A Homeschooling Pep Talk for Autism Moms.

We made the decision to homeschool our son, and withdrew him from the public school. Kindergarten is definitely not what it used to be, and he needs a different sort of focus at this time in his life. The decision to homeschool wasn’t an easy one to make, so I decided to post my pep talk here for the days that I need it, and I hope that it may be helpful for some of you, too.

Keep the Goals the Primary Focus.

I withdrew him from school with the intent to work on some very specific goals on the personal skill and academic level. Mastering the personal skills will make his life easier at home, and if he returns to school next year. Improving motor skills and creativity will enable him to participate in academic activities at home, school, and church. If he does have creative goals, I want him to have the tools to make those happen.

Assume he’s listening when it looks like he isn’t.

He takes in so much. It doesn’t always seem like it in the moment, but it usually reveals itself later. My role is to communicate to him clearly, and to respect who he is as an individual.

The Schedule will change. So will The Plan.

The Schedule will need to change to accommodate our needs. It exists to help my son transition successfully from thing to thing during our day. The Plan will also need to change from time to time.

You are not alone.

Many people have come along side us to help our son on this journey, and I expect we’ll meet many more in the future. Although I am the primary, teaching adult in the house, the internet is a wealth of information for making contact with any number of experts who can help us when we run into a problem.

Eliminate the distractions.

Distractions have a way of creeping up on me. Checking a text can quickly become precious time lost on the internet that could be better spent on anything else. Chasing rabbit trails on Pinterest in a quest for the perfect activity won’t help us meet our goals. Planning to check my phone, or to read, or plan at specific times during the day will help to keep me focused and keep panic at bay.

Watch me.

Pinterest quests and tumbles down deep, dark rabbit holes are most likely to occur when everyone else has gone to bed. It just needs to be good enough, not perfect, and I need to sleep in order to function. Too much coffee and too little sleep does not a happy mom make. When I can’t sleep, pray.

Most importantly, enjoy. We’ll only have this year once, and then it’s gone forever. Our tomorrow’s aren’t promised, and it’s important to me that if I died tomorrow, my children wouldn’t remember me as a strict, teaching parent, but as a loving one.

Book Review: 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching & Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Image Courtesy of Amazon.com

Image Courtesy of Amazon.com

When I was given a copy of the book 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching & Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (first edition), I was convinced that I’d be reading “old news”.  Although already familiar with some of the information, I was completely blown away by the section on behavior (chapter three), which has helped me in my daily interactions with our son.  I also think that the behavior chapter is especially helpful to educators. Too many in the autism world have been influenced to think that functional communication is the only true means of communication. It isn’t.

From page 67, on hostile or aggressive behavior:

First, understand where the behavior is coming from. Almost all such behaviors are rooted in your child’s sensory and/or social impairments. He is not doing it to provoke you, embarrass you or make your life miserable. He is not an inherently unkind, cruel, malicious or evil individual. He is most likely feeling frustrated, fearful, threatened, tired, unable to communicate his needs or otherwise unable to cope.  Let your response spring from this understanding.

The chapter also points out ways to avoid escalating a skirmish, which are helpful for parents and educators alike. I also found Chapter 7 To Know the Law, to be helpful. It contains a brief explanation of navigating laws within the public school system as well as links to the three federal laws: IDEA, Section 504, and ADA (see page 196).

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the material was clearly organized and presented in a helpful way. Web addresses are contained within the text, so there is no need to flip back and forth to a notes section at the end of the book to find what you are looking for. Book lists for suggested reading are also given where appropriate, as well as vendor information.  There are some endnotes but they aren’t overly cumbersome.  A great index at the back of the book makes it easy to use this guide as a reference.  I highly recommend this book to all educations and parents. It’s a worthy addition to the library shelf.

NOTE: The authors have published a second edition, which you can peruse here: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Raising-Children-Aspergers-Expanded/dp/1935274066/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384130128&sr=8-1&keywords=1001+great+ideas+for+kids+with+autism+spectrum+disorders

“ShaShas” (or Circles)

A few months ago, while in Indiana for a wedding, Our Boy decided that he’d start to transition from calling every round object a “ball” to “shasha”. It took a few days for me to figure out that he meant “circle”. Oddly enough, he went back to referring to everything as “ball” after we got back.

So. During his appointment with the occupational therapist, I proudly mentioned that Our Boy had progressed from making only straight lines with sidewalk chalk to attempting to draw circles around himself. However, he “hasn’t figured it out yet and our driveway is full of boy sized semicircles”. Our OT and Our Boy had just started drawing with markers. She asked him if he’d been working on his circles. I made some sort of comment about how “we were so close but he hasn’t made any on paper”. Three seconds after I said it, without comment, Our Boy made his first “shasha”.

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“Official” Progress.

I had a meeting with the officials assigned to work with us in our state’s early intervention program today. I have to admit that I haven’t been looking forward to it. It isn’t easy to see your child through someone else’s eyes. It also isn’t easy to hear their thoughts and opinions on public school, while keeping your opinions to yourself.

As is usually the case with something I dread, it wasn’t a list of the goals I’d failed to achieve with Our Boy, but instead a glowing review of the progress our OT has seen in him. Of the list of goals I mentioned when we entered the program in January, we’ve achieved all but two-functional communication using signs, words or cards and using a utensil for the duration of a meal for most meals. We lost a good amount of the progress we’d made in Our Boy’s communication while under the ST provided by this program. In hindsight, I wish that we had kept him in private therapy. BUT we were able to get back into private therapy and although we couldn’t get his original therapist again our current therapist is working out quite well. Continue Reading

An Update.

I haven’t posted in awhile, and I wanted to take a few minutes to note Our Boy’s progress. Not just for everyone else, but for myself on the hard days.

He S-A-N-G. Not an entire song, just a couple of “I love yous” with his father, who was singing while washing dishes. Our Boy was in the living room. I heard it from the bathroom and although I yelled, “Did you hear that?!” My husband didn’t hear me.

He I-M-A-G-I-N-E-D. I was cleaning before our dinner guest arrived on Wednesday and Our Boy found the hollow tube from his bubble wand on the floor in my room. I have no idea when it arrived to lurk under the window (and on top of the heater) but he found it, sucked air through it, loudly smacked his lips and said, “Ahhhhhh!” I’m certain that he imagined he was drinking Sprite or some other bubbly beverage.

He’s been talking. Not always clearly, but more frequently. While helping my father with his computer, Our Boy plopped in front of me when I knelt on the floor to check the power cords. I said, “Oliver! What are you doing? I can’t see!” He scooted to my left, sat up and very matter-of-factly informed me that he was “Happing (helping) Papaw.”

He K-I-S-S-E-S. For awhile, I only got kisses from Our Boy at church. Today he woke me from a nap by grabbing my chin, turning my head and kissing my cheek. We’ve begun to get hugs every now and then as well.

He socializes. Our Boy really interacted with Wednesday’s dinner guest. He made eye contact with him, shook his hand, brought his copy of “Goodnight Moon” to him to read, was very interested in his phone and keys, and made numerous trips to interrupt our card game in the kitchen to see if he was still there.

All without sending him to a preschool classroom or daycare.

Oppression.

I live in a rich nation, with lots of taxes and lots of greedy little bureaucrats.  I worked for the government for over a decade. A large part of that decade was spent working with money for the public education system.  For some time, I took classes with the end goal of becoming a teacher. What a way to make a difference in a life! What a way to help change the world!

However, as I began to see exactly how much money was involved and that big chunks were going to suits that sat behind a desk, I began to suspect that it really was more about money than anyone cared to let on.  I even reached a point that if I had achieved my goal of obtaining a degree and becoming a teacher, I would have cut my pay “in twain”. So I put college on hiatus and in the meantime gave birth to our son, who I planned to keep out of “the system”. 

Now, I find myself in an awkward position: being too broke to pay for private therapies long term and a private preschool because we are being taxed to pay for “the system” and so some suits can sit behind a desk (among other things). Oh, we’re broke enough that I could turn to another “system” and get a bit of help robbing Peter to pay Paul.  It really is quite a seductive thing that Nanny government has going on.

And in the middle of all my opinions and thoughts is a little boy who needs all the help that we can give him so that he can live a full and productive life as an adult.  Meanwhile, I’ll be praying for a miracle before August.

For THIS Child I Prayed.

“For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.”

1 Samuel 1:27 (NKJV)

Our Boy in my Tummy. Circa 6 or 7 months?

Our Boy in my Tummy. Circa 6 or 7 months?

This is how my stomach spent most of my pregnancy. The bruises that you see are the result of a daily dose of Lovenox (a blood thinner) that’s used to treat a thrombophilia referred to as MTHFR. I lost two babies before I was able to carry Our Boy to full term. After my second loss, early in our marriage, the doctor’s office ran some blood tests and told me that my blood didn’t process folate (aka folic acid) as it should. My blood would clot in the small vessels of the developing placenta and cut off all supply of nutrients to my babies, resulting in a loss of life. If I became pregnant again, I was to contact them immediately to be put on the regimen of Lovenox, five times the daily dose of folic acid and a daily baby aspirin. I’d like to tell you that this was the “hardest” thing I (we) went through to get him here.

It wasn’t. Continue Reading