#SOL17 – Day 21 – Just Yesterday…

Just yesterday, I had two encounters with the world of autism that I would like to share.

First was hearing that Sesame Street has officially introduced a character with autism to the show. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/arts/television/sesame-street-introduces-julia-a-muppet-with-autism.html?_r=0

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I cannot imagine how much help young kids learning about autism through Sesame Street’s choice will be – boundless, I imagine.

Then, I was working in a classroom and met a student who I think could have had an ASD diagnosis. He had a coughing tick and when his group came to work at the table with me, he was humming. Through my instructions, he continued to hum. I carefully asked him to try to internalize the sounds, if he could. I shared with him why – I was distracted. One of the kids offered the excuse of, he always does that. Why? Why not give him feedback and allow him to make a choice? He laughed when I shared that I felt like I had ADHD. I took the issue with the humming on myself, where it belonged – it was my issue with the noise, and he did not hum for the remained of our session – about 20 minutes. I thanked him and told him how I appreciated his helping me to focus on what I was teaching.

Toward the end of our time group work, I asked students to share what they found interesting, confusing, or surprising about the story. They could also share a question they had or a connection they made. I was not surprised that this young man had no connections, and found nothing interesting about the story. It was Sandra Cisneros’ “Eleven,” so an easy story to relate to.

I modeled for the group something I found interesting. I specifically asked him to choose which category he would record that information in. Working more closely together, I modeled another aspect of the story that caught my attention. I asked him where he might record it. Then we moved to his telling me anything about the story that he noticed. He told me one thing. I excitedly encouraged him to record it and shared that that kind of thought was exactly what it meant to connect with the story. When I asked him to tackle recording a fourth (out of six) thoughts, he did so without needing me at all. I told him that I noticed how hard he had worked and that he didn’t give up with thinking there was nothing interesting about the story.

In this moment, this is what this student needed, in order to engage with the text and not be left alone with nothing to write. The other students were able to record their thoughts from our conversations and annotations throughout the reading of the story and the one example that I modeled. This young man needed additional modeling and encouragement, which I was able to provide.

It would have been a shame, even as a guest in the room, to not provide him feedback and to allow him to not engage in the thinking he needed to do. He exhibited no signs of shutting down and while he was initially not compliant, he was capable. “This is the way he always does things” is expecting less of him than he was able – which holds him back in growing socially and academically.

I was very grateful to meet and work with this young man today.

#SOL17 – Day 20 – Kiddie Leash (sigh)

I am embarrassed to admit that when Kieran became mobile, we lost him a few times. One time in particular was quite scary – we lost him in Cabela’s.

We were looking at the fish. Then, we were finished looking at the fish. We moved on to looking for whatever we had come to purchase. However, Kieran was not finished visiting with the fish, so he returned to that area of the store without us.

How could I lose track of him? Well, Liam was always so happy and willing to hold my hand. He would never walk off. In fact, when he would not want to leave, and I employed that trick of saying, “We are leaving, bye!” Liam would scream and run toward us.

I tried that once with Kieran. He turned the other way and ran back in the direction of whatever it was he had been doing.

In Cabela’s, I stopped “fighting” him for his hand for a few seconds and then he was gone. We ran all over the store crying out for him. Then I ran to the entrance, worried that he had been taken, hoping I would catch up with whomever had grabbed him before they left the store. Or before he left the store on his own.

My husband found him back at the fish. He literally replied to, Where were you? We were scared: “I wasn’t finished watching the fish.”

So, we became the owners of this:

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But before you judge, it allowed us to keep “track” of him, while allowing him space to explore.

There were some parents that we walked past, at say, Dutch Wonderland, that would shake their heads in disapproval at our choice. There were also those that gave a silent nod of understanding.

#SOL17 – Day 19 – We All Have Gifts

On the radio on the way to church today, the speaker shared that we each have a gift that we have been given to share with others – to be a blessing to them.

My husband’s gift is in every thing handy. He helped a colleague this week who’s car battery died. He doesn’t realize how his gifts for carpentry, painting, and automotives have helped out so many, even at church. He thinks they are just mundane skills. They are definitely not when you don’t have the ability to do them. Also, he is gifted in making crafts. Here was my Valentine’s Day gift:

While everyone will say that Liam’s gift is math and music, he uses these gifts to help others feel more comfortable with their understanding of math; he uses music to make friends and to give back to his school.

Kieran is extremely insightful and sensitive. He is a gift to me – while others in my family struggle with “social skills,” Kieran is completely tuned into me and is my fierce defender.

Mea has the gift to start each day anew. She holds no grudges, clings to no past wrongs, and makes everyone around her laugh with how full of life she is.

Each of you is a gift to me – you have guided me to be the writer that I am growing to be.

What is your gift that you share with the world?

#SOL17 – Day 18 – Family Poetry

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This post is inspired by Janet Wong’s poem “Dad” from Good Luck Gold.

My father is like a loyal Labrador – a great guide in life. A best friend, hard working, strong, a protector.

My mother is like a domestic house cat – aloof much of the time, but when you get that “purr” of attention, your heart soars from being in her undivided sights.

My husband is like an armadillo – having built up armor over the years, he’s an incredibly hard worker. Underneath, if you are lucky enough to get him to let down his guard, there’s a soft and vulnerable side to him.

My older son is like a sloth – surprisingly speedy when necessary. Strong body – slow and steady to accomplish his goals.

My middle son is like a Tasmanian devil – small and growing more solitary with (teen) age. Constantly active, capable of surprising speed and endurance. A whirlwind of a child.

My daughter is like a cheetah – fast, a survivor, beautiful, graceful, and sometimes a little illusive.

I wonder what animal they would pick for me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

#SOL17- Day 17 – Life in Numbers

I am imitating this format, as I think its clever and fun!

  1. One daughter – whom we prayed for and waited for. My athlete and our pride and joy.
  2. Two sons who are my guys – who I fight for (and with) for their own good. I hope they always know how much I love them and am proud of them, even when they move away.
  3. Three siblings that I grew up with: two brothers and a big sister.
  4. Four days that my husband had to work night shift to clear the snow. I am glad to have him rejoin the family – we missed him.
  5. Five years that we have lived in our current house.
  6. Six years at my current job, which I am so thankful to have. I enjoy every day, because each day brings a new, exciting challenge.
  7. Seven months until my reading conference in Hershey, PA! #KSRA17
  8. Eight is my favorite number… but I’m not sure why.
  9. Nine years since my Dad passed away – I always smile when I think of him.
  10. Ten cats that I have had as pets; only one currently. I am a Leo, born in July and love cats.

Have a wonderful day!

#SOL17 – Day 16 – Tough Little Cookie

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We found out a few more things about Mea, in terms of health, over those first six months together.

First, she has an extremely high tolerance for pain.

At one point, this child had six teeth coming in at once and never woke up in the middle of the night to cry. She never fussed or complained. In fact, we didn’t realize she was getting all of those teeth until after they erupted from her gums. Tough kid!

We actually have learned to be very careful with this though. If she shares the littlest bit of of a complaint about pain, we pretty much rush her to the doctor. She doesn’t always know when something is wrong – because she doesn’t really feel anything.

For example, once she complained that her mouth hurt a bit. We took her to the dentist and she had such a bad cavity that they almost needed to perform a root canal on a baby tooth! That cavity didn’t appear overnight. She must have been “in pain” for a while.

That’s the other thing: her teeth are extremely prone to cavities. Due to her previous health situation, her teeth are porous. She’s had about five cavities, one with a cap, in her baby teeth.

Now, small confession on my part: I treat cavities as complete and utter parental failure. So,we have had her using prescription toothpaste, we got her back teeth sealed, make sure to take her for check-ups faithfully, and oversee brushing, flossing, and rinsing activities.

Where we’ve really struggled is in monitoring what she eats. As a general rule, we don’t let any of the kids eat gummy candy, or candy at all. We do allow chocolate. But for Mea, we’ve had to restrict any of these treats to special occasions. Of course, she doesn’t understand. Instead, she feels punished. We try to explain, but trying to help a child think ahead to the future is difficult. I don’t exercise, although I know that it would be better for me “in the future”; how can I expect her to put down that piece of candy that everyone else is having, in case it gives her a cavity, “in the future”?

Fortunately, the dentist shared that her adult teeth might not be the same as these baby teeth. I am hopeful. In the meantime, she has a great palate for healthy food and will eat almost any fruit or vegetable. We try to make those special. It helps that the boys hate them – so Mea and I are the only ones to partake.

#SOL17 – Day 15 – Allergies?

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We realized that some of Mea’s stomach issues were due to the bacteria that was in her stomach, that came from the water back in Ethiopia. We learned that injera, the bread of Ethiopia, a staple of most dishes, cannot be easily made in America, because of the missing bacteria from the water. So while the bacteria was an important part of their world, it was wreaking havoc in the US.

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Just a few weeks after we got home, the doctor diagnosed Mea with giardia. This is not something that American children usually get. Our cat was diagnosed with it, because of drinking dirty water. Here, we learned that it was just a normal result from unfiltered water.

She started on a course of treatment right away that cured much of her tummy issues, but we still thought that she might be allergic to cow’s milk.

So off to the allergist we went. Today, actually, in my Facebook memories, was recorded how Mea had to spend half a day getting blood drawn, and being poked and prodded. My memory reminded me that she had been very patient, considering all the testing that had to be completed.

In the end, the doctor shared two interesting pieces of information. First, she told us that children who are adopted from other countries rarely have allergies like American children get. It was not common to see a lactose allergy, she shared.

Then, she explained that, due to the bacteria Mea had in her system, her stomach lining needed time to heal. After about six months, she predicted, she would be good as new, as the stomach was great at reestablishing healthy bacteria, especially in children.

And she was right! After about six months at home, we were able to give Mea any food she wanted. She’s also extremely healthy – hardly gets sick or is out of school. We were very thankful for such expertise from this doctor.

#SOL17 – Day 14 – Learning a New Language

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I was taking both “Psychology of Language” and “Developmental Psycho-linguistics,” the first semester I brought Mea home, so forgive me for finding her language developed nerdily cool.

Mea was 18 months old when we brought her home, which will help for reference for what to typically expect for language understanding and use at that age. Receptively, she could understand about 200 words; this number grew by the day.

As I have shared, in country, she immediately started to add English words to her single-word vocabulary. She didn’t realize that they were English versus Amheric – she just added them to what she could say.

We never heard her say anything in her birth language. Although we tried to remember how to say “thank you” and “mom” and “dad,” we quickly abandoned saying these words. We were extinguishing her hearing about 200 of her known words. Of course we were adding in words, but these old ones were lost.

After about a month at home, Mea stopped talking altogether. Luckily, I was reading about English Learners, in my text, so didn’t panic. She had finally recognized that the language we were speaking, with its tones and pronunciation was different than her first language. It was as if she said to herself, I’m going to stop to listen for a while. Something’s different here. I have to pay attention.

It was completely normal, much like with older ELs, that she would need time to understand how this language worked – its cadence and rhythms. It was certainly different from Amheric. She studied us and listened.

After about a month, she started talking again – completely in English, with more words than she had when she had stopped. She understood two and three word sentences as well.

When we had her tested through early intervention, she never qualified for educational services. She’s been reading above grade level since Kindergarten. She is a very smart girl and it was amazing to witness her learn a new language. I know that somewhere, in her brain, her first language is hanging out. Maybe she will study it one day. Maybe she has a giftedness for languages that we have yet to discover.

#SOL17 – Day 13 – Gifted…

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When you know that your child struggles in certain areas, when he excels in others, you celebrate. At the same time Liam was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, he was also identified as gifted. I strive not to be one of those moms… let’s just leave it at that. But being able to receive small group instruction from an additional teacher greatly benefited Liam’s overall growth in social skills, organization, and time management.

In first and second grade, Liam’s gifted teacher focused on teaching him problem solving through game play. Liam often had the opportunity to work with other kids while he was playing games such as Rush Hour.

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He loved this game, as well as hearing ideas for how to solve more difficult levels from his peers.

She also focused on math, which was the area in which he needed enrichment. She would assign him short, low-stakes projects, for which he needed to learn time management skills, as well as how to organize the various components. He was young, so they weren’t stressful or “long term” until 3rd grade. Nevertheless, they taught him strategies for how to navigate the beginnings of future projects.

He also had to present his work at various times, which taught him how to look at his audience, think about what they knew about his topic and how to best communicate his information with them, and how to grow more comfortable with others.

While he only saw his teacher for small amounts of time each week, he really enjoyed meeting with older students and growing in extra-curricular ways. We are very grateful for all that she taught him and how she nurtured his curiosity.

#SOL17 – Day 12 – Liam in Distress

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I think I have already shared that one time Kieran asked, “Why is Liam always sad?” I asked him what he meant by this. Kieran explained: “He never smiles. That means he’s always sad.”

I took the opportunity to share with Kieran that Liam’s (and his dad’s) face wasn’t always aware that how he felt was supposed to be reflected on it.

So, while I wrote yesterday that Liam didn’t really care (or mind) that we were away and that we had a new family member, he actually did.

As he got older, any time that Liam was stressed, or upset with how things were going at home (like my being away at a conference, or at night class too many times in a given week), he showed it at school.

We got a call soon after returning home from Ethipia. Liam was acting out in school. He wasn’t being flexible. He was being more sensitive and crying more than usual.

It seems that every time I got one of those calls, there was something going on in our home. I would often explain to the teacher the situation, and even apologize for not being there for him or intervening before the call came.

Eventually, I learned to share in advance if I would be out of town, or if something was changing with our routines or schedules – to give the teacher a heads up, so that we would be on top of his feelings, even when he might not have been aware of what was upsetting him.

I’ve also learned through these times that Liam is quite sensitive. While he may not “seem” to notice changes, or absences, or stress at home between family members… he may not verbalize his thoughts or feelings about it, but he is aware – quite aware of all that’s going on around him. And he feels just as strongly about things as any of my other kids. He just shows it in a different way.