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.