Monday, February 2, 2015

Drastic Change

Hello everyone --

For those of you who have been following this blog and wish to continue to do so, I have decided to move it to WordPress as opposed to blogger.  I made this decision for several reasons, mainly because I've decided that I'm changing this blog all together.

The new blog is called "A Day In The Life Of The Crazies!".  As time has gone on, I've decided that I think I want to talk about more than just Autism on my blog.  I want to journal my fitness journey.  And I want to continue to share stories about the kids.  All 3 of them.

I also have a thought for the future, not necessarily for my blog, but for another project I would like to start.  Wordpress seems to be better suited for that purpose, and I will use my blog to learn how to use the site completely so, if I choose to undertake this other project, I will already be familiar with how to manage it.

I will keep this blog "alive" and will try to transfer its entire library to the new site.  I know it's possible....I just don't know how to do it yet.  But I am hopeful that, now that I'm making a brand new start of things with this blog, that I will be reinvigorated to write and share more stories about what happens on a regular basis in our crazy lives.

So, Farewell to "My Family's Experience With Autism"......Hello "A Day In The Life Of The Crazies!"

Thanks to all of you for reading my stories and sharing / commenting on them as you saw fit.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A New Phase

Well, I haven't blogged (ANYWHERE) in ages.  There's been plenty going on, but I just haven't brought myself to sit and write about it.

I know this blog is to catalogue our Autism Journey, but there is much more in my life than autism.  And, right now I'm trying to make my health a bigger focus.  So, this post is about my personal journey.  Feel free to ignore it.....I promise not to be offended.

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This is me.  Today.  This morning, in fact.  I came down the stairs in the morning and stopped at the mirror to take this picture.  I'm calling this my "Pre" picture.  I may try to get one of me with at least one of the kids, but who knows.  I needed an image to show where my fitness journey has started.

Saying that I'm starting today is a little bit of a misnomer.  You see, a few months ago, I joined a group of people who are documenting what they are doing on their fitness journey on Facebook.  We are divided into teams and post pictures of a healthy meal and exercise that we do every day.  We get 3 points for doing this (1 for the meal, 2 for the exercise).  Every once in a while, there's some extra points handed out for doing certain things (talking about influences in our lives, "Flex Friday", etc).  But the points turns it into a game.  And it lasts for 3 weeks each push.  The we reorganize and begin again the next month.

I started with this group in November following an invitation from a friend of mine.  And I've been doing most of what I've been asked to do.  I have definitely increased the exercise, but not to the degree that most people who post there seem to be doing.  I have been making sure to have a healthy meal daily and posting these pictures.  But most of what I've been doing has been the "thinking" phase of this.  I was thinking about what foods I was putting in my body.  I was thinking about what exercises work for me and what I am capable of doing.  I would do what was asked, but my heart wasn't into the idea of success.  But I know that "thinking" isn't enough.

This past Monday was the twins' birthday.  We had a party for them last weekend and then brought home the leftover cake.  Once the cake was gone, Dad and I decided the time had come.  We need to do something, and we need to do it now.  We agreed that with the start of the long weekend, we would be back "on plan".  We would return to low-carbing.  And I decided that I would give up drinking soda in favor of water.

So, it's been about 8 hours.  Not long, I know.  I have drank 72 ounces of water with at least 48 more planned.  I had a healthy breakfast and lunch.  And I'm going to try making myself a smoothie for snack with spinach and some fruit (a little wary of making this work, but I'm going to give it a try).  This is the one place that I had already decided that I wasn't going to worry about the carb count as long as I was putting in healthy and low-glycemic index fruits.

You see, I don't like the looks of the person who looks back at me in the mirror.  I avoid looking at her.  I don't allow myself to be photographed, or I don't look at the pictures once they've been taken.  And I'm the only person who can do anything about it.

It's time to take back the parts of my life that I can control.  I can choose wisely when it comes to my meals and snacks.  I can exercise daily.  I can be happy with the my reflection in the mirror.

And I can make this happen.

Monday, September 8, 2014

As the school year starts....

.....I'm noticing a SERIOUS change in Simon.  A huge growth that we haven't seen YET in that boy.  And others are noticing it too!

It started with the first few days of school.  We were worried that, because he's been with the same teacher for 2 years that he would have trouble with another teacher in a different classroom.  There is very little he shares with his former classroom now.  One student moved with him.  They are in a different hallway, with a different paraeducator (as well as teacher), even a different Occupational Therapist (when he goes to OT).  He's even arriving at school differently, taking the bus.

Every day, he comes home with his daily contract.  It gives a very general description of his day.....what types of activities he did (including specials) and whether he performed well at each station of the day.  The form is the same every day with the special written in, so it really doesn't give me much information at all other than "He had a good day" or a "....mediocre day" or a "....bad day".  There are 3 icons for each line item.....a smiley face; a neutral face; and a sad face (I don't think I need to describe those in any further detail).  The entire first week, he had ALL smiley faces.

The second week started the same way!  I had gone into school for something with the PTA and ran into the paraeducator in the office.  I asked her, casually, if they were "grading" the kids more leniently as the school year had just begun.  She explained that he had taken to the routine like he had been doing it for a year.  He was participating in class.  He was walking nicely in the hallway from place to place.  He was behaving during lunch.  He was really doing everything exactly the way you would expect any child to do things.  (for the record, he has since come home with a couple of neutral faces, but they've been scattered -- he has enough smiles to have earned a star every day)

But it's not just at school that people are noticing this change.  He went to his first dance class on Saturday.  Historically, he would do everything that his classmates would do, but behind a wall so that (he believed) no one would be watching him.  But on Saturday, I insisted he come out and watch in the mirror.  He fought me at first, but he begrudgingly came out and stayed out throughout the whole lesson.  He did everything that was asked of him, including tap dancing (not his favorite thing).  I'm hoping that this is a sign that this class will also be going better for him this year.

And it continues!  He and Rachel started Sunday School this year.  The first session was yesterday.  I had few worries about Rachel but many misgivings about Simon because they really didn't have the accommodations that the public school offered him.  But the Rabbi and I sat down with his IEP and came up with a few things.  And he arrived yesterday.  When I picked him up (2.5 hours later), I learned that he had stayed with the class and interacted appropriately with them all.  He wasn't able to sit as long as his fellow classmates, but he did stay within the boundaries that were set for him.  He went to "computer lab" and worked on the assignments with his classmates.

Just 2 weeks into the school year and look at the changes we're seeing!!!!  I can't wait to see what happens as the year progresses!  And I hope this isn't just the "honeymoon period" and that we have finally "turned the corner" with him and that he's ready for the next big leap, just like Rachel was a year or so ago!

Monday, August 25, 2014

A promise to myself / First day of school

It has been too long since I wrote anything here.  But I'm not going to worry about that right now.  I'm starting over again.  My kids have all gone back to school for the start of 4th grade and 2nd grade (WOW!  Where has the time gone?!?!?) and I'm getting back to doing what I was doing when I was happiest.  I'm going back to blogging, advocating and getting myself into a positive way of thinking.

It's not that I've been "UN"happy......quite the contrary.  But there's been something missing from my life lately that I need to take back.  And sharing my stories here really seems to help bring all of that back into perspective.

So......where was I.....oh, yeah.....first day of school.

This year is going to be a very interesting one for my family.  Firstly, we are INSANELY busy.  During the week (after school afternoons and evenings), Big Brother has soccer, hebrew school (as he begins to prepare for his Bar Mitzvah), and gymnastics.  Additionally, he plans on trying out for the talent show (which he has performed in the last 2 years), joining the chorus, beginning instrumental music (targeting trumpet as I think it suits him well) and (if we can swing it) joining the "Running Club".  Rachel will have 2 different dance classes, girl scouts (she's a Brownie now), and soccer (2x/week).  Simon's activities (as they currently stand) are all on the weekends.  All 3 kids will be attending Sunday School (Big Brother went last year, the twins will start this year) and Big Brother and Rachel will have soccer games on Saturdays.  Simon will have his dance class on Saturdays as well.  And, once a month, if we can manage it, they will head over to Home Depot to do "projects".

Dad and I made a realization yesterday as we were talking after breakfast.....a family dinner is a thing of the past during the week around here.  We will be able to pull it off on Friday evenings and periodically over the weekends but that's really it.   So we are trying to find other ways to make sure we spend quality family time together this year.  More on that as we figure it out.

But back to school.....

Big Brother is doing his own exciting thing this year....he's heading on the bus to the Middle School for math classes.  It's not as advanced as that's combining 4th and 5th grade math into a single year so that they are ready for more as they get older.  They are doing this at the middle school because a small number of students from several schools are doing this together and this was an easy location for such a program.  He has never taken the bus to school before.  To say he's excited about it is a gross understatement.  This program will begin tomorrow.  He will have to catch the bus at the elementary school shortly after 7am (he doesn't normally get up until then) and he will be bused back to school in time for his elementary school day to begin.  He is very excited about going on the bus.  He's also excited about being a member of the school's patrol.  This is something that is only for the 4th and 5th grade.  It seems to be a mark of distinction and all the students seem to want to be invited to join.  When his name was called last year, he was a VERY happy boy.  His year will be interesting, to say the least.

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Rachel and Simon are also back to taking the bus to school.  Simon's teacher last year strongly encouraged this.  Even though we live less than 1/2 mile to the school, having them come independently would do wonders for their day and really get them off on the right foot.  So, we agreed.  We waited for the bus today and they got on happily and (I learned from my spies at the school) they arrived with smiles and ready to begin the day.  I know very little first hand about Rachel's teacher this year, but she is working with the same 2 para-educators that she's been working with in the past.  I have been told that this teacher can set clearly defined limits which is something that Rachel needs.  If Rachel has a good first week, I'm positive it's going to be another VERY successful year for her.

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Simon is a little bit more questionable.  He has been with the same teacher these last 2 years.  This year, he is in a fully-Grade 2 special education classroom.  And he's with a teacher he just met last Friday during the school open house.  This teacher appears to be very nice and seemed to interact well with Simon and has been filled in by his previous teacher with his many antics and idiosyncrasies.  But his progress is always more gradual and we'll have to wait and see what the year will bring.

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But all 3 kids left for school this morning.  When they left, they were smiling, and I know at least 2 of them were smiling when they arrived.  I will be picking them up in just a little while (after I finish writing, although it won't be published until later) and I'll get to hear how the day went.  Hopefully, they will be all smiles still and ready to head back to school again tomorrow.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Filling Everyone In

So many things have been happening these last couple of weeks that I've been a bit overwhelmed.  There has genuinely been no time to sit down and write here or anywhere else.  So, please forgive a very long rambling post, but the time has come to put everything down and get my "publicly available online journal" current.  I can't quite say "Up To Date" because I'm sure I'm leaving many important things out, but at least I don't have to worry about telling back stories and can start fresh.

You see, starting fresh is something I always try to do on October 11.  As it's my birthday, it gives me that new outlook.  This year, my goal is to do a better job organizing my many obligations -- to myself, my family, the organizations that I work with, to my writing(s)....everything.  There is no reason why there isn't time to get the things I desire to get done taken care of.  The problem is a lack of organization.  So, that's what I'm trying to do right now.

But I know you aren't here to read about me rambling on about how I need to get organized.  You want to read about my kids and how they are doing.

I'll start with Simon.  He has started the same Special Needs Dance Class that I had previously enrolled Rachel in.  I'm not allowed to see what happens during the class.  I can hear some things through the walls as I wait, I can see some things through a window, but in general I'm in the dark.  So, after class, I always try to ask the teacher questions about his performance.  And he seems to be enjoying it and doing quite well.   But he never wants to do anything with the group.  He has a tendency to hide behind a small barrier that is typically where the children place their shoes (they come in wearing ballet shoes and change to tap shoes about halfway through).  At his last lesson this past weekend, the teacher told me that Simon is doing everything and demonstrating the skills but he will only do it when he's behind that barrier so he believes that no one is watching.

Simon has also had a few other activities happen these last few weeks.  First was a doctor's appointment to Children's Hospital for his regular follow-up.  Normally, when we go, I bring the leash (cute animal harness) so he can stay within an arms reach of me when we are walking through any form of parking lot.  I do this because he is TERRIFIED of the elevator and any building which contains an elevator.  He allowed me to put the harness on and we walked into the building holding hands.  He immediately and gently walked to the stairs and into the waiting room.  And, at the end of the appointment, he behaved well leaving the building and heading back to the car.  I didn't park in the parking garage but on the street so we didn't have a second elevator to avoid, but the improvement since our last visit there 6 months ago is HUGE!!!!!  Even the doctor commented on this.  When she came into the exam room, we were already there.  Simon was reading a book aloud to me about a bus making it's many stops.  Every time the bus stopped, someone would get on and / or off.  And then, at the end of the page, the book would ask him to find something on that page (sometimes related to the bus story, sometimes not).  And every time, he would read this and search for the item on the page.  This is the first time that I ever saw him exhibiting reading comprehension in any way other than describing the "Beginning, Middle and End" of a story.  And the doctor, who was witnessing this, said she was "tickled pink" to see the progress he is currently making.  It was probably Simon's best visit there to date.

Also, Simon had an IEP meeting this week.  He is 1 of 3 first graders in his classroom right now along with 5 kindergarteners.  The teacher chose to keep these three students because it was believed they would do better with a second year with the structure she provides that is lessened as time goes on.  Also, the familiarity would help them and they can be examples to the kids coming into the school.  His teacher started the meeting by saying how happy she was that he did stay with her.  That because of his familiarity with the classroom (even though there were many changes since last year) and the staff, it made it much easier for him to find his place at the start of the year.  Additionally, the staff knew him quite well so that they were able to address issues before they were allowed to become issues.  Overall, he is growing in so many ways.  They described several social activities that he joins in with, including ones that he enters of his own volition.  This is one of my biggest concerns as Simon really does prefer to be isolated from others and really does his best to avoid human contact with almost everyone.  His list of people who he likes is VERY small and it's very difficult for him to interact with someone who isn't on his preferred list.  But he's been doing much better with this during this school year.  He is still having trouble putting concepts together as he is very much a rote learner as well as a splintered learner.  But he has demonstrated his deviousness at every opportunity and is happy to go to school.  I know he's not there to have fun, but at 6 years old, if going is such a chore, he will never be successful.  He genuinely LIKES school (although not as much as his sister) and is finally demonstrating an ability to try new activities (in his own way) under the supervision of his teachers.

Now, onto Rachel.  She is also having a great start to the school year.  She immediately acclimated to returning to school which was not something I was expecting given past experiences.  She has two friends from last year who have joined her in the classroom this year as well as a fellow Daisy from her Girl Scout Troop.  She is willing to do all of her work, the aide working with her is able to step back regularly and has reduced the amount of "Good Job"s that she receives.  She has demonstrated that she CAN do the work independently and now they are starting to expect this from her.  It's not always easy and they have to watch for her becoming overwhelmed when things get to be too much, but that has only happened a handful of times.  She is very happy to keep trying her best and is very pleased with the assignments she is bringing home.  I am hoping to begin volunteering in the classroom at the start of the second marking period (beginning of next month).  Her teacher really wants to make sure that she recognizes that he is the authority figure in the classroom before I make an appearance.  As I have been able to come in for observation visits before, I suspect that this will go well once we have one or two visits.  But I am working with her teacher so we see the best possible results.

She also had a visit to Children's Hospital for a regular follow-up.  She saw the same doctor as Simon and also demonstrated how much she is growing in her development.  I read a report that her teacher had emailed to me to the physician so she could hear how she is doing in school (in addition to bringing a copy of her interim school report).  Unlike Simon, she was VERY impulsive during this visit, but she was still patient (relatively) and cooperative.  She was willing to do whatever the doctor asked of her and demonstrated a HUGE improvement in comprehensive skills testing at least on grade level in all areas (this is a FIRST for either of the twins)!  We did discuss some social concerns I have for her.  She is complaining often that people are "laughing at me".  I've seen her say this at home with regards to her brothers (when they are doing no such thing -- they're not even laughing) so I'm not certain this is the truth.  The doctor gave me questions to ask her when she starts saying this of the kids at school, trying to ascertain if this is actually going on so I can determine the best course of action.  But I have noticed that she is becoming more socially aware and is really trying to make friends and to be a friend to others.  She is also beginning to initiate imaginative play with her dolls and her stuffed animals.  I want to encourage these positives, so I have to be careful not to thwart the positives while trying to understand what she is telling me.

So, there is a VERY long "summary" of our lives these last couple of months.  Sorry to drop it all in one post, but if I don't you know (as well as I do) that these stories will never be told.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What a Difference A Year Makes

On Monday and Tuesday, I attended Back To School Night for all 3 kids (well, for Rachel and Big Brother.....Simon's I kinda talked to the first grade SPED teacher to see how he's doing to get another perspective).  Big Brother's, for me, was really more about the information and getting to know the teacher.  He always acclimates pretty well to a new school year and he's happy to have several friends in his 3rd grade class.

Rachel, however, had such a miserable transition into kindergarten, I spent so much time worrying about how to make the start of first grade smoother.  We talked about how she would be in the new classroom.  We talked about how the lunch time was different.  We shared with her all of the information that was available to us.  But we had done this last year as well and still had trouble.  So, when I brought her in on the first day of school, I wasn't surprised to see the looks of apprehension on her face as we approached the building or the All Purpose Room, where the students were gathering for the day.  I wasn't surprised to see her sliding back to ensure that she would be the last person in line (a technique she used to cope with the All Purpose room early last year).  But her paraeducator, who worked with her so well all year last year, went to her and reminded her that she was supposed to find her place in line and remain there until it was time to go to class.  And she complied.

Since school started on August 26, I have been in touch with her teacher on numerous occasions, getting updates to how she is doing.  And I talked with him more during Back To School Night.  And he describes his experience teaching Rachel to be VERY different than what he was told to be prepared for.  She has only had 2 meltdowns since school began, and one of them he figured out what caused it (just a little too late) so he was able to intervene the next time a similar situation arose.  The second, he really didn't seem sure what had set her off.  She likes to work with her classmates and is demonstrating early signs of making friends.  She is fortunate that a former classmate (well, two of them) sits near her and they work together in a small group.  Additionally, a friend from girl scouts is also in her class and they have bonded during these first few weeks of school.

I have been avoiding talking to the school principal about her.  He told me last year during her IEP Meeting, when we were trying to figure out how to help her transition back to school that many students don't experience the same regressions that we've historically seen as they grow older.  They don't go away, but they aren't as severe.  And he suspected this would be true for Rachel.  I kept insisting that I didn't believe him.....we had several transitions into school (including the transition from Early Intervention to Preschool) and none have been smooth.  I couldn't see the start of this year being any different.  But, I have to admit (even on paper) that he was correct.  I hate that!  ;)

It's been a great start to the year!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Experiment Is Over

All right ... after I've been away from writing for a while, I'm really trying to get back into it all.  And when I was writing yesterday's post, I realized something.  It is TOTALLY unnatural for me to anonymize my children here.

So, I am going to stop.  Bye Bye "Ballerina" and "Music Man" (but I'm keeping "Big Brother" -- he likes that title).  Hello "Rachel" and "Simon".

That is, when I post here.  When I post on more public forums, I will continue to anonymize my children.  But on my own personal blog, in my own little world, I'm not going to worry about keeping their names out of the stories.  I chose those names because I like them.  And I want to just be able to tell my stories.

So, they're back folks!!!!!!