Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Down Under

Sometime during our tenth wedding anniversary European trip last April, Big A claimed that would be "the last of our long haul travels for at least another year." But then the airline seat sales happened.

With so many Asian cities to discover and revisit, and so many local destinations we have yet to explore, I was simply thankful for the last two years' abundance of travel opportunities, and secretly glad to be done with the interminable paperwork required for the securing of visas. Our passports are well stamped, and our travel photo album covers three continents.

However, one day not long after our arrival from Europe Big A rang me at work. "G'day, mate! We're going to Australia!"

Apparently one of the local carriers has started flying direct to Sydney, and introductory ticket prices were cheaper than a flight to our beach islands. So last week, we went down under.

Three nights in Sydney and three in Melbourne in their wintertime gave us a good taste of both cities. Big A has definitely thrown his hat into the Melbourne camp, but I am still on the fence. Perhaps a few years from now, another trip to this southern continent (hopefully with Little A in tow!) will help make up my mind.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Last Friday, when I picked him up from school, Little A took my e-reader and typed "Look at the me. I superman". I read it to him and he was pleased as punch, and repeated the same words on different devices over the weekend.

Come Monday, after school, the same thing. I have not been able to get a chance to ask his teacher what this sentence is all about, but on our walls he has been writing "awesome", "good job", and tonight after brushing his teeth, "very proud". Always with a big smile when I read out the words.

He has started Grade 3, and sits right by the teacher in a class with 5 other boys and girls. These days I am discouraged from peeking into the classroom window and distracting him, but finally there is a parent-teacher communication notebook, so from time to time (twice so far in the first few weeks of school) I get a note on what they have been doing, or how his behavior has been.

This year, apart from their regular academic subjects, the students have sessions in the computer lab, where Little A has wowed the teacher with his prowess at typing and manipulating the mouse. They also have drama classes once a week, and a number of new extracurriculars are being offered.

I hope this year is a good one for Little A, socially, behaviourally, communicatively, and academically. Is that too much to hope for? We'll see.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Summer Fun

With a Singapore trip scheduled this coming September, Little A's short summer break was spent near home. We visited and revisited his favourite indoor play areas, mainly because outdoor fun was limited due to the rainy season coming in early.

His cousin and he managed a couple of playdates. If only they didn't live so far away, it would be wonderful to have these more regularly. 

My main wish for Little A this year is that he makes a friend or two whom we can have over to play. Of course in order to achieve this goal, he needs to keep making the strides which he is constantly working towards, improving all his skills. 

It's truly an endless struggle, one only fellow autism parents can identify with, but we are thankful for increasing awareness, empathy, and the kindness of strangers that surprise us often. In a world where so much seems to be going wrong, there are always, always little silver linings.

Friday, July 8, 2016

In the Ninth Year

Another birthday has come and gone, Little A's FOURTH one celebrated at school. His birthday also marks the school's anniversary, so we always make sure to mark the date with food and cake.

He decided on a Magic Show theme a few months ago, so I asked my crafty book club friend to make him a hat and cape. She enlisted the help of her sister, who has mad skills with a sewing machine, for the latter, and the result was absolutely amazing.

Picked up a day before his birthday, Little A proudly wore his Magician outfit to the supermarket, where we bought paper plates, biodegradable disposable cutlery, napkins, and drinking cups.

After much thought, and given the limited time for celebration at school, we didn't hire an actual magician but gave away a bag of things that kids could use to perform their own tricks. There was cupcake blowing, and picture taking, and wearing of silly things like fake moustaches and bunny ears. Then the kids got back to work.

That evening, we celebrated with the family at a newly opened restaurant near our apartment. Little A enjoyed this too, more than I expected he would! He sat down for the most part, drawing, ate his snack (we packed him a meal, as always), had a brief wander around the new shopping mall where the restaurant was located, and then came back to blow out his candles. 

Nine will certainly bring more challenges, as these are never-ending for any parent, but more difficult for special needs ones. Still, we keep going, and are grateful for what we have. A jagged graph, up and down, to quote from Sophie Kinsella's remarkably sensible young adult novel. As long as the line moves ever upwards, no matter how slowly, there is reason to be thankful.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Alphabetical Order

Midyear is upon us, and in a few weeks Little A enters the third grade. His curriculum will certainly be modified, but with continued hard work by both student and teachers, hopefully he will not lag too far behind his typical peers. Apart from academic progress, he needs improvements in behaviour and social interaction.

We recently received the results of a most thorough assessment of his current capabilities and weaknesses. The written report was packed with technical jargon and testing statistics, with the end result telling us what we more or less already knew, but was still a blow to see on paper.

Little A is in the moderate part of the autism spectrum, nonverbal but able to communicate through gestures, writing, and typing. He is also intellectually impaired, and possibly has ADHD in addition to sensory integration dysfunction.

I'd like to think news like that, presented in the form of a text-dense, half-inch thick evaluation report in small font would floor any parent, but then perhaps I am less strong than the average special needs mum.

No matter the results, we must soldier on. Thankfully we have found the perfect school for Little A, and despite all the setbacks there are improvements, slowly but surely.

Just this afternoon, on finishing a most inspiring book which might still be the only autism resource title written by a Filipino for fellow autism parents, I checked on Little A, who was playing quietly in his room.

To my surprise, I found that he had unearthed an old set of word cards, and arranged a number of them in alphabetical order, writing in the letters that were not represented on the floor in between the carefully laid out cards.

A day or so later, at the toy store, he lined up a row of animals. I asked if he didn't want to group them by type as he usually does (jungle, savannah, farm, ocean), but he shook his head firmly.

As ever, I took a photo. It was only on closer inspection much later that I saw the animals, too, were lined up alphabetically.

He has been attending summer school for three hours a day over the past two weeks, but I only enrolled him in Catechism and Filipino Language lessons, as well as his regular Speech and Occupational Therapy. Still, in between classes or when I take him to school early, he joins the pre-Grade 3 class. This must be where he learned to alphabetize, albeit indirectly. Upon asking the teachers, none of them claim to have worked on this skill with my son, so perhaps he's also just taken it upon himself. I can never tell what goes on in my child's mind, but I do know there is a lot happening in there. Maybe one day he will be able to articulate it in a way we can all understand.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Hats Off to Second Grade

It's hard to believe that Little A has now finished the second grade. Rainy season has come to the Philippines, and so has the "summer" holidays for Little A and schoolmates.

There are two weeks of freedom, then a month of optional summer school, followed by two more free weeks, and the academic year starts properly on 1 August.

We wasted no time, and made the most of the fortnight immediately following the end-of-term show by going off to the mountains for five days, then filling up Little A's next week with non-technological activities. 

I had to work most days, but managed to squeeze in a few trips with Little A to the nearby children's centres, while the Au Pair took him to a learning library while I was manning the shop.

In less than a month comes another major event - Little A's 9th birthday. He alternates between wanting a magic show and a party at a play centre, so a decision must be made quite soon.

In the meantime, he goes to school on half days, while getting acquainted with a new set of teachers to prepare him for Grade 3. Onward, ho!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Discovering Dessert

Tonight, for the first time in his life at nearly nine years of age, Little A asked if he could have some ice cream.

Over the past two months or so, Big A has been encouraging him to take licks of his nightly popsicles, and amazingly, Little A seems to like this strawberry flavoured Korean ice cream.

This evening, when I told him it was time to brush his teeth, he walked up to his dad and verbalized the "Ah" sound, while scribbling letters on the couch.

I asked him to write them down properly and lo and behold, the boy wanted a popsicle. He sat in a chair by the window and licked away until he'd had enough for the night. We returned the rest of the bar to the freezer for next time.

It will be interesting to see where this interest might lead. At the moment, chocolate still disgusts him, so much that when he sees me eating it he walks up, wipes my mouth very carefully and throughly with a paper napkin, then smells my lips before agreeing to kiss me. I love chocolate, and Big A only eats "white" desserts, so we will see which side of the tree our apple will fall. My bet is on dad's end.