Monday, December 31, 2012

And Now We Return to Regular Programming

2013 starts in a few hours. The world did not end, with a bang or a whimper, on 21st Dec. Whether that's a good or a bad thing remains to be seen.

This year, all things considered, was a good one of many firsts. Little A started PROMPT speech therapy, changed ABA therapists, and has improved hugely in behavioural areas.

Big A and I recently spent two nights together, apart from our son, for the first time since he was born. We went on a crazy shopping holiday in Hong Kong to treat ourselves after all the hard work put into 2012. We also saw a musical together for the first time ever last October.

Work-wise, this Christmas was the busiest ever for the little shop, forcing me to fall off the grid somewhat in the month of December. I barely ate or slept, and did little apart from balance inventory, type up sales reports, and make change. The shopping vacation was a much needed respite from the other side of the retail experience.

Big A, too, was incredibly busy, juggling two jobs this year and not taking a single day off work until Dec 28th. Should next year prove to be just as successful, we will hopefully go on a nice family holiday abroad.

Wishing everyone a glorious 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Frosty the Snowman

October End-of-Term show - tears
December show

Following Teacher's action instructions

Little A was a bus driver for his Christmas school show. This year, instead of a Nativity play, they acted out the song "Frosty the Snowman," and did a little dance number in the middle.

Unlike the end-of-term show in October, when he cried madly after the dance number due to the applause, this time he was more aware that there would be clapping, so he steeled himself for the inevitable. I'd been working with him on clapping Mummy's hands instead of freaking out, and that had been working, as lately he'd been less prone to flying off the handle when he heard random clapping while we were out and about.

Apart from singing the Christmas carol daily in the days leading up to the show, I found a board book with illustrations to the song lyrics, and the Au Pair found a video on youTube for Little A to watch repeatedly.

Come showtime, he stood on the stage for the entire length of the "play," and swayed in place during the dance, even if he didn't do all the steps. We were all very proud.

Since he'd been sick with a fever and bad cough at the end of November, he's been amazingly behaved. All of his therapists have remarked on the change, and I noticed it particularly in the ten days the Au Pair was away. We're all crossing our fingers that this positive development will also be a permanent one.

What still is to come though, is speech. One school has already told us they have never accepted a non-verbal child, and another has turned him down partly on this basis. There are two more schools I will apply him to come January, but my main wish for the coming year is that he finds a place at a very supportive school. Let's hope those prayers get answered this year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

One Day or Another

According to the Mayan Calendar, the world will end in about 3 weeks' time. If this is so, what are you doing to prepare for it, and do you have anything you wish you'd done differently?

Big A and I have semi-serious discussions about this. He's convinced we can survive an apocalypse, and in our emergency bag, he made sure we have fishing hooks and twine. Never mind that there might not be any fish to catch if the world ends in fire, or ice.

I, on the other hand, have been trying to read as many books as I can. Let the world not end without my having read Saul Bellow! I set an impossible book goal for myself in 2012 - 250 books. Right now, I'm just a little off track, with book 227 finished. Picture books or those with less than 25 pages of text aren't counted, so I can't really cheat and go through Little A's library in a day to make up my numbers.

At any rate, I've read some amazing, and some terrible, books this year. Notables include Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which I must keep in the emergency bag for post-apocalyptic reading, should we in fact survive, and Chris Cleave's fasntastic third book, Gold. Very appropriate, since it deals with British athletes and touches on the London 2012 Olympics.

Back to the world ending though, I know I'd love it if my whole family went together. I can't imagine a world where Little A would have to survive on his own, or without one of us. And I don't want to. Maybe this is terribly selfish, but I'm sure it's a dilemma all parents consider, more so when their children have special needs.

We're still continuing on, of course, school applications for next year being filled up, the work holiday rush in full swing, and Christmas gifts being purchased, wrapped and delivered. Still, I keep on thinking - where will we be in a few weeks' time? I guess we'll soon find out.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

One, Two, Three

Recently, I spoke to a school directress about places for Little A in their next year's programme. She asked, when I explained he was on the Autism Spectrum, whether this diagnosis had been given by a developmental pediatrician or a neuropsychologist. I replied that it was the former, as I'd not even been referred to any of the latter. It turns out there are only two of these in the Philippines, and I'd already inquired at one of them three years ago. She has a two year wait list, or so, so we'd just gone with the developmental pediatrician, who was able to give us an appointment within two months.

Apparently, neuropsychologists perform an entirely different set of tests on a child and give therefore a more accurate diagnosis. I never knew this, as even the request for a referral to a dev ped was on my initiative, and not something that was suggested by our regular pediatrician, as it maybe should have been, much sooner.

I would still like to have Little A's diagnosis verified, and am now considering going back on that wait list. Lately though, he has made good improvements in his social interaction skills, which is a very enouraging sign for his further progress.

There is a tripod that puts a child on the spectrum, and initially Little A fit all the categories. First is communication, or, more accurately, lack thereof. A child who doesn't speak by age 2 is a red flag. While Little A still doesn't speak functionally, he does now communicate fairly effectively with gestures, word cards or letter pieces, and a keyboard. He still lags behind in storytelling, but that is hopefully the next step. He can show us how he feels and what he wants, which is considered the most important thing.

The second "leg" is social interaction. Autistic people are most commonly described to be "in a world of their own," and have to be taught social niceties, including how to play appropriately with others.  Little A didn't properly interact with other kids for a long time, but would parallel play, tolerate, and acknowledge their presence. Lately though, he's been initiating contact. He would see kids outside playing with balls and run out to join them, happily watching and asking to take a turn. When they would tell him to duck down out of the way, down he would go instantly, sitting on the floor, which wasn't exactly right, but showed he was listening and reacting to instruction. He has been practicing turn-taking as well.

What hinders him though from engaging fully with his peers is the third part of the tripod - behaviour. Some autistic people take comfort in flapping their fingers, others tap or bounce. This is a way to help them process their surroundings and cope with the world, not much different from when a typical child lugs around a security object or sucks a thumb. But since they are different, they tend to be more extreme, more rigid about these behaviours, and so the real challenge is getting rid of them while the child still manages to process all the surrounding stimuli.

In Little A's case it is clapping. He's been working so hard to manage this, but still tries to control it, running up to someone who claps and putting their hands together "his" way - silently, fingertips of one hand to palm of the other. If the applause is constant or unexpected, as when a musical number ends or a sports team scores and too many people clap than he can "control", he runs away, upset, and screams and cries for a while.

Sometimes it is also counting that triggers outbursts. Right now there are certain numbers he likes, and if he hears someone calling out another number, he wants them to say the number he likes, and points to it or spells it out, waiting patiently until the person obliges or getting angry if they don't. This requires a fair amount of tolerance on both sides.

We are working with his team to get him used to the fact that he will not be able to control his surroundings entirely. It's hard work, but he's working harder than any of us, I think. We're thankful for small steps forward, despite the steps back. Little by little, thinking he can, chugging up the hill, will get him there.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tricks and Treats

Another Halloween gone, and this was the first one in five years without a children's concert organized by my mum and some friends for the Metro Manila Chamber Orchestra. Little A has been to them every year since he was one, loving the pre-show musical instrument "petting zoo" but never sitting through the entire musical section in the theatre. No matter, as this Halloween he experienced proper trick or treating for the first time.

As we live in a building and not a house, there is a Halloween party for children where they are given bags of sweets and other goodies. The residents are also encouraged to join in, so kids can knock on certain, pre-arranged, doors and get some more candy. Fun enough, but, for someone who grew up experiencing the real thing, rather lacking.

The village where I spent most of my life has long been known for its Halloween festivities. Houses go all out in terms of decor, with some setting up entire scenes for photo backgrounds, and treats can range from Barbie dolls to scoops of ice cream for every lucky person who walks by. Children and young adults go door to door, sometimes getting from one street to another in their parents' cars, or using the more popular village transport of the family golf cart, for those lucky enough to own one.

Once one has outgrown the fun of gathering treats, handing them out is the next best thing. As college students we all stayed home to distribute candy to the youngsters, and then met up later that night for our own parties. Oh, the memories!

Ever since I moved away from home nearly a decade ago, I've avoided my parents' village like the plague on October 31st, because the traffic getting in and out of the gates on that day (and night) is simply horrific, with people coming from far and wide to get the full Halloween experience. This year though, Little A had speech therapy.

Since April, he's been having PROMPT therapy in addition to standard speech sessions. Since PROMPT practicioners are even harder to come by than regular speech pathologists, it is extremely difficult to find one near you. The nearest one we've found is from so far south that she meets us in the middle - at my parents' house two afternoons a week.

As there was no school, we moved his session earlier on Halloween Day. Thank goodness for that, as even at lunchtime the queues of cars entering the village gates were already long. After his session, I took him to my best friend's house, where he finally got to experience a "real" Trick or Treat. He played a little with the other kids, and then we went by a few houses on the way back home.

Little A loved seeing the other children in their costumes and dutifully held out his plastic pumpkin when prompted to receive his sweets. Never mind that he doesn't eat them, all the fun is in walking the streets, and fun he had. Perhaps we'll do it again next year.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mountain View

Nearly every year for the past decade, sometimes twice a year, Big A and I spend a few days in the mountains. Big A proposed up there, in fact, and we thought about having our wedding there too, only the trip up would have entailed an entire weekend away, at least, for our guests.

Since Little A was one, he's been coming along. We make these family trips as often as work permits, and this year we managed to sneak away for a long weekend.

This is the second time we've taken Little A's Au Pair with us, as my dad's membership to the mountaintop's country club comes with a number of free room nights that must be consumed every year, and going up in a group is the best way to make use of them if you can't make more frequent visits.

The weather was perfect, the fresh vegetables were plentiful, and Little A enjoyed all the activities that Big A and I, and every other child of our generation, did at his age - biking in the park (Au Pair did the pedaling, Little A rode alongside), boating in the park's man-made lake, tramping around among pine trees, and looking at the horses. This is one of the few places in the country where horses can bear the weather comfortably, and riding is one of the most common tourist activities.

Little A loves watching animals, but is very wary of being too near large ones. He rode a Shetland pony once, and fell off it when it suddenly shied, and since then has been afraid to get back in the saddle. Big A wants to cure him of this fear, and helped him at least get close enough to touch. That was enough for now, and hopefully as he comes back again and again he gets a little braver each time, until he eventually has a ride.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dog Days

Little A's class studied dogs for the past month or so. The culminating activity for this module was a field trip to a dog training and grooming centre.

For the first time in ages, I was able to see my son in his "school" setting. To my surprise and delight, he sat quietly in his seat nearly the entire time that the dog demonstration was held. He did not volunteer to interact or feed the dogs the way his other classmates did, but when students were set in pairs so the dog could jump over their legs, he indiated that he wanted to be a part of this activity.

Sadly, since there are an odd number of students in his class, Little A was left without a partner. He was assigned to give the dog his treat after it had jumped over all the pairs of student legs - a task he didn't particularly want, since he has been told by me that he shouldn't put his hand near a dog's mouth. I felt very strongly at this instance that my son was being made to stand out because he was different, and I know Little A felt this way, too.

One of his therapists told me that a mother of her other students used to cry, after sitting with the other mothers in her child's class and listening to them, every day, making play dates for their children. Her special needs child was never once invited, and she thought it incredibly insensitive of the other mothers to continually set future play dates right in front of her without even acknowledging that her child was in the same class as theirs. Too polite to speak up, she would keep a stiff upper lip until she was with other mothers of children like hers, and then break down.

I felt for her, because I, too, have heard not only the mothers or nannies, but the children inviting each other home every day after class is dismissed. No one has ever invited Little A. I try to console myself by thinking he's so busy anyway that he wouldn't have time to attend the play dates, but the truth is, I know he feels so different and left out, and my heart bleeds for him.

Lately, on his iPad, he types phrases I've never encountered in my time with him: Super Mario, Little Ponoe (for Little Pony). When I asked his teachers, they admitted that his classmates talk about these characters during free play time. Little A often sits near them in parallel play, and while he may not be able to participate in the conversations, he very obviously pays attention to them.

Only one mother so far in Little A's class has ever expressed some sort of awareness about these differences in the children. We were waiting for the class to be dismissed, and the invitable "where-are-you-applying-your-son/daughter-for-big-school" conversation came up. This mum said top of her list was a school nearby that mainstreams special needs children with regular ones, and this was precisely the reason she wanted her neurotypical daughter to attend this school, so she could be more aware of other kids and their differences. My heart warmed when I heard this, and I wanted to hug this woman I barely knew, despite the fact that neither she nor her daughter have ever asked us for a play date.

I am grateful for parents and children who recognize my son's differences and diffiulties and not only accept them but go out of their way to make things comfortable for him. There are far too few people who do. Reccently, Little A did get to attend a party play date for a friend's daughter. He didn't want to join the mayhem of the soft play centre, but he enjoyed the other activities, and gamely posed with the girls for photos at cake blowing time. Moments like those are all we need. Add up enough of them, and Little A no longer feels lonely and left out.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Some Say, Talk is Cheap

Little A is 5. He babbles, he gestures clearly, he spells and puts words together on a board logically, and verbalizes certain phrases that his caregivers understand, but as far as his annual psychoeducational assessment maintains, he still does not have fuctional speech.

According to the specialist who conducts the assessment, this is the main hindrance to Little A's "blooming" into what essentially can take him, if not off the autism spectrum, then certainly well into the high-functioning end. Naturally, any parent whose child has handicaps wishes those handicaps to be as manageable as possible, but when we consider how far Little A has come, it is a rather long way and we are incredibly glad.

These days he prefers to type. There is an app on the iPad, or he will  use Google, and as a last resort, simply type on a keyboard with the computer switched off, making sure someone stands over him to read what he spells out. He communicates efficiently this way, allowing us precious glimpses of what goes on in his very busy mind.

I've been keeping a log, and it delights me to read it over and see how he is learning to express himself better as each day passes. Here are some snippets, just as he types or spells them, with my interpretations in brackets. He hasn't yet mastered the art of leaving spaces between words:

July 20 -
ithappykownit (if you're happy and you know it, or simply, I am happy)
huging (hugging, I assume)
gigllebeellies (I have no idea where he picked this up, but there are characters known as the Gigglebellies, apparently.)

July23 - cikkacikkaboomboom (a favourite book at the time, and videos he enjoyed on youTube)

July25 - ifyouarehappyandyoukonwit (only two letters reversed, with no help from us)

July26 -
focus (no idea how he knows this word. Maybe his teachers or therapists ask him to do so, but none have spelled it out)
eachone (apparently, he gave his teacher at school several books, and spelled for him to read each one)
roudn (round)
logn (long)

Aug2 -

Aug4 -
cartrainbuswalk (yes, he knows how to get from Point A to Point B)

Aug8 -
fuuldownohno (fall down, after rereading Jack and Jill for the nth time, as he loves the falling down the hill bit)

Aug9 -
soory / srroy (an apology after a tantrum, first time ever without being told to make amends)

Aug14 - (these entries inspired by a current favourite book about jazz music and animals)

Aug15 -
swwmng askday (I want to swim, but I need to ask Daddy)

Aug22 -
pianobigbig (possibly referring to the baby grand at my parents' house)

Aug27 -
borcken (broken)
supermario (I had to ask his teacher about this as we've got nothing at home relating to Super Mario. Apparently, several classmates were talking about it and he was playing with them and listening to their conversation, even if he didn't join in)
keycar (We need a key to ride the car)
carbooks (Let's take the car and go to the bookstore)

Aug29 -
washbut (when asked if he was done on the toilet and needed help to clean up)

Sep5 -
washbut borcken (telling his teacher that the bidet we use to wash up after using the toilet was broken)
teacherfocus (teacher wasn't paying attention to his previous statement, so he wanted her to know he noticed)

The past two days, when on the way to school, Little A's been getting my Kindle and typing "carduck" or "carschoolduck" or "carseaduck." The duck pond near my shop is nearby, so I promised him that tomorrow, when there is no school that is the first place we'll visit. He deserves a reward for communicating, after all.

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Green

Little A has a book he loves, featuring CBeebies characters Charlie and Lola, that is all about recycling. He likes that they get to plant a tree at the end of the book, but doesn't seem to grasp that "packing away" 100 plastic bottles, paper tubes and cups and tin cans to get said tree planted relates to saving our planet.

It would be nice to assume that Third World countries are generally more eco-friendly than their First World counterparts, being unable to afford many things and therefore recycling as a matter of course - handing down old or used clothing and shoes to younger siblings, cousins or the less fortunate, reusing glass jars and bottles and plastic food containers instead of throwing them away - but what keeps us thrifty also keeps us wasteful. An entire bottle of shampoo costs x amount, so instead the majority of the population (the 70% below the poverty line) simply purchase single-use sachets instead. Never mind that these end up costing more in the long run than an economy-size bottle would have done; at point of sale, when they have little to spend, these repackaged items make sense.

Ditto, drinks. Since a whole serving of soda may be out of budget, they accept smaller portions - a cupful or two - served in a clear plastic bag with a straw. All this makes for more unrecyclable waste. Not to mention allowing illegal logging to keep the economy afloat and all the rest of it.

Little A uses the same drinking bottle or cup all the time, and only draws on paper that's already been printed on the other side (store sales reports and the like). 95% of his toys are hand-me-downs, and most of his clothes are gifts. He eats jumbo boxes of cereal out of the same bowl and takes his lunch to school every day. He doesn't like fast food, nor bottled drinks. As far as carbon footprints go, his seems fairly small.

Until we get to the energy and water conservation bit. At 6pm every evening, I turn on the lights in the living and dining areas, as well as the main hallway. Lately, Little A has been "helping" by turning on the bedroom and bathroom lights as well, and then leaving the doors open so the hallway, where he plays, is brighter. We turn them off, he turns them on again. So far, being told that lights go off when no one is in the room hasn't been effective. After all, the living and dining room lights stay on even when I'm in his room with him, I can imagine him thinking. Plus, he knows that turning off the lights means it's bedtime, and if he happens not to be sleepy yet, he protests by keeping all the lights on.

Bathtimes are another thing. Little A loves showers, baths, swimming pools - bodies of water in general. When he washes his hands, he wants to leave the water running so he can dunk his plastic dolphins, fish and other sea creatures in it. Likewise when he bathes. We turn the taps off at a certain point, and he just splashes in the shallow water, but sometimes it just drains away before I can use it for handwashing or bathing myself.

I want to raise an eco- conscious child. As soon as I find a way to explain carbon footprints to a five-year old, hopefully I can.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

School Blues

Little A is now officially medium-sized. In the last week he seems to have grown at least an inch, slimming out again. I never wanted to slow his childhood down before, but now, I'm beginning to wish I could. The main reason for this is that it's the time when parents of children aged 5 start the application process for "big school."

Given his special needs, there is no way Little A will be going to the school Big A and I attended, not that I wanted him to go there in the first place. At that very traditional school, a child aged six goes to school dragging a bag at least as heavy as he is, containing anywhere from 4-8 books and an equal number of notebooks. Every day, that bag goes to school and home, as they haven't heard about the concept of lockers, and the amount of homework assigned to the students makes one wonder what they actually learn in the 7 hours they spend in the classroom.

Besides that, they have absolutely no capacity, nor intention, to include special needs kids in their program.

So it will be a progressive school for us, one that offers inclusion and mainstreaming and, hopefully, some special needs support staff. The biggest problem is finding this place. The Autism Society of the Philippines does not have, or offer, a directory of schools offering special support. I've asked them, and every therapist and centre we've ever attended and others we haven't, and come up empty.

Word of mouth seems to be the only way to go. I've spoken to parents in waiting rooms, who have been infinitely more helpful than our developmental pediatrician. The problem is, all the good schools seem to be two cities away from us.

Still, I'm slowly amassing a list, and will begin scheduling visits, or just walking in, this month. I've no choice, really - all the other parents are already in the game, and I've got to catch up or Little A gets left behind. Wish me luck, or, better yet, throw me the name of a school or two.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fabulous Five

Little A had a birthday ten days ago. Now he's five, in his last year of preschool, and animal-obsessed. He's always loved everything farm-related, but zoos and ocean animals come next on the list of nature favourites. The first words he read, and spelled, were "duck", "chicks", "cow" and "horse". Now he types out phrases - "let go (for let's go) farm", "let go zoo" and "let go school".

Since the summer, twice a week he has been going to his grandparents' house for speech therapy with a teacher who comes from further south. We meet in the middle, and he clearly loves these lessons because when they were cancelled last week due to the therapist's bout with flu, Little A was distraught. When I took him home from school instead of to his grandparents' house, he made an almighty fuss, crying and throwing a regular angry tantrum.

This week classes resumed, and he was so happy to see his teacher yesterday that he couldn't stop hugging her throughout the session. In the car en route to grandparents' house, he spelled out "go go spch" - the first time he'd asked to go anywhere apart from the zoo, farm or school. Since about the third week since their sessions started, every time he sits down with his therapist the first phrase he spells is the same - "it happy it clap," his way of saying "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands." I dread what will happen when she goes on maternity leave later this year.

Five also marks our last year of early intervention. While he seems academically on track, Little A still does not speak full words or phrases and needs to improve further in terms of frustration tolerance, waiting and task completion. So, we keep on - his team is positive, and good at what they do. Let's hope everything keeps coming together, piece by piece by piece. I look at it more like a mosaic than a puzzle. It will take a long time to complete, but when it does, it will be beautiful. And along the way, the partial product has its own significance too.

Monday, July 16, 2012

School Days Again

Where did the rest of June go? A month since my last post, shame on me! But really, the month has flown by.

Mid-June marked a return to school for Little A. I was worried he'd take some time to get re-accustomed to his new timetable, as this was the first summer in three years he didn't attend the school's holiday session. To my delight, he was thrilled to be back and ran straight into his classroom without a backward glance. The hard work put in with his ABA therapists over the summer seems to be paying off too, as he has many more good days than bad ones.

Of course, life would be too dull without trips to the hospital once in a while, and about two weeks into the schoolyear I got another dreaded call - Little A had hit his head and it was bleeding. I rushed over, but for some reason, call it mother's intuition, I wasn't as bothered this time as I was when I was told about the previous head injury.

I rang Big A on my mobile en route to let him know what had happened, but he too warned me that head wounds tend to bleed a lot, and that if the bleeding stopped quickly, we should be in the clear. Little A was more angry than fearful when I arrived, because he was bothered by all the ice on his head. The wound had stopped bleeding but we were advised to seek a doctor's opinion on whether or not it needed a suture. Off we went to Accident and Emergency.

After about half an hour of waiting, and plenty of screaming when anyone wanted to look at his head, we were sent home with instructions to apply antiseptic daily until the wound dried. It was shallow, thankfully, and wouldn't require stitches or another head CT.

Apart from that incident, school has been going well on the whole, far as I can tell. This Friday is my first parent-teacher conference, and Little A's team of therapists will be in attendance, so next week I should have a clearer picture of where he, and we, are going next.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lions, Tigers and Bears

Right before a new schoolyear was due to start, my mum scheduled a family trip to Singapore. Her mum had just turned 85, and Little A and his cousins hadn't spent much together over the summer. With one niece starting college, and another, high school, it seemed a family outing was in order.

Little A had never been to the Lion City, so I was looking forward to showing him the sights. Big A, once again, was swamped with work, so he was the only family member not in attendance. Fifteen of us boarded a plane and headed off.

Planning outings with a group ranging in age from 4 to 85 is no easy task. My sisters and their families had been to Singapore before, so their kids had seen most of the sights and only wanted to shop. Little A and I had no interest in the various shopping malls, impressive though their offerings might be, and wanted to see the animals. I also hoped to see a museum exhibit while we were in the city.

Despite the punishing heat, Little A loved Singapore. He jumped for joy at the pianist, violinist and flautist who were playing in the hotel lobby as we checked in, and spent an inordinate amount of time in the bathtub, splashing away. Theday after we arrived, he found a Lego-type farm set in a toy store and refused to let it go. His grandmother happily bought it for him, and he spent the afternoon playing with it in our hotel room while I snuck out and left him with his grandfather and took one niece and one nephew to H&M.

We did the famous Night Safari, which Little A loved possibly more than anything he'd ever experienced before. Seeing animals while riding an open-sided train for an hour was his idea of heaven. He wanted to go again, and had to be dragged away. The next day, the group split up, with the older cousins going to Universal Studios and Little A, myself, my parents and grandmother to the Underwater World aquarium. This wasn't anywhere near as good as the Night Safari, but Little A loved seeing the dolphins in their pool, coming up for air and swimming round and round.

I did manage to see that museum exhibit, with Little A clinging to me crying the entire time as it frightened the heck out of him. He did enjoy an interactive display in the Warhol gallery though, very much. The next morning, I snuck out again quickly after breakfast to pick up his educational toys while he played with my dad in the hotel room, and then we were off to the airport and home.

We didn't get to see the Zoo, nor the Bird Park, both of which I am sure Little A would love, but that leaves more for next time - and something to enjoy with his dad on our next trip to this city. For now, it's back to reality, and school the next day. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

One Hand Clapping

There was a time when Little A would clap to say he was sorry, as well as when he was happy. Lately though, and we have no idea why, he can't tolerate any form of applause at all.

When there is cheering on tv for a sports event, he changes the channel. When anyone in his immediate vicinity claps for whatever reason - to call attention, to show approval - he rushes up to them, takes their hands, brings them together quietly, and then proceeds to throw an almighty tantrum. Kicking, screaming, banging his head on the floor, throwing things, hitting and slapping anyone who tries to restrain him.

As anyone can imagine, this makes things quite hard. I'm not sure if being home all summer gave him the sense that he could control his environment, but this sudden development has meant everything is fraught with peril - trips to the supermarket or the high street included. During our recent trip to the farm, there were a number of outbursts - at the farmhouse, in the garden, in a park and at the airport, to name a few. And with school starting soon and his teachers constantly clapping to get the kids' attention, oh boy are we in trouble.

I've spoken to his teachers and we're trying to work on the issue. Thankfully, after the worst of it in late May, Little A seems to be getting used to the fact that there will be applause in the world that he cannot control. His father sat him down and made him watch the American Idol finals show, and lately he's stopped with the wild tantrums and been content with just approaching the clapper and bringing their hands together several times, silently, before he walks away.

Repeated applause though, from someone he's already "chastised," will eventually trigger another outburst, as we witnessed recently at my grandmother's 85th birthday party. Still, we're working on it, and hopefully soon this irrational fear will be gone altogether. When it does, we will cheer with our hands together.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

After an exhausting day spent travelling, Little A slept long and deeply. He made up for it once he woke though. Before breakfast, he went exploring the grounds to see a horse he saw stabled in the field that comprised a portion of the enormous "backyard".

Once he'd eaten, he and two other children went on a tour with our host, our Au Pairs and myself. (The parents of the two other kids preferred to stay in bed.) We saw the horses, the cow, the Billy Goats Gruff trip trapping in their elevated hut, a rabbit and, finally, the peacocks. There was also a tractor that Little A was thrilled to pretend to drive, and a playground that the children of the farm still enjoyed. Most enjoyable was a Shetland Sheepdog that accompanied Little A everywhere he went. They were fast friends right up until our departure.

After lunch, the adults in the house wanted a rest, so the Au Pair and I tried to keep Little A from being a disturbance. This involved further exploration of areas already discovered, and much time spent in front of the peacock enclosure. In the evening, he was restless as there wasn't anywhere to go in the dark. This probably explained the 430am wakeup on Sunday morning.

Sunday mornings meant worship service for the people on the farm, so those of us who didn't attend had to make our own breakfasts - a delight in the amply stocked kitchen. Once we'd eaten and the service was over, the children and mothers went off to a nearby amusement park. Little A was cranky, having woken up very early, and didn't want to do much but go home. He threw a tantrum midway through the excursion and fell asleep on the bumpy track back to the farm as we raced to get to the airport in time for our flight home, which was, thankfully, uneventful and better than the flight over in that Little A spent far less time crying, since he already knew what to expect.

Big A picked us up at the airport, having spent a very busy weekend himself. We were glad to be home again.

On a Jet Plane

Last weekend, we flew south to visit a friend's farm. She had been inviting us for over five years, but this was the first time we made definite plans to travel there. I bought our plane tickets in March for a really good rate.

Come Trip Week though, Big A was swamped with work. He now has two jobs, and manages to juggle both but has little time to rest and relax. He was incredibly disappointed at not being able to join us, and we were just as unhappy that he was missing the trip.

It was Little A's first airplane ride in two years, and we weren't sure how he'd deal with it. At the airport's check-in queue, I was glad the Au Pair was there to keep him busy (i.e. chase him all over the the place) while I stood in line for nearly an hour. As it was a domestic flight, there was no immigration queue to get through, thankfully, and we proceeded to the departure area, where we soon discovered our flight would be delayed.

Little A kept himself occupied by watching planes through the glass windows, running up and down a non-working travelator several times and then sitting down with us for a snack (thanks to the iPad) before we boarded an hour behind schedule.

Walking down the tunnel into the plane, he was happy, but when we got to the end and he realised we would be getting into the plane, he freaked out. Crying, shouting, reaching for the door and trying to run away, we held him in and tried vainly to calm him down. He looked around, and I imagined he wondered where his dad was and why he wasn't with us. He sat crying and fussing in my lap, and we went through another bout of shouting and screaming when I put his seat belt on.

Thankfully, he calmed down after about 15 minutes, just as we were taxi-ing for takeoff. He was calm for the rest of the flight and happy to look out the window. As we landed, the lady seated in front of us told me that she had an autistic grandson very much like Little A. She was incredibly understanding, for which I was very grateful, since he had been kicking her seat for a portion of the flight.

After the hour and a half-long flight came another hour and a half's journey, in a large 4 x 4 over mostly dirt roads to the farm. It was a bumpy ride, but Little was so exhausted after the tension of the flight that he fell asleep shortly into the ride and woke up when the jolts got too much for him.

We arrived at the farm at dinnertime, and I alternated between unpacking (5mins) and trying to get him settled (about 2 hours). He wasn't interested in playing with the bigger girls in the playroom, and couldn't really explore the enormous backyard as it was dark. A swing on the porch kept him quiet, and he managed to eat a few bites of dinner before being forced into his room with some toys. After a long shower, the Au Pair managed to get him into bed. I had dinner with the adults (children ate in the kitchen and the teenagers at a separate table) and excused myself when they started to chat and drink after the meal. Once Little A was asleep, I showered and joined him in bed.

Farm adventure, up next.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Age of Aqua-rius

Summer is nearly gone, unbelievably. Last week it started to rain sporadically, after a solid month of searing sunshine. In another month, monsoon season arrives, and Little A goes back to school.

This weekend, we are set to go on the first of two mini-breaks. This will be a trip to a friend's farm in the south. She's been inviting us since before Little A came along, but we've only taken her up on the offer this year. I've seen photos of the gorgeous, sprawling, ranch-style hacienda complete with horses, organically grown fruits, vegetables and coffee. The latter three are how they make a living - exporting to the Asian region, particularly Japan.

As the summer has gone, in between therapy sessions, Little A has been swimming. Every day, sometimes twice a day. In the beginning, Big A or I would get into the pool with him, but lately he's been swimming on his own. In a month he's gone from doggy paddling the entire 25 metre length of the pool to teaching himself a version of the backstroke (2 days), how to float, and learning to hold his breath underwater. Recently he's been swimming a nearly proper stroke, without having had a single lesson. A session involves several lengths followed by a run around the pool, like a triathlete-in-training.

Big A says that what Little A has done on his own is amazing. As I am strictly a land creature, I agree wholeheartedly, and imagine it must be akin to learning how to do simple barre exercises corrrectly by simply watching and experimenting. We know our little boy achieves a great deal when he is motivated. Now to find a way to apply this motivation to speech.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Day at the Museum

In spite of the summer holidays, Little A has a full schedule. 4 or more hours of therapy each day (except Sundays) and swimming in the afternoons keep him occupied. His cousins, too, are involved in all sorts of summer workshops, music lessons and the like.

On Labour Day there was no work for anyone. We thought this would be the perfect time to visit the new museum that opened down the road recently. Little A, his cousins and my parents made a day out of it.

The last time Little A was at a museum with a large group, he hated it. He cried and tried to escape, and didn't want to try anything unless he was made to. He enjoys wandering when we go on our own, but tends to react badly to crowds. I worried he wouldn't be able to handle the group introduction that was "required" at the start of each visit.

To my surprise, he was great. After initial reluctance, he sat in a chair near the group and listened to the opening spiel. When the group was led to the first gallery and given another speech, instead of wandering into the exhibit area on the other side he simply peeked over then stood in a corner carefully, as if trying to tell me, "We're not meant to go there yet, Mum."

Once we were set loose to explore on our own, he tried many of the manipulative exhibits. He let other kids take turns and waited for another round if he liked them, or simply looked and walked past if he didn't. All in all, it was a good day out. When we sat to eat at the rather sad museum cafe after the tour, he kept running back to his favourite exhibits outside after his quick snack.

The only thing we didn't get to enjoy was the playground trip at the end, as it started to rain. With the museum being so nearby though, we can go again another time. Hopefully Little A will enjoy the trip even more the next time around.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sunday Morning

At the corner of a busy intersection, a youth had his head deep in a garbage bin. As we watched, he pulled out a soda can, examined it closely, and then placed it carefully in a sack he held in his other hand. Then he put his head back in the bin. 

We turned the corner as the light went green, but not before Big A remarked, "I want to give that boy a job." I replied, "You could." We went round the block and back to that corner, where the youth was about to walk off with a now half-full sack. 

The car stopped, I rolled down my window and called him over. He was polite, careful, wondering if he'd done something wrong. Big A asked him if he wanted a job, and he said yes. He was, he claimed, 18, but could have actually been a year or two younger. He had no home and no parents. I assumed everything he owned was in the backpack he wore over his shoulders. 

Big A gave him some money and I wrote down the address of his warehouse and general directions. We promised that if he made his way there he'd have a job, a bed and some food. (Big A houses some of the staff in barracks above the main warehouse, and provides rice for their meals as well as drinking water and afternoon tea.) An extra hand wasn't really needed at the time, but as my husband said, "No one should have to forage in a garbage bin to live."

Later that evening, the warehouse manager called. The boy had arrived. Big A gave instructions to assign him a bed, to make sure he bathed, and asked the staff to supervise him carefully over the next few days. We hope the youth will take this chance to make a living, to learn how to fish, as it were, and do good with it. He didn't seem like a drug addict or a petty thief, but we really had no idea who he was or of his background. Still, we could let him change his stars, if he so wanted. The rest is up to him. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Birthday Surprise

I turned 36 this year, and was thoroughly surprised with a birthday party attended by my nearest and dearest. Not one for big celebrations (dinner and drinks with family or close friends will do), I don't usually make extensive plans. This year, with a slew of things on my plate for the month (so much that I'd - horrors - forgotten Little A's final Parent-Teacher conference scheduled for the Monday after school let out for the holidays) I didn't even think about my birthday. Big A's is four days ahead of mine and I'd barely remembered to buy him a cake.

At any rate, b-day rolled around and I had a briefing for a major corporate event scheduled for later that week. I left Little A in the capable hands of his Shadow Teacher, rushed off to the meeting and then straight to the shop to relieve my staff so she could have a meal break, it being the other person's day off. Errands followed, and I made it home at about 430pm, not having had a bite to eat all day.

Big A mentioned that we'd be having dinner at a favorite restaurant of ours, which wasn't unusual as we eat there whenever he wants a good plate of Spaghetti Bolognese (i.e., every other week or so). I finished as much paperwork as I could while Little A napped, and after he'd had his afternoon tea, we were off.

At the cafe, the staff knew us so well that we didn't need to look at the menu. Little A wandered around as I sat and savoured a few moments of quiet, until I had to stop him from entering a room that I thought was off limits, since it was usually reserved for private functions. When I got to the door of the private room, the lights went on and everyone yelled, "Surprise!" I think Little A was as surprised as I was.

Big A had delegated the invitation assignments to one friend per group, each of which occupied one table - my dearest childhood friends, university friends and former workmates, relatives, Little A's godfathers and their wives, and my fellow book club members. This last required a bit of cyber-stalking, apparently, since Big A did not have the contact info of anyone in this group, having only met one or two of them until that evening.

It was a lovely evening spent catching up, eating good food, and receiving my favourite presents - books, delicious eats and bath and body products! I feel lucky and blessed to have had 36 years on earth. I hope many more are to come.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Week

Considering we live in the biggest (population-wise, at least) Catholic country in Asia, the Philippines is shockingly remiss in celebrating the Christian world's second biggest holiday, and this is something that has not gone unnoticed by, of all people, the expat community.

Ever since my mum opened her little shop, we've tried to cater to every possible occasion. At first was hit-or-miss in terms of merchadise selection. Apparently the local market likes giving cards and foil balloons on Valentine's Day, Mother's and Father's Days, but buys neither cards nor baskets for Easter. The expats though, stock up on Easter goodies.

I personally lament the absence of Cadbury's Creme Eggs in my part of the world (despite the presence of their other product lines in supermarkets and garages), as this has long been my best Easter treat (at least since I discovered them in the UK in the late 1980s).

While most Filipinos may not hand around chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday, many do spent the days leading up to it in prayer and church visiting; or at least they did until the mass exodus to the country's fine beaches began with the advent of cheap flights and resort developments. There is a Maundy Thursday tradition of visiting seven churches and saying prayers or the Stations of the Cross at each, and this is one my family has assiduously observed as far back as I remember.

We used to go as a family - parents, grandparents, kids and grandkids. When the families got bigger though, and some of us moved further away from my mum and dad, we started to go on our own. Big A and I used to go on Good Friday while Little A napped, but this year we wanted him to be a part of it, so we did the rounds of the churches after breakfast on Friday morning, before the sun was too high in the sky.

Little A enjoyed church-hopping. He knelt at each, crossed himself and did praying hands. At some churches he sat quietly for a few minutes, but at each one he made for the atlar and tried to climb to the priest's pulpit. Perhaps he wondered why there were no services going on, or perhaps he felt the presence of God was strongest nearest to the altar. Either way, we were pleased with the way he behaved and look forward to continuing this tradition as a family for years to come.

May everyone have a blessed and peaceful Easter!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Theatre Shoes

I turn 36 in a few days. A significant portion of those years have been spent either onstage, backstage, or sitting in a darkened auditorium.

Apart from a lifetime love of books, my parents instilled in my sisters and myself an appreciation for all things cultural. On our family travels, we never visited Disney World, Epcot Centre or Universal Studios. I've still never been to any of those places. We went to art galleries, museums, and queued up outside many a theatre in all weathers to get tickets to Starlight Express, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Blood Brothers and more, even if it meant sitting separately or having to come back and queue again another day when there were only enough tickets for a couple of the members of the family. London's West End is one of my favorite places in the world.

As a young dancer, I spent hours a day backstage and onstage. Blocking, lighting, marking, and, of course, dancing. So the theatre is a very special place for me, and even when I stopped performing I remained an eager audience member. My mum, herself a frustrated ballerina, has long been a professional fundraiser, bringing plenty of private funds to very deserving symphony orchestras and ballet companies.

When Little A came along, I stayed away from the theatre for many years. No nanny meant no social life, and a husband who worked late most nights meant I couldn't turn over babysitting duties either. Then the Au Pair came, and gradually I began to make time once again for evenings out. Drinks, dinners, the occasional party and, finally, once again, theatre trips.

This first quarter of 2012, I've been in the audience more than I have the past four years, thanks to a friend's convincing me to get a local stage company's season ticket (three shows in three months). And then a bonus - a ballet company from Barcelona came to town to do a quick double bill.

For the first time in decades, I was blown away by ballet. Not since Sylvie Guillem and Darcey Bussell have I been so impressed. And this time, it wasn't because of the dancers, though they were fantastic. Catalan choreographer David Campos straddled the line between culture and popular and melded them together perfectly with his new restagings of old ballets. For the first time, I wondered how different my life would have been if I'd moved to Barcelona to dance with their company when they'd invited me, and felt honored to have been given such good parts to dance when he and his wife staged Carmina Burana in Manila fifteen years ago.

Ah, the stage. Sometimes, I miss you. But I don't regret hanging up my dancing shoes for the turns my life has taken since. For now, I'll be a willing audience member again. And again, and again.

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Graduation" Day

School is out. Last Friday, Little A's class had their moving up day celebration. With pride, we watched amazed as our little boy donned first his long-sleeved shirt and trousers with very little resistance, and then put on his toga and received his certificate. Small potatoes for most children, but considering that just a few weeks ago Little A wouldn't even wear khaki shorts (soft cotton only), let alone the toga, it was a huge achievement for us.

The class had been practicing a dance number, and he was doing some of the movements easily, but on the day of the show, the teachers played a surprise Audio Visual presentation alongside the stage, and Little A was so fascinated by it that he completely neglected the bits of choreography he'd worked so hard to master.

He's going back to the same class next year, and joining the few 5-year olds who will not yet be moving to big school. We need this year to cement his behavioral improvements, and to determine what sort of school he will be ready to attend next. The summer will provide ample time for intensive therapy work. From the sidelines, we will keep cheering on our little boy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Water Babies

Today marks the first day of my family's summer. It's two more weeks til school lets out for Little A, but the weather has already turned sultry. More importantly, the water in the swimming pool outside has warmed up. Today we went for our first family swim.

At some point last year, Little A taught himself to doggy paddle. Despite other tactile sensitivies, he's always loved the water. Telling him swimming time is over has meant, for the past couple of years, about half an hour of solid screaming, kicking and hitting as he is bodily dragged into the shower.

Then came the Great Fall, which meant no swimming for a couple of months. Thankfully that coincided with what we consider "the cold season" (which is really when the water temperature is falls below 32 degrees Celsius). Little A would test the water with his toes and not even try to get in.

Lately, he's been spending more time by the pool than on the playground - dipping his feet into the water, pretending to jump or dive in, and gleefully watching other children swimming. Then came yesterday, when he jumped in with his clothes on. I fished him out and explained that we had school in an hour and that he'd have to shower and dress. Shocked at having been fully submerged for the first time in months, he didn't complain.

Today, Big A and I let him find his water groove again. After a few minutes of holding onto us and being careful, Little A gained confidence. By the time the hour mark rolled around, he was paddling happily half a length at a time.

I hope we can get in some formal lessons this summer. Some of Big A's former National Swim Team-mates have gotten certified to teach special needs kids how to swim. Little A's cousin has made great strides with his lessons, even learning to blow bubbles, something he could never do before (he has oromotor dsypraxia). I'd like Little A to be "properly" drownproofed, and seeing how he has his father's build and genes, expect he too might swim competitively one day.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pretend Play

Autism is a tripod. In order to be diagnosed, a child needs to fit at least two of three criteria: delayed or lack of communication, absence or lack of social interaction, and to practice certain behaviors (most of which can fall under the sensory intergration disorder umbrella, or just be plain self-stimulation behavior - head-banging, rocking, inappropriate hand movements and the like).

Among these three main criteria are a bunch of sub-categories. One of these is imaginative play. Most children with autism do not or rarely engage in pretend play. Either because they don't know how, or they just can't conceive of doing something imaginary when the real world is already such a challenge for them to deal with on a daily basis.

If you give a child with autism a toy truck, he or she may put it in his/her mouth, spin its wheels, or roll the toy along but without a "destination" in mind - just rolling for the sake of it. They need to be taught what comes naturally to other children - that pretending is not silly or pointless, but healthy and fun.

Little A's pretend play came along gradually. He loves animals, so apart from lining them up and spelling their names, we put them on habitat boards, or take them into their "environments" - sea creatures in the bathtub, zoo animals in the plants. He enjoys the wonderful dollhouse in the dental office next to the therapy centre, but still needs more encouragement and time to create play scenarios for Madeline and her friends.

Seeing him pretending to ride a plastic giraffe at school, trot and jump a toy horse over fences and feed a little dog without prompting are causes for much joy in our house.

If there's anything you learn from living with autism, it's that steps can be infinitesimally tiny, but when they are made, a huge leap is achieved in the child's brain. These miniscule gains are massive to the likes of us, and the promise of these and the hope that more will come are what keep us going, moment after moment, day after day.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year

I wanted to start this blog many months before I actually did, nearly four years ago. A diary-keeper since childhood, it seemed only natural that I would keep up with the times and migrate it using modern technology. But I hesitated for a long time. Maybe it was because so many people had wonderfully written blogs that I read regularly, some of which have since turned into books. And I know I don't have the writing chops for that.

But then I realised there was no need to make my blog public. After all, it was going to be just an online diary, right? So here I am, chronicling what started as the life of an average mother and turned out to be the life of a mother of an extra-special child.

And now a few people occasionally read this blog. They are old friends and new, all very dear to my heart, and I value their comments and feelings of sympathy.

This the first February 29th since the blog's existence, so I wanted to mark it with a post. Happy Leap Year, dear readers (all five of you). May we all continue to make leaps - of friendship and faith - as the years go on.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Word Fun

Little A has been spelling a lot lately. For a while we packed away his letter tiles and magnets because he would simply arrange letters in alphabetical order.

When I brought the letters out again after a couple of months, he went right back to words, adding many new ones to his repertoire. "Letgo" or just "go" when he wants out, "orchesta" and its variations, with his musical instruments lined up in a row alongside, easy ones like "train", "noah", "ark", "zoo" and "jugle" with animals next to them. But there's one word that has me stumped every time, which he spells quite regularly as if just waiting for me to get it - "nogrmail."

Could it be that he sees me checking my email regularly? But why the "no" before that? Does he want me to play with him instead of checking my email? When he asks, if I'm not impossibly busy, I do, or at least take a break to play for a little while.

Verbally, he's mastered "ah" for up. Now we're on "baba" for borrow, "oh-peh" for open, and his first "complete" word - "ah-pah" for iPad.

The barrage of therapies goes on, with more hours added every week. Let's hope the improvement continues apace.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Both Ends of the Candle

I'm no stranger to work. By the time I was ten, I was regularly doing double duty - one of the top in my year at school despite company apprentice-level daily ballet class and rehearsals. At boarding school it was more of the same. University meant scheduling classes early so that I could make company class, rehearsals and evening performances.

When I hung up my pointe shoes to see what "normal" life felt like, I took on a fun yet tiring regular weekend job as an assistant wedding coordinator in addition to my nine-to-five weekday work. By 2003, I was three-timing - teaching the New York City Ballet workout twice a week in the evenings after work and doing weddings on weekends. As a young singleton, I enjoyed this productive work and the extra income. Big A and I spent enough time together in spite of it all.

By the time Little A came along, I traded all of this for full-time motherhood. But two years ago my mum opened her shop, and it all began again - this time I was working wife and mum.

Lately, with the exponential increase in Little A's therapy hours (and corresponding exponential increase in therapy fees), both Big A and I have had to take on any and every extra income opportunity to make ends meet. Our cost of living has doubled, so in addition to the new business he started last year, Big A's gone back to investing in the stock market and is looking into getting back into it, part-time.

I've taken on a couple of weddings, and am working double time getting more corporate accounts for my mum's business as we're attempting to get into the black this year. Naturally, there's been cost cutting on some fronts - no shopping for me beyond groceries, nor book buying beyond a small fixed amount per month. I've got to start packing lunches, or at least snacks, as the minimal amount I sometimes need to spend to stop from keeling over with hunger while Little A is at school still adds up.

There have been little treats though - coupon purchases for discounted meals, a subscription to a theatre company's season ticket. So the belt tightening hasn't been all gloom and doom. Plus there's Lent coming, when making sacrifices is the thing to do. As long as we keep our heads above water and our health intact, we'll be okay.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Recently, Little A had his first ride in a Porsche. A car dealer friend of Big A's was showing it to him on the way home from the garage. Little A happened to come across them while going for his evening walk. He climbed into the car and refused to get out. When the big boys got into the front seats and revved up to go for a ride, his smile was brighter than I've ever seen it. He sat in his little bucket seat, grinning from ear to ear.

The boys went for a couple of spins around the block like it was a race track. Tires squealing, hard turns. They were in testosterone heaven. Little A had to be pulled out of the car when it was over, and he promptly walked down the road to where another red, shiny sports car was parked (and Audi R8, I think it was) and waiting patiently outside it in vain, in the hopes that the complete stranger who owned it might let him have another ride.

Our bedtime reading lately has been the story of Lightning McQueen and his tow truck buddy. I surmise Little A associated the red sports cars with this now favourite character, but perhaps he's just a typical car-obsessed boy.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Objects of Comfort

Children are resilient, everyone says. They bounce back from anything! Take Little A, who fell and fractured his skull in two places and didn't even need a bandage or stitches, just a few weeks of rest. The thing is, not all scars are visible from the outside.

After The Great Fall, Little A refused to go anywhere without his shoes on. They had to be on his feet at all times, even when he slept. (They are propped up on a chair or on the floor just off the bed). He would wake up if we tried to removed them in the night or mid-nap. Bathtime involved plenty of screaming, the fastest washes in history (shoes right next to the tub, in his line of sight at all times), and the shoes were back on his feet before they were barely dry, with the rest of him still dripping.

There was a time when we couldn't get Little A to wear shoes at all. He hated them, and took them off at every opportunity, leaving them on the floor in shopping centres and restaurants and running off barefoot. His classrooms and most homes we visited required leaving shoes at the door, so possibly he really didn't see any point in having to wear them.

We got him to accept them, finally, when my Mum bought him a very soft pair that made feet feel as though they were walking on pillows. Since then he's only wanted that pair, and we've gone up three sizes and several colours in the same style. We've been working on weaning him away and trying different pairs, but with limited success.

The aftermath of the Great Fall had them glued to his feet. We're not quite sure why - maybe because he fell at school without his shoes on and associated bare feet with being hurt. Maybe because he was made to stay overnight at the hospital and couldn't leave the room without his shoes on, and they were hidden away while was sedated and strapped to a hospital bed.

At any rate, the New Therapist and the New Shadow got him to wear slippers in the classroom. With a great deal of whining, crying and resistance, but they insisted, and thankfully after a few weeks of constant shoe wearing, he has now accepted that shoes are "only for wearing when we go outside." He's back to taking them off at home and in the classroom, but now keeps them on when we're at the mall or out and about. I hope he's over his post-fall trauma, and that there are no other scars to deal with.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Love, Hate

Two sides of the same coin. With a knife edge in between. What fine balance is required to keep from tipping from one side to another!

Children are funny that way. One day they love something, the next day they hate it. More so with autistic children, who tend to get fixated with certain routines and rituals.

Little A used to just allow me to put on any clothes (apart from scratchy ones like denim) on him without really caring what they looked like. He'd look at the pattern on his t-shirt in the mirror afterwards, but only to see what it was he was wearing that day.

A couple of months ago, he started to complain and take his clothes off when we dressed him for school, and then go into his drawers and find the ones he wanted to wear. So we now have certain t-shirts that are worn over and over again, and lately he has shown a preference for grey - grey shorts, grey shirts, grey underwear.

While I know all children go through this clothes-choosing stage, I do want to get the other, non-preferred ite,ms, in rotation as well so we're now operating on a "You pick your top, Mummy picks your bottoms" or vice-versa. Today will be day two. Fingers crossed.

Then there's the school issue. First Little A hated it. Screaming, crying, refusing to let me leave his side. Then he grew to love it - pushing me out the door as soon as he walked into the classroom and refusing to go home when I picked him up. But after the Great Fall and Christmas holidays and now with new Shadow Teachers, he hated it again.

The first week was a flashback to two years ago - I had to sit next to him in the classroom, he clutched my hand tightly in his own while the other one paged through the book or played with the toy I'd handed him. He would cry when I moved further away to stand first near, then at, then outside the door, inching slowly down the corridor. My heart broke all over again leaving him there.

Thankfully he has adjusted quickly. The New Shadows, at their exorbitant rate, costing more per hour than the Old Shadow did per day, have track records to justify their prices, and I have to admit that they seem, so far, to be working. Two weeks later, Little A was less needy of having me with him in the classroom, more ready to be left alone. Again, fingers crossed.

We've set a parent-teacher-therapist conference for the last day of January. I have a program outlined based on Little A's age and IEP. We're in the crucial stretch now, the last year before he goes to "big" school. And we've got a way to go yet to get him ready. My sole wish for 2012 is that we succeed.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Another New Year

Little A spent about a week recovering from The Great Fall. He walked slowly, did not run or jump, sat down while watching tv (instead of jumping and bouncing as he usually does), and stayed in the school library while his classmates were in the romp area.

He went back to school the Monday after the fall, just in time for the class Christmas party and Nativity play. While the rest of the class had speaking roles, Little A just had a walk-on part as a shepherd, complete with rolled up and painted paper staff. He stood at his place and did some of the choreography, making us very proud.

By this time, he was feeling better. Walking became trotting, with the occasional gallop before he was stopped. Little bounces began, though he stayed off the trampoline at therapy and did not attempt full scale jumps (bed to floor, couch to floor) for another couple of weeks.

I was in full Christmas mode by this time - barely sleeping, in a gift-wrapping frenzy (both at home and at work), chasing down suppliers and frantically trying to squeeze in present finding and buying in between. My waking hours were spent typing up sales reports and balancing ledgers.

Before we knew it, the Big Days arrived. Christmas Eve. Traditional dinner and present opening at my parents' place with the entire extended family. Followed by Christmas Eve - another dinner with Big A's family. Two weeks of school holidays, during which time Little A enjoyed twice-daily long walks. And then a week when the Au Pair went home for her holidays. Family bonding time. A quiet New Year's Eve with my sister's family and my parents, watching fireworks from the windows.

Then it was time to begin the routine again - albeit with a few more changes besides the date. I asked Little A if he was ready to go back to school and every time was answered with definite shaking of his head. This meant trouble in early 2012. Cheers, all!