Teacher Professor

February 23, 2011

Running Your Own Race

Filed under: Exceptionality issues,Gifted,Schools — Teacher Professor @ 5:29 pm

This past weekend we did the Bridge Run.  Or as it is more formally known, the Southeast Georgia Health System Bridge Run.  It was a 5K- up and over the bridge for 1.5 miles and back again- a 6% grade, or so I am told.  The steepest “hill” around- the highest point in the region, and the highest bridge in Georgia.  A little Run that had about 800 people two years ago, and swelled to 2500 people this year.  This year, we had Kenyans in the crowd who came here just to run it.  It’s turned serious.

Hoewver, more than that, it was the bridge that we spent New Year’s on top of- the bridge where at the midpoint of the midnight, we were hovering in that space and time between.  There was no way I wasn’t going to do the Run this year.

Truthfully, I should say James and I walked the Bridge Run, because as Jess from Diary of a Mom says, I only run if blood is involved.  James used to run, but let’s just say it’s been a while for him and leave it at that.  He and I walked.  Together.  Not hand-in-hand as an elderly couple were, but we kept pace with each other- him with his six-foot-tall-on-a-good-day pace,  and me trotting beside him.   We talked; we hugged at the top; we held each other’s necks when the other was gasping for air.

Elizabeth was coming off of an injury to her heel, and she alternated between running and walking.  And Ray… Ray was our little marathoner.  He ran more than the race, because he kept doubling back to run with Elizabeth until he outpaced her, when he would double back again.  We joked that he ran the race twice.

I was so struck while I was trudging up and down the Bridge at how many different ways people were going about this.  There was one woman who clearly had some form of physical disability that impacted her gait.  She wasn’t in the best of shape.  We walked around her easily when we were behind her.  However, we stopped fairly often on the road back- to catch our breath, to ask someone to take our picture on the summit, to tie a shoe… and in all cases, we found ourselves again behind the woman who kept putting one foot in front of the other.

There were the serious runners- the ones who were here for the race aspect and who were competing.  There were the serious runners who just love to run.  There were the firemen- and one firewoman!- who were running as part of their training.  There were the old couples who were out for a nice walk.  There were the people who were there to go over the bridge.  There were the political-statement makers who walked carrying banners.

The beauty of the Bridge Run was that everyone was allowed to run their own race.  There was an order of things so that people didn’t get in each other’s ways- the serious runners went first, the team runners went second, the team walkers went next and the out-for-a-good-time walkers went last.  Everyone got to play.  Everyone got to feel the joy of being up on top of the world.  Everyone got to enjoy the music and the free doughnuts afterwards.  Some finished earlier; some took a while.  Everyone did the same distance.

Some got medals.  Some got a personal best.  Everyone got an experience they won’t soon forget.  Everyone got to run their own race.

**************

If only schools allowed children to run their own race.  If we are to hold children to the same standard, then we have to make adjustments to other parts of the educational experience- the time we teach them or the pace at which they go.  I’m certainly not the only one who feels this way.  The National Center on Time and Learning has noted how we are expecting so much more of schools these days- challenging standards, anyone?- yet, the actual time given to learning is so much smaller than the time given to schooling in other countries.

This issue of time affects gifted children and children with disabilities equally.  When gifted children are constrained because they are not provided challenge at a pace that they need, their energy level and love of learning drops.  When children with learning disorders face demands that are unreasonable, they also become frustrated and their love of learning drops.  When we assign children to a lock-step program of time and content being held constant, then there is a need for special education and gifted education to deal with those children who aren’t running the race that everyone is running .

One of the things that has always appealed to me about the Montessori philosophy is their mantra of “follow the child“.  While children of similar age ranges are grouped together, and while they are in school for the same amount of time- when a child is ready for the next “step” of a curriculum, they are provided that step, whether others of their age are working on that level or not.  The children go through the curriculum at their own pace, socializing with their age peers, learning from their friends, teaching those who are starting in their content they just mastered- but facing their own personal challenges. There is no need for gifted education or special education in a Montessori classroom….

**********

And so we were not pursuing a medal.  We each had our own goals.  And Elizabeth and Ray and James and I stood on top of that soaring expanse and felt our spirits soar- not because we were in a race with anyone else, but because we had run our own race.

Heading up!

Music at the Top

We're on the Top of the World

3.1 miles later! Goal met!

February 21, 2011

Perils of Being a Professor’s Child

Filed under: College information,Gifted — Teacher Professor @ 3:44 pm

Being a professor’s child means that anytime I have to show my teachers-in-training an example, I volunteer my own children.  They have been assessed for my assessment class; they have done “developmentally appropriate tasks” in Piaget Day, they have had their pictures and their work displayed as examples of exceptionality/ gifted/ typical development- depending on what I was teaching.  They are the subjects of my book.  In short, they are guinea pigs. 

Note: I have not -yet- gone to the extremes that Skinner or Piaget did, which is devise entire educational philosophies off of their own children. 

Today is Presidents’ Day, which means that they are off from school, and I am not.  Which means that James is not off, either, since we both work at the College.  Which means that we play the “Sooo- what do we do with the children?” game.  We have no family here; and my babysitters are, well, in class with the Middle Grades group (I don’t use my own Elementary program students for babysitters- so, the middle grades professor and I trade off ).  So, this morning , I took them with me to my class and this afternoon, James took them home where he worked on the computer there.

 I sold the children on the experience that they had an opportunity to help my students become teachers by being real live children, and that my students would be nervous.  I tried to sell this as an opportunity, and not just a “I don’t know what else to do with you because I can’t stay home because I’m a teacher.”  Elizabeth bought it as an opportunity to help and an opportunity to stand in front of an audience, while Ray went for bribery- $5 each for playing along and working with the students.  Fame and money are motivators for my children. 

I sold my students on the experience that they would get an opportunity to “practice” asking Higher Order Thinking  Skills (HOTS) on real live children!  I tried to sell this as an opportunity and not just a “I didn’t know what else to do with the children and I couldn’t stay home with them because I’m the teacher“.  They bought it as an opportunity to practice- and an opportunity to humor their professor.  No bribery involved for my students.

I reminded my students of three models of asking questions they had seen before (Fat/Skinny, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and Paul’s Wheel of Reasoning) that require children to think- and then gave them 5 minutes to draft 2-3 questions.  Then, my children stood in front of 28 adults and prepared to answer questions that might cover any content area, any grade level.  I knew that they were nervous- but I was so proud that they were willing to do it. 

Student A- What do you know about the 1970’s?

  • Elizabeth: They had one-room school houses? Taking the lead, because she’s older- and bossier.
  • Ray: If you were born then, you’re really old.

Lots of laughter- and several groans.  Hmmm- must tell them more about the 1970’s.

Student B: How are addition and multiplication similar?

  • Elizabeth: Multiplication is repeated addition
  • Ray: You just keep adding the same number that many times.
  • Elizabeth: Like 3×5 is 3 plus 3 plus 3 plus 3 plus 3 and you get 15.
  • Ray (looking directly at his sister): What about 35×21?  Do that one!

Lots of laughter- and several groans.  And looks of respect.  And amused looks at how even under pressure, Ray is able to summon up sibling rivalry opportunities.

Student C: Why is studying history important?

  • Elizabeth: So that we can understand our past.
  • Ray: So that we can understand our future.
  • Me: Ray, can you explain what you mean?  Students- you need to ask “fat” questions to really get at a student’s thinking sometimes.
  • Ray: Because if you can see what you’ve been doing, you can predict what you’ll be doing again and again. 

Lots of looks of respect- especially from me.  Sometimes, my children truly blow me away. 

Then- because really, how do you follow that up?- we all clapped, and the children stepped off the stage and went back to my office to play A-mazing Hamsters on Webkinz.  They were guinea pigs; they were Real, Live Children– and they earned $5.  I think everyone gained something from this morning, including me as a mommy.

February 17, 2011

Can’t Get No Satisfaction- IEP version

Filed under: Autism,Schools — Teacher Professor @ 12:41 pm

A friend of mine from Vanderbilt’s Kenndy Autism Center and I are involved in some VERY interesting research- looking at parents’ and teachers’ satisfaction of how that IEP process works.  We all have our stories- heck, we all have our nightmares.  We go into an IEP like we’re going into a battle.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes, it doesn’t.  But IEPs are stressful for everyone involved. 

But there’s little to no research out there about what makes a “good” IEP experience- and what makes a “bad” IEP experience for families and teachers of kids with autism.  Almost none.  So… that’s where we come in.

What I am asking my readers to do- teachers, parents- anyone who has ever sat in on an IEP of a child with autism- is to fill out a survey that we’re doing.  You might need to copy and paste the URL of http://tinyurl.com/mla3wm into your browser. AND please, please forward this on to anyone you know- anyone else who has sat down at that IEP table- on either side, and share your story with us.  The survey itself should take no more than 10 minutes.  It will help us communicate to schools, advocates, and parents how to makes this process better. 

There will be some questions about your zip code- and if you’re not in TN or GA, you will get a message that says “Routing problem“, and then continue to offer questions.  If you have TN or GA zip codes, you will be asked about specific TN and GA advocacy groups.  If you’re not in TN or GA, please keep on,  but indicate if you DO use an advocacy group.

All information is anonymous- there is no place to put your name or any identifying information- it’s just an online survey with no way to track back to you or your child at allSo- go ahead.  Be honest.

I can’t emphasize this enough- We really, really want to hear from you.

IEP Survey for Parents & Professionals of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

What contributes to satisfaction with the IEP as written and implemented?

Is it…

1) Preparation for the IEP meeting?

2) Processes used for planning and conducting the IEP meeting?

3) Perceptions of the IEP meeting?

Please tell us!

Complete the survey at http://tinyurl.com/mla3wm

 

If you wish to take the survey on paper, call or email us with your address.

Lynnette Henderson, PhD               615-936-0448 or 866-936-8852
lynnette.henderson@vanderbilt.edu

Claire E. Hughes, PhD                 (912) 279-5848

cehughes@ccga.edu

February 15, 2011

Hand-icapped

Filed under: Autism,Home Things — Teacher Professor @ 1:37 pm

My first mistake was cooking dinner. 

That’s the joke I now give when people ask, with slightly averted eyes at the black, Frankenstein-like stitches sticking out of my finger.  Five of ’em.  On my left pointer finger. 

It was last Monday- and I was bound and determined to cut the overly not-quite-ripe-enough spaghetti squash for the dish that we had had last month and wonder of all wonders- Ray actually loved.  I’m trying to really focus on making sure that our family eats healthy “stuff” after a free-for-all during the holidays.  So, I’m trying to cut this obnoxious squash with a very good knife- a Christmas present, in fact.  One of those enormous cleavers with lots of serrations.  Perfect for those hard jobs.  Only, because I’m frustrated and I was fussing at the children to do some task, I ended up banging the squash up and down on the counter.  When the knife flew out of the squash.  And glanced my finger on its way down onto the cutting board. 

Rats.  I saw the cut and sighed.  I stopped nagging the children and went to the bathroom where I put a bandaid on it.  Just a little line.  Not really a big deal.  On my left hand- not my writing hand.  And I went back to the kitchen to finish cutting the squash.  Which I did and put it in the oven to roast. 

It was then that I noticed that maybe my finger was hurting a little bit and I looked down to see my finger dripping on the floor.  Large drips.  Back to the bathroom to take the bandaid off to check this out.

And soon, my bathroom looked like a murder scene.  I’m not crazy about blood anyways, and this was… gruesome.  I called for the children.  Something about my voice got them off the couch and they came into the bathroom, where I was holding a gauze pad over my finger.  I was not hysterical.  I was not scared.  Just calm and clear.  “Children, I need your help RIGHT NOW!”. 

And this is where I learned that despite her growth and her progress, I cannot yet count on Elizabeth in a crisis.  She turned pale, turned around immediately and disappeared as far away from me as she could in the house- back in the back corner- where she waited it out. 

Ray, to his credit, stood there and asked for directions with an attitude that only a pre-teen can do.  “Yea.  What?”  He cut surgical tape in pieces for me- throwing away one that was minisculely too short to his eyes, and watched while I wound it around my finger.  I complimented him on his level-headedness.  “Is that all?” he growled, and went back to his computer game. 

I looked at my gauze-wrapped finger again, and saw that the blood on the pad that I was applying pressure on so firmly was becoming soaked again.  I called my mother- because somehow Mother always knows how bad the hurt is even from a distance.  And so I called James and asked him to come home and take me to Urgent Care.  I turned off the oven.  At Urgent Care, I got lectured on the proper use of knives and that yes, it did need stitches because it was on the knuckle and it was deep, and I began to realize how very, very lucky I was not to lose the finger.  Or cut a nerve.  It hurt, and it needed stitches and it was large and ungainly, but it was still there.

Only, I couldn’t type very well.  I type- a lot.  I type my lesson plans.  I type my lectures onto Power Point slides.  I type on my book and I type to look up recipes.  I type to stay on Facebook and I type to stay in touch with my children’s teachers.  I could sortof type 9-fingered, but it was slow and it was awkward and you make a lot of typos typing 9-fingered.  A lot of typos.  And so, I’ve been hampered all week with my lack of communication.  I’ve let the blog slide and haven’t been on Facebook for a while.  I never realized before how my typing allows me to communicate- to plan- to think- to organize my thoughts.  I’ve been disjointed all week.  I’ve felt isolated. 

Tomorrow I get my stitches out.  Today, I took off the bandages and can move my finger freely and, other than a little pulling, with little pain.  And today, I can type again.  With full appreciation of how important even a finger is to keeping connected with the world.  And I have a far greater appreciation of my own fingers and how difficult it is for others with much, much greater communication issues. 

Elizabeth, with her own communication issues, who was so panicked that she couldn’t help me, has now decided that she’s afraid of knives- to the point of shrinking away from that part of the counter where they are kept and staying away from the dishwasher where they are washed.  This weekend, she moved her chair away from the knife we were using to cut the pizza (even healthy eating needs a break).  She has informed me that she will be having a private chef when she’s a grownup, so that she doesn’t have to work with knives.  She’s creating a phobia right before my eyes. 

I plan to start her rehabilitiation- right after mine.  I think that once my stitches are out and my finger less Frankenstein-y-looking, she’ll be better and I can start to work with her.    A little fear and healthy respect- respect that I regained- is a good thing.  Too much is disabling.  I plan on offering her a little steak in a few weeks- her favorite meal- and do a hand-over-hand therapy session.  Applied Behavior Analysis at its best…

And for the record, we ate the spaghetti squash dish the next day and it was delicious.

February 8, 2011

A Cascade of Accolades

Filed under: Gifted — Teacher Professor @ 6:50 am

We are definitely in the Awards Season.

No, not the Oscars or the Grammys.

The School Awards.

In the last month, Elizabeth, because of her strong math skills, has been nominated as the only fourth grade girl from her school to attend GA Tech’s Creative STEM program held in her county where they held a Robotics competition.  Her team- 1 boy and girl each from 4th and 5th grades- won 2nd place in the district and Most Creative overall.  I was thrilled that she was a girl in this oh-so-male-dominated activity, and represented oh so well!

Then, she is one of 5 from the state of Georgia to have a winning theme go to the National PTA Reflections contest.  Her theme “I’m Proud to Be…” was one of five picked throughout the state to represent Georgia.  If it wins National, children around the country will be reflecting on her theme in 2012-2013.

Not to be outdone, Ray’s photography entry into this year’s PTA Reflections contest focused on the theme “Together We Can…” won Glynn County’s contest for all 3-5th graders and is headed for the state competition.  He entered a picture of our family visiting Yiayia that said something like “… remember the past and touch the future.”  The great irony is that he had changed his mind and wanted the one of him playing soccer with something about “… find common goals”- but we ran out of photo paper!  As the PTA President told us, “The Reflections contest has been a very good thing for your children!”

Finally, Ray’s chess team won the regional championship and is headed for state.  This is particularly sweet since it’s a group effort.  He’s not the star, but he added to the total to get them there.

I tend to focus on the children’s areas of challenge because of my worries, because of our struggles, because of our tears. I know they’re smart and I know they’re wonderful, but I worry about what will impede them from becoming the best that they can be. I don’t want to brag- but I do think it’s as important to acknowledge the good times as well as the challenging moments.

Every now and then, it’s so nice to be reminded that- sometimes- they are who they are and that tears can be for joy as well.

February 7, 2011

Not-so-Super Bowl

Filed under: Autism,OCD,Uncategorized — Teacher Professor @ 7:25 pm

I had planned on grading some of my students’ papers.

I had planned on getting cozy in my fuzzy robe and snuggling with James to watch the 2nd half.

I had planned on cheering the Steelers to victory- or maybe booing to a defeat.  But I wanted victory… We DID live for a while outside of Pittsburgh and I know what a difference a winning Steelers teams means to them.

What I had not planned on was spending most of the 4th quarter holding my son and rocking with him in the rocking chair as he raged against his anxiety that the Steelers would pull a come-from-behind victory.  I have to say that I was very, very glad that the Steelers lost the ball in the last minute rather than making a miraculous touchdown because it saved me hours of calming afterwards.

Ray has been fixated about football for about six months now.  He started with UGA football, and moved on to selecting teams based on his opposition to us- Emily wanted Auburn to win in the BCBS title championship- therefore he turned in a University of Oregon fan.  I was cheering for the Steelers- therefore he’s a Green Bay fan.  He selects teams based on how much he wants to be resistant to the person who is a fan.

We went to a friend’s house for the first half.  He was cute then.  He wasn’t as tired and he could interact with other football fans.  He and our neighbor engaged in man-talk- exchanging stats and information.  Rick was amused at Ray’s fervor, but Ray was coherent and it was funny.  We all enjoyed the commercials. The Packers had a clear lead. We mostly enjoyed the halftime show (although it appears we were in the minority).

It was a different story when we got home.  Ray was tired and less in charge of his emotions- and so the not-focus, not-fixation, but primary-purpose-for-being started. He was shaking in his anger at his dad when James verbally analyzed the game to determine how the Packers could lose.  And the Steelers started a come-back. And continued to improve.  And with a minute to go, victory was possible.  And so, we wound up in the rocking chair, where I kept repeating my mantra “It’s a game.  It’s only a game.  It’s a game… ”

I have never been so glad to see the Steelers lose as I was last night.  (Sorry, Pittsburgh friends!).  Football season is completely over for six months. And maybe Ray can find a new fixation.  Although Ray informs me that the NFL draft has started. sigh…

It hurts me to watch him wrestle with whatever it is that’s got him anxious.  I know that by trying to control a game, he’s trying to control his life.  I know that he’s trying to learn all he can about football so that, as in his life, he can predict the outcome.

An outcome- that as any Steelers fan will tell you- is uncertain.

February 5, 2011

Medication Meditation

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Bipolar,Exceptionality issues,Medication issues,Tourette's Syndrome — Teacher Professor @ 3:33 pm

In the midst of my whining about my week, I got an email that reminded me that cars and cats notwithstanding, there are other roads and other issues that are not just small piranha bites, but great big Great White Shark weeks.

Let’s-call-her “Abbie” asked me about our decision to put Ray on medication.  She’s being pressured by her doctor and doesn’t know what to do.

Abbie, we faced the same decision point.  We agonized, we worried, and we knew that any direction we went would be unknown, scary and would make someone irritated.  Someone who would get in our face and say “How could you… I told you… Don’t you think…?”  There were several things we used to close out the many, many voices around us and to keep focused.

1)

The first thing we kept in mind was Ray’s history.  Ray was BORN fussy- unhappy and anxious and not eating.  He was only comforted in my arms as a baby.  He was also born bright and verbal and funny, but with an “edge” to him.  There’s something about his face that I recognize now in other children’s- his face is tight and sharp around his cheeks, and his eyes are wide-open and active.  I’ve seen it in my friend Linda’s son; I’ve seen it on the faces of other children I work with.  Something about the eyes… a little too alert and an awful lot of anxious thinking.

The other thing that I held on to was that I can never, never predict Ray’s moods. Some of the time he’s wonderful- he’s funny and he’s creative and he’s loving.  I like to think of these times as the “real” Ray- the person he is  until the neurological storms in his brain cloud his thinking, hijacks his reactions.  These storms appear to have little relationship to events around him- I can’t find the cause and effect.  I can be firm and we have a lousy day.  I can be stressed and frazzled, and he’s fine.  Or the other way around.

We are always surprised when Ray’s issues come up- you would think that we would be used to this by now.  But the up-and-down is so hard.  We spend an awful lot of time calming him down; an awful lot of time being consistent, consistent, consistent- until we collapse from our own exhaustion and our own loss of control. We’ve tried monitoring his diet- does that trigger things?  We’ve tried keeping things calm.  Sometimes these work- sometimes they don’t.  Of course, stress triggers it- that we know.  But beyond that… ? We always feel if we could find the “key” that triggers him, we would solve this.  But we can’t.

Ray’s Tourette’s tics are the least of his issues.  When he was spitting- well, yes, that was gross.  That made him different.  But his throat-clearing, the shuffling of his feet at doorway edges, the tapping of his fingers- those get lost in the midst of his overall movements.  I know he moves on purpose to hide his tics- to take the edge off of them.  He’s constantly shifting.  And we can live with that.

But what hurts my heart so much is when he can’t follow a conversation- when he asks a question, and when I’m two words into an explanation, he says “Never mind!” and wanders away from me.  It hurts when homework can be so, so hard- not because he doesn’t know it, but because he can’t pay attention long enough to do it.  We call those the “butterfly moments” because when he’s trying to pay attention to you, he’s really with you, but otherwise, he’s off and drifting.

Unless he’s anxious, which is when he gets fixated and oppositional.  Lately, he’s been fixated on football.  It’s expanded beyond UGA football, to hating Auburn, to wanting the Green Bay Packers to win the Super Bowl- even though he’s never been to Green Bay, nor have any affiliation with them.  But because I’m rooting for the Steelers, because Emily was cheering on Auburn, he has to take the other side.  It’s funny, and it’s annoying because everything, everything becomes a fight.

“Who do you want to win, Mommy?”  “Ok, Ray, I’ll take the Steelers because we used to live near Pittsburgh.”  “Well, I think they’re awful!  I want the Green Bay Packers!”  It would be funny if it weren’t my own child with whom I can’t even share a fan moment.

So- that’s Ray… a long history of erratic, unhappy behavior that has no clear-cut label.  A recipe of a little autism, a little Tourette’s, a little ADHD, and a little ODD.  Some people call these “manufactured labels for bad parenting”.  Well, I gotta tell you, they’ve not seen my son when he’s coherent and when he’s clouded by neurological storms.  I can see the differences; and I can assure you that there is a clear-cut biology involved here.

2)

Which led us to the latest, newest doctor who recommended medication.  “You wouldn’t withhold insulin from a diabetes patient.  You wouldn’t say he should be able to control his heart if he needed heart medication,” she said to us. “Well, his brain isn’t making enough of the stuff to keep him alert.  Being this way is not his choice- he’s reacting to the brain chemistry in his head.  It’s already there.  It’s like telling someone who has had too much to drink that they aren’t really drunk- it’s just an excuse.  No, they’re reacting to the mixture of chemicals in their brain.  But their chemicals wear off.  Ray’s doesn’t.  And so we have to help him get the balance right.  If we don’t help him, there are lots of studies that find that these kids self-medicate. And they don’t pick things like coffee- they find that they like themselves better on cocaine and meth.  I’m not telling you your kid is going to become a drug addict.  But we do know that kids who are not helped through legal means are much more likely to help themselves through illegal means.”

I gotta tell you that we did not like her approach.  She was scaring us and she was more than a wee bit arrogant.

But she was right.  I did my own research- and to quote from Essortment, “Illegal drugs are used to obtain a “high” feeling or to escape from reality. Ritalin works to improve one’s awareness and to improve their attention span and concentration. The two drugs serve two completely opposite purposes. Many counselors have claimed that children that struggle with ADHD, without the help of Ritalin or other prescribed medications, may be more likely to use illegal drugs as a way to help them cope with the stress of ADHD.”  The use of meth and cocaine are only barely related to the use of stimulant medication- they’re much more related to demographics of poverty and parental upheaval and school failure. And we’re working with the teachers, with tutors and with my own knowledge to make sure that Ray does not fail.

There are other sides that claim that drugs are the easy way out- that I’m teaching my son that life gets easier with a pill and not from hard work- that I’m looking for an easy fix for… once again, bad parenting.

And once again, I know- I KNOW that while I may get tired and we are certainly responsible for aiding some of the misbehaviors when we get tired and irritable, most of Ray’s issues are biological.  We have a daughter who does not have these same issues.  I have taught hundreds of children- some with issues, some without.  I come from a family with a history of Tourette’s and issues- a family that I did not grow up around.   There is a biological root to some of this.

And so, we looked at medication.

3)

The thing we held on to was that medication was a choice that we could always unmake.  If a particular dose, a particular prescription didn’t work, or we didn’t like what it was doing, then we could take him off of it.  No harm, no foul was the agreement.  We would follow our parental instincts and snatch him off of it if it wasn’t right for him.

And  I have to say… medication has made a world of difference for us.  It hasn’t changed Ray’s basic “Ray-ness”- it’s just taken the edge off.  I’m less worried about him.  I can see him building up successes to keep him going.  I don’t cry all the time anymore.  We still struggle with him.  That “in-between” time between when his Daytrana- which is a stimulant- and he goes to bed with his Clonodine is… challenging.  But we have more good days than bad.  The bad days- wow… they’re really bad.  The good days- well, they’re sweet.

The Daytrana makes him more aware- and so, his tics are not necessarily worse, but he is aware of them more.  The Clonodine seems to have alleviated some of the more significant tics- the overt ones.  The ones he has now can be hidden easier.  He’s more focused in his anxiety now- it’s not as free-floating.  He can sometimes describe now what he’s anxious about- and that insight has been marvelous because we can help him when he can share.  And sometimes, he can’t.  But inch by inch, we’re seeing progress.  And regression.  But mostly progress.

My goal with medication is to teach him what those neurological synapses feel like- so that he can find his way back to them when he needs to have success.  If yoga or meditation can help him find his way as well, then I’ll try those too- but he’s still young.  That level of concentration is something to grow into- and he can’t even start up that hill until he learns what it feels like.

But I was bound and determined that I was not going to let my issues and worries with medication get in the way of what my son needed.  Could we have done this without medication?  Possibly?  But at what cost?  I’ve read up on nutritional means- but it’s hard enough getting him to eat anything, much less “good for you” stuff.  I get vitamin supplements into him by pure will and out-stubbornning him.  He DOES eat a “balanced” diet- mostly.  But I decided that I was not the food police because I couldn’t control that much of an 8-year’s life.  If I were to control his eating to that degree, he would not learn control of himself in other ways.  And so, we teach good nutrition. But we do not control his every choice.  I give him freedom within structure.  And medication helps us with that.

I also had to keep in mind the needs of his sister- who has her own issues.  I have to be there for her.  And let’s not forget that James and I need a break with just each other sometimes.  We have to be there for our friends and our family as well.  And let’s not forget our pets.  Ray is not an isolated set of issues- he’s part of a system.

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*I* know that I am not drugging my kid into submission.  Heck, I can still barely keep things stable as it is.  But I do know that 1) this is biological, and biological causes require biological fixes- and environmental changes that can create biological change, 2) we made the best choice for Ray and for our entire family at the time, 3) we make a new choice every single morning, and 4) as he ages, the issues will change, and our solutions to them may change.

And the last thing I know is that we made this choice very, very carefully with a lot of informed thought.  I would NEVER tell another parent what to do- they have to make their own choices very, very carefully-keeping in mind what is best for their child and what is best for their family. 

Piranha Bites

Filed under: Home Things — Teacher Professor @ 11:40 am

Did you know that when a piranha bites you, it only bites once?  One piranha bite does not kill, and from what I’ve heard, it doesn’t even really hurt much, other than a gash.  But a swarm of them attacking can turn a full-grown cow into an instant skeleton.  It’s not the size of one; it’s the volume of many that leads to collapse.  This week- no major crisis.  But a whole heck of a lot of piranha bites.

Saturday: Car blows up

Sunday: We owe money in taxes.

Monday: Cat gets an infection; has to go to vet for small surgery

Tuesday: Buy a new car we hadn’t budgeted for

Wednesday: Elizabeth develops tendonitis in her heel and is on crutches

Thursday: Hot water heater dies

Friday: Missed my book deadline.

It may be south Georgia with no snow, but the stress- it’s a’piling up pretty high around here.  No “crisis” that can’t be dealt with, but lots of dealing with this week.

Ray is on edge, and I’m about to follow him over it when he goes over it.  I feel the nips of the piranha…

February 1, 2011

Life is What Happens When You’re Busy Making Other Plans

Filed under: Home Things — Teacher Professor @ 9:19 pm

On January 29, we looked at our finances, our stability (we’ve been here two whole years in May!), and realized that maybe… maybe with a lot of scrimping and saving and extra jobs, we could spend part of our summer vacation in England.  For free in the house of Vicki’s uncle who has  3 extra bedrooms.  In ENGLAND!  The SUMMER! (Or at least in July).  We started dreaming- Stonehenge.  Tower of London.  The Eye.  The Cotswolds.  ENGLAND!  Elizabeth started talking about a day trip to Paris.  PARIS!

On January 30, my husband’s car- the 12-year old faithful blue Honda that had only once given us any fits (a new radiator in December) died.  And died spectacularly by stalling on the causeway.  He had it towed to the mechanic where she was pronounced Dead On Arrival- a blown head gasket that blew the timing belt.  Not just “mostly dead”, but “all the way dead”. Dead.  Deader than a doorknob.  Scrap metal.

And so I Googled.  I read up on cars.  I looked at options.  I ran numbers and options through my head like a hamster on a wheel. I stayed up late and I slept badly.

On February 1, we bought a new car- a hybrid Honda Civic.  A car we need.  A car we’re excited about (40mpg gas mileage!).  We have to have another car, and we’re deeply fortunate enough to have a job to even get a car.  But a car that destroyed our dream of Summer in England.

On the one hand, I’m deeply grateful that the faithful blue Honda did not die six months ago when things were tighter.  I’m deeply, deeply grateful that it did not die a year ago when it would have been impossible to get a car at all.  I’m very, very, very grateful that we have mostly the means to buy a car at all.  I am truly aware of and appreciative of the fact that we have such a great car (40mpg!).  I am deeply aware of how unbelievably lucky we are to have a job and stability and all of those things that we didn’t have for so long.

But it does mean that I am going to have to try to find a part-time something in addition to our two full-time jobs and our two part-time consulting- pick up a class for another college, or even work at the movies.  It does mean that our already stretched time and income gets a little thinner.  It means that the stress level goes back up to where it has been for far, far too long- where we’re operating in crisis mode- again.   This ain’t even close to autism, but autism laid down the familiar tracks of crisis that we know all too well.

I should be used to this by now… but every time, it’s a surprise.  The universe saw that we were making one set of plans, and decided that no, no we’re not ready for those dreams to come true yet.

 

 

 

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