Tuesday, January 25, 2011
As a belated birthday gift from his grandmother, Jaymes was treated to a fun day of bouncing at Bumper Jumpers, in Greensboro. I thought that because the gift was belated, it would not be too horrible for the post talking about it to be belated as well.
We’ve been to Bumper Jumpers three times now, I think. The cool thing about it is that parents get to play too- unlike those stupid, incredibly fun inflatables at the fair that grownups don’t get to do because we exceed their silly weight limits. The place is a LOT of fun, although their air conditioning is very minimal and the staff are less than autism-friendly. This was the first time in the last year (I think) that we’d been, and there were a couple new bouncy houses. The coolest one (and naturally, the one Jaymes insisted doing repeatedly) was an obstacle course, styled along the lines of Nascar.
Sadly, these bounce houses are really styled for kids, or at least incredibly bendy skinny people who are in pretty good shape. Did this stop me? Of course not. It probably should have though!
The kids bolted right into the Nascar bouncy, squirming between the pit of little inflate-y squares that constituted the beginning of the obstacle course. I figured I could walk through, by keeping my legs squeezed between the very narrow path between said square things. This was not to be. The space was really too small for adult feet, and served only to bind my legs together and take away what little natural balance I ever had. The result was my best impression of a turtle, on my back surrounded by little inflated squares. No amount of flailing did me any good, so I got the bright idea to squirm snake-style through the rest. At this point, the kids were long gone and there was very little hope of catching up.
Once I extracted myself from part one of the ordeal, I came face to face with a tunnel that would have been plenty tall and plenty wide- had it not been lined with mesh of some sort that made it one heck of a tight fit. Slithering, again, proved to be my only option. Upon reaching daylight at the other end, I could not help but think that this was probably how babies felt as they come into the world. My first view was of Jaymes, paralyzed with laughter at my predicament. That is, until he realized I was not actually stuck. Then he bolted with an evil giggle.
The tunnel opened out to an open area that thankfully was tall enough for me to stand up, and wide enough for me to move. The only issue was the eight to ten foot inflatable climbing wall that loomed above me. Of course my kids (and some very tiny little toddlers that had clambered past my flailing turtle impression earlier) had no issue climbing up there. I think that little children are like mountain goats. Me, not so much.
It was with great effort (and much labored breathing) that I dragged my out of shape, arthritic body up the ladder. Being short of breath after my exertion, I sat at the top a minute to breathe. Neither kid was in sight, they’d long ago gotten bored with my pitiful attempt at keeping up. I wasn’t even exciting enough to laugh at anymore! I decided I needed to hurry up and find Jaymes before he bit a hole in something or assaulted a tiny child (or grabbing some random man to see if he might be wearing a belt) and hopped over the edge to slide down. I kind of expected to have a nice, fun slide down. It was to be the one peaceful, non-exhausting part of the bouncy house. Except apparently, those slides give some nasty rubber burns. Down I went with a WOOOOSH. My arms made friends with the surface of the slide, and I ended up with some very impressive bouncy house slide burns!
Really though, the day was a lot of fun. The kids had a ball, and I got a good workout. I will say that Bumper Jumpers is not exactly arthritic mommy friendly!
Sunday, January 16, 2011
I meant to do this post a long time ago. Like actually around Jaymes' birthday. Obviously, that did not happen. Meant to write it last week. Didn't happen. Meant to do it a few days ago... Again, didn't happen. My official excuse is a lack of time, and it's actually a good excuse given the insanity that has been my experience with Jaymes' teacher this year. I'll wait to post anything about this one until I have some idea of how things are going to end up, but let's just say the whole school situation has blown up into one hell of an unpleasant mess. Anyway, back to the point.
Jaymes turned seven back on December 30th. It was a day of mixed emotions, for sure. Lots of good, and some sad too. Also, a little bit of misbehavior. His birthday this year fell on a Thursday, meaning a regular old day. We decided not to have a party, and instead use the money that would have gone to a party for getting Jaymes a slightly-too-expensive handheld game system. We originally were going to go with the Leapster thing, but looking at it I wasn't sure Jaymes would be able to figure it out. We ended up going with the Fisher Price IXL, which was about three times more expensive, but really cool. Jaymes always enjoyed playing the demo IXL that Target has, so I knew he'd be able to figure it out. Until we got it and started setting it up, I had no idea how cool it is! Each game is actually a couple of games, a coloring program similar to MS Paint on the computer, and a story with options for reading alone, or being read to. The games aren't cartridges that are stuck into the player- rather, they are computer CDs that you install then attach the game system via USB cable and transfer the games over. This means that games can constantly be rotated through so Jaymes doesn't get sick of them.
Not only does the IXL play games... It's also an MP3 player and you can also upload photos. I uploaded a bunch of Jaymes' favorite Raffi songs onto it, along with some photos of him at Halloween. He has the Monkey game that the system came with, a Spongebob one, and a Handy Manny game as well. He loves to play his music (specifically an incredibly annoying song, "Down by the Bay") while doing the drawing. He loves the story modes, and will actually spend hours giggling and playing the various games. I hope the thing is built tough though, an attached stylus is used and he pounds the living heck out of the screen.
Obviously, Jaymes thought his gifts were pretty cool. He also got a portable DVD player and a couple movies for when we're at appointments that take forever. Have not gotten a chance to use that yet.
I used my Christmas gift, the cake pan that makes perfect 3D trains, to make his birthday cake. Not only was it lactose free, but it was awesome. I made a "rainbow cake," something I looove making because it's so eay and so pretty. Basically, you divide the batter into six or seven small bowls and make each bowl a different color using food coloring. Then you slop spoonfuls of each color in together, creating what cooks into an edible rainbow. I then iced it up, and decorated each train with gel colors and candy. It turned out REALLY cool, and it was a lot of fun. Jaymes about had heart failure when he saw it. I shoved candles into each car, and that really made it cool too.
At some point, I think Jaymes thought we were not going to sing to him. So he stood up on a chair, and sang Happy Birthday to himself. It was really cute. We sang it a second time, which he enjoyed just as much as the first. He blew out his candles, and probably splashed the entire thing with mouth bacteria. He enjoyed that a LOT. The candles, not the bacteria.
The realization that my baby is SEVEN is a little crazy to me. Seven is kid-age, he's a boy and not my little baby. When they say time flies, they're not kidding. I started thinking about that, and got kind of depressed. It's really hard for me to see Jaymes as a seven year old, because he's really functioning at a lower level than my four year old. It's hard to see him as a big kid, when he's only 38 pounds. It's hard to see him growing up, when he is still in diapers, and still wants to be carried. I guess the hard thing for me is that I thought we'd be so much further by now. All these docs and therapists have skirted my questions about where on the spectrum Jaymes is... Which in a way made me feel like maybe in a few years he would grow out of it. Obviously that is neither realistic, or the case here. I don't even know that I'd want it to be. I don't know. But watching the seven year old down the road as he rides his little dirt bike and plays sports and has real kid conversations and friendships... How different Jaymes is really becomes painfully obvious. So I spent a bit of the day bummed out.
Then I started thinking about Jaymes gains, and how far he really has come. At two years old, he did nothing but scream and cry all day every day. At three, he screamed and cried and destroyed things. At four, he started talking. Slowly, first with just "cheese" and "popsicle." I remember video taping his barely intelligible pronunciation of "cheese" and being beyond excited. At five, he was giving us single words. At six, phrases. And now at seven... Full sentences a lot of the time. No, they don't all make sense. Yes, some of them are just echolalic. Some are nasty "shut your mouth, mommy." But then he sings Happy Birthday to himself. He walks up to me and asks "can I have more chips?" He runs by yelling "Jellyfish starts with J!" He knows most of his prepositions. He knows how to count to thirty (with a little stumbling around the teens) and how to spell his name. He knows how to ride a bike, and how to dress himself. He knows how to take a shower, and how to change his own diaper. He knows how to close the gate. He can draw a jellyfish with rainbow legs and a smiley mouth. He can help me cook. He can sing.
If I had been asked a few years ago if I thought Jaymes would ever do any of these things, I'd have laughed. I have long been guilty of underestimating what my son can do. But I've started to realize that if I assume that he can't, won't, do something- I'm not doing either of us any favors.
No, Jaymes isn't like the little blonde boy down the road, but that's ok. He has accomplished so much and come so far to become who he is now. His future holds a lot of struggle, but it also holds a lot of promise. I'm not ready to sit down and mourn the boy he could have been- I'm ready to fight twice as hard to get him every support and advantage he possibly can, to help him amaze me in a few more years.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
This newest book that I recently finished is a little bit different than the usual ones. Not only is it not autism specific, it’s the type of book that you don’t necessarily have to read all the way through. It’s more of a handbook that one can refer to when needed.
The book is called Behavior Solutions for the Inclusive Classroom, and is written by Beth Aune, Beth Burt, and Peter Gennaro. Interestingly, this particular book has a LOT of your basic OT related advice- because one of the authors happens to be an OT! I think it is really fantastic to get that perspective in. The book gives valuable information to those who may not have access to OT services.
The OT point of view is so important, particularly in figuring out solutions to behavioral issues. As we moms of kids with autism know, behaviors can often stem from unmet sensory needs. Sometimes solving a behavior problem is as simple as providing a weighted blanket or handing a child a straw to chew on. Rather than focusing on consequences and rigid adherence to rules, the book really explains why certain behaviors occur and how meeting those unmet needs changes those things. In addition, ideas are put forth that offer a way to meet a child’s sensory need without drawing the attention of others and making the child seem different and thus less likely to end up being teased.
The book can be used by parents, teachers, therapists… Basically anyone who is working with a child exhibiting the behaviors discussed. And there are a LOT of behaviors. Most books seem like they focus on a small handful of things, leaving a whole lot out. The issues and their solutions can be applied to kids with autism, ADD/ADHD, mental health diagnoses, emotionally disturbed children, and those with various developmental disabilities. Some can even be applied to “normal” kids like my daughter.
This is definitely not the type of book you would read all the way through, then set back on the shelf. No, this one is meant to be frequently looked through. As it says on the cover “See a behavior, look it up!” I think that every inclusive classroom (or EC/special needs classroom) should have a copy. I’d offer my copy to my son’s school if I thought they might read and apply some of what they read. The way the book is laid out makes it super easy to flip around, find the info needed, and move on to the next thing. Suggestions for solutions are written very succinctly, taking a couple minutes at most to read- rather than taking up too much time in the midst of a situation.
Behaviors discussed include out of seat behaviors, fidgeting, hand flapping, covering ears, running away, putting head down, trouble with homework, losing things, missing assignments, poor handwriting, trouble following directions, saying rude things, clothing issues, talking too much, decision making, lack of eye contact, outbursts… The list goes on and on.
Not only is the book chock full of helpful information that can be applied to many different diagnoses, it is also fantastic because the tips range from very young or very severely impaired children, right on up to teenagers and higher functioning kiddos. There is great information for any child, any age, and any disability.
This book will definitely find itself opened time and time again, as I check out new behaviors and get ideas for how to deal with those. I see myself sharing it with friends too. The writing style is friendly and not overly professional, making it an easy read. I am really impressed with this one.