aversion to the phone. Maybe college guys just don't call people?! That would explain a lot. But I digress. Our "girl" this semester is Nikki. She called on Tuesday to say hi. Sweet girl. Really sweet. But as soon as she said "hi". I cringed. She has a really high squeaky voice. Voices can really get under Daniel's skin. We chatted. She seemed good. She's a senior, graduating in May. Kinesiology major. It's all good. She asked if she should call Daniel directly. We've been working on phone skills, so I said ok, call back at 5:00. Which she did. Put another mark in the positive column under "does what she says she'll do". I also wanted to see if Daniel would go right through the ceiling talking to her. He did not. That was good. But I was still worried.

I had thought about it, for a few days, then on Thursday, which is Daniel's swim day, I said to my husband. "I'm really worried about this, I hope her voice doesn't irritate him". Then something I thought I'd never say, "I really hope she's a cute girl, then it won't matter." Which sounds awful right? But truth be told, he is in puberty. Last semester his coach was perfectly "nice" (and you know what that means when you're described as nice), but one day she couldn't swim and a different girl took over who was gorgeous. I've never seen him so excited! It was way too funny. It took me by surprise at the time. But on hour in the pool with a gorgeous college student, he thought he'd struck gold!

Thursday came, we went to swimming. When we walked in the professor had her list, saw Daniel and called out for Nikki. She stepped forward and said "hi Daniel nice to meet you!" Daniel YELLED out very enthusiastically, "Hi Nikki I'm so excited to swim with you!" Yup, she's a cutie. Thank goodness!

He spent the hour singing, playing, doing laps, by the end, he was touching her arm and giggling. Hmmm. Looks like we need to have some conversations this semester?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Christmas Before Night The Twas

Periodically I have been testing this talking backwards "skill" that I referred to in a December post titled Secret Abilities. So far Daniel is at 100% accuracy. The latest examples are, the other night he was reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas". When he finished he put it back on his bookshelf, (I'm assuming between the exact two books that it was in between before) brushed his teeth and finished his exact routine that he does every single day of his life.

When he returned to his room I said the opening to the book up until "not even a mouse". (This happens to be a book that at about age 3 I used to recite. . . who says genetics aren't at play here?) I then said, "Daniel, can you do that backwards?" He then repeated the whole paragraph backwards like it was no problem at all.

I relayed this to my husband last night who was insisting that it would only be with certain books or poems he has read millions of times and could see visually then "simply read backwards". I am insisting that even if you could see it, it is still really difficult to read it backwards. This of course sparked a debate, even though we were close to saying the exact same thing. This, in my house, is not unusual. His room mates in college called us "the Bickersons". It's not really an argument, but we are both pretty sure we are ALWAYS right. I have no idea how this has turned into almost 20 years of successful marriage.

So to prove me wrong, of course, he went to Daniel's room and read a passage from the book "Curious George Flies a Kite". Daniel had just been reading it (I think). Todd then asked him to say it backwards. With which Daniel complied. Just to be pesky Todd said, "that was great, but you forgot two words". Then, much to Todd's amazement, Daniel went back, and corrected the spot where he had left off two words.

Pause for effect

This was not a book that my husband thought Daniel would be able to show this skill. So now we are wondering if it's basically anything he has seen, maybe even heard. Any thoughts internet? And Todd, if you read this, please don't point out to me what I got wrong in this story. I will just insist that my version is the correct one. Don't waste our time, we'll both insist we are in the right.

(By the way, just putting that title in I had to keep saying the phrase over and over to type each word, this is apparently not a gift that I have.)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Taste of Success

Math. This word can bring smiles to parents of kids on the spectrum, or it can make you cringe. Math doesn't seem to come easy to Daniel, but it is one of two subjects in school that he does not do modified versions of the curriculum. For those of you who aren't familiar, there is accommodated and modified curriculum's. Accommodated means that they are learning the same concepts, and basically doing the same work. There are just some adjustments to help due to their disability. It could be things like getting more time during a test or a few extra days before taking the test. It may be doing half of the number of problems. Things like that. Modified means that they are not doing the same work. Something about the curriculum's requirements are not being met.

For Daniel, writing, social studies, reading, and science are all modified now. Social studies was the first to go. It is too heavily language based for him. Then came, the rest one after another. This started in about 4th grade. He still does spelling, technology (shocking!) and math as accommodated. He is very strong in spelling. Always has been. He constantly asks me how to spell things and it drives me crazy because he KNOWS how to spell it, he just wants ME to spell it. Why, I do not know. He loves the way that letters sound and as I've mentioned he loves letters. I just think he enjoys hearing words spelled out. He'll look at you with anticipation waiting for the letters to spill off of your tongue. If I'm being a good sport, I'll spell it. If I'm not I'll say, "you spell it". Either way. It will get spelled!

But, math. Math has been a lot of work. He learned touch math in elementary school. I would say it wasn't until about 3rd grade that he really started even doing this sort of work. Before then it was all behavior issues. Let's just say he had some catching up to do. We work our tails off for math. It really depends on the unit on how much he learns.

This year is 6th grade. The math that they do was not long ago, 7th grade work. It all gets pushed down further and further. Most of his tests this year have scored in the high 50% range. While that seems low, his wonderful wonderful teachers continue to say, "He's learning more than 50% of the work!!". How's THAT for a positive attitude? They are gems, for certain. My feeling is that he is probably learning even more than that because test taking is not something I would rank very high on his list of achievements. His two report card marking periods thus far have him passing once you put in all of his homework etc. Last year this was really difficult for me. That was the year that "real grades" started in our district. For a perfectionist like myself seeing a D on a report card is a bit jarring. I have, like usual, gotten over it. You just HAVE to. (If you want to keep your sanity that is) I am actually starting to believe the, "look how much he's learning" mantra. I don't know if this sounds like a "bad mom" but I am surprised at how much he HAS learned. I wouldn't have thought it possible.

Now if you've been reading me long enough you have to know that something "happened" right?? Well it did. Last week he had his latest math test. The unit was adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions. It even included algebra of solving equations, with fractions. Guess what he got on the test. Go ahead. A friggin' 91%!!!!!! Can you believe that? I knew he knew this stuff, but 91%? I've felt equally as confident before only to see a 60%. It's amazing. I'm so happy for him! OK, I'm happy for me too. I'm the "math" person in our house. Which in and of itself is funny, because my husband is an engineer. I'm no slouch with math, but he's an engineer. I am just a bit better at breaking it down for Daniel's understanding. I have to admit to you, my dear internet, that the first thing I thought when I saw that score was, "YES! This will help pull up his grade for the whole marking period!" So, maybe, I haven't moved on TOTALLY from dealing with the low grades. I'm entirely proud of all he does achieve and learn. No matter what. I mean that 100%. But oh, it was a sweet sweet moment to see what he had achieved.