The rules

There has got to be common ground. I have started this blog to give people a place to tell their stories...positive stories . Too often we are mired down in the hows and whys, causes and cures. It is easy to forget that we are talking about people. One of the misconceptions that I have run into is that because I have children with disabilities-I am not allowed to have joy-nor are my children allowed to be joyful. Some of the comments I have received after relaying a funny story or anecdote...well you would think I had been kicking kittens.
So here are the rules. Anyone can submit a story,OR just a couple of sentences,OR a list of five great things either about their children or themselves. It must be positive, There will be no discusion of causes, cures, treatments, etc. There are more than enough places for that. Mean people will be deleted. If you are interested in taking part in this adventure please submit your story to please no pictures or video-lets keep it simple.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

That which does not kill me makes me thankful

Here is another one from my blog. It is one of the first posts I ever wrote for I hope some more people will write for this one!

That which does not kill me makes me thankful...

Girls! Leave the table cloth on the it is NOT a cape!

put it on the table..THE TABLE not your HEAD!

It's for Thanksgiving....Why? because it makes the table pretty...

No it is not a sheet! It is a Table Cloth...FOR THE TABLE!

THAT'S IT! If you touch it again, you won't have cookies UNTIL YOU ARE 47! "

Thus begins our Thanksgiving celebration. Like most families, we gather around the table to feast on Turkey and all the sides. The only exception being that our holiday feast includes frozen pizza. Frozen pizza, because that is one of the five things that my boys will eat, and they had already met their quota of peanut butter and jelly for the week.

Thanksgiving is often a time for family traditions. One of my children's favorite traditions is arguing over where they will sit. Actually, they do this at most meals. It just seems more festive on Thanksgiving being that there is a table cloth involved. My tradition is to ask everyone what they hope the next year will bring, and what they are thankful for. The answers from my kids vary from "I hope the next year brings toys", "I am thankful for toys" to "why is this sheet on the table? " and "I am thankful for this sheet". I try and set a good example by saying that I am thankful for my family, for having this wonderful feast and that I hope that the next year is as wonderful as this one has been. I am also secretly thankful that the table cloth is still on the table.

This year we we did things differently. As per my oldest son Sammy's school assignment, we were to go around the table and give thanks for things we wouldn't normally be thankful about. For example, being thankful for a mortgage, because it meant we had a roof over our heads, or being thankful for homework because it meant that you were learning. Sammy turned to me and said "I'm thankful for you mama." and continued to eat his pizza. Now I could take that one of two ways...he either didn't understand the assignment or he equates me with the mortgage. My ego chose the former.

As I later pondered the idea of this assignment, I asked myself what am I truly thankful for? The obvious things of course, we have a house, a steady income, four unique children, two of which happen to have an asd. What would I normally not think to be thankful for? Should I be thankful for autism? It has shaped who we all are. How we behave, how we think. Wasn't it Nietzsche who said "That which does not kill you makes you stronger"?( Then again, Nietzsche wasn't a stay at home mom.) On one hand, how could I possibly be thankful for something that has at times caused my boys such angst, and on the other, that angst has in part made them the incredible people that they are. From their struggle, we have all grown. I know that I am a better parent-a better person. I take little for granted, and I have much joy. For that, I give thanks.

That night, while I was tucking Sammy in, he once again said that he was thankful for me. I asked him why? He said "Mama, you help me to learn so I can grow up to be a good adult."and I thought, right back at you Sammy, right back at you. He did understand the assignment-it was me who got it wrong. Yet another thing to be thankful for.
And so another Thanksgiving has passed. There was a wonderful turkey, thought provoking conversation....and the table cloth stayed on the table. All in all, a great success- AND I still have a few weeks to figure out how to keep the GIRLS OFF OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bodega Bay Bounce!

Here is another great story from Denise (dizedd) from California

Yesterday I decided to take the girls on a trip to our favorite beach-Dorin beach, on Bodega Bay. I try to take them every month, but I'm alright with myself if we make it four times a year-it is a hundred miles away. But it's the BEST beach, because hardly anyone ever goes there. And there's a bathroom. And NO CLIFFS-for a person who grew up in Southern California, the sheer number of beaches up here with dangerous high cliffs and rocky shores really astounds me. Also, the ocean up here sucks. It's cold, and the waves are puny. But Dorin beach at least has a nice flat stretch of sand, and a pretty view-it's the best that I can do for them up here.

I told the kids where we were headed as we got dressed. I also mentioned it several times in the car. Apparently they didn't believe me until we'd driven past the college town of Davis-which is about 15 miles outside the city. In the girls minds, if we drive that far west, it can mean only one possible destination-BODEGA BAY, YEAH!!!

Too bad for them, because there are lots of fun things on the way to Bodega Bay that I'd like to take them to. There's a six flags, and a discovery kingdom wild animal park, and another mini amusement park in Nut Tree, and the Jelly Belly factory has free tours......

If I stopped the car at any of these places, they'd have screaming fits, because we are 'supposed' to be going to the beach. Oh well.

Back to the main point-we drive past Davis, and the girls perk right up. Janet starts mumbling about pirates, and mermaids, and "treasure under the sea!" Scarlett starts 'singing', and bouncing up and down in her seat. I let it slide for a minute or two-it's nice to see them so happy. But the car itself is bouncing along with Scarlett, and I do need to stay in one lane when I drive.

"Ok Scarlett, that's enough. Stop bouncing in your seat, you're shaking the whole car."

[Must mention here- "the car" is a tiny little Ford Focus hatchback. Scarlett weighs 200lbs. And Janet is already 5'6", which means that she will eventually 'outgrow' the car-they have to sit in the backseat, because the gear shift and emergency brake are between the two bucket seats up front-I'm terrifed that they'd accidently kill us all by grabbing one of those while I drive! I'll have to get another SUV in a year or two]

She stops for a second, then starts again. I ask her to stop bouncing again, and she rocks back and fourth in her seat instead-which also makes the car itself jump around, so I ask her to stop rocking back and forth as well. So she bounces again. Then stops for a second. Then starts again, singing joyfully the entire time. I tell her to stop, again. And again she does sit still, for twenty seconds.

We go on like this for about twenty minutes, then hit a minor traffic jam. Sitting in a frequently still car, I can really feel how much Scarlett's bouncing is knocking the entire car around. I finally have to mute the radio, turn around, and raise my voice a bit.

"SCARLETT, KNOCK IT OFF! I'm glad that you're so damn happy, but you've got to stop bouncing up and down and rocking back and fourth in your seat. You're making the whole car shake! Just stop it now, I already asked you nicely fifty times, and I don't want to have to nag you all the way to the shore!"

She sings back to me, in her typical vocalisation that means, "Alright then, jeesh." I can't type this sound out in letters, but it's clearly recognizable. Most of Scarlett's vocalizations sound like the song of some beautiful tropical bird-but you get to recognize their specific meanings after a while.

She did manage to sit still after that, I only had to remind her twenty times or so during the remainder of the trip. Which took another hour and twenty minutes-so she was behaving pretty well!

When we finally got to the beach, we stopped at the restrooms, which are about a quarter of a mile away from where we actually park. There was only one other car in the parking lot, and that lady was roaming the beach near the bathroom with her little kids. As we were finished and getting back into the car, I saw the same mother 'disapear' behind a large boulder, not twenty yards away from the public restroom. So we pull out of the parking lot, and I look to my left, and see this same woman has dropped her pants and is now defecating behind the rock. What the heck?

I know that part has nothing to do with autism, or my kids, but seriously, it has stuck in my head. I manage to take my two special needs kids INTO the public restroom, which is clean, and well lit, etc. This ladies kids are clearly capable enough that she can let them wander around in front of the rock while she squats in clear view of the road and does her business-why didn't she just take them inside an actual STALL for a minute? And who thinks it's okay to leave human feces on a public beach? I don't care how much sand she covers it with, that beach is windy. Ugh. The parenting of people with NT children sometimes boggles my mind a bit-if I ever did that outside in front of my kids, I can guarentee you that they'd think it was acceptable to just drop trou and do their business ANYWHERE-the grocery store, the movies, our living room-you get the idea.

We park at 'our' favorite stretch, get out, and walk directly to the water. COLD! Too cold. Scarlett wants to swim, but Janet and I are having none of it. We convince her to walk along the waterline for a while instead. Stupidly, as we walk past a small patch of seaweed, I say outloud, "You know, you can eat seaweed for food in an emergency. It has a lot of nutrients in it, so it's really good for you."

Wow. We should list this as number four if someone ever decides to write a book titled 'Stupidest things Denise has ever said'. Sure enough, when our walk is over, and we decide to sit down for a bit, Scarlett picks the stretch of beach where the most seaweed is washing up. I allow her to play in the fridgid water up to her knees only, while Janet and I sit on the sand and create the largest mermaids tail made out of sand ever to encase Janet from waist to toe. The seaweed at Dorin beach is ground up somehow before it reaches the shore-you never find a piece larger than your hand, so there's no chance of Scarlett getting wrapped up in it. For the next hour and a half, I watch my oldest child laugh and splish and duck down in the water to grab delicious pieces of seaweed to eat. It's good for you! Mom said so.

She eats so much that even the gulls seem to notice. They stop their perusal of the seaweed on the sand between Scarlett and Janet and myself frequently just to stare at her.

So now Scarlett will have even more to be excited about when she next performs her Bodega Bay bounce. We are going to the ocean! We can play in the water and the sand, and watch the big birds, and sometimes the sea lions far out along the part where Mom never goes because she's too lazy to walk THAT far, and we can eat SEAWEED! Yeah!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Importance of Classification

The Importance of Classification by Michael McKenna, a frequent contributor to Kicking Kittens

I often wonder how my youngest daughter would have made it as far as she has without the benefit of being classified as a student with special needs. Her accomplishments thus far are a marvel. While she certainly has goals and milestones to meet yet, she has much under her belt which will serve her well in the coming years as she progress towards adulthood. I don't know if she could claim as many victories without her having a classification in a special education program. When we noticed that our daughter was displaying characteristics and behaviors of an exceptional student we sought professional guidance, assessment, therapy, education, and support. We are lucky to have made this realization so early on. And, acted we did; much to our satisfaction. But, enough about her and our family; it is another student and family that did not seek the necessary services, and the outcome given the very special circumstances surrounding this student's life that makes the argument so strongly in favor of having your child classified as need be.

I was a teacher in the NYC school system, and while tenured I was subject to a very different, culturally closed society in that I taught in the single most economically depressed region of other words, I taught in the ghetto. Of the many horror stories I have to tell, the following one is the most unusual as well as tragic:

Teaching as what is termed as a "cluster" teacher has its benefits and drawbacks. In Elementary Education you travel from class to class, teaching for a period of 45-50 minutes, then moving on to a different class and repeating. I was the writing cluster teacher. For some students it was a much deserved break from their regular classroom teacher, for others it was a chance to display poor behavior, for others it meant nothing. I would see as many as 700 students per week as opposed to 30-40 if I were a regular classroom teacher so I saw a huge cross section of young students on a recurring basis (remembering all their names was no easy trick either).

I began my third year of teaching at a new school where I met one student in particular; Charles (yup, named changed to protect his identity). Charles and I got off to a rough start that first year together. I had noticed the dynamic between him and the other students was different...perhaps it was because he was left back from the prior year. I didn't know, and it was not my priority; I was there to teach my students the fine art of writing so I began. Once, in passing, I commented and complimented him on his earrings; he had two huge, what looked like diamond studs in his ears. One student whispered to me that the earrings he wore were, in fact, made of real diamonds. I just couldn't believe it. So I called him on it that day. I asked him if they were real and he answered in the positive. I was stunned; they probably cost as much as my cars and my wardrobe, and I mentioned that to him. He asked me, point blank, if I thought he was lying to me. I replied I didn't think they were real as the cost would be prohibitive given the age of a third grader living in one of the most economically depressed areas in NYC so I said that I did, indeed, doubt his validity. Boy, was I wrong. They were real, and he didn't speak to me for many months thereafter...even after I apologized to him for doubting his claim. They were real, and given to him from his parents who had lots and lots of money. Money from less than honorable means and methods of acquisition as it would turn out.

Nonetheless he was different from the rest of his peers in many ways. He frequently nodded his head from front to back, ticked nervously around his left eye when one conversed with him, displayed speech delays and impediments, and was not social with his peers. He was a candidate for assessment. I had spoken to his regular classroom teacher about it and she said to drop the subject; that it was a waste of time to bother with him. She said no more, and did not satisfy my curiosity nor satiate my responsibility as it concerns Charles. I took it to higher sources within the school's hierarchy and received similar answers with little elaboration. I was taken quietly aside by another colleague some time thereafter my initial inquiries and was given the whole ugly truth about Charles.

Charles was the world's oldest third grader at....drum roll please....thirteen years old. I was astounded to hear that. Simply astounded. He looked just like a typical third grader, and especially so in height; he was the normal size of your average third grader, who was maybe eight years old. I had to exhibit a few double-takes when it was revealed to me that he was so old. It was the Goldfish Theory, but in human terms; put a goldfish in a small bowl and the goldfish doesn't grow much; put a goldfish in a big bowl and the goldfish grows much larger. He was the goldfish in a small bowl. After spending five full years as a third grader, and beginning a sixth year as such, I am witness to understanding the inhibiting physically detrimental effects on the human body.

His parents were not interested in Charles' education as they were never present during the school's earlier attempts at classifying him so he could receive the necessary services. His parents were members of a very powerful gang, and did "things" to acquire their economic living. Charles was connected not only by birth to this gang but I strongly suspect he was involved in some of their illicit and illegal activities as well. His parents refused to grant him assessment. They thought it was a badge of shame; something to be embarrassed about. They did not want him classified as a special education student. I never understood that line of thought.

His peers feared him. His teachers feared him. The school's administration turn a blind eye to him (and I secretly think they feared him too). The dreaded lunch ladies feared him. The custodians feared him. I think adults from the neighborhood feared him as well. My own feelings were mixed to be honest. I genuinely liked him as our relationship progressed and improved; he could exhibit a strange blend of intimacy in conversation with his experiences and observations playing the motivating decision-making process in his life. He couldn't’t write a paragraph to save his life but he could verbally spin a yarn that was funny, clever, and enticing. He was another child slipping and slipped through the cracks in the NYC school system. He was one of many goldfish in that small, crowded bowl.

He was too far gone for me to be of any real help...I could focus my energies elsewhere with positive results for future success but I didn’t give up on him completely. I was still his teacher for two periods a week, and I was going to see him progress as a writer as all my students were going to this, and every, year. I found him a seat in the reading resource room three times a week much to the dismay of that particular teacher (she gave me black looks even when Charles left the school for good) after I spent an inordinate amount of time bitching and moaning to the school's administration. I spent extra time with him as I could muster during our class time. His progress was not easy to gauge, but it was evident in some areas of language pathology that strides have been made. His vocabulary had improved as did his ability to spell the common sight words that we use daily in communication.

The next year coincided with a change in the City's top administrators. Our new leader, The Honorable Mayor Bloomturd (again, I changed the name to protect the identity of the offending official...and how he offends) decided to change what is termed the Educational Continuum. This impacted Charles' life in a most unusual way the next year. Instead of being left back again or being promoted to the fourth grade (I think he was going to be promoted) he was instructed under the new continuum to be promoted to the ninth grade; the chronologically correct grade he should attend under normal circumstances. I saw him one day in the fall of that new year loitering outside of the elementary school where I still taught. I asked him how he liked his new situation and new school. He smiled and said it was great, and laughed as he went on his merry way down the street. My last bit of information about him was that he was arrested as a minor for possession of illegal drugs with intent to sell and for possession of a deadly weapon. He was doing time in a local juvenile detention center. That was about five years ago when I heard that bit of information.

He is now ready to turn 19 or 20 years old. I haven't heard anything about him since the last bit of information. I can only imagine what he is up to....and my thoughts are not wholesome as it concerned his future prospects.

This is an extreme occurrence insofar as one person's life is concerned. I think it is also fair to say that the outcome of his life had many other factors involved; some very unusual ones, and that by receiving assessment and services from a specialized education program would have made a positive impact on his being. Whether or not that would have altered his life is pure conjecture, but I have seen the impact of services rendered where they are needed both as an educator and as a parent, and I am a huge proponent of Individualized Educational Programs for anyone in need of such. Do for your child the greatest service you can; if you have doubts or questions or concerns about your child's behavior or development you should consult with your spouse/family members/guardians about the situation, and then take it to a professional such as your family doctor for further inquiry. Get the proverbial ball rolling fast and advocate, advocate, advocate; it's up to you to guide and steer the development of your child.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

An I.E.P. primer

Another post from Michael McKenna. Who has experience on both sides of the table-as an educator and as a parent.

An IEP Primer

There are some things that you, the parent, should be aware of when you go to an IEP meeting for your child. Since I have sat on three sides of the table; as a student with a speech disability, as a parent with a child with a Special Education classification, and as an Educator of children with Special Education classifications, I feel especially qualified to elaborate on this subject. There are a few Do's and Don't's to follow, and here are a few:

For Parents -
1. Show up on time for your meeting. If you know you're frequently late for appointments, make an effort to show up on time. If you have a legitimate circumstance that prevents your puncuality then that is fine. Showing up on time means you are putting your child first and foremost.
2. Do not bring your other children with you. Your focus is on the child in question to which the meeting is about; not your other children. Make arrangements to have someone watch your children, call the school to see if there is someone who can mind them, or cancel your appointment until you can find someone. If you must bring your children then you must, but please refrain from breast feeding your child during the meeting (yup, I've seen that).
3. Do bring an advocate if you need/want one. It's been my experience that the more knowledgeble individuals that attend, the better. There is nothing better than more insight as to your child's best interests. If you feel the need to bring an attorney that's fine too. Doctor? Nurse? Afterschool Special Education instructor? Yup, you bet; bring them all. Also, an IEP metting is not a social event - no eating, drinking, flirting, cellphone calls or texting messages, etc. You do not need to bring eight family members to advocate.
4. Do not use foul language. No cursing, expletives, swearing, oaths and threats (yup, heard them all, and sometimes in the same sentence). I, as an educator, am here to HELP. This is not to say that you need to kiss my ass ( I don't respond well to that method either to be quite frank) but you need to be civil and polite.
5. Do not threaten me or my family with bodily harm. Bottom line: get ready for a free ride in real-life police car because charges will be pressed against you (yup, I've seen one parent get hauled off....I wasn't in that meeting I would like to point out). It's really not going to help your child when they are wards of Child Protective Services and living under the foster care system because you flew off the handle and got yourself arrested.
6. If there is something you don't understand, ask; there is no such thing as a stupid question. If there is not enough time to satisfy your child's needs in one meeting, schedule another. If you think you're not getting treated fairly then say something. We, as teachers, do what we do because we feel the need to we also have your child's best interests in mind. Re-schedule another meeting until you are satisfied but also be aware that there is only so much an educational institution can do given the infrastructure thereof. We are not miracle workers but we have been known to pull a few rabbits from top hats on as flexible as you can and we'll appreciate your efforts.
7. Don’t look upon the teacher or educator "the enemy" because we're not. We don’t write policy or budgets; we work with them, and we do our level best to squeeze as much out of what we're given; oft times we're given very little to work with. I am reminded by the once familiar phrase spoken some 40+ years ago; "Either you're part of the problem or you're part of the solution," to which I add, "Or you're part of the landscape." Get involved with your school through the PTA, budget votes, different committees and meetings. Make sure you can back up your complaints and criticisms with action.
8. Educate yourself about your rights and responsibilities as a parent. There are multiple services available to you, the parent, about the in's and out's of yours and your child's rights. Learn them. Ask for help. Don’t be shy; this is your child's future at stake; both long and short term. When you are armed with knowledge it makes any meeting between educators and parents a more effective and efficient one.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dancing at wits end

Here is one of mine...

It's 5:30 a.m. on Monday morning. My husbands alarm clock finally stopped going off at fifteen minute intervals , I am about to drift into a deep sleep, when MY alarm clock starts ringing. I drag myself out of bed, stumble down the stairs and pour a cup of coffee. Lukewarm coffee. Because my husband lovingly poured it from the coffee maker into the carafe in order to keep it hot for me. Only, he didn't screw the lid on correctly-so now it is closer to cold than warm. I glance out the window-and to my absolute horror, at least two feet of snow has fallen...and is still falling. For the love of god-it is going to be ANOTHER snow day-the kids WON'T have school. It is now 5:45 a.m. Monday morning and already the week has been too long.

I think about going back to bed...and just as I begin to make my way up the stairs, I hear the herd starting to wake up..Which is remarkable, for had this been a regular school day, I would need to prod, poke, pull and threaten them out of bed. It never fails...if it is the weekend, a holiday, or any other day in which there is no reason to wake up early-they are up at the crack of dawn. I wonder if there is some unwritten rule or code. A law that tells children "Thou shalt not let thy parents sleep late." If I do by chance, try and go back to sleep, they will tip toe (like a pack of elephants) into my room, stand next to my bed, and argue about whether or not I am awake...They think that they are whispering...but a whisper to them is one decibel below shouting. Sammy, will try and make everyone be quiet."Shh, mama is sleeping!!...Oscar, will get anxious saying"Oh no we are waking up mama!!"...Lily will tell Zoe that she is a baby and needs to go back to sleep...Zoe will scream(her face two inches from mine-she is checking whether or not my eyes are open)...I will pop up from the bed saying "Why are you all shouting?!!" to which they will reply.."Mama's awake!"Can we eat...I can't find my socks...Zoe pushed me...Sammy told me I had to go to bed...I did not!"...this will follow me to the my coffee..until I can actually quiet them with breakfast..

I get dressed and quickly walk the dogs. I am hoping to get a workout in. Working out with four kids at home is an adventure. If I ever meet Jillian Michael's, I will ask her how many extra calories this burns. In addition to following the workout routine, I chase my three year old who runs off with my weights, do push ups with a five year old (and various stuffed animals) on my back...have a ten year old who is all elbows and knees( with the coordination of a headless chicken) trying to mimic what I am doing and all the while I am asking my eight year old to "Please stop hopping up and down in front of the television". It takes roughly 2 hours to get through this 45 minute then it is lunch time..and my kids are hungry...they behave as though they hadn't been fed in months...I also notice that none of them have gotten dressed...with the exception of my three year old who is walking around in just one sock...this is her idea of a fashion statement.

I give them lunch and quickly walk the dogs(again). I make a pot of coffee and avidly watch the weather report-dear god let there be school tomorrow! As I try to drink a cup of hot kids all clamor that they are bored and want to go outside and play in the snow. Four pairs of snow, coats..hats, gloves and 30 minutes later they are outside..As I look longingly at my coffee pot my oldest comes to tell me that the snow plow guy has pushed all of the snow in front of the garage(I now look longingly at the wine bottle)...On go my own snow pants, hat, gloves and coat..I trudge towards the garage ready to do battle with the 5 feet of snow blocking the door...when my three year old has to go to the bathroom. Into the house we come the hat,coat, mittens, snow pants and into the bathroom she goes...and out she comes...on go the snow pants, hat, coat and mittens...out the door we go when..."mama, I'm cold, I want to go in..." followed by a chorus of "me toos"..I plead- "Doesn't anyone want to help me shovel the snow?""Come on! It will be fun!"(I try to look enthusiastic) They look at me as if I have lost my mind. They do however agree to "help". Help consists of my ten year old shoveling the snow that I have moved- back to where it was, my eight year old rolling in the snow I am shoveling,my five year old lying in the snow complaining that her legs are tired, and my three year old repeatedly needing her mittens put back on. Three hours, two snack breaks, and one snowman later, it is done.

We go back into the house where I settle the herd in front of the t.v. with hot chocolate and even more snacks. I walk and feed the dogs. I clean up the kitchen and put a load of laundry in.Finally, I pour myself a big cup of coffee and think about sitting down with a book. When my oldest comes in and hugs me saying "I love you mama"..I hug him back saying "I love you too buddy."He pulls away, looks at me and says "whats for dinner? I'm starving."

I have a few options...I can cry...I can drink coffee and cry..or I can turn on music...I put on The Black Eyed Peas "Pump It" crank up the volume and watch as my kids start to dance..I see no other choice but to join them. It has stopped snowing, there will be school tomorrow. I dance all the way to the kitchen.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

blues clues

This one is from

My son is four and obsessed with Blue's Clues. He loves to "skidoo" everywhere. He loves letters and numbers, and he loves computers so much that he can sight read the word "Google."

He's also picking things up from other areas. He sings with me more often. He gave me kisses today. He pointed at his Buzz Lightyear pajamas and labeled the face parts for me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I'm so vain, I probably think this song is about me..

This one is from Denise (Dizedd) from California...

This morning, I went into Janet's room to wake her up, singing hula songs loudly[she just got new hula girl sheets on monday, and I have been torturing her with morning hula dances since then :)]

"No, Mom, stop. Shut up!", she said as she woke up, trying to pull the blanket back over her head.

"Janet, you can't tell me to shut up today. It's my birthday! I get to sing as loud as I want. ALOHA EEE, ALOHA III..."

"No, Mom.", she moaned.

"Then get up.", I said.

Next, I went into Scarlett's room. She was already awake, and grinning about her sister's loud annoyance with me.

"Guess what Scarlett? It's my Happy Birthday today!"
She nods her head-yes, she remembers. Grandma's coming over tonight, and we'll have cake. Annika's coming later too, and THAT means that she gets to stay up late and watch a movie while Annika and Mom visit on the back patio, yeah!

"Do I look older today?", I ask, teasing.

She nods her head again, most definately, yes-Mom DOES look older today.


She doesn't lie, either. I must remember to never ask her this question ever again. I scoot over to the bathroom mirror to look for unusual 'puffiness' that might explain her percieving me as looking OLDER, but nope, it's no more puffy then usual-I just look older, appartently.

Happy Birthday to me :)

Kid's lucky she can't talk, or I'd be pestering her all day...

Do I look 33? Or do I look more like 29? Do I look older than 33? But I don't look older than 35, right? I'm ok with looking my age, I just don't want to look older than my age.... HOW OLD DO I LOOK SCARLETT?

The only person who would tell me the honest truth about this, and it will never pass her lips.

I'm gonna go stare in the mirror some more now...

Friday, June 12, 2009

My funny story

This story is from Angela, about her wonderful son Alaric-

This is still my most favorite moment with my son, who is PDD-NOS, Dyslexic and has Pragmatic Disorder.

Firstly, I am allergic to bees. I am terrified of bees. You need to understand this before reading further.

Last summer Alaric spent a great deal of time outside, fascinated with his bugcatcher (plastic home for bugs, includes a net and magnifying glass) and his buglopedia (His teacher put this together for him, it has pictures and scientific facts about insects available in our area.)

I was thrilled to see him doing something that didnt require hours of sitting indoors. This continued for a couple of weeks, then suddenly he was spending tons of time locked in his room. He was also demanding that his privacy be respected, and as such was closing his door and made a sign with a picture of the door being open and an X through the picture. (He had to explain the picture to me, lol, but neat, right?)

Then, I'm doing dishes and he starts SCREAMING "NOOOOO NOOOOOOOOO. This is INCORRECT and CANNOT be happening to my SWEEET SELF NO NONONONONONOOOOOO!'Startled, although smiling over his choice of words I head to his room. I knock on the door."PRIVACY" He yells."Um, honey? It's mom, please let me in." I reasoned."FINE! It's on your own head then!" he yells back.

I walk in.

I stop.

I can't breath.

I'm trying to not freak.

I'm warring between running away screaming and bursting into tears.

Alaric looks at me oh so calmly and says, "Dont worry Mom. I know you are agic to bees. In my book it says the agicness comes from the stinger, so I removed all the stingers.

He is sitting there with a bunch of GIGANTIC teddybear bumble bees (You know those huge fuzzy ones) and has removed the stinger (and thus killed the bee, which led to a freakout) from one. Another is crawling around the floor unhappily.

I take a breath.I tell his little holiness that ALL bees are to be put back outside, this very instant.Saddned he does as he is bid.Later, when he is ready to discus it he told me he loves the bees, but knew that keeping some as pets when I am agic to them is not accpetable, so he figured if he removed their stingers that he could keep them.

Lord love us, lol.Amazed that he had caught so many without being stung. truly amazed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

From Tania, U.K.-she has a very good and informative site at
and a blog spot at

There are so many challenges associated with raising two sons with Asperger's that it's good to be able to consider what's actually good about them. Here goes:
1. They are unique: Of course all children are unique, but let's face it, ours are MORE unique than most with their quirky ways and their incredible knack of saying things that make you think more deeply about something than you would have.
2. They give us endless hours of fun: When they've gone to bed my husband and I laugh ourselves silly about the things they do. Like eating the dog's kibble in revenge for having their sandwich snatched from them; talking to themselves while they're in the bathroom so loudly you think they're on the phone to someone; taking the dog onto the trampoline to "play" with him (ok, this is not so funny for the dog).
3. They are honest. Brutally honest, expecially when it comes to your aging, putting on weight, or whether your bum looks big in this (it does).
4. Their successes are doubly heart-warming because they face so many challenges just doing regular things.
5. They are interesting and intelligent: I would far rather have two clever boys with ASD than two 'normal' children who bored the life out of me. Who wants a kid that blends in anyway?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Another IEP

Another IEP

by Michael A. J. McKenna

"How many of these damned meetings have we been to so far," was the question I asked of my wife while walking up the stairs of our town's High School prior to attending our youngest daughter's yearly IEP meeting. She answered, "I don't know; there's been a lot meetings, and I am really hoping for good news."

Our present odyssey with Mara started when she was two years old. We both noticed a child, while extremely happy, content and seemingly occupied with external stimulae, whose language development was lagging behind that of the only benchmark we had at the time; her older sister. And, in retrospect, I am happy to have had a comparison. Needless to say our concern was great. We began to search for people, programs, assessment, and support....and we got it!

We live in a very affluent suburb outside of NYC where the taxes are so high you would wonder why anyone would want to live someplace where their monthly mortgage payment was the equal to the monthly tax bill, and here's why: Educational Services!!! Top Notch Educational Services! Since Mara was classified as speech delayed/disabled and developmentally disabled we have received nothing but the finest services available to us - Free Of Charge! Well, better to say without any out-of-pocket expenses. Mara had a therapist come three times a week, one hour per day, for the first year, and I mean every single week. When Mara reached three years of age she was permitted to ride the bus. That meant she was able to attend The Little Villiage School in Bellmore, NY; a very specialized school for a variety of children with various classifications. I remember the first day when Mara was placed on the bus; my wife was balling her eyes out so much so that I put Mara on the bus. There was not a dry eye all morning. The afternoon was a different story as Mara was smiling ear to ear when she arrived home; her stuffed Elmo doll in one hand, and a piece of artwork in the other. She spent three years there, and it was a great experience for her socially, psychologically, physically, and emotionally. But, the time to move on was approaching.....

...and on to our public elementary school she goes. Mara was immediately placed in the Special Education class with a ratio of 12:4:1; twelve children, four para-professionals, and one special education teacher. Those are good odds even for someone who doesn't gamble, and the stakes were, and continue to be, high. Mara settled into the routine of public school life; waking up, dressing, washing up and cleaning, gathering up her bookbag and lunch, and leaving the house for six years. For her it seemed to be about continuity; a set schedule that was ordered with little flexibility. She took art classes on weekends. Picked up the cello starting in fourth grade. Went fishing whenever the opportunity presented itself. Made snowmen. Played in the fallen leaves of autumn. Went to the beach with family during the summer months. Complained when she had to make her bed, dry dishes, clean her room....standard stuff. Mara made progress, slowly, but we could see a difference; sometimes in a span as little as a month, but more often from year to year in comparison. She certainly had a distinctive personality; funny, clever, witty, socially outward with family, socially inward with peers and teachers, reserved and shy, curious....standard stuff, again. But change was happening yet again as she was ready to move up to the Junior/Senior High School.....

...Puberty! Wow! Who'da thunk? And, seemingly overnight it descended. Interestingly enough Mara became less socially awkward with peers. She made Honor Role her entire eighth grade year, made second chair in orchestra with cello, was awarded Student of the Month in nearly every class she attended. Her language was improving. She was gaining a greater sense of self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth....she was becoming one with her self; simply amazing. If her sister picked on her, as siblings are wont to do, she began to hand it back to her; in spades too. She would no longer be content to be told to make her bed with out some snide comment forthcoming. Her two favorites are, "Stop breaking my uterus," and "What the 'beep'," as she will not utter any oaths, swears, expletives, curses...I swear to god, it's her choice. Believe me, I've even tried to offer her sums of money, and other inducements, if she would just say the word, "shit." She refuses....and how lucky am I.

Her IEP meeting was an important one...they all are... as she's moving to the High School next year. She's being taken out of specialized classes, modifying the foreign language requirement so she can gradute with a Regents Diploma, receiving resource room five days a week, remedial reading three times a week in addition to the regular schedule of required and elective classes. It's a big step for her, and she was happy to hear the news yesterday after she got home from school. She seems ready to move on with her program changes, and both her parents are happy, proud, honored and filled with awe as Mara has made her way in this world.

So, when the tax bill comes my initial reaction is one of horror and fear (yup, it is really that high), but I quickly settle down as I know that Mara is getting everything, and more, that she needs. And, we've been to a lot of meetings too: yearly reviews, test assessment meetings, psychological test assessment meetings, informal and formal parent/teacher conferences, and the occasional program change meetings as required. Suffice it to say that Mara's education has been the hands of a great many people. Damn the Taxes, Full Speed Ahead!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Who is changing who

I guess it is my turn to kick the kitten..I wrote this a while ago for my other blog. I thought it would be appropriate here..Oh yeah...I'm Kathleen, mother of four, two kids on the spectrum. I live in Maine.

Who is changing who

I think that once a person becomes a parent, they start aging in dog years. For every one year of having a child-the parent ages seven. That would make me roughly 114 years old. Unless of course you age seven years per child-in which case I would be 219. By all rights, I should be collecting social security...or at least living in Florida.

No doubt about it, having kids changes your life. In an instant. I remember bringing our first baby home from the hospital. We carried him in, placed his seat on the floor and just looked at him. Now what? I had absolutely no clue whatsoever as to what to do with him. You would think that he would have come with some sort of owners manual. There I was with this 8lb. 6oz. ball of need, and I was overwhelmed. I had never really had to take care of anyone other than myself, and I wasn't always very good at that. I kept waiting for a representative to show up from the hospital saying "We made a mistake-we'll be taking him back now" I was an irresponsible, self centered and flighty kind of girl. How could anyone possibly entrust me with the care of a baby? How could I possibly do this? What was I thinking?

I remembered a story that my sister had told me about when she had brought her first child home. She too was overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation.

She had been up all night with her crying baby. She was tired and at her wits end, thinking, "when is this going to end?" At that moment, she realized that it wasn't. That she needed to accept that this was how things were going to be-that this was what her life was about now. That things would change, he would grow up, it would get easier. She needed to accept and move on. She told me that once she had come to this realization-things got better

That is the single most best advice that I was ever given as a mother.

That first year was quite a learning experience for me. I think that I had the cleanest most fed, washed and changed baby on the planet. I sterilized his bottles, his pacifiers, his clothes. If it fell on the floor, it was washed or discarded. If he drooled on his shirt-he was changed immediately. My poor boy had so many baths, we dried his skin out. I was uber-mom, and I was going to do everything right.

Imagine my dismay, when my curly headed chubby boy of baby goodness started to retreat into his own world. His words, his eye contact,...slowly diminished before my eyes. What had I done wrong? What was I doing wrong?Was it the tuna I had eaten during my seventh month of pregnancy? Had some errant germ broken through my barrier of sterilization? I panicked. I was so afraid that this was somehow my fault..that perhaps my greatest fear was reality-I shouldn't have had a child, I was obviously not good enough to be a mother.Oh it was quite the pity party, I should have had it catered.

It took us two years to get a firm diagnosis for our son. During that time, I forgot about being the "perfect" mother, I stopped stressing out about clean laundry and sterile bottles. The only thing I cared about was my son-him. Not his clothes or his bottles or even his lack of eye contact or language- Him. It was during that time that my sisters advice came back to me. I needed to accept that this was who my son was. That this diagnosis, though helpful in explaining some things, didn't alter anything. I was still his mom-and he, still my son. Nothing in the world can ever change that. Not even dirty dishes. For that I am thankful. We accepted and we moved on.

I think that, 3 kids and 10 years later, I finally may be getting the hang of this mothering thing. My house certainly needs cleaning, there is laundry to do, and my 3 year old is chewing on something that I hope is edible. I think that at age 219 (in dog years) I may finally be growing up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Kim Wombles , from Texas, a mom with three kids on the spectrum came over from her blogs and to post this very funny kitten kicking story..

Transylvania on the Brain
The boy comes home last week from the center and says there's a new girl there from Transylvania. I do a double take and ask him if he's sure. He's positive. Transylvania, Mom. I wisely let it go. What the heck is the likelihood of someone from Transylvania moving to West Texas to live in a group home and attend a center for the disabled? Really? But, who knows, right? He comes home the next day with a letter from the girl, filled with hearts and kissy signs and all manner of mushiness directed at my decidedly unmushy boy. That's going to work, right? She's drawn a picture of buck teeth on the paper as well, writing buck teeth beneath it, so he's perseverating on whether she thinks he has buck teeth, ignoring all the other little nonsense drawings she's made and all the suggestive ones indicating her clear desire to get jiggy with him. At the end, she's written, " Can I have your cell number?" and drawn boxes for yes and no. He's at a quandary of what to do. He's not overly fond of the phone, preferring to talk to his best friend only on the phone; anyone else, not so much, thank you.

All he can tell me about the girl is that she's from Transylvania. No age, no hair color, no size, no degree of functioning. So, she could be anywhere from her teens to her 70s and anywhere from high functioning (and based on her note, it would appear she's higher functioning than him) to lower functioning, from just mentally challenged to physically disabled as well, although he talks about the women with their sitters (walkers that also have the seat, so if she is physically disabled, it's not significant). There's absolutely no telling with the boy, because he's damn near person blind, not just face blind.

We decide yes on the cell-phone and the next day he comes home and tells me she's told him that she's his girlfriend. It's a good thing she's ready to lead, because left to the boy, no one would get anywhere. He's rehearsed with her, so he's also able to tell me she is 19 too and has blond eyes. I stop him and tell him I'm pretty sure she doesn't have blond eyes. Blank stare ensues.

Ah well. Tonight his friend from the center (the one he'll happily talk to on the phone, ususally nonsense about Brittany Spears-- I have no idea and wish for none) is over; we're eating, and the light goes off in my husband's head. Ask the friend, who is not faceblind. So Rick asks, where's Bobby's girlfriend from? Right out with it comes: Pennsylvania, and right away I lose it, nearly spewing my Fresca (I'm always losing my Fresca, dammit), bent over, laughing my ass off as I run to grab my cell and call Mama, who will get every bit as big a kick out of it as me.

The boy has a thing for vampires. He knows Transylvania. Pennsylvania he's never heard of and couldn't find on a map.

Will he remember correctly that she's from Pennsylvania? I wouldn't bet on it. :-)

Monday, June 1, 2009

"In which Scarlett saves the day"

Our first "kitten kicker" is Denise (sometimes known as dizedd from California). Both of her daughters were diagnosed with autism..

In which Scarlett saves the day:

For those of you who do not have one nearby you, let me describe Trader Joes. It is a small grocery store with a strong emphasis on health foods, and it's main purpose seems to be to make yuppies feel good about themselves when they shop. You can buy free range chickens for $20 bucks a bird, or the leanest, most environmentally conciously raised beef imported from Australia. Of course,the carbon footprint from flying prepackaged beef 7000 miles across the world cancels out whatever 'green' efforts the Australian ranchers are promising, but hey, it's already seasoned! Your friends are going to be so impressed when you serve them the GREATEST bbq tri tip on Earth.

We buypass the meat section, needless to say.

The frozen food aisle is out of this world however. Everything's cheap. Nearly everything is healthy. And the girl's and I are on a diet. [ Ah, Serequel. It's like a mythical jewish grandmother. It calms you, and soothes you, and makes you feel safe and loved. Yet it constantly seems to chide, "Eat, eat, you're too skinny! Have some cake. There's a brisket cooking in the oven."]

I decided to take the girls shopping for goodies last Sunday. They'd been great all day, and I didn't feel like cooking. So we headed to T J's for turkey strombollis, which are just like Hot Pockets. Except that they're bigger. And yummier. And they have lots of fiber and hardly any calories.

We head down the frozen food aisle, and immediatly grab two weeks worth of 'hot pockets'. Janet grabs an opera cake out of the case and throws it in the cart as well. I decide to just let it go and buy the thing, because it's tiny, and she hasn't had any junk food for two weeks. We'll all cheat together.

When we go shopping, Janet pushes the cart, and I steer it by pulling the front, while Scarlett flitters around in between us. I do not need to look behind me to make sure that they are with me, because I can feel if Janet lets go, and Scarlett is so happy that she is 'singing' the entire time we are out. So as we leave the frozen food aisle, and start heading over to the cracker aisle to get Janet's favorite fake cookies [they are compressed fiber and soy protein masquerading as tiny chocolate chip cookies-hard as rocks. But she loves them], I hear someone utter a strange, short yell.Turning my head, I see Janet landing-she'd jumped straight up in the air, two to three feet off the ground, while still holding onto the handle of the cart. The weird barking yell had come from her. But it all happened so quick, no one else has noticed who made the noise. Scarlett looks at me incredulously-Mom, did you see that? That was BIZARRE.

Janet just looks straight ahead, like nothing happened at all. Ooo kay then. I give Scarlett the "look", the one that says, "Your kid sister's about to lose it and act hysterical for twenty minutes or so. Let's hurry."

She agrees, and immediately stands next to Janet and puts her hands on the handle as well. Here Janet, let me help. Through mutual silence, we decide to head straight for the checkout. We get as far as ten feet when Janet dramatically lets go of the cart , and begins backing away, waving her hands in the air and saying, "No, oh no, get away!", in her most actress-like voice. I immediately walk around the cart and put my arm on her shoulder, "Here Janet, it's okay, you're alright. Let's just go and pay for our hotpockets and cake and go home, ok?"

Janet starts to walk slowly with me, and Scarlett is competently steering the cart entirely on her own next to us. We are ALMOST THERE-ten feet from the register

"NO!", Janet screams in her best horror queen imitation. Then she runs, arms flaying, for the door. I am right behind her, yelling, "Janet Curiel, No! You stop. Stop!"

"it's okay-", a sweet, clueless cashier tells me as we run past her, and I think, 'No, lady, it is not ok, I am not chasing her and yelling at her because she is being naughty, she's going to run straight out into the parking lot and get HIT BY A CAR, you idiot!', but I have no time to say this outloud, thankfully. Right at the doorway, Janet stops, and I've got her again.

"Alright Janet, we'll go." I look over to where we were seconds ago, and there's Scarlett still, holding onto the cart handle.

"Scarlett, we have to go. Get my purse and come here, sweetie.", I call out to her.

She looks at my purse, sitting right in front of her in the 'baby seat' part, and starts to reach for it, then stops, and stands up perfectly straight. She looks at me, then looks at the cart, then looks at me again.

Un huh. She came here to get hot pockets. The hot pockets are already in the cart. And there's cake too. She narrows her eyes at us both, then turns the cart straight towards a free register.
'Pull yourselves together! We are NOT leaving here without my hotpockets.'

Her eyes widen as she glares at us across the store, and I softly plead with Janet to go over to the register-"Sissy won't come over here, and we can't leave without her. Look, there's no one in line, the guy's already ringing our stuff up. Let's just go help her pay, then we'll get out of here."

Surprisingly, Janet walks back with me, but she's acting nervous. As soon as I get to the register, Scarlett moves to stand behind Janet, effectively blocking her between me, her, and the cashiers station. Scarlett may be three inches shorter than her little sister now, but she's stocky, and knows how to corral a wild kid. She learned from a pro!

Feet firm on the ground, Scarlett stretches her arm over to grab my purse and hand it to me. I deftly unzip it and swipe my card with one hand-the other hand's patting Janet's shoulder. The cashier's managed to fit all of our boxes of hotpockets into one plain bag, with the cake right on top.

I look at Scarlett, and she nods her head in a slight jerk towards the parking lot, which means:
'You handle her, I'll get the bag.'

So I take Janet's hand, and Scarlett swoops the heavy bag up with both arms. We hustle out, me gently dragging Janet along, and Scarlett shuffling right behind her, ready to drop the bag of groceries at any second and grab her sister before she runs out in traffic, if necessary. We get unloaded and into the car just fine, thankfully, and when we got home five minutes later, there was no further incident. But if Scarlett hadn't been there to help, I would have come home empty handed. Without any delicious cake and 'hot pockets' to nibble on while contemplating how I was just writing online last week that the girls haven't thrown fits in public in forever, and then Janet procedes to act up on our very next shopping trip.

I am happily amazed at how calm and helpful Scarlett's becoming now that she's pretty much 'done' with puberty. Janet's going to be taller than me next year, and it's nice to know that I have Scarlett there to stand right on her other side when she gets anxious and wants to run away. Just five more years, then Janet will be done with puberty, and I won't have to worry about anyone bursting into hysterics or violence for no reason ever again. YEAH!

I felt so 'old' when Scarlett became a teenager. Oh, it's nice to feel old now! The hardest parts are all behind us, and as soon as Janet hits sixteen it will be smooth sailing until we hit menopause. And I get to go first and be the hormonal nutty one then!

Can you just imagine the looks on their faces, when they are my age, if I ran out to the parking lot, saying, "NO, oh no, I can't do this!" I might do it once just for fun, and blame it all on 'hot flashes'.Pay them back for all of their extreme pms tantrums :)