Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Last Day at Home before Middle School - Big Day Ahead!

Thanks so much for visiting the Aspierations blog, today!

The last couple of days around our home have been anything but routine.  Our oldest son, Justin (10) gets ready to start 6th grade in a new middle school tomorrow and he is incredibly excited and nervous.  I am so proud of him and I look forward to dropping him off on his first day and then hearing all about it when he gets home in the afternoon. 

If you haven't yet read in entirety my blogs about Justin's Middle School Orientation last week and Ryan's comedic hand in events, I invite you to do so below.  I guarantee part two will give you a laugh, a wince or both!

Our youngest son, Ryan (4) travels tomorrow morning with us to Beaverton for his next 2 hour session in an Autism Research & Communications study where he gets to work with a talking computer and I suppose a talking research assistant as well.  I know he'll do just fine!  (He gets to pick a prize at the end and if I were psychic, I would say, he would be picking a Hot Wheels car.  But since I'm not, I'll say a Matchbox car!)

If you read my last blog, Grandma Genevieve Walsh Advances to Heaven and Justin Advances to Tenderfoot, (click for link) you'll know that there was sad news in the family on Sunday afternoon.

John is preparing to travel back to Wisconsin for his Grandma Genevieve's funeral and to also spend a few days with his Mom, older brother, older sisters, their families and a rather large extensive family.  We got his flight reservations yesterday and he leaves at 5:30 a.m. (NOT a typo, SERIOUSLY ugh) out of Portland on Friday and returns late at night on Monday.  

It was decided that for the sake of John's extended family and also for Justin and Ryan, that I stay at home with the guys.  I respect John's decision to have some alone time away with his family and pay his respects. It's been a long time since all his family has been together at once and I hope it will be therapeutic for him to have that quality time reminiscing about his Grandma and sharing positive family memories rather than having to worry about whether we'll cause a disruption.  This is a very special and important time for him and I respect his right to grieve in his own way.  He'll be having his cell phone and the iPad with him so hopefully we'll get a chance to connect a few times.  

Although I know it will be challenging, I am confident that I can take care of things here on the home front with the boys (cereal, toast and microwave meals, yum yum), however I'll admit that not having anyone around to talk to or go to if for some reason anything happened leaves me a bit down.  There has been some Autism Isolation Syndrome (see link) going on this home for quite some time and if I'm truly honest with myself, ever since I left the Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour in 1998, I have been quite isolated socially from other adults except for John.  Thank goodness for the internet.  :-) 

But that's for another blog, another day.  For now, it's about taking care of my family and being there to support them in any way I can, emotionally, spiritually, financially and by doing things like being a good listener, a proactive parent, a fine friend and practicing forgiveness, acceptance, patience and love.

I'm going to close this blog a little early tonight since John isn't feeling well and I want to be there for him.  Our boys have a big day tomorrow as well and I'm still not used to getting up before 7:30 a.m!  I was meant for Night Owl-dom.  I'm pretty sure that the Friday morning 3:45 a.m. airport drop off with the boys in tow is going to set the pace for a Friday filled with adventure.  Yes, I'm already planning my social stories and stick figure drawings in my head now!!!

I'll try to blog a bit in the next few days.  I am not sure exactly how successful I will be at getting quiet computer time during the day but once the kiddos fall asleep (and I have lots of exciting activities planned to wear them out), I will try and check in and let you know how it is going.

Although I really don't know who comes here as most people who post are anonymous, I want to say a special thanks to the people who left John words of condolence on his Facebook page and also on his blog.  It meant a lot to him and if you are a follower of his writing, I know he would appreciate your thoughts and prayers as he travels and goes through a very difficult time this weekend.

Thanks so much for stopping by!  Your support is always appreciated!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Grandma Genevieve Walsh Advances to Heaven & Justin Advances to Tenderfoot

Dear Aspierations Friends,

I had a very difficult time starting tonight's blog.  There are two events I want to talk about but I'm not sure which I should share first.  Please bear with me as I gather my thoughts.  I want to write this with the utmost love, caring and respect.

Tonight I feel very sad for my husband, my sons and my husband's extended family.  John's Grandma Genevieve Noie Walsh passed away earlier this afternoon.  She was 95 years old and will be deeply missed by a large family of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.

Although I did not know John's Grandma well, I know that he loved her dearly and that his Mom had moved from Alaska back to Wisconsin a number of years ago to make sure that she was well taken care of.  Grandma Genevieve had many health struggles over the past few years and in the last year and a half especially.  In my heart I believe she is now in heaven, reunited with her husband, her oldest son, siblings, parents, family and friends.  I have faith that her sickness and pain is now gone and that she's either swimming laps, taking a major travel trip or watching down upon on a vast and adoring family.

Diminutive in stature but not in spirit, I remember traveling on a cruise to Mexico with John, John's Grandma Genevieve, John's Great Aunt Lynn, Jan (John's Mom), Justin, Justin's cousin Kiersten and John's Uncle Jim and Aunt Carol when Justin was about 3 which would put Grandma Genevieve in her late 80s!  Grandma Genevieve loved to travel and I hope that when I'm in my 80s (heck, even my 70s), that I have the spunk, stamina and spirit like she did to enjoy traveling the world.

Truth be known, I believe she did some traveling tonight.  Our son Justin had his first big Court of Honor in Boy Scouts and I'm sure Grandma Genevieve was there.  John, Justin and I went out to Camp Currie and were lucky enough to find a neighborhood baby sitter for a couple hours for Ryan.  (We didn't want another "middle school orientation evening" experience in front of about 75 scouts and their families.)

John and Justin - Scouting Buddies

Justin received recognition for earning his Tenderfoot Rank and he also received badges for Orienteering, Archaeology, Soil and Water Conservation and Oceanography.  I am so proud of my boy! When he went to Boy Scout Camp, he picked some of the toughest badges out there to get and was the only one in his whole pack who earned the Orienteering Badge. He overcame a lot of obstacles this summer in a short period of time to do what he did, especially considering he is the youngest and smallest member of his Pack!

He also earned BSA 2010 special 100th Anniversary ribbons for Service, Achievement and Outdoors.  John recently stepped up to be an Assistant Scoutmaster so both guys were in their uniforms and we got front row seating near the campfire which didn't work out too badly for warding off mosquitoes. (Only 3 bites! Bet they were disappointed!)

While we were sitting outside for the 2 1/2 hour presentation, I was thinking that John's Grandma would have been very proud of him and of Justin for all they have accomplished together.  John has stepped up to the plate to be either an Assistant Den Leader, Cub Scout Den Leader or Assistant Scoutmaster every year that Justin has been involved in scouting.  With John's encouragement and leadership, not only did Justin make his first friendships with peers, he has accomplished and experienced outings and opportunities for service that have helped him grow into the fine young 6th grader who will be starting middle school this week!

I have a feeling that John's Grandma Genevieve and his Grandpa (passed in 1987) were at the Court of Honor this evening, helping to celebrate their grandson's and great-grandson's accomplishments.  Just as we honor Justin for moving onto Tenderfoot, we celebrate the life of John's Grandma & Justin and Ryan's Great Grandma Genevieve who has moved onto a new rank of her own, Special Angel In Heaven.

I'm pretty sure if there were merit badges and rank advancements for being loved and appreciated as a Mother, Sibling, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, Great-Great Grandmother and all the other relationship labels she took on, Genevieve Walsh would have earned them all!

So here tonight, we celebrate her life and I will try to do everything I can in the coming days to help my husband and sons through the cycles of grief.  I will blog about this separately.

My blogs for the next few days will likely include more thoughts upon the grieving process.  Right now I'm trying to process it all myself and figure out how to be the best Mom and wife I can be.  I see John crying and want to take the tears away. I hear Justin asking questions and want to be there for him to help him along.  Ryan is quite young to understand but I have already found social stories online for him as well to try and explain why Daddy will be away for awhile.  I fear doing something socially inappropriate or somehow coming across selfish when all I want to be is selfless. Everyone grieves in their own way and I know there are a lot of intense changing emotions involved.  I hope he knows that I will step up to the plate and take care of anything and everything I can possibly do as he takes whatever time he needs.

For tonight, I want to pay my respect and show love and honor to John, Justin, Ryan, John's Mom, Jan, his sisters Sue and Sara and their families, his brother George and his family, his aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives and everyone whose lives were positively touched by this sweet and thoughtful woman.

John, Justin, Ryan and I were blessed to have the opportunity to see her last summer when we took our big trip across country to see John's family and attend the Autism Society of America Conference.  It was the first time Genevieve had met Ryan and the second time she had met Justin.  In the time before we were there she had been quite ill and there was some question as to if we would be able to make it in time to see her.  I am glad that we were able to.  She was quite lucid during the time we were there, she smiled, she recognized John and it gave him a happy experience to hold onto.

Here are two pictures from that last visit in Summer 2009 where I remember her alert and the family happy.

Ryan, John, Jan (John's Mom), Justin and Grandma Genevieve

Same great group + your Friendly Aspierations Blogger, Karen

As I get ready to end my blog for the evening, I hear my husband typing on his keyboard off to the left.  He has been working on his blog for quite some time and I am giving him his space.  I will be here when he needs me.  I haven't had experience before with helping John through a big grieving process but I do remember losing each of my 4 Grandmas and although it is not the same, I feel sympathy for him and will do my best to empathize as well.  He will be heading off to Wisconsin for 4 - 5 days over Labor Day weekend and although the boys and I will be here in Washington, we will be with him and his family in heart.  

I am sure he will do a lovely tribute to his Grandma so I'm going to include a link to his blog here as soon as its finished. I would appreciate it if you could send positive thoughts and prayers to John, Justin, Ryan and the entire family.  

Blessings to you, Grandma Genevieve.  Without you, there'd be no Jan, without Jan, there'd be no John, without John, there would be no Justin or Ryan.    Thank you for your life on this earth, the lives you brought to this earth and all of those you touched.

Love, blessings, peace and eternal life,

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Justin's Middle School Orientation - Part 2 - Lots of Laughs

Bonjour Aspierations Buddies!

Welcome! Did you happen in onto Justin's Middle School Orientation - Part 2 blog before reading Justin's Middle School Orientation - Part 1?  

Naughty, naughty!  Before I can let you in, you're just going to have to play nice and catch up like the rest of the class.  Don't worry, I'll wait!  Here is a link to what you missed:


Okay... everyone back? Good!  Hope you took notes because there will be a test at the end!  Think I'm kidding?  Hmmm....  We'll see!

When we previously left off, I just finished sharing Tales from the Crypt Locker Hall.  After a rather confusing experience trying to figure out how to get Justin's school locker open, we left the 6th grade wing to go outside into the sweltering (yes, I said sweltering) heat and walk Justin's school schedule from 1st period to the end of his day so he would have familiarity with where his classrooms were.

2:54 p.m. -- (I'm not sure of the exact time here but since Ryan's favorite number is 54, it seemed as good of an estimate as any.)  We all walk outside and are immediately struck by how bright it is outside.  Seems like our locker hall experience really put us in the dark side.

Justin looks at his schedule and his first classroom is in a portable right near where the bus will let him off in the morning.  This is a good thing.  Getting to Period 1 should be a snap!

The portables are positioned as 2 classroom portables back to back or side to side depending on how you look at it.  They are self-contained classrooms outside the main school building.  Well, the way the school has it set up is that the 6th graders are away from the 7th and 8th graders except for certain electives.  This is a good idea in the beginning because with so many kids in the school, it gives the new middle schoolers a chance to find a familiar face or two from elementary school while passing from classroom to classroom and begin to get familiarity with their own 6th grade group.  I think that 3 - 4 elementary schools feed into this middle school and each elementary school had between 75 and 125 5th graders.  That is a lot of new faces for children to see.

It turns out that Justin's 1st period Math and 3rd Period English / Social Studies portables are next to each other.  This is a good thing because 1st period is first thing in the morning and 3rd period is first thing after lunch so he will get into the pattern of going to the same part of the school grounds after a bell rings.

Ryan or maybe it was Justin tried to open the door of his math classroom to see if it was open and just a few seconds later, Justin's new math teacher comes to the door and takes a few minutes to talk and give us a tour.  He's a sharp, approachable man and appears to run a very organized classroom.  He seems like the kind of teacher that if you give respect to, you will get it back in return.

Justin is used to having female teachers so this will be a change for him and I hope it will be a positive experience.  Justin liked him and so did I so that is a good start. It turns out this teacher grew up in the midwest like John did and so they talked briefly about the Packers.  (I don't know what it is about that team but wherever we go, John seems to find cheeseheads.  Truth be told, he really isn't even much of a fan (shhhh) but his family would disown him if they knew that.  KIDDING...)

3:10 -- We head over to another part of the school to try and find Justin's second period classrooms.  Justin's second period is technically two half periods.  His first half class will be CEO Boot Camp (a business and marketing class with an emphasis on entrepreneurship) which I know will be right up his alley.  His second half class will be SCIP (his Social Skills class) and will probably be the only classroom where there won't be 30 kids.  I'm actually quite relieved at this.  That's one thing about this school that I feel overwhelmed with (class size, so many kids) but I don't want to pass that anxiety or tension along to my son.

Unfortunately neither of the teachers for second periods were in the portables but we hope that they will be there in the evening.

We head back from the portables to a short-cut entrance (thank you, 7th grade tour guide Justin) into the 6th grade wing where Justin has his last class, Science.  Not too far away from this classroom (which was locked) is the ominous Looney Tunes Locker Hall (see previous blog) where we see kids and their parents fumbling with their lockers. Rather than go through those uncomfortable feelings again, I tell Justin we'll work something out.  John suggests we all go home, take a break, get prepared for evening orientation and refill our water. (Ryan thought it was funny to take huge sips and then spit the water out giggling.  SOOO funny!)

So we said our temporary good-byes to Shahala and then headed home.  We got back around 3:38 p.m. or so and had about an hour to relax before we headed back for the evening orientation.  In retrospect, this would have been a smart time to put on Ryan's weighted vest, do joint compressions or dots and squeezies. Sigh...  we live and learn!

4:37 p.m. -- Time to head back to the school.  Since we had Justin's schedule, I visited the school website during our brief break and looked up the individual pages of his teachers to see if they had something in common with Justin that he could use as a talking point to help out with transitions and introductions.  The more obstacles we can remove, the better.

4:51 p.m. -- Okay, this is more like it.  NOW the main parking lot is full and there is overflow into the parking lot on the side.  Fortunately we find a spot and as we get out of the vehicle, we hear through the loudspeakers in the distance that all families should report to the main gym for a group presentation.

This brings to mind this photo...

Just herd them on into the gym.... nothing to see here... MOOOOOOOOOve!

Truth be known, the loudspeaker announcement first brought to mind another photo but that one included me with the cows and well, it's my blog and I think this photo is funnier!

4:57 p.m. -- We are in the big gym.  It's crowded.  We go up about 12 rows of stairs and try to sit at the edge of a row so that we can make an easy exit should for example someone with blonde hair, blue eyes and an adorable impish smile suddenly have to go to the bathroom.  We initially neglect to see that there are posters at the top of the gym walls which indicate we should be sitting in a certain section based on the names of our student's core teachers.  By the time we figure this out, we realize that we have to scoot our bottoms to the side about 15 feet.  We are now surrounded by people on all sides.

This of course guarantees....

5:06 p.m. -- Ryan now has to go to the bathroom.  The presentation has just started and the principal has just assured the hot and restless crowd that it won't be long, there just are going to be a few introductions and then we will all be dismissed in an orderly fashion to head out to our student's first period classrooms.  (That's what they think!)

John tells Ryan that he can hold off going to the bathroom until the assembly is complete.  Ryan insists he can't and starts to do the sitting version of "the pee pee dance".  John again exasperatedly tells Ryan to hold on just a few minutes and Ryan sits quietly for about 30 seconds and then starts wiggling again.  (I know this is not going to turn out well but it was not my call and sometimes you just have to let things play out so that there is learning in the future...)  Ryan exclaims in a voice only appropriate for the playground, "I really have to go and the PEE PEE is coming out!

It's amazing how many people will quickly scoot out of the way when there is instant fear that they are about to be peed on by a preschooler.  Since a pathway around us had now opened, Ryan and John quickly exited the bleachers, went out the gym door and headed in the direction of the cafeteria.  Justin and I just looked at each other and laughed.  We are so socially inappropriate.   But tell me... you thought it was funny when I told the story, right?  Be honest!  No?  Well, I guess you had to be there then. It was hilarious and just one of those many special "golden" moments which make up a typical day in the Krejcha family household.

Justin and I sat together and listened to miscellaneous instructions.  Parents were assigned homework of having their kids know their bus assignments and their home street addresses.  There are 14 school busses and the end of the first day when all the kids are trying to figure out what bus to get on can get very hectic.  I glance down at Justin's schedule sheet, don't see a bus number and make a mental note to myself to figure this out shortly.  (I now have it!  Thank goodness for all the tools and resources available online.  Google Goddess is my name, Nancy Drew can't steal my fame!)

I noticed Ryan and John re-entering the gym.  Since the nearby crowd had closed back around us after the "PEE PEE is coming out" incident, I wasn't sure if the boys would make it back to where we were.  John decided to sit on the steps in the row where we were at and not cause a scene.  Ryan decided he wanted to sit with his "nice Mommy" and made his own path back to me.  John subsequently apologized to all the people trampled in the process.  (Could have been worse though.  They could have been tinkled on!)

Well, just about two minutes or so after Ryan is back in with me and Justin, the group is dismissed in an "orderly fashion", we meet up with John and start to head off to Justin's math class where his first period teacher that we met before would be giving us a brief presentation.  

At this point, Ryan was really rambunctious and needed a sensory break that just wasn't going to be happening.  Fortunately we had doggy backpack so we were able to prevent him from bolting, a safety issue that happens with Ryan and certain children on the autism spectrum.  There was way too much excitement going on, lots of interesting big kids and he caught a glimpse of one of Justin's close friends that had been over to our house before and immediately wanted to follow him.  (Justin has two different friends that will occasionally come over separately.  Ryan adores both.)

What were we to do except maybe split up where either John or I would go with Justin and the other would hang out with Ryan?  We decided initially to stick together.  We got over to the portable where we had previously met Justin's math teacher and since Ryan had met him too, he ALSO wanted to go sit in the classroom and listen quietly with the rest of the group to the presentation. Hmmm.... too good to be true but why not give it a shot?  Justin, Ryan and I sat in chairs at a table and John was a little behind us in the back just in case....

Just in case....

So the teacher starts talking and one of the first things he talks about is punctuality, coming into the classroom quietly and showing respect to the other students and the teacher.

This is Ryan's cue to shout out random noise and ask a question about maps and GPS directions.  Now this is more like it...  parents turn, students turn, the teacher gives us a polite (but please keep your kid quiet) look and I immediately draw out a quick social story showing Ryan that he needs to be quiet in the classroom. 

This works!  What a relief!  My stick figure drawings have gotten through to Ryan and he is sitting quietly again.  For 2 minutes... after which he attempts to answer one of the teacher's questions with a nonsensical exclamation of his own.  At this point, he smiles, sits back in the chair quietly, looks directly at me, takes a pen from Justin and chooses to cross out my social story.  Apparently it is no longer applicable.  

I know that at this point we should remove him from the classroom to show respect to the teacher and other families and to not embarrass Justin.  Ryan and John quietly exit the back of the classroom and Justin and I sit together for a few minutes listening to the teacher.  From outside I hear a thump, patter, thump, thump on the ramp to the classroom portable and Ryan bursts in, runs over to where Justin and I are, shouts "BEST WESTERN" and then leaves the same way he came in.  I look at the pen that Ryan had taken from Justin and it indeed was from the "Best Western" we had stayed at in Yreka, CA on our recent trip.  Hooray for the reading, not so much for the timing.

What seemed like maybe two minutes passed and this time Ryan tiptoes in being careful to say SHHHH to indicate he is trying to be quiet, comes back to our table and in a voice just a little quieter than a blaring alarm clock exclaims, "BEST WESTERN" again!  By this time, I am VERY embarrassed and just like you, my Aspierations friends, I am wondering where the #*%^@_!*  heck is my husband!!  I give Ryan the pen thinking that is what he wants or that for some unexplicable reason John had sent him in to get it and then the little cherubic love of my life exited the classroom again.

At this point, I could tell what was going on in the minds of some of the parents.  Some were giving me the bad parent look (one even clucked), some were commending themselves silently on their own fine parenting skills, a couple showed empathy, a couple pretended they were ignoring but hey, I can still see that "casual" side glance, you're not that clever; others showed pity and one father at the other side of the room was chuckling.  (Hmm... maybe he's an Aspie like me.)  Little did most of these parents realize at this point but our fun family unit was going to be following them along the evening to their children's other core classrooms as well.  The fun was not over yet.

Eventually the meeting ended and we were dismissed to go to Justin's third period classroom which luckily for us was just next door.  Unfortunately, neither the elective teachers or the SCIP teachers were on campus that evening.  This was a HUGE bummer for me and actually pretty confusing.  I would think that if there would be any teachers that would need to be on hand for children with Asperger's / HFA during school orientation / meet the teachers night, it would be the SCIP teachers to help get the kids off to a good start with their routine.

I'm sure they didn't have a choice though and so we'll be proactive and drop his teachers an email introducing Justin and inviting to meet briefly at a time conducive to their schedule, hopefully before school starts.

Anyway... it was on to 3rd Period and meeting Justin's English / Social Studies teacher for the first time.  We tried Ryan in the classroom for about 78 seconds before realizing it just wasn't going to work.  In my head I heard a couple of the parents cheering but of course that was just my imagination... I think.  Soccer Mom #4 isn't going to be inviting me over for a family social in the near future.

Justin's 3rd period teacher seems like a very nice woman.  Over the summer, the 6th graders had to read a book, "Iqbal" and she talked briefly about a project for the students to complete.  She also suggested that when students leave their first period math class next door that they put their backpacks in her classroom so that when they are done with 2nd period (electives) and then lunch, they can come straight to 3rd period after lunch without having to go to their lockers.  (Her classroom is closed up 2nd period and she says this works out great for her students.)

YIPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPEEEEEEE!!!!!   I know I wasn't the only parent silently cheering about not having to deal with "the locker" situation the first few days of school.  Creative solutions rule!   Now granted, we do want Justin to learn to get his locker open.  It's just not something we're going to press or have him stress about first day.  YES!!!

I honestly don't remember much more about that presentation except to hear that the teacher was very email friendly and checked her email every 20 minutes and that students were welcome to email her.  (Really?  Well, I can guarantee you she will be taken up on that offer by my son!)  I also remember hearing that the students would all be getting planners that they would bring from classroom to classroom and then bring home each day.  This is an organizational tool that helped Justin a lot in his last two years of elementary school and it was great to hear the school already had a system in place to help keep the kids organized.  

So after that, we all went outside and started to head to the 6th grade hall for Justin's 4th period class, Science.  This would be our last presentation of the evening.  John and Ryan met Justin and I outside and Ryan seemed calmer than before.  He and John had been playing on John's new iPad.  Whatever works!

There was a couple minute wait inside the 6th grade hall before the room to Justin's Science class opened.  We could see a few rows of double-stacked lockers out of the corner of our eye but this time, it didn't phase us.  In fact, I think we were feeling so confident that we decided that we would brave Ryan coming in with us to Justin's last class.  Just to be on the safe side, John would stay with Ryan and sit near the door to be able to make an exit.

So.... the door opens, parents and students come out (MOO.....), and our group goes in (in an "orderly fashion" of course).  We were near the back of the pack so a lot of seats were taken by the time we got in, including all that had the possibility of an easy escape route.  John heads to the back right of the class to check Justin's name off on a sign-in sheet, Justin finds a seat in the upper left of the class (this way he isn't immediately associated with us) and Ryan and I find remaining seating in the back left which is as FAR from the exit door as you can possibly get and my last choice for seating.

Ryan decides at first that he doesn't want to sit immediately next to me but that if I am a few feet away its okay.  I surreptitiously edge next to him anyway. At this point the classroom door shuts, I read Ryan's facial expression and KNOW that this will be a challenge.  I try to catch John's gaze to indicate that HELP will be needed but he appears to have taken a special sudden interest in examining his fingernails.  Sigh...

 I start to draw a new social story for Ryan and during most of the presentation, he is very well behaved.  There is a survey for me to fill out about Justin and how he learns best and I'm actually able to fill out 90% of the questionnaire without disruption.   When I got to the last question, Ryan decided it was time to push the table he was sitting at into the backs of the people in front of us.  OOPS!  Sorry!  He knows better not to do that.  (Maybe?) 

"Ryan.  That was NOT a good choice."  

Ryan apologizes.  All is silent for approximately 54 seconds and then Ryan inquires in an inside classroom voice (loud enough for two rows in front of us to hear but not the whole classroom), "Mommy, is touching boobies a good choice?"  Before I had a chance to answer, he... well, come on, you can GUESS what happened.  He wanted to test the theory manually.

(And yet another Mom has written me off her sorority party social list...   That of course is balanced out by one Dad adding me on to his list.)

Do I sense being elected PTA / PTO Mom of the Year in the near future?

Fortunately, the rest of the meeting went smoothly.... (in comparison) and at the end, we had a chance to meet the teacher after everyone had left and introduce Justin and mention he was going to be in her classroom but also integrated along with the SCIP program.  I thought it was important for the teachers to know in advance who Justin was and to do so in a setting that wasn't going to be embarrassing for him and could show the teachers we're devoted parents looking to help out and partner with them to make the best possible year for our son.  Since we hadn't had a chance to meet Justin's English teacher 1 on 1, we headed back to the portables to see if we could catch her and fortunately we did.  

All in all, the evening was a success.  It was an incredibly long day for us and even though it took me a few days to get the story of Justin's Middle School Orientation blogged, I'm glad I did because it certainly was an adventure.  Justin's behavior during the evening was fantastic!  His first impressions of all his teachers are positive and it seemed reciprocal as well.  I will be sending an apology note to his first period teacher regarding Ryan's outbursts.  I am relieved that we met him in advance and he knew that Ryan was on the autism spectrum as well.

5:19 p.m. Saturday, August 28th -- Remember above where I hinted about having a test?  I was serious! So get out your thinking caps because here is my pop quiz.

Please answer in the comments section for extra credit.

1) What was the name of the tour guide who led our family around the school in the afternoon?

2) What was Ryan's favorite hotel chain of the day?

3) What would you have done in our situation to make the orientation less embarrassing? (Assuming that we had no access to respite care for Ryan in advance.)

4) What was your favorite part of our journey?

If you are a real teacher's pet and want extra EXTRA credit (that lasts an extra EXTRA long time), be sure to read John's blog post, One Week Until We Have A Middle Schooler.  He has a very funny anecdote in there about his time with Ryan outside the math classroom that I did not find out about until reading his blog.

Look forward to blogging it up with you soon!  

Feel free to drop me a line in the comments section if you'd like and let me know your favorite Back To School and school year tips!


Friday, August 27, 2010

Justin's Middle School Orientation - Part 1

Aloha Aspierations Allies!

On Wednesday afternoon and evening of this week, the Krejcha family attended Part 1 and Part 2 of Justin's Shahala Middle School Orientation.

These are their stories.
(insert ominous boomp boomp here...)

12:40 p.m. -- Panic ensues at the Krejcha family home. The orientation is at 1 pm.  We just got home from Ryan's Autism Communication study appointment in Beaverton, OR and we need to make a quick food run, bathroom run and then we've gotta go, folks!  Emphasis is on hurrying!  (Ha ha ha.... oh, that's a good one!) 

What happened to Ryan's doggy backpack?  Do we have his chewelry?  Yes, yes, I've got the checkbook, notebook, camera and water bottle.  Don't we need more than one water bottle?  It's HOT!  We'll share?  Umm.... it's really really hot.  We need more than one.  Fine... I'll carry all of them.

Panic temporarily stops.  Justin comes down the stairs with a printout that shows the first part of the orientation (1 - 4 p.m.) is self-guided and is an opportunity for us to pay school fees (oh boy!) and check out the campus.  The evening portion from 5 - 7 p.m. is where there is some sort of organized presentation in the gym and then a chance to meet the teachers in their respective classrooms.  We're not going to be late.  (Fist pump!)

Okay... breathe everyone, all is copasetic.  It's 95 degrees outside. (Umm... not so cool.)  Ryan seems a little extra animated than usual.  Note to self to watch out for that...  It's way too hot for his weighted vest.

Justin is nervous and excited.  Makes sense.  He's going to do fine.  We've been prepping him for weeks and feel very positive.  John is trying to herd the cattle into the vehicle.  

This brings to mind this picture...

MOOving right along folks.... nothing to see here... don't have a cow about it!

12:56 p.m. -- We arrive at Shahala and are surprised right away at how few cars there are in the parking lot.  With about 350 new 6th graders entering into the school (6th, 7th & 8th), we were sure that it would be full.  Now, of course many people have to work during the day but in the area we live in, there are a lot of stay-at-home moms and I totally expected it to be SUV central.  

Since we work from our home, our schedule has some flexibility.  Ahhh... and lots of creativity.... It is never uncommon to see me online in the late evening working and if you happen to be around between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, chances are good that I am typing a blog for my special Aspierations zoo crew!   :-)

1:12 p.m.  -- We are extremely excited to find out that Justin could pick up his schedule early and the lines weren't long at all to get it.  Interestingly enough, we get to the front of the line, say "Krejcha" when prompted for our name and the school counselor looks up before he's even rifled through the paperwork, smiles and says, "Oh!  Justin Krejcha"  (He even pronounces the name perfectly.  Major brownie points for this man!)  Justin smiles!  The unidentified counselor (although I'm pretty positive who it is and know he has an awesome reputation) smiles back.  We're off to a fine start!

It turns out that earlier that morning Justin's counselor had personally worked on Justin's schedule, knowing that Justin had an IEP, would be new to the SCIP program and would need some special accommodations with class scheduling.  (If you're new to our blog, our oldest son (now 10) was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in summer of 2008 just a short time after our youngest son, Ryan (now 4) was diagnosed with Autism / Autism Spectrum Disorder.)  

SCIP (Social Communication Integration Program) in our school district is an educational program that I'll go into more depth about later but we are very excited about Justin taking part.  It is a program that your child can only get into if he /she has an IEP, a diagnosis of Asperger's or high functioning autism and parents with the tenacity and fortitude to jump through all the hoops necessary to make sure things happen!  It also is key to have created and partnered with an IEP team (teachers, counselors, case manager, parents, other school staff, advocates) that is on your kiddo's side and wants the best for him or her too. 

I didn't mean to get off on a tangent there.  I will be talking more in-depth about SCIP in future blogs but if you are in the Evergreen School District, have or suspect you have a child on the autism spectrum and you are not familiar with SCIP, please feel free to drop me a line and I'll do my best to help.  

1:20 p.m. -- I'm in line to ante up some money for Justin's school lunch fund.  John takes Ryan to go potty. (In the past few months, everytime we've gone out in public anywhere with Ryan, he has had the need, the calling and the intense desire to try out any potty he could find.  Ahhh, the stories we could tell... and will!)

We're not yet sure if Justin will be having the school lunches as he generally brought his own in elementary school, however rumors of Shahala's Subway Sandwich franchise (yes, they have a Subway franchise in their school cafeteria) being pretty awesome has aroused Justin's interest and so we're willing to fork up the dough for him to try something new.  At the very least, he can always get a breadwich, a bag of chips and a chocolate chip cookie the first day if nothing else appeals to his palate.

While in line, we see a boy that will be in the SCIP program with Justin as well as his parents. His mom is a teacher at the elementary school both boys attended and both boys were in a bowling league together a couple summers ago.  They've also been to each other's birthday parties a couple times. (Tangent time again!  It felt so good to watch, see and work on teaching Justin to bowl! I hope to be able to get back into this again one day in the future.)  Anyway, we said hi to the other family and compared schedules.  The boys will have their SCIP class together but their other classes will be different.  I think we were both thankful and looking forward to having our sons know someone in SCIP.   It turns out that a 3rd boy that Justin was in 3rd and 5th grade with will be in their SCIP class and his core classes as well.  Even though Justin will not really know anyone else in his core classes (Math, English / Social Studies & Science), I'm sure the fact that he will know the one boy will help him acclimate just a little better.

1:32 p.m. -- We head into the cafeteria area and have a choice of standing in a large line to pay more fees (ASB, supplies, yearbook, P.E. stuff, etc.) or to join up with a Shahala student who will give us a tour of the school.  Let's see.... lines where our sons will get antsy or a tour where Ryan can get into mischief.  Tour wins!  

As it turns out, the boy leading the tour was named Justin also.  He was an incredibly nice guy. By his height and maturity, John and I assumed he was entering in 8th grade but it turns out he was going into 7th.  He had some really good insight for our Justin and the angels above must have been helping guide along because it turns out that Justin  the tour guide had the same core block teachers as our Justin did AND he had those same teachers at the same time of day that our Justin did.  I could see the anxiety and shyness from our son start to melt away.  Of course it helped too that both boys liked computers, technology and math.  

So Justin gave us the campus tour and insider information.  The tour took about 20 - 25 minutes as he walked us all around the inside of the school, all around the outside and then back to the portables where Justin will be having the majority of his classes.

2:02 or thereabouts -- After the tour was over, the line to pay ASB and miscellaneous fees was shorter than it had been so I stood in line, paid for everything except the P.E. uniform (Justin doesn't have P.E. this trimester and we weren't sure on sizing) and then headed off to the small gym to get Justin's P.E. lock.

2:15 p.m.  -- It was then time to head back, visit the 6th grade wing, try Justin's locker and then go check out his specific classrooms to see if we could get a peek in and talk to any teachers if they were around early.

The LOCKER Hall!  OMG!  Rows and rows of lockers double-stacked.  Our son is on the shorter side so of course he was assigned a top locker (tippy toe to reach the combination).  Meanwhile I see kids that are about 5'9" on their knees on the ground trying to figure out how to open theirs.  

The most tension I felt all day (notice I said day... the evening portion of our story is still coming up boys and girls and it is a doozy) was the locker hall.  I watched parents, students, brothers and sisters trying to figure out how to get those dastardly combination lockers open.  Justin has challenges with his dexterity (ex. tying shoes, buttoning buttons) so the poor kiddo was having no luck at all.  Of course the school just gave all the kids the combo on their schedule.  Nothing said how many turns to the right, how many to the left and how many to the right again so it was pure pandemonium as people were trying to peek at others to figure out how to work the combo, which in turn meant people were worried someone was going to steal their locker combination which meant....  YIKES!

Finally, I see a girl the same size as Justin (also with a TOP locker) with a piece of paper that indicated the magic formula for how many times to turn the combo wheel.  How did we miss this?  Turns out that since we got to the school so early, that when we were in the office to pick up Justin's schedule, the locker combination instruction sheets hadn't been put out yet.  FOILED again!  

Well, it was back to the front office, then back to the locker and about 22 tries later, I got the locker open.  (By this time, John and Ryan had left the hall to play on John's iPad)  Not only do you have to have the numbers right BUT you also have to use just the right timing of right hand on number and left hand trying to pull up on the weirdly latched door to get the thing open.  Justin is a lefty and I just didn't see this happening very easily.  Frustration was diffused because we saw dozens and dozens of other kids also not being able to open their lockers either and with so many crammed side by side and up and down and supposedly 2 people were to be sharing a locker each... we decided to cut our losses for the moment and exit the locker hall to go check out classrooms.  We were assured that it would get easier....  Hmm.....  Creative solution coming shortly!

** NOT DONE YET!  Sorry, something came up!  Please check back on Saturday for Part 2!  :-)  Thanks! **

As California's exiting governator would say, 

I invite you to come back too!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ryan's Communication Study & Justin's Middle School Orientation - Part 2

Previously on "Aspierations - Come as you are... Let Your Light Shine!"...

1. It was hot.  Karen was grouchy about it.  Not much new here...

2. The Krejcha family attended a "Back To School" roundtable discussion at the Arc of Clark County Pride for Kids Family Therapy Center hosted by the Autism Society of Southwest WA and got some valuable resources to help create a better school year for their two sons.

3. Ryan was taken to Beaverton, OR by his Mom & Dad to see if he qualified as a candidate for an Autism and Communications Research study with the Oregon Science & Health University.

4. Justin attended Middle School Orientation Part 1 and Part 2.  He had the opportunity to get his class schedule for the year and meet many teachers. Ryan had the opportunity to practice his potty skills and voice volume control.  (He still needs practice.)

5. John wrote about the week so far from his perspective and shared some of Ryan's comedy gold in his blog from last night, "One Week Until We Have A Middle Schooler."  At the time I linked to his blog last night, I had not read it.  I did read it after I finished mine.  There is a section in the middle where John shares a tale about a little side adventure he experienced with Ryan and then writes, "By the Way, if you recently heard a large laughter go up, that was Karen reading this for the first time, I did not tell her of this tale."

He was right.  I did laugh out loud.  I know that my laughter was socially inappropriate but from life experience and my own maternal mishaps I could totally visualize the whole thing happening with Ryan as John described.  In fact I'm laughing again as I visualize it.  Understandably, John was a bit pissed at the whole situation and if you read his anecdote, you'll know why.  From the orifices of babes...

So... now that I gave you a couple highlights of my previous blog, why don't I get to the meat and potatoes of today's entry?  

The "Back To School" roundtable gave us a chance to get out, listen to, interact with and learn from other members in the Greater Clark County Autism and Asperger's community.  We were so thankful that childcare was provided during the meeting otherwise we likely wouldn't have been in a position to attend.  Justin did a great job watching out for Ryan. The boys got a chance to play outside, get some fresh air, only two new ouchies needed to bandaged and I counted only two bathroom breaks where I could hear Ryan proclaim details of "having to go" and Justin running behind trying to make sure he was okay and not bolting from the building.  (This of course happened while we were quietly and respectfully sitting within the meeting....)

Topics discussed at the meeting included IEPs and customized goals, creative ways to get and stay involved with your child's teachers and other staff your child interacts with, social stories, inclusion, Washington state education laws and various programs and resources available in the community for children, adults and families with special needs.

I will be putting up a special page on my blog that just contains resources in the near future  It will include the Northwest but also the USA and around the globe.  For now, here's just a few Clark County based resources for any Vancouver, WA - Portland Metro based visitors.

When the subject of social stories came up, Carole Kaulitz, co-author of the book, "Learning With A Visual Brain in an Auditory World" and a Speech Language Pathologist and Autism Consultant passed around her book and it looks like a great one to check out if you want to learn more about this topic.

Darla Helt, an amazing Autism advocate (I see her at almost every single type of support group meeting I've ever been to in WA) spoke about the Parent to Parent Program and Parent Coalition Program of Clark County.  If you are in the Vancouver / Clark County area of Washington state and are looking to hook into a support system for people with disabilities and their families, this incredibly dedicated mother and grandmother has many positive resources regarding how to navigate the system and connect with other families who share similar experiences in parenting a child / adult child with a developmental disability or chronic health condition.  If you are an information junkie or Google goddess like me, get on her email list and you will get quite a few updates each week. For more information, contact Darla at 360-759-4917 x 107 or email her at DarlaH@arcofclarkcounty.org.

Jody Ramey mentioned that the Autism Society of Oregon was having a conference called "Believe In Possibilities - Navigating Life as an Adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder".  It is October 1st at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, OR from 7:30 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.  Lee Grossman, President/CEO of the Autism Society of America (now called Autism America) will be the keynote speaker.  There will also be 8 different break-out sessions.  You can get information at www.oregonautism.com. It's only $5 if you are a person with ASD, $40 if you're a parent or caregiver and $75 if you're a professional.  I so want to go and hope it will work out for me.  I don't see that childcare is available and it's a Friday so both kids have school.  Ugh... John wouldn't want me to go without him.  Maybe I can figure something out.

Jody also spoke on a separate note about a developing project called the "Inclusion Institute".  Their mission is to provide access to information (print media, non-print media and live instruction) and to "promote full and complete living for autistic people and those with related hidden disabilities, to promote inclusive dance practices for people with and without disabilities and to promote the study and understanding of successful people with disabilities.  On the pamphlet that was passed out, he said he can be reached at inclusion.institute@gmail.com.

If in Washington, check out PAVE (Parents are Vital In Education), a parent directed organization that works with families, individuals with disabilities, professionals and community members in all walks of life.

If your children are going to school in Washington state, check out the Special Education PTSA meeting in Vancouver monthly.  They are the first special education PTA in the state and one of their main goals is to help reduce isolation among families.

When I heard that I felt tears welling up.  I am well aware of "Autism Isolation Syndrome" having experienced it myself on a regular basis despite my best efforts to try to break free from the invisible chains that often bind me.  Being on the autism spectrum myself adds an extra level of complexity especially when it comes to disclosing to others that one or both of our sons is on the spectrum.  (More about this later!)

Rebecca Sperber writes a terrific article that defines and explains the syndrome as well as giving some useful tips to consider as you try to break free.  If you are have a relationship with anyone on the autism spectrum as I would suspect most people coming here to this blog would be, it's worth a few minutes to read her online article.  (If you do, please let me know in the comments section what you think.  Thanks!)

The final part of the "Back To School" roundtable meeting was left for networking.  Mask on, mask off... wish I could keep it off more often but the social scripts I grew up memorizing are so second nature to me that I immediately jump into "how it is proper and socially appropriate to be polite and interact with other people I don't know" mode.

If you met me in person and didn't know I was on the spectrum and you weren't on the spectrum yourself (because I think a lot of us out there like myself have an Aspie sort of radar or magnet inside of us), I would bet you couldn't tell I'm an Aspie.  You might think I'm a little quirky or quiet but you would very unlikely catch anything in my voice and you'd find my facial expressions appropriate, especially if I were focusing on this being the case.  Now if I told you subtle things to watch for, that might be different.  People are oftentimes so focused with how they sound, look and interact that they're really not doing all that great a job of listening, watching, analyzing, checking micro-expressions and tuning in to what the person they are with are saying or doing.

Anyway.... that brings me to # 4 on today's list, autism research!  After yesterday's intake session which lasted about 2 hours, we weren't sure what the results would be but today we heard that Ryan was accepted into the the Autism and Communication Research study at the Oregon Health & Science University.  Hooray!  The purpose of the study is to explore the differences in communication, social skills and mental abilities of typically developing children, children with language disorders and children with autism and related disorders.

A special focus in the study will be on prosody, or the melody, timing and rhythm of speech.  Expressive prosody problems involve speech that is stilted or overly melodic, or too slow or too loud.  Receptive prosody problems involve weak understanding of the meaning, intent and feelings of others.  Prosody difficulties for children like Ryan will be identified and the impact on his communicative and social competence will be explored.  (We know that Ryan and Justin both have expressive and receptive prosody issues.) After the study there will be an opportunity for us to receive information on Ryan's performances on all tests, information on the study's results and at some point down the road, a potential treatment program will be set up to use computer games to improve communication skills.

I will keep you updated on how it goes. I need to keep the actual details of the study confidential but I will be able to talk in generalities. For example, I know that Ryan will have the chance to play on a talking computer and I am sure he will love this!

Since it's getting late and since this particular entry is already getting lengthy, I'm going to save talk about Justin's Middle School Orientation for Friday's blog.  We'll make it Part 3.  It really deserves its own entry because there is so much to say and I can almost guarantee you that if you come back and read through it the whole way, you'll laugh at least once.  Those with a sense of humor like mine may need Depends...  I'm such a tease...

Thanks again to my Aspierations amigo who stuck up for me earlier today.  I've been thinking about what you wrote. You know who you are and I totally appreciate it. Hugs to you.  I'm sorry that I needed to delete the entire thread of comments you commented on.  I'm not into censorship but I needed to protect the kiddos. Please comment again soon! I so like having you here!

The rest of you too!  :-)

Hope you all have an awesome Friday!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ryan's Communication Study & Justin's Middle School Orientation - Part 1

Whew, what a morning, afternoon and evening, Aspierations Amigos!

I don't know how your day went but I'm wiped out here!  The bonus day of 95 degree heat certainly didn't help and I could do without it being 84 degrees in the office now. (It's 73 degrees outside.  I'd go out and blog from there but I suspect that the mosquito crew would be ringing the dessert bell as well as tweeting to their friends about their wonderful fortune!)  Luckily, tomorrow is supposed to be about 20+ degrees less.  Yippee!!

If you checked out my blog in the past couple of days, you might remember that this is the week our family is running around getting ready for back to school.  I'm sure a lot of you are in that mode or were recently in that mode.  It seems from what I've been hearing that more and more school districts are starting earlier.  A scout pack member of Justin's who moved to Georgia started school on August 9th and when we were back in California, Justin's old elementary school started on August 16th.  For Justin we have a start date of Wednesday, September 1st and Ryan gets a bonus week off and starts on Thursday, September 9th.  If you feel so inclined, let me know what date your children / teens start(ed) school and what area of the country you're in.  I'm curious.

So anyway, we're attending workshops, support groups, having dental appointments, meeting with teachers, all that good stuff to make sure that our boys start out the school year with as much transition success as possible.

Well this morning we all got up early and headed into Beaverton, OR for Ryan to have a 2 hour intake assessment for a Communication / Autism Research study being conducted through the Oregon Science & Health University.  We left in plenty of time but got a little lost at the end.  This has been the second time this week we've been a bit late to an autism support / research related event and the second time I've been outwardly pleasant about it but edgy and anxious inside.  Next time, I'm driving...

Anyway, Justin came along with us since we thought we might have to drive straight to his middle school orientation Part 1 from there and of course, we didn't have a sitter.  We told him he could bring his Nintendo DSI (cha ching) and that if his behavior was appropriate, he might also get a chance to use Dad's new iPad (cha ching a ling a ding, solid gold, folks!!!!)

** TANGENT ALERT ** -- I must say that the iPad that I gave John for his birthday is awesome. Now granted, it's John's and if I'm a good girl I might occasionally get a peek at it, but this thing is techo-terrific!  (I admire it from afar and when he's in the shower, he lets me use it!  I wonder if he's found it odd or perhaps insulting that I've been hinting lately that he might consider bathing.)

One of the BEST parts about it is that there are so many GREAT apps now available to help kids and adults with autism and Aspergers.  Lots you pay for but so far we're trying out the free ones.

Social stories, alphabet tracing, voice recognition and response... John's only had the iPad since Saturday so he's just tapping the surface but this is going to be a fantastic tool for the boys and I know John will do a great job sharing.  (Justin now REALLY wants one and his birthday is in October. He doesn't quite get that this was a "special gift" to John from me and that we don't always give big gifts like this.  The concept of money / cost is difficult to get sometimes.)  He sees that his Grandpa has one, Dad has one and therefore, he should have one too.  It's hard to explain but he's not trying to be selfish.  My heart sinks because he is such a techno-wizard and I just can't afford to get him and his brother their own.  I know that John will share and hopefully one day in the future when prices come down, we can add a second for the boys as a learning productivity tool.  I can totally see this type of tool coming to the school systems in the future, especially for special education where it is actually less expensive than many of the communications devices out there now.

Truth be known, I'd really love one too because there are adult applications for Asperger's and autism and personal / emotional health issues I'm going through or have gone through in the past.  I could see having something private like this for my own without everyone looking over my shoulder, that I might have the chance to make some strides and breakthroughs of my own. I also see great business and organizational application potential.  My computers unfortunately do not always get the privacy respect, I would like.  No-one usually admits to it so I guess it's just gremlins that mess around when I'm away!  (Curious eyes in our family and curious hands...)

In all seriousness though, I'm blessed with so much already.  Now, if I happened to enter a sweepstakes for one and it magically popped up at my door saying "Winner Winner", that's another thing!  I actually used to be pretty lucky entering sweepstakes but that's another tangent and I'm already in the midst of one!  ** End of Tangent Alert & End of Tangent to Tangent Alert **

I just looked at the time and realized there would be no way that I would finish my blog tonight by my self-imposed 11:59 p.m. deadline.  It also occurred to me that I have a tremendous amount to say and I certainly want to do justice to it.

I think what I'll do is just call this Part 1 and then do Part 2 tomorrow.  My calendar looks pretty open. (Sleep in????? Ryan's been crawling into bed at odd times the past few nights so maybe not.)  Of course I always have work to do but I promise to get to my blogging here at Aspierations on Thursday.

Here is what you have to look forward to:

-- Our "Back To School" Roundtable meeting we attended on Monday, August 25th sponsored by the Autism Society of Southwest Washington and the ARC and links you might find useful for your own family's educational purposes.

-- Thoughts on Ryan, Justin or myself participating in Autism Research and links for you in case it might be something you are interested in for you or your family.

-- Anecdotes from our Middle School Orientation experience!  John at Life and Times of John Krejcha has already blogged about this in his blog tonight, "One Week Until We Have a Middle Schooler".  He got a head start on his blog since I had to catch up on emails and work stuff when I got home so please feel free to check out his blog and see what he says and then catch up with me tomorrow or the next day to read my interpretation.

I am so proud of both Justin and Ryan.  Justin did a great job at orientation today and we got to meet 3 of his 5 teachers!  Ryan had some major challenges but he pulled through like a trooper too and provided some great anecdotal material (i.e. comic relief) which I'll be sharing with you shortly!  (Hint: When you want to make a positive impression on your oldest son's future classmates, their parents and teachers, it can be just a tad horrifying embarrassing when your youngest son decides to blurt out random commentary about his Mommy's womanly body parts... and then of course tried to use visuals for examples...  'Nuff said for now!)

Hey, if that won't make you curious enough to come back, I promise more pearls and gems. Ryan gave gold tonight folks, he gave gold!

Thanks so much for stopping by!  Please come back for Part 2!  I promise it will have more meat & substance!  :-)

See ya later, alligator!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back To The Dentist Time - I'm SO Impressed with our Boys

I'm so proud of Justin and Ryan!  They did an absolutely awesome job at the dentist's office today.  Ryan had been looking forward to his August 24th dental visit since his last appointment on February 26th.  He memorized the date for his August appointment in February and whenever he was spontaneously quizzed throughout the past few months, he knew when Dentist Day was coming up.  Although Justin wasn't quite so outwardly enthusiastic (he didn't particularly care for their toothpaste flavor last time), he had a very positive attitude about going and I was so impressed with his maturity.

If you want to read a little about some of my early childhood experiences with the dentist as well as learning about our boys' first time meeting their new dentist around 6 months ago, please check out my February 26th blog, A Trip To The Pediatric Dentist with our 2 Boys on the Autism Spectrum.

I had prepared to create social stories just in case they might be needed but since their memory banks had registered such a positive experience back during their first visit in February, none of that was really needed.  It was such a pleasant and welcome surprise!

If there are any other parents out there reading who have children diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder, you know that just the smallest thing going wrong can trigger a major meltdown.  You probably also know the incredible joy and rejuvenation you feel inside when a day goes right!  We take these moments as they come, appreciate them, build on them and try to repeat them!)

Now if I could only find a way to bottle up that positive attitude and spray it on them (and myself) whenever they felt apprehensive about a potentially uncomfortable situation!  Come to think of it, couldn't we all use a special elixir like that?  Come to think of it again, wouldn't you like to spray that kind of stuff on others too?

I want to also give an incredible amount of credit to pediatric dentist, Dr. Pete Lubisich at Vancouver Pediatric Dentistry and his terrific staff for making Justin and Ryan feel so comfortable while at their office.  From the moment we walked in the door at their practice, we were treated with genuine kindness and warmth.  Our boys were treated like they were the most special, amazing patients in the world.  They both picked up on the good feelings. It was such a positive and uplifting experience for them.

The staff knew in advance that both our boys had special needs but as we watched many other children go in and out (they have multiple dentists on staff, 3 being Lubisich family dentists), we were impressed with how well everyone was treated.  In the 75 minutes or so we were there, we heard no crying from anyone and all kids came out with big smiles. (Too bad John and I can't go there!)

Dr. Pete is on the far left! What a caring, gentle and great man!

We met for about 10 minutes with Dr. Pete and went over the upcoming needs for our sons.  No cavities for either this go-around, although we have to be careful with Justin because the dentist thinks he may be cavity prone.  I think Ryan may have some of my "special spit" (I never have had a cavity).


It turns out that Justin has a late blooming mouth just like I did.  He will be 11 in early October and currently has 12 of his baby teeth.  He will eventually need braces but for now, it was recommended we wait a couple years until most of his baby teeth are gone.  It was also recommended that Justin soon have 3 teeth extracted and a space retainer put in due to some of his teeth growing in oddly.  Justin took this news very well.  I'm not sure if he has fully processed it yet but so far, so good.  I told him that I had 4 teeth extracted when I was about his age and since he and I are so close and relate on so many things, I think he feels safe about it so far. We've been gently trying to prepare him for upcoming teeth work for quite some time.   We don't need to decide immediately but since we've been paying out of pocket, we're going to look around and see if there is any reasonable dental insurance that can help cover some of the cost. If not, we'll make it work. We want our boys to have healthy smiles!  

I was thinking this evening about how many children out there on the autism spectrum (or even not on the spectrum) that actually look forward to going to the dentist?  Now our boys do and that is such a gift because learning good dental hygiene at a young age and having positive dental experiences to build on will certainly help as they grow older and become more responsible for self-care.  If you are in the Vancouver area and have kids or teenagers, I HIGHLY recommend Vancouver Pediatric Dentistry.

I'll admit, going to the dentist was not my favorite thing to do as a child.  Oh sure, there was the toy box to look forward to at the end but that was the primary highlight.  Lots of sensory issues for me with smells, tastes and textures sort of took away from the thrill of picking out a bouncy ball or rubbery superhero toy.  It also seemed to me that my orthodontist / dentist seemed to go through mood swings.  I remember him overall being a nice guy but I remember him being grumpy with a few and it scared the heck out of me.  Trust me, I was a very good little girl in his chair!  You don't want a grouchy person working in your mouth and I was astute enough back then to realize this!

As an aside, thank goodness the movie, "The Dentist" with Corbin Bernson hadn't been out back then. If you have anyone in your family just the slightest bit apprehensive about visiting the dentist, please do NOT let them see this horror movie. I still wish I had never seen it.  If you are a fan of Corbin, just watch him in "Psych" instead or go find some old "L.A. Law" reruns.

On a different topic, I had wanted to blog last night about the "Going Back To School" round-table event we attended in Vancouver that was sponsored by the Autism Society of Washington - Southwest Chapter.  As it turns out, we almost didn't make it there and I will tell that story when I share with you about the meeting.  I dislike arriving to a group support meeting or actually any type of appointment late because it is embarrassing and I don't wish to disrespect others but all worked out okay and I'm so glad we attended.  For parents, teachers, caregivers or those who have a relationship with children on the autism spectrum, I have some robust resources to share with you.  I will compile that and put it together in a blog in the next couple of days.

Tomorrow is a very busy day for us.  Ryan will be participating in an ongoing research study sponsored by the Oregon Health and Science University.  It will be 10 sessions over a period of time and tomorrow's 2 hour appointment is about getting to know him and us and to make sure he will be a fit for the study.  Last night I spent about 2 hours on the computer filling out an online questionnaire with Ryan's history.  It took me way back in the memory books to his birth, his first milestones, his first regression, his autism diagnosis and the building blocks of success he has been stacking and climbing over since that time.  I went back and read some of the emails I had sent to my parents in June of 2008 right after Ryan was officially diagnosed.  I went back to emails I was sending to them when I first noticed something was different.  It was an intensely emotional journey to relive and so I do apologize for not being in the right place to blog last night in case any of you stopped by and were hoping to read my writings.

Justin also has a big day tomorrow.  We attend his middle school orientation at Shahala from 1 - 4 and then again from 5 - 7.  We will get his schedule, meet his SCIP teachers (hopefully), get his locker combination (so we can practice it over the next few days) and help him start to feel comfortable, excited and positive about the opportunities he will be having as a 6th grader.  

Needless to say, I will be having quite a bit to share over the next few days PLUS I did not forget about the questions and topic requests that my Aspierations friends and blog visitors sent in!  I did answer everyone who emailed me and will continue to do so if you prefer a more private form of communication.  As always, you're always welcome to make comments on my blog as well.  Occasionally there will be some people who are trying to hurt my reputation that make comments. BOO!  I am not into censoring and I sincerely do welcome constructive criticism but if my children are disrespected or my family is disparaged, you'd better believe that once I find out, your messages will be deleted and if it continues, I will block your IP.   Take it to email if you must but please respect my Aspierations visitors who come here to visit and see what I share and as one kind and wise person who deserves a huge hug from me so kindly put, watch me find my way.  It certainly is a journey on a road less traveled.

Thanks so much for stopping by!  I do hope you'll visit again!  I will be doing my best to implement positive changes to my blog throughout the next few months and make this a place where you feel comfortable in visiting on a regular basis.  If I can ever provide a similar kind of uplifting positive experience for you as Dr. Pete did for our boys, then it will be a lovely reward indeed!  When we help others, we are also helping ourselves.

Until next time, my Aspierations friends,