Tag Archives: preschool

Rolling Rolling Rolling….

5 Aug

You Got To Roll Me….

Originally uploaded by CleverIndie

Keep the dice a rolling

keep the game a moving

don’t ever lose that die!

Rain and wind and weather

hell bent for jenga*

wishing my bro would lose and cry…
*uses a six sided, six color die according to wikipedia.org. Yes. I checked. Would you expect less of me?
We are just getting to the point where playing board games is not eerily reminiscent of my childhood (as an only child, living in the middle of the woods, no cable, and I was the weird kid. I learned to play every game by myself. Even hide and go seek. It’s true. More on that someday. I’m just starting to own that part of me.)…

Alex will sit and play and follow directions (with a great deal of repetition on our part) for a little bit- though his attention is still somewhat short…

All of the games we have happened upon lately seem to have die or dice involved. We have been rockin’ the Monopoly Jr., Clue Jr., and Mouse Trap.

Part of the motor skill challenge has been rolling the die or dice (and actually having it change to a random side). Part of the “I have an almost 6 year old” challenge has been getting him to not pretend to roll it so that he miraculously gets 6 every time, because at almost 6 bigger always seems better even if it gets you sent back to the start of the game board.

We also tend to play around our lovely Noguchi glass coffee table as we can all sit comfortably (and my work is usually overpowering our little kitchen table…Still want my Edison farmhouse table. Someday it will be mind. Someday.) Not only is there glass, there are a few choice knick-knacks near by that are probably not-so-durable and there are two big club chairs and a love seat. My arthritis refuses to get down on the floor to retrieve overzealously thrown dice (actually it’s more of a problem evolving back into an upright position these days).

And I fear glass chips and broken knick-knacks. And face it, my kiddo is wonderful with many things, but his motor skills are a major work in progress.

So here is my solution.

I took a tin with a clear lid (the lid covering is plastic- I do not suggest trying this with a glass-topped tin) that is of the “deep” variety (I got them from SpecialtyBottle.com – the one shown in my image is a 4oz/deep). I popped the die in, closed the lid (the lid isn’t terribly loose but it is not secured outside of friction- so if you feel you need a sturdier hold try some masking or electrical tape around the edges.

And voila! Alex can shake-shake-shake and I no longer have to go fishing for game pieces, the coffee table is intact, and my curios are happy campers and have removed their helmets and safety goggles.

This also helps teach him the rules of “rolling” – he has to give it a few shakes and put it down. This has made a huge difference in his comprehension of rules- those of the game and those little social game play rules. Eventually he’ll roll by himself, but for now this lets us play and show him the joy of playing boardgames as a family. He can focus on playing and not obsessing over this one small part.

The containers are too big to squeeze into most manufacturers game boxes and I like to keep all parts in their respective boxes, so we have one “rolling” container. If he was younger and more apt to try to consume the parts during game play, we would probably secure the lid more permanently.


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Hugs and Kisses

1 Feb


Originally uploaded by CleverIndie

Update: Kiddo seems to be doing a little better…. He seems out of his shell, but operating at a more immature level than we are used to (selective hearing… pretending it’s opposite day ’round the clock…Not answering questions…somewhat hyperactive compared to baseline)… I guess time will tell… Starting a new schedule for him tomorrow that will hopefully help him. Feeling the pressure to bring in info for school but at the same time don’t want to overwhelm his teachers… That and all of a sudden he’s rejecting the idea of bringing his weighted vest(he calls it his huggyvest) to school, so I need to dig deeper on that one and I need to write out a comprehensive (but not overwhelming) sheet on it so it isn’t used inappropriately… Ideally I would like the teachers to suggest that he use it and leave it up to him… It’s not weird looking with his clothes- it actually matches his uniform and doesn’t look weirdly therapeutic… When he got it last summer he didn’t want to wear it to school because he didn’t want the other kids to feel bad that they don’t have one… Hopefully this is still the case… I’ll update the blog this week with a breakdown of his “toolkit”…

Anyway, Happy Superbowl Sunday!

I’m making my famous chili…Some ingredients are so secret that I forget them, so it’s a long process…. I don’t use a recipe. I wing it, build the flavors, tweak the ingredients… It’s an epic meditative cooking experience.. But I recruited kiddo and hubby to remember to stir it every few minutes so I can still rest… Feeling pretty crummy as I’m sweeter than I should be… Nothing is working the same way twice with my diabetes these days, so I’m learning on my feet…Dreading my visit to the endocrinologist this week as I am still mad about the dexcom (he prescribed it even though it’s contraindicated in regards to my other prescriptions, and I want those other prescriptions back!) and last time he told me “Diabetes isn’t hard to control”….Ahhh spoken like a non-d person…. We shall see..

Back to the pretty picture….

The image shows shrinky dink hearts that has/is an occupationally therapeutic project. We are making Valentine cards for school (he loves hearts…hearts and starts are his favorites, but he sees a heart and says “a heart means love” and smile this sweet little smile…)…

So, he used his muscles and hand eye coordination to punch the shrinky dink hearts out using the giant hole puncher. When his arms and hands got tired he worked on his balance and stepped on the hole punch… Thankfully, those silicone baking mats are awesome for projects such as these- a little cushioning and a little non-slip grip…

Then he wrote xo on them which involved planning ahead for spacing…

Then we baked ’em up and he sat in front of the oven giggling like a madman as the hearts curled up and popped like jumping beans before shrinking completely and flattening out….

Next step? I think we have had a request for glitter… I’ll post an update when they are fully sparkly…

Until then….



Alex’s Wishes.

29 Jan

Alex is back at school today. We had a good meeting with his principal to discuss safety, Asperger’s, and helping him and she had a brilliant idea. She is going to talk to his teachers about changing his school schedule, not because of what happened on Tuesday, but to give him more space and attention, so his sensory stuff won’t be the focus, and he can flourish…. He seemed a little better today, I sent him off with his qcharm bracelet (will blog more later, it’s pretty cool) and hugs, and I printed out a social story on bullies. School apparently thinks this is an isolated event. I hope they are correct. They thought the boys were just playing rough. I mentioned the foot prints on Alex, and we had a good discussion about playgrounds, bullies, and kids who can’t understand intent.

I have been meaning to share this with all of you… This is a note Alex wrote to his Dad when his Dad was up in Boston in November, visiting his dad/Alex’s Grampy (he has lymphoma, but at that point he was in ICU barely holding on, so we got hubby up there as quick as possible to help his family and be with his dad)…

Alex may not understand people’s intent. And he is not so good at reading facial expressions, subtext, that sort of thing. He is very black and white, not a smidgen of gray area.

He does understand: Happy and Not Happy.

He wants us to be happy. We do our best to make sure he knows that any tears, any anger, and crankiness is not because of him and we try to show him and tell him that we love him and that he belongs here with us, in our family, and that we are a team. He knows we love him and that won’t go away.

But he does know when we aren’t happy. It’s a reminder of how kids read the undercurrent of emotion in a household, in a family, between parents. If my kid, who has difficulty with social communication, can sense this and simplify it so that it means something to him, how are (for lack of a better term) neurotypical kids understanding what our families go through all the time, but especially now in this time of great strain in our world- how are they perceiving family security, relationships, economic hardship, violence anywhere? I half watch the news every night and if I had to sum it up in Alex’s terms I’d say “not happy” would be the state of the world… Hope is everywhere, change is upon us, but change is difficult on everypart of our bodies, our minds, our families… It takes time. But as a point in time I’d have to say “not happy” seems to be everywhere… The principal mentioned that everything- the general vibe, the volume, the attitude- has changed at school. She thinks the kids are feeling the changes in their homes, the worries, the strife. I believe that.

Anyway, Alex knew Grampy was very sick, so every night we blew wishes (kisses, but he tends to hear things a little off…like playing operator) and they flew up to the ceiling, got caught in the current of the ceiling fan and flew to the door…I’d open the door and out they would fly to the universe to make the universe happy so it could help Grampy. Pretty fantastical and abstract, but there are a few things he takes, in his rule based world, as fact. Blowing wishes and holding them and letting them go when someone needs the help of “best wishes” is fact, it’s real. And it is soul soothing for both of us.

Alex wrote this note to his Dad. He announced he was going to write his “rules for Daddy”…

Here they are:

Alex's Rules for Daddy.

Alex's Rules for Daddy.

Yesterday, when we returned from school and the post-meeting trip to Target (out of printer ink and diet dr. pepper…yes I admit it. I can’t function without the stuff and I don’t drink coffee and some days tea does not cut it as much as I love love love tea), he wanted to use my little stapler that had been relocated from the fridge (magnetic everything!) to my nightstand as I had been in bed organizing his papers earlier in the day. So I sent him to get paper and he came back with his little notebook (that I forgot he had…he has a big guy journal he writes in on occasion, but this one has been around since he was a baby…it was his blues clues notebook for a while, but we kept forgetting it) and showed me that he wanted to staple the letter he wrote. He managed to get two staples into the sheet and still wouldn’t listen that staples are connectors/fasteners so I decided to give him a visual demonstration and I asked him for the paper.

While Jeff and I were in the kitchen talking, when he was hanging out in his room listening to his Ode to Joy CD, after the playground thing, he wrote this in his notebook:

Letter to Mama and Daddy

Letter to Mama and Daddy

“They were not being happy. Please be happy. xo Alex”

It doesn’t seem to register to him that it is ok to be unhappy. I have tried, and will continue to try, to instill in him that a negative emotion is a sign that something needs to change- something major or something minor- that it’s a sign (I call it a green light) to figure out what and why something is making one not smile and a point from which to make things different and better. Sounds more complicated than it is…Basically, I’m giving him the tools to break things down so he can understand them better- the tools to see the colors that make up the big picture. Again, sounds more complicated than it is. We have seen moments of it working, one of the techniques is writing or drawing…

This was what he wrote… We are worrying about him and he is worrying about us.

So we are breaking it down further, and we do need to find a better way to help him understand that he makes us happy, but that’s not his job and that he brings us great joy, but he isn’t responsible for bringing us joy.

I guess I just don’t want him to feel like he has ever failed us. I don’t want him to waste his time feeling responsible for our happiness, I rode that treadmill for over 30 years until I finally realized I had to get off or I would lose what was left of me, I don’t want him to ever feel that…. I’m digesting the shame and confusion he has felt since the incident on Tuesday and it is paralyzing (and dehydrating). I asked him about the playground and the kids and their faces and their words and he blushed. He was embarrassed about it. I have never seen his cheeks rosy other than from exercise.

Unfortunately, his take on this is that the kids were happy they were hurting him.

But he knows he is sweet and smart and funny and kind and cute. He cannot connect why they hurt him to anything and takes it as fact, like just being happy to hurt him makes it an acceptable reason.

His teacher said this morning that she didn’t know it had been that bad on the playground as he sat and had lunch and didn’t cry or say much of anything. Then again, she doesn’t know the shell he disappears into as well as we do. Perhaps now the lines of communication and the potential for education will be wide open…

Hubby just left to go observe playground time…

Fingers and everything else crossed…



Ode to Joy…

3 Jan

Not what it seems…

Originally uploaded by CleverGirlBek

Boy loves music. LOVES it.
Making it, listening to it…

Obsesses over it…

This month his heart song is “Ode to Joy”…So for Christmas I made him a mix of 14 versions of Ode to Joy that I downloaded from iTunes…
There’s a version done with power tools, the traditional choral and symphonic versions, 80’s synth, bagpipes, and didgeridoo…

He listens to it on repeat while he rests and sleeps… He walks around the house during the day singing it (the musical notes…he has perfect pitch and can repeat anything he has heard once with eerie precision)…

In this photo he is wearing what looks like headphones- they are actually sound muffs/hearing protectors… They don’t put one in a sound-free environment, instead they dampen nuisance sound fairly well…Thanks to these we no longer have to be as neurotically strategic about vacuuming or blender use…The day we got these I used the dustbuster, the regular vacuum, and I pureed some stuff. WITH BOY IN THE HOUSE and he was happy as a clam… These are actually for the supermarket which is one of the places he avoids like the plague because it’s sensory overload for him…

Anyway, in this photo it looks like he’s “conducting” the music in his ‘phones, but really he’s conducting the music in his soul (while trying to fit himself in a box from Amazon.com…. he wanted it to be his personal time machine but the “doors” didn’t close him in completely so he decided that time travel would not be safe in this box and he is now eagerly awaiting visits from UPS (more than usual)…

Oh, and before I sign off, I must recommend “Not a Box” (and “Not a Stick”)…  A wonderful and simple picture book on using a box (it’s not a box, it’s a ….) creatively… Really helped kiddo think, um, outside the box (he’s pretty inflexible, in general, so this was a huge step for him…)

Hope the New Year is sparkling for all of  you…



ps.  I’m on twitter these days… Stop on by… CleverIndie on Twitter


13 Dec

Staying Dry.

Originally uploaded by CleverGirlBek

Here is Alex…It was raining hard when he came home from school. He wanted to play out on our lanai. I talked him through finding a towel and how he would use it to dry his feet when they got wet on the lanai.

So he put the towel down on the wet lanai and shuffled around outside with his feet tucked into it. He got soaked. The towel? Soaked.

I realize now that I didn’t walk him through and show him: where to put the towel, the precise sequence of events from putting the towel down as a mat, through every detailed movement of his spontaneous play outside, and eventually over to the mat, nice and warm inside the house, to dry his feet.

Because that’s what he needs. Precision. He is intensely rule based and fairly non-flexible.

But he’s wonderful.

But I’m exhausted.


What I want to talk about today is labels.

Alex has a label now. It’s not a precise label, it’s very broad for now, but we now have a label. For us a label is a tool, it is for communication and for research to find the help we need to help him have a happy and healthy life.

So here is my assignment for you. Close your eyes and think what either of the following word means to you. Embrace your interpretation. Then scroll down. (If you would like to, you may anonymously share your initial thoughts in the comments area….don’t worry you will not be judged…I went through this…I’m still going through this….)


Ok. Here is the DSM IV (from NIH)/Diagnostic Criteria for Autism and Asperger’s…. Please read them carefully…

Diagnostic Criteria for 299.00 Autistic Disorder

1. A total of six (or more) items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3):
1. qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
1. marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
2. failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
3. a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)
4. lack of social or emotional reciprocity
2. qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following:
1. delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime)
2. in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
3. stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language
4. lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level
3. restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
1. encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
3. stereotyped and repetitive motor manners (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
4. persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

2. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years: (1) social interaction, (2) language as used in social communication, or (3) symbolic or imaginative play.
3. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Rett’s Disorder or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.

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Diagnostic Criteria for 299.80 Asperger’s Disorder

1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
1. marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
2. failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
3. a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
4. lack of social or emotional reciprocity
2. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
1. encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity of focus
2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
3. stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
4. persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
3. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
4. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years).
5. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
6. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.

Looking at the criteria, has your view on what Autism means changed?

I know mine did.

If you are a parent with a kid with PDD of any type- what was your crash course like? What has your experience been with other people understanding even the basics of autism and what it means?
With the amount of Autism news everywhere, I’m amazed that the news outlets virtually never cover the criteria. I get that the human interest story is the child who has the most symptoms and the most impairment, or the greatest non-autism hardship that affects their autism, or their family’s ability to provide for them and their special needs. i really do understand that… But the focus completely on the human interest side, and the lack of an explanation of what autism is, without delving into severity, is doing a great disservice to many children. My dad insists that nobody thinks that autism is really bad parenting and lack of discipline. Then again, he doesn’t read the comments after articles online and he has never been to Target and experienced the full-on Alex fallout because the kid can’t handle the lights and sounds. He has never been there when an old man informs me that “a good beating” would fix Alex because that’s what worked on his kids… And this isn’t just one experience. It is many. Those people are out there. I am grateful that I can express the why to the judgmental butt-inski’s of the world with one word.

And I am reminded (and I have to find the source of the quote) of the mom on a message board that said, to the “well meaning” stranger, “If a kid had cancer would you try to spank it out of him?”

Many people see autism in two ways, there’s the “all autism looks like Rainman. If the kid isn’t acting like Rainman, it’s clearly a discipline problem.” (by the way, you can read about Kim Peek, who was the inspiration for Rainman, on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Peek)…

And there are the people who see it as purely a discipline problem. (and people like Dennis Leary. I will not get into that at this time.)

And then there are the people who live with it every single second of every single day, be it their own or their child’s or their patients (does not apply to all doctors…we have found that out…We are just learning, yet by reading the basics we seem to know more than some of the physicians)…

So when I use a label to explain something my kid does, please don’t assume or treat us like we are:
1. Trying to restrict our child’s success in life.
Pretending this doesn’t exist is cruel and more restrictive than a true label.

2. Looking for a problem.
We are not looking for a problem. It is there. This didn’t happen overnight. We have known our child for almost 5.5 years. Frankly, we are greater experts in Alex than anyone reading this. We, with the help of family, friends, and a few undereducated professionals, gave the benefit of the doubt too many times. That has delayed helping him in such a dramatic way that has made his treatment more complicated, exhausted all of us, and worse, it has damaged his self-esteem.

3. Restricting him from enjoying life.
We are working hard with Alex so that he may enjoy life, understand it, and not be so scared of things like moderate to loud sounds and the lights at the grocery store. We do not restrict him from anything. Alex requires extra effort from us to keep him safe, due to various issues. This is not us being paranoid. It is us being responsible and keeping our child alive. When he was a preemie, someone with a cold could have infected him and killed him. Now that he is 5, the safety issues are different, but he requires the same vigilance. He falls down and gets hurt (frequently. the child is blessed with my physical grace.), he gets sick from playing with the kid with the snotty river drying on his face at school. We want Alex to have the ability to make good choices for himself in life, so he can experience more and give more to the world. Keeping him alive and giving him the tools he needs to even just have a back and forth conversation are important parts of this. We are not restricting him, we are helping him explore his world. If you need further description, what may appear as restriction to an outsider (anyone who doesn’t live with this every day) is actually comparable to providing a wheelchair bound person with a ramp. We are giving Alex his ramp.

4. Bad parents.
We take this parenting thing very seriously and because of Alex’s needs, we also do work harder at parenting and learning to be better parents, than many folks (not all by any means, and everyone has their *thing*) who have an average or neurotypical kid who just needs the basics (love, food, basic health care, clothing, and a roof over their head). We also have to be teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, detectives, physicians, psychologists, behavioral specialists, nutritionists, project managers, and schedule everything with the precision of a railway scheduler/conductor.
So before you judge us to be bad parents, or suggest we “just love him”, know what you are judging and in most cases, know that you have only read the brochure about this land we inhabit, you have never been there or even seen the extensive slide show or even checked Amazon to see if there is a Fodor’s or Lonely Planet guide for our world.

Anyway, enough of my babble. I guess I just want everyone to listen before they judge. (and yes, I have both complete strangers and someone close to me in mind when writing this)…. Learn before you preach.

I also find that the people who lecture on labels and applying them to anyone, are people who have never had anything in their lives that are worthy of a label. Most people who have a label (and to clarify I’m not talking about labels thrown around in name calling and derogatory fashion…I’m talking about labels to describe a fact.) understand how necessary and helpful they are….

Hugs all around…

(by the way, in case I didn’t mention it in my lengthy entry, Alex has PDD-an extremely broad label that contains Autism and other disorders….We are 99.9% sure he has Asperger’s… You can check out WrongPlanet.org for more info on Asperger’s…)

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