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Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!
Here's a bit of our weekend:
Andrew loves it when Dave gets out the projector, but he's more into winding the film through the machine and dancing around in front of movie than actually watching anything. He's almost able to get it all set up by himself at this point. Dave is so proud!
We are trying to be better patrons of our local library. Now that we are learning from home, we need books now more than ever and instead of sinking a fortune into amazon, we are trying out the library route. On this trip Andrew found several books on volcanos...and so that will be our next unit in school. I'm pretty excited about it!
Isaac is just absolutely beautiful. That's all.
Andrew had an art show this weekend with the other kids that are in art class. We went a gallery were everyone had a framed piece on display. The theme of the show was "Love is". While other students drew family members holding hands, Andrew drew games from Dave's phone. Andrew is nothing if not authentic and unconventional. Though...family members holding hands would have been pretty nice.
We went to the Brooklyn Promenade for a walk yesterday afternoon.
Isaac found a public pay phone and couldn't help but make a few pretend phone calls to Sir Topham Hatt.
And that was that. Hope yours was a good one!
Posted by Dave at 8:59 AM
Friday, February 11, 2011
So, here we are, at the end of what turned out to be a pretty cathartic week for me. Thank you for seeing me through this. I definitely feel more peace about where I am right now, when I'm able to share it and bounce it off other people. For weeks I've been feeling a built up sense of angst. I wasn't sure where it was coming from and I didn't know what to do about it. But that sense of angst is gone. Now I just sort of feel normal...free-floating through my days.
The boys are doing really well lately. Andrew is one happy fellow right now and is getting great reports from his art teacher and therapists. For the first time I am embracing that taking him out of school was definitely the right thing to do. It felt like a huge risk at the time and now it feels just right.
And Isaac spent lots of time yesterday proving me wrong about his language. All kinds of things popped out of his mouth that surprised me. And so perhaps we're at the start of another wave.
More than anything, this journey has been a lot about me. Everyone else seems to have just rolled right along as events unfolded while I struggled and wrestled through it, coming to terms and trying to accept each nuance of this path. It's cracked me open and made me sort through old notions and expectations of what a meaningful, successful life looks like. It's made me see parts of myself that I didn't know were there: both parts that I am proud of, and parts that I am ashamed of. And I don't think I'd want to take that back if I could.
And so, my friends. Expect more to come. I am looking down the road at what will be a long, complex journey. And I'll probably end up sharing a lot of that here. But for now, let's take a down a few notches.
Let's talk about muffins.
I made these Whole Wheat Orange Muffins yesterday and they are fantastic.
Here's the recipe!
Whole Wheat Orange Muffins
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 cup oat bran
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
2 1/4 t baking powder
a couple of shakes of cinnamon
zest of one orange
3/4 cups chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350.
Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs. Mix. Add remaining ingredients. Mix some more!
Scoop batter into muffin tin.
Bake for 25 minutes.
And thank you.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
And then we had Isaac.
Isaac is 2 1/2. He's 3 years younger than Andrew and I used to worry about how much Andrew's delays would affect Isaac. I worried about his experience growing up with a Special Needs brother.
I don't worry about that anymore.
Isaac just finished his own round of evaluations. He has the same categorical delays as Andrew: speech, sensory processing and social skills. He'll be starting school in September at the same Special Needs Preschool that Andrew went to. He'll be getting the same therapies probably by the same therapists that worked with Andrew.
Is Isaac autistic?
Maybe. I would guess that where Andrew might be straddling the spectrum, Isaac is a little more settled in. But, I haven't started down the road to diagnosis with him yet. I haven't even mentioned to Andrew's Developmental Pediatrician that Isaac will be heading her way soon. One step at a time.
For a long, long time Andrew and Isaac seemed so different to me. They still do, actually. They are very, very different. For a while I thought Isaac was more social because he could point and because he imitated us more. Andrew didn't really do those things. But, Isaac didn't know our names until last Fall. He knew the alphabet, the names of the Thomas trains and number up to 10 before he could say "Andrew".
Isaac's language comes in waves. This summer we got a big wave of language. He didn't use our names, but he was able to ask for basic things "open" "up" "help". And then in the fall, that wave receded and he stopped saying those things. He didn't ask for anything...he would just tug on my arm, pull me into place, while I guessed what he needed, begging him to tell me.
This past Christmas we got another wave of language. He repeated everything. Everything. "Juice, Isaac?" "yes. juice." "Put on your shoes?" "yes. shoes." And again, without warning, the wave receded. He's in another quiet period where, if we work hard, we'll get a few words a day.
This Fall, as I was putting together the pieces, as I was realizing that Isaac too has some serious delays, I lost a lot of sleep (and weight). I would cry in the middle of the day without warning. I could be doing laundry, thinking about something entirely different, and the tears would come. And I would stand there baffled, wishing that I could predict the tears. They'd often catch me in embarrassing situations. Those tricky tears.
And then, one day, I noticed that Isaac was trying to do one of Andrew's puzzles, but it was too hard for him. So, I went to the store and bought him a 24 piece puzzle. He absolutely loved it. At Thanksgiving I gave him a 35 piece puzzle to keep him busy during the day. And again, he was enraptured. He put it together and took it apart all day long. When the Occupational Therapist came to evaluate him a few weeks ago, she took out some puzzles. I told her that he has a few 35 piece puzzles and she was shocked. Shocked. She said "that's ridiculously advanced". She told me that on average, 6 year olds tackle 35 piece puzzles, not 2 1/2 year olds.
And I have to tell you, I cling to that. Isaac is ridiculously advanced at puzzles. I don't know why but the whole puzzle phenomenon was a game changer for me. I sleep better and I cry less....all because of those silly puzzles.
I feel more or less settled about Andrew's future. I feel like we still have a lot to iron out, but I see him mainstreaming at some point. Joining his quirky self with his peers in a typical classroom. Going to college. Getting a job. But Isaac? I just don't know. I don't even have a good guess. Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know. I don't know. And I'm just trying to stay open to that. I'm trying to sink down into the not knowing and just accept that I don't know. I want to be open and ready for whatever it is.
My mom told me once "Isaac will surprise you." And I think she's right. And the more I accept that I don't know, the more he'll surprise me. I said this yesterday about Andrew. I said that I feel a wild mixture of luck and fear. And I feel that same mix with Isaac, except maybe a little more so. I LOVE Isaac. There are times I want to pinch myself because I feel so lucky to have this absolutely darling little boy in my life. There is so much about him that I just find painfully adorable. And I thank my lucky stars that I get to be his mama.
Often I look at him and I think that he's just being him. He doesn't know what he should or should not be doing. He's just being. He just is. He doesn't care about milestones or comparisons or delays. He's just being the best little him that he can be. And when I notice that, when I stop and let myself see it, I see that not only is he doing a damn fine job, but I can see that he's knockin' it outta the park.
As I was working on publishing this this morning, Isaac said to me, "uh oh! tracks, broken!" Which serves me right for saying we only get a few words a day. Here it is, not even 8 in the morning and he's started the day with a sentence. Which makes me think I should talk about how little he talks more often. I love it when he proves me wrong. ;)
Posted by Dave at 7:30 AM
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
I've been reading more on autism. And doing so has made me want to write more on autism. In fact, as I write this, dinner is boiling away on the stove, the kids are parked in front of the TV and I've warned Dave that I am going into hiding because I am dying to write about autism.
I've been hesitant to write about autism for several reasons. One major reason is that I worry about my writing's effect on Andrew. I worry about him finding these entries and being upset by them. I worry about his future classmates finding these entries and teasing him. I'm not sure what to do about that right now, but it's definitely on my mind.
I'm also worried about the various responses people will have. I worry that people think that I'm trying to find something to blame Andrew's sometimes-strange behavior on. I worry they think he's not really autistic and that I am exaggerating, trying to cover up my inept parenting. But I also worry that people see Andrew more clearly than I do and what is remarkable and insightful to me seem dull and obvious to others. Basically, I feel vulnerable.
But, I really, really want to do it. I want to face this. And I want to face it publicly. I don't want to wonder what people are guessing anymore. I just want to share and talk and write and be out with it already. Plus, I've heard from all kinds of readers about struggles they've been having with their kids, which further motivates me to move forward.
Is Andrew autistic?
Officially, no. He's not. I've been talking more and more with his Developmental Pediatrician about this. The schools that we are looking at for him, the schools that she is recommending, are for kids with high-functioning autism. She is hesitant to diagnose him, she tells me, because he's borderline. And lots of kids that exhibit characteristics of autism as young children, get 'better'. The funny thing is therapy often works. She tells me she's diagnosed kids that within a few years don't exhibit the same signs at all, and then she wonders why she diagnosed them in the first place.
We're meeting with her again soon. His Education Plan is up for review in a few months and right now he's listed as "speech disorder", which just doesn't fit at all. And might not be enough to get him into the schools that could really help him. And so she's weighing the pros and cons of giving him a more specific diagnosis.
But really, is he autistic?
I don't know. Some days I look at him and don't see anything at all that's atypical. Other days I can't believe how autistic he is. And his teachers and therapists have reported the same thing. Some days he's here. He's with us. He's in the game and ready to play and batting home runs. Other days, he's not. He's in his own world. He's in his head and mindlessly repeating lines from movies, and saying nonsense words and he can't hear anything I say. It's such a wild variance that I've tracked his diet, his sleep, his activity levels to see if I could find any clear patterns. What makes him retreat into himself? And how do I get him out?
Right now, it helps me just to think, "yes. he's mildly autistic." Oddly, it keeps me calm and helps me work with him more constructively and patiently. It changes my approach and makes me more effective.
Though, I have to say, that can be really hard.
I think that Andrew's 'borderline' diagnosis has it's own set of hardships for me. A lot of people don't see anything different about Andrew at all. But at this point, he can't learn in a typical classroom. It's just too overwhelming for him right now. And so the schools see his differences clearly. I often feel like I am juggling back and forth between people that see and people that don't. And that often feels like a tricky position to be in and one that I'm learning to navigate.
And maybe Andrew's pediatrician is right. In a few years, maybe the things holding him back now, won't be holding him back anymore. Maybe a diagnosis wouldn't fit at all and we'll be scratching our heading wondering why we ever thought he was autistic in the first place. But, I feel like, even so...even if Andrew gets to the place where the rest of us are...where he learns to cope with what is hard for him in more socially acceptable ways...and his language and social skills catch up..even so...right now people are looking at him wondering if he's autistic. Even if in the end, everyone decides he's not, this is still really happening. People are looking my son trying to decide if he's autistic. This might end up being just a brush with autism...but still...it's a brush with autism...and for me, it's having a profound inpact.
I'm reading Not Even Wrong by Paul Collins. It's a book I tracked down after hearing Collins interviewed on NPR. It's been really, really, really good for me to read it. Honestly, there is a lot about autism that I love. Crazy, right? I mean, when I read these cases of 'autists' with their strange obsessions and quirks, it makes my heart sing. There is something absolutely endearing to me about quirky people. I love, love, love, love, love them.
And so I find myself in this tangled mess. Loving and resenting the things that make Andrew atypical. Feeling so incredibly lucky and feeling heart-pounding fear... at the exact same time.
And if you made it the end of this post: congratulations! ;) Perhaps the photos of Mississippi Mud Bars powered you through. These babies were fantastic and found in Passion for Baking, of course.
Andrew sure loved them.
Posted by Dave at 9:00 AM
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
In school Andrew and I have been doing an extensive unit on the weather. He's been interested in weather for a while now and a friend of mine recently gave him a Solar System book that renewed his interest in Outer Space (Thanks Marlorie! We love it!).
So last week, in a stroke of teaching genius, I combined weather and the Solar System for a few days. We read about how the Earth's orbit around the sun is what makes the seasons change. He latched onto this idea and sucked the very marrow out of it. I read him a simple story that unfolds over the four seasons and we set up a model Sun and Earth for him to use while I read the story. He put the Earth on one side of the sun for "Spring" and as the seasons changed in the story, he slowly moved the Earth a quarter of the way around the Sun until it was "Summer". He continued moving the Earth for the rest of the book, hitting the marks for each season as I read. I could tell as he was doing this that he totally understood this weirdo, abstract concept.
On Friday, I took the focus of our weather lessons from Science to Literacy. I read him a very simple book about a girl building a snowman and then at the end of the story I asked him, "Andrew, is there anything in this book that reminds you of something that YOU'VE done?" Good readers, I used to tell my students, connect their lives with the text and connect the text with their lives. My students never, ever had a hard time with this line of questioning. It was as natural to them as breathing. Not so with Andrew.
He squirmed. He paced back and forth at the table. He whined. He argued with me about the question. He wanted to answer it, but it was painful watching him try. There was no clear cut answer. He could not say "no, nothing like that has ever happened to me" because that's not true. He has built a snowman. But he couldn't say yes either. His experience was SOOO different from the book. HOW could he POSSIBLY answer this question?
I gave him a piece of paper folded in half and asked him to draw something that happened in the book on one side and something that happened to him on the other side. Then I left him to go make lunch.
He came in the kitchen a little while later with two snowmen drawn: one right side up (on the book side) and one upside-down (on his side). We talked more about how different his experience was from the book. Parts were the same and parts were different. And that that's okay. It's not going to be exactly the same. It can't be.
It was fascinating to me to watch this boy, who a few days before was able to demonstrate the earth's orbit affecting our seasons, not be able to make a simple comparison with this simple book. And not only was it hard for him to do it, it made him upset to try. He didn't just say "I don't know", or ignore me, or go with a non sequitur, his favorite you've-asked-a-weird-question response. He wrestled fiercely with it wanting to answer and not wanting to answer at the same time while I just sat there watching him.
I am so cruel.
One of the things I really like about homeschooling is how individualized it is. I can teach Andrew at his level and I can teach him about the things that interest him. We can dissect the universe and learn obscure facts about Jupiter's moons and really dive into the things that he enjoys. And then, when he least expects it, I can pull one of my tricks. One of my let's-take-about-books-in-an-abstract-way doozies. And send him reeling. Just a little. Enough to stretch him the littlest bit. And then safely return to facts about the sun's temperature.
He may never be well-rounded. He'll probably always prefer science, math and logic to literary analysis and second language learning, but it won't be for lack of me trying. I feel pretty stubborn about this kind of thing.
Andrew and I made this paper mache Earth as a model to use to talk about the Earth's poles, spin and orbit. We are planning on covering it in clouds and showing what the weather is like in different parts of the world right now.