Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Third Grade So Far

So far DuckyBoy loves his teachers and third grade. He's being a bit physical but overall holding himself together well. he told me he discovered how to access his "filter," by which I think he means his self-calming mechanism (which enables him to not burst out with an angry yell ... still working on it helping him not use force. apparently).

Only the 4th day and he came home with sheet full of stickers and a prize!

As for whatever happened on the playground, I just want to state right here, before I find out any more details of anybody's side of things, that I am NOT going to blog about it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

Tonight was the second annual Family Fitness Night at DuckyBoy's school. Last year, we all went, but it was for us a flop. It was overall a great success, but that meant every classroom was crowded and LOUD, as were the gym and the cafeteria.

This year, I marked it on the calendar but didn't mention it to DB. I figured, if he wanted to go, we'd go, but I wasn't even going to bring it up.

When I picked him up tonight, he was very excited about going. So, we came home and ate dinner, worked out the logistics with Dad (who declined to attend this time), and headed back.

Several things were different than last year's experience, but DB is a different kid as well.

The differences in the situation overall were these:
  • Purely by accidentally running late, we missed the 15-minute sitting-still introduction in the auditorium (which bored him last year), and arrived at an exciting time when everyone was filing out of there and to the various rooms.
  • The gym and cafeteria both had fewer games so were less chaotic.
  • DB didn't know who else was going of his friends, so his expectation of hanging out with any of them was low.

Differences in him I saw this year:
  • He could handle the noise
  • He waited his turn to run under the parachute (I'm sure it helped that he got to sit on it and get spun first!)
  • He didn't insist on staying with his friends when we did see them
  • He tried a wide variety of activities: parachute, Wii (waiting patiently on line), obstacle course (with just a tiny bit of prompting to stay on line and reassurance he only had to do it once), bowling, even hula hoop!
  • He lasted the whole event, an hour, and was disappointed when it was done.
  • When we met the gym teacher in the hall, DB thanked him for setting up the event, and told him we were skipping in the hall to get even more fit. A real conversation!
I was skeptical about going tonight, but simply steeled myself to be prepared to leave at any time. Now that it's done, I'm so glad we went.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why Not Make Him Class Pet?

Who could resist this face??

This news story about an autistic boy whose dog isn't allowed to come to school with him has me wondering: Is there something the school district isn't, or can't say?

Seems like a no-brainer; if having the dog makes the kid learn better, and it's documented, why not allow the dog? Is the dog not nice, is the principal's kid (or the principal or the teacher) just afraid of dogs? Does the dog make a mess? Is it disruptive? Does he have bad breath? Did the family refuse to join the PTA?

The school district is hiding behind legalese -- that the dog is not officially a "guide dog" -- rather than giving a real reason. Something's not working, or ... someone's just being all by-the-book.

The argument that really got me was that it's equivalent to telling a blind person they can't use their cane beucase they do alright without it. He's being punished for being higher-functioning.

If having a dog with him would help DuckyBoy better suffer through music class, I'd be all over it. If, in kindergarten, a dog would have helped him with meltdowns, with hitting, would have helped control disruptive outbursts, I'd be all ove rit.

The boy in this story, Scooter, "tries to hit" his 3rd-grade classmates every day. Wouldn't the classmates --and classmates' parents -- find the dog preferable to that?

I hope so.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Eww, Lice!

We escaped the Great Lice Outbreak in DB's class last fall, only to get a call this morning to come get him, he had nits. Three, he said the nurse said, and that it was clearly just starting.

By the time we got home and I psyched myself up to do the thing (and read the directions 4 times), I could actually see a few squirmy buggers on his scalp. Yuck!

The descriptions they give you on the health pages didn't really help. I couldn't see any nits at all, and the bugaboos I saw were yes, as long as sesame seed, but half a s wide, and more blackish than greyish.


Amazingly enough, DB did really, really good with the whole process, in more ways than one.

Emotionally: It probably helped that we've been discussing the possibility since the fall, his best friends have had lice already, and we've been over and over how it's not a big deal, they're treatable and doesn't hurt. So his anxiety was minimal. There is also an episode of Arthur that was on in probably September that he watched over and over even before the class outbreak, just because it's an amusing episode, and all the families in Arthur's class deal with the issue in a variety of ways but all matter-of-fact and positive. (Click for a thoughtful review of it; the episode is called "The Lousy Week.")

The nurse was also very low-key about it, saying "just 3 nits," which didn't sound like much at all. That helped me not to freak out too! But I still wasn't surprised to see live squirmy lice later when I combed through it. (None at bedtime, though ... fingers crossed!)

On the way home in the car, the first story we told was about what if the penguins on Club Penguin got lice, and when they went to log in they'd get a message saying, "Your penguin isn't allowed on the site right now, he has lice!"

After a few minutes of talk about how they'd buy special shampoo and solve the problem, he was ready to move on to another topic.

Physically: He has some kind of sensory issue with the top of his head: He HATES having his hair combed, hands run through it, his scalp scrubbed.

So here I am with this scenario: Rub the medicated shampoo into his dry hair; leave 10 minutes; lather and shampoo it out; apply gel section by section and comb through his hair meticulously, pinning up each section as I go; then shampoo again. I had no idea how he'd react.

Thank you, and Club Penguin, for keeping him entirely occupied during the entire process (except the shampooing parts)! It was amazing.

New Year, New Perspective

I haven't been posting much this school year -- that's for a couple of reasons. The first is that DB has 2 terrific teachers this year for 2nd grade.

The second is that I'm a little cowed by a little chat the principal had with me at the end of last school year, wherein she made sure to mention my freedom of speech and that she had not herself read my blog but she had staff members who were very concerned about it, well, basically, nobody likes a squealer, other parents mind find it, yadda yadda.

If I'd had a day or so to prepare for the topic of the meeting I would have had snappy answers like "Nobody likes a bad school year, either," and "It's nothing different than what we say to one another on the playground."

But of course I was caught completely off guard and said little to nothing.
But, surprising for me, was what I didn't say -- which was anything to the effect that I'd stop writing this blog.

So I've spent the fall thinking about what I can write. The posts I look back and find helpful are the ones where I write down what worked and what didn't in a given situation, so I can pass that knowledge forward for the new year.

I also find it helpful to chronicle DuckyBoy's behavior during certain stressful situations -- like concerts -- so I can see his progress (or lack thereof).

I get the most traffic when I write about things I can't find clear answers for on the web; my most-found post is Handling Autism Aggression, which is exactly the phrase I typed into Google and didn't find much, so when I searched around I aggregated what I found.

I'd like to do more of that but don't always find the time. Plus, when the year is going well and he's maturing so well (albeit a little behind his peers, but certainly following a similar curve) I have less to look up.

I'm sooo happy with DB's teachers. I like the amount of homework, and they send up a red flag as soon as he falls a little behind to make sure we do a little extra in that subject to bring him up to speed. He had trouble at first this eyar with counting coins -- he had trouble telling the coins apart -- but now is fast becoming a whiz.

We weren't sure how Mr. Precise would take to the "estimation" unit, so we laid the groundwork at home the weekend before that math lesson started, and it turned out he picked it up in a flash. (He still corrects me sometimes when I say it's "7:30" and he sees a digital clock say "7:29." Sheesh.)

He still has bad days: The day of his class holiday party he acted out so loudly during the assembly he had to miss 2/3 of his own class's party, sitting in the office as penance for yelling out, more than once, during the program. Yesterday, the after-school director told me he'd yelled at the guy in charge of his group, then loudly cried and claimed he didn't ... then quickly recanted, apologized, and moved on.

But more days than not are good. Which is a wonderful way to start the year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Good Behavior Is Relative

The holiday concert is Friday afternoon; so far there has been no drama about getting ready for it, no reports home of needing to promise rewards for good behavior during practice and during the concert.

Maybe DB isn't in the front row this year; maybe he's standing next to girls; maybe he just lieks the songs better (who could be too upset about singing "Frosty the Snowman"?).

At any rate, I've got high hopes. Of a reasonable amount of standing still, no outbursts, and something that looks like singing from time to time (lip synching is acceptable, since I won't know anyway).

Fingers crossed and say a prayer!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Humming Along in Second Grade

DuckyBoy is doing so well in school this year that I hardly have anything to write here. An update on a variety of areas, in no particular order although I will start with his strongest suit:

Reading: Way above grade level. He's at level N, when the highest they expect at the end of 2nd grade is M. N books are hard for him, though. He's fallen in love with Judy Moody, who's at M level. So that's awesome. I think he also sneaks in some Jigsaw Jones action and doesn't tell me.

Reading Comprehension: A little lower than it oughta be. Especially when it's a topic that doesn't hold his interest. I'm wondering if he doesn't need some support in this area -- am hoping his teachers have or will notice a trend in when he's more or less able to understand, especially things he hears versus reads. (Both are low.)

Consequence reports: He had one Friday, but prior to that it's been weeks. Friday's issue was either a "testing the lmits" issue or a case of distracted listening. Either way I'm glad they follow through and I'm also glad it wasn't a seriously awful offense. (No one got hit or anything, unlike the reports earlier in the year.)

Supergirl: Came home for good! There was a minor snafu the day we got her, the science teacher thought he was good to go, but in the afternoon he'd done something to lose his final sticker. But I'm there Friday, it was easy, we'd already told him, so she came home with the stipulation she wouldn't move into his room until he got that last sticker. I told the teachers to hold out for BOTH Monday stickers instead of just one -- and he did it.

Social studies: They've started social studies this eyar, and he's enjoying it. They're learning about New York City, so that's a good first topic for him. He wants to take my giant photo of the Brooklyn Bridge in tomorrow. I haven't decided yet what to do.

Social skills: He helps at home sometimes without even being asked! Like, he'll hold a door or offer tot ake out the recycling. Other times, when he is asked to help, he still balks, but sometimes asks, "Is that a rhetorical question?" so he knows he has to do it. He's better at greeting people and saying goodbye, but it's still done grudgingly at times.

Math: This one's tough for him. Times (other than even o'clocks), coins, adding and subtracting bigger numbers like 7,8,9,12, are hard. He doesn't seem to know how to figure it out so he tries to guess. I mean, really guess, something totally random. He's better at the story problems ("Singapore math," it's called), and improving with counting by 2s, 10s, telling time on the half-hour, and making change. This is one of the areas where I feel like, "He's only 7." But I do want him to stay with his grade.

Typing/computers: Better this year. Don't know why. Maybe it's less mind-numbing (for him) typing fjfjf jfjfj, and more words to keep his brain engaged, so he can stay on task longer. The other day he said they practiced oputting in and taking out flash drives, which he loved. "It was even better than KidPix!" he said. KidPix is the drawing program that he loved in K and was heartbroken to find out was not the computer class curriculum in 1st grade. This year, it's the reward for getting their main work done. (I think it was last year, too, but he almost never got done in time.)

Music: Still a challenge. Honestly, he doesn't like any voice out of tune, even mine, which, sadly, usually is off-key. Fortunately the cluster teacher knows him, and sympathizes. The winter concert is coming up soon; I've already laid the groundwork that (a) he has to participate since it's during the school day and (b) he is already learning the songs (for some reason he got anxious that he wasn't being taught the songs).

Writing: I don't know what changed, but what a difference. He draws and writes stories in nothing flat. Capitalization? Not so great. It'll get there. Ability to write readable letters and not-so-clipped stories, improved tremendously.

Homework: Since he does it at Afterschool almost every day, it's practically become a no-brainer at home. I hear he's the first one done (because when you're done you can play!), whereas at home, it was torture.

Friends & Girlfriends: He's a bit obsessed with the same classmate he was last year, the one everyone else loves as well. When she was challenged by the teachers one day last week to play with girls, not boys, at recess, he apparently freaked out ... then got it together and found other peopel to play with. It's sucha love/hate thing: She's good at everything, so that bugs him, but it'd also attractive that she's smart. She's also as strong-willed as he is in terms of wanting to play what she wants to play the way she wants to play it (just like he is), so they clash on that front from time to time. On recent playdates it was painful to have him run to me "She won't let me do this!" "She won't play my game!" -- he's so upset he can't think of any way to compromise.

Same "girlfriend" as last year too. She's much more easygoing and great for him. She's in Afterschool, which is why he likes being there so much. It's like they get a playdate every day. One day he told me another girl is his "backup friend" when these 2 aren't around. I'm sure he means it positively, that she is another friend of his; I do try to help him avoid sharing his bluntly honest language with the people involved!

Some of the stories we tell actually involve boys from his class now and then, which is a huge change. Just this weekend our Build-a-Bears were stand-ins for several classmates, and he named enough boys to cover all the bears.

We don't do a lot of playdates; I'm just bad at setting them up. One of his classmates lives close enough that we and his parents get movitated more often to set things up. So I suppose we talk about him more often than about other kids. Which made DB indignantly inform us we make it seem like the 2 boys are "best friends," and "why do we keep saying that." He now knows the term "geographically desirable" as well as the facts that we two families are friends and, surprise, he and this boy get along really well every time they play together! It's so funny to me that he can't see that. But last year they were at odds, so it's nice to see them reconnect this year. (They have Transformers in common, among other things.)

SDI: We get program-wide updates on the curriculum, which is cool. I get no complaints from him, though not much else either. At least the name doesn't annoy him Every.Single.Time they meet, like last year's did. Funapallooza indeed. He was sorry he suggested that one!

Lunch: I'm running out of steam here, oops, it's after 11 PM. But this is big: He eats hot lunch at school every day. Hooray! No more buying Uncrustables at $1 a pop or getting up early enough to cook pasta every morning! If he deosn't like the main choice he has a grilled cheese. I pack him 2 bags of snacks, one for mid-morning and one for Afterschool. I was packing both snacks in one bag and a few sides for lunchtime in another, until one day he told me he always ate all the snacks at mid-morning snack and the lunch-bag snacks at Afterschool. So I shifted what I put where! However that info came out, I was glad it did. He didn't volunteer it out of the blue, but it was a real shift that he was able to articulate it to me, clearly and without anxiety, and that it obviously was something he'd figured out a way to handle on his own.

It's been almost a year since we reintroduced dairy products. It's been a good thing. I am trying to avoid giving him too much of the overprocessed stuff --we did a Goldfish challenge a few weeks ago, he was mainlining the things and I thought they were making him cranky -- but yogurt, cheese sticks, he likes and they help him feel full.

Playground: I'll end this on another strong suit. other than the being-obsessed-with-that-one-friend issue, I hear he's awesome on the playground. Some of the other Nest moms are still concerned that their kdis are using this unsupservised time to zone out, or fixate, but DB is playing games and interacting with other kids like a champ.