Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sunnyside Sensory Preschool, End of Session 1

Leaving Early Intervention and having Olivia attend a private preschool was an experiment. Her small, lovely little program at Edwards was closing, and the preschoolers were being shuttled to different larger programs in various Elementary Schools around Portland. She was doing OK at Edwards, and she loved her teachers. But it was a delicate balance at times, and we were still struggling with a lot of basic things - potty training, counting, alphabets, shapes and colors. Going to a much larger school with a much larger class just scared us to death.
We were lucky that a couple of her teachers decided this was the time to try an experiment of their own. Could they create a better environment for socially struggling children on a much smaller scale, with the same services and typical peer interaction, and see more progress in these kids? So Sunnyside Sensory and Art Preschool was started, and Olivia started attending 4 days a week back in October.
And with the end of Fall session, it is time to assess.
Lets see. Olivia is suddenly potty-trained. She goes days without an accident, at school and now at home. This is still a shock for me. I was beginning to wonder if we would be going straight from pull-ups to Depends (TM) at some point. She started counting to 5 on her fingers, and just the other day, she counted to 10. And recognized the written numbers. She knows her colors. She sings the "ABC"s to me. She has prolonged reciprocal conversations with others. She talks about what she did at school that day. She talks about her friends, and no longer shuts down at drop-off. In fact, she only shows anxiety at pick-up if she was having fun and doesn't want to leave. Twice a week a teacher from MESD comes to her school to assist with speech, OT, and other items on her IFSP. And they too have noticed a change.
Oh joy! There are a multitude of factors I am sure that contribute to the Emergence of O, but nothing is more important than feeling safe, supported, and valued. So we got a winner, folks. Now, this is Preschool, and I have already started to receive a slew of letters from MESD and PPS gearing up for the transition of O from one to the other. My reaction to these letters is totally neurotic ("yeah, that's what you think, suckers. I will decide what goes on, when and where she does" - said loudly in the kitchen with my husband peering in asking if I am OK), but that doesn't change the reality of decisions to be made in the near future. But right now, one week before Christmas, I am happy and at peace.

OHSU and Child # 2

I just love signing my kids up for studies. Am I sick? Is there a little Munchausan by proxy issue? Do I view my brood like bacteria in a petri dish?
Actually, I am prone to saying "oh Hell, why not". Here we have two kids, brother and sister, both on the spectrum, with similar issues translated differently due to what? Gender differences? Personality differences?
Olivia just started the OHSU Communication Study at the Beaverton Campus. 8 sessions, each evaluating how she communicates and how she absorbs what others are trying to communicate. Isaac participated in this study in the Spring and it was a good experience, and at the end we had a priceless piece of paper in our hands - an intense evaluation of how Isaac thinks and learns, 20 pages long. We applied it to his IEP, with great results so far.
So it is her turn. So far they have tested her hearing and vision, to confirm that these are not limiting her communication. Now they have started on her cognitive skills. This step raises the Kracken of Worries for me - what kind of playing field do we have, what basic tools are we working with? Although I know better, that evil statistic I read 4 years ago still lurks beneath the surface "70% of children diagnosed Autistic show signs of Mental Retardation". How much (if at all) is O affected by this? What are our limitations?
Of course, if OHSU finds that there are signs, I will ignore them anyway. I am good at that. I will assume she is typical (just as I do with both kids now), just taking a different route. But still...nope. This study will let me know in what way she takes in information best. And I will use that information to tackle her upcoming IEP this spring (holy shit, am not ready to go from IFSP to IEP yet with her).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Liar Liar II

So I am just paranoid, and Isaac has not been exhibiting a tendency to exaggerate or lie at school. So maybe the tales told at home are an example of the growing narrative in his head (in fact, he sounds as if he is reading from a text - including throwing in phrases like {"and G was mad at R", he said}.

Which brings me back to my age old problem, how to recognize an ASD behavior and a NT behavior. Or, better put, learning to recognize when my kids are JUST BEING KIDS, dammit! I really need a hobby.

I will talk about it to his Social Skills Teacher at the Artz center, of course, to make sure his exaggerations are not impeding on his communication skills.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Liar Liar Pants On Fire

Now I have read a few books on ASD (heh, a FEW). One of the reoccurring themes is how honest the child is, how the concept of lying is totally foreign to the average Autistic Child.

Yeah yeah. Does that mean that Isaac is really not ASD? Is Doc. G right with the re-dx? 'Cause MY child is just full of sh*t these days. I mean, seriously need some hip-waders.

Now, just like any other child, when in trouble and cornered, he would occasionally eliminate a few facts. He would tell us what happened but skillfully delete the part where he pushed his cousin, etc. This started a few years ago, maybe around 5, and was rare. But the last few weeks, for whatever the reason, it has been coming fast and furious. And not only when in trouble, but just in the retelling of his day at school, to show off to friends, even talking with his therapists. I need a canister of Morton's Salt anytime he talks to me (a grain just isn't gonna cover it!).

Of all of Isaac's phases so far in life, this is the one I can identify with. Let me explain. I was a military brat for the first 8 years of life. There was a fair amount of shifting and moving, but when on base, it was ok - I was not alone. Then my parents split up and I started a new school full of kids who had known each other all of their lives, it was tough. To top it off, I was shy, insecure, and pretty funny looking with giant owl-sized blue glasses and frizzy hair.

So, I elaborated a bit, thinking that it would make me more interesting. This continued for a few years, actually, and with the obvious result that in the end, none of my new friends could believe half of what I said. Not a solid social skill. And one that Isaac has adopted. Just like this former Army-Brat, he has shifted about in schools - he is currently in his 4th school since Kindergarten (he's in 2nd grade now).

I don't want him to repeat my mistakes (well, not all of them). So I have to think how to approach this. Telling his that honesty will not get him in as much trouble as lies is one, of course. Or that his friends will doubt his tales. What else should I say?

Oh THAT'S right - I have a team now. Calling Dr. G and his Social Skills teacher, Ms. D and setting up an appointment. David and I don't have to do this alone. We are not re-creating the wheel every time there is a challenge.

Will keep you posted.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sensitive Santa @ Lloyd Mall: A Review

I found myself bellowing up the stairs at 8:30AM on a Sunday, something that this Heretic does not do on a regular Sunday -basis, for everyone to get up and at 'em: it was time to visit Santa.

For Olivia this would be the first time. Sure, we had peered around the corner at various Mall Santa's over the years, but despite my nudging, neither child was all that interested in standing in a line to sit on a strangers lap. And to be honest, I didn't have the greatest memories of that experience as a child - either I was scared and crying, or I felt uncomfortable and wished it to be over soon (Oh God, sounds like I am describing my first sexual encounter!). I never pushed THAT hard.

Isaac had been once before, under the power of a determined grandmother, when he was an infant. I don't even know where that photo is - good mothering, huh?

So we threw on clean, non-clashing clothes and hustled down to the Lloyd Center Mall. It had been going on for an hour already (I recommend going at the start of it - apparently 8AM was fairly empty, but we had a 30 minute wait).

The mall was empty save for the families, music was off, lights were low, and it really was a calmer experience for the kids. For the parents, not so much. There was a lot of checking out other families, talking about our experiences (where do you go for speech was a common question asked), soothing, distracting, and primping of children. And ages were across the board - from toddlers to teenagers. I am glad we went. But we will only go next year if the kids ask to.


Gonna sound bad now. Oh, I am not a bad person, I swear. But it was a bit scary for me. I looked at the older kids and wondered if that was going to be my future. One teenage boy had such a hard time that when it was his turn with Santa, he just dropped to the ground and had a tantrum. He was so large, trying to physically moved him would likely have hurt either him or someone else, so he was allowed to calm down on his own, a sight that agitated many others in line. But then, that was the beauty of it all. We got it. Each one of us. We knew that he just needed to find his calm space again, and all would be right with the world.

But still, is that going to be Isaac and I in 5 years? Are we going to hit a wall in our progress and not be able to hurdle it? I look at him-here he is doing his homework, fractions for crying out loud, he is not severe, he talks and shares and cares. But his anxiety can be a deal breaker, and will the hormone surge of adolescents see us out in public managing through a shut-down?

I don't think so. I hope not, anyway. Joining our little community this Sunday, nay, our Band of Brothers, reminded me that there are no guarantees.

And it freaked me out ever so slightly.

Will see about next year.