Baby, I’m Amazed

We’ve been keeping up with the #keystoindependence challenge, and I have to say in the short time we’ve begun, I have already learned so much about my son.

12933009_738098856325388_789378537205830466_nOn day 2, when I was teaching him about fire safety, I was amazed at how little he knew about what to do in a fire. I know that in his nine years in school, they have had various fire safety discussions, assemblies, etc. But The Boy pretty much had no clue about first feeling the door, and crawling to avoid smoke. Then I was blown away again by how quickly he learned it, and retained it. When The Man got home, I asked The Boy to tell him what he learned, and he did. When I asked him to tell Grammy & Poppy what he learned the next day, he did. No repetition was necessary, no flashcards… Just role play. Amazing.

Yesterday, we tackled changing a lightbulb. I showed him where we keep them and how to check to see if it’s a good bulb or not by shaking it. We went to the office and found a lamp that wasn’t being used. I showed him how to unscrew the bulb, and screw the new one in. I asked him to try and he hesitated to touch either bulb because he thought they were hot. I had to convince him that they were both cold – he had just seen me touch both of them, but still thought he might get burned.

I think as parents we assume our kids know a heck of lot more than they actually do. I think some of us still don’t realize we are the adults, and it is our job to adult now, and teach our kids how to do the same. I think all of this is human nature. I think that’s why we need to challenge ourselves a bunch. I thought this month would be about me teaching The Boy necessary skills, and it is. But he is teaching me so much more, as usual. ‚̧

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Keys to Independence Challenge

One of my greatest worries in life is what The Boy will do when I am gone. My goal, and the goal of most special needs parents, is to prepare my son to be the most independent person he can be. We don’t know yet what his living situation will be, nor do we know how and where he will work. But right now, I can prepare him for the basics, and I can do it by introducing him to things adults do every day. Each introduction may or may not be successful, but at least he will have had the experience so that we can build on it in the future.

Here is the Keys to Independence Challenge I mentioned last week.

Keys to Independence Challenge

 

How does this work?

For each day of the month of April, you attempt to introduce your child to the skills above. If they’ve already had experience with it or do it on a regular basis, try switching things up a bit to increase flexibility. If you’d like to document your work with a picture or a status update, you can do so on social media with the hashtag #keystoindependence so people can check it out and get some inspiration.

Is this only for teenagers?

Nope. You can totally do many of these with younger children, with a little forethought. It could just be learning about the skill rather than actually performing it, too.

Is this only for kids with special needs?

Heck no! I know some neurotypical adults who could benefit from this practice! ūüėČ

What if we miss a day (or three or five)?

Hey, life happens. Especially in a special needs home. No worries! You can skip it completely, or come back to it in May, if you’d like.¬† No one is keeping score.

What if my kiddo doesn’t want to do it?

The Boy is of an age where he relishes the thought of being an adult, and having a little independence.¬† I’ve prepped him a bit for this, but I have some backup incentives, too. Think about what motivates your kiddo and see if you can’t build that into the challenge.

What if I don’t understand what the day’s task is?

Interpret for yourself, or check my facebook page or social media and search for the #keystoindependence hashtag – you’ll see at least my take on the day’s prompt.¬† I just opened up an Instagram account for this very purpose @SimpleIJustDo! But there are no right or wrong answers here.

What if I don’t want to post about it or post pictures?

No worries! You do you! But we’d love to hear how it’s going for you! If you do decide to post, just include the #keystoindependence hashtag so we can find you.

If you have more questions, feel free to let me know. I’ll be posting about the challenge on my facebook, twitter, and now instagram accounts if you want to follow. If not, I’ll still be posting about regular stuff, too.

As always, thanks for your support, and here’s to an enriching April!

Keys to Independence: A Challenge

Recently, Grammy & Poppy left town for a few days, and rather than disrupt The Boy’s routine, we planned for him to still go to their home after school to hang out until The Man or I could come to pick him up. In preparation for this, I had a spare key made, thinking I would give it to The Boy, show him how to work the lock, and let him practice for a few days. Except that the key I had made didn’t work, and when I attempted to show him, he got frustrated lightning-quick, and didn’t want to try anymore.

We resolved that situation another way, but it has me thinking about all of the things a 14 year old on the spectrum should be practicing for the day when he has a bit more independence. You see, we are both tired after our long days of work, and I don’t push too much at home, especially during the week. Weekends, I ask a little more, and now and then there are certain chores he helps me do. But I know we could do so much more, and work on that lightning-quick frustration level, too.

Planner nerds and Bullet Journal Junkies often have monthly challenges, and the idea is to take something you’d like to practice, like doodling or hand lettering, and do it each day with a guided prompt. You commit to the challenge, you do the prompts, and you share with a special hashtag on social media (and lots of people miss days, or get “caught up” later if they get behind – no worries). I’ve been thinking about doing an Independence Skills Challenge for the month of April, which also happens to be Autism Awareness Month. There will be a list of “prompts,” or specific independence skills to encourage each day or couple of days. I will share more details next week, and I would love it if you would join us with your own kiddos (on the spectrum or not!), but I’m excited, even if The Boy and I are the only ones doing it.

Keys to Ind Chall

Get Out of the Way

As The Boy gets older, I fret about what he should be able to do, what he should learn so he can live as independently as possible. The Man and I know that he will be living with us for quite awhile (and to be truthful, I haven’t even considered him moving out to another, more independent situation yet), but we do a lot for him, and we need to stop.

When The Boy was little, he went to a lady’s house for daycare, and she was amazing. She was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and the lessons she taught him as a toddler still stick today. I will often find his socks in his shoes, as he was taught to do there at her house.I forget, sometimes, that I can teach those lessons that need to be taught, and they will stick because he is more of a sponge than I give him credit for.

It's not just laundryA couple of years ago, in an attempt to get him to do some chores, I tried to teach him how to fold and put away laundry. I still have him put it away for me (sometimes), but I do most of the folding. The other day, he happened to come into the living room the evening I was folding, and for some reason, The Man had turned Spongebob on – a rare occurrence. The Boy plopped on the couch, and I started handing him socks to match up. He not only matched them up, but balled them up the way I had taught him to do it. No prompting, nothing. He just did it, and with no complaint.

I must, must, must remember to get out of my own way, and provide him with these opportunities to practice and learn, and even allow him to help me a little. He just keeps getting older, darn him, and if I just let go a little, he will surprise me. I just know it.

The Man, The Teacher

Can I just start this post off by saying I know how incredibly lucky The Boy and I are? I know there’s a lot of single mamas out there with kiddos with special needs, and I know that loneliness, and that feeling of hopelessness that you may never find someone to share your joys and burdens. I write this post in gratitude that life, circumstance, karma, or whatever or whoever you may think had a hand in it, helped us get to be this blended family of three.

The Man is a natural teacher and kid magnet. ¬†Whenever we go to the beach, he picks out a couple of kids who show even ¬†the slightest interest in his surfboard, puts them on, gives them a few pointers and lets them fly. ¬†And after about 10 minutes, a whole beach-full of kids wants a turn. ¬†Our little neighbor often comes over to see if The Boy wants to play, and just as often ends up “helping” The Man with his projects around the house, wearing his tool belt, and learning how to use a power screwdriver, under the closest of supervision, of course.

He shows me how to do stuff all the time. ¬†I put windows into our trailer flip all by myself, you know, and I didn’t know how to do that before I met The Man.

He was the one to teach The Boy to ride his bike. ¬†He taught him how to pee while keeping his trousers up. ¬†He’s taught him how to surf and mow the lawn. ¬†The other night, The Man had brought home some m&ms for The Boy and had told him he could have them when he was done practicing the tuba. But when The Boy and I ended the practice session, I was frustrated. ¬†He is so freakin’ smart that he thinks it’s funny to play it incorrectly and doesn’t know when to stop joking around and get work done. ¬†This is something we’re working on, and this lesson just didn’t go right. I was tired of everything and decided to go to bed early. ¬†The Boy quickly grabbed the m&ms and headed to his room. ¬†In his mind, he was done practicing which meant he could have them, while The Man and I both agreed that you only get rewards when you do things the right way. ¬†I gave up and headed to bed, very aggravated and ¬†unwilling to fight anymore. ¬†The Man stepped in and I could hear him speaking to The Boy through the bedroom door. He came to bed and said he had explained that we needed to save the m&ms for when he actually got the work done on the tuba, and asked him to think about it, and also suggested that when he returned the m&ms to the fridge, he needed to come and tell me he had done so.

I was so impressed. The Man had calmly explained the reasoning and left it in The Boy’s hands to do the right thing.

Not five minutes had gone by when we heard a knock on the bedroom door. ¬†The Boy entered to tell me he had returned the m&ms, and I assured him he could earn them the next night by completing our work on the tuba. He wasn’t happy about it, but he wasn’t melting, either, and he had made the right choice, guided by The Man’s words.

This is something that would not have occurred if his dad had been around.  This is something that would not have occurred if I was still doing it all on my own.  This occurred because The Man is a good teacher, and a good parent. I am grateful.

Buddies

The Boy has always relished the attention that The Man has given to him without a thought, most likely because his own dad doesn’t give him the time of day, even in the one week of the year (or less) that he sees him.¬† The Man was the one to teach The Boy how to ride his bike, and The Man will be the one that shows him how to shave.¬† He is constantly creating teachable moments with The Boy, and doesn’t hesitate to take him to the hardware store or the convenience store for a little hang-out time.¬† This morning, he suggested The Boy start his truck while he started my car for me (ice and sleet having covered our windshields, and not having an ice scraper because the old one got busted in the last ice storm).¬† It pretty much made The Boy’s day.

DSC00878

Tonight, The Man and The Boy had a wrestling match, which they do a couple of nights a week – we use it as a reward, and The Boy adores the sensory input and the bonding.¬† Later on, he came out of his room and sat with us (an unusual occurrence), and it was a wonderful family moment, giggling and laughing as I asked yes or no questions and they controlled eachother’s heads to nod yes or no in answer.¬† And he chose to stay to watch some skiing with us, cuddling up to his stepdad on the end of the couch.¬† And he even invited The Man to have a sleepover in the family room with him tonight since he has a snow day tomorrow…¬† The Man has fallen asleep, but The Boy is still there cuddled up to him, enjoying having a real dad for the first time in his life.

Reflections on an IEP Meeting

Our IEP meeting was Thursday, and I felt like we accomplished something, but I’m reserved in my enthusiasm…¬† More of a wait-and-see attitude about it all.

The good:

  • They agreed to implement his IEP as it came from our previous state, to the best of their ability
  • They agreed that training for the teachers in modifications and accommodations was necessary immediately
  • The teachers seemed to support his need for an aide
  • We finally fixed his schedule so that he would no longer have two math classes
  • They will be adding ASD-specific life skills to his schedule to replace the math
  • They will be looking for some sort of computer for him to use for assignment
  • They will begin to actually implement his IEP, and the ASD specialist commented several times that this was overdue

The not-so-good, of the “shake my head” variety:

  • The teachers kept bringing up common autistic traits, “He won’t talk to me,” or “He won’t do his work, even after being directed”
  • The principal asked me point-blank, “He won’t verbalize it if he needs something??”
  • They are going to do more testing, including a psychological and intelligence (IQ) test, even though he was thoroughly evaluated this spring in his old district, simply because the new state requires these other tests
  • My concerns about organization help and communication were not addressed as specifically as I’d like them to be
  • They included a note about following his IEP “to the best of their ability”

I think I was heard, I think they have a better idea of what needs to be done, I think I’m not “that woman” anymore.¬† I don’t know to what extent they will follow through on their promises, and they have a great deal to learn about autism in general, and my son, specifically.

I hope we accomplished something.¬† I hope…

IEP documentation

Housework Help

In order to earn back his iPad time, The Boy has agreed to do some chores to “pay back” his half of the repair bill.¬† We’ve developed a system, and we’ve tweaked it a bit, too, with input from his veryownself.¬† Within the past few days, he has voiced the desire to get this all done by the time school starts…¬† on Monday.¬† If you remember, this was originally supposed to be a four-week process…¬† But I didn’t want him to think it wasn’t possible.¬† I mean, if he wants to work extra hard to get it done quicker, there’s a valuable lesson in that.¬† Last night, I told him we’d sit down with the chore chart and the calendar in the morning and figure it out.

Today, we looked at the chart and figured out what chores he could accomplish today.¬† And I got him started right away – this was key.¬† I showed him how to wipe the kitchen counter down, and he did the other half on his own – check!¬† While standing there in the kitchen, looking at a pile of dishes that needed to be put away, I thought maybe he’d be motivated to earn some extra for things not on his chart…¬† “Hey, do you want to earn some extra money?¬† You could help me put the dishes away…”

“Yeah!¬† I’ll do that!”

Check!

Which lead to changing the load from the washer to the drier, which lead to folding some clothes…

I assigned him the towels, and showed him how to do it.  On his first try, it was a messy lump.  I had him re-do it, and told him to pay careful attention to lining the corners up just right.  And he did it.  And I realized I should have shown this to him ages ago.

finished product

Now he is in his room, attempting to clear the floor (i.e. putting all the clothes on his floor into the hamper).  All by himself.

This works for me!

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