Thursday, June 30, 2011

Awesomely Autistic

Today Timmy climbed up in my lap and he handed me a card that was on the stand next to us. It is a card that we were given at an Autism Awareness thing back in April. They had been in my purse, but I had pulled them out the other day for some reason.

He asks me, "What is this card for?"
I told him "It is about Autism".
(We haven't told Timmy he has Autism. We've had some people tell us not to. We've had others tell us to. We decided we'd tell him, but not make it a big deal at all, ya know? Because we were sure that it would come up in school or something and it'd be better for it to be explained by us than by some stranger ... or for some kid to pick on him about it if they hear about it in school).
He goes "I have the Awesome, don't I?" (Timmy has some big speech issues ... so he was pronouncing Autism as Awesome).
Me, my heart melting - "Yeah, Timmy, you have the Awesome. And yes, you have Autism too."
He goes "That's why I sometimes get really upset. Why I get hyper. Why I don't like things."
Me "Yeah, that is why, Timmy".
He finally looks up (not quite meeting my eyes) and says "It's ok to be Awesome, right?"
Me "Yeah, Timmy, you do Awesome wonderful. You are absolutely perfect, and wonderfully Awesome."

Something I learned today ...
Children are so much more intuitive than we give them credit for. This is something that has been whispered about for the last year. He's gone to lots of evals and it has been talked about, but never talked to him about. It's just been him going to see another doctor, ya know? He's been asked a million questions, asked to do a million different things, but he just did it and "went with the flow" for all of it ... acting totally oblivious as to what or why we were doing what we were doing. I guess he wasn't so oblivious, eh?

Something else I learned ...
My son IS AWESOME. He is incredibly awesome. I love him so freaking much.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gluten free cinnamon rolls! Nom!

I'm an avid follower of Crystal's blog Money Saving Mom. This past week she published a recipe for cinnamon rolls. The recipe wasn't for gluten free cinnamon rolls, but I just tweaked it a bit to work for us.
The week before she had published a recipe for baking mix. This is like Bisquick. You just make it at home and put it in the freezer and use it as you need it. I love this idea, but of course, we need to make it gluten free. So I whipped up a gluten free version of it. All I did was substitute gluten free flour (there are many different blends you can make) for the regular flour in her recipe.
I was really surprised by how well it worked up. I may have used a little less milk than the recipe suggested, though. We all know how sticky and goopy gluten free stuff can be when you are mixing and stuff. I was able to nicely knead and roll this out.
Here it is ready to get cut up and go in the oven!

I ended up baking it longer than suggested. I don't know if it was the difference in the flours or what, but it took about 20 minutes for ours to be done.

And I know this next pic isn't a spectacular one. I forgot to take a pic until I had already started eating them! They were a HUGE hit in our family. Having the two boys that can only eat gluten free, they miss out on stuff sometimes. Having the rest of us NOT be gluten free, we normally don't eat the GF stuff because we prefer regular. These, though, were delicious for EVERYONE. So much so, that the kids were begging for more!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Homeschooling journey at an end

I feel sad to say that our homeschooling journey is at an end. I've loved this last year homeschooling Timmy. I would continue it in a heartbeat, but I truly believe that being in school is better for him and his social skills. I feel that in order to properly get his therapies, he also needs to be in school. I don't always have the ability to transport him back and forth to therapy. Legally, the school didn't have to transport him since he is not considered a student of the school when he is homeschooled.
It has been amazing to watch the little neurons firing off in Timmy's brain as he learns new things this year. It's been great watching him get excited about all the new things we learned. It's just been great.
I have a lot of workbooks left, and I'm still paying for his monthly Time4Learning curriculum, but I think I'm going to hold on to both of them. This summer I'll continue to work with Timmy (and my other two) with these things. This way they will be prepared for going into their new grades this coming school year.
I really am going to miss homeschooling. *sigh* I am 100% sure, though, that we are doing the right thing right now.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Battle Is Over!!

I went in this morning ready for a huge battle. I hardly slept all night.
The first thing the one lady said to me was "Just because this doctor says he is Autistic, doesn't mean he actually is. He could have mental health issues like anxiety and depression and they can mimic Autism." She hadn't even read through his report yet! So she started going through the report and asking me bunches of questions, and then goes "Hmm, well I guess I have to agree with him, it does appear that Timmy is Autistic." Huh ... thanks for telling me what I already knew.

So then they stop the meeting to ask me "Before we go any further we really need to know if you plan on having him come back to the school or if you are going to homeschool him. It makes a big difference in how we approach things." I told them that that all depended on if they were going to protect him on the bus or not.
The principal (first time she's ever shown up for his meetings) then piped in and said that she HAD to butt in and say that I had never told HER about any bullying except way back in pre-k and how do you expect them to take care of something if they don't know. So I kinda got upset. I told her I had told her back in prek but she had told me to follow the proper chain of command from now on, so from that point on I always contacted the busing supervisor with every issue. So then she tells us that there is no documentation of this. I point out that perhaps if they had documented it like they SHOULD have, then the bullying would have been stopped before it got to the point where I had to pull him from school. I also informed her that I had documented all of them if she would like MY documentation.

I decided, though, that I had to be the bigger person. I looked her in the eye and said "Here's the thing ... we are NEVER going to agree on this. Ever. That is fine. But what isn't fine is that Timmy feels he was bullied on that bus. Timmy feels traumatized by what happened on that bus. Timmy cannot ride that bus without an aide being on there to protect him. In order to come back to public school he needs that aide on the bus, or he needs alternate transportation provided by the school."

I really feel like this was the breaking point in the "war".

They decided to have him ride the BOCES bus, that has an aide on it. It will pick him up about 5 minutes after the regular bus picks up the other two boys. He will, however, have to leave the school about 50 minutes earlier than the rest of his class. This, to me, though, is ok. Actually it is really good.
His teacher will pack his bag in the morning with her last lesson of the day. If it is reading social studies and completing a paper on it, she will pack that. If it is math worksheets, she will pack that. Whatever she has planned in that last hour, she will send home with him. When he gets home, he and I will work on that together. This will also give him time to cycle down after school before his brothers come home. I really like this idea.

They are upping his speech therapy and will be doing 2 group sessions with him a week to increase his social skills. They are also doing more social and living skills with OT. They will be doing a PT eval.
He will be in a normal class, but they will be installing an amplification system in the class. He will be seated near the speaker, so that the teacher's words will be coming to him through that, to decrease the distractions. We talked about headphones or the speakers, and we are going to start with the speakers so he isn't "that kid with the headphones", ya know?

They will be taking him out of the classroom for a bit every day to go over the things that he learned that day and make sure he was able to process the things the teacher taught. They will do a lot of emphasis on language arts at that time, since that is his area of weakness.

He will have extended time for all tests, and he will be given all tests in a separate, quiet room.
He will have a special picture and word schedule taped on his desk, and they will be very strict about keeping to that schedule, so as to prevent transitional meltdowns.

The teacher will try out both a bumpy seat (which he currently uses) and a weighted lap pad, to see which one seems to have a better effect on him and they will go from there with that.

We as a team will be working on a behavioral plan for him as the year progresses, as the teacher sees different areas that he may need some help in in that way.

Each day the teacher and all therapists HAVE to write in his book. I made sure this was put in his IEP, because the school has been really bad about communication in the past. Since we are going to be working on a behavior plan for him, this is pretty critical so we can see where he is having issues there and at home, ya know?

There is more I'm sure that I'm forgetting. But, although the first 20 minutes was not good, the rest of the meeting was great. I feel like they finally started listening to me. I find it sad, though, that in order for the school to really listen to me and be willing to work with me for him, I had to have a bazillion reports in front of them listing how "abnormal" he is. They should be willing to protect ALL the children in that school, not just the "abnormal" ones.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Diagnosis Autism

This last year has been long. I feel like I've been at war with the school this whole time. And now, after much frustration, stress, money, time, and energy ... we have 2 new diagnosis for T. First is Central Auditory Processing Disorder. Second is Autism. I've scheduled a CSE meeting for next week, where we (the advocates from The Resource Center) and I will give the diagnosis and recommendation sheets to the school and see what they will finally be willing to do for my son.
The recommendations the doctors have made are for a quiet room to take tests in, longer periods of time to take tests, a set of headphones for Timmy to drown out background noise and focus on the teacher (who will have a microphone that goes to the headphones), and a lot of other things.
We've had battle after battle with everything regarding T, so I'm hoping with these 2 diagnosis, along with the speech eval we had done last summer, that they will finally step it up. Get him back into doing speech therapy 3x a week, which they refused to do EVEN THOUGH THE DOCTOR SAID HE NEEDED IT. Continue his OT. Make the special accommodations for him that he needs in the classroom. And they have to get an aide on the bus for him. This is something that HAS to be done. They allowed him to be hurt over and over again on that bus. He was picked on because he is different. He was picked on because he was unable to read the social cues that the other children were giving him. He couldn't read those social cues because he is Autistic. They refused to protect him. I had to take him out of school to do so, because of their refusal. If he goes back to school, they NEED to have an aide on that bus to protect him.
I will not back down about the aide. I will NOT. I've already contacted a lawyer, that is willing to take this case on for free to make sure the school steps it up, finally.

Anyway ... I really hope that this meeting will be the last big battle. PLEASE let it be the last big battle with the school.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A very crafty safari birthday!

Adrian and Niko are 1 year, 1 week and 1 day apart in age. This makes for a very busy and chaotic time at birthday time. This year we decided to have their classmate birthday parties together, to save on my stress level and on costs. Adrian was turning 5, and Niko was turning 6.

I have to tell you, my mom bought me a subscription to FAMILY FUN magazine last year and it was one of the best gifts she could give me. That magazine is just FULL of awesome ideas. We had planned on using a lot of the ideas from it to host an outdoor party for the boys. Problem was, though, the weather man started predicting severe thunderstorms for the day of their party! Ack! So the day before the party I started doing some major research on the Family Fun website and came up with a new game plan. One that would keep us all safe and dry in the house for the party. And then I commenced shopping.

We don't have a lot of money. Definitely not enough money to spend a ton on their party. We wanted them to have a BLAST. We wanted all the kids that came to comment on how awesome the party was, but we couldn't ring all the bells and whistles for them with a bounce house or a magician or anything like that. So I HAD to come up with some really cool things to do with these kids.

Another issue we had was that we couldn't do a cake and ice cream type of party. Due to my 2 boys having to be gluten free, plus other classmates that have gluten, peanut, tree nut, dye, fake sugar and preservative issues, I had to do something different. I decided we would do all fresh fruit. I knew that no one in either class had any allergies to fruit. So fruit and bottled water it was!
Here are the invitations that I made up on the computer and printed out on card stock ... and then cut them all out and sent them in to school with them.

I made one for Niko and one for Adrian. They were the same, except for picture and names.

And then I went shopping ...
Shopping list
1. 1 large foam board - white - $1
2. 3 large poster board - green - $1.50 total (.50 each)
3. 1 package black markers - $1
4. 1 package 4x6 assorted colors foam -$1
5. 1 package googly eyes - $1
6. 1 package paper lunch bags - $1
7. 2 packages birthday blowers - $2 total
8. 8 packages creepy crawly things (2 frogs, 2 lizards, 2 snacks, 2 bugs) $8
9. 3 packages bouncy balls - $3
10. 3 packages silly straws - $3
11. 2 packages pencils - $2
12. 1 package paper plates - $1
13. 1 package construction paper - $2
14. 1 package clothes pins - $2
15. 1 package raffia -$2
16. Different fruits - $40

Total-$71.50 (This would be much cheaper if you had just made a cake & had some ice cream).
1-12 I bought at the Dollar Tree.
13-16 I bought at Wal-Mart.

Okay... so here is the link to Family Fun's awesome Jungle expedition theme party. They even have great printables on there to help you out! I used them!

The first thing I made when I got home from shopping was the Trumpeting Elephants.

You'll need the birthday blowers (the birthday paper slides right off these).

You'll also need half of the package of the foam sheets. I used the pink, green and blue ones for the elephants.
Next, you'll want to take the template you can print from their website. I had to make this a little smaller than the one on the site, to be able to fit these 4x6" sheets.

Trace it onto the foam sheets and cut out.

Now cut an x in the three indicated spots.

Now thread your blower through the three holes. This is a side view.

Front view. I had the kids decorate the faces when they got to the party!
Ok... one thing done and ready to go for the party.

Ugh ... decorations! What was I going to do to decorate for this thing???
This is where the construction paper and the green poster board comes in. This is super easy, and super cheap!
First, follow the directions here and make these zig zag streamers. They are super fast and totally make the room look like it has jungle vines.
Then use the green poster board to draw big jungle like leaves on, cut them out and take them all around on the walls.

Next I worked on the foam & clothespin jungle animals.
I got the inspiration from Busy Bee Kid's Crafts.

You'll now use the rest of the foam sheets from earlier. So these ones were orange, yellow, and a reddish orange color.
Use the orange and cut out giraffe type shape. Yes, I do realize my giraffe looks more like a llama here. LOL

Use the yellow and cut out a lion head shape.

Use the orange-red and cut out a tiger head shape.
This was all I did to prep these for the party. During the party, though, I put out crayons, markers, and some paints to let the kids decorate them, and of course, googly eyes.

Here are a couple of the masterpieces, made by 5 & 6 year olds!

Another thing checked off the list.

The pinata ....
I used the idea from Family Fun magazine. Use their awesome printables to print out the tag for the bag. You'll need a paper bag for this. None of the stores around me uses them anymore, but in Wal-Mart over by the ice cream, they have paper bags for you to put your ice cream in. They are free. I used one of those and just turned it inside out so you couldn't see the printing.

I filled the pinata with tons of little toys that I picked up from the Dollar Tree. We couldn't fill it with candy, due to food allergies. Here is where I used the creepy crawly creatures, silly straws, pencils, bouncy balls, etc. Tape on the print out from the website, and then tie it up with raffia.
At the party we tied the pinata up to the basketball hoop and let the kids take a baseball bat to it! This was a huge hit with the kids. Haha .. pun intended!


Oh ... and as you can fully see, the weatherman was WRONG and it was GORGEOUS outside!
Phew! One more activity crossed off the list.

Another prep item I did up, was made a goody bag for every child that RSVP'd. I didn't fill the bags, because they would be filled up during the party from the pinata. But here is how I did them. Print out labels from Family Fun.
Tape the labels to the front of a brown paper lunch bag after you put the child's name on it.
Tape some raffia onto the back. Leave the ties open, so you can tie it up before they go home with their pinata goodies and their crafts in it.

A small and super quick craft you can do with the kids, is this hanging snake.

Last, and certainly not least, I decided to do a "Pin the tail on the Zebra" game with the kids. Here I took the thick foam board that I bought at the Dollar Tree, and drew a Zebra (missing it's tail) onto it. You can find some cool pics of zebras online that you can use to help you sketch up one on your foam board.
We used finishing nails to put it up on the wall. I then took some black yarn and braided it. We used push pins and let the kids try to pin the tail onto the zebra!

And here is a pic of the fruit set up with some label print outs from Family Fun! Grapes were Snakes eyes. Canteloupe cut into triangles was Crocodile Teeth. Kiwi was Beetle wings. The kids loved it all!
The party ended up turning out wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. I was pleased with the amount of children that showed up, the amount of money I spent, and the amount of happiness I saw on my boys' faces during the party!