Sunday, April 1, 2007

8 To 9 Years

October 4th, 2006 (2 weeks shy of 8th birthday)

So I wrote before that I worry about soccer. I still worry, but I’m happy to report that Leo is doing great! He is right in the middle when I compare the other children. It’s so interesting – he’s the tallest kid on his team by far and has the largest head(he must wear an adult baseball cap). Too funny! His size can be an advantage if hecontinues to improve his understanding of the game. Just being in the right place at the right time will help deflect the ball or other kids having to go around him. He’s a slower runner and is pretty fatigued when we get home, but seems full of energy while we are there at practice and at games. He scored his first goal of the season last Saturday. I couldn’t believe it. I’m actually happy that I didn’t see it in person (I was at Sydney’s game, divide and conquer), as I didn’t have sunglasses on and I might have seemed a bit crazy. He actually received a pass from another player, aimed it at the goal, and kicked it in. He was fairly close to the goal, but who cares?

Every time I see him on the field I just can’t believe it. It’s so surreal. I am very proud of him because he has such drive, he’s overcome so many sensory issues to get to a point that he can play. He’ll squint a bit when lots of kids are scrunched together trying to kick the ball, but he remains there and tries to kick it too. The best part is that he loves it! I can “see” him thinking – he’s negotiating the ball down the field attempting to multi-taskby looking at where the other players are. Tough! He’s not great at it, but again he’s like all the kids. He’ll kick it so hard, sometimes with really bad aim – I love it! It’ll be interesting to see how this improves (or doesn’t). I know I couldn’t do it!

Everything else is quiet – Leo reports he’s talked out of turn just 3 or 4 times and thinks he’s better than in 1st grade. We’ll see during conferences. I am one of the chaperones for next week’s field trip, so I’m sure I’ll havea much better idea of how the class is doing, the class “personality”, since this will be my first glimpse. I can’t believe how I put up with the mommy politics in order to volunteer for the few opportunities in 2nd grade – what I do for Leo he’ll never know! And poor Sydney, I signed up for nothing.

He's been squinting a lot while at school because of fall allergies - it slowly gets better at home. I've been clearing him at home using NAET, but it only holds a few days - it's been tough to get to our Bioset person. I'm hoping to put a jar of water into his classroom to attempt to catch the particular allergen (pollen, cleaning stuff, who knows), that's bothering him. It never ends - but the good news is that this is the first year where he is rarely affected by fatigue due to Bioset (it's the only thing we've done differently).

So there ya go!

Look Out, Mom's Loosin' It
November 14, 2006 (8yrs 1 month)

Leo had a great birthday (10/15). His father and I didn’t even have to speak about what was going on inside our minds. We are so proud of him! Now that he’s 8, we’ve graduated to the small party of good friends. Phew! I sat back and admired his friends. And they are good friends! Not just one, my only hope for him at one point, but several. They are complex, well-rounded kids that are each different in their own right. His hard work is never forgotten. Every day I remember where we came from. It’s hard to believe that just 6 years ago he was officially diagnosed with PDD-NOS and just 2 years ago he was therapy-free going to typical kindergarten.

Leo continues to enjoy school. He still much prefers his 1st Grade teacher, even after 3 months. I’d have to agree. She’s friendly and funny, but not warm. Does that even make sense? On his birthday we brought in Yankee cups full of fresh fruit. Yes, I’m “one of those moms”, those fruit bearing moms that Kristina Chew references on Autismland. Ha ha! Here are a few examples of her lack of warmth and enthusiasm. Is she burned out? Has she lost that lovin’ feeling? You decide...

As snack time was approaching, Mrs. P said to Leo, “well, I guess we can do your birthday now to get it over with”. She also sent the snack trays home with Leo on the bus after I sent a note saying I’d pick them up. She said to Leo “I’m tired of them being in the classroom”.

During a field trip to a beach, not once in the 6 hour span did I see her take joy in seeing the children discover new things. “Hey look what I found Mrs. P!” was rarely said. They got her number. Of course they all circled like flies around me and the other chaperone moms on the trip. With wonder, they all screamed, giggled, and ran around with excitement. Some had never seen a jelly fish or a crab, let alone hold one.

Many talks later, I have to believe that Leo is telling me the truth – her words aren’t hurtful. “I’m fine, Mom. I don’t care, Mom.” And then it’s the old catch 22, should I worry it DOESN’T bother him? Or maybe it does but he’s concealing it? He’s gotten quite good at acting these days.... R>He likes Mrs. P but doesn’t LOVE her like his old teacher. He’s happy. I have to believe him. I told him we have options, but he declined all of them. I’m going to “say something” during the conference on Friday, but I’m not exactly sure what. I want to scream “look lady, hundreds of thousands of dollars, countless hours later, Leo has excellent self-esteem and confidence . If you fuck it up because you can’t muster a fake “happy birthday”, your dead”. I know I’m evil! Today I felt those panicky old feelings creep up again as I saw Leo’s report card lying in his home folder. My head was
swimming, the vacation is over. I started making plans to get his old ABA team back in my head. I began practicing my spiel for the kids and the moms why Leo is no longer free for play dates and now needs a shadow again. I began practicing my 2nd grade definition of Autism. I felt cold. I finally opened it and I could barely see the print. I was so freaked out! Finally, there it was parked under the heading “Personal Development”. It jumped out like an old friend does. Self Control. And next to it a -. A minus which means “needs improvement, not where it should be”. Nothing else noteworthy, just that. I should be throwing Leo a party. Handwriting, reading, math, everything else with a positive mark. No need for what I was thinking. I’m the worst mommy in the world for thinking like that. I suspect it’s the same challenge as 1st grade – it’s the calling out, talking out of turn like last year. And thus it begins, the agonizing countdown till Friday when I have my parent/teacher conference.

Same thing, different year and teacher. Will she realize that Leo is different? Will it make a difference? What will her version of the executive functioning deficit be? What will Self Control mean to Mrs. P? Will she guess he has a disability? Will the jig be up and he’ll be treated like a toddler?

We’ve had quite a few days off due to professional days and holidays. Leo prefers going to school instead of being home those days. Weird? I don’t know. For a child that likes routine and likes seeing his best friend in class rather than staying home, unstructured, with his little sister....sounds predictable. He was a little bored, whiny, and irritable. He relishes his weekends which is pretty much the same thing, other than the fact that Dad is home too. It does bother me and makes me question his schedule.

Leo’s little sister swallowed her first pill, a B vitamin. Still a challenging task for him. What I loved was his response. He came into the kitchen and watched Sydney and me jumping up and down. He looked at her and smiled while watching her “moment”. A few minutes later, I offered that he could try swallowing pills now if he wanted to, and he declined. He said “No....I’m just a little jealous, that’s all”.

What a big kid – he signed for a UPS box.

I know I’ve jumped around a bit, but that’s how it is for today. Lot’s of stuff floating around in my head aching to get out.
Stay tuned – only 42 hours until the conference!

Good Things to Remember While Waiting 11/16/06

Leo spontaneously summarized his standing in class the other day during dinner. Dinner, the 3 of us, happens each nite around 5pm. Dad comes home later, round 2 for them - some fruit, perhaps a little dessert, and daily supplements mixed in yogurt. Anyway, he began sharing how he admiredhis new friend Jack that sits next to him in class. We've never had Jack before, and so I had no preconceived ideas about him. Leo began saying he's"the smartest" kid in class, giving some examples. Surprised, I asked him to define "smart", and how he felt about that. Leo said Jack knows pretty much all the answers, reads and writes really well, and is excellent in math facts. I could tell he was really impressed, but not envious. I asked what he
thought about himself. Did he feel he was doing well? He said he thought he too was "one of the best kids" but not "THE best" in class.

His awareness astounds me. He's figured this all out on his own - that in a class how people measure up and how teachers and other kids respond toit. I've never asked about this. I've never wanted to fuel any competition. I've only focused on how HE feels about himself and his accomplishments, focusing on trying your best, and reminding him that each person is different and good at different things. And when he's sound arrogant at his natural academic ability, I remind him about humility, showing-off and the consequences, and other stuff like that. And, that we all have our challenges like his talking out-of-turn. And mine is yelling!

Leo also notices how some kids don't try their best. Some goof-off more than others, and some get in trouble more than others. He's got everyone's number in his class, or at least those that sit at his table. He even gets irritated by his best friend because he pretends to read his books from his browsing box during reading time. Leo said he always "really reads" because he wants to get better and do a good book report afterwards.

Leo is no saint - he shared this morning how he and his friend sneak past the hall monitors and go through a different door to get to their bus early. They make a game of it and see who gets there first. I like that he knows the system at school and finds ways around it, even when it's breaking a rule. Love it!

Okay, back to obsessing....And why do I obsess? I must monitor Leo's progress to see if he needs some type of servies again. I have to be realistic - something may crop up that is disability related that needs support. It never ends!

29 hours left until my Parent/Teacher Conference. I still have no clue what I'm going to say regarding her lack of encouragement. I may point out that I've noticed his writing is subpar to what I saw day after day in 1st grade. He does just enough to get by. Leo was so inspired last year! He'd write on and on, and he was one of the top writers in his class. His work was often the example for class - embarrassing him by reading his work to the whole class. As you can guess, I relished the part about being embarrassed the best! Those emotions, indicating he gets what's going on around him, interpreting them accurately. What more could I ask for?

I'd have to guess at this point she still doesn't know him - has no idea what he's capable of. I don't really know how detailed they go when a teacher passes info on to the next. That's a lot of stuff to read for 22 kids, but hey I think it's important. Speeds up the learning curve, and sure, it may give impressions that may not benefit the child.

Sydney's conference for kindergarten is right after Leo's. I hope I can be present enough for that to be productive. I want to be there for her, and really get a feel for how she's doing and if there's an issue.

November 17: 2nd Grade Conference

So I finally made it into the classroom with my old friend anxiety, my empty stomach, and my husband for a guest appearance. Our 2nd grade Conference day finally arrived! 1:45pm seemed like forever to come. Mrs. P got right to it by showing us Leo's journal - answering the question about Self Control. I noticed right away she gave us no eye contact. No eye contact. Of course this made me nervous as hell. Later, I realized it's her personality - maybe she's bit shy. Maybe she's been beaten down by parents over the years. Who knows.

She had asked the kids the question "What do you think your parents will hear about you during your conference? My first thought was how this could be a bit stressful for the kids, making report cards more important than they should be when they are only in 2nd grade. Bluch!

Leo's response was something like 'I think I am a good student, that I like math and reading a lot, but that I need more self controll'. Mispelling included, just like his mom, ha ha. I'm so proud! It turns out that Self Control with Leo is "blurting out" comments due to excitement about a topic. More than the average kid in class. So that's my answer. Mrs. P has to "remind him" to keep his thoughts in his mind. He doesn't finish her sentences or answer questions when not called upon like last year in 1st grade. In my eyes, it's a significant improvement.

To my relief Mrs. P gets Leo, but doesn't "get" him, just yet anyway. I know it's been only 3 months. As you may know or not know about me, I'm quite a linnear thinker, and to me, people (parents and educators in particular) are either natural behaviorists or not. Does one see cause and effect effortlessly and naturally? Does one see where the root of a behavior comes from?

Mrs. P is not a natural (more on this when I write about another topic - the other ASD kids in 2nd grade...) She sees the surface and addresses just that. Kind of like a pediatrician now that I think of it. Treating symptoms rather than the cause. As a teacher friend pointed out, you can't teach someone how to be a good teacher, you either "have it" or you don't.

I am happy that Self Control isn't debilitating for Leo in 2nd grade. It's not keeping him from learning. It may be a slightly irritating to others, but hey, a far cry from what it could be. I'm happy that Leo is aware of his issue, is not embarrassed by it, and doesn't keep him from having a fairly "normal" day as a 2nd grader.

Question 2; Leo's writing is mediocre. Specifically "Writes with elaboration and includes details" got himself a "Some progress noted".How did he go from being one of the best writers last year to just mediocre? Not that I'm surprised. I was surprised last year that he did so well in this famed "imagination" category for ASD. I realized that Mrs. P gives more open writing assignments, and last year's teacher gave more structure and prompts. Actually, Mrs. P let us read one story about Leo's experience on a beach. It was so good! I then realized it was good because she referenced using their senses. Duh, lady!

Mrs. P.said she dislikes the more structured style of teaching writing. She thinks 2nd grade is about getting them more comfortable about writing, and that it's a review year - gearing up for 3rd grade, the CT Mastery Test, and so on. This isn't my area of expertise at all - 2nd grade curriculum, but my instinct tells me that, at 7 and 8 years old, wouldn't providing some structure help build comfort in writing? Maybe one of my writer readers can answer that question for me.

All in all, she said he's a nice boy, compliant and respectful. My husband asked how he was with social interactions (I was too freaked to ask). She said she thought he was fine, that she doesn't get much opportunity for observation since they shortened recess. She doesn't see them at the specials or lunch - she picks them up and drops them off so she can have her 20 minutes of peace. Boy am I happy that I did all that volunteering last year - I was there 2 times a week for recess, lunch, and library time. I got such a good feel about the social groups and dynamics, and how everyone was doing. And it was very educational to see what 2nd graders are like,
and that Leo is just one of them - just eating a GFCF lunch!

I didn't get a chance to process what had happened - that yet another year was turning out well, that our issues are manageable andnot problematic. That Leo and his teacher are happy. I didn't get an opportunity to say how her lack of enthusiasm isn't good for Leo. We ran out of time, and I decided to not make an issue of it - I saw it's her personality. She's just not a dynamic person. She "phones in", as a fellow parent said.

My husband said he'll have more teachers like this than not, and he has to get used to someone like that, that's not going to be a cheerleader like last years teacher or us, or his former team. We realized again, after combing thru the curriculum with Mrs. P, that the 2nd grade program is fantastic - all 4 teachers basically do the same thing. The school is fantastic, and he's happy knowing just about everyone there. Not to sound like an optimist or anything! So we'll see how it goes - I may say something later.

We rushed out of there down the hall to the Kindergarten room to meet Sydney's teacher. We had only about 10 minutes left. Again, boy king is the priority. She showed us an empty index card, and said "See, I have nothing to say. No problems at all!". She then went on to say how she's a wonderful student and person. She's enthusiastic, enjoys all aspects of school. A good girl. I got teary when I heard that, but I think I was beginning to feel relief from Leo's meeting. Sydney's teacher also brought up the fact that she and Leo are so connected. It's rare, she said. They love seeing each other during the day, passing each other. Waving hi, giving hi-fives. Sydney always tells her teacher "I saw my brother! I saw my brother!". Her teacher knows Leo. She didn't have him, but knows him since the kindergarten classes have recess together. And of course, she is in the dark about his past. I feel so lucky they have each other.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Everyday Life in 2nd Grade
So Leo, Sydney, and I are in the car driving home from Sydney's Bioset appointment. She decides to call Dad on the cell
phone. She crosses her legs, and dials very professionally and gets him live on the phone. She's gabbing away about
her day (she's 5 1/2), talking very "grown up". Leo says, "Sydney loves to act like a big girl doesn't she Mom? She cracks
me up. She has her 'big girl' voice on." And I nod and smile in agreement (I am driving after all). Leo shakes his head and
chuckles "I certainly know my sister".

Love that Theory Of Mind working!

In the car on the way to school (late again), I overhear Leo and Sydney talking about Gary in class, how he gets mad all
the time. Apparently Gary (yes, he has an IEP)screams out loud at classmates on occasion, for different things. I say that
I like Gary a lot, and that he's your friend, and so what if he has things to work on? (talk about reverse discrimination).
That we ALL have stuff - Leo's talking out of turn, I have my temper, Sydney her her whining, etc. Leo says "I know Mom,
I like him too, he's my friend. Jeremy tells me not to like Gary, but I do. He's my Secret Friend." I respond by saying all the
right things - how no one else is the boss of who you like, and how you need to stand up for your friends. Leo says" I
know Mom, I didn't do what Jeremy said. Jeremy knows that Gary is my friend. I just don't talk about it."

Love that social judgement working!

Leo has never told me or his Dad about any girls he may have crushes on at school. Not in Kindergarten or in 1st Grade
either. He always gets very defensive and says he doesn't want to talk about it, that it's private. Recently I asked (I can't
help myself!), saying, "well, if you HAD to choose a girl to like, who would it be? I promise I won't talk about it or tease
you, nor tell anyone else." He held firm. I said, "Well, have you told anyone?" Leo told his best friend, and said his friend
will never tell.

Love that he keeps secrets and has a best friend! More social judgement, enriching relationships.

November 28, 2006 (8 years 1 month)
I had a VERY interesting day yesterday. Leo had his 1st grade "archnemisis" over for a play date! Could it be? Charlie (the bus taunter/teaser?) from my 1/27/06 entry?

Natch, I barely slept the night before because I was consumed by the fact that the boy that gave my son so much grief will be over! And I was nervous about handling him. The one time he was over, I failed miserably at managing him (in my defense the parents didn't give me a heads up, can we say PID??) He broke some toys, crashed Leo's bike into a tree after riding over my pumpkin vines, dumped every toy bin over, and scared Sydney on purpose among other things. How much can happen in one play date? A LOT.

Let me just say it. IT WENT WELL. SUCCESS AND NO STRESS. Woohoo! I don't know if it's going to happen often, but they do like each other and had some fun.

And now for some background on this duo...This boy Charlie and Leo were on "different teams" and "not friends" practically all last year, after their friendship quickly fizzled. Leo was quickly turned off by his very active behavior and that he got into "trouble" so much at school. Later on in the year Charlie and a mid-year transfer student Harrison became fast friends. Of course, because life is complicated, Charlie and Harrison ride the same bus and live on the same road.

So recently, Harrison didn't ride the bus for a couple of days. Charlie and Leo sat together, and I gather they "discovered" each other. They are not in the same 2nd grade class this year, although Harrison and Leo are. They both began asking for playdates, which terrified me. I knew from last year that Charlie was on different medication and doing well with listening and controlling unacceptable behavior. I'm guessing he's ADHD. So because I'd seen able to observe him, AND I really wanted success, especially with a neighbor, I wanted to make this work (like I have anything to do with it).

They didn't quite know what to do with each other for the first 20 minutes. I thought "Oh God!!!". Charlie kept walking around and around and around while Leo was patiently following him asking him if he'd like to do X, Y, or Z. Finally, with some suggestions from me, they began playing outside. Natch, Charlie found the only dangerous thing out there, a fallen tree that hadn't quite fallen completely (yes, danger danger)and decided to hang from it, and in 5 minutes, convince Sydney to climb it. Images of dead or trapped kids danced in my head. Yes, the part about keeping my eye on him the entire time...I
should've kept my plan intact. But other than that, they jumped on the tramp and ran around finding stuff.

I was pretty proud of Charlie - he has learned to listen and had some self-control. He also considered Leo's feelings and preferences. Not much eye contact, actually less than last year. Towards the end, I let them play X-Box (whatever that is). It involves the T.V. is all I know.

I couldn't believe it - I had prepared myself for anything - I had all my chores done including dinner. I had prepped Sydney that I'd have no time with her as I'd be occupied with the boys' safety. And it all turned out well. His mom came to pick up, and I told her what a wonderful kid he is, and that they had to refamiliarize themselves, but after that warmup period, they got along. Clearly they don't have too much in common, but both had fun. I was so proud of Leo - he didn't mention football, soccer, or any other sports games to do since he knew Charlie wouldn't be interested.

His mom has never mentioned Charlie's differences, nor have I mentioned anything about Charlie's history with Leo. I threw out several openings, but she didn't bite. Clearly she doesn't want to share with me, which is understandable. She has no idea what people say about her son, and I know he doesn't get invited to many birthday parties, etc, because he's a behavior problem. The mom doesn't stay at parties to facilitate, which makes it even harder for other parents to learn about Charlie and keep him from becoming even more unpopular.

So that's that story.

Harrison, the other little boy that is Charlie's best pal, is a good friend of Leo's too. We even went trick-or-treating with him and his family. Anyway, Leo and Harrison got into an argument, so for about a week "they weren't friends". Again, it began as a bus issue. Every day, Harrison and Leo would race to the bus, hoping to be first in line. Many times Harrison would get there first, but if Leo did, Harrison would elbow his way ahead of Leo, pushing him out of the way so Leo would be second. Leo told Harrison every day to stop it, that he didn't like it. But Harrison ignored him and remained 1st in line.

So at the end of the week, Leo told me about it, and that he was really frustrated because Harrison wouldn't listen. I said that friends don't treat each other like that. That friendship is about respecting each other, etc. With Leo always in control, I asked him what he thought he could do to solve the problem. Talking to Harrison wasn't working. What could he do now?

He didn't have any ideas, and so I suggested that he "ignore" Harrison, or tell him that he's not being a friend, and until he knocks it off with the bus line, he's not going to treat him as a friend either. That he doesn't deserve Leo's friendship. Let me clarify, I was totally winging it! I knew I should keep Leo in control always, but that's all I knew to do.

The next day, Leo came home and said he "tried to ignore him, but it was just too hard mom." I can't blame the kid, he's in his class, 2 desks down. The next day after that, he managed to ignore him enough for Harrison to get the idea. And as how things work, Harrison decided to ignore Leo too. This went on for a few days, and then they finally "forgave" eachother, and are now "friends again."

That night, I asked Leo if they watched T.V. AGAIN at school. This drives me crazy. Whenever the weather is bad or something is going on in the gym, out comes the VCR. Of course, the kids love it. I asked Leo what they watched, and he said lately it's been "Reading Rainbow". I had no recollection. Leo said we had watched it at home a few times. Still didn't ring a bell - I normally only record PBS type shows, and when he was into it, Power Rangers. Leo said, "Let me sing the song for you." And he begins to sing in a lovely little boy voice, so sweet and innocent. No embarrassment. I enjoyed every second of it, also relishing how creative he was in trying to jog my memory. "NOW do you remember Mom?" And I did.

Sunday, November 19, 2006 (8 yrs 1 month)
On Bad Days Good Things Happen
So Leo has been cranky boy ALL day. And days are long when there's no activities and no school, right? I've been waiting for 7:30pm since 9am this morning.

Anyway, he told us a story about Sydney. She had fallen down and hurt herself at a friend's house. He said that she hadn't "really" hurt herself since she (demonstrating) took two tiny steps than put herself on the ground. I also liked that he thought it was funny how she devised this, and how he gets so much entertainment out of her.

Later at dinner, Sydney said she liked the song that was on (Sirius Satellite Radio, Coffee House station). He rolled his eyes and said "all the songs on the radio are about girlfriends and love and stuff. Gross". My husband said that's such an 8 year old response, and went on to explain how people often write songs about emotions, and that love his such a popular one.

Monday, January 01, 2007
Is Rudolph Real?
So we've had quite a Zen holiday. Usually, we go to California for holiday break. This means I must SSS (shop, ship, and stress) a couple weeks earlier. We also do Hanuka. House-sitters, mild climate clothing,and other logistics are a must but worth it. Last year Leo asked "Why don't we ever have Christmas in OUR house?" So I jumped on it.

Leo had begun questioning the validity of Santa just after his birthday (he received a globe and because he's a visual learner, he really "got" the concept of earth's rotation and our place in the solar system). Out of the blue, he states, "Hey Mom, I still believe in Santa, but I don't believe in Rudolph." Off I went with an Academy performance, chalking everying up to magic. He looked wearily at me, uncertain, but didn't bring it up again until about a week before the big day. Looking at me across the breakfast table, eating cereal (natch, GFCF organic), he says "Hey Mom, I think I know what I want to ask Santa for." Of course I'm thinking about all the gifts already purchased. I asked what, and he said "I want two things, first a real baseball bat made of wood that real players use. And second, a picture of the real Rudolph." He stares at me intently for my reaction, almostchallenging me. I didn't know what to do! But then I began a story about how the real Rudolph's photograph is top secret, no one has seen him, just like the actual location of Santa's home and workshop. I told Leo he could ask, but Santa may say no. He seemed to buy it, mostly.

Leo had apparently taken notice of my several conversations about pianos, as Santa brought us a Casio keyboard. Right after he woke up Christmas morning, he quickly ran back upstairs to tell me that Santa brought ME a piano, when in fact it was for them! Of course they couldn't care less about it, until two days later they became infatuated with all the sounds and the Bastian piano lesson guide. Now they both fight over the piano! And of course this is just the first week, so we'll see! And to my delight, Leo seems to have that ASD skill, an "ear" for music.

Surprisingly, we didn't miss CA as much as anticipated. Of course I spent about 4 hours on the phone Christmas day, and did have feelings of regret, but they were brief and infrequent. A week at home with just the 4 of us, well, it was unprecedented.

During the holidays, I take advantage of the time home (or at my sister's in CA)to do an annual detox forLeo. Because of his impaired GI and immune system, Leo cannot regulate organic and inorganic substances on his own efficiently, common with ASD, Down Syndrome, and other neurological disorders. Because of this, substances build up and eventually have a behavioraleffect on Leo (spaciness, lack of focus, stims come back, lethargy, lack of curiousity). The test of time (4 years) has demonstrated that anannual detox helps minimize toxic load and build-up from the past year. And sure enough, Leo's dark
circles have returned under his eyes (mild, but I can tell), the rigidity and focus on his preferred activities (football, soccer)has returned.

Leo is definitely an environmental kid (genes too, but), and this time of year we are reminded when these symptoms appear that yes, he has Autism, and yes, we must help him the best we can so he can feel his best. There are many days that go by that aren't Autism days. Just days with Leo, his uniqueness and all.

This time around, I'm attempting a different homeopathic protocol, and in total this should take about 3 months. I'm also doing this protocol right along with him so I can feel what he feels as much as a different person can. I also need this detox as well. We're aiming to go slowly with Leo so he would feel mostly well the entire time, and thus not affect regular life and school. As always with detox, there is a regression, a time where you really don't feel well since toxins are coming out of the tissues and organs and entering the circulatory system and eventually the lymphatic system and finally out. The pay-off in
the end is renewed focus, energy, no dark circles, and increased health (details depending on the person).

So that's that!

School update: Nothing too exciting to report although to my surprise, he's no longer playing with The Best Friend every day at recess. This has been going on since Kindergarten, where they first met. They had different teachers for 1st grade, but preferred to play together at recess and their friendship continued. They are reunited again this year for 2nd grade.

Now, his Best Pal is really into Star Wars, something that Leo doesn't care about much. He also thinks his friend is "annoying about it", and whips out imaginary light sabers whenever possible, including music class and gym whenever the opportunity arises. He is also turned off by the fact that the Best Friend gets into trouble "a lot" in class, distracting Leo when he's trying to read or listen (both need undivided attention since he's not a natural multi-tasker).

To date, Leo prefers to play baseball with other kids in his class, along with one of the gym teachers pitching. Funny, how Leo works. He watched for the first couple of months, and finally had the courage to try it and risk failure in front of the entire 2nd grade class. He's still quite the perfectionist and now I see a competitive streak when it comes to sports. He really WANTS to be good.

Thursday, February 01, 2007
Funny Things Leo Says

While doing homework, Leo says, "Did you know you don't need the bottom of a pencil sharpener? You can still use it. It's only for the scraps. The top part is the most important."

During a discussion about a friend in class that has behavior issues, Leo protectively said to me "Gary's issues are private. It doesn't matter what they are. He's my friend." Good for him!

We've been listening to a new music station in the kitchen. He noticed before anyone else that they were repeating a song, and how many times. The irony, noticing when somebody ELSE repeats!

Self Control is one of Leo's "things he's working on". Specifically, monitoring his thoughts so he doesn't say them out loud at the wrong time. He'll blurt out the answer while everyone else raises their hands. So one day he and his sister were talking about the intercom and the announcements at school. Leo confessed that sometimes they make mistakes, so he'll quietly
correct the name to himself.

I picked Leo up at a play date recently. Sydney immediately ran out into the woods to join the boys while I was having a chat with the mom. It was dusk, and they "got lost". Leo came to Sydney's rescue by holding her hand when she was nervous AND carried her over a stream because she was too afraid to jump over it like the boys did.

Over a weekend with nothing to do, Leo found a flashlight and started looking in dark places like the whole in the kitchen where the tennis balls always goes. He spent about a half hour doing this. A far cry from the old days when he'd stare into a flash light and he'd stim like crazy over them in general. I recall the days when we just couldn't have them in the house!

I like sitting in between my Dad and my sister at the movies (between was the spelling word for writing homework)

Our holiday card had several photos of the kids, one being a picture of Leo's face but he was in the bath. When the card was complimented by a friend, he said the photo on the new years card was so embarrassing because of the bath. It never even occured to me that it would. He's growing up!

"Sydney, she's just being....an ASSHOLE!"

After a play date, Leo said "I didn't have fun with Cameron today, it was so frustrating." It didn't seem like a match to me (different interests). I was glad he felt the same way!

Sunday, March 11, 2007 (8 yrs 5 months)
The Secret Lives of our ASD Mainstreamed Kids

There are 3 kids with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in Leo's 2nd grade mainstreamed public classroom. Leo, Aspie Girl, and PDD Boy. They sound like superheroes, don't they? Three out of 22 kids. This, my friends, is the new normal. This doesn't include the other proud owners of IEPs for other disorders or delays.

Leo's teacher, his peers, and the parents do not know about his Autism label.The para that allegedly assists Aspie Girl doesn't know either. The majority of parents believe paras are there to help the teacher, like an assistant teacher. They must believe our district "gave" our class a para out of kindness or something. Like there's money for THAT. Moms look at it like positive status. An extra that a fellow mom may lose out on. "My class doesn't have a para this year" a fellow mom says gloomily, while
another mom perks up to say how wonderful "her" para is, and how she helps her son all the time. What about OUR kids? The reason they are there?

Leo reports how the para is the one that checks his weekly sentences. How is it that I know her handwriting and not the teachers? Leo reports the para checks the mail, makes copies, doing all that assistant stuff while Aspie Girl loses out on any natural opportunities for learning.

Naturally, Aspie Girl is a bright girl and friendly. She has several friends that I see her play with during recess. Aspie Girl, according to Leo, is a "help needed" kid, a kid that "needs extra help". She makes her daily trip down to the Assisted Learning Room and attendes "lunch bunch" with other help needed kids in 2ndgrade.

I assume Aspie Girl's program is crappy, because not once have I seen the para do anything for her, other than "watch her", like glorified babysitting. No facilitation, no explanations, during recess or at a day long field day I attended.

During this beach field trip, the kids gathered around a naturalist that was holding up sea creatures while giving a talk on them. I see Aspie Girl off to the side, twirling her long piano fingers into the sand, not able to listen to the talk. I could only listen through her. I heard the wind, the cars, the other groups that were nearby. All distractions that kept her from learning.

Her para was listening and watching other kids, occasionally glancing towards Aspie Girl, making sure she didn't "wander off". In my mind, I dream I slap her around, shouting at the para and the teacher. I order themto move Aspie Girl next to the naturalist so she could see and hear the talk. So she could learn. After all, why did she take the 45 minute bus ride? She could've twirled her fingers in the sand at school.

What will the para say at her next IEP? Aspie Girl is a good student. She's doing well. Of course, because she is not a behavior problem. Detached doesn't cause problems for other students or for the teacher? Will the para say she enjoyed the field trip? Would the para have behaved differently if she knew I was a special ed parent?

I know about PDD Boy too. I could just tell, and then a mutual mom friend had mentioned it in conversation. We've never been in the same class until this year. I thought here's my chance to get to know the family and see what happens. Maybe I'll have a friend!

PDD Boy's mom doesn't know I know. He is "doing well" too. He is "doing so well" that he doesn't need a para! Surprise! And what did HE do during the talk with the naturalist? He was next to the naturalist, a good spot. Phew, I thought. He began talking to himself, humming a bit when the naturalist was talking. The teacher quickly removed him and put him towards the back of the group since he was distracting the naturalist. Oh good, so both kids are not learning. Nice.

We've gotten together with PDD Boy, a play date at his house. I hope one day we can talk about their sharedlabel. I don't know the mom very well, but my hope is that one day I can trust her and she can trust me. She's kind of quiet, and when I put out feelers, they were rejected. I use my nephews as the stories, and I also openly share that Leo had a speech delay. No luck.

I feel like a bit of an ass, but I don't know what else to do. I can't disclose Leo's label without knowing what I'm getting into. The mom hasn't been to our local support group. That was my hope. She doesn't advocate for him overtly. I think she does the school services and that's it. Fortunately, our district has an excellent ABA provider now. She could get great services. I wish I could talk to her! I wish I could tell her how the teacher is handling his issues (or not handling them I should say). I'll have PDD Boy over soon - Leo really likes him and his twin. I really want Leo to have several friends on the spectrum. They'll need each other.

I feel for PDD Boy. I envision him in a couple excellent social skills groups I know of, with some terrific children that would really challenge him. But Leo comes first.

Quote of the Day (8 yrs, 5 months)
Leo completed his first ever biography book report. He chose Hank Aaron. It was sports, and of course I loved the fact that discrimination was a part of it! I can't believe he's old enough for something like that!

When picking out things to report about Hank Aaron's early life, he chose the fact that Hank's dad built them a house out of old boards from a torn-down house. I said that was an excellent idea. Hank's house didn't have plumbing or heat either. I told Leo he could add those facts too, further showing how he grew up poor. Leo looked at me impatiently and said, "Mom! I
already said the house was made of old boards. They can INFER that he grew up poor!"

I have never used that word before with him. That word! That word has been written hundreds of times all over IEPs and other therapy materials. And now he's giving me his lesson right back to me. Infer they can, Leo. And of course I got all teary!

Saturday, March 31, 2007
Tae Kwon Do, The Bittersweet End To An Era

Today is Saturday and we are not at the Tae Kwon Do studio. Kind of weird. I'm still hardwired to hunt down his pants and shirt and belt. Today, I just had to make coffee and fix breakfast.

Leo has been taking Tae Kwon Do for 4 years. Like many parents, we used it for PT and OT reasons.I remember those first few times he went. I was so anxious after the many failed attempts at utilizing gymnastics and swimming, I passed the chore to Dad. After all, Dad in theory was in charge of gross motor.

Those first couple of months were tough, like everything new we tried. Leo was SOOHH overstimulated by the yelling (AYE!), the noise level can get very high and unanticipated. Mirrors everywhere, very confusing. Kids are moving around all directions. But we kept at it, actually HE kept at it. We saw that he really wanted to do it (he must have thought it was way easier than anything else we've offered up to this point).

Eventually he settled in and fell in love with this rule-bound individual sport.

Rules?
Individual?
Cool outfit?
Perfect.

Mom and Dad fell in love with the philosophy; To build a more peaceful world. TKD focuses on the positive aspects of an individual's personality: Respect, Courtesy, Goodness, Trustworthiness, Loyalty, Humility, Courage, Patience, Integrity, Perseverance (ha yeah, the irony), Self-control, an Indomitable Spirit and a sense of responsibility to help and respect all forms of life.

We fought so hard to find money to pay for it. We asked our district to pay for it too (one year they did).

Last year Leo began losing interest. His interest in team sports like soccer took over. He began losing enthusiasm for TKD. Sure, when we were there he enjoyed himself, but he began to complain about going. We took a couple Saturdays off, thinking some away time may rejuvinate him. That lasted a while. Getting a new belt.

The time had come to pay again for the year. Leo didn't want to renew, and talked about how he'd miss his instructor and his friends. I too felt conflicted about ending TKD. After all, will Leo's rate off development change (his coordination, his sensory integration). We sat down and talked about the pros and cons, and decided not to go back. We also realized if we regretted this later we could always join again. Leo was relieved to know he wouldn't have to start over with belts. He'd still be high red.

TKD made me feel safe. Letting go of the last piece of what I consider therapy is very difficult. I have to let go and let go of Leo a bit. Let him make some of his own decisions. Let him choose to try baseball this year even though I've already had bad dreams about that one (Leo getting hurt orfeelinginadequate, becoming resensitized in his face).

I've sat down to write the TKD instructor a caring note, but I'm just not in a place to do it just yet.

So spring soccer and spring (gulp) baseball it is.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007 (8 yrs 5 months)
Today and Friday

Today my close friend told me her son has autism.
Today I made a play date with a classmate of Leo's, PDD-Boy, for Wednesday.
Today was Passover and Leo thought it was cool hearing about the parting of the Red Sea.
Today the kids played the piano for Grandma.
Today I repainted blackboards (the kind used with erasers) for preschool.
Today I marveled at the fact that I'm a preschool teacher. There's that planning thing again!

Friday was Parent Teacher Conferences. I was shocked to learn that Leo and his class took a standardized test for Reading called the Gates. I almost died when she pulled the booklet out of his folder. I first got angry, always my first response. I thought they started standardized testing in 3rd grade for gods sake!I started to sweat, and surmised the outcome quickly in my head. Leo didn't finish it on time, he got confused by the bubbles and such. No problem, we'll open up an IEP, he'll qualify for untimed testing, we'll practice test taking skills, and take a deap breath until 3rd grade metacognition.

None of what I predicted came true. But, Leo's teacher was a little concerned about his score - average, since his skill level, according to her, was far better. Nothing to worry about, yeah right. I wonder what this will mean for the future. Maybe spacial planning, organization, timing, or other executive functioning skills will become disabling? I'm ready if that's the case. I say bring it! She said it's his first test, and not to be concerned. She just noted that she was surprised. Okay then.

She also stated that some fine motor things are challenging for Leo. Example: they all made totem poles made of paper towel rolls and cut-out shapes that require a long thin slit to be cut. The cutting was a challenge and it took him a while to figure out the hole-poke-then-cut trick. Everything else, fine. Then she said: He is ready for 3rd grade. Say what?

Great handwriting, reading, and he has a large group of friends, one best friend, and most importantly he's very happy. He can even do geometry - copy a 3 dimensional shape onto paper. Every week he surprises me since I can link so much of the things he can do back to therapy goals. And this was a kid that couldn't copy a 2 block imitation. We worked so hard on that hand-over-hand for years (yogurt cups, crayons, matchboxes, anything he wanted).

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 (8 yrs 7 months)
The Autism Most People Can't See



I can finally sit down and do an update. I have so much reading to catch up on too!

Instead of blogging, I've been using my nights to catch up from the days and finish some last minute knitting projects for birthdays and new babies. I enjoy the work, it relaxes me and in theory keeps my hands from late night snacking! Spring has been beyond busy, more than Christmas/Hanuka. Since multi-tasking isn't a natural state for me, I try to live a simple life. Unavoidable this time of year, so knowing this I try to be positive and don't forget to enjoy every day. We were on vacation for spring break, and again I found myself reflecting on the previous year, taking it all in. Not just for Leo, but for Sydney and for Husband.

We arrived in the afternoon at a beach resort. So far so good - I barely give notice to what travel used tobe like. Guaranteed regression, health symptoms at the highest level, due to Leo simply being out of his element plus lack of sleep and food changes. The stress of shipping food, talking to restaurants in advance, finding Leo a place to sleep and have down time in the afternoon was critical to his wellness just a few years ago. But this afternoon, Leo is the same as he always is.

The next day is Husband's birthday. Traditionally, his birthdays have always sucked. The actual day that is. We celebrated before we left - Spiderman theme, and cute presents that the kids picked out. Husband is in a good place - doing stuff "for him", he really likes his job (how many people can say that?). But this day Leo crashed. Vacation caught up to him and for whatever reason, a virus, sleep-deprivation, or climate change, or everything together, Leo became Autism Poster Boy (APB).

Unless you also have a child with Autism, you'll just observe a child that seems tired and a bit out-of-it. Autism is something most people can't see. Leo isn't just "any kid" fatigued from the trip. His biology becomes apparent only to a trained eye. Leo becomes very lethargic and spacey. As we are walking around the resort, he loses spacial awareness - he walks in front of me and slows down, not noticing he's in front of me. He starts walking "funny" by straightening out his knees first before touching the ground as if he's doing self joint compression. I impatiently yell out REGULAR WALKING LEO without even thinking, making Husband self-conscious. He does this with his arms too, as well as swings them around side to side without awareness that people are around and almost hits them. He walks looking down. Realizing what's going on, I look at his face to see dark circles.

Husband and I conference as we walk, and it dawns on us that Leo is APB. I quickly get angry and frustrated, showing little empathy. I tell myself I must pull it together, and vacation will be "what it is", and I should be grateful. I wonder if we should cancel our kayak trip, thinking Leo may not be up for it. Husband takes on his old role of Protector, and tells me that I need to stop correcting him so much, that obviously he's not feeling well. Husband reminds me that Leo is allowed to have a bad day - something that's "my issue".

We walk to an outdoor restaurant and order food. I now begin clock watching, something I've had to do less often now that Leo's blood sugar is much less sensitive. I wonder where I could buy a bag of chips in case the food takes too long. I don't want Leo to become so out-of-it, that the whole day becomes a day of Leo not feeling well. I get mad at myself for not carrying a snack in my bag like I used to. What was I thinking?

Leo and Sydney see a basketball court next to the restaurant and decide to go on over to play while we wait for the food. There are a couple of older boys playing. Leo typically would have asked to play. Instead, Leo begins to play imaginary football within his internal world. In his mind, he picks teams and what player he is, and uses real statistics to reenact a play. He does this stimming to pacify himself. He doesn't even notice spatially where the basketball players are, and runs right into their play. I yell over, and redirect him like I used to to the other end of the court.

To the casual observer, he looks like a kid running around the court.

Dinner finally comes, and Leo's lost all his manners. He chews giant mouth fulls of chicken Caesar saladand fries, smacking away with the plate and napkin not in front of him. Husband and I squabble a bit, both in bad moods because we are tired and because Leo isn't himself. I tell Leo that I'm sorry I'm so grumpy, and that it's hard to see him not feel well. I tell husband I'm sorry his birthday was filled with grumpiness and a kid not feeling well.

After a full night sleep and a belly full of omelette and hash browns (enzymes too, natch), Leo seems to be himself again. APB is gone. I apologize to him for being so impatient, and remind him that he used to ALWAYS feel that way, and so when it happens it's scary and hard for mom to switch gears. I tell him again how proud I am that because of all his "extra help", hard work, and perseverance (the good kind ha ha), he doesn't have very many of those days.

I smile as we walk through a parking lot because Leo notices the foreign license plates. We hold hands and talk about his license plate book at home and how we have to remember to write these new ones down. He loves them! I smile because he's memorized so many sports stats and now knows more than Husband. I smile as Leo rattles off dozens of countries as he and Sydney walk around on a tiled world map that's on the floor of a restaurant. The cashier looks up, impressed by his knowledge.

I smile at the fact that Leo eagerly agrees to try out kayaking, something he's never done. True, I am also thinking about vestibular/proprioseptive instability in the kayak, topped by Leo's former fear of death and drowning (this took 2 years of Aquatic OT). To my relief, he loves it. Husband enjoys seeing me and Leo talking and working together as a team in the double kayak. Our day was one of those great family days that'll we'll certainly remember.

Other things I found interesting on our trip:

We met a family where BOTH parents are pediatricians. The son, Leo's age, had sensory issues that I immediately saw (sand, sea weed,etc). Here was Leo, bounding in the ocean Laborador style, while the other boy watched. Here was I, talking about SI with the mom, a pediatrician. And I was telling her thingsthat she knew nothing about! She was very curious, since I shared just that Leo had/has SI too. I chose not to say anything about Leo's dx since the family lived near us, and most likely we'd see again socially - the irony! Here I thought I had an opportunity to share our unique outcome, as well as the fact that
Autism isn't a hopeless stereotype to pediatricians that usually are in the dark.

I smile as I watch Leo initiate a football catch with a few other boys his age while in the ocean. He is so happy running around and chatting away about sports, Webkins, and other second grade things.

Later on, I look over and notice that all parents were reading at the same time. Husband was reading Outside Mag and a trade journal. I was reading The China Study, my latest environmental book which I'llbe blogging about later.

And what were the peds reading? Madamoiselle and Esquire. I know it's vacation, but I found it very interesting. Us parents are always at the helm of information rather than the medical community.

Monday, June 11, 2007 (8 yrs 8 months)
Baseball


Back in March, Leo decided he wanted to play baseball. In my town, it's quite unusual to have a boy that's never played at his age. Of course they try T Ball and if they don't like it they move on. When Leo was T Ball age we were light years away from doing it.Since he no longer wanted to do Tae Kwon Do, I really wanted him to do some type of sport. I bravely said
"Yes", knowing we'd be yet again in uncharted territory, facing the ultimate challenge, a ball, a SMALL HARD ball coming very fast towards Leo's face. I was very proud of him for wanting to try, knowing that most kids would have some experience. I was mostly proud that he wanted to try something new.

For about a year or so Leo has been playing catch regularly - football, and baseball, with Dad. He's also been playing some ball sports at school. Amazing to me that with his sensitivities he sought these things out. His obsession with sports and statistics helps I'm sure. He practiced on his own, replaying real plays in his head, almost every day after school as a decompression/transition activity.

The first few games were torture. Pure torture for old Mom here. Although this league is very laid-back and very supportive, I truly felt for him. Here was Leo, this giant kid (single A since he's never played and the oldest kid)that couldn't hit the damn ball. Not a surprise, the timing and the pitching machine really threw him. They gave him extra chances in still no luck. He was the ONLY kid on his team (and the other) that just couldn't hit the ball. He sat at the end of the bench, by himself, completely bummed but not giving up. I think what saved him was that he could throw and catch well enough in his position on first base.I sat there, deer in the headlights, wondering what I should say. Should I let him quit? At what point? On the drive home he said "I'm upset but I'll survive Mom". I reminded him about how it took him a long time to overcome his fear of swimming,
but that he did overcome it and now LOVES to swim. The next game the coach brought a T-Ball thingy just for him to practice with. Leo was a little put-off by it since no one else had to use it, but I reminded him that it doesn't matter, and no one cares. The point is learning how to do it.

The next game he finally Leo "touched" the ball with the bat. Everything changed. I was crying behind my sunglasses. Big smile from Leo. He did it! He couldn't hit it the rest of the game but it didn't matter.

After that game we stopped at the grocery store across the street for a treat to celebrate - Tofutti, natch. Sydney, Leo, and I were getting in line when I saw a very familiar face in the aisle nearby. It was Amy! Leo's former ABA Clinical Supervisor - the person that designed and implemented Leo's ABA programs. It was like seeing family. She WAS like family for years. And I do miss our long conversations and our former closeness. I was overjoyed to see her and I immediately told her that we just came from baseball practice. I squinted and shook my head and she immediately got my message - those issues no longer keep him from playing a ball sport.

Leo looked at Amy and said in an inquisitive voice, "Who are you?" noticing that I am super-friendly with this person and Sydney knows her. We exchange looks and smiles, and quickly says "I'm Amy". He says he doesn't know her. Amy says "Don't worry about it." We then tell him she's a friend of his former shadow. He remembered HER alright. Tailed him for years.

I can't describe that feeling - having a "normal" day I suppose? Baseball. Grocery shopping. Leo not remembering his past as much.

The next game Leo catches a ball as 1st baseman, a close one. As the ball was landing in his glove, he shut his eyes tight. The reaction I'm more accustomed to seeing. I smile with seeing that familiar face. Leo opens his eyes and smiles at the site of the ball and confirmation from the coach's face.

The coach says, "You can open your eyes now Leo."

Leo wanted to march in the Memorial Day Parade. He had so much fun! Just a few short years ago that would've been suicide, just attending a parade. It was so cute seeing Leo and his team in their uniforms walking.

Just one more game. He's going to miss it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007 (8 years, 10 months)
Anniversary From Services


We've had a fairly uneventful end of the school year - Leo was sad but not upset like he was last year. His teacher said he's ready for 3rd grade! As always, it takes me by surprise. We continue to monitor...

June 22 was the anniversary of ending therapies three years ago. Pretty incredible to me. As always, I reflect upon the last year.

I sit back in my lawn chair at the neighborhood pool watching my son jump with abandon into the deep end. He surfaces with a spongy ball and a big smile, and with determination throws it forcibly to one of three other boys that are playing catch. One is his closest friend since Kindergarten. The others are friends from his regular local elementary school. Kid sister is nearby in the shallow end playing mermaids with her friends. Dad will be joining us here after work with Mexican take-out for
dinner.

I am dry, in regular clothes, by the pool, with an unread magazine in my lap. I could glance at it if I want to, my kids are strong swimmers now, but I enjoy watching. I find it peaceful to observe life as it occurs right now in this moment. I am mindful of this daily gift I have received. I am the mother of a happy child that has choices. Seven years ago my son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. And let me tell you, ‘happy’ wasn’t a word we used to describe Leo.

Earlier, Leo was picked up at nature camp by a mom whom he briefly met before we started carpooling. Leo wasn’t concerned with what exact time she’d arrive or even the kind of car she drove. He’s been to this camp before, but he attended without knowing any of the children. By the second day, he already belonged to a little group of three boys. He enthusiastically tells me about these new friends during dinner. He’s also become friendly with the carpool boy, playing basketball games, X-Box, or Webkinz almost every day after camp. I listen in to their conversation on the drive home “Hey, did you see the baby rats? Did you see those animal tracks? I saw you canoeing today.” They talk on and on about school, speculating about what teacher they’ll get in the Fall.

I think about that intense year of aquatic OT when he was little. The one hour of driving each way, the expense, all while taking care of Leo’s little sister. Our goal: The ultimate, a swim-safe child. This seemed impossible since the initial goals were to address sensory defensiveness, vestibular and proprioceptive challenges, fear of dying, hyposensitivity in legs, hypotonia in his arms and upper back. I was raised in Southern California on the beach, so I always had envisioned sharing my love of the ocean with my children. I think about Leo’s anxiety the night before each swim “lesson”, how he’d worry himself sick, rarely sleeping.

Today Leo has choices. He chooses to swim with his friends. We can go to the beach. At nature camp, he learned to wade and canoe, not concerned that he can’t see what’s under the water.
Pretty surreal.

I think about how any change in routine would cause anxiety. Being 1 minute late would bring him to tears. I think about Leo’s intense separation anxiety that made it impossible to place him in the careof others. Being around other children would cause anxiety.

We went to visit my family/friends in California for 3 nice long weeks. It just gets easier and more fun as the kids get older. Traveling alone with my kids, I'm on alert per usual. I hold a common fear that many parents have, that our children will somehow get taken advantage of because of their innocence, their naivety. While waiting for a flight at the airport for that family trip, Leo’s social abilities were put to the test. A questionable character in the waiting area began talking to Leo,
asking him personal questions. He protected himself. When asked what town he lived in, he said “I forgot”. He avoided eye contact with the man while boarding the plane by gazing at a nearby billboard, pretending to read about the arriving flights. He told me later that right away the guy seemed “creepy”. And he was right.

Am I an Autism parent? Yes. Has my life changed in 3 years? Yes and No. I don't have an impossibly giant schedule to manage and implement. I have similar fears and concerns, but they exist at a lower volume in my mind. I occasionally experience PTSS symptoms, such as when it’s time for a parent/teacher conference, or when we have a very ‘off” spectrumy day. We are still in
debt although we are much better off financially than we once were.

Rollercoaster days are few and far between. Those ‘off’ days are hard, as I’m not used to them like I once was. I’m grateful that I’m not living in crisis mode anymore, so these days no longer do me in.

I’m still angry though. Angry that I have more company, meaning more and more people I KNOW and more people I meet have Autism. I’m angry that the issues at hand years ago are still the sametoday.

Autism is part of who Leo is, and I love him and accept all of him as a whole. I can't separate the autism from non-autism parts. Sometimes it’s fun to attach certain aspects of his personality to autism. But mostly, I just don’t care. I use our experience and Leo’s unique wiring as a learning tool.I regularly remind both my children about what Leo’s deficits USED to be and now LOOK. He can do anything. There are no barriers to his potential, and our reward is his success.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Summer Misc, 8 yrs 10 mos.

I refuse to say school has started, because it sure still feels like summer here. No homework, the kids are still running around late at night, no activities until after labor day and beyond. Flip-flops and shorts are still being worn. But indeed, school has started. My 1st and 3rd grader have the same schedule - they go to the same school and get home at the same time, around 3:50pm. Hurray!

I can't confirm the disorder/disability count for 3rd grade as of yet, but I have confirmation that Leo's former arch-nemesis from 1st grade turned friend in 2nd grade is in Leo's class. He also happens to have ADD. There's one other boy that's quite a legend/handful that has a behavior plan as well. He's my favorite, and now is friends with Leo. I predict this relationship will move forward - they've never had class together. His mother is pretty much a normal person, inclusive, and honest.

So far, 3 kids in a class of 21. Leo didn't get his BFF in class, which was a giant bummer because we won't be able to socialize with him much this year. His sister, Sydney's BFF, is the one with Leukemia, so his social schedule and activities are limited to church. PDD Boy is still a close friend, but not in the same class. They'll see each other at baseball which is great.

Leo's teacher seems TGTBT (too good to be true). She energetic, maternal, smart, firm, and engaging. I even told her that she's TGTBT. After last year's mediocre one (at least in the personality/cheer leading dept), I'm pretty damned excited.

Very cute, Leo is even more excited about Sydney's teacher. His former from 1st grade. She's terrific, and I have little worries there. He thinks he's super cool because he 'knows just about everything' in regards to her class. On the first day, he made sure his sister got to her class, as her sense of direction and memory isn't her strong suit (she's just like me).

Leo's hypoglycemia has made a significant improvement over this summer's detox. Huge, I no longer have to pack an extra snack for him to eat in the afternoon - he can basically make it combined with lunch schedule getting later as he's getting older. I am slowly feeling like I am less like a mom with a diabetic child.

The other good news is that Leo seems basically fine on dairy. I've been really worried about the soy consumption in this house, especially since it's in all the processed GF foods, so I boldly decided to give Leo dairy regularly (translation=3x week), and the rest of the choices go to soy. So almost 50/50, splitting the difference of evilness. We still stick to GF, as it does seem to build up, but do 'cheat' for special occasions like a birthday...

Leo had a sleepover at the same boy's house from last year. It was awesome just like last year! We talked a lot about two boys that he doesn't like much that would be at the sleepover. We told him life isn't perfect, and even though these boys aren't that nice sometimes and aren't your favorites, you just have to go with the flow. I also said people change, especially kids, and that you have to give them a chance, they may surprise you. I reminded him about our neighbor, how they get along now. The greatest was I only had to pack enzymes! The mom gave them for pizza, and he declined cake. Simple! He had a total blast - this year they all played baseball and relays before a movie, popcorn, and other boy stuff. I was so happy for him.

To change the subject (Hey I can do anything, it's my blog!), I seem to always have an issue at school at the beginning of the year, and this year was no different. I found out through a friend that the PTA wants us to fill out detailed health related questions on a waiver for PTA events/activities. I asked the nurse and the principal about the legality with privacy. Of course, this touched a nerve with me because of vaccinations, allergies, and hidden diagnosis. Like I'd say jack about any of it! Can we all say Secret List? I get the waiver thing. Insurance is insurance, but do you think I'll trust these other moms with that info, when there's already an undercurrent of animosity towards "allergy kids" and the politics that go with it?

So there ya go. Haven't heard anything BUT the form was sent home sans waiver. I'll keep you posted.