Saturday, December 24, 2011

it's gonna be a merry christmas

I apologize for the lack of posting. There was this whole thing on Monday night/morning where I called 911 because I thought I was dying. In the end they diagnosed me with "non-specific chest pain" probably related to my acid reflux. (Punkin didn't even wake up. Oma and Opa came over to help.) It hurt, you guys. I think it hurt worse than my gall bladder.

But things have been happier. I received an extremely kind note in the mail with a gift card for the grocery store and we've been lavished with early Christmas gifts. And best of all, Auntie is home. We made lots of cookies.


Some family friends came over to my parent's house last night for dinner and brought their puppy. Can you  believe this? What a big kid he's becoming!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

we did it!

Punkin's Sunday School Christmas Program was today. I really didn't know what was going to happen. I felt like I hadn't prepared him enough. But you know what? He rocked it. I stood on the risers next to him while he sang and then we sat together on a bench off to the side during the speaking parts. He made it about half of the way through before he tapped out with a simple, "I done now." And he kept his costume on!

(I guess I should add that every time I thought he might be getting anxious, I grabbed a Skittle out of my pocket.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

people are awesome

If you have ever given a dollar to Toys for Tots,  dropped a quarter in a Salvation Army kettle, or chosen a tag off of an Angel Tree, I would like to thank you. You rock, and so does the person who picked Punkin's name off of the Angel Tree and donated these perfect gifts to us. He's going to lose it when he sees all of those markers.

Friday, December 9, 2011

letting it go

I wrote this blog for PreK and K Sharing. It's an awesome collection of people who work in education. Check it out!
Cooking with Punkin should be renamed, "Making something fun to eat while Punkin scurries in and out of the kitchen." It's just like with arts and crafts; you ask him to do it and he protests (loudly). You show him what the activity is and he glances in your direction. You sit down and begin the activity yourself and he dashes over, shoves you out of the way and declares, "I DO IT!"

I downloaded the Starfall Gingerbread man app for his iPad several months ago, and aside from YouTube, it's the most used feature on the device. It teaches shapes and colors by allowing the child to pick what kind of eyes, nose, mouth, and buttons the man should have. Surprise, surprise, when I looked at Punkin's cookie tray (where all of his men are saved), they all looked the exact same.

His interest in the app made me finally decide to use the oversized gingerbread man pan his paternal grandma sent last year. Not being so fond of gingerbread, I made a sugar cookie. Not being so good at remembering, I failed to purchase candy and frosting. So we gave him "CIRCLE EYES! CIRCLE EYES!" with Fruit Loops and buttons with marshmallows.

Punkin loved him, but refused to eat him. The irony of asking him to cook and then eat his beloved friend did not escape me, so I wasn't really surprised when after he saw me break off a hand, he started breaking the entire cookie and piling it up on the cooling rack.
This is the point when I have to decide whether I'm going to be angry about a cookie. Nope. Not worth it. We had fun making it, and my co-workers and I have enjoyed eating it after all of our preschoolers pass out at nap time.And I guarantee that when we make a second gingerbread man, he will remember the first time and be much more attentive.

Punkin is the perfect example of how a child with fragile x syndrome learns. He needs to see the entire process happen and then go back and complete the steps; he needs to know that his work has a purpose. He isn't going to stir some cookie dough just because I asked him to -- he needs to know there's a super cool gingerbread man in his immediate future. As he has developed cognitively, he's been better able to deal with situations like this one because he can attend for a longer period of time and he can process more of what I'm saying. In the past, though, it might have caused anxiety. The anxiety would have manifested itself in aggressive behavior, and I never would have gotten my cookie.

So what are you to do if you have a student similar to my son?

1. Stop worrying about eye contact. As parents and teachers we often  become preoccupied with eye contact. I've struggled with this one personally. Giving people eye contact increases my anxiety and quite honestly distracts me from what they're saying. I'm so focused on the sensory information that I'm receiving from looking at their face that I forget that we're having a conversation. Also, try sitting next to children instead of across from them. It's less intimidating and doesn't imply that you will be demanding the dreaded eye contact.

2. Work on the entire process, not just the pieces. Punkin's former preschool teacher, writer of How Long is this Hall, figured this one out when he was struggling with prewriting skills. He tore paper and generally threw a fit when asked to work on making lines down, lines across, and circles. So she introduced him to writing his entire name. From what I  understand, there was an immediate change in his willingness to work; he even began writing letters on his own, sometimes on the wall in our living room.

3. Use visual aids. This might be a picture schedule for the entire day or a specific activity. Sometimes something as simple as a first/then board eases anxiety because the student knows what is coming next. Just laminate any piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the first half, offer a picture of the first activity. On the second half, place a picture of the next activity or the child's reward for completing the task. I've found it especially helpful to always have a preferred item be that last picture in a schedule. So if I make a picture schedule for hand washing, my pictures would be turn on water, get soap, rub hands, turn water off, dry hands, go play. Here is an example from my own house of a toileting schedule. I even added a candy bar at the end; this was very motivating! A first-then board might just have the  toilet picture and the play picture.

4. Pair more challenging activities or new activities with ones that are familiar. If you're introducing a new activity, this approach can be especially helpful. Children want to please adults, they want to be successful, and they want their days to be routine. So if you give them something familiar before and after the new or challenging activity, it can provide all of those supports and still give you a chance to work on a new skill.

6. Pick your battles. So he broke the cookie. Eh. If that's the worst thing that happens all day, then it's an awesome day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

a few of our favorite toys

Buying presents for a child with a disability can be an overwhelming experience. For a child like mine, with limited verbal skills, lower than average cognitive abilities, challenging behaviors, and sensory aversions, it can feel impossible. This is my train of thought when I'm standing in the toy aisle: OH IT'S SOOO CUUUTE! Will he know what to do with it? How easy is it to break? Is this one of those toys where I'll have to buy two? Cause sometimes he only plays with a toy if it comes in a set. All he wants is a truck, anyway. And then I walk away with nothing. I thought I would share some of our favorites, both current and from years past, that are all under $25. In the end, always buy for your child's developmental age and not their chronological age -- both of you will be happier.
Playskool Busy Gears. Be sure to also check out Busy Poppin' Pals and Poundin' Bedbugs

Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Snap Beads.
My extended family may remember these beads from two years ago at Christmas. Some of the best toys are the simplest.
Crayola Color Bath Dropz

Crayola Glow Board

Crayola Bath Crayons
The bath crayons and board were so nice when Punkin was in his Tearing Paper stage. It encouraged him to work on prewriting skills without the stress of actual paper and pencil.
Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Nesting Pots and Pans
Nesting cups make noise, but not too much noise, and help develop critical thinking skills.
Melissa and Doug Jumbo Cardboard Blocks

Melissa and Doug Wooden Cutting Food Set
Melissa and Doug make colorful, easy to grasp wooden puzzles and innovative shape sorters as well. These blocks were a favorite because they are very durable (had them for 4 years now) and won't hurt if they accidentally hit you from across the room. All of the pieces in the food set are held together with velcro, which I think provides the right amount of resistance. I've seen my son transfer the skill of being able to cut this food over to real food. It's a great way to encourage sharing and independence, too, when you sit down to a pretend meal. And in case the thought of wooden food brings visions of black eyes, they make a felt pizza party set as well.

I'd love to hear your favorites! 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

i cook

That thing on his head would be the cover for my parent's toaster. Punkin put it on, which really wasn't that odd for him, and then I realized that he thought it was a chef's hat when he asked for the oven mitts. This is the best shot I could get -- he just would not stand still. Imagine that.