What I forgot about Asperger’s – SOL 12/30/14

This past week, I forgot….

That to many people Asperger’s looks like a disability.

They don’t see it like I do: for all of it’s positives among the quirks.

They don’t see it for who I do… my child who is perfectly made the way he is.

I forgot, that some want to cure it.

They think that if I was just a firmer parent it would be fixed.

They don’t realize that firm can sometimes be crushing.

That strict can stifle the soul.

I forgot, that many want to place blame.

“It’s not my fault that this happened.” Or, “Why did this occur?”

But, what if this is not a punishment or a deficit.

Rather, a gift and a calling – to cherish this precious life.

I will not forget that I am the best advocate for my son.

That he is not broken.

That he does not need to be fixed.

That loving him just the way he is, is the best kind of parenting around.

Becoming an Independent Reader – SOL 12/23/14

During a recent #bproots chat on the article, Seven Ways Schools Kill the Love of Reading in Kids – and 4 Principles to Help Restore It, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/12/06/seven-ways-schools-kill-the-love-of-reading-in-kids-and-4-principles-to-help-restore-it/ @professornana suggested that we might blog about this important topic.

I have decided to share about how my son became an independent reader, with specific tastes – someone who sees himself, proudly, as a reader. It doesn’t align completely with the article, which is why I think that it may be important to share that not all students arrive at an “independent reading” life in quite the same way.

For my son, it started with heavy doses of librarians, teachers, and myself suggesting books that might interest him. If a book was not of interest, he would immediately put it down. I had to preview many texts, to ensure that they were not “too mature” or would introduce, for him, complicated social information, that would need to be interpreted. One time, I offered him a book that had too many “fantasy” elements. He returned it after about two pages with the comment, I don’t understand what they are talking about. I had to respect this. He was not ready.

A lot of math books came home. Luckily, so did books like Cam Jansen, to help open the world of mystery and problem solving. In third grade, his teacher recommended for him to read Roald Dahl’s book, Danny, The Champion of the World. This over-achieving mom bought a whole Dahl box set. He read all of the books – fantasy was something we could do, if it was well-crafted. This sort of reading eventually led to The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Puzzling World of Winston Breen. After a while, we could do a little Harry Potter (we have not progressed past the fourth book because they get a bit too dark; I have to monitor how much PG+ imagery gets into his hands due to extremely vivid dreams). Now, he will read many genres and types of books. He has enjoyed the biography of Steve Jobs, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, and the nonfiction book about Solomon Northup. He has read Kate Messner’s Capture the Flag books. This summer he enjoyed Ungifted, Belly Up, Poached, and Joey Pigza books. He really enjoys books that are funny. He reads comics voraciously. This habit definitely started with the Frankie Pickle series, especially the one about math. He is a voluminous reader who has also read the Bible twice (literally).

But for all of this to happen, he had to start on “required” reading assignments. 20 minutes. Every night. A signed log. It was tangible and predictable. It made sense. There were times when he resisted writing a nightly summary. It was important for myself and his teacher to hear that these were “boring.” She did. Summer lists came out and we chose through the books that sounded interesting to him – no sports books allowed. Without these recommendations and lists, and without building these habits of reading, he might not have developed into the reader he is today. And he is most definitely a reader.

Through these external structures, he has become a reader who understands that reading every day is healthy reading. He finds a place for it among his other preferred activities now, without an assignment (although reader’s workshop). He is always “reading a book.” He listens to book talks in class and has tried the Maze Runner series based on a peer’s recommendation. (It did become a bit too “much” after a while, but I didn’t want to say no to an expressed interest). He knows what he likes and dislikes as a reader, yet is still willing to try new things.

All this said, when reflecting upon how he “became a reader,” I think balance is key. Some students may actually need and respond positively to a reading log and nightly assignments or expectations, if only to get this way of life started. It’s about knowing the reader, seeing how they personally respond to the “homework” and recommendations, and having support from home. There are many ways to create a reader.

Thanksgiving Through My Eyes (as interpreted by a mom) – SOL 12/2/14

I don’t love holidays. It’s not that I don’t love my family – I do very much. But holidays are usually days when I have to interact with more people than normal – people who I don’t know very well. People who don’t “get” me.

Thanksgiving day started out ok, except for the fact that, for some unknown reason, I wasn’t allowed to play video games much. Something about family and being thankful. I’m very thankful for video games. They help keep my mind busy and me entertained. I’m really good at them and feel a lot of pride in being able to beat levels. I don’t get upset when I lose, as I enjoy facing the challenge of solving a problem to beat the level. I know that there’s no point in arguing, at least not today. Oh well, at least I’m allowed to watch tv. Somehow, this is more “socially acceptable.”

We had to drive a long way. I wasn’t allowed to play video games in the car, so it was a really boring ride. I fell asleep, which helped to pass the time, but it’s bad because it usually means that I will have a ton of trouble falling asleep later on. I had a snack, as it was already almost lunch time. I’m not sure why on holidays we eat at different times than the regular times. This is not a very good idea, as when I don’t eat at regular intervals throughout the day, my blood sugar drops and I get very upset. Did I mention that I have to wear my socks ALL DAY? They really itch!! And our dog, Becca, was slobbering on me the whole way out – gross!

When we got to my Grammie’s house, I had to work hard to remember what I practice in Speech about social skills and who I was talking to. The tv was on, which was great, but it made concentrating on the people I was saying hi to a bit more difficult. My mom kept pestering me to stop laying down on the couch. But I was comfortable. I don’t understand why I couldn’t lay down on Thanksgiving. Holidays have a lot of rules that are not that fun.

Can you believe we never ate lunch? I had another snack, but that’s not the same. By the time we all sat down to eat dinner, I was very agitated. It did not help at all that I was told that turkey was on my plate. What? I hate turkey! Why are we eating turkey? I didn’t like much of the other food either. The potatoes were ok, but then my mom tried to give me more – seriously? I often just eat bread at family meals. Why doesn’t anyone serve what I like to eat?

It was good that my mom let me chill out in one of the bedrooms with a tv after dinner. But then my annoying brother came in and took the remote from me. I called for my mom and he called me a tattle-tale. I don’t know why I get in trouble for telling when someone else is doing something wrong. That doesn’t make sense. He was told to leave. Whew! Peace at last.

And then it was time to go. I didn’t get to watch all of “The Incredibles,” but I don’t get upset like I did when I was younger, when things get interrupted. It used to be so hard to stop what I was doing, what I was enjoying, without any warning. Then came more saying good bye and “eye contact” with relatives. Finally it was back in the car. This time our dog slept.

I understand that holidays are important. I understand that my family is important. I love my family. It’s just that on a day like today, I have to work so much harder to act “expectedly.” It takes a lot out of me. I hope that everyone knows that I held it together as much as possible because I love them.