Friday, February 25, 2011

Trouble comes in twos.

by Natalie (yes I am still alive, kind of)

One would think that two children from the same family, same parents, same environment, same diagnosis would respond to the same discipline and reward systems. One would think wrong. I have blogged about how wonderful the school district and service providers are for our two sons and they are, not doubt about it. But what happens when they come home? While they have made vast improvements we still seem to function at a sub par. Mike and Ike are like night and day personality wise and Spectrum wise.  Let me go into detail here.

Ike is a rule follower. We are talking the days of Moses rule follower. Do not walk more then 500 steps on Sunday, letter of the law, no exceptions! Don't get me wrong, he is a kind, sweet, sensitive boy, who enjoys other children. But if you do not follow the rules (his) or the scripts that he has been taught in school, watch out! He can turn nasty quicker than holiday shoppers at Walmart on Black Friday.This doesn't sound that outrageous. Every child goes through this phase. But he's 6 1/2. Most children are long past this stage at his age.

Now there is Mike. He is a very precocious child. Quick to laugh or try to make you laugh, goof off, and just plain get into trouble. He has very little impulse control and loves to be the center of attention. He is starting to use his wild imagination more and more and more importantly has learned how to annoy others. His lack of impulse control and attention seeking behaviors get him into a whole heep of trouble. Consequences mean nothing to him. This is my boy that laughs as I am punishing him. He responds inappropriately to situations and misses many social cues just like his brother. But what he lacks in understanding he makes up in improvisation.

Now to my problem. These two mix like oil and water. You are thinking to yourself, "well what siblings do get along"! When you have a rule follower and a free spirit cohabitating it makes for much frustration. To add insult to injury neither of them can control their reactions to each other. Talking to Ike about why Mike doesn't have to do something a certain way is like talking to a tree, it's glad your talking but wishes you talked treeish! He just doesn't understand. This is how (his) the world works, why is Mike allowed to do it differently?

Mike on the other hand loves to push Ike's buttons. He gets attention, doesn't matter that it is bad attention, it's attention. He will provoke and provoke and when you try to discipline or get him to understand why we don't poke sleeping bulls he just looks at you like, "why would you make me stop something that is so fun?!" Hence the laughing while I am punishing.

It is a never ending cycle. How do I try to have a peaceful life without turning my home into an extended school time. Do I seperate them until they are 40 so we can have a little peace? The tools the teachers give me for each of them are so time consuming I can't be doing both for each of the boys at the same time. It is always about consistency, but how can I be consistent with both at the same time? It is tiring and I find myself yelling, "I AM GOING TO MY ROOM, WHERE NO ONE WILL BOTHER ME, AND IF THEY BOTHER ME, THE WORLD WILL SHAKE WITH MY WRATH!!!!!" while they think it is funny and it sometimes stops the fits it is not the best discipline method.


or something like that.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Teachers and Moms: what they need most

There is a huge difference between a teacher who doesn't have children and a teacher who does.
There is a difference between a teacher who has children and a teacher who has children who have struggled or still do (most parents have at least one) and are still raising them or they haven't been gone from home for too long.  There just is.  Personally, I prefer the latter, to the nth degree!

I have been a teacher without children.  I was a child who did not struggle in school academically.  Sure, I was a little socially awkward, but I had friends.  I could read social cues.  Sure, I had my disciplinary moments, but I never remember crying over homework until I was in at least middle school or high school, and even then, it was minor. 

I have a college degree in elementary education.  I feel that I got a really good education from a really reputable, good university.  I taught for three years, and by the end of the three years, I felt like I was finally starting to get a hang of it all.  I was in my element.   My abilities to teach the curriculum were improving, and my empathy for my students were growing.  It was hard to quit teaching because I felt myself improving and progressing so much, but I didn't realize that I was missing some very important qualities and skills -- the skills that are the difference in a good teacher and an excellent teacher.

Let me be honest and say that no matter how much you've worked with kids, if you are not a parent of one who has struggled, you're missing something in your teaching vision (unless you just have this skill, which I know of some who do).  You just are.  I speak from experience.  I did not know what I lacked until the past two years.

I call it "vision" because until you've lived with it and seen it every day, you don't see what parents see.  Try as you might, you don't have that empathy.  How do I know?  I didn't have it.  I wanted to have it.  I had sympathy and felt bad, but I still didn't get it.  I think back on specific children that I taught that I wish I'd had the vision then.  I wish I could feel what the parents were feeling.

J.R. has had some fabulous teachers and therapists, but I can tell you who obviously didn't get it and who did.  His current teacher GETS IT.  He is safe, secure and loved in her classroom.  I feel that he is safe, secure, and loved in her classroom.  She listens to me.  I don't have to plead my son's case very hard.  She's willing to try new things -- anything to help him succeed and feel successful.  I feel like we are a team, and this is what moms need most: teammates. Not a boss; not a know-it-all; not a professor, A TEAM.

I never feel like she is the teacher taking control, telling me what works best because she has the degree: because she is the teacher.  I KNOW I did that several times.  I never hear, "but LeMira . . ." unless it's "but he's doing so well, and I just think the world of him." 

For example, in recent weeks, I had been informed of a study* done a few years ago about the effectiveness of exercise balls replacing chairs in classrooms, especially for children with ADD, ADHD, and an ASD (autism spectrum disorder).  At the parent/teacher conference last week, I mentioned it to J.R.'s teacher, and asked how she felt about me bringing one in for him.  Not even hesitating she responded, "Absolutely.  Let's try it."  After one day of it, she wanted one for every student in her classroom.  J.R. takes the ball with him to math and to his special ed classroom.  Mrs. D. has the vision, and I love her for it.

Another teacher at my son's school who gets it is the librarian.  She and I hit it off when we discovered that her oldest son struggled with the same things that J.R. has been struggling.   Her son is twelve years older, but she has done so much.  When I vented to her about homework and trying to figure out something that works, she immediately volunteered her services.  For the last week, J.R. and I go to the library after school while she helps him with his homework.  He won't fight with her like he does with me (because I'm the mom), and he does better for her.  I help her daughter who is the same age as J.R. stay focused and answer her homework questions.  It's sort of a trade-off, although I think I'm getting a better deal (I think I need to make her some cookies or take her to lunch. . . hmm. . .).   This teacher has the vision.

I thank the Lord that He guided me to put my son in this charter school with teachers who get it.  One day, if I ever go back to be a classroom teacher, I know that my vision will be different.  I only hope that I will "get it," too.

*Here's a USA Today article written about one example:  No Chairs, Students get the "Wiggles Out" on Exercise Balls.   (If you want a copy of one of the research papers done on it, I can email it in PDF format to you, just let me know.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

On the Flip Side

by LeMira

I have spent so much time talking about the struggles that my son and I deal with lately that I realized that I haven't shared with you the amazing things he does.  This post is dedicated to my very talented son.

Did you know that my son is a walking calendar?  He remembers dates better than anyone.  He can remember what day last year we got our trampoline (April 24), and I'm certain he could remember what day of the week that was.   He'll remember your birthday better than you will.  I'll never be able to lie about my age with him around, ever.    I should just post my entire extended family birthday dates and see how quickly he can memorize it.

Did you know that my son can remember music very well?  While he struggles with singing in groups, he doesn't forget the music.  He can even make sound effects very well with his throat.  Maybe one day he'll be in an a cappella group.  He also knows the entire Pledge of Allegiance (known it since he was 3 1/2) and can sing the National Anthem all the way through.

Did you know that my kid can make just about anyone smile?  He loves to tell jokes and share stories.  He wants to be your friend, and it bothers him when he's hurt a person's feelings.

Did you know that my son has been able to count beyond one hundred for over a year and a half?  Did you know that he can tell time down to the minute, and he's only in Kindergarten/first grade?!! 

In the video below is another example of what "autism" can do.  While it can be very difficult to live and deal with, it brings some amazing abilities.  The key is to recognize and enhance them.