What Can Change in 2 Months?

Ballerina has a follow-up IEP Meeting coming up next week.  This is a pre-determined meeting to discuss the progress she is making following the changes that we made in October’s Review Meeting.  We increased her hours of support, we instituted a behavior modification plan and we worked to ensure consistency across all staff members working with her.  And, outside of the meeting, a new behavior reward system was created for her which has been generally very positive.

First, let me describe this new reward system.  It’s a laminated card, with a velcro strip on the bottom of both the front and the back of the card.  On the front are 6 choices of rewards (which I’m sure can be changed if needed), including a hug, read a book, take a walk, drink of water, some kind of game, and do a puzzle.  Ballerina chooses which reward she would like to work towards and then they begin.  On the back of the card are the expectations, including Quiet Mouth, Quiet Hands and Great Working.  There are 5 squares, each containing the picture of a heart. along the velcro strip on the front.  For every 10 minutes Ballerina successfully achieves those objectives, a heart is moved from the front to the back.  After all 5 hearts have been moved from the front to the back, she gets her requested reward.

The introduction of this reward chart is the best move that the school could have EVER made!!!!!!  Because of her ABA success, we know she responds well to periodic rewards.  But they can’t be abstract.  They have to be something she can see and something she will receive immediately.  With this system, she is rewarded every 10 minutes with something small (the moving of the hearts which she witnesses [and even contributes to by confirming she’s doing the 3 required things]) and then she gets her big reward when the hearts have all been moved.  She’s been choosing a hug since they initiated this system, but she has the freedom to choose something different every time she starts again.

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(pictures taken and emailed to me by Mrs. R [Ballerina’s classroom teacher])

I spent just over an hour observing her in her classroom on Tuesday.  I was there from the time she returned from specials (Physical Education, in this case) until she left for lunch.  I watched her have a snack (and go over to get a drink from the water fountain), sit with her class on the carpet, answer some questions, return to her desk to complete a worksheet, and then go on to her independent learning center.  She had a paraeducator with her the whole time (they no longer have her do the independent learning center without one as she is unable to complete anything with success without the support).  She listened to the story (If You Give A Moose A Muffin by Laura Numeroff).  She answered the teacher’s questions about the story.  And she walked back to her table to do the assignment.

During the time on the carpet, I watched the paraeducator move 2 of the hearts from one side of the card to the other, indicating that she was earning her rewards.  And I watched her complete the assignment.  There were several parts…..she had to write her name (using a “magic C”), color in the pictures, cut the pieces out, and paste them back onto the worksheet in the same order that these items appeared in the story.  It involved using her memory and her comprehension skills, as well as following multi-step instructions.  And she did it ALL!!!!!  Following the sequence of instructions was not a problem.  Determining the correct order for the pieces to be pasted back onto the page was a bit more challenging for her, but she had the book with her (and the para) and they were able to put it together correctly with the book to ensure that things were correct.  And then she was able to go to her center where, once again, she was asked to cut and paste and put together complete and correct sentences.

And through it all, every 10 minutes (or so) they would move another heart.  In the 75 minutes I was there, she received a hug and was about 60% to getting another (which I’m sure happened not long after recess).

The entire time I was there, there were no outbursts.  There were no tantrums.  There was no threat of being sent to Time Out (for her — others were threatened to move their behavior cards).  She did all of her work, and did it correctly.  She worked well with her para and apologized for accidentally colliding with a classmate after being reminded to do so by the teacher.

She looked just like everyone else…..just a little different because of the support she was getting.

What a moment for this Autism Mom!!!!!!

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Insanity Has Taken Over!!

WARNING — THIS IS A MOMMY AUTISM STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS POST!!!!!  THIS IS ME GOING OFF ON MY OBSESSIVE PLANNING ACTIVITIES!!!!!  DISCLAIMER DONE……IF YOU CHOOSE TO READ ON, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!!!!

Yes, things are totally insane right now!!!  We are less than 2 days of a HUGE road trip, and the incessant planning and checking and re-checking and shopping and packing and unpacking to be sure we have everything and re-packing and checklisting……they are all in full force!!!!!

It’s currently Monday afternoon.  Bright and early Wednesday morning, we plan to be on the road.  We are taking a road trip.  We’re going to Indiana first to visit with Dad’s family.  I don’t think many of them have ever met Ballerina and Music Man and just a few more have met Big Brother.  Since my Mother and Father-in-Laws grew up in the same small town in Indiana, many in their families have stayed reasonably close.  And we’re hoping we can find a way to see as many as possible without fully overwhelming our kids.

Then, on Friday, we’re heading to a suburb of Detroit, Michigan for my brother’s wedding.  All 5 of us are in the wedding and the saga in getting Ballerina’s dress is a story for another time (when there’s time).  But it’s straightened out now and she is perfectly happy with her dress and can’t wait until Sunday when she gets to wear it for the big day.

But Dad and are are compulsive planners.  And every time we are serious about planning, things tend to go smoothly.  We make regular car trips to New York or Connecticut.  Sometimes we go to Pennsylvania for a long day or a short weekend.  But in general, we know we can pick up things that we forget along the way.  We are determined to not need that crutch this time around.  We are going to pack correctly and make sure that everyone has everything they need for the whole trip.

So, we have the checklist for packing.  And we have the checklist for loading the car.  And we have the grocery list to be sure we picked everything up we needed from the store.  And we made sure that the dog would be well cared for (including a vet visit today to make sure her immunizations were up to date).

Tomorrow Dad will be home and we will make sure everything is set (with the exception of the actual packing) so that, when the kids go to bed, we can just pull everything together and have them waiting by the door.  I can bring Domino to the “Doggy Hotel” as early as they open and Dad will be able to make several trips out to the car, loading everything in it’s proper place so we can pull out what we need when we need it.  We can also set up the numerous movies, books, stuffed animals, homework assignments, etc. so we can do things as we’re driving.  The snacks for the road have to be where we can easily get to them.  And, hopefully by 10pm, we’ll reach our destination in Indiana.

But before that happens, I’m off to pick the kids up from school.  I have some PTA responsibilities that have to be met, Ballerina has her dance class tomorrow afternoon, Big Brother has scouts tomorrow night and I’m supposed to be at a PTA Meeting (which will probably NOT happen).  All clothes worn since Saturday will need to be washed so they can be packed, but we need to remember to leave something home so they can dress the following day.  Despite going to the grocery store today, there is likely going to be another trip tomorrow, Dad has to pick up his tuxedo (because, like I already mentioned, he’s in the wedding), and we have to get iPods and iPhones properly loaded.  I also have to finish up my popcorn duties for the week for the local cub scout chapter.

Can you tell I’m going just a bit nuts right now?  INSANITY!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s Getting Closer

Last week, ESY ended for both Ballerina and Music Man — because of the storms, Music Man continued through last Wednesday.  Overall, it was a good transition for us.  In the morning, I would tell them that it was time for “school camp” and they would get ready.  And now that it’s done, it’s “No More School Camp”, and they’re fine.

Who would’ve thought?

Overall, it seemed to have been a good experience for both of them this summer.  Music Man had a chance to say good bye to his teachers and friends.  He’s still young enough that I don’t think he sees this as a real goodbye, but who knows.  He got to do it in a more relaxed atmosphere then during the school year and I think he was happy both to see it start and to see it end.

Ballerina had a different experience this summer.  Her ESY program was designed to give these kids a chance to learn what would be expected from them when they start kindergarten later this month.  It was taught by a general-education kindergarten teacher (coincidentally, the one who had been working with Ballerina since February) and she treated them just like she would treat an incoming kindergarten class, with those same expectations.  In our phone conference, the teacher explained that these kids are all preparing to enter a general education setting or an Early Learning Center setting (similar to the class Music Man will be starting) so these expectations will be set for them during the year as well.  Ballerina responded well and didn’t have too many behavior outbursts.  The teacher also explained to me that she really does seem to take her cues from the other kids in the class…..if they are having a bad day, chances are, she is having one too.  While this piece of information doesn’t really surprise me, it is something that I hadn’t thought of, and I will have to remember to pass this information along to her kindergarten teacher once I learn who she is.

Right now, that’s probably the biggest outstanding question for starting kindergarten — who will Ballerina’s teacher be?  I sent a note to the principal asking if this information was now available (her CAPP teacher from last year has offered to give her a social story and this information would be EXTREMELY helpful), but he informed me that the classes won’t be finalized until August 13.  So, we’re going to have to wait another week to get this last piece of information.  Then we will be all set for the final preparation of entry into kindergarten!

But, in the meantime, there are other skills kids have when they enter kindergarten.  They know how to play, and to play appropriately.  This is something that we have always had issues with for Ballerina and Music Man.  But over the weekend, this happened……

So, now it appears they have found this skill.  After all, they have a ready-made playmate right beside them…..now we just have to encourage them to continue this new behavior!