Showing posts with label Autism Awareness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Autism Awareness. Show all posts

Sunday, October 27, 2013

How Do You Compare? You. Don't.

School, school. You are tiring! I don't know about any of you other parents out there but elementary school wears me out! It's a LOT to keep up with. My kids have a way better social calendar than me, but somehow day to day we make it through. Lots of things have been going on lately this year with school. Jackson of course is in the Angel Program at HR and LORD knows those people are miracle workers! I have a working post to dedicate solely to them that I'll post later (it's a work in progress). School has been up and down this year. Of course Jackson is ecstatic to have Hallie at school with him this year and she is doing wonderful! I never worry about Hallie. She is smart, ahead of the game and always on top of everything she needs to do. She is so smart. And ohhhhh I have had the wish that I could switch her to 1st grade and Jackson back to 4K a time or ten. So sue me. It's only human to wish that you could make things easier every now and then right? 

Jackson started school and the first month was O.K. Just ok. He always has a period of adjustment it seems when we have a new teacher, new classmates and new surroundings. I guess that's pretty normal. As the weeks have gone on, several adjustments and academic modifications have been made for Jackson to help him at school. Everything from his "team" ARMY of teachers/aids/helpers/tutoring staff/etc being added to the mix, fidgets for the classroom, medications (ugh I hate those things) and even filming him during school to try and come up with the best plan for Jackson. But NO WHERE ELSE are we gonna get that kind of attention and help for him and for that I am beyond forever grateful. Like I said, he has some real miracle workers in his presence. So week by week and adjustment by adjustment we just hang on and ride the ride. He started out going the full day with his classmates but in the last few weeks has changed to a lot stricter schedule in the  mornings and then joining in with his classmates later in the day. I stopped his ADHD medications because the side of effect of him biting every single finger to bleeding almost daily was just terrible. So off of that and only now do we continue with his sleep medication at bedtime. That however has been a savior in the meds department because he is actually getting sleep and not looking like a zombie when he wakes up. He's always struggled to sleep. I am not here to push pro/anti meds on anyone but I have decided that if there is a medication that improves his quality of life and doesn't change who he is then I am for that medication for my child. 

Academically he is still struggling. Really struggling with reading and language in particular. Math is much better and art/music/PE are all pretty good. Homework is painful, PERIOD. There is just no other way to put it. Some days he finishes at school (thank goodness) but even then we try to review at night. Some nights take us up to 2 whole hours to do homework that should normally take maybe 20 minutes at the most. It's like a full time job folks! And it takes a LOT LOT LOT of patience to remain calm and help Jackson, but I'll do it everyday if it's what it takes. Some days are better than others, some days he wants to learn more than others but I only take it one day at a time and I think he takes it one minute at a time. Each year the kids take the ITBS test (kinda like the TCAP standardized testing for all you oldies out there like me) to determine where your child is on the scale of the "national average" of students their age. Well #1 Jackson is already a year older than all of his peers (strike one), he is not an "average" child (strike two) and he doesn't participate in the normal time constraints/settings of the testing with his class because at this point he is not able to take a "timed test" (strike three). So in my book he's out. Not out as in he doesn't count. Just he's out in that it doesn't compare. I stopped comparing Jackson to other kids a LONG time ago. I'm not sure everyone will agree with that or not, but that's my choice. And I know he has to take the tests as part of his school and since the state mandates it for academic placement so of course he takes it. But I really don't look at it as a true representation of how he really measures on the scale of school. 

I'll be even more honest here. His scores are low. Really LOW. But that's ok because ultimately those tests are just a bunch of numbers on a page for me. What I want to see is progress. How does Jackson today compare to Jackson last year? That's what I measure. That's not always an easy measurement either and it's also not easy to just let go and accept that measurement. Of course I have my days that I want him to be the straight A student, the most popular kid in class, the sports MVP, I think we all want that for our kids right?!?!?! I even thought about posting those scores and his report card and I did take pictures, but I decided I don't need to justify anything with a picture and some things are just better left for Mom and Dad's eyes only. 

So how does Jackson compare to Jackson? Well let's see... this time last year he was failing (miserably) every spelling test he took, maybe one word right if we were lucky, usually it came home as a blank page or words that were reversed letters, unreadable mumbo jumbo, you name it. This year, we started a little rough, he made an F (I won't even mention the score) and now? Last test 100, the one before that 80, the one before that 100. We are making progress! Whooo right? Yes! To a certain degree. 

Yes, he is doing better at his spelling words, he has a smaller list than the rest of the class which is fine by me!  What's the catch then you ask? He is SLOWLY starting to retain some of the words he is learning. That has been a HUGE struggle for Jackson because he can learn the words no problem, but two days later and he needs to learn them all over again, literally he can't remember what he just learned. And reading? Well, that''s a whole other animal. He can read words, he can also memorize words. By words, I mean books. He is memorizing books! WHAT?!?! He was "busted" so to speak reading to me and one of his teachers. He has learned to associate the words on the pages with the pictures associated to them and that's how he reads entire books. It's actually pretty amazing if you ask me, who the heck can do that! Cover those pictures and he can't read the book to you anymore. Insane. I CANNNNNNNOT wrap my mind around that. That is a lot of pictures-to-words ratio of memorizing. It's not that way with every book he reads but there is a couple of Dr. Seuss books and beginner reader books (about 30 pages each) that he has memorized completely. As super cool as that is and I think it's a gift really, he is still struggling to read. But again, one day at a time. 

So report cards finally came out for the first nine weeks of school. We have a LONG way to go, but compared to last year, he's flying! So I have no doubts we are headed in the right direction. He learns at his pace and his pace only. There is no rushing him or you lose him. There is no scolding or he shuts down. There is only Jackson pace. He is a turtle of a learner. But slow and steady wins the race, so as long as he continues on a good path, fast or slow we are on the same pace too. I still push him every now and then but I know his boundaries only because I know my child. I can tell when it's too much or when he can be challenged and pushed harder. We put blood sweat and tears into homework for the 30 minutes it takes on a great day or the 2+ hours it takes on most days. 

We keep fighting the fight though, my little turtle has a hard shell and he will win that race one day. I can't wait to compare Jackson today to Jackson at the end of this school year because by then he may running this race. 

Still learning from this kiddo every day. He amazes me.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's Like Saying Bomb On An Airplane.....

Happy hump day folks! Man on man I feel like we have been on a roller coaster lately with all things LIFE! Jackson is in his third week of summer school and doing well and Hallie is chomping at the bit to go to "big girl school" this fall. I cannot believe they are 4 and 7! When did my babies get so big? We have also been on the hunt for a new house for quite some time. What a PROCESS to say the least. The ugly ones, the scary ones, the one that's a little too big, the one that would be perfect until you see the price tag! (of course I never look at the price of anything, just look for what I like and then the price tag... typical woman I suppose LOL) But all that aside, I think we might have found "the one". We put an offer in today and hope to know something by Friday, so all you lovers out there keep your fingers crossed and pray for us because my sanity can't handle much more on the house hunt! HA! 

In other news, Jackson has been in seriously intensive summer school for three weeks. He is doing really well academically! I say well as a relative term because we still have a super long way to go but so far so good in the progress department. YAY! We still have our days that don't go so great of course (like last week when he had to be physically removed from a fight because another little boy was antagonizing him, but that's another story). He has learned about 12 new words and read his first book to me all the way through! Never mind it was a Pre-K reader book of none other than "The Lorax" WHO CARES!!!! He could read the phone book to me as long as he reads, I don't care what it is! 

Speaking of other days that don't go so well. Wellllllllll we got a picture sent home today (with a sad face drawn on it even) and a lengthy note about this "ahem" drawing. A counselor's father passed away at the school and the kids were drawing him pictures. Jackson chose to do his own rendition of a drawing for him. Not sure if he associated his drawing with death or what, but his picture was less than desirable for the occasion. I am not posting a picture of it, but let me just say it was a lovely drawing, but SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO wrong for the occasion or even to be drawn at school. He drew a detailed full scale drawing of people, a large group of people shooting each other with guns. (excuse me while I gather myself and push my stomach out of my throat)

How in the world do I even begin to explain to him that even though someone died he cannot draw ANYTHING pertaining to guns at school. It's simply unacceptable and cannot happen. I almost didn't know where to begin. I pulled Jackson to me and very calmly but sternly explained that we had to talk about this picture he drew today and why it was never to be drawn nor is he allowed to talk about guns at school. It's seriously like getting on a plane and yelling BOMB!!!! You just can't do it. As we went back and forth with him doing what I felt like was his best effort to keep eye contact with me, I could tell he was shaky. Those big blue eyes welled up and I could see his tears were going to start any second. 

I have been so proud of his progress over the last few short weeks, but man this was a tough conversation tonight. Definitely not one I wanted to have and honestly I didn't know if he would even really understand. But I think he did. He said he was sorry. He said he was just drawing a picture like the army. I am so thankful that he hopefully understands that the army protects us, our country and our freedom, but in this instance the guns and shooting are a no go. The further we went into the conversation the more he was fidgeting and the more I could tell he was getting overwhelmed from our discussion. I assured him he was not in trouble, but that if he ever talked about guns or drew them at school again, Mommy would have to come to school and that it would not be fun. He fell to the floor crying. I literally had to pick him up but not hug him. Do you know how hard that is as a parent to have to pick up your child who thought he was drawing a picture to tell him that it's not allowed????? I knew if I hugged him, he would think he was "off the hook" so I couldn't even though I wanted to. I even wanted to cry, but I couldn't do that either. 

This is one of those tough parenting times as a Mom in general, autism aside. But also considering that Jacks processes things in his own way, I decided we had to turn this into a learning experience for him or he would never want to do "art" again for fear of getting in trouble. So after our long, stern, torturing conversation I asked Jackson if we could make a deal. We decided that from now on the day before art class, we will talk about what he will draw for me. I get to pick the next picture and from there we will pick two picture options and he can choose the one he wants to draw for me. You see, I have to turn things this way for him to want to be interesting in continuing and so he understands that although today was a big no no, he can still draw great pictures for Mommy and Daddy. 

Since we have some behavioral issues that we are still combating, I feel like teaching Jackson that guns are not safe is VITALLY important. I know guns are definitely something that I exist I realize that. But Jackson does not understand that they can really hurt people. And obviously he doesn't understand that there's a time and place for them, which was not today for sure. And it's not something I am willing to risk with him thinking they are anything but dangerous. Even all the way down to the Nerf and water guns. I just simply choose that he cannot have them. He can know they exist and I can teach him about them, but for now they have no place in our life at the moment. 

Lesson for today - kids make mistakes. We all do. But for Jackson redirection from those mistakes and giving him options to make good decisions will hopefully make sure we never have "guns" drawn at school again and he will go to art ready to draw the picture he chooses so he feels empowered to make his own decisions. I think I might be starting to catch on to Jackson's way of learning thing. Kinda crazy how much that kiddo teaches me to take a step back and approach life from a different angle. 

Hoping I never see guns on paper again. EVER.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Life Has Been Loco & Tomorrow - Tears

Oh my goodness! My poor poor blog! She has taken serious neglect and abuse the last ohhhhh 6+ weeks!!! Ready to hear my self-defined "good enough excuses" as to why? Even if you don't care, I'm going to at least attempt to make myself feel better as to why I haven't blogged in a while so here goes. (Deep breath...) Two monkey's birthdays, a baptism for a godchild, 3 weddings, 2 baby showers, tons of autism updates, my Mom's birthday, the Grizzlies in the NBA playoffs, looking for a new house, and my husband traveling so much I barely know the city he is in and you see where my  time has been the last 6 weeks. PHEW! I'm tired just putting it all down. Sooo with all this time going by, I sure do have a LOT to update on. 

Let's just make a list of all the post updates I need to do shall we? (I tend to like to check things off lists, it makes me feel like I'm getting something done so maybe this will publicly hold me accountable to make me catch up, ha!!)

  1. Mine and John's godson Tucker's baptism weekend in D.C.
  2. Hallie's 4th birthday
  3. Autism and school updates for Jackson (that will have to be a post or three probably, lol)
  4. Autism Fundraiser with the Memphis Redbirds 
  5. Grizzlies playoffs
  6. Baby shower for a bestie! (We're adding another girl to the fam!)
  7. Jackson's 7th birthday 
  8. Doctors and Medicine Updates for Jackson... this one's gonna be a doozie!
  9. Therapy Updates and the summer game plan
  10. The Never-ending house hunt
Are you tired yet!?! I am. I probably have a couple more I could add to the list, but I think that's enough for now. But, at least you know I've been rather busy and not just absent and lazy right? 

Anyway, moving on from my mountain of a to-do post is Jackson's 7th birthday. I have a 7 year old, what!?!? It feels like only yesterday he was this little tiny baby with bright blue eyes and perfect round little face were just looking at me with wonder and excitement to be in the world. I miss him being a little baby. He's not so little anymore, but he's still my cuddly baby. Tomorrow will be a rough day for me I think. Jackson graduates from Kindergarten tomorrow morning. I could not be more proud of him and I am so excited to see what his future holds. I know I am going to cry like a BABY! I have already teared up a couple of times this week and it's not even graduation yet! (I need to get a grip, I know) I decided that since his teachers/therapists/aids/etc are so important to his success along this long journey with autism, he needed something to always be able to carry a little piece of the people who are so important to his life. I bought him the Dr. Seuss book "Oh the Places You'll Go" and wrote a letter inside to him from me and J. Here's a pic of the book and letter. 

Tonight we'll be celebrating Jackson turning 7 at home with mini cupcakes (since I sent 30 big ones to school today and we did a big bowling cake over the weekend) and whatever he wants for dinner - now don't get too excited, it'll probably be the staple meal of mac-n-cheese and chicken nuggets, his favorite meal he eats probably at least 4-5 times a week for dinner, but hey it's his day and we are gonna do it the Jackson way! Happy Wednesday and Happy Birthday Jackson! We love you more than anything!!! You will always be Mommy's little monkey! 
Made cupcakes for the class per the birthday boy's request! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Are you Au-ware?

So today was a special day of celebration. Not the first day, but a first for us and for Jackson. The first year for us to be a part of the World Autism Awareness Day. I have done a lot of thinking today, a lot of reflecting and a lot of realizing. Realizing that we are not the only ones. We are not alone. And together we can make a difference in the world of autism. I wore my blue for my sweet Jacks and I have seen countless acts of support through social media, community events and national fundraising campaigns to support Autism Awareness. 

Considering that so often we get arguably caught up in keeping up with the Jones' in our day to day lives, we often forget to remember just how blessed we are. Sitting in mass this past weekend for Easter the song Living Feast was playing as Communion was given. I returned to my seat holding squeezing Hallie and I found myself reflecting through prayer over the last 8 months and realizing just how far we have come as a family. I prayed for Jackson, I prayed for other children with autism and I prayed for families that live with autism everyday. I prayed in thanks for everything I have, in thanks for all the sacrifices that Jesus made for us. I prayed for peace. Peace and love and thanks. I was borderline ready to just let my tears go right there in the pew. What a difference a small amount of time has made in my life, our family life and most importantly Jackson's life. 

Even though today was a national day of recognition, there are 364 days a year that aren't recognized for autism, but trust me autism doesn't disappear. It's present in my life everyday. It brings about new struggles  and new victories for us everyday. And while I have been so wrapped up in all the hairy scary details of autism there is something else that doesn't disappear. And that's God, who is also present everyday. I guess part of me has been taking that for granted lately. Not by choice, just by default as a human being. Just being wrapped up in my own thoughts and struggles that I've forgotten about how much God really loves us and has a true path for us in life. For the first time in a long time, I think I am on the path that God has for me. Maybe a path I don't understand sometimes and it's just taken me a while (eh 30 years) to get there, but none the less a path. It may be a path of mystery, but it's also a path of survival and a path to victory. (whew... did I just say all that in public?)  

Our path is a path to share and it's so much bigger than we are, just like todays celebration of autism awareness around the world. So thank you for everyone who supported Autism today, it means so much. And I have to say thank you God for reminding me that you are always Au-ware of just what I need. 

Leaving you with one little boy who will forever light up my life.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

No Words

Hello fellow lovers. Today I can't find the words. Maybe because today has been one of the hardest days for me and John throughout this entire hellacious autism journey for Jackson. It will all come to me in time, but today I am/we are overwhelmed with emotions. Everyday is a fight, but today we were fighting with our hands tied behind our backs. In learning more everyday about autism, the quirks, the good, the bad and sometimes the really bad, today was a rough one  friends. I definitely have a lot of emotions running through my mind and as my mind races, I can barely put a sentence down. 

I guess some days you just don't have the words. 

Switching from my feelings to something bigger than me, Autism Awareness Month is fast approaching and April 2 has been declared as Autism Awareness Day in Memphis. If you live in here, you should be there for the Light it Up Blue Event!!! I can't say how important it is for everyone to become educated about autism and just how much it affects so many people around you or maybe even you directly. I think any parent that has a child with autism would second that. 

Until I find my words.....