Sunday, May 26, 2013

Reminiscing @ The Lion King

I took my two girls to see The Lion King on stage over the weekend.

I wanted to take them several years ago, but was not sure I could handle the challenges of autism at a show an hour away in a city unfamiliar to me. My girls would have enjoyed it back then, but it would have been too much work for me.

What if my girl were having an 'off'' day? Dysregulated? What if she hadn't slept the night before? An 'off' day for her could ruin the event. I refused to spend money on tickets that might be wasted.

The most work, back then, was the compensation I would have to do for her deficit in attention. Not only did I have to be in charge of my own attention, but I also had to be hers, too. It was exhausting. She could not stay with us, attend to us. She wasn't attached. (See this blog post for explanation.) I remember the time before a developmental approach (RDI) when all of my attention had to be on her because she did not attend to, was not attached to me, did not keep up with me, did not recognize my intent or agenda. Crowded theaters were a lot of work for me and we mostly avoided them. The work of keeping up with her was exhausting and often cancelled out any positive. Keeping her with me in the same stall while I used the restroom was a particular challenge.

When I learned last year that The Lion King was coming to the big town near us, I watched for the time when I could buy tickets. I got three seats in the lower level. We marked the event on the calendar between my birthday and my twins' birthday and we looked forward to the event.

And we went.

I had flashbacks to the years where we had to keep up with her; where I had to have a painfully tight grip on her wrist to keep her from leaving our group. The contrast between that memory and what was happening before my eyes over the weekend was striking.

We dressed up. Instead of my picking out her clothes for her, she chose her own outfit and dressed herself.

We attended a packed (maybe sold out) show and she was with her sister and me the whole time. WeGo. Together. Something parents of typical kids take for granted. The feeling was beautiful, magnificent.

One of my nightmare situations actually happened. She was tired. For some reason, she was awake most of the night. I think she slept between two and three hours the night before. I was concerned she'd be grumpy. She stayed regulated despite the lack of sleep.

We'd never been to this particular venue before. That creates anxiety for me and I wanted to stay regulated, too. I left early enough to pad the clock for an unexpected traffic jam or my getting lost, which meant we arrived too early. I bought us a program (cha-ching!) and we walked around the venue before the doors opened and we were allowed to go in.

Once seated, she was not thrilled about having to wait so long, but she did manage to hang in there even when the show began a few minutes late. I could tell she was tired. I told her she'd wake up when the show began - and she did.

Our seats in the lower level near an aisle allowed us to be close to the cast; the characters come down the aisles to enter the stage - she was enthralled. All of us were.

Her laughter during the show was sheer joy for me.

At intermission, she needed to use the restroom, which presented another challenge. We had to find the restroom in this new-to-us venue. The restrooms required quite a walk. And when we got there, she went into one stall while I had to wait a moment for someone to exit another stall a few doors down from hers. No problem. She finished first and waited for me. We washed our hands together.

Story changes? Would she handle changes to the beloved storyline she knows so well? She knows the story; she's seen all the Lion King movies a gazillion times (slight exaggeration). A song from Lion King 2 was featured in the stage show  - she kept telling me that song was from Lion King 2. :) There were some new (unfamiliar to us) songs written for the stage production and there were additions to the story line fill in background. She rolled with it.

We used valet parking and had to wait a while for our car to be brought to us. And she rolled with that, too. She talked with us about the show, she read the actors' bios from the program, she waited like a pro.

This weekend, we were three girls out for a fun night. And fun we had! She recognized the intent of our night out together, she was able to come alongside and join us in this abstract idea, coordinating and co-regulating, seamlessly 'non-verbaling', responsible for her own attention in a big way. I am so grateful.

On the ride home from Lion King, my kid w/ autism even talked about when she was in a play for the first time - it was an opera (yes, an opera) in kindergarten or first grade. Oh, the things she remembers that she can finally tell us about now.

Yes, we still have a long way to go. (Yes, I was taking notes; I have a short list of things I want to work on that came from our night out.) But she has come soooooooooo far. Going back for the joint attention pieces, the co-regulating and coordinating, etc, has made such a difference.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Happy Birthday to ME!

I had a milestone birthday this week. Look what my kid w/ autism left on my pillow for me to find. She wrote a poem for me. :)

My Homeschool Grades, a Mosaic Review

Homeschool reporting requirements differ by state; some states require no reporting at all. Until we moved to a state with requirements, grade reporting software was not on my radar.

Lately, I find myself less than enthusiastic about learning to use a new forum or software or data entry program. Maybe it's because I'm getting old and set in my ways. Learning a new program is really low on my list of things I want to do.  And if I'm going to USE the program, it must be easy, have a very short learning curve for me.  I don't have time to teach myself some complicated program.

Enter My Home School Grades, an online reporting system developed by homeschoolers. I was given access to MHSG to use and review. I have a grade reporting program that comes with our umbrella school membership, so I have something for comparison.  And I was pleasantly surprised. I set up our school and two students rather quickly, added curriculum, grades. My Home School Grades is extremely user-friendly and I didn't spend a lot of time trying to teach myself what has to happen next. MHSG gives users four videos to walk us through how to set up students, add grades, classes, activities, and make transcripts.  The site is very straightforward. I like that.

The one wrinkle: I am not giving my kids letter grades this year. We are going through material for mastery and are using terms "incomplete", "in progress", "satisfactory", and finally "pass", and MYSG does not allow me to use those terms; instead, MHSG records grades as letters or numerals. Within each of my students' records, MHSG gives me this Tip: Grades can be entered as letters (A+, A), as numbers (96), or as fractions (16/19). You can change how they are displayed in your account settings.

When my homeschoolers reach high school, I will switch to letter grades, and the grading system within MHSG will be useful for our family.

A lifetime membership is priced at $49.99. (A bargain. For one year, I subscribed to another grade-reporting site that charged $10 a year.)  My Home School Grades offers a 14-day trial membership to allow you to try before you buy.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Coffeeproof Waterproof Bible

A Waterproof Bible? Seriously?

I'd seen ads for it. I thought that it is a cute gimmick or perhaps a gift for the Christian who has every other Bible. Really? Why would you want a waterproof Bible outside of a novelty? I wasn't impressed, really. And then I got an opportunity to review a New Testament/Psalms & Proverbs King James version ($24.99) courtesy of Bardin&Marsee Publishing

The Waterproof Bible arrived and my children were enthralled. My son said he would have taken off with it and kept it for himself were it not pink. ;)  (We received this one.) It looks like a regular Bible. I don't think I'd recognize it as special or different or waterproof at first glance.

We don't camp. Outdoor swim/pool season isn't upon us yet. So, I took the Waterproof  Bible to the obvious place: the bathtub. I had to take my reading glasses along as I can't read tiny print without some magnification, now.

When I finally got time to soak in the tub, I settled in and opened the Bible. I didn't worry about wet fingers turning pages. I dribbled water on it gently. Bardin&Marsee sent a couple of waterproof bookmarks with the Bible and I submerged them. Impressive. They held up with no signs of having been dunked. I was hooked.

My teen with autism wanted a turn. She has become more independent in bathing and showering but still needs to be monitored and I drew her a bath and left the door slightly ajar so I could keep an eye on her. The idea of completely submerging God's Word goes against everything in me, but my daughter has no such qualms, and I could see through the crack in the door her lift the Bible above her head and then push it completely under water. I heard the gurgle of the water as it went under. She baptized it. Yes, she did. And it survived.

A novelty for her? Yes. But much more.

She's 'captive' (not literally) in the bathtub. Her attention is captive, anyway, with no big distractions. After she dunked the Bible, I gave her a verse to look up and read to me, walked her through how to find the chapter and the verse. I gave her the obvious, John 3:16, and we talked about what it means.

She read a little in it. I wish we'd have been given a more modern translation and may order one for her, as having a bathtub friendly version is really attractive to me for a child with autism who finds reading challenging. The novelty of reading in the tub and not worrying about ruining the pages, the tactile input from the water (and epsom salts) all provide a setting for learning we had not been able to explore before.

Through the bathroom door, I asked her if she could think of reasons people might need a waterproof Bible. Yes, I always take opportunities to perspective-take with my child on the autism spectrum.  We created a list out loud.  Swimmers. Campers. People in the rain. People who work outdoors. Water slide lovers. Water park lovers. For every boy and girl who like to take baths and showers. It is safe in the snow or at the ice skating arena in a bag that contains wet or damp items.

My Waterproof Bible was moved to the edge of my bathroom sink and in a moment of stupidity while getting ready for church the next day while picking up a flat iron, I accidentally knocked the Bible into the sink topped with an entire cup of coffee (with cream and sugar). I experienced a moment of panic as I wondered if it would survive my morning moment of liquid goodness. I rinsed it off, wiped it down, we were good to go.

My high schooler found a favorite verse to underline. She wanted to test smudge-ability. Waterproof Bible passed that test. I took it to church and wrote notes in the margins during a sermon from Psalms. Thumbs up.

We have been impressed by the toughness of the Waterproof Bible. It can go from the kitchen table to the baseball gear bag without concerns that we'll spill milk on it or tear it up with equipment. The pages are tough for the kid who is rough and tumble, too.

If you are looking for a durable Bible for any reason, I recommend the Waterproof Bible. We think it's great!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Checking Behind Me...

Teaching perspective taking to a child with autism is always interesting. One place that my princess misunderstands my non-verbal communication is when I am behind the wheel of a car.

No, I am not making one-finger salutes to cars around me. ;)

When I look over my shoulder to check my blind spot before changing lanes while I am driving, my princess always asks a pointed, "WHAT?!" as if I am turning around to check on her.

Sometimes I would ignore her. Sometimes I would try to explain that I was checking behind me. None of that registered with her.

Lately, she's begun demanding, "WHAT?!" as I back out of a driveway or parking spot. And at first, I tried to explain what I was doing. Duh. What was I thinking?

I have begun giving her a role when I am backing out of a driveway or parking space. "Is there anything behind me? Is it clear behind me?" I will ask her. At first, she would flip her head around quickly and answer, "No." or "All clear!"  But I don't want her doing a simple gross motor imitation. I want her thinking. So I wait, frozen like a statue, to give her time to turn around again and look for a car behind me. And she has begun to look around with me to check for things behind me as I back out.

Two little victories, one for me, one for her.
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