Faith, Love and Respect for ALL

Archive for August, 2012

Round-Up Day

Today was what our school district calls “Bus Round-Up Day.” Since we started school in the middle of the year last year, we missed all the fun beginning of school activities. I was pretty excited to see what it was all about. So I went to school with Beth, for 1.5hours today; I even got to ride on the bus and everything.

Beth was tired and grumpy this morning but as soon as Daddy told her she was going to school, she perked right up and was running around saying: “Where’s the pack?” She was so excited when she saw the bus coming, and was all smiles for her bus driver. We got on the bus and Beth seemed less than thrilled that I was in “her” place. After a few minutes she warmed up to the idea and was telling me about things she saw out the window. When we got to school she followed Ms. M’s directions briefly, and then ran past everyone to her classroom. At this point I pretty much ceased to exist. She said a brief Hi (of sorts) to her teacher as she hung up her backpack, then raced into the classroom to explore. There was only one other student that came today, but that was okay with her, since they were visiting the “Blended” class on/off throughout the morning.

I was able to speak to her teacher and the classroom aide about current issues Beth is experiencing. Fortunately they were her staff during ESY, so they were familiar with her and aware of some of the current struggles. I went over what we feel are Our strengths, and Our areas that need improvement. The new Speech Pathologist came in to introduce herself and chat a bit. She even asked about our private therapists and how to contact them, I was impressed. The teacher then shared with us some changes in the ECE program this year; basically they are attempting to restructure this class into more of a transition class for children, so they can move to “Blended” classrooms with as much ease as possible. They are also coordinating more with the Kindergarten teachers to make sure they are properly preparing the kids to be successful in that environment, when the time comes.

Since we had declined placement in the “Blended” classroom for this school year, Ms. B was apprehensive that we would not be happy with the changes to the curriculum. I must admit that I am a bit leery, because I suspect some the kids from the “Blended” program that were in Beth’s ESY class were not being nice to her. I am not sure if it was bullying or just kids being kids, but there was a drastic change in her demeanor and we are still working on some major aggression issues. As scary as change can be in Our world, I also think that it necessary to progress; so we will keep an open mind and also keep a close eye on behavior issues as the school year goes forward. This new structure has the potential to be a growth experience for Beth and will help her deal with a larger classroom. We feel that it will also help us to achieve our goal of her being in a General Education classroom for Kindergarten in the 2014-2015 school year.

The majority of the week, Beth will be in her classroom with her other 3 – 4 peers, teacher, aide, and various therapists (they do their supportive services in the classroom). Then twice a week they will spend half of their morning with the “Blended” class, so they can adjust to the larger (16-20 kids) class size and interact on a consistent basis with more of their “typical” peers. The students will also be journaling on a daily basis, where they will draw a picture of their day, and staff will write in a description for them. Since many of the students, including Beth,  cannot tell their parents how their day was, they hope this will help open more lines of communication between school and home and encourage the kids to “talk” more about their day at school with their caregivers.

In pure Casablanca style, I must say: “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” We will provide Ms. B with a list of items we are working on at home, and they will attempt to work them into her day at school to assist in strengthening her skills in those areas. In turn, they will keep us informed regarding what they are working on in school, so we can also concentrate on those areas at home. I am very excited and hopeful for the coming school year. I feel that if we build the proper working relationship and maintain consistent, honest communication it will be an Au-Some year for everyone. Wishing every family and their amazing children a successful 2012-2013 school year, may Our children all shine like the unique, bright stars they are!

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Autism Proud – Journey With Us – by Jest Tu Positive by Dorothy Stronglove is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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Priceless Progress

We have been having a few extremely rough days in the Stronglove house, which would normally cause me to only focus on the negative side of life. Through the grace of my Al-Anon program I can see this tendency in myself and have even managed to catch myself before a few downward spirals. For those I was not able to catch, I will be better prepared next time those occasions come around.  Another blessing of my program, and new perception of life, is that I can manage to see the positive side of life, even when it seems like the day is destined to be a disaster. The day started out looking quite gloomy, and I accepted that was probably going to be another trying day. Although, it has not been an easy day by far, it has been filled with some Au-Some and amazing progress that I want to share. Actually I want to sing it from the mountain tops!

1) When Beth got home from school, she came strolling down the aisle of the bus barefoot! Her driver told her to get her backpack to which I added “and shoes would be nice too.” When she came back she handed me her pack and shoes with a HUGE smile and giggle. I asked why her shoes were not on, to which she responded: “I want a shoes off.”  In case you missed that… She answered a question, with an appropriate answer, which was also in the form of a sentence!

2) Beth has some serious issues with Anne invading her space, which she does A LOT. She also has an extremely hard time sharing. Today she showed marked progress in both areas, which again was HUGE. Beth said: “Mommy water?” meaning she wanted a drink from my bottle, which has not happened in quite some time, so of course I obliged. Any chance I get to help her tackle the sensory issue with tilting her head back I will take, especially when she initiates it. Anne loves to drink from my bottle too, so it was a good time to work on our sharing. It only took one time to prompt the sharing of the water bottle, and then something amazing happened.  Beth pushed the bottle toward Anne and said “Sisters turn.” After her drink Anne pushed the bottle toward Beth and made her usual grunt of offering. At one point Beth even said “Mommies turn” and I was placed in the mix of sharing. This went on for almost 10 minutes and by the end she was holding the bottle herself, tipping it up, leaning her head back ever-so-slightly and drinking the water. When she was done she would hand the bottle back to me and say either: “Sisters turn or Anne drink Mommy water” with nothing but smiles and giggles. I cried because this was beyond Au-Some… She was using proper verbiage, social skills and was actually tipping her head back to drink!

3) Beth took a package of hot dogs out of the fridge and told me: “Hot dogs.” I asked did she want them for dinner. She replied by pointing at the stove and saying: “Hot dogs cookin.” So of course we had hotdogs and mashed potatoes for dinner. When I made her plate and gave it to her, she ate her potatoes and some cheese. I asked her to try the hotdog, and she said: “No, no hot dog, want more of this one” and pointed at the potatoes. I told her what they were and asked her what she wanted again, she smiled and said: “I want more potatoes please.” You guessed it, I cried again… She was actually expressing her wants and needs in age-appropriate communication!

She has made such amazing progress in so many areas, that perhaps her behaviors and meltdowns are just her body’s way of letting off steam. Her OT has told me more than once that she thinks there is a trade-off in the areas of progress and behavior. After talking to her and others, I have a theory… It appears as though when they are at their calmest and most well-behaved, that seems to be when their nervous system is regrouping and resting. Then when their brain and nervous system start running at full-speed and progressing, that is when the behaviors and meltdowns seem to hit a new high, because their body has too much energy and information to process, which causes a sensory overload and a myriad of chaos. I could be completely off-base, but this is just my theory, because it seems to hold true with my Au-Some girl. This is why I must always remember that inside every cloud there is a silver lining, and after each storm there is rainbow. Regardless of the negatives we have been experiencing lately, we are making PROGRESS and our positives outweigh those negatives everyday of the week and twice on Sunday!

 

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Autism Proud – Journey With Us – by Jest Tu Positive by Dorothy Stronglove is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Mommy Meltdown

It happened again… We could not make it through the day without yelling, throwing/slamming something, and of course crying… I wish I was just talking about my children, but sadly I am not, I am also talking about myself.

Most people in our life know what my children’s meltdowns look and/or sound like, but few know of mine. I was raised to always put your best face forward, whether that was your true face or not, because you should never let anyone see your flaws and weaknesses. It is only through the grace of Al-Anon that I am finally accepting that I can cry in front of people and not be ashamed. Although this is going be extremely hard for me to write, I need to do it. So here is the story of the Mommy Meltdown. The events may vary but the reactions, feelings and actions are usually the same…

It was a bad day. The girls were “off” and having various behavior issues. I was exhausted and fighting depression (not sure why, but I know the signs well enough to know that is what my problem was). The day turned into what felt like an ocean of quicksand that we could not climb out of. One “bad” thing led into the next and even if we squeezed a little “good” in there, it was not enough to escape the horrible hole we seemed to be in. I could feel it happening and the more I fought it, the more it seemed to engulf me. It was the dreaded Pity Train with my VIP seat in the “Woe is Me” section, and they were serving “Why I am Cursed” for a snack. I HATE myself when I get like this and that makes my frustration spiral even more out of control, which causes me to be a beast that cannot control her emotions.

As I was fighting my own emotional and mental battle, I was trying to put on a happy face for the kids so I could pull them out of meltdown town, but nothing was working. It was not working because you cannot fool children; they feel EVERYTHING, even the emotions and negativity we fight so hard to hide. They are little sponges whose feelings and actions are directly linked to how their parents feel and behave. So I accepted that we were all just going to be miserable, but we could at least try to make the best of it. For the most part we did well, and even had some great spurts of uncontrollable giggles and crazy, fun screams. Then we would hit a snag, something would go wrong and I would become the screamy mommy, yelling and having a meltdown over a seemingly insignificant thing. “How Important Is It?” would pop into my head, and I would start to calm myself down. Thankfully my girls love me no matter what, because at the time I was so disgusted with myself I had to walk away to avoid crying.

The final straw for the day was attempting to brush Beth’s hair after bath time. I put Anne in the bedroom and closed the gate so she could play while I tackled the unpleasant task. Beth cannot stand having her hair brushed most nights, but I can usually get through it with minimal meltdowns if Anne is not bothering her. Well my plan backfired, she was actually worse, and to top it off Anne was standing at the gate screaming too. Her hair was really bad, and it needed to be brushed, so I strapped her in the booster chair and started again. We had to take breaks, she was screaming, sobbing, flailing, barely able to catch her breathe. It was HORRIBLE! I would give her a break; try a new approach (favorite show, singing songs, brush lighter, slower, faster, etc…), nothing was working and I was quickly losing patience. There was an argument going on inside me head. First, “You know she has problems with this, you know how hard it is for her, just be patient, be kind, and help her.” Then, “We do this every night, when will she learn, it is just hair brushing, come one Beth you know it has to be done just let me do this.”

After what seemed like an eternity of two kids screaming and me pleading, I lost it. I yelled at her, yelled at Anne, yelled at the air, threw her toy bin until it made enough of crash to upset everyone even more, then sat down at the desk and collapsed in tears. I was so ASHAMED, how could I yell at her for something out her control? How could I let them see me behave so APPALLING?  How did I let my frustration and temper get the better of me? I just had to sit, cry, say the Lord’s Prayer, chant the Serenity Prayer, and try to breathe for almost 10 minutes before I went over and begged for forgiveness from my children.

I decided the hair was good enough, and put it in a ponytail. There was always tomorrow, and we just could not handle anymore stress tonight. I unhooked Beth, let Anne out of the bedroom, put on a Classical Baby, grabbed our favorite toys and headed to the recliner where we cuddled until both girls fell asleep. It was the perfect end to a dreadful day. They love me unconditionally, which is something I need to learn how to do for myself.

I do not want to my children to have to forgive me, but I am not perfect and I will make many more mistakes in the future. The important part is to learn to forgive myself when it happens and use it as a teachable moment for my girls. As I progress in my Al-Anon program, I will learn to control my mood swings better, and I will learn that I can release my negative feelings in a more constructive way. I will learn to be a better me, which will make me a better mother. I will eventually become in-tune with myself enough to recognize and heed the warning signs, so that I may THINK before I act or speak. A prayer that I am finding particularly useful these days is from One Day At A Time In Al-Anon: “When I am tempted or pressured into irrational behavior, I pray that I may stop and think before I do or say anything whatever. I ask God to remove these impulses and help me to grow into the person I want to be.” Of course I always have the wonderful, centering Serenity Prayer as well.

 

 

 

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Autism Proud – Journey With Us – by Jest Tu Positive by Dorothy Stronglove is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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