Being Put Through My Paces

A meeting is scheduled.  With The Boy’s teachers.  Not yet an official IEP meeting, just an I’m-so-sick-of-you-not-knowing-what-you’re-doing meeting.  Nah, I won’t really say that.  But I do have dreams, yes DREAMS about running an inservice, actual PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT for these teachers, and not just about how to effectively approach a student and his/her IEP, but about basic things like GRADING and ASSESSMENTS.

I was a decent teacher.  I don’t claim to have been the best teacher at the school where I worked, not by a long shot.  But I did know a thing or two about exactly how assessments (quizzes, tests, and projects to a normal person) are supposed to work, and how to effectively use and fairly grade those assessments, skills that The Boy’s teachers apparently haven’t yet mastered.

A 65/100 on a quiz with 10 multiple choice questions just doesn’t compute…

quiz

I guess I was spoiled by the staff I worked with.  We didn’t have to argue very long that grading a kid on effort just wasn’t fair to anyone, and definitely watered-down the picture of whether or not the student knew the content.  We didn’t have differing opinions on how much quizzes, tests, and projects should be worth — assignments and quizzes should rarely be worth more than 25 points or so, and tests and projects were usually between 50 and 100.  Assignments and quizzes, we agreed, showed how well the teacher was teaching the content (formative assessments), while tests and projects showed how well the student had learned the content (summative assessments).  To me, this is TEACHING 101.  Fellow teachers, Amiright?

This reminds me of the meeting I had at The Boy’s previous school where they thought the use of rubrics was such a novel idea… “We don’t really use those…” they said… (I was taught to use rubrics in my teaching in TEACHER COLLEGE in the 1990s… 20 years ago…).

My challenge is to attend this meeting and not come off as this know-it-all mom telling them how to do their jobs.  My challenge is gently nudge them towards doing their jobs without them realizing that I’m telling them how to do their jobs.

Time to get clever.

Peer to Peer: How to Make Sure Pranks on Kids with Autism Don’t Happen

There are too many stories of horrific acts done to kids on the spectrum these days.  The ice bucket challenge “prank” in Ohio, the boy in Pittsburgh duct-taped to a soccer goal… Targeted hate crimes if you ask me.  I’m appalled that schools and law enforcement seem to be utterly reactive in these situations, as well.  Taking plenty of time to “investigate” while handing down weak “discipline”.  It is so utterly disheartening to read about these attacks.

What I know is that the chances of that type of thing happening in the district where The Boy went to school from kindergarten through 5th grade were  and are slim to none.  Why?  Because they were proactive.  When they created an autism program, they also created a program for the neurotypical students that would be encountering this population in their classrooms.

In The Boy’s case, it started as “Grub Club” where the kids in the ASD program were able to go out into the community for lunch once a month and invite an NT student/friend.  The kids in the spectrum get real practice using social skills, and the NT kids get to know the ASD kids as real people, away from the peer pressure.

Grub Club morphed into the LINKS program (more info here), and by the time The Boy was in 5th grade, almost the entire 5th grade class had signed up to be a LINK.  They received special “training” and volunteered to buddy up with their ASD friends in class on projects.  When I watched The Boy and his classmates, they never hesitated to help him find where to go at the choir concert, and never refused a birthday party invitation.

friends

You can’t expect neurotypical kids to know how to deal with kids on the spectrum.  You can hope their families have given them some good training on how to treat other human beings, but sadly, this is not even the case the majority of the time.  If you are going to teach my kid with autism how to react to the neurotypical world, you had better also be teaching those NT kids how to deal with my kid with autism.  When you don’t, you are missing teaching lessons as important as anything in the Common Core.  And maybe your district will be the next one on the national news, dealing with some horrific act perpetrated by your students who were never taught these important life lessons.

Another Autism Speaks Post

IMG_2297The other day, while on twitter, someone began to tweet to me about how I needed to boycott Autism Speaks.  I replied that I don’t outwardly support them, nor do I decry them.  That person went on to try to “teach” me about Autism Speaks and how detrimental they were to those on the spectrum.  I replied that I didn’t agree with the way their message is being communicated, but that they have the funding and national recognition to be able to get some much needed research done.  This person then suggested several other autism groups which were much more deserving of my time (didn’t I already explain that I neither support nor boycott Autism Speaks?  What time is it that I am giving to them?) and insisted that these groups also do research.

The following is a list of groups that this person suggested.  I was already familiar with some, in fact already support and follow several on twitter and FaceBook.  There are others on this list that seem a little less organized, and some that I don’t necessarily support.  Not one of them, however, does the type of scientific research that Autism Speaks sponsors.

Let me be plain.  I do not support the notion that autism is a disease.  I do not support the notion that it needs to be cured in any way.  I do not support the notion that autism is a bad thing.  I think Autism Speaks muddies their own message, vision, purpose and intent with some of the inflammatory statements that their founders have made.  For these reasons, I do not raise money for Autism Speaks, nor do I publicly support them in any way, other than to follow them on twitter and FaceBook.  I do share certain articles posted by Autism Speaks that I think are helpful to those on the spectrum, and to families affected by autism.  And I do not “boycott” or publicly denounce them because I feel that the types of research that they sponsor are necessary, and no one else can even come close to the scope of that research.  In short, I think they serve a purpose, but I will not actively support them until they get clear on their message, vision, purpose, and intent.

I respect those with opinions differing from mine until you give me a reason not to.  I don’t enjoy being needled by someone who assumes I have made an uneducated decision.  I don’t enjoy it when someone assumes I support Autism Speaks because I respond to someone else’s tweet to Autism Speaks.

Feel free to check out any of these groups, as suggested by @imwithduke and see what conclusions you come up with.

goldenhatfoundation.org

autismcouncil.org

autismparentingmagazine.com

grasp.org

autismhwy.com

autismnow.org

autism-society.org

autismwomensnetwork.org

autisticadvocacy.org

It never hurts to do your own research and figure out just where you stand.  No nonprofit can serve the needs of all members of the community it purports to serve.  Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad for a time, and see what shakes out.  Do the research, and make an informed decision.  Respect those with differing views until they give you a good reason not to.

 

 

There Always Has to be One

It seems that every year, there is one teacher who just doesn’t get it.

I am overwhelmed by the amount of homework in The Boy’s science class this year, and it is supposedly being modified for him. This teacher refuses to give us study guides, insisting they are only made available for tests and not for quizzes.  However the quizzes cover an entire chapter and 40 slides from the PowerPoint they use in class.  What is assigned isn’t being communicated correctly in the planner, or conflicts with what is sent home via email.

I’ve been trying to communicate all of this to The Boy’s special education teacher, and she is doing her best, but she can’t control the general ed teacher and I don’t expect her to.  It’s just frustrating that yet again, I find myself providing the modifications for my son, and it’s just not my job.

modifications

This same teacher tried to “explain” to me in an email that he “grades on effort” because he knows that some students “struggle” more than others. Wrong thing to say to me. It offends me as a special needs mom, and it offends me as a former teacher.  There is nothing right with that statement.  I just have to figure out how much fight I have in me right now, and then I’ll figure out what to do next…

The Cat Stays

A few weeks ago, I posted that we were probably going to have to re-home the cat we rescued due to my allergies.  Much to The Boy’s delight, we have decided to hang on to Raphael.  As long as I am careful about washing my hands, and as long as we manage the cleanliness of the place, my allergies seem to be held at bay.  He is still a very sweet kitty, and The Boy has stepped up, all on his own initiative, feeding Raphael without being asked.  I’d love to see him get to a point where he can help with the litter, too, but mornings are already crazy, and baby steps are still progress.

Raphael is an older cat, but still fairly frisky, and loves the hot pink wand toy The Boy bought for him at the dollar store more than any other toy we have purchased.  He also likes to hang out in The Boy’s room, and has stopped yowling at night.  The Man is still his favorite, but I think I may be winning him over…

cuddler

Sleepovers: Spectrum Style

Last Saturday, we invited The Boy’s best friend over for a sleepover.  He is on the spectrum, too, and is in The Boy’s program at school.  They get along really well together, share the same interests, and this boy just seems to get it when The Boy doesn’t answer a question or doesn’t want to do the same thing he does.

The two spent the morning at our Autism Society’s chapter’s “Friends and Fun” party, during which everyone who celebrates a birthday for that month gets to come to a church youth group center and hang out for a couple of hours.  Presents are given by the chapter, and there’re cupcakes, so it is a great way for the kids to get together without the pressure of a formal birthday party (and figuring out whom to invite).

Then I picked them up and brought them to the beach trailer that The Man and I are renovating… Have I told y’all about that?  Not yet?  Another post entirely…

They waited patiently while I put in a new window…

window work

And then The Man, the boys and I walked over to McDonald’s for some lunch and some much needed sweet tea.

Next, I drove the boys up the way a bit to a bowling alley that we had heard also had an arcade.  After getting lost twice (thank you, iPhone!), we found the place and proceeded to spend quarters on slightly beat up machines that didn’t always give us tickets.  The boys had a great time playing foosball and air hockey, and ended up with some fantastic plastic slinky bracelets that promptly broke within the next half hour.  But it was fun ;)

foosball

We stopped at Target to see if the Halloween costumes were out yet, which they weren’t, but we had a good time poking around the legos and stuff, and they were patient with me while I poked around in the office supplies, ogling washi tape.  We picked up a couple of toys for Raphael, too.

On the way back home, we stopped at a Halloween superstore, as The Boy’s friend seems to have an obsession with Halloween and the haunted house he and his parents create in their garage every year.  This superstore actually had a small haunted house setup through which you HAD to walk to get into the store.  The Boy’s friend seemed to like it and be scared by it at the same time, while The Boy was just scared.  We checked out the costumes, and I think The Boy was most traumatized by the fake boobs in one of the aisles.

We headed back to the beach trailer to see The Man’s progress and then headed over to one of the piers with a restaurant (and a great view), ate dinner, and walked out on the pier after dark.

pier at dusk

We headed home and let the boys do their thing with DSs and iPads and computers – oh my!  As The Man and I headed to bed rather early – he tired from the physical work of putting in new sub-floor by himself, and me tired from entertaining two preteens for the past 9 hours.

Let’s just say I’m glad it doesn’t happen every weekend, but I am SO glad The Boy has a friend to be able to do this with.  It’s a small slice of normal for him, and he loves it.

Boys in the Bathroom

The Boy has had his first encounter with bullying at school.  I should say teasing, because bullying is really defined as a repetitive, targeted behavior, and I have no evidence that this has been going on for any length of time.  Truth be told, I was very happy with the way the school personnel handled it, and took some responsibility, as well, because we kind of knew this particular instance might happen.

Let me explain.

When we first moved south, The Man noticed that anytime The Boy went into a public bathroom, he had a tendency to “drop trou” to go pee, meaning he would drop his pants in order to do his business.  Apparently, this is not typical male behavior in a restroom – I would not know that, having never been a part of this particularly male experience.  When The Man told me about it, and explained that he just couldn’t do that, I didn’t have an answer as to how to fix it — this is not something that I am equipped to teach him.  And having hit puberty, The Boy was certainly not going to let me anywhere near him while he was anywhere near peeing.  This was clearly a dad’s job, and you can understand why a step-dad may be less than comfortable with the responsibility.  We ended up urging The Boy to use a stall when possible.

Fast forward to the second week of school, when I got an email from The Boy’s program teacher explaining that The Boy had been teased about doing just this, and talking to others while peeing, as well.  Another group of boys reported the teasing directly to one of his team teachers, for which I am grateful and appreciative, and that teacher actually had another teacher cover his class that same day so that he could take the offenders to the teachers lounge and “read them the riot act” over the incident. “We just don’t tolerate that here,” he explained via email.

I called The Man and we decided The Boy needed a lesson in how to pee in a public bathroom, and that The Man would be the one to do it.  He didn’t balk, he didn’t hem or haw.  That evening, he said, as calm as ever, “Hey, I need to show you how to pee,” and The Boy said, “Alright.”

The Man and I exchanged a look, complete with two pairs of raised eyebrows…

The Man pretended our living room wall had two urinals on it, which The Boy liked, with his toilet obsession and all. The Man then proceeded to break the process into steps. “You put your thumbs here in your waistband, and pull down,” and they practiced as they faced the imaginary urinals on the wall. He explained the whole process, and explained that the reason boys do it that way is so that they don’t show their butt to everyone else, so it can be more private.  The Boy paid attention, and seemed to understand.

The Man and I were relieved that The Boy seemed so willing to take instruction, and we can only hope he is using his new-found knowledge.

In any case, I was proud of them both.  Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

Re-training

plannershot1The downside of having a son with autism in secondary school is the sheer numbers of teachers we have to re-train each year.  And I’m only half-joking.  Most of the teachers we have encountered since the Big School Switch of ’13, have been accommodating and flexible, and have fallen in love with The Boy relatively quickly, wanting to do anything in their power to help him succeed.  But here we are at the beginning of a new school year, dealing with stuff that is very clearly spelled out in his IEP, and the teachers are not yet implementing.

One of The Boy’s IEP goals directly relates to his use of the agenda, speaks to his difficulties in this area, yet within the first two weeks of school, we still only had one teacher ensuring he was utilizing it in his class. Then the homework hit the fan this week, when I had no idea two assignments even existed before they were due in science and social studies.

I emailed the teachers last night, basically copying and pasting from last year’s introductory email, explaining The Boy’s need for help with communication, planner use, and the dire need for them to let me know what the hell is going on, but stated in much more genteel language.  And I got some nice responses.  Yet in today’s planner entry, there was clearly still some misunderstanding from whoever-it-was that was writing in the planner (clearly not the teacher – an aide? a substitute? Who IS this person telling me that his assignment wasn’t finished and needed to be finished by tomorrow??).

And then there were the assignments we had busted our butts to make sure he got done, that were returned in his planner this evening without having even been turned in.  Yet another area of difficulty, yet another area in need of training.

After several emails, I finally got some traction and his program teacher has agreed to meet with his teachers tomorrow to review this stuff so we can get him going on the right track before he gets too behind. Thank goodness I don’t have to re-train her every year! She’s worth her weight in gold. :)

Pets and a Big Dose of Mommy Guilt

Thursday, The Man and I decided to rescue a cat that had walked into his worksite as if he owned the place.  In fact, we surmised that the previous renters did abandon him there and he was just too sweet of a cat to leave to the whims of fate.  We struggled for a couple of hours with the idea of the commitment and what it would mean to The Boy, and in the end, I brought him home in the car.

When I went to pick up The Boy, he was overjoyed once he understood what was happening, and was jumping up and down with excitement.  I, too, was excited, as I had missed the thought of a little furball to cuddle with in the evenings, someone to come home to…

We bought the requisite pet stuff, and I caught The Boy laying on the floor with him more than once, just petting him as they lay parallel to each other. It was incredibly sweet.

Raphael

And then yesterday, reality caught up with me, and reminded me why I hadn’t had cats in the house since The Boy was in preschool… My allergies reared up and smacked me in the face. I was miserable. And then to make matters worse, our bedroom overnight was probably in the 80s, temperature-wise, because we have to keep the door closed so the cat won’t be in my face, making it impossible to breathe.  And when the door is closed, the antiquated A/C cannot physically push any cool air into that room.  Miserable upon miserable.

And before you say, “Just get Claritin/Zyrtec/Allegra/whatever-OTC-med-most-people-take-for-allergies,” there’s a funny story about that… I’m allergic to allergy meds.  They make me break out in hives.  Yep, I’ve been on this merry-go-round before and it is not fun.

And I am KICKING myself for getting myself into this all over again because now I have broken The Boy’s heart.

Thank you monthly hormones, for amplifying this crazy mommy-guilt to an inhuman level.  The Boy is actually doing OK with the probability that we will have to find “Raphael” a new home.  He’s processing, but he is not being dramatic and blubbery as I kind of expected.  He’s actually trying to offer solutions, albeit not entirely rational ones.

And I am sad because Raphael really is just the sweetest cat, and he and I could have really gotten along well together if my immune system didn’t believe he was killing me.

Now I just need to find an adult cat a new home (easy, right?) and make things better for my autistic son who obsesses about cats, and has for years (also a no-brainer, right?), while reassuring myself that this situation can’t be helped (while I just *smh* at myself inside my head).

*sigh*