Sunday, August 29, 2010

Is it time for school yet?

Ryan's IEP calls for Extended Year Services, aka summer school, because his team's Regression Statements warn he will forget everything he knows without constant drilling.  We are in the middle of that nether world between EYS and (buh buh buuuuuuh) Kindergarten - three and a half weeks of unstructured, therapy-free time.  In other words, this is when the regression happens.

Ryan actually got a jump on his summer regression and started back-peddling during the last couple weeks of summer school.  I don't really understand what precipitated this - I have a feeling he was protesting my roller derby practice schedule, but I'm also told he didn't like the way his classroom had been rearranged - but he started becoming more, shall we say, accident prone.  Like, he went from one pee accident every two or three weeks to one almost every day.  We've been working on getting him back on track, but it's slow-going.

Then, he stopped using nouns in his requests.  Now, if he's thirsty he might say, "I want more."

"More what?"


Or, more entertainingly, I'll prompt him, "What do you want?"  And he'll reply, "I want... I want... I want... I want... I want..."  And he'll repeat that until he makes himself cry unless I insert a few suggestions.

Or he might request, "I want more the thirsty drinking, in my mouth."

Or, we might have a conversation like this:
Me: "Which book should we read?" 

Ryan: "That one." (no pointing, no shift in gaze in any direction)

Me: "Which one?"

Ryan: "That one." (no pointing, no shift in gaze in any direction)

Me: "This book, or this book?"

Ryan: "That one." (looks between the books)
Similar conversations occur about the selection of snacks or determining who should read a bedtime story.

And when he does use nouns, he seems to be experimenting with phonics, which I suppose I should support, but which I actually just find annoying.  Like, he'll ask, "Can I have more Jjjhuh*.  ...Ooh.  ...Ooh.  ...Suh.  ...Huh?" 

"Can you say that as all one word, please?"

"Jjjjhuh.  ...Ooh.  ...Ooh.  ...Suh.  ...Huh..." 

I'm ready for him to go back to school, please.

* Think Jackie Mason for pronunciation.  Excessive phlegm is involved.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Independent Streaker

Around age two, children start asserting their independence by trying to do things for themselves.  At least that's what I've read.  I actually haven't seen much of a DIY-impulse around here at all.  Rather than letting the Captain try stepping out of the nest, I generally find myself pushing him, shoving him, dragging him inch by inch out of his tree.  If it were up to Ryan, I'd be holding his food while he bit it.

One of the most independent-like things he does regularly is running ahead of us to get from our apartment to our car.  As soon as we hit the hallway between the buildings of our complex, he books it as fast as he can down the hall, whips around the corner to the right, flings open the fire door, and starts down the stairs to the garage.  He pauses there on the stairs and flashes a maniacal grin when we finally catch up to him there.

The other day, my mother came to visit, and the three of us were heading down to the car to go out for lunch.  Ryan stood patiently in the elevator, playing with some to-be-mailed bills I had handed him.  When the elevator opened, he dashed down the hall as usual.  But instead of turning right to get to the garage, he turned left.

To the left, there's a laundry room, a locked storage room, and a door leading outside.

He wasn't in the laundry room.  And the door to outside was wide open.

I ran outside, screaming his name.  No answer.

I saw Jonathan riding his bike in the street, and I screeched "Did you see Ryan go by here?"  Yes, he said, he ran down the sidewalk.  It suddenly occurred to me what Ryan was doing: he was going to the nearest mailbox.  On the main street.  I ran to catch up.

So you shouldn't worry too much, I should mention that the sidewalk in question is over two blocks long, but with no streets to cross between our building and the mailbox. 


I caught Ryan about three-quarters of the way to the mailbox.  I grabbed his arms, got down low, and freaked the hell out lectured him that he is Never To Leave The House Without Me and that Terrible Things could have happened to him.  He stared blankly.  I couldn't tell if he understood my explanation of The Rules.  He seemed unimpressed with my yelling/imploring/maternal theatrics.  He just wanted to mail the letters, thanks.

I saw my mother approaching us; she had gone searching for Ryan in a different direction.  After determining that Grandma had not had a heart attack, the three of us walked to the mailbox together.  Ryan mailed the bills, and we walked to the car together.  Mostly together.  OK, Ryan was still running ahead of us a little, but he stayed within sight.

It is totally frustrating and unsatisfying to yell at someone who does not react.  How can I know if I've gotten my message across to Ryan?  If Ryan were a neurotypical kid, I could punish him, and he could connect the punishment to the offense, and I would know he had learned something.  With Ryan, I have a hard time knowing what connections he's able to grasp.  I've tried taking away computer games as a penalty for a certain behavioral problem we're trying to correct, but as devastated as he becomes when he's denied his precious games, the problematic behavior continues unabated, in part, I believe, because he does not really see the cause-effect relationship between offensive behavior and loss of computer privileges.

But we keep up the negative reinforcement model (as well as tons of positive reinforcement - Stickers! Chocolate! Prizes!) anyway, because we hope that eventually he will get it.  We can't just throw up our hands and assume he's incapable of learning.

So I will keep yelling at him, even though he stares blankly, because someday he will hear me.  Hopefully before he gets himself in too much trouble.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In Which I Share Perhaps Too Much

My husband and I have little in common, but we do share an unhealthy obsession with moose.

When we were first living together, we acquired a couple of Christmas tree ornaments from Costco.  They were four-inch-high stuffed animals - a moose and a penguin - in coordinating sweaters, with loops on top of their heads.  During that Christmas season, the moose ornament revealed his personality to us.

He was cute, but a little evil.  He was non-verbal, but made his dastardly plots known to us.  We named him Melvin.  After Christmas he took up residence in the tunnel between our bed and the wall; while we were at work, he would spend his days building mysterious, legendary things in the tunnel - spaceships and computer systems and whatnot.

Early in our marriage, we received a second stuffed moose, who quickly took on the role of Melvin's big brother.  We named him Phil.

Phil became our pet/child/travel companion. Also non-verbal, Phil is joyous, loving, and friendly.

While Phil and Melvin have remained our only "real" plush friends (real in the Velveteen Rabbit sense), we have amassed quite a cast of moose characters in our home.
Most of them have names and back stories.  The beanie baby moose on the far right is actually Phil's special  stuffed animal.  Before we knew that this particular little moose existed, Phil, in his non-verbal way, made it clear to us that he wanted a little moose that looked like him, but a little bigger than Melvin.  When I found just the moose Phil had requested hanging out at the supermarket, I couldn't leave him there.

Over the past four years, the moose have gravitated to Ryan's room, and have made a life for themselves among the other stuffies.  Fortunately, Melvin has become less evil since Ryan's arrival.  Ryan has played with the moose as he has played with any of the other dozen stuffed animals that live in his room.  He has occasionally snuggled one or the other in bed, but his core sleeping posse has remained dominated by bears.  For as long as I can remember, sleeping has required the presence of four bears and two blankets.  Well, five bears if you ask Ryan.

See how Blue Bear has a tiny picture of a bear driving a car on his blanket part?  Ryan counts that as Bear #5. His name is Car Bear.

The other night, I awoke to hear Ryan moaning and sobbing; this is very unusual.  I went to investigate.  I hugged him and he settled down.  As soon as I left the room, he started fussing again.  As I was trying to figure out what the problem was, Ryan announced, desperately and unprompted, "I need Moose back!"  I searched in his sheets and behind his bed, but didn't find any moose.  I grabbed the first moose I could find from the couch; Ryan scowled at it and kept looking for the right moose.  Finally, I found this* moose, tangled up in his sheet.

Ryan hugged it and fell asleep.

I hadn't realized that Ryan had adopted a moose as his special sleeping buddy.  I asked several times if this moose had a name.  At first he answered Moose, but twice he said Philvin.

That's my kid.

* I actually had to delay publishing this post, because I needed a picture of THE moose, but Ryan had taken it to school for Bring Your Favorite Toy Day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Phase One: Complete

I'm one step closer to being an officially-rostered roller girl. I have completed the Basic Skills portion of my training. Now I move on to pack hours - ten hours (or maybe ten two-hour sessions, I'm not sure how they count it) of practicing skating really close to other girls without knocking anyone over by accident or getting knocked down on purpose.  Phase Three is scrimmage hours.  Phase Four is getting voted into the league.

Even though I'm happier than I've been in ages, Stu is still displeased about this little adventure of mine. When I get all excited about my minor triumphs from practice, he makes a point of saying "congratulations" in the least-congratulatory tone possible. I know he's just being protective of me because he loves me and wants to keep me safe, but I'm tired of making safe decisions.

Skating is the greatest part of my day.  I'm pushing myself as hard as I can for two hours straight.  I'm way past sweaty.  I'm hanging out with strong, courageous women.  And I'm having so freaking much fun.  There is no autism.  There are no IEPs.  There are no guilt trips or other family arguments.  There are no conventions of bullshit politeness.  There's just me, trying to learn a new game one skill at a time.  There's genuine camaraderie as girls cheer each other on through their speed tests.  There's freedom.  There's power.

Sorry it still bothers you, Honey, I really am.  But I have to go work on my arm whips tonight.