Tag Archive: Asperger’s


Conversations in Target

A conversation at Target.

Setting: My three kids and I are at Target for the ritual roadtrip snack buying before we head out on our long road trip. They each pick two things they want in the snack bin. We’re walking down the pertinent aisles, perusing the options when Pieces declares that he wants a certain colorful cereal.

Me: “No. I’m not even sure there is any actual food in that cereal.”

Chi: “How can there not be food in food?”

Me: “It’s so highly processed as to cease being food becoming, instead. a food-like product.”

Chi: **looks thoughtful**

Me, probably giving entirely too much information to little kids as usual: “I read an article recently about how all the food dyes in that food have been banned in most other nations since they have been linked to cancer, ADHD, autism…”

Chi: “OH, I already have autism.” His tone suggesting that it was safe for him to eat such things.

It’s the little things.

Chi was totally unable to self regulate and had regular meltdowns and constant stimming when he was at public school, but since we started homeschooling, not only has the stimming diminished, but the melt downs are almost COMPLETELY nonexistent.

And he has started self regulating.

I took him to Target (which has always been a top way to bring on the meltdowns (the lights are so bright AND LOUD, there are some many people and things AND THEY ARE LOUD, AHHHHHHH!) and events transpired in such a way that the kids were unable to get the items we had gone to the store to get (read: earned prizes for excellent, consistent behavior). Instead of melting down, as he would normally do, over unexpected happenings, I watched him walk very stiffly with a look of intense concentration on his face. When I asked what was going on, he said, “I can feel my body want to stop and my mouth want to squeak, but I’m making it not do that.” I was amazed.

When he meltsdown? My Chi isn’t there anymore. The Monster has taken his place and the Monster does not communicate or hear me or anything. Chi was beating that Monster. Now, MAYBE this is because he’s getting older (almost 11) but I really think the difference is that at homeschool, he isn’t staying overstimulated a majority of his time awake. As such, he is better able to read what his body is doing and learn to stop or cope with what ever reaction he is having.

See? I CAN enjoy the unexpected, and this is one of my favorites.

Last night Hubs asked me if I thought Chi would ever change. I turn and observe the following:

Chi is “walking” on the balls of his feet squatted down so that his butt is mere inches from the floor and his miles of leg are folded up so that his knees are pressed into his chest. He is wearing a long sleeve shirt and has pulled his hands up into the sleeves and spread them out to make a kind of oval shape in the fabric.  He is pressing these fabric covered hands into the floor in front of him as he zooms around as fast as he can, making but one of his deep and vast repertoire of noises. He notices me watching him and says, “I’m a level 2 vacuum cleaner.”

Hubs taking all this in right along with me, says, “You might need upgrades.”

I turn back to Hubs, amused, and say, “No. No, I don’t think he’ll ever change.”

Chi in motion.

Ten years ago, I birthed a baby boy. He was a difficult baby, if exceptionally cute. He seemed very unhappy with his lot. He cried a lot. When he wasn’t crying he was staring out at the world through giant blue eyes that grabbed your attention and held it. At about three weeks old, he started crying every evening for hours on end. Most people told me this was colic or gas, but I didn’t buy that then and I don’t buy it now. I discovered, by sheer force of intuition, that his crying was less severe and lasted for a shorter period of time if I turned out almost all the lights, and made my apartment as silent as possible after the dinner-time feeding. I also learned that keeping his day dim and quiet helped with the nighttime crying jags.

As he got older and he developed far beyond his age, for the most part, (commando crawling by 4.5 months, pulling up by 5 months, cruising by 6 and walking by 9), he got happier. The more he was able to move the more smiles wreathed his face. When he started cruising, he would circle the room over and over and over again. Once he started walking, he always walked on his toes and would run as fast as he could. This began the day after he took his first steps out into the room. When he became more proficient at both walking and running, he would slam into things on purpose and spin and spin and spin without getting dizzy.

As he began his tactile and oral explorations, I noticed that he never touched anything with his hands first. He always touched things with his feet, played with things with his feet. I have record of this phenomenon as early as 10 weeks old.

As he got older, instead of falling less, he fell more. He would fall right out of chair at the dinner table even when sitting directly on his behind. His movement grew more, not less, awkward with time and maturation.

Whenever we would go out, he would fall into screaming fits for no reason that I could see. He wasn’t worried about not getting something he wanted, he just seemed extremely distressed. If the schedule was off by the barest fraction of a minute, he would fall apart. If something was a surprise, if plans changed last minute, if a playground wasn’t exactly as he’d expected, he would melt into a limp little ball of Chi. (This still happens today, by the way.) He isn’t a spoiled brat. He knows that no means no and I don’t do negotiations. Still, these things happen.

**note: If you see one of those parents with the screaming kid who seems much to old to be throwing a temper tantrum, consider for a moment that they may have an autistic child, or simply a child with SPD or ADhD that cannot process the sheer sensory overload that occurs at places like grocery stores and the mall**

Once he started public school things seemed to progress in a backward sort of direction almost immediately. He became uncontrollable and completely over-stimulated at all times. I had not had him assessed before public school, because I had, somehow, always figured out how to best deal with him without professional help, but school introduced a whole lot of outside influences that I had no way to control.

Fast-forward to this year. (You can read about our struggles through public school elsewhere on this blog just look under Educational Experiences in the Categories section. I’ve pretty well documented things since he was in the second grade (when things when from awful to untenable).) We started homeschooling and we’ve had our bumps along the way, but one thing stands out as a bright shiny beacon of AWESOME. Chi is better.

Chi is flourishing. He’s not cured, if there is such a thing, if I would even seek it out if there were, but he loves homeschool. He looks forward to it. He pays attention, in his way, and does the work and cooperates. We’ve been slowly working toward him doing more and more of the work himself without me having to walk him through everything, and he hasn’t balked at being asked to write more and more of the answers himself.

He is calmer. He can still meltdown unexpectedly, but it is very far between right now. We keep a schedule still and we stick to it. He knows what to expect and can even deal with things he’s not that excited about without much issue. The only time in the last few months that we’ve had major issues has been when I’ve taken him to the grocery store (or Target or mall). I’ve learned that avoiding those places unless absolutely necessary when Chi is with me is really the best course of action. It makes everyone’s lives a little bit easier.

I can’t tell you how awesome it feels to know that I made a good decision so far as Chi is concerned. I’m so glad that the investment we’ve put  into homeschool  is paying off in such big dividends. It’s priceless, really.

Lamp Post Academy

We just wrapped up our second week of homeschool at Lamp Post Academy and I’ve learned a few things.

    1. Mornings are the best time for school because the kids are more alert and their attention spans seem longer.
    2. Chi has some sort of mental block with doing math problems when they are presented to him in 10 rows of 10.
    3. Pynni is much more advanced in mathematics than Saxon starts out in the First Grade year. Today was day 8 of school and Pynni completed Lesson 26 today. I think she is still beyond a lot of what we’re doing, but Saxon gradually introduces new concepts and spends a lot of time reviewing previous concepts, so when the book started in with addition, I stopped jumping ahead.
    4. Pynni is too far advanced in reading to be taught side by side with Pieces, so I have Pieces stay upstairs, which he hates when Pynni is downstairs with me. I have been able to move Pynni forward by 30 lessons because she knows all her letters and their sounds.
    5. I cannot effectively teach Chi and Pynni math, writing, grammar, and reading simultaneously. For example: I was trying to teach them math at the same time by giving Chi his warm-up worksheet and then doing the lesson of the day with Pynni. Then, while Pynni works on her daily worksheet, I do the daily lesson with Chi. Problem: Chi can’t pay attention when there is too much going on in the room and his noise canceling headphones do not help. With writing and grammar and reading, Chi is too advanced and answering questions based on a narrated passage is something Pynni is just learning to do while Chi can answer those questions with detail and extrapolation in complete sentences.
    6. Pynni was taught to memorize sight words in Kindergarten and is struggling with phonics, but she is actually able to read some Dr. Seuss books only 8 days into school that she couldn’t have read before.
    7. I have come up against the “I-don’t-knows” from Pynni that her subs last year must have encountered. She seems to think it’s cute to get the answers wrong a couple of times before getting the right answer. The REALLY irritating thing is that she KNOWS the right answer. I know this because I hear her mutter the correct answer under her breath before she deliberately, and with a coy little smile, answers incorrectly. INFURIATING.
    8. I’ve instituted a positive reinforcement strategy and award them stickers for completing a subject with no-fuss. They turn their sheets of stickers, which they can potentially fill in a week, for prizes. I’ve had to increase the cost of the prizes, otherwise we’ll go broke.
    9. Right now, due to having to teach each child individually to meet Chi’s needs, I teach Pynni math, grammar, writing and reading before bringing the boys downstairs for joint penmanship. Then Pynni and Pieces go upstairs while I do the same with Chi. I may have to alternate kids every other subject because Pynni gets done with the sitting after math. I’ve tried jumping-jacks after each subject to get her more alert, but it is short lived. I’ve tried giving her gum to stimulate her, but she just smacks it and blows bubbles while planning how to incorrectly answer questions. I just don’t know how Chi will tolerate that.
    10. School time with Pynni can be as short as 45 minutes or as long as 2 hours depending on her cooperation and attitude. This fluid time does not suit Chi at all. I’m planning to start with Chi next week and then transition to Pynni. I let you know how it goes.

      Silly to the MAX

    11. I’m having to take deep breaths and practice “raw spaghetti, cooked spaghetti” to be okay with Chi hopping all over the room during school. He IS learning and paying attention. He IS. (“Have patience, have patience, don’t be in such a hurry…” etc. It’s my constant mantra)
    12. Using white boards, and chalkboards makes Chi much happier than having to put pencil to paper.
    13. Pynni has some sort of visual sensitivity. I’ve noticed some signs of this before, but it hasn’t seemed to effect her in broad terms. These past two weeks she has complained of her eyes hurting and she rubs them during school almost constantly. She rarely looks directly at anything that is in writing. She told me it hurts to look at things so I like it sideways. I’m going to talk to her pediatrician about it and she may not be severe enough to need an OT, but I’m going to need to do some reading on it and see if there is anything I can do to help her. Chi’s OT said that visual and auditory sensitivities are the hardest to address with visual being even harder than auditory so there may not be anything except help her learn to cope.
    14. I really can do the school part of the day at any time if I need to.

Well, it’s been fun and frustrating, eye-opening and challenging. We will add the two new language arts next week and after our break in mid-September we will be adding Biology and History. Should be entertaining at the very least.

OH, HAI THERE! Yes, today was the first day at LPA-HS (that’s Lamp Post Academy Home School for you people “not in the know” (and now you are. (in the know))) and not very auspicious, I must say.

First I hurt my back on Thursday. Not a complete reset, but uber super painful, nonetheless. I went to the Chiropractor and he said, “Well it’s too swollen to adjust so ice it and OD on ibuprofen and muscle relaxers whilst not moving and take your anti-inflamatories and don’t DO anything.” So that I did all day Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This really impeded my last minute school day prep, but what are you gonna do?

ON TOP OF THAT. I was sick all day Saturday and Sunday. And today. Not the kind of sick that causes fevers and shivers. Oh NO, not me. I got ill in the general vicinity of the gut (YOU’RE WELCOME) on top of back pains.

The Best.

And I mean that.

With all due derision.

So the back gets gradually better and I think with an adjustment first thing this morning that I will be better and school will be awesome! ALAS! I pulled my back out in the SHOWER. WASHING MY HAIR. True story.

So I get iced and ibuprofened (no muscle relaxers for parents in charge, I’m afraid) and adjusted. I felt marginally better than before the adjustment, but LOADS better than Thursday so…that’s a plus. Now it’s time for school.

Well, it was the first day. Please keep that in mind.

We did our four subjects. The math was totally chaotic, but we got it done. Chi melted at the sight of the “warm up” sheet which was 100 addition problems. Real simple stuff like 7+5 and 3+4. And, no, I didn’t spring it on him. I’ve shown him what to expect on a couple of occasions. Anyway. He completed 12 of those 100 in 15 minutes all while moaning and chirruping. Well, I guess it’s all new and even with all the prep work, it’s still unfamiliar and still, somehow, unexpected.

Pynni was  a little affronted at her math because it was an “introduction to math” at least the Saxon method, and the first several weeks are all review. We won’t be getting into anything she is unfamiliar with until November, maybe. I think she was sad that it wasn’t hard. She kept looking at me with this incredulous expression on her face when I asked her what month it was and what year it was…couldn’t I see that it was written, by ME, on the page I was pointing to? HA! We may move a little faster in the math for a bit.

Then we did the Writing with Ease part. It was fast, but Chi was really uninterested in writing so he crammed all his words all together in about a .75″ square space (That’s an actual calculation. I measured and multiplied.) and skipped the punctuation altogether. Pynni copied the sentence slowly but precisely, letter for letter, so that all the letters were nicely formed and evenly spaced. There were no individual words to speak of. I had to swallow the laugh that bubbled up at the disparity.

All through that, Pieces was wondering what he could possibly put in his folder. Out loud. Continuously.

So we did penmanship next. It was simple exercises of small pencil markings today and took all of 5 minutes. You can barely tell Chi was holding a pencil in his hand his markings are so light. He flopped and moaned, but finished. Pieces got bored of coloring everything blue in about half a second, but I was able to urge him on to the end. Pynni was last to finish and followed all the instructions exactly.

Then we did reading. Chi is reading Stuart Little first and he was upset by the questions he had to answer at the end of the chapter. So he answered the questions before reading the chapter and then announced that he was done and would read the chapter later. I told him that he was supposed to read and then answer or answer the questions as he read, but he had to read the whole chapter. He did, but he wasn’t happy. Pynni and Pieces did some phonics exercises with me and they enjoyed themselves tremendously.

But in the end? They’ve done nothing but rave about “our doing school” and “learning from Mom.” Chi even sat down and did the lesson work this evening without any issues and worked easily with me to rewrite his reading comp answers legibly and in complete sentences. With me doing the writing, of course.

Chi Cure

Cousins

DJ and Mae are with us for the summer. They are the son and daughter of one of my two brothers, Doodle, and near in age to Chi with DJ and Chi being a year older than Mae. They come to stay with their dad during the summers and I’m lucky enough to get to keep them during the days while Doodle works.

Chi on the left

DJ is five weeks chronologically older than Chi, but he is decades older in maturation. DJ is one of those kids that was born middle-aged, and that is not to say that he can’t be silly and have fun because, lordy, that child has a wicked sense of humor. It just means that he is mind-bogglingly responsible and has insight that blows my socks off.

COOOOOKEEEEEES

This may not come as a surprise, but Chi has difficulties with daily things that most folks find just ho-hum. Most kids find his inability to cope and/or function to be strange at best and his little quirks that indicate that he is dealing and/or stimming flat out weird. He never really seemed to care until some time during the second half of second grade and even that was more acknowledgement that he was different without any real understanding as to why he was ostracized or what he was supposed to feel or do about it.

Mae, Abby, Chi and DJ

The one shining exception to this rule about other kids is DJ. DJ and Chi have always been close and DJ has never judged Chi as weird or strange. He seems to understand that Chi is Chi and will even say, “Aunt Beonin, he’s just being Chi” or “He’s just doing Chi things” when Chi has some sort of out of proportion reaction to something.

SUPER DJ!

DJ never loses his temper with Chi. When Chi loses his cool, DJ is there to talk him down. When Chi has a complete shutdown, DJ is able to get Chi out of where ever it is he goes. I have learned to ignore Chi’s reactions, when applicable, and DJ will take over and smooth things out.

On the stool at Grammie’s house

EXAMPLE: Chi and DJ were playing Starcraft 2 on the computers upstairs when it was time to go to the grocery store. I told those who were playing games to turn off their systems and told everyone to get their shoes on and go potty. Chi became floppy. He does not like the grocery store much and he really doesn’t like the store when he’s doing something he enjoys as much as video games with DJ. He REALLY doesn’t like the store when I spring it on him with no prior warning. (Yay, me!)

Fun on the water

So he’s the last one out the door and he practically lays in the seat instead of sitting. DJ just carries on a conversation with Chi as if there is nothing going on. As if Chi isn’t flopping and moaning and squeaking and twitching. When we get to the store, DJ grabs Pieces’ hand and Mae grabs Pynni’s and I forcibly push Chi into the store. I get the big cart that’s shaped like a car for Pynni and Pieces (two less to keep up with, right?) and admonish the older kids to keep up. Chi trails behind. Far behind.

(I’ve come to a point in this journey (the whole entire childhood one with Chi) that I don’t even react to the lagging behind. He never lets me get too far away.)

Goofiness

DJ says, “Aunt Beo, I’ll walk back here with Chi to make sure he doesn’t get lost.” I smile at him and

Best Buds

thank him. We get through the produce and past the deli. As we round the corner into the meat section, I hear a peal of laughter. I look behind me and there is DJ with his arm around Chi, cracking Chi up. There was no issue after that.

No, it’s not that Chi’s issues cease to be when DJ is here, but I am ever amazed at what DJ is able to accomplish with Chi. They are complements of one another and DJ loves Chi, Chi-isms and all.

So, summer has started and things have been cranking right along. There’s swimming, and playing, and crafts, and heat, and cousins, and company, and more company, and trips, and having five kids instead of three. It’s pretty crazy around here these days. Then, in July, after that family trip? We start school. I have to figure out how to work around having two extra kids; include them, I guess, but I’m intimidated enough at the prospect of teaching my own kids much less weave in two kids for all of three weeks. Well, I’ll figure it out.

The last weeks of school were really quite pointless. After the EOG’s were administered, the kids basically went to school for structured day care. There was no homework outside of daily reading, and no school work, apparently. Lots of drawing and reading and movie watching. So, the third grade did this thing where they counted down to the end of the year using the alphabet. Each day they had a theme that began with that letter. Things went anywhere from simply wearing a hat or bringing your favorite book, to ice cream or popcorn parties.

One of the days was “Kindness Day” during, which, the kids were to say kind things about their classmates. Mizz Eff took it a step further and gave each kid a piece of paper with their name on it and then the kids went around the room and wrote the kind things on each others’ paper. Chi brought his home.

Kindness

Mizz Eff wrote “creative with new ideas,” which just makes me beam, but my most favorite one, because I think it is so perfect, is right under his name: “You know all the rules =)”. And isn’t that the truth.

Well, we are in the home stretch. School for my elementary kids ends on June 10. (Pieces’ last day of school was last Thursday) We’ve successfully navigated this year and it was a hard row to hoe, but every obstacle brings a learning experience and I can only hope that I’ve learned…something. Patience? One can hope.

Chi finished the EOG’s and was none the worse for wear. AND HE PASSED!  He got 3 out of a possible 4 on the reading and combined math tests with 2 requiring a retest and 1 meaning “sorry there is no hope for you”. So, yay! He has, since, struggled with the changes in his daily schedule because, well, it’s the end of the year and there’s retesting for those who got a 2 which puts all the kids who passed in different classrooms where they have to be quiet. (and in case you forgot? Chi is almost NEVER quite, during sleep included.) Still. It’s close to the end and I can’t help but breathe a giant sigh of relief.

Both of my kids have moved on to the next level. I will be teaching it to them. I’ve discovered that it’s possible to be so excited about something you can’t sit still and paralyzed with a sick fear of making the wrong decision all at the same time.

EVIL END OF GRADE

Chi took the dreaded EOG this week: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. He was as prepared as possible. His attitude was positive and he seemed unfazed all of a sudden. So okay, I’m thinking, maybe all will be well.

When Chi got home Monday afternoon, I asked how it went. We had talked about what he was expected to do a bunch and I reiterated all the salient points on the way to school that morning. He was excited and said that it went, “GREAT!” and that, “IT WAS WAY EASY!” (I can’t make those letters any bigger, but I could add extra exclamation points and it still wouldn’t impart the level of excitement this kid was vibrating with when he walked in the door.)

I asked him if he wore his headphones (yes) and if he finished all the questions (YESSSS! With much sighing and irritation. How could I even need to ASK this question, his tone of voice seemed to say.) I asked if he had any meltdowns or if he was able to work diligently (OH-MAH-GAWD-YES! IT WAS ALL FINE AND NO FITS AND ALL GOOD! If he were a teen there would have been eye rolling involved. I think if he cursed, now would be the point when those would be added.). So I asked if it took him the whole three hours. He just looked at me. “Well, did it?” He huffed and said, “We got breaks, Mom. Every twenty minutes.” As if I hadn’t planned it that way. As if I hadn’t had meeting after meeting about what would be the best way to present this testing situation to Chi.

But I was curious. How did these scheduled breaks factor into his test completion. So I asked the question differently, “How much time did you have to finish the test, bud?” He plunked his hands on his hips and then flopped into a heap on the couch (His favorite position is with his head jacked at a ninety degree angle to his body, up on the back cushions with his back along the seat cushions and his legs folded up near his ears. I’m not sure why, but there you are. OH, and he almost ALWAYS achieves this position by slamming himself onto the couch.). “The test ended at 12:30 (pm), Mom, ” he deigned to reply. “We started at 9:30, but I finished in 40 minutes.”

“…y-you. You did whaaaaaaat?!?” I’m a little in shock. I was told to expect this part of the test to be the most grueling. It may have the fewest questions, but it takes the longest to complete.

“I finished the test before the second break. We had a break every 20 minutes.” He seems completely unphased by this, like somehow it was to be expected.

“You were supposed to be taking your time.”

“I DID, Mom. I answered all the questions.”

“Well what did you do for the rest of the time?” I’m still stunned. Unable to wrap my brain around this.

“I just sat there.”

OOOOKAY…

So on Tuesday we talked about the Math part (there are two days of Math testing) and he seemed ready. His math test was going to be read to him, not because he can’t comprehend reading math problems, but to help pace him and keep him from getting overwhelmed by the sheer number of math problems. Plus, his class practiced these tests with the teacher reading the questions to the students. Wednesday morning we were going over, one last time, the expectations.

I said, “You listen to the teacher and take your time. She’ll help you stay focused.”

He pauses for a moment and then says, “Oh, I just finish all the problems on that page and sit and wait until we can turn pages.”

Me, deep breathing, “So you don’t wait on the teacher?”

“MOOOOOOOM, she’s sooooo slooooooow! I can finish all the problems on the page before she gets finished reading the second question.”

Me, almost afraid to ask, “So what do you do while you wait?”

“Oh, I just sit there.”

Sheesh, well, I guess, at least he didn’t shut down and not finish his test, but I don’t know how to feel about this. Did he rush too quickly and make a bunch of stupid mistakes? Did taking the test with all these buffers help him stay focused and that’s why he finished so quickly? Would he have fared perfectly well with the rest of his class? Jeez, I guess I’ll find out when we get his test results.

You can bring the EOG to the kid, but you can’t predict how he will handle it. No matter how prepared he is.