Wednesday, July 30, 2014

First Grade

In a few days, Little A goes back to school. This will be his second year at his new school, and he will  officially enter the First Grade.

While I worry that the students will be expected to sit still and write for long periods of time, and whether Little A can manage this, the teachers have assured me that the format does not differ much from the current setup of the Preschool class. Little A's Occupational Therapist has also been working on sitting and writing tasks for extended periods of time.

His class will have a maximum of six students, with one teacher and one teaching assistant. I have seen their schoolbooks, and hope he copes with the work.

This year, there will also be a music therapist, so the piano we donated to the school will come in handy. I hope Little A will be ready for piano lessons soon, and that he will fare better at them than I did as a child.

Also, the father of a fellow student runs a football clinic, so they will be working with the school to set up an after-school programme for the children who are interested in and able to participate.

Finally, due to demand from working parents living a fair distance from the school, they will begin a bus service. Little A has long dreamed of riding a proper yellow school bus, so once this service begins, he may start using it a couple of days a week, just to get the full school experience.

Naturally, all this does not come cheap, but we are budgeting for it, and I am hoping to get some additional freelance work in this year.

Onwards then, to the first of twelve required academic years. May Little A learn and apply and succeed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Left Feet

They say things happen in threes. How true this is for my family. For a little while last month, only Big A had full use of all his limbs.

Towards the end of June, the Au Pair began limping about the flat. When I asked what was wrong, she showed me a mean-looking boil on her right leg, just above the knee. She'd scratched it, and it turned nasty. She was trying to self-medicate with leaves from a certain plant to draw out the infection, but when she needed antibiotics, I decided it was time to force her to see a doctor.

The doctor prescribed a much stronger antibiotic and a strict cleaning regiment for the boil, as well as a follow-up visit in a few days. Meanwhile, the Au Pair was unable to chase after Little A or do any work that required much walking or bending of her knee for the next two weeks.

A few days later, at the soft play centre after summer school, Little A and I were having some fun when, horror of horrors, age and general unfitness suddenly caught up with me and I twisted my right foot severely on an uneven padded surface. This ankle had been badly sprained two decades ago during my dancing days, so I expected the same ligaments and tendons were affected.

After hobbling home and managing to get about that evening, the following morning my ankle was very swollen and virtually immobile. I took Little A to school and then took myself to hospital to see an orthopaedic doctor who confirmed a grade 2 sprain, with several affected ligaments.

Two down, and only the men of the house left with full use of both legs then.

Apparently, I spoke too soon. 

Little A has been painting over the summer, and decided one afternoon that a metal sculpture/paperweight of a horse that Big A had on his bookshelf would be his inspiration for the latest abstract work. He placed the object on his easel, where it didn't balance quite right and a few minutes later I heard a thump, a scream, and then Little A hobbled over to me, with his foot hurt.

The iron horse had landed on his big toe. I iced it, applied bruise cream, and made him sit still for a few minutes, but since he is nothing if  not filled with energy (and having that extremely high pain threshold most autistic children do) he was soon mobile again.

I checked his toe and foot periodically, but there was no further swelling beyond the big toe, and it seemed all the joints were moving properly. However, being no stranger to damaged toes myself, (two decades of ballet will do that to you) I figured there would be more to this injury than met the eye.

True enough, over the next few weeks, Little A favoured the foot by rolling his ankle, or clicking his hip. His thigh muscles were affected too, resulting in a constant twitch that got so severe that at a children's party in the soft play centre, he voluntarily stopped playing since it was too hard, or painful, for him to get around an area he normally raced through with no problems.

I took him to the orthopeadic doctor who'd looked at my ankle. Big mistake. Ortho Doc, on finding out Little A was on the spectrum, did not even examine his leg properly, nor ask for any of the history leading to the injury. He quickly wrote a recommendation for a pediatric neurologist, babbled on about seizure activity and Little A needing an EEG and MRI, and threw us out of his office as quickly as he could.

While there is a relationship between autism and seizure disorders and we have been meaning to have those tests done anyway, I really didn't think this leg twitch was caused by that. Mother knows best, they say. 

The day before school was to resume, I took Little A to another clinic - one specialising in rehabilitation and sports injuries. The doctor who attended to him there was amazing, and is now my go-to man for all things related to this field. He asked me the full history, reviewed the video clips I took of Little A at the soft play centre both before and after the foot injury, and proceeded to tell me about how an injured big toe would affect the other areas of the leg in language I understood and could relate with as a former dancer.

Instead of ordering further therapy, he simply told me to let Little A be, as he is an active child and would use the leg himself as much as he could, strengthening it that way, and resting when it hurt. I took my son to the mall nearby, extremely relieved.

True enough, the muscle spasms decreased and then stopped over the next few days. School started, and I didn't even need to tell the nurse or his Occupational Therapist to watch for the thigh twitches. Little A's leg is mending itself.

The Au Pair's boil has gone as well, and my ankle is mending. So all's well once again.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Splendid Seven

Just five days ago, Little A turned seven. Where did the time go?

First and seventh birthdays are a big thing in our culture, so we knew Little A had to have a party. My parents offered their garden, so I hired a fancy tent, expensive chairs and a caterer while my mum took care of the entertainment - a dozen string musicians who played a mini-concert of Little A's favorite classical pieces.

Before the musical interlude, the dozen children in attendance (children of his godparents, cousins and a couple of schoolmates) sat and painted at mini-easels, as art is another of Little A's current preferred activities. After tea and music there were a couple of rounds of pass the parcel and each child went home with a classical music cd, their artwork, and several items from our little shop.

Little A, for the first time, spent a significant amount of time interacting with his cousins at the piano.  He went swimming instead of painting and had Big A drive him, and a few companions, around the garden in my dad's golf cart during pass the parcel, but on the whole he seemed to enjoy his party, apart from. A few tears during the concert, no doubt in anticipation of the dreaded applause.

He has another small ceremony at school the next day, but unlike last year has not yet had any post-party stress or sleeplessness. Perhaps he is growing up and dealing with his anxiety better. He is seven now, after all, and this is a number he's looked forward to for ages, so will hopefully spend his year wisely and well.