Monday, March 26, 2012


WOW!!! I haven't written anything here for a week! It's not that nothing has been happening -- it's just that it's been pretty quiet around here.

We just learned when we are going to make a "final decision" on Ballerina's kindergarten placement (late May). Last month, we discussed our options and decided to hold off making a decision until the end of the school year to see how she does as her teachers institute a couple of changes in the way they address her. She has started attending the kindergarten in her school for an hour or so each morning. While she is there, she is expected to behave like the other students in the classroom. She is expected to listen and to raise her hand when she wants to talk. And when she talks, she is expected to answer the specific questions. They are placing more demands on her to see how she handles the load. And they have instituted a "token" system -- when she behaves, she earns tokens. And then, at the end of the day, she can trade in her tokens for computer time, dress-up time, and time in front of the mirror.

So far, in general, we're seeing quite a bit of success. She has had a bad day or two, but in general, she's taken to the change in routine and thrived. And everyone is entitled to a bad day from time to time. And I'm thrilled that this has been so successful.

But I'm still worried about what's going to happen next year. I almost wish this wasn't quite as successful....if it doesn't work, they won't try to put her in a typical kindergarten classroom but into the Early Learning Center and then we can work on this next year. With this success, it's more likely that they will feel that our best option will be a mainstream classroom. And I have my doubts. I think she will be successful on most days. But what about when she has a bad day? Now they can remove her from the kindergarten classroom and prepare to start fresh the next day. But if she's not in the Early Learning Center, I'm not sure what they can do about it because they won't have anywhere to send her.

I know how this sounds. But it's accurate....I want her to have the learning center as a safety net. If she is placed there, she can use the resources available in that room to help her when things start to fall apart. We can use them for one year to help her make this transition. The CAPP program is one-on-one. It is considered one of the more intensive programs, and this is why I was told last year that she wouldn't be ready to enter a diploma bound program when she left preschool (see the article I wrote on SPD Blogger Network). I still would like to see her have a chance to acclimate to the school and then take the time to integrate into the typical classroom, which means placing her in the Early Learning Center. I want to see her thrive. And I believe the best way to make that happen is to give her one more year in a special education classroom.

Only one question remains.......who in that room is going to agree with me at the end of the school year.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Guest Post

I mentioned last week that I was trying to decide what to do. I had written an article for the SPD Blogger Network that was due to be published this week (today, to be precise). This post is a letter that I wrote to the Parent Educator that told me that my kids wouldn't be able to enter a diploma bound program in our schools and I should be considering other options for them. It was her opinion that I was expecting too much of them given their preschool placements.

Well, the article/letter has now been posted. And if I'm going to do anything, now's the time. This conversation has been on my mind for a year now.

I could post a link to the article on the Yahoo! Group for the organization that this person is a part of. If I was to post it there, there is a reasonable chance that she would see it. But there is a reasonable chance that others will see it who are associated with this group. It's possible that I will be a source of embarrassment to her. And I know what it will look like. It will make me look petty. It will make me look like someone seeking revenge. It is completely inappropriate. It is unprofessional.

And I won't do it.

You see, I am petty. I want to take this and shove it in her face and force her to read it. But I'm also a grown up. I know that there are times where, even if I'm in the right, I need to be mature and handle things with dignity and respect. I'm still hoping this person sees this article. And I'm hoping that she remembers our conversation and realizes that it is directed specifically to her. And, if she does, I hope that she is more careful with the advice that she imparts on the families she works with.

My letter is written. And it's been published. Now I can walk away with my head held high.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

3 Years

Yesterday was our anniversary. Anniversary of learning that we were a living in "The Autism World". We had been living there for a while at that point....we just didn't know it.

Yup.....March 12, 2009 is when a developmental pediatrician told me that both Ballerina and Music Man were "clearly on the spectrum". All those questions went through my head.....the "hows" and "whys".....the "what are you talking about"s....the total disbelief and feeling my entire world crashing all around me.

3 years ago, neither of them were showing any interest in language and communication. Neither of them were making eye contact. Neither one showed any interest in playing with toys (appropriately). Music Man loved to flap and spin. Ballerina NEVER smiled. Music Man was a TERRIBLE sleeper. All of these should have clued us in that something was wrong, but we missed it all. We just thought they had a language delay and we kept falling back to the excuse that "twins develop language later". The rest.....we just didn't see it. We never thought about how I always had to keep them in the stroller when we went out -- we just had never done anything different. Rigidity in routines? All kids thrive on routine. Tantrums.....well, they're 2.....2 year olds tantrum all the time. That's why they call it "Terrible Twos". Did you find yourself using any of these excuses before a diagnosis was staring you in the nose?

But now, they are totally different children. Ballerina talks up a storm and love to play. She practically potty trained herself when she was 3 years 4 months. She's often smiling and we've been told for almost 2 years how much her teachers LOVE to work with her. We go to the playground and she climbs up every climbing structure she finds, seeks out slides and goes down them forwards and backwards, loves to play on the computer, on her iPhone/iPod, knows her letters (upper and lowercase) for reading and writing, knows her numbers and can manipulate her numbers.....we are even considering the possibility of her entering a typical kindergarten classroom next year. Music Man also talks all the time, loves to play at the playground (although he will still sit under the structures to play with the mulch), can handle social situations, enjoys playing on the computer and on his iPhone/iPod, knows all of his letters (upper and lower case), can clearly read even unfamiliar words, knows his numbers and can do simple manipulations, and (we can finally say) is potty trained. He will be entering an academic-based special education kindergarten classroom next year and will work on mainstreaming through his elementary school years.

Who would have believed that we'd be sitting here when they realize where we were just 3 years ago? Another example of the living proof that you never know what the future will hold. You just have to take it one day at a time and keep trying your best. Remember that the future isn't's malleable and just waiting for you to shape it.

It's been an amazing and CRAZY 3 years!!!!!!

What should I do?

I wrote a guest post for SPD Blogger Network that is scheduled to be published next week. It's a letter that I wrote (there) to a Parent Educator who I met a year ago. She told me (having never met Ballerina and Music Man) that they wouldn't enter a diploma-bound program and I should think in other terms for them. She told me that because of her preconceived ideas about the preschool programs where they were assigned.

As you've been reading here lately, you know that both Ballerina and Music Man will be entering diploma-bound programs when they begin kindergarten in the 2012-13 school year. We still aren't sure of Ballerina's specific placement, but it will be in that school and we will be working on including her in a typical classroom as much as possible throughout the year.

This letter I wrote basically tells her where she can take her comment to me. And I want to be sure she reads it. It's kind of my way of "showing her up". And, yes, I am a bit bitter about it all. The only problem is I'm not sure how to get this to her.

I know she is very involved with a particular organization. In order to facilitate communication to group members, they have established a Yahoo! group. I am a part of this Yahoo! group. After my experience that I mention in the letter, I had determined I didn't want much to do with this organization, but they do pass along very valuable information (hence my continued membership to that Yahoo! group). One way I can be sure that this person sees my note is by posting the link to this group (all members will see it), but it means that the whole group will see it rather than just this individual. That is, to say it mildly, VERY unprofessional and quite inappropriate as well. But I'm not sure how else to make sure she sees it.

What would you do?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Goal Achieved

Well, now it's official. All 3 kids will be attending the same physical school next year. Big Brother will be in a typical 2nd grade classroom. Music Man will be in the Early Learning Center. And Ballerina will be in either a typical kindergarten classroom with resources or in the Early Learning Center with her twin brother. There will be no buses (except for field trips). There will be no need to coordinate between 3 different schools when one school is off one day and the other two are going, or two have a half day while the third does family!

This happened yesterday when we had Music Man's placement meeting. It was the simplest meeting I had ever attended, mainly because it was just formalizing the discussion I have been having with his teacher and administrator over these last few months. There were no surprises. There were no questions to be answered. We already knew where he was going and what we needed to pass along to his new teachers.

THIS has been the carrot for me. Everything we've done to date has led me to this point. To have all 3 of my kids in one school and have that school be located just down the street from our home feels like I've entered paradise. They will both have peer models to learn from. They will both be learning the state-wide kindergarten curriculum. They will both be given the same opportunities as their typically developing peers. Perhaps they will make friends (or maybe not).

When I think of where we were 3 years ago, I'm just in awe. They have learned so much! And they have made this Mom so proud!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What's so Special About Being "Normal" Anyway?

I mean, isn't "normal" another word for "boring"? We all have our ideocyncracies, right? Our little quirks that make each of us unique?

Yeah, when we are teenagers, we all strive to "accepted", and sometimes the easiest way to do that is to simply fit in and be "normal". But then we wise up. We remember how we were when we were younger. We were happier. We didn't care what anyone else thought. We were the way we were and we were loved for being special because we embraced our true nature.

I am an Autism Mom. It's a label that I wear proudly. I am EXTREMLY proud of my children. All 3 of them. They all have "quirks". They all have things that make them "stand out". They are each "unique". Even my twins.....they are (to quote Dad) "total opposites except for when they are exactly the same." They embrace what makes them so unique. And so do I.

After all, what is normal anyway?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thinking Ahead

My younger brother (almost called him my "baby" brother) is getting married in the fall. This is wonderful news. We have met his fiance a couple of times (my parents more than that) and we really like her. She's good for him and I think that he's good for her too. They really do make a "cute couple".

This morning, my brother called me. He wanted to ask me if we would be in the wedding party. All 5 of us. And, of course, I said yes. I am looking forward to it. But now I need to get to work.

Music Man and Big Brother are going to be co-ring bearers. Ballerina is going to be a flower girl along with the bride's cousin. And they are going to have to dress for the affair. And they are also going to have to behave, not only during the ceremony but at the reception as well.

This is going to be a dinner affair -- the wedding will be on a Sunday afternoon beginning at 3:00 in the Detroit area. We have over 7 months to prepare them for the experience. I'm not so worried about Big Brother -- a tux may not be the most comfortable outfit he's ever worn, but he'll manage. And at the reception he can take off the tie and the jacket and have some fun. Who knows....we may even bring a change of clothes for him during the reception. And behaving during the wedding -- well, the ceremony won't last too long and then he will have the freedom to relax a bit.

Ballerina, getting her dressed up is going to be the easy part. She is going to love putting on a fancy dress and (even more so) shoes. Her behavior, however, is going to be a challenge. We have to figure out how to teach her to stand still. Music Man is the one I'm expecting a huge challenge from. I can't see him looking forward to wearing a full tuxedo. It shouldn't be hard to find pants and a shirt to fit, but a button-down shirt and bow tie -- that's going to be a challenge. And the shoes? He's not going to like those for a minute. Dad may have to have the handful of gummy bears in his pocket ready to encourage good behavior the same way I used to use them to get Music Man to cross the street safely. For him, we will probably bring a change of clothes for the reception so as soon as the wedding is over, he can be relieved. But I need to figure out how to get him to wear a tuxedo shirt and bow tie before October.

I'm thrilled they are going to be in their uncle's wedding. They all adore their soon-to-be-aunt. And, as I said, Dad and I will also be there so we can remind them how they are supposed to behave. But I need to start thinking strategy very soon.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Kreativ Blogger Award

WOW!!!! I won an award!!! This blog has won a reward!!!! I'm speechless!!!!

Now I must abide by the rules of acceptance. Those rules are:

1. Thank the blogger who presented you with this award.

Thank you to Grape Jelly on Pizza for bestowing the Kreativ Blogger award upon me! I had no idea that I had been nominated!!!!! I first followed your stories on your Facebook Page and love to read your stories. Pizza is my all time favorite food! How could I NOT love a blog with a title like yours????

2. Post a photo of this award.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

3. Share 10 things about yourself that your readers don't know.

Wow -- that's hard considering I share so much of myself here....

(1) Instrumental Music has always been an important part of my life. I played piano from age 5 to 15, flute from 4th grade until well after college, I even tried the oboe and bassoon for a while. I auditioned for several groups. After acceptance into one of these, I had the opportunity to play on the stage at Carnegie Hall. That was AMAZING!!!!!

(2) I can't stand it when the light switches are unmatched (they should be all UP or all DOWN). It really drives me crazy.

(3) On my wedding day, all of my bridesmaids and maid of honor ran out of the bridal suite claiming that they wanted to get away from that "Crazy Bride". And they told this to my soon-to-be-husband.

(4) I like The Laurie Berkner Band at least as much as my kids.

(5) I really enjoy spending time alone. I enjoy the quietness of the house and have to remind myself that I need to step out and enjoy the sunshine as well.

(6) I am FAT (not overweight, not obese)!!!! I am currently trying to lose weight (so I look presentable at my brother's wedding later this year), but I just love foods that are bad for me. I need to find more motivation.

(7) I HATE to clean. I need to find a job not for personal growth and development or satisfaction, but so that I have the money to hire someone to come in and clean my house so that job doesn't fall to me.

(8) I always wanted to have 4 kids. I was 33 when my oldest was born and I thought that dream was just a dream. Then when I had 2 kids 21 months later, I still thought it was possible. Now at 40 years old, I still would like another child, but am quite realistic that it isn't going to happen. I'm happy with my family as it is, but I still would love to have a 4th child.

(9) I always hated to write. That is, until I started this blog. I'm always so surprised how cathartic I find writing. I can say things here that I can't say out loud. And I'm always amazed seeing the comments showing me that others are reading what I put here.

(10) (Going with #9)I recently started writing a second blog for the local Patch. I usually write about things related to raising autistic children in this area. At Ballerina's meeting yesterday, the representative from the Autism Office told me that my previous Patch article had been circulated to everyone in her office and apparently even beyond. Ballerina's teacher had also read it, and their praises gave me a huge amount of personal satisfaction (and caused a bit of embarrassment). It really touches me to know that the things I say reach others.

4. Choose 6 people to present the award to.

(1) Autism Twins -- KAL is a local (to me) Mom of identical twin boys, both on the spectrum. I was introduced to KAL by our case worker at our local EI services organization. Life always gets in the way of us getting together, but she is always someone I can turn to when I have a question. And the stories she shares in her blog are incredibly touching.

(2) Sorted Megablocks -- The writer of this blog is a friend of mine who I met through Facebook. Several things in our lives are so similar -- she is also raising girl/boy twins on the spectrum and her twins are about 9 days older than mine. But unlike me, she carries much more responsibilities as she works tirelessly from home. She shares her stories here.

(3) Apples and Autobots -- I don't really have a personal connection to the writer of this blog as I do to the ones I already mentioned. I found the blog long before I found the writer. I saw her comments on other blogs and read her comments on my own blog and found her that way. I am always touched by her posts. She writes about the real world. How it is and how she sees it all. It's very touching and always so grounded.

(4) In Allbri's Eyes -- Another blog that tells it the way it is. Her blog I think is similar to mine. She shares her thoughts. She shares herself. I always think about many of her posts as letters to her children for them to read when they are older, although I'm not really sure that's her intention.

(5) I Can Has Autism -- This is a blog I discovered recently. I really like this blog because it prepares me for what is to come. Her children are older than mine, but have similar issues. Will my kids face the same issues as hers? I really don't know. But I love to read her posts and try to figure out where we are headed.

(6) Life With Spongebob -- Jess hasn't been posting here very much, but I have read each of her posts. Life always seems to get in her way. She is raising 4 boys, 2 of whom have autism. She focuses mainly on issues about her youngest son who has classic autism. He is very young and she shares so many things that we all think about. She shares the best moments and the worst. But she's still one of the strongest Moms I know and hope that she finds time to write more posts soon.