My Little Guy

This week contained a major milestone for my son, and it’s not even autism related – he got his first pair of glasses! Doesn’t he look great in them?

I had taken him for an eye exam last fall and his vision was 20/20 in one eye and 20/25 in the other. At that point, the optometrist suggested we wait a year since his vision was pretty close to normal and we weren’t sure if he would wear the glasses faithfully.

Well, this fall I heard from the TSS that Michael had been moved to the front of the room because he was squinting to see the board. The school nurse said his vision came out at 20/30 and thought we could wait until his insurance kicked in again to go for an exam, but I decided we had better take the plunge and go in now. Good thing I did, because although his vision was in fact 20/30 in one eye, it was 20/75 in the other, and he did need glasses.

He was such a hit with the ladies in the office! When the lady helping us pick out frames asked him whether he played a lot of sports, he told her he was, “more brain than brawn”!! Then, when we picked up the glasses this week, he put them on and turned to look at me, saying, “I can see a lot more wrinkles now”! Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t have gotten him the glasses!?!?

Thankfully, he is happy to wear them and enjoys being able to see more clearly and read the board without squinting. I also think he looks quite handsome, but still kid-appropriate, in his navy blue frames. :)

I wanted to share with you a short social story I wrote for Michael to prepare him for starting fourth grade at a new school in a few days. I will probably write more stories to cover different aspects of school that Michael is worried about, but this one was prompted mainly by his reaction to the teacher assignment letter we got.

When I opened the letter and told him his teacher’s name was Mrs. Godfrey, he immediately got very upset. “I can’t have a teacher who is God-free,” he protested. “I’m going to have to talk to her about that or it’s going to be a very bad year.”

I tried to explain that it is just a proper name and isn’t spelled the way he heard it, and that it doesn’t tell us anything about her personality or beliefs, but he was convinced that this was a bad thing. I got the idea today to look up what the name “Godfrey” means and then decided to write this story.

I am sharing it here, although I shortened all the names except for the teacher’s. Feel free to use it as a springboard for your own story or share any other ideas or suggestions with me for other stories. I am planning to do ones for the bus and the after-school program once I have more details about how they work.

This school year, I will be in fourth grade at MV Elementary School. My teacher’s name is Mrs. Godfrey. The name “Godfrey” comes from German words meaning “God” and “peace.” B. [a family friend] had Mrs. Godfrey as her teacher when she was in fourth grade too, and she says Mrs. Godfrey is a wonderful teacher who especially loves science.

I already know a few people at MV. I have met Mrs. B, the school secretary, and Mr. R, the principal. I will also have two teachers that I know very well from when I went to P. Elementary – Mrs. F for speech and Mrs. C for physical education. I will meet more new teachers and staff people once school has started.

I will ride the bus to school in the morning. Mommy will take me to the bus stop and wait with me for the bus to come. In the afternoon, I will ride on a van to the after-school program. Mommy or Daddy will pick me up from there when they get off work.

This will be an exciting year as I get to learn new things and meet new people. I will make lots of new friends. MV has a great playground too.

I mentioned earlier that Michael has really enjoyed his first summer at a day camp. Everyone felt he was ready for the challenge, with behavioral supports still in place of course, and I’m so relieved and proud that they were right.

The camp he went to was at a Christian daycare, and the theme this summer was Parable-lympics. Each week they learned about a different parable from the Bible and also learned about a different sport from the Olympics. Also, each classroom represented a different country.

Michael’s room did Australia, which was cool since his uncle is from there. They decorated T-shirts with things they learned about the country and then wore those each week to their outings to the local movie theater to see the free kids showings. They also got a camp shirt, which they wore on their weekly field trips.

The biggest challenge we had at the beginning was Michael becoming obsessed over the paper medals they were handing out as positive behavior reinforcers. At the end of each week, the kids could trade in their paper medals for a gold, silver, or bronze plastic medal.

The rewards were too random for him, and he was constantly worrying about how many he was getting and whether he would earn a medal for the week. The camp staff was very good about working with us and allowing the TSS to give Michael to earn the rewards separately based on following the rules for a certain period of time, like he does at school.

Michael wanted to buy a package of the plastic medals for himself, but none of us thought that was a great idea, so he contented himself with pulling out every medal and ribbon he could find in his treasure boxes – he has quite the collection as you can see!

I haven’t heard much about the medals from camp in the last couple of weeks, so I’m not sure if they even kept up the medals throughout the summer and I didn’t ask him because I didn’t want to stir anything up where it’s not necessary.

Besides the movies and field trips, they also went to the pool twice a week, and Michael has become more and more comfortable in the water, even swimming underwater with goggles on.

He had one minor incident doing some sort of flip that crashed him into another child and rammed Michael’s goggles into his face hard enough to give him a black eye, but it healed much quicker than a real one would have so all was well. (The other kid wasn’t hurt at all, thankfully!)

I guess when you grow an inch and three-quarters in four months, you have some adjusting to do. (Can you believe it – at 10 years old, Michael is only three inches shorter than me?)

Today was pajama day. Although I’m not sure what that has to do with either parables or the Olympics, I let him wear one of the pairs we just got for the fall. When we had to go out later this evening, he didn’t want to change into regular clothes, reminding me that it was pajama day, after all. I don’t think anyone at the grocery store even noticed, actually. :)

So now we’re down to just a few days left at camp, and then the new school year begins. I have no idea what fourth grade will bring, but I know we will get through whatever comes our way. Right now that means working to manage the anxiety levels for both of us as the start of school approaches and trying to make sure all the pieces fall into place so he has what he needs to get through the first day.

So here’s my question to all of you – Are there any wise words you would like to share with me on navigating the transition from a successful, fun summer to a scary new school year? I would be glad to hear what has worked for you.

It has been quite a long time since I have blogged about anything other than books, and I don’t really know who is still out there listening to me, but I have been feeling the urge lately to start documenting more of what’s going on in our lives again.

There were several things going on when I started pulling back: my husband and I were having serious problems which led to our current state of separation, I was having some issues with the school which I didn’t want to write about until there was some sort of resolution, and I was also just starting to come to terms with my Asperger’s diagnosis from last fall. This summer I was also plagued with extreme fatigue due to the allergy medication I was taking, which has recently been resolved. (Bah Zyrtec. Long live Allegra!!)

Other than it being the summer of pollen for me, this was actually quite a successful season for Michael (my ten-year son, who has autism, for those of you who may not be familiar with him). Instead of private babysitting with the special ed teacher who has had him the last two years – and was amazing with him! – I chose to enroll him in a summer day camp at a daycare near our new apartment.

The daycare also has after school care with a van that can pick him up from his new school in the fall, so I was hopeful that things would work out well enough for him to continue there this fall. And they have! He has enjoyed it so much, and on top of that had mostly good behavior (that’s with a full time TSS and his own reinforcement schedule, but still, it’s great progress for him). His TSS says that not only is it clear he was ready for this challenge, but that the environment is compassionate and caring in a way that has worked out perfectly for him.

We do have lots of anxiety going on right now with Michael gearing up for 4th grade at a new school, and me waiting for the results of a 24-hour urine test that will tell us if we are one step closer to him being diagnosed with Wilson’s disease. The doctor said that it is rare and that he ordered the tests simply based on a couple of odd results from some other bloodwork, but what’s a mom to do but worry until an answer comes back?? Pray, I guess, which I am certainly doing a lot of these days.

The video at the top of the post is from a trip we took to Hersheypark with some friends earlier this month. He was thrilled to be able to try out this ride and loved it, despite his swimming trunks sliding down a few inches too far from the force of the water, thankfully after this video was shot!

So, how has your summer gone?

I know I’ve been writing mostly book reviews for a long time here, and that is partly due to some serious issues that have been going on in my personal life and especially with my marriage. I haven’t felt comfortable writing about day to day stuff while so much was in flux.

I am hoping to start sharing more about what is going on in my life (and Michael’s) going forward. After several months of painful back-and-forth over a variety of issues, I have decided to separate from my husband. Michael (my 10-year-old son) and I are actually moving into an apartment this weekend, while my husband will continue to live in our house.

While there are a lot of issues to work through on all fronts, I do have a question about another topic. For the last couple of years Michael has had a very difficult time in the spring. He becomes much more emotional – crying easily where he would be apt to whine or argue or even to let something slide – and also is more quick to escalate when things don’t go well.

Last May, we finally started him on a low dose of Risperdal, which has had a tremendously good effect on his overall mood over the last several months. I know it’s not a magic solution, but it has seemed to help him maintain more of an equilibrium than before. I am noticing more emotional reactions to things over the last couple of weeks, however, and it makes me nervous because it’s the exact time of year it has started in the past. While I hope the medication will help it not get so bad, I have to admit I am worried about it.

When I was talking to my own therapist yesterday, she wondered whether he possibly had allergies and said that sometimes allergies can look like depression in terms of some of the symptoms. Has anyone else seen this in their own kids? I am thinking about trying an over-the-counter children’s allergy medication and seeing what happens. This question actually came up before but I can’t remember what I tried before or whether it worked (too much has happened in the meantime to hold on to that information!!).

Obviously, this could be a reaction to the major changes coming up in his life. So far, the only sadness he has expressed about the move is over changing schools in the fall, although he is happy that I will continue taking him to his current school through the end of this academic year.

Any thoughts? Anyone else seeing patterns like this and what have you done?