School Bells Ring, Are you Listening..

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Photo by Tsu Nellis

Cause here we go again folks!  The school year is upon us here in the lovely Midwest.  I realize that in a lot of places school has already started… but perhaps you can still use this lovely thought as you’re sending your child back to school this year.

Speaking of THIS year.  Its a big one for us.  My BABY is going into Kindergarten!  And I’m so excited!  And also terrified!  And probably you know, I think there are maybe one or two staff members familiar with our family who are also somewhat terrified that our baby is going into Kindergarten because they have watched her grow up with two older brothers… Each season she would toddle in and out of the school walking a little taller, spouting a few more words, pointing out a few more numbers.  This child is ready.  MORE than ready.  She’s loud and exuberant and wholly unapologetic about her ideas!  I’m half way  expecting a phone call home the first day explaining  why she had to be removed from the principal’s office because she didn’t understand why she could not be the principal that day as she was certain it was her turn.  Some of the prayers I say for these children, I tell you.  They are something.

And my oldest.  My spectrum child, M is heading into fourth grade and I cannot even believe it.  Can not.  He had such a rough year last year that really by February, I had mentally tossed all of his academic goals and just told him to focus on making it though his day every day.  “Get to the end and try not to cry.  Afterwards we’ll have snack.”  Big goals.  Thankfully, as always, M absorbs much more than we think, and he seems to be in an ok spot academically.  He maybe be a little behind, but we have worked hard this summer to catch him up.  He is set up for a great year so far.  I have created a “transition plan” for him and his teacher reached out a couple of weeks ago to set up an appointment with us for an early meeting.  He has seen and spent time in his classroom and time with his teacher.  He is on great medication to help with his ADHD.  I have LOTS of backups at the ready for homeschool co-ops, additional tutoring and learning plans to supplement his school work if necessary and I have to say, having that ready to go, has really made me feel more comfortable with him being in a regular classroom.  Maybe because I’m not afraid to pull him out if needed.  I’m not afraid to try something else if this just isn’t working.  Sometimes you just cannot put a triangle where a circle should go, you just can’t.  If you have a special needs child heading back to school and you are concerned about “where they are” academically or how they are going to do this year, remember this:

The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all. ~ Mulan

M’s first grade teacher once made an announcement to the parents of her students at the beginning of the year regarding homework and expectations, “They are young.  They have a LONG road ahead.  Please remember this.  Pick your battles.”  ~ Mrs. P, First grade teacher

And Mr. A, my middle child.  *sigh*  I’m not even sure what to say.  I never worry about him; he doesn’t need it.  He’s responsible, a self-starter, super smart, even gifted possibly.  His biggest problem actually is that he indeed IS the middle child.  He always feels that he doesn’t get enough attention, even when we go out of our way to give him extra attention. Oh, and possibly that he is sleep deprived.  He has always been sleep-deprived.  Like from birth.  M just feels that if he is awake, Mr. A should be awake too.  Its been difficult for Mr. A, although he is learning to fight back.  We’re enrolling him in additional extra-curricular activities this year to try to broaden his world a little bit.

Good luck to everyone!  We’re all in this together.  #BeFierce

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

 

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Are YOU on the spectrum??

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If you’re a teen, young adult or parent of a child on the spectrum and you’re reading this, could you give me some advice?  M is in 3rd grade and so far… we’ve pushed.  We’ve pushed through projects and homework and presentations and school events (as he was able).  Now we’re really really having to push.  Homework is much harder, therapy takes more work, everything is so much more effort.  I don’t mind it, it seems to (slowly) be taking hold and he is indeed getting the work done, but it is truly a monumental effort on his part.  So my question is this.  Did your parents/caregivers push you “through” your school work and through your therapies?  Did it work?  Was it worth it?  Are you thankful or did you notice?

We recently had his homework load reduced to an “as he is able” basis.  Sometimes he can do more, sometimes he can’t.  It was like walking through molasses.  We received permission to use dictation software to help him with tests where writing was involved so that he could meet time requirements without worrying about his motor skill abilities.  He uses headphones to handle noise when he needs to.  He uses lists in his folders to remember what he is supposed to be doing without having to ask repeatedly.  The supports are helping.  I just want him to do the very best he can, but I don’t want to push him beyond his capabilities if that makes sense.  Any thoughts anyone?

I haven’t posted lately because ever since M had that verbal assault on the playground from a parent, mentioned in my last post, I have been rather shook up.  I am trying to come out of it.  There are other things to do – too many balls in the air to fixate on just one.  In any case, I may be a bit all over the place here.  Just hang on.  That’s what I do!

I would like Miss S to join Daisy Scouts next year, but there isn’t a younger scout troop at the school, so I am volunteering to be a Daisy Scout leader since I will no longer have any littles with me during the day.  I’m actually really looking forward to it!  I loved scouting when I was a little girl.

#BeFierce  #HangOn

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

Playground Antics

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I have got to grow thicker skin.  Or home school.  One of the two.

My boy M.  He gets the short end of the stick on the playground so often.  When he was younger, maybe 5 or 6, he would get pushed around at the park sometimes because he didn’t understand how to interact with children as well as others and sometimes they made fun of him.  He didn’t realize they were making fun of him and that made them mad!  So eventually they would resort to physical pushes and punches which he understood hurt, but not why he was being hurt.  Eventually he learned to push back and punch back.  It was a big milestone for him!  And also, the beginning of hard knocks on the playground.  He’s a kid, it’ll happen.  Well, in our “everyone’s a bully society”, the parents jump first and ask questions later.  I admit, I’ve done the same thing – we’re all worried about our own children.  Its a safety issue.  The problem is that many children never learn to fix their own problems.

I am so angry.  A dad on the playground today verbally assaulted M like he was an adult.  He was raving at him and M didn’t know how to respond.  He just started screaming.  He’s 8.  I RAN over to where this was happening and tried to redirect the man’s anger towards me.  The dad kept repeating himself over and over and eventually I said that we needed to either call the paramedics, an attorney or let it go.  After everyone calmed down we eventually had the children talk about how hitting was not appropriate behavior for the playground.  M apologized 3 times, tried to fist-bump and shake hands with the boy and the boy refused to participate.  Those are huge social milestones for M.  He even called the boy a “little dude”.  SO much progress.  In the end, it wasn’t the dad that went to the school to make a report.  It was me.  M is currently so afraid of the dad, he doesn’t want to go to the playground.  I am sure we don’t have all the information.  Still, stress.  Over a playground.  ::headdesk::

Ugh.  Its stuff like this that makes me want to home school.  Stupid politics.

If you’re not mad as hell, you’re just not paying attention.

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This week has been very busy and rather anxiety ridden for me.  You see the thing about having a special needs child is that you really need an amazing support system.  The other thing about having a special needs child is that you don’t always have the time to engage that support system.  So, I am the special needs co-chair on the elementary school’s PTA.  There were only 2 other special needs parents who attended the first PTA meeting of the year, and one of those was the other special needs co-chair!  The thing is that its often much, much more difficult to leave a SN child with a sitter if they have to be somewhat trained, experienced, etc.  Even if you have a sitter that can handle them, it can often be a challenge to leave for a variety of other obstacles.  For example, M wanted the sitter to help him with his homework, not me.  My answer, “No”.  M, “But whyyyyy?”.  “Because she won’t know which parts of your homework to push you to do and which parts you need some guidance with.”  It can be so challenging to figure out when they are being stubborn with a self-care (hair washing) or homework job (reading directions) and  when they simply can’t do it, re:  tying shoes, drawing detailed pictures for math).  I digress.  So, at the first meeting of the week I spoke up to get other SN parents involved in our newly formed parent support group for the school.  The second meeting, regarding the curriculum for the year, was done by grade level and because M has an IEP (individualized education plan), some parts of the curriculum are a little different for him, but still.  I was the only parent who spoke up concerned about the math portion.  There are entire Facebook groups dedicated to how awful our math curriculum is here.  Its time consuming, strays off topic and is harshly skewed toward children with certain motor skill and reading abilities.  In addition to the old school word problems, which while not my forte’ are certainly relevant for applying what you know, the children are expected to write descriptions related to most math problems and draw what I consider to be large, detailed pictures to go along with it.  M is really good at math and up until this point he has done amazingly well with his “drill” sheets of addition, subtraction and multiplication.  His teachers even started using it as a confidence builder for his reading, which due to his ASD is not at grade level.  He does math first, to build his confidence, works on his reading, and as a reward, gets to to some more math.  Now it seems they are taking that away?  I am SO angry.  Spitting fire angry.  I feel like the curriculum is taking away the one subject that M can relax with and enjoy and stretch his mind instead of struggle, and they’re making it another obstacle for him to tackle.  Because he doesn’t have enough of those with pretty much the rest of his life.  /sarcasm.  So I brought this up at the school meeting and the other parents looked at me like I had grown a second head.  Really??  You’re ok with this??  Have you seen the homework they’re sending home??  Its ridiculous.  G says that most likely those parents had no idea what I was talking about because…. they just weren’t paying attention.  They may not have needed to.  If you have a neurotypical child who can handle multiple skills at once and integrated learning in that manner then it may have just been one of those moments where you thought, “Oh, wow, they sure taught that differently in MY day”.  When you have a ASD child who has difficulty accessing the education due to a skill imbalance, its a whole new ballgame.  I understand the school only has 1 curriculum, but how is M  supposed to learn like that.  If he is unable to use his math skills because the math is being  integrated with reading comprehension and oddly, fine motor skills with the drawing, and it is combined with a subject where he is performing at a grade level or two below the math, what comes out in the mix?  Has he then lost all quantifiable skill?  How is it possible to accurately assess that?  So I’m mad.  And I’m not sure what to do.  I did have some good conversations with the SpEd teachers (2 of them anyway) about why this is happening, but its not making me feel any better about it.  I’m looking at alternatives.  I’m not just letting this go.

Be Fierce.  #GetMad

Kelly

#IamAFierceMom

I tried skipping my coffee… it did not go well.

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I am a tired person.  I am making soup and its cloudy and rainy outside and its just making me so drowsy! Whew.  Today is going to be a coffee in the afternoon kind of day.  I try not to caffeinate after noon, but honestly its that or sleepwalk through the rest of my day.  Miss S has been fascinated with plants lately.  It is wonderful and adorable and I love it… but its beginning to seep into my day.  For example, I sleepily got everyone into the car to go to school the other day and I’m walking out the door with my giant coffee mug and after taking a sip I find there is something papery in my mouth!  I have papers in my cup!  How did this happen?!  Oh.  Oh wait, its a leaf.  Its leaves actually.  In my cup.  Miss S says she added them for extra flavor.  Yum.  Later in the afternoon I am doing dishes when I look at my (formerly) empty flower pot on the sink and find it filled with green leaves and water.  She wanted to make sure they could still grow.

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I’m not a green thumb by any means, but we’re going to go over gardening 101 this weekend.  In the meantime, its cute.  Well, except for the leaves in my coffee.  That kind of freaked me out to be honest.

The third week of school is upon us and the kiddos have collectively turned in 2 projects.  Swimming lessons, youth group and Sunday school classes have started – we’re in full swing.  I tell you, I was on the phone the other day when I was asked what activities the children were doing this fall and I rattled off a few and then… I dunno, it felt like that wasn’t enough and the person I was talking to also seemed to feel like I was “missing” something and so began to mention how I would be saving money by not having the children in so many activities at once.  While that is true (hey, swimming lessons x 3 is not cheap) they are also doing youth group and private therapy and to be honest, I just can’t run around more right now.  We really went all out last spring and when it came time to sign up for fall activities I just couldn’t over extend myself again.  Maybe we’ll ramp up this winter with a 3rd activity.  Maybe not.  How many things do children do at a time these days?  It seems like they’re over scheduled or under scheduled.  Its difficult to strike a balance.

Be Fierce.  #AimforBalance

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

What kind of mom are you?

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I’m a worrier.  A worrywart my grandmother called it.  I worry about what others think even though I may claim not to.  Goodness knows I try not to worry about who may be judging me, but sometimes it just sneaks up on me.  A friend of mine posted a link to Facebook the other day from a blog post about different stereotypes of moms at schools.  Firstly I was just a little bit horrified because I am sure that I have been several of the moms in the blog post on at least one occasion.  Was it a joke post?  Maybe it was… I hope so!

There was the “hungry mom, pajamas mom, hippie mom, sports mom, PTO mom, perfect mom, and of course, the mom blogger”.  Did this even leave anyone out?  I mean, we can’t all be June Cleaver and if we were… wouldn’t that fall into PTO mom category?  Is that what other parents are thinking on the playground at morning drop off?  (Are you thinking that at drop off?)  I will admit we all have different styles.  There is one mom, that I see nearly every day and I don’t even know her name, but I call her “jogger mom”, because she does her daily run to the elementary school in the afternoons to pick up her child.  There is “svelte black-suit mom” that I’m guessing works in a corporate setting somewhere downtown because she looks very sleek and urban every day.  There are the SAHMs like me, who while having different styles, definitely dress more casually than the workplace moms at the school.  If we’re going to put labels on everyone, good grief, what about the exceptions!  Yes, I have dropped my children off at school still in my pajama pants.  I was also wearing a full-length heavy parka and snow boots at the time.  Its happened maybe twice in 3 years.  Do I get a pass for that one?  With a special needs child as well, some mornings … are just hard.  Most mornings are just fine and really we have a pretty good little routine down and let me tell you a happy ASD child is one with a good routine.  Sometimes though – sometimes are hard!  I think all special needs families and those with multiple children would agree that you can encounter crazy events trying to get out the door on occasion.  We woke one morning to find that my son had spread a very thin, even layer of sunscreen all over our living room rug.  Another morning he was covered in strawberry syrup (and so was the couch).  If you have one very ill child and two very healthy children and you’re trying to get out the door its a whole new host of problems and then what about the “spider”.  I’ve written about this before – when one of the children just.  Won’t.  Go.  They throw their arms and legs out like a spider so that they can’t get on the bus or in the car.  Its stressful.  I’m just saying that if you’re having one of those mornings, maybe fashion and hair styles aren’t super high on your priority list.  Maybe that pajama mom isn’t a “pajama mom” every day.  I think we ought to be a little more accepting of others’ situations before tearing them down.  Goodness knows the world is hard enough as it is.  Let’s not add to it.  Having an ASD child, I’ve been there when my child was having a very public meltdown.  Staring doesn’t help.  Silently judging doesn’t help.  Offering to hold my bag, water bottle, sippy, other child’s hand, etc, would be helpful.

I will admit that I have often wondered at the decisions of other moms that I see in passing because it doesn’t seem to be a decision that I would make, but that is also coming from my background and point of view and not theirs.  I couldn’t possibly know what its like to be in their shoes.  This is an important thing for me to keep at the front of my mind.

I’m just going to keep doing what I do.  Now what I may do, may not be what you do, or they do or he or she does, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t wholly accept the decisions that others make.  This is a really hard issue for me.  Its my “damage” really, so by me writing about it and putting my vulnerabilities out there – I’m really taking a step, but I have definitely done my share of value-searching today and I wanted to write about it.  So, my point, after all that, was if you see in me in my fleecy frog pajama pants and crocs running full-tilt across the playground with two or three children in tow, please, just pretend I was wearing lovely matching outfit in crisp fall colors.  Cross your fingers for me to not trip over a bump in the sidewalk in those crazy shoes because I was probably having one of those days already.

Be Fierce.  #WearFrogsLikeYouMeanIt.

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

That is not my favorite color!

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Did you know that they don’t make (most) boys’ shoes with velcro after size 3?  Nope.  Welcome to shoelace-land.  So with school around the corner, we were out shoe shopping today.  The real kind of shoe shopping – not the kind where you pop into Target for some flip-flops.  The children were measured for their shoes and are on average about a size larger than last year.  It took about half an hour or so for us to get Mr. A and Miss S all settled with their new kicks.  For M, however, the whole process was more difficult.  We learned that because of his new size, there aren’t anymore light-up sneakers.  *sad face*  It also means that there aren’t too many options with velcro.  (Where we were shopping, there was only one pair of velcro shoes and they were gray.  I think possibly he was personally offended by the color.  “That is not my favorite color!”)  Slip on varieties such as Vans were an option, but there were limited styles.  Anyway, we knew it was coming.  We knew that one day soon we would have to sit down and work with those motor skills on shoe tying.  I may order some of those little squiggly things that go in shoes instead of laces just in case, but we’re really going to work on tying shoes this week.

Initially, M wanted some red and blue Geoux sneakers like his brother Mr. A.  After realizing that they didn’t have them in his size, we checked the men’s department out for alternatives.  M was not thrilled. I was not thrilled.  The men’s department??  Really??  He’s 9!!  Still.  He has big feet.  He’s growing.  I can do this.  Ok, the men’s department it is.  They didn’t have anything that really looked like a boy, so we decided to break for lunch and go to another department store.  After a minor meltdown whereupon we nearly put that, “No Shoes, No Service” rule to the test, we had lunch.  At the second department store we  (again) explained to M that he couldn’t have light-up shoes anymore, they just didn’t make them in his size.  He was saddened, but he was coping.  Then we had to break it that there really was no velcro option available to us on that day except for the slip-ons.  He had a hard time with this one.  Mostly I think he felt like he was losing control of his situation.  He could no longer dictate what kind of shoe he wanted in terms that he understood.  We went through rows and rows of shoes.  This took literally all afternoon.  He was to the point of refusing to wear his own shoes that he had worn into the store, until we found new shoes.  We began to focus on colors and he decided that red would be his color choice because it was similar to the first pair he looked at earlier in the day.  We went through all the red shoes and eventually he reluctantly agreed to a pair of very red sneakers.  Fabulous.  The relief!  G and I felt like we had run a marathon.  We quickly changed gears and headed to a playdate at the park with friends.  The trials and tribulations of shoe shopping were quickly forgotten, but I did have to re-tie M’s shoes several times.  Gotta work on those skills.  One problem at a time!  Third grade here we come!

*side note:  Incidentally – Miss. S’s shoes….um, they’re musical.  I’m going to let that sink in.  ::::MUSICAL:::::  When you walk, the toes light up.  When you put the toes of the shoes together, they play music and the toes and heels light up.  Yeah.  We did not realize that until we got home.  I have to say, it was a little weird discovering that we had bought our daughter musical shoes.  I just don’t even know what to think.  I suppose it will add a new dimension to waiting in lines…

pTSA-20396289p275wMiss S’s musical shoes.

Twinkle Wishes by Skechers.  Photo by Sports Authority.

Be Fierce.  #dropthegrayshoes

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly