Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Product Review: Chore Chart/Picture Schedule

In the last few months, I have been trying various methods to get Jaymes to calmly do the assorted daily living tasks that Sierra does on her own. Tried the PECS, and it was just too hard to keep up with because Jaymes has a habit of squirreling away the cards.Tried a written schedule on a white board, but Jaymes didn't have interest- aside from erasing the schedule and scribbling on the white board...

Anyway, I have finally had success! I found this fantastic Reward Chore Chart at My Precious Kid. It's actually meant to be for reminding kids of chores like cleaning their rooms, taking a bath, etc... Not really meant to be a picture schedule type deal, I guess. But, it actually functions as both!

The kit comes with a heavy duty cardboard back with an easel-style stand. Three hooks are labeled for morning, noon, and night. An extra hook is below those for "extra" chores. It also comes with a hook to hang it, but I used that as another hook to hang completed task cards on. The cards come with stickers that are pre-printed with typical daily chores, and there is also an entire page of blank stickers that you can either draw/write on or put in the printer to make fancier stickers. Finally, a plastic box sticks to the bottom right of the chart to place completed cards into.

Tokens are included, along with some suggestions of rewards to offer your child to "buy" with the tokens they have earned. There are a LOT of tokens, and in two different colors to denote different values.

Quality-wise, everything is really nice and heavy duty. Nicer than you would expect for the really reasonable price, actually. The board is a very heavy cardboard, with plastic stick-on hooks and the plastic card box. Cute animals on it makes it fun, and there is a large space at the top to write your child's name. The cards are heavy plastic, very durable and they handle the grabbing/yanking/pulling/occasional drooling on them very well.

The cards themselves are color coded for organization purposes, but as I was too excited to start working on it to actually read the instructions first, organization went out the window for us! The idea is that there are different colors for each part of the day (morning/noon/night) and then another color for the "extra" chores. Assuming you don't start slapping stickers onto cards all willy-nilly like me, you will LOVE how easy the system makes organizing your child's chores!

I took the pre-printed stickers/cards with tasks that actually apply to Jaymes (self care tasks, basic picking up, etc) and set aside the more advanced tasks (take out the trash, wash dishes) for future use. I drew and labeled a bunch of the extra blank stickers, and made cards for the things Jaymes needs to do daily but that were not included. A typical set of tasks for the day looks about like this:

(* means I made the card for that task)

Morning:

-Diaper change*
-Take meds (this card actually says "take my vitamin" but it's close enough and Jaymes recognizes the picture as "time for meds.")
-Get dressed*
-Shoes on*
-Sit at table*
-Breakfast*
-Drink soy milk* (this one is the best thing ever- I have struggled with getting him to drink his soy milk, he needs the calcium and since he cannot have "real" milk...)
-Clean my plate up from the table
-Brush teeth
-Brush hair
-Potty*

(Insert typical play time/going out to the grocery store..etc here)

Noon:

-Clean up my toys
-Read my book (this one says "read my book for 15 minutes" but I just use it as a reminder for a book in general)
-Potty*
-Sit at table*
-Eat lunch*
-Clean my plate from the table
-Nap time*

(Insert typical play time/going out to the grocery store..etc here)

Evening:

-Clean up my toys
-Sit at table*
-Eat dinner*
-Take my meds
-Take my bath
-Brush my teeth
-Brush my hair
-Get ready for bed
-Say something nice to my sister (is that not the coolest addition?)
-Go to bed


When we first started this, I kind of had a feeling that it would not work. Very few systems like this have actually accomplished much at home, and I was not sure that he would be able to understand the token system. As usual, I had really underestimated Jaymes!

Jaymes has done SO well with the system. He understands what each card means, and he understands that if he does it, he gets a token. He understands that he can "buy" candy or special items (like time on his game system) with his tokens. And unlike when I ask him to do something, he has respect for the cards and gets that if the card says to do it, he better do it. Not to say he has been 100% cooperative with it, of course... He's not perfect. But I have seen a HUGE difference. Before, I could not get him to drink his soy milk. He hated it, and would not even think about drinking it. I could not get him to put on his shoes. He will still scream at me (or the card), and fuss about the shoes... But he eventually gives in and puts them on. The "sit at the table" card has him actually sitting at the table to eat- instead of running around the house, pausing to grab a bite to eat before bolting off again.

He understands the routine, and it's building great habits. Jaymes thrives on structure, so he LOVES that he can look at his cards and know what he should be doing now, and what he'll be needing to do next. That is rewarding in itself to him, but then there are also the tokens to further reinforce good behavior. I started with giving him a token for each task, and letting him exchange the tokens for skittles every 2-3 cards. Once he understood that, I started letting him rack up tokens (showing him each time he earned one) and cash them in later. Once he got the idea that his saved up tokens could be used to get candy, I have now started giving him a token for every few cards (3-4 cards).

Originally, he was getting a skittle for cooperating with the chart, and that meant every few minutes. I'm not wild about stuffing the boy with candy, so that is why I started to cut back. I've taken it to the point of attaching higher prices to certain candies. Rewards go as follows (I need to make a printout showing pics of each reward, with circles representing tokens alongside):

-Skittle = 1 token
-Rainbow Twizzlers= 2 tokens
-Rainbow candy belts = 3 tokens
-Time playing with IXL game system = 5 tokens
-Cookie = 5 tokens

This will be something he'll have to learn slowly, I know that the concept is a little above where he is, cognitively... however, he understands that he asks for an item and I tell him how many tokens he needs to "pay." So it's a start, and I think it's a good math skill builder.

This token/card/chore chart system has made life SO much easier. Jaymes knows to look at his cards and to move completed cards himself. He always knows what is expected of him, and he understands that if he does not comply, he will not get a token. He is motivated because I keep a good variety of rewards that are VERY valuable to him, and the structure helps his little mind keep on track. This has helped SO much, since Jaymes is on winter break from school. Normally, school breaks are torture for all of us- Jaymes included. Jaymes likes his routine, he does not like to be in an unstructured environment. It's been a struggle for me to try and keep things as structured as they can be in our crazy home. The cards make it so much easier. I prepare the cards in advance- at night, I set up the morning's cards. In the morning, I set up the noon time cards. At noon, I set up the night time cards. sometimes I can set up a whole day's worth!

One especially cool thing that this product offers is a card labeled "say something nice to my brother/sister." You don't see that in many chore charts, behavior charts, or picture schedules. I know that I've never even thought about adding that as a task... But what a great idea! While on one hand, it's a little sad that being nice to Sierra has to be a task for Jaymes, it is what it is... Having that card motivates Jaymes to actually talk to, and give good night hugs to his sister- things he generally avoids at all costs. It's already become habit for him, before he goes to bed, he gives Sierra a hug and says good night.

I really love this item, and am super grateful to Kay at My Precious Kid for allowing me to test it out. This is a keeper, and I see it being an incredible tool for helping Jaymes get through his day with as little frustration as possible.

Check out Kay's store. My Precious Kid has an awesome inventory of items you cannot find just anywhere. We're talking Medical alert/ID bracelets, shoe ID tags, home and car safety items... Even child locator systems! Really cool stuff. I have never seen this many hard to find items that are perfect for our kids with autism and other developmental disabilities. Her prices are really reasonable too- something that online "specialty" type stores rarely manage!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Timeless Christmas Tradition... DBTD Style. Hilarity and headless gingerbread men included.

Update before the post... I finally made a Don't Bite the Dog Facebook page. Please "like" the page and share with your FB friends! Click Here.

A few days ago, I decided to impose a family activity on my unsuspecting family. My mother in law had brought us a gingerbread house kit at Thanksgiving, and amazingly it was all lactose free. Actually, that leads me to wonder how cheap the company that makes these must be. You know it’s all chemicals and water, dressed up to closely mimic the delightful flavor of icing. For once, I was ok with this.
Anyway, I assembled the troops around the kitchen island, with the kids on chairs to reach. Jaymes didn’t quite “get” what the plan was, but when he saw the Box the kit came in, he was all ears. Jason and I opened up the kit and started laying out all the cookie pieces of the house. We were not thrilled to see that both roof sections were cracked in two, presumably a result of having the box thrown into the trunk of the rental car then buried in other stuff. I decided that our wonderful Kodak moment was NOT going to be foiled by broken cookies, and attempted to glue the pieces together with icing. Initially, this worked perfectly.
Neither I, nor Jason, are all that impressive as far as building things goes. As I type this, visions of putting together a swingset, a “simple set pool” (there is nothing simple about it!), and a picnic table float through my mind… And this undertaking was no less… unique. We stood there looking at the box, and looking at the little plastic tray thing that the house is supposed to be built into, and wondering what on earth we were supposed to do. At some point, Jason figured out that it was upside down… To which I replied (as always) “I meant to do that. I was just testing you.”
Got the basic framework of the house up, and let it set for the required 15 minutes. At the end of that 15 minutes, I was thrilled to see the roof pieces seemed to be sticking together, and was convinced that I had triumphed over the forces of evil (uh… the makers of cheaply manufactured gingerbread houses.)
Jason took the task of squirting the icing out onto the various areas on the gingerbread house, and I played referee between the kids frenzied grabs at the various types of candies intended to decorate the house. I made them take turns putting on their candies. Jaymes took his decorating duties VERY seriously, while Sierra was more concerned with devouring three pieces of candy for every one that made it onto the house.
About five minutes into decorating, I started to notice that the roof seemed to be drooping slightly. I kind of hoped it was all in my mind, and ignored it. Another five minutes, and it was pretty obvious the roof was leaning inward in what looked like a very hazardous situation for any little gingerbread people living inside. I told the kids to decorate faster, and manned the camera. Sierra did great decorating carefully, but Jaymes wanted to put candies on with as much force as possible- the last thing this poor gingerbread house needed.
By the time most of the candies had been put on the house, the roof was barely attached, and leaning in at a crazy angle. Jason and I were laughing hysterically as we desperately attempted to finish the project before the inevitable, catastrophic cave-in occurred. We haven’t had fun and laughed like morons in awhile, it was actually a blast.
Once the photos were taken, and proof of our insane gingerbread-house-gone-wrong documented, I gave the kids the go-ahead to start the feeding frenzy. And like starving vultures, they descended upon the gingerbread house with purposeful brutality. It took about… ten minutes for most of the house to be devoured, the discarded ruins of the sad little house lying in delicious rubble on the little plastic tray. Next to a collapsed wall lay a tiny gingerbread man cookie without a head- courtesy of Sierra.
Ah, the joy of a timeless Christmas tradition, made hilarious and horrific by our quirky household. Enjoy the pictures of the carnage- I certainly do!











Friday, December 17, 2010

"Decorate and Celebrate"

I am in the middle of the insanity of preparing for the holidays, dealing with the insurance company and body shop after my husband mutilated my poor little Kia, and finishing up all of this semester's final exams.... So, until I have some actual time to write, enjoy this fantastic article with ideas for holiday fun!

Decorate and Celebrate Together

Make a special day more memorable, or build a lasting family tradition, by creating a decoration or gift together with your child. Even if you’re craft-challenged, don’t give up - we found an inspiring web site filled with ideas – www.familyfun.go.com! We’ve included a few of our fav offerings below from that site, and added some other great sites, all with projects easy to enjoy with children of different abilities.

FamilyFun is chock full of inspiration! You’ll find craft projects for every season and even back-to-school ideas. Planning a birthday celebration? Check out their “Birthday Parties by Theme”, where unusual ideas abound. Would your child adore a birthday party with a music theme? How about bugs, a cooking party, or a complete guide to creating a birthday carnival? You’ll find it there, and so much more!

Time Capsule Ornament

http://familyfun.go.com/christmas/christmas-gifts-cards-decorations/christmas-decorations/christmas-ornaments/time-capsule-ornaments-796110/

A clear plastic ornament (the type that comes in two halves) filled with memories from the year. Write accomplishments on thin, colorful strips of paper, include photos, small mementos or charms and … voilà … you have an ornament your child can open every year. This is not just a holiday idea; consider using it at other times during the year too, to capture memories or accomplishments associated with events like the end of the school year, birthdays, or summer vacation. How about using the ornament to enclosure different positive thoughts about your child, what makes him special, her remarkable talents? Attach the ornaments to a tree branch you discover together, making a mobile that can hang in a child’s room?

Beaded Ornaments

http://familyfun.go.com/christmas/christmas-gifts-cards-decorations/christmas-decorations/christmas-ornaments/beaded-ornaments-662808/

Simple, colorful, and delightful! Let your child’s creativity blossom! These beaded ornaments are perfect for decorating your holiday tree, but equally wonderful as handmade gifts for teachers, family and friends. The idea is straightforward: string beads on pipe cleaners, then twist or connect into fun shapes, resulting in one-of-a-kind ornaments. For young children this provides fine-finger and eye-hand coordination exercises. For the child who is a little older, it’s a way to practice perspective taking while expressing creativity. “What colors does Aunt Marge like the best?” “What animal does your brother love? Let’s shape the ornament to look like that!”

Count Down

http://familyfun.go.com/christmas/christmas-decorations/festive-christmas-displays/a-stocking-countdown-calendar-671333/

Intended to count down the days until Christmas, this clever idea can be used to keep track of time for any approaching special occasion. Create a garland of colorful kids socks and put one small goodie (candy, game, note, gift) inside each sock. Depending on your child’s ability to track time, you could add a number or day of week on each sock with an erasable marker. Each day the child removes a sock, counting down each day with a little gift. You can accomplish the same concept by placing small gift bags on the mantel, or attaching small brown paper pages to a wide ribbon that can hand on the wall. It’s a great visual tool for kids with autism – as they take down a bag or sock they “see” the days remaining until Christmas or the special event.

Gift Box – Perfect for Mom and Dad

http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/holiday-seasonal-crafts/mothers-day-cards-gifts/mothers-day-gifts/mothers-day-box-661242/

This idea was developed for Mother’s Day, but it’s perfect for any other celebration, from Father’s Day to birthdays or Christmas. Decorate a shoe box, fill it with a variety of small, inexpensive, wrapped gifts, write a fun schedule for the day that includes when or where a gift can be opened. Simple yet appealing on so many levels. The entire day becomes special! It’s an easy-to-do gift that most children can manage and creates special memories from the child to mom, dad, family and friends.

IlluStory

http://www.creationsbyyou.com/kit/IlluStory.asp

What could be more fun than turning your child’s art and creativity into a real book? This kit comes with everything you need to do just that, including “Story Web” that helps children plan their story. (Great for honing executive functioning skills!) Once your work is done, submit it online or in the mail and they’ll turn it into a professionally typeset, hardbound book with a title, dedication and “About the Author” page. Use it just for fun, to motivate creativity, improve your child’s verbal and written expression, to preserve memories, or to make a unique gift for family and friends.

Creations by You

http://www.creationsbyyou.com/products.asp

The same company that delivers IlluStory has a variety of kits for making treasured keepsakes using your family photographs and children’s art, including clocks, mugs, calendars and watches.

Hand Wreath

http://www.michaels.com/Hands-On-Fall-Wreath/kn0567,default,pd.html?start=11&cgid=projects-kidsteachers-seasons-fallautumn

They call it a “fall” wreath made of hand prints you fashion from foam, but if you take this concept and change the colors to reflect the holiday or season, you’ll end up with a wonderful craft that makes a great gift for parents and grandparents. Add embellishments for sparkle and fun.

Paint Chip Photo Frame

http://www.bhg.com/crafts/home/accessories/easy-crafts-with-photos/?page=16

So easy and so colorful…just pick up paint chips in your favorite colors and use them to create mats for photos. Use the matting that came with a frame as your base, or cut your own cardboard base to create an entire frame.

Snow Globes

http://www.snowdomes.com/mm5/merchant.mvc

http://www.nationalartcraft.com/subcategory.asp?gid=6&cid=37&scid=54

They’re a favorite for the holidays, but are perfect for other occasions too! One creative teacher made snow globes for each student as an “end of school year” gift, using digital photos taken during the year of the student and one of their friends together. What a great way to preserve memories! We’ve included links to two web sites that offer ready-made kits.

This article is taken with permission from www.autismdigest.com, where readers can go online and, by signing in, can access free copies of the magazine’s eGuide, which is packed full of more information on holidays and gift giving for children on the spectrum.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why you don't drive when your wife asks you not to




We live in NC, and every time we get a tiny bit of snow everyone panics. And by snow, I mean less than an inch. School was canceled, and the weatherman made it clear that while we were not going to get much snow at all, it would be freezing rain all day. Every inch of the great outdoors is covered with a thick layer of ice. Rocket's pasture is so slippery I can't even walk through it without falling. Rocket has to stay in the stall, because he would break a leg if I let him out.

Anyway, I asked my husband not to drive to work this morning. He didn't NEED to go, he wanted to get some paperwork done. But he went, early. Apparently driving the usual speed on I40 (right before it closed and cops kept people from driving on it), he did not believe that there was ice. Until the cars ahead hit their brakes. He tried to hit his, but thanks to the ice, he rammed into the back of another vehicle. Big pickup truck. Thankfully neither of them were hurt, and the truck didn't get a scratch. MY precious blue, shiny, new Kia (my first NEW car) is not ok. The whole front end is smashed in. The hood will have to be cut apart to even look under it, and the passenger door no longer opens at all. Lots of bad noises and burning smells coming from it. On the plus side, we only have to pay our $500 deductible, I think it will be well over $500 and State Farm covers that... but my poor little car!!!

Moral of the story: When the weatherman, the school district, the radio, and your wife say it's going to be VERY icy and you should not drive early in the morning unless absolutely necessary, you don't drive and wreck your wife's beloved car!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A flurry of tentacles



I don’t know that I have ever actually discussed Jaymes’ jellyfish obsession on the blog. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it when he’s lost one, or something like that, but it’s about time I shared his love of the Jellyfish.
It all started about a year ago. Jaymes’ loved toy of choice had been his pink blanket, Pinky. Poor Pinky now sits, soiled and alone, in the corner of his room. I had a Goochy the Jellyfish Beanie Baby I got at a yard sale. I thought it was cool looking, mostly because I like things with tentacles, and the jellyfish are also all made from this cool tye dye soft material. They’re all unique because of the nature of the tye dye, and I just love them. My jellyfish used to sit up at Jaymes’ eye level on a knickknack shelf. He never had so much as looked at it, but one day he snatched it off the shelf and told me (very seriously) “this is Jaymes’ jellyfish. He name Jelly.” Ok then…
So Jelly took over the role of beloved blanket, Pinky. Unfortunately, Beanie Babies are not built tough enough for kids like Jaymes. The first issue I noticed was that the light colored tye dye very quickly turns a dingy grey color. Not a huge deal, Jaymes isn’t bothered by that. The trouble is that after a few months, the tentacles lose their ability to tolerate the constant yanking, twisting, and pulling that Jaymes puts that poor jellyfish through. So, I started to scour Ebay for more Jellies. I keep at least one, usually a couple, on hand and hidden around the house.
Every time Jaymes is offered a new Jelly, his little face lights up and he runs toward it with glee, often ramming into whatever might be in his way. His eagerness to get ahold of that shiny new Jelly makes him completely oblivious to anything that he plows into. For the next day or so, he’ll run up to anyone who so much as breathes his direction. He will hold the new Jelly up about an inch from their face and loudly announce “this is Jaymeses jellyfish!”
Recently he’s started being a little TOO rough with his Jellies. Yanking off tentacles on purpose, just to scream and cry “Jellyfish hurted the tentacle, Jelly need to see doctor. Take to the hospital” I’m not sure why he does it, probably for the same reason he begs for a candy cane, then drops it and shrieks when it shatters into a thousand sticky pieces. Who knows. I started keeping an old, filthy Jelly aside and when he rips one, he gets a nasty old one instead of a shiny new one. Seems to have worked for the most part. My car, however, looks like the site of a brutal jellyfish torture and execution. Tentacles everywhere. Seriously! The other day I went digging for something in my back seat and found 8, yes, 8 tentacles. It was as gruesome as a Jellyfish massacre can be! I’m not sure why I have not thrown away all those tentacles. Actually, yes I am. I have a truly sick sense of humor. Every time I get into my car and brush a Jelly tentacle off the seat or the dashboard, I crack up laughing. It’s kind of like that hilarious class picture I have from Jaymes autistic pre-K class back in Florida. A picture no one else wanted because all the kids were flailing, screaming, or doing both. Jaymes was sideways, screaming as a teacher’s aide clung to him to keep him in the chair. The other teachers aide was holding a classmate in his chair, and the teacher looked ready to either jump off a cliff or go totally insane. I love that photo, it makes me laugh like a lunatic every time I see it. So I suppose the Jellyfish thing is just another one of the things I love about Jaymes. Nobody makes me laugh like he does.
Last week Jaymes had an appointment with the neurologist, and of course Jelly tagged along. Jaymes ignored the student doc who was in there first asking questions and looking Jaymes over. But when the big important Neurologist walked into the exam room, Jaymes darted over to her, sidled up close, and thrust Jelly into her face. He looked very solemn, and told the doctor (in a very purposeful voice) “Jelly broken the tennacle. Jelly need brain doctor to fix tennacle. You fix Jelly.”
I have to give the doctor serious applause, because in my experience, Neurologists don’t tend to have a great bedside manner. She looked the Jelly over, used her stethoscope on him, and then sadly shook her head and told Jaymes that Jelly had to have his tentacle amputated, but that he would be fine. I’m a little shocked Jaymes actually believed her, but who am I to judge? It satisfied him.
I’ve got to put in a plug for the wonderful Jellyfish vendor I get all of Jaymes’ replacement Jellies from. His user name on Ebay is Henry’s Hobbies, and he sells a ton of Beanies of all types. He has been SO wonderful to work with and is really friendly. You don’t get that often anymore in Ebay sellers, what with most being huge stores that can afford to brush off customers. As long as they have Jellies for sale, I’ll never buy another from anyone else. They ship super fast, they leave feedback, and they are a pleasure to deal with. If you want to buy some beanies or other collectible stuff, click here for his list of items for sale. I cannot recommend him highly enough!
So, in a (very long, very rambling) nutshell, that’s the history of the Jelly.

Ps. Here’s to hoping the person I’ve been talking to on Ebay is actually “Henry” of Henry’s Hobbies. Otherwise I might be calling a she, a he or vice versa. LOL

Enjoy the video!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sweet holiday treat: the bane of my existence!

Christmas is nearly upon us, and the insanity of the holidays at our house has certainly set in! I have been kept very busy between protecting the Christmas tree from Jaymes, removing candy canes from his hair, and wiping red and green paint off his (fairly) new shoes. Thankfully most of our Christmas shopping is done, the hardest part was the kids and short of buying a couple new items, they’re good to go.
I really wanted to get a new (fake) tree, and we were set to get one at Target that was on a fantastic sale… But turned out they sold out, and the red shirted gentleman refused to sell the floor model. Oh well. I was kind of bummed out about it, but we put up our sad little crooked 4 ft tree and it looks really pretty all lit up with rainbow lights and our ornaments. We use the glass ornaments that my grandma gave us (RIP grandma) a couple years ago, some unbreakable plastic balls, and our collection of “special” ornaments we get each year. Our family tradition is to go out and buy one ornament each that goes into the special collection. Every year it grows, and the pretty ornaments really bring back memories. This year I got a red glittery Moravian star, Jason got a sparkly silver reindeer, Jaymes got a purple hippo on skis, and Sierra got a Christmas Dora the Explorer ornament. Our collection, grown over the 6 years Jason and I have been married includes a horse, a dinosaur, a princess tiara, a cat wearing a santa hat, a bright silver metal reindeer with blue gems in its antlers… And the list goes on. Also included are the ornaments Jaymes makes each year at school- ornaments that look lame to others but totally fill me with pride. There’s a snowman made of dried glue and markers, a pilgrim (I don’t know why, not very Christmassy!), a reindeer, and something I’m not sure what it is.
I’ve always liked putting candy canes on the tree too, my mom always did that and it really does look pretty. But with Jaymes, I really wish we never had a single candy cane in the house. Candy canes are the bane of my existence. And of course he comes home from EVERYWHERE with the cursed things! School gives them out, therapies give them out, neighbors give them out, family gives them out. Even the lady at Walmart gives them away, and I accept them lest she think I’m a cruel, heartless parent who denies her children any sugary enjoyment.
Candy canes are tasty, I love them. As a kid I’d suck on the end until it became a point sharp enough to murder someone with. All my friends did this too, so I’m assuming it’s normal kid candy cane behavior and not some sign that I will one day go insane and start a gruesome candy cane massacre.
Jaymes does several aggravating things with these festive treats. His favorite candy cane activity is to beg one from me, then drop it on the floor from whatever height he can manage. When it hits the ground and splits into a billion and one pieces, Jaymes commences weeping and begging for another. If given another, he repeats the process. So I only give them to him outside, if at all. I’ve long lost pity for him, I mean, how bad can you feel for someone who asks for something then throws it on purpose?!
Another thing he does with his candy canes is to slurp on one until it is a little twig of stick red mess, then go into his spit swiping habit. As he wipes the saliva across his face, he is also wiping sugary, sticky, minty candiness across his face. We have 2 dogs, one is a yellow lab and the other is a long haired black mutt. No matter how well I clean, dog hair is always present. It’s in the corners, it’s on our clothes, and it hangs in the air like a yellow and black fog. And what does hair do, in the presence of a slimy, wet, sticky face? You guessed it- it sticks. So not only are Jaymes hands and face slimy and sticky from the combination of spit and candy, they’re also dog hair covered. Every time he eats a candy cane, I go from being the parent of a little boy to being the parent of a slobbering, mint scented werewolf. But I still give them to him at least a few times each year. Maybe I’m a masochist.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Black Friday Madness Recap

Black Friday is a tradition my husband got me into. Actually, prior to marrying him, I’d never even heard of it. In general, the idea of waking up in the middle of the night to stand in line out in the cold with a bunch of cranky, sleepy people intent on pummeling everyone else in an effort to grab that $5 DVD really doesn’t sound that enticing. Add to that the fact that all those people have recently eaten a very large Thanksgiving meal, and thus are experiencing nausea, flatulence, diarrhea or any combination of those- Yuck. But once Jason got me into it, it became an addiction.
This year, my mother in law was visiting us. While that made for somewhat stressful holiday, it was also a blessing in that we could leave the kids at home. They actually really like going in their jammies and their baggies of cereal, but as Jaymes gets older, I can’t see him handling it too well.
Anyway, this year Walmart decided to do three time periods for different Black Friday sale items, rather than the customary 5-6am sale. The first sale began at 12:01am, then the others I’m not sure on since I only cared about the 12:01 items. We decided that it would be stupid to go to sleep, it would be more painful to sleep a few hours and get all warm and comfy then have to get up. Plus, we didn’t know whether people would grab everything beforehand like they usually do. So we headed off to Wallyworld at 9:30.
Good thing we did. They had pallets stacked all over the store of the special door buster items. They were plastic wrapped, but only around the sides. You could reach in and grab whatever you wanted. There were signs that said “these items will not ring up at the register until 12:01.” We asked a nearby employee if we could grab what we wanted and hang around till midnight. He looked at us like we were nutty, but said “sure, have at it.” There were a few people already walking around with their carts full of those items. We went around and grabbed the stuff for the kids (and my $10 belgian waffle maker) and wandered around. As the night wore on, Walmart employees were sent to guard the pallets of stuff, even though the earlier guy had said they didn’t care if people grabbed things. There were a couple of older ladies who were downright vicious about protecting the discount Tupperware they were stationed in front of!
Having already collected the things we wanted, we kind of hung around the DVD area. They’d set up big cardboard DVD shelves for the $5 DVD and BluRays, wrapped up in black plastic wrap. People lurking amongst the shelves started to pull the plastic just enough to stretch it down and see what was inside, then they got bold enough to punch holes in it with their fingers right in front of the employee guarding them. Now, he didn’t much care either. He told us that he had told someone to stop ripping open the boxes, and they actually got very threatening. He told us that he didn’t care- it wasn’t worth getting hurt over, or losing his job. I agree. I’m not sure what gets into people that they can get violent over shopping.
Right around 11pm, fellow shoppers started whispering about cops in the store. We ignored it until all of a sudden, in the aisle next to us; we heard the cop’s voice. He ordered whoever was in that aisle to put back all the stuff they had gotten from the pallets and to leave the premises and not come back. At that point, people all around us started walking as fast as they could toward different areas of the store. We found ourselves hidden back in the liquor section of the store, hidden because that area is actually a smaller closed off area from the rest of the store. Obviously, right or wrong, I was NOT going to lose out on my kids Xmas gifts. Especially after waiting as long as we had been. We held our breath everytime we heard the cop’s voice or heard an employee with jingly keys coming our direction.
Thankfully, we were able to hide out until midnight, then bought our stuff and headed out without much fuss. When we got home, we couldn’t decide what to do as far as sleep. Was there much point to getting 2 hours of sleep, or should we just go get in line at Target right away? I wanted several things for Jaymes, and for myself. I wanted to get Jaymes a portable DVD player for at appointments, and of course the electronics are the harder to get items. So off we went, to Target. I had changed into pajama pants for comfort, and wore my coat. Jason, being insane, went in his trademark t shirt and shorts. It was COLD. And we sat in line from 1am to 4am. We got a good spot in line, but still were way back from the entrance of the store. Glad we went when we did, however. The people who showed up at the last minute were at least a 10 minute walk away. We couldn’t even see the end of the line. I was freezing from the beginning and was wishing for a blanket. Jason said he was fine, but he was curling up into a ball, not unlike a threatened armadillo. At about 3am, with an hour to go, it started raining. On the plus side, the people in front and behind us had huge umbrellas. Good for me, being very short. Not so good for Jason. I was covered for the most part, he just kept getting whacked in the forehead or in the back of the head.
The store eventually send employees down the line to tell us to be safe, not trample anyone, and that there would be a police car at the entrance so no one would cut in front of the line in the melee. As they opened the store, it was like a buffalo stampede. Jason and I parted ways to get what we wanted. I felt a bit like I was being pulled along in the river of bargain hunters. It was a little unnerving. I did, however, emerge triumphant, clutching Jaymes’ DVD player. I also found a bunch of board games for $3 each, which will hopefully get the kids playing cooperatively. Got my fluffy red and white blanket too. And my pink and purple Sherpa hoodies. Those were $10 each, but it turned out that I got one for $1 due to a cashier error. Hooray! I saw the same hoodies at Tractor Supply for $49 each! I loooooove them.
By the time we stumbled into the house, I was only conscious enough to stagger to the couch and cover myself with a blanket. Didn’t even take off my shoes. Jason stayed up, because it was time for him to wake his mom and her boyfriend up to go do their bargain shopping. He did not end up sleeping at all. Poor guy. Apparently he got to witness the not so lovely sight of his mother going psycho on the poor staff of several stores. Glad I wasn’t there, I don’t tolerate treating people in retail like crap. Been there, done that. It doesn’t pay enough to be worth being screamed at for something you can’t even fix, and didn’t cause.
I got about three hours of sleep. Technically I should have only gotten two hours, because at that point both kids woke up and did their thing around me. I was tired enough to ignore Jaymes’ obsessive throat clearing and Sierra’s cries of “wake up, mommy!” I was not, however, tired enough to withstand the horrific smell of Jaymes in the morning for very long. The boy tends to have very potent smells coming from his diaper first thing in the morning, and it was a relief to get up and change said diaper before the fumes killed us all.
It was an exhausting, cold, stressful night… But hey, I got everything we needed for the kids, and as I type this, I’ve got a belly full of Belgian waffles and a cozy new blanket around my shoulders. I came, I shopped, I conquered!

Book review: How to Teach Life Skills to Kids with Autism or Asperger's



I have a ton of posts I want to write, and will be working on slowly. There was so much blog fodder during the Thanksgiving holiday. Everything from Black Friday shopping to hiding in the liquor section at Walmart, to watching a fruit fight (yes, you read that correctly) in the produce section of Walmart the other night. So many things to write about! But first, a new book review. I just finished How to Teach Life Skills to Kids with Autism or Asperger’s, written by Jennifer McIlwee Myers, with a foreword by Temple Grandin.

I will admit I was not entirely sure I’d enjoy this book, because I normally steer clear of “How To” type books. Also, I know very little about Asperger’s, since I have a Jaymes. I’ve never read anything like this except books about the more “classical autism.”

As soon as I started reading, I was hooked. Jennifer writes in such a way that it feels like you’re sitting in a room having a conversation with her over coffee. Her down to earth style of writing makes for a really relaxing and enjoyable read. I will also admit that I understood just about every little side “geek note” included!

The book is, for the most part, common sense. What makes it special is the fact that she is relating the information from a perspective that many of us don’t get- that of an adult diagnosed with Asperger’s. Things I already thought I understood ended up looking a lot different when seen through Jennifer’s “eyes.” Reading through the many little stories and personal anecdotes, I found myself getting excited because I was rethinking things I’ve learned over the last few years; and I felt really motivated to try out some of the ideas put forth in the book.

I most enjoyed the personal stories about the author’s parents and the various ways they taught their children life skills that other kids seem to just pick up on their own. The most important one (in my opinion, obviously) was the story about Jennifer’s mother and her method of teaching her younger son to function in a shopping setting. The process at first seemed really excessive and repetitive, like it would be SO much simpler for the mother to just save herself the work and buy her son’s boots herself. But the lesson the author was trying to share is that while it may be easier/faster/cleaner/less aggravating to just do things for our loved ones with an ASD, it is so important to let them do it, lest they become adults who are unable to do anything for themselves. I admit that this is something I have been guilty of many times, and reading it the way it was set before me in the book inspired me to drop the rushing, frustrated attitude I’ve been known to have. It can be really hard for me to sit and watch Jaymes struggle to do something that I could do for him in a tenth of the time he takes, but I get that it’s important. It’s not just about Jaymes getting his shoes on. It’s about Jaymes being set up to succeed and to have at least the basic self care skills to help him as he grows up.

The second half of the book takes many specific questions and gives information and advice on how to teach those particular skills. Included are questions from “ how on earth do I get my child to exercise?” to topics like getting your child to sleep, wake up on time, study skills, and accepting that mistakes are going to happen, and that they are necessary. Also included is a section called “Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Concepts, which interested me greatly because my husband uses these concepts daily in his job.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Not only was it NOT at all dull or “preachy,” but it gave me a new outlook on many topics I’d long stopped thinking about. Between the humor, the information, and the personable writing style, it’s definitely a keeper. I really recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about ASDs. Even those who don’t know anyone with autism or Asperger’s. In fact, I wish books like this were required reading in high school or college courses. It would dish out a dose of information that would boost society’s acceptance, tolerance, and understanding of children and adults on the spectrum.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The obligatory Thanksgiving post

Every year I like to force myself to look past all the stupid little stresses in my life and think about the things that I am grateful for. Sometimes that's hard to do, especially when being licked by an almost seven year old, while running back and forth from the bathroom puking as a result of last night's birthday chicken wings. But, I will now overlook the extreme nausea and licking to stop being an ungrateful cretin.

I am so grateful for Jaymes and Sierra. Jaymes has taught me so much, sparked so much interesting conversation, driven me to grow a spine (slowly, vertebra by vertebra), found me some awesome friends, and kept me on my toes. In the nearly seven years he's been around, Jaymes has totally changed who I am and how I function in life. For years, I struggled horribly with being shy and spineless. There was a point in time when I could not go into stores alone, I could not talk on the phone, I could not cross a street by myself if cars were stopped and I thought they were looking at me. While I still battle my chicken-like quirks, I have learned to suck up and do things because I have to. I've learned to fight like a monkey on steroids (chasing an alligator with a mouthful of bananas) for what Jaymes needs.

Sierra has been my little buddy, my little helper, and the source of some much needed "normalcy." It is so cool to have a real conversation with a four year old. When Jaymes was four, he didn't even babble. She amazes me every day with the things she learns. She picks up things in minutes that we've struggled to teach Jaymes over years. She helps me around the house, and she tolerates my unique personality. She is willing to play zombies with me, staggering around croaking out "braiiiiiiinnsssss!"

I am grateful for my friends, most of whom I met through my awesome riding buddy, Dianne. Thanks to Dianne, I have the most amazing bunch of horsie friends and I've gotten to take part in lots of hunter paces at Yadkin Valley Hounds. I have had a LOT of fun in the last year or two, finally getting to really ride and really get away from the boring roadways I'm stuck with since I do not have a trailer to go places.

All my friends are awesome. They're all here for me. I can call and rant, or whine, or made bizarre jokes and I know I won't be judged. I can dress my pony up in a Santa hat, Xmas lights, jinglebells, and a red bow in his tail and whike I will certainly be laughed at, everybody accepts it because they know it makes me happy.

I am grateful for my precious pony, Rocket, who has given me back my confidence and gives me regular "therapy" in the form of hugs, cookie theft, trail rides, and blue ribbons. I love that he is rock solid, that he will not do stupid stuff on the trail or on the roads. He watches out for me, and he is so careful. I can trust him, even if something scares me (like steep, muddy downhill treks), because I know he is keeping me safe.

I'm grateful for my family, even though some of them have some crazy drama going on in their lives, like my poor sister.

I am grateful for the opportunities that I've gotten through this blog, all the people I've "met" and all the great books and products I have gotten to check out and review.

And last, but definitely not least, I am grateful to all of you readers. It's really cool to know that at least a few people actually care what I have to say, and all your comments and emails really brighten up each day!

I hope you all have a fantastic, delicious, non-vomiting Thanksgiving. Ok, mostly the non-vomiting part was for me, but the rest of it still stands!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Time for the happy dance!

Jaymes is doing really, really well in general. I love it. Yesterday we spent our afternoon making Jello Jigglers until it was time to get Sierra from pre-school. Jaymes poured the water into the bowl, pushed the microwave buttons, and when the water was hot enough, he opened all the Jello packets and poured them in himself. Then he stirred. He did most of it by himself. I poured it into the dish to go in the fridge and solidify, and Jaymes held the fridge door open for me. He did a great job, and the Jigglers are really tasty.

Jaymes has been talking, more and more each day. Not just talking, but using long strings of words. Last night he really impressed me at dinner. He'd scarfed down his entire dinner, and upon seeing there was no more food, turned around and asked me "may have some chips please?"

I was floored. He is so smart. I did not think he could ask so politely for something- especially without being prompted.

Jaymes is in the Christmas spirit, for sure. Yesterday he took his rainbow lights out to his little play house in the back yard, grabbed an extension cord, and strung the lights along his roof like any home owner would. He did a good job.

He is loving his personal assistant worker, when the guy pulls up Jaymes goes flying out of the house with a loud cry of "MR. JAYYYYY! HIIIII!" good to know they get along so well!

Anyway, I'm pressed for time today, but wanted to share how positive I'm feeling about Jaymes lately.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Christmas time is here...

In Jaymes' mind, anyway. The stores, namely Jaymes' beloved Target, put out their Christmas stuff the day after Halloween. On one hand, I'm glad the Halloween stuff is gone, because Jaymes was obsessed with that section to the point of it being a nightmare to take him there. He'd desperately try to bolt toward the section with the lights. They had pumpkin lights, spiders, skulls, and eyes. I think maybe bats too. I took pity on Jaymes, not once, but twice and stupidly bought him a set of spider lights, then a set of the pumpkin ones. The spiders lasted about a week before they stopped working. He still has them strung up in the back yard, doesn't care that they no longer work. The pumpkins lasted a few days. Like, maybe three. Then one day I found them, all the pumpkins yanked off and the light bulbs yanked and put into one of the empty plastic pumpkin shells. Apparently he likes to take things apart. No more lights.

Christmas presents a similar problem. The stores have large sections devoted entirely to Christmas trees and decorations. It's like taking a dieter to a bakery. He loves Christmas so much. The lights make him happy, the music makes him happy, he adores Santa, and he knows he'll get presents.

Our last trip to Target was an interesting one. Jaymes was fine until he saw the Christmas section. Then he bolted, and I chased after him, grabbing first one, then another delicate ornament and praying we didn't break anything. Finally got him calmed down enough to look around, with minimal grabbing and lots of great talking, so we looked at the lit up reindeer and the trees. Jaymes likes the tallest trees, with rainbow lights. He has made this incredibly clear. And just in case I forget, he's always happy to remind me.

Soon I guess we'll put up the rainbow lights out on our fence. Seeing those lights really makes Jaymes' day. As a result, we kept them up last year well into March. I always feel guilty taking them down.

Jaymes has actually been doing really well. He is not hitting or pinching any more, the worst he'll do is "sting" someone really hard with his jellyfish. I much prefer this! While his behavior and speech have been really improving, he seems like he's developing more and more of those little autistic quirks. Some of them are a little aggravating, but tolerable, like the weird noises. He sounds like a pug with a head cold, it's this combination of throat clearing and snuffling through his nose. The random public squeals and squeaks continue, not a big fan of those, and people stare at us like we're pushing a komodo dragon around in the grocery cart, though I've never been too bugged by that.

The troublesome stuff, however, is definitely a problem. Spit related trouble. Yuck. He's always done the spit wiping (spit on hand, wipe it across face) to some degree, and that portion of it has not been bad at all in a long time. But now there are new things, and they are definitely not socially acceptable. He'll collect up saliva in his mouth, then when someone (like the speech therapist) asks something of him, he'll spit it out into an enormous puddle on the table, floor, or book being read to him. He also tries to lick random people. I'm not squeamish at all, but even I don't really like having giant, hot Jaymes tongue slurping my arm. Yuck! I know the therapists and random people in public do not want to be slurped, so this one we're dealing with pretty strictly. Trying to make him understand that spit stays in his mouth, and not on the floor. We've been making him wipe it up, as suggested by a couple different therapists, but he does not seem to mind that at all, so maybe I need to think up a better consequence for spitting. I'm thinking it might work to use Jelly the jellyfish for this. Just like Jaymes stopped hitting and started using Jelly to "sting" (it doesn't hurt! Hooray!), I wonder if I can talk him into not licking people, but letting Jelly lick them. I know that is kind of adding another behavior, and that people are not going to want to have his Jelly rubbed on them, but it's at least better than being licked, right?

Not much planned for the week... Next Thursday we'll be taking Rocket up to the school for Science Night, should be fun. I've always wanted to volunteer, but can't in the classroom and have always felt really uncomfortable thinking about helping out in the office or something, because I feel like I'm always complaining to the school folks about things, and you all know about our IEP meetings... I don't want to go in and help if it's going to be awkward. I'm probably seriously over thinking this one, the office gals are really friendly to me, and they're very good conversation! But, I'm comfortable volunteering this way, and it'll be neat to let kids who have never seen a real horse in person get some petting and treat feeding in. I firmly believe that everyone can benefit from horse time! It's better than therapy.

My birthday is on the 23rd, and I'll be celebrating it by taking Jaymes to Duke for his genetics appt (yay, joy, woo), driving 2 hours each way, and then my mother in law will be coming that evening. Will be an interesting birthday. I'm starting to think I should just stop acknowledging bithdays, and stay 25 for the rest of my life. Anyway, it'll be fun having Jason's mom visit. While she drives me nuts some of the time, she's actually pretty cool. So we'll do our Thanksgiving thing, then do the Black Friday shopping for gifts (she lets Jason and I just pick out our Xmas gifts) for the kiddos for Christmas. They're only staying a couple days, I guess. We're planning to get that IXL game system thing for Jaymes for Christmas, he plays with the demo one at Target all the time and loves it, so it should be a hit.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bullying

I'm sure most of you have already seen the article and video about the "crazy bus dad," but I wanted to share my feelings on the situation. If you don't have a clue what I'm talking about, click here for the article and video and then return to my post.

This kind of situation is one we can all relate to, especially those of us with special needs children. We've all gone through bad situations where bullies at school (or out in the world) target our kiddos because they're different, and because they are easy targets. I doubt many of us have stormed a school bus and blasted kids and bus driver the way this gentleman did... But I know that at least I have certainly wanted to.

There is nothing so heart wrenching, frustrating, and infuriating as knowing your child is being bullied because he is different, and knowing that school staff are aware of the issue and yet nothing is done to stop it. We have been lucky thus far, that due to Jaymes' age the bullying comes in the form of "haha, you wear diapers," or "what's wrong with you? Why don't you talk to me? Why is your blanket pink?" Younger kid bullying isn't as overtly cruel as with middle and high school bullying... But it still makes me see red. Jaymes is lucky, in a way, that he doesn't really comprehend (and even if he did, he wouldn't pay attention long enough to get the message!) the things people around him say. He just wanders off, happy as always. It breaks my heart though, and I really worry about school and bus time- times with limited adult attention because the kids greatly outnumber the adults and it's simply impossible for staff to catch every little comment. At least the child in question in the article (a middle school girl with CP) was able to tell her dad about the bullying. Jaymes can't tell me if something is happening to him, if he's being bullied or teased, or even (God forbid) an adult touched him inappropriately or something.

So in my own way, I really sympathize. I'm not sure that people without a special needs kiddo can fully appreciate why the dad's reaction was the way it was. I understand it, and the things he's said are things I've said silently in my head a couple of times. I don't approve of his actions, but I get it and I can't blame him.

I hope he scared the piss out of those evil little bullies, I really do. I don't expect that it taught them a damn thing, and I'm sure they will continue to prey on those kids who are easiest to target. It would be great if this whole situation will alert the parents to the fact that they need to re-think their parenting and teach the little bastards some decency. Again, I wouldn't count on it, but maybe.

I think those bullies deserved exactly what they got (and more, IMO), and wonder how it felt to them to be bullied and made to feel helpless, and if they'll learn a thing. The thing that I hate about this is that in the end, the bullies come out looking like victims. Unfortunately, dad screwed himself by storming onto the bus and screaming obscenities in front of minors, not only the bullies but innocent kids who were just riding the bus on home.

Again, I understand why he did what he did. I feel terrible for him and for his daughter. It's really terrible. But regardless of why, it is never ever ok for an adult to get on a school bus full of children, curse at them, and threaten them with physical violence. It is just not ok. There are alternatives. He could have raised an almighty fuss at the school. He could have spent a few days going up and chain of command, until he got to someone who would seriously fix the problem. He could have pulled the child out of the school and either waited for things to settle and resolve or find another school. He could even have contacted the media to make the community aware that at such-and-such school, staff and bus drivers are allowing bullying of a disabled child. There are legal, effective ways to fight back. All he accomplished in doing what he did (as much as the bullies deserved to get their asses handed to them) is making the bullies look like the bullied, and scaring the daylights out of a bunch of innocent kiddos sitting on their school bus. As soon as we as parents of disabled kids begin responding to things like this with anger, threats, and fury, we lose the battle.

I do hope the transportation department for the school district immediately began looking through their tapes, to see whether the bullying (and you know it was) was actually happening. The bus driver should have done something, but anyone who has been reading my blog long knows, I'm no stranger to bus driver stupidity. Remember the time the driver almost left Jaymes alone in the bus, door open, on a major road at a high school? Or the time they forgot to bring him home? Or the time the driver failed to notice (sitting directly behind her, so that she could see him in the rearview in case he caused a problem) a serious, gushing nosebleed that left puddles on him and on the bus seats, and probably the kids next to him?

I hope this father does not get jail time. His daughter needs him, and he isn't a criminal. He acted wrongly, out of rage and frustration, but all he was trying to do was protect his little girl.

I do not look forward to when Jaymes is in middle school. Not at all. I don't want to even think about the tormenting that bullies will do. I was "normal" in high school, but I was tormented mercilessly. The end of middle school and all of high school were awful for me. I remember coming home so distraught I just wanted to die. I don't ever want Jaymes (or Sierra) to feel that way.

Schools need to get with the program and stop allowing this kind of thing to happen.

(Insert tangent here, where's my soap box?"

So many of these schools (ask me how I know...) love to slap a label on our kids and stick them in a self contained classroom away from the regular education population. In separating the "normal" from the "special" children, the schools are sending a message to their students. What they need to be doing is exposing their students to kids of all abilities, and teach tolerance.

The world can be a very ugly place sometimes. My thoughts are with "crazy bus dad" and his family. I'm on their side.