Growing, Not Dying

Welcome to my insights, ponderings, and experiences. Hopefully they will enrich you in some small way, or at least make you laugh.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pleasant Memory

As I drove my son to Cub Scouts tonight "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin (Tog Gun Soundtrack) came on the radio. The world faded away as my mind drifted years into the past, filling my body with a warm flowing sensation like liquid romantic love.

The radio was on, though I didn't hear it. I worked in the kitchen, probably making dinner. My mood was not great and I was absorbed in my thoughts. Jim startled me when he gently but firmly grabbed my hand causing my total attention to shift to him. I intended to protest harshly until my eyes met his. It was mesmerizing, like looking a mile deep into intent love.

Shock overcame me. He took the things out of my hands and placed them on the counter. I just stood there dumbly. He looked deep into my eyes, as if seeing something of great beauty and value deep within my soul. The he gently wrapped his arms around me pulling me to him. It felt as if somehow he had managed to wrap his whole self around me, pulling me into the warmth of his very being so that I no longer felt solidarity of my own physical being.

Then, without speaking, we began to dance.

It was so surreal. It felt like it must be a novel, or a movie, or a dream...and somehow more real than anything I had felt in a long while. There was a longing for it never to end, yet no sense of time. Tears threatened as I wanted to weep at the wonder and tenderness of it. Nothing like this had ever happened before. It was so beautifully overwhelming. Truly, 'took my breath away.'

Time stood still for just a while, long enough to gently burn the memory into every cell of my being. Total peace.

When the song ended he held me a few more moments, cementing the moment into each of us. Upon his gentle release I looked up into his eyes. It was just like a romance novel. You really could swim in them, see forever, and feel totally washed in the warmth of his sincere love.


With a wonderful experience like that to take you away, who can blame me for totally ignoring my son's request to change the station?

Friday, January 23, 2009

What to do with siblings during Pinewood Derby!

Of all the things I keep telling myself "I should blog that," this one had to go up because it really could help!

It is with great pride I compliment the leaders and Committee Members of Packs 7 & 17. Last night was our Pinewood Derby and it was a HUGE SUCCESS!

For those who don't know, Pinewood Derby is where little Cub Scouts (7-11yrs old/8-10yrs in LDS groups) make cars out of a block of wood then race each other down a wooden track propelled only by gravity. Most Packs invite the whole family to come watch and cheer for their boy. However, the races can take quite a while depending on how many racers there are and what kind of ranking system is in place. So, what do you do with all the younger brothers and sisters who come along?

The past 3 races in which I had a son, I was only a parent. I spent hours telling little ones, "sit down," "come back here," "don't touch," "just a little while longer," and missing half my son's races. Then my son would come running, "Mom, did you see that?!?" No. I hadn't. Now that I could have a say, I wanted something different, and the great leaders really brought it all to life!

Some of these ideas could be addapted for Space Derby or Raingutter Regatta as well.

There were 2 things we did that helped:
1) For snacks we did "Twinkie cars." During weigh-in all the kids went to the "Fast Food" place and built Twinkie cars using icing to glue on gummy wheels and decorate. We had 3 different colors in bags with just the tip snipped so they could only get a little at a time. We put their name on their plate then set them aside "for display." They got to eat them after the last race while we were filling out certificates and preparing awards. You could make yours as fancy as you would like. Do make sure to keep at least 1 or 2 adults at the table to help out.

2) We also had a "Little Racers" corner. It had a coloring table with cub scout pages, race cars, and little "flags" to decorate. The coloring pages were from the internet. The flags were just plain paper cut diagonally to create triangles taped to sticks or straws. You could also provide tape and a wall for them to post their pictures if you wanted. This might encourage greater production if you needed to fill more time. Then, we used masking tape to make lanes and a circular track on the gym floor. We had bigger toddler type plastic cars as well as hot wheels for the kids to play with. There was also a younger kid board game at a round table, like 6-8 yr old game. This area was mostly just free play, letting the kids move about doing what they wanted. A few parents kind of kept an eye on things.

We got tons of compliments. Parents loved getting to relax & enjoy the races without having to keep siblings under such tight control. Even the scouts loved it. They would occasionally run to the play corner too.

Another thing that helped a lot was breaking up the action some. After about 20-30 mintues of racing, the Cub Master would have everyone stand and stretch or one of the Dens would do a little skit. It really helped things from getting too monotonous. We tried to do a wave, but failed, though you might have a more agreeable crowd.

We highly reccommend "roping off" at least 3/4 around the track. This also helps keep little ones back and reminds absent-minded adults to walk around. Nothing breaks up the action like someone tripping and breaking the track!

Good luck at the races!

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

My Aspie Son- My Challenge, My Gift

Recent educational concerns and inquieries from friends have led to me posting about my son with Aspergers. He's a different duck so socialization and formal education are difficult for him in many ways. They just aren't intuitive to his nature. He has been in public school. Though his teachers and supporting staff have been very understanding and great about including him, it has been no picnic nor the ideal solution. We continued to look for better answers.

In the school district we are in now, 6th grade is part of middle school. By the end of last year it was clear to me there was no way my son was going to be ready for middle school in another year of the same system. However, pulling him out of it would only make the shock worse when he started again. We decided the best solution at this time, his 5th grade year, for us was dual enrollment. He goes to "regular school" for a few subjects and learns the rest with "at home schooling." As you can imagine this has created interesting challanges all around. The schedule has His teacher is great though, doing her best to include him and be thoughtful of my running back and forth.

Though he has shown marked progress in many areas, even our schooling at home provides many problems. Distractibility and frustration continue to be obstacles. I posted about my frustration on Facebook. A dear friend replied they experienced similar problems until they found their unique groove. In her comment she said the one thing they found that did not work was "public school at home." I realised that was exactly what we are doing. I had no concept there was another way, so I began researching things like deschooling, unschooling, project-based learning and inquiry directed learning. I am intruiged by all the new possibilities out there.

in my quest I ran across this article :

Overcoming Autism: Public Schools Deal with a Growing Problem

As the number of special needs students soar, public schools grapple with ways to offer quality education without going broke.
by Fran Smith

All this reading I have been doing, searching for answers, for the right way. The comments that followed the article, even more than the article itself, reminded me that I am not the only one in this struggle. In fact, it's a struggle for more than just the parents of all the special kids. It is a struggle for the underpaid, overworked, unappreciated educaters, administartos and staff as well. It is a struggle for the other parents and other children in these schools who are trying to learn to be accepting, socially responsible, kind and just plain get their education too. It is a struggle for all the people who don't teach or have kids in school but still pay the taxes to fund the programs. It's a real challange for the legislators who see education needs more money, want to give it more money, but have nothing more to give becasue they are alreay paying for other needed programs too- like roads to drive all those kids to school, security so they have the freedom to go to school, and health care so those kids' parents incomes won't have to have more taken out to care for the wonderful people who raised them.

All this thinking caused me to post a comment to that story, a comment that is part of my own private story. I choose to share it here as well that perhaps someone searching for help, answers and hope might find some caring and light in it. Perhaps someone might feel a little less alone and a little more like everything can work out.

This article and thread are old, but perhaps my comments may still help others. For years I thought as many other parents without special kids, that these kids should be in other programs - not distracting my kids, or that they could be disciplined out of it. I continued to live in this denial even after my first son was obviously not the same as other kids. I kept thinking I could teach him to fit, force him to 'get it.'

After dozens of phone calls, over a year and a half, about behavioral concerns at school we had to go in for "another meeting." Going in I was ready to fight for him. Feeling the people in the room cared, I listened. That was the first time I got a clear picture of what life was like for my son. The educators around him did care, but had no training and many other kids to think of as well. My son's desk was back in a corner with tape on the floor marking off the area where he had to stay and the other kids had to stay out. He was treated as a leper of old. He had no friends at all, was teased, hurt and made fun of and didn't know why. Though his IQ was higher than any other kid in his grade, he was made to feel stupid because he couldn't clearly write out his thoughts. With the help of the school we learned about Aspergers and were put in touch with resources to help us. I was grateful for the school's help, and understood their limited resources. Together we worked to try to make things better with "simple solutions." He was allowed 'busy toys' at his desk to occupy his hands, permission to go to the office if became too emotionally overwhelmed, and other simple things that did not require extra effort on the teacher's part.

Over the years we have found taking an understanding proactive role with his teachers to be very helpful. Go in assuming they want to give your child the best education they can. They are probably untrained and each kid is unique in how their behavior manifests their quirks anyway. The teachers, staff, and administration would probably LOVE to give your kid every program, resource and advantage under the sun. However, they are underpaid, underfunded and usually getting abused both by the parents they serve and the district above them.

Meet with the teacher, counselor and principal, before school even starts if you can. Let them know you understand their burden and you want to work with them, not make their job harder. Present strategies that have worked with your kid before and display your willingness to work with them. Be very open and active in your communication, but in a way that is considerate of the teacher's time. Ask your teacher to be willing to try things, "as long as it doesn't disturb the other childrens' learning environment." Thank your teacher and staff often for caring about your child, even for minor concessions.

We are fortunate enough this year to have a very innovative teacher. Sitting still and listening for long periods is really hard for our son. His teacher had the class draw up agreements which include such things like it's okay to take your shoes off in class if they are slip ons, water bottles at desks, moving about the classroom during seat work time and standing during instruction- all with the condition that it respects the learning environment of the class. The goal was to include our son and allow him his uniquness. The side effect was a classroom of young people who felt empowered and have displayed increased sense of responsibility over the course of the school year. Everyone benefited. My experience has been when we open our hearts and are willing to expand our thinking to work together for the benefit of all involved, the special kid, the teacher, parents, staff, and the other children in the class, everyone truly does benefit.

Would I change my son? There was a time I would have said 'yes.' I would have paid any price if someone could "cure him." Now I understand he doesn't have an illness or a mental disability. he isn't broken in any fashion. He is wired to see the world differntly, that's all. Having understanding adults in his life and meeting other kids "like him" has helped him to cope and grow tremendously. Still, I have learned it is not my son that needs to change. Rather these kids are coming into the world at this time in increasing numbers because the world needs to change. It will take the best in each of us to understand them and support them. That alone will make us better people, which growth is a gift to prepare us for the better world they are here to create.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Sometimes. . . .

I don't like me very much.