Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Try This Tuesday: A Safe Place to Bounce

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All of our boys are sensory-seekers when it comes to movement. They love to be in motion — running, jumping, climbing, bouncing, crashing, hanging upside down, flapping and spinning. Trying to find outlets for all that energy is challenging! In the interest of safety and furniture preservation, finding a safe place for the boys to bounce has been especially important.

Bouncing on the bed was a favorite of theirs no matter how many times we told them to stop. Learning about the 5 little monkeys (you know, “5 little monkeys jumping on the bed…”) didn’t phase them at all. Bouncing on the couch has been another favorite, but it adds years (lots of years) to the appearance of your couch. We bought our couch about 6 yrs ago and it looks about 20 yrs old now.

Getting out of the house and heading for one of those “jumpy” places (with the inflatable bounce houses and slides) can be lots of fun for kids who love to run, climb, and bounce, but that can get expensive. What we really wanted to do was get a trampoline, but our yard is a hill so there’s no flat space to put a trampoline in the yard.

So we opted for a small indoor trampoline.


We were a little nervous at first, worrying they might bounce off of it and hurt themselves, or that they’d fight over it. But so far it has worked out great! We still get the occasional walking on the couch, but for bouncing they go to the trampoline, not the couch or beds. Yay!




And as an added bonus, they can use it anytime, day or night, rain or shine!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Mondays in Motion: Stand-up comedy, baby style

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Mondays in Motion!



Here's another blast from the past :).

Cuddlebug (sitting) was being silly and Bearhug thought it was hilarious. I love listening to them laugh :). As you can see, I tried to film them inconspicuously so as not to interrupt their fun. At the end, Cuddlebug decided to take a break to chew on his ball, while Bearhug was calling for an encore.


They were about 9 mos old in this video.



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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chess club update (again)

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Well, it looks like we are done with chess club, at least for this year. I posted a while back about how Bearhug has decided he no longer wants to go.  Cuddlebug wanted to continue, but he is having a hard time.  He's catching on pretty well in terms of how to play the game, but apparently he is having meltdowns whenever he loses :(.  Last week, he had to leave early because of it.  I think maybe they just weren't quite ready.  We'll keep working with them on their chess skills as long as they are interested (and obviously their social skills too, as always), but I think we're done with the official club for now.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Stinky stuff

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I walked into the boys' room the other morning to make sure they were up and getting ready for school, and as soon as I did I was hit with a yucky smell - cat poop. Uh-oh, that means the cat got stuck in their room overnight. Sure enough, I see him sleeping near their bed. He got up and walked out and soon as he saw the door was open. He headed straight for his litter box, so at least I was in time to stop yet another pile from ending up on our carpet.

I reminded the boys to make sure they don't lock the cat in their room at night (they like to sleep with the door closed). Cuddlebug's answer (ever the logical guy), "we didn't lock the door, we just shut it."

Sigh. "Well, since the cat can't use the doorknob, it's pretty much the same thing. Please make sure the cat isn't in here when you shut it next time."

Aahhhh!!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On that topic, Bitty came up today saying "bah... bah" (which is his word for chocolate, b/c dh has been buying Kit Kats lately and they are "bars"). I looked over and found him pointing to a poo-ball in the pull-up he'd just taken off.

Eewww, that's not a "bar"!!!

Lesson of the day - just because it's brown, doesn't mean it's chocolate...



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Sketchpad Discoveries: The faith of a child

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I mentioned the other day that the boys use their sketchpads to help them cope with overstimulation. I recently went through their sketchpads out of curiosity to see what they had drawn and found some really interesting things so I thought I'd share some of what I found.

These are some of the more inspiring drawings and letters that I found:


Drawing of Jesus by Cuddlebug



Cuddlebug's letter reads, "Dear Jesus, I wish you could visit me." He included his phone number and house number also, so Jesus would know where to find him. How sweet is that?



Drawing by Bearhug


Bearhug's letter reads, "Dear [Bearhug's] family, I made this for my family. I made for that I am a child of God. Love, [Bearhug]" So precious!

To really appreciate these, you have to understand that both of them DESPISED going to church until just recently (mainly because of overstimulation, it is often overwhelming for them). They have come home in the past with drawings of angry faces saying, "I hate cerch" and have complained fiercely on a weekly basis about going. They have each had countless meltdowns in church and we've gotten plenty of "disapproving" looks. If you have a child with autism, you know the looks I'm talking about! So to see drawings and letters like this just make my heart feel so happy, I can't even describe it :).



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Sketchpad Discoveries: Bearhug's drawings

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I mentioned the other day that the boys use their sketchpads to help them cope with overstimulation. I recently went through their sketchpads out of curiosity to see what they had drawn and found some really interesting things so I thought I'd share some of what I found.

Here are some more of Bearhug's drawings:


Scene from Spongebob episode "Hooky"


Plankton


Scoreboard


Train in the mountains


A guy


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Sketchpad Discoveries: Cuddlebug's drawings

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I mentioned the other day that the boys use their sketchpads to help them cope with overstimulation. I recently went through their sketchpads out of curiosity to see what they had drawn and found some really interesting things so I thought I'd share some of what I found.

Here are some more of Cuddlebug's drawings:


Cat saying "Meow" and "Uh don't look at the cat face" (lol)

More cats

How to make a [Cuddlebug] dot to dot
1. Put about 25 dots
2. Put lines of parts that aren't dot to dot pieces
3. Enjoy



Trains

Scene from Super Mario Bros

Church


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Sketchpad Discoveries: Little Bitty's drawings

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I mentioned the other day that the boys use their sketchpads to help them cope with overstimulation. I recently went through their sketchpads out of curiosity to see what they had drawn and found some really interesting things so I thought I'd share some of what I found.

In addition to the drawings below, Bitty also had one where he had written his own name, he had the first and last letter with some lines in between. I was so impressed! A month ago he couldn't even say his own name, and now here is spelling it (with fridge magnets) and writing it! How cool is that!

Here are several of Little Bitty's drawings:


Circles


Railroad track


Squiggly lines


This one looks like a mouse


Lines and circles


Excitement


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Sketchpad Discoveries: My husband's son...

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...drew this one. Warning - this post is rated PG-7 (can't say PG-13 since a 7-yr-old drew it, but since my blog is typically rated G, I figured fair warning was in order).

I couldn't help laughing when I found it. This is Bearhug's work, I can tell by the handwriting. He even spelled it right. (sighing and rolling my eyes).


Hopefully you don't find it offensive, I thought it was too funny not to share... (and who knows, this could be good blackmail material later on, mwahahaha).



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SOOC Saturday: Sneaky cat?

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Slurping Life

This was taken about a year ago (same day as these). I love this because Orion thinks he's so sneaky but the birds always see him coming. :)


To his credit, he went after a dog about 5 times his size yesterday - and the dog took off running scared, lol. Seems a bit backward :).


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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Finding Courage through Sharing: The Future

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CMCblogcarnival

This month's topic is coping and hope for the future.

None of us really knows what the future will hold. Ten years ago, if you had told me what my future had in store I would have said you were crazy. :) To be honest, when it comes to my kids, I try not to think too far into the future because the uncertainty is stressful!

Even the simple things that so many parents take for granted have question marks for us. Things like college, career, marriage and family. Even the thought of middle school is enough to make me anxious, but I digress.

Of course we have every expectation that they will have ample opportunities for success and happiness, but the worries are still there. They may need to take extra care with their choices to find a good fit. For example, they are extremely bright but would probably not do well at a large school where freshman classes can have hundreds of students all sitting in auditorium struggling to see the professor (or more likely a TA) at the front of the room speaking through a microphone and scribbling notes on an overhead. If they choose a professional field that they love, they will most likely excel as a result of their dedication and persistance.

On the other hand, understanding social nuances is something they struggle with. If they argue with their bosses the way they sometimes argue with their parents and teachers (over the most ridiculous things, with no sense for when to let. it. go.)... or go ballistic when something doesn't go the way they expected it to, they could find themselves out of a job!

For that matter, how will they fare in job interviews? Such emphasis is placed on eye contact and being able to answer questions fluidly. How will an interviewer respond if they take an abstract question too literally, or if they struggle to put their responses into words?

Their social challenges may well impact their relationships also. And yet they have so much to offer! Sure, they sometimes say things that come across as incredibly rude when they don't mean it that way. That's not likely to go over well with their friends or potential dates. But, they don't play mind games, they are extremely loving, and they'll never forget a birthday or anniversary! :)

Will they be able to live independently? Will they be able to drive or will their difficulty with tuning out extraneous details making driving too dangerous? Will they learn to discern from nonverbal cues when people are being less than honest with them or trying to take advantage of them?

I know, no parent really knows how things will turn out for their children and all parents worry. But, autism presents unique challenges and these are just some of the things that keep me up at night when I let myself think too much. So how do I cope with these worries?

For me, the most effective way to relax about the future is to look to the past -- to look at how far all of my sons have come since they were first diagnosed with autism. Without going into too much detail, here is a brief summary of where they were then:

When Cuddlebug was diagnosed at age 3, much of his speech was echolalia. He had extreme difficulty focusing on any task and was continually distracted by the sights and sounds around him that most people tune out. He couldn't respond appropriately to basic questions such as "what's your name?" (his response: "name") or "How old are you?" Even the most mundane transitions or changes in routine would trigger intense meltdowns. He had a very difficult time with basic coloring and could not write or draw.

Bearhug was also diagnosed at age 3, at which point he struggled with almost constant overstimulation which led him to be perpetually hyperactive (that was one of his coping mechanisms). He too was prone to frequent intense meltdowns. He was capable of brief back-and-forth interactions but interpreting his comments was difficult. Transitions and changes in routine were particularly challenging. He also struggled with fine motor skills such as drawing and cutting with scissors.

When Little Bitty was diagnosed at age 2, he had regressed to a point where he was often nonresponsive. We could look directly into his eyes, touch his shoulder gently, and say his name and he would look through us as though we weren't there (not always, but it wasn't uncommon). He had no way of telling us when he was hungry or thirsty. He babbled frequently, but rarely uttered distinguishable words. The little boy who once did a little 5-second "angry dance" when he was upset, began having 2-hour-long marathon screamfest meltdowns.

Today, they still have their challenges but they have come such a LONG way. Bearhug and Cuddlebug are doing well in school (with some support, but they spend most of their day in their regular ed classroom). They are able to carry on conversations and express themselves quite well. They have come a long way in terms of figuring out their own ways to cope with overstimulation and they rarely have full-blown meltdowns anymore. Little Bitty has really come a long way with his speech, and he can often express his wants and needs, although he still struggles with that at times. He is learning so fast, and surprising us with new things he's picked up on a daily basis. He interacts much more now.

If they can make such progress in these few years, who knows what they will be able to accomplish in the years to come as they grow towards adulthood. All we can do is keep working with them and encouraging them -- I have no doubt that one way or another, they will accomplish great things!



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Thank You Thursday #2

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This week I want to offer a heartfelt thank you to our family. I'm not going to start naming specifics because I will inevitably leave something out but all of ya'll ROCK!!

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To paint or to color?

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Cuddlebug wanted to paint which is great but it's almost dinner time, so I asked him, "how about coloring instead?"

He got upset, apparently that was not an acceptable option. "I AIN'T gonna color!! I have to PAINT!" (he likes to say "ain't" when he's being particularly defiant, as if that accentuates his point).

So I responded, "Well if you're going to paint, make sure you don't make a mess."

"But painting always makes a mess!" he protested.

"Then make sure you clean it up." Seems reasonable to me.

He sighs. "I'll just color."

LOL, I guess it just wasn't worth it if he had to clean up his own mess...

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Guest post by Bitty

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I was home early today, so I decided to catch up on reading blogs (because I haven't been online in a couple of days, I'm in withdrawal, ahh!). Little Bitty sat on my lap and decided he wanted to explore the keyboard so I decided to let him write another guest post. To see his last entry, click here :).

ol9-p09-==mnb


etyutooooppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppwwe66655555eqwwww

wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew

etr r1


As you can see, he figured out that if you hold the key down, it will make the letter appear LOTS of times!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

SEW & WW: Golfing with Daddy

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5 Minutes for Special Needs

These were taken a year ago, dh was practicing his swing in the yard (with plastic practice balls, nothing that would damage the house!) and the boys wanted to give it a try too.

Bearhug & Dada


Cuddlebug & Dada


Little Bitty with his trains


Little Bitty with his trains


Little Bitty gives golf a try


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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Silly Monkey Stories: Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoe

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A couple of nights ago, Bearhug and Cuddlebug decided to play rock, paper, scissors (or "rock, papers, scissors, shoe" as they often call it, not sure where that came from) to decide what they wanted for dinner. I had to separate them because they CHEAT. Every time they got to the end, instead of choosing an option, both of their hands kept morphing as they watched each other to see what the other would choose. So I moved them where they couldn't see each other so we could get to a decision.


It reminded me of a few months ago when they first came up with idea to settle disputes this way. Here's the story out of my journal (names edited):

...on Tuesday I took the boys to the park after school. On the way there, Cuddlebug said “hey Mama, did you know we’re near my favorite park?” but unfortunately I’d forgotten about that park and was headed to another one. I asked if he wanted me to turn around and he said yes, then Bearhug said no, because “Wall park” (it’s not really called that but it has a big wall on one side so they call it that) is his favorite park. Ugh. I told them to agree on one or we’re going home. So they’re arguing about the park and then Bearhug said “I know, let’s do ‘paper, rock, scissors’ to decide.” I was impressed… but then Cuddlebug said “no, let’s do ‘eenie, meenie, miney, moe’ to decide” and then they were arguing about how to resolve their argument…

It gets better. Bearhug won out so they did paper, rock, scissors. He said “Ok [Cuddlebug], I picked scissors, what are you going to pick?” (ok, we need to work on the concept of how this game is supposed to be played). Cuddlebug said “I pick paper!” (ok, we REEEAAALLLY need to work on the concept of how this game works). Then he asked me why we were still heading for “wall” park, and was pretty disappointed when I told him “because scissors cut paper.” LOL, I did tell him we’d go to his favorite park next time. I was impressed that they were being so civil about it, most of the time they just start screaming and attacking each other.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Try this Tuesday: Coping with overstimulation

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Photobucket

A significant challenge for our sons is coping with overstimulation. To some extent, we can avoid places that cause overstimulation but that's not always an option. Church, for example, is especially difficult -- there are large groups of people, loud organ music and singing, bright fluorescent lights, a myriad of perfumes and colognes, microphones, and in the midst of all that, an expectation that children (and adults) will be calm and reverent. It's a recipe for disaster for kids who are prone to overstimulation and hyperactivity, but we feel it's important for our family to go so we've been working to find helpful coping strategies for a long time.

We've tried a lot of different things over the years, and not all of them have been successful. Getting them out of the overstimulating environment usually works well, so we've taken them on many walks outside around the building, but we were hoping to find a coping strategy that would allow all of us to still participate in church.

One thing that seems to be working pretty well lately for our older boys (now that they have the attention span for it - that's another challenge for another post) is drawing in a sketchpad. They've never been particularly fond of coloring books (they like to look at them but won't spend much time coloring in them), but the blank pages of a sketchpad allow their creativity free reign to draw or write whatever they choose. Sometimes they draw pictures or race tracks, sometimes they write short stories, sometimes they fill entire pages with random numbers or scoreboards (rankings with names and scores) for an imagined competitive event.

Whatever they choose to create, it helps them tune out the overstimulating sights and sounds around them and by doing so, helps them keep from escalating to the point of having to run from the room screaming (I'm not exaggerating). We've noticed a significant improvement in their ability to be reverent and stay with us and/or their class. They don't typically stay seated, because they prefer to use their chairs as a table, but that's a small price to pay IMO. Thankfully, their teachers at church are on board with this too.

You might be wondering, what about actually paying attention and learning in church? We've actually found that the sketchpad helps with that too. They appear to be completely ignoring what's going on around them, but actually being able to tune out all of the excess input helps them focus on what's being taught and they are indeed paying attention. Their teachers have commented to us about how surprised they were to find that they could ask them any question about the lesson and they know the answer. They couldn't tell they were even listening, but it's clear that they are.

The sketchpads can be helpful in other situations too, not just in church. I'm just sharing it in that context because that's where it has been particularly helpful for us.

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Stay tuned - I have recently spent some time looking through their sketchpads and found some very interesting and intriguing things in there, so when I get some time I'll be posting some of their sketches here. :)

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Mondays in Motion #1: Twin toddlers

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Mondays in Motion!


Welcome to Mondays in Motion! Here's a fun video clip I made a while back where I just pulled out the camcorder while the boys were playing :). There are a couple of parts where it looks like they're dancing (and maybe they are!) but I actually added the music when I was editing.

This is Cuddlebug (wearing grey) and Bearhug (wearing blue) at about age 16 mos.



What memorable moments would you like to share today?





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Superstar!

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Little Bitty earned a Superstar of the week award at school for working hard at drawing, following directions, and potty skills. Yay Bitty!

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Magic Marker Monday: Road Trip

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Photobucket


Little Bitty is starting to develop his creative skills - school has definitely helped with that! Friday he brought home this painting:


I love it, especially all the colors and how he has all his stickers of cars and road signs all lined up! That's what makes me think it should be called "Road Trip." :) I'm not sure what they used to make the cool textures, but those kind of remind me of tire tracks.

Medium: Paint and stickers

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Go check your schedule!"

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Have I mentioned that we have awesome teachers? At his IEP meeting last week, I asked if I could take a look at the picture schedule they were using since I was also hoping to get some ideas to use at home, and she said Bitty was doing really well with it in class. Sure enough, when we went to look, he excitedly said, "go day-ga deh-goh!" (go check your schedule).

She actually offered to make us one for home if I sent her a list of words we'd want pictures for. She said she has a software program that makes it fairly quick and easy. We got the pictures yesterday, she laminated and velcro'd them for us, and gave us a velcro strip like they use in class to stick them to. It's so cool! And Bitty loves it, he stands there taking the pieces off and putting them back on, he loves having a visual schedule and it's great to have something that is consistent with what he uses at school.

Here's a picture of today's schedule - I did half a day at a time, then took those down and put the rest of the day up. Bitty was so excited this morning when he came into the kitchen to find his daily schedule all set up :). The first one is supposed to be "wake up" but he thought it was "bedtime" so I may not use that one for a while. There's a separate one for bedtime, with the eyes closed. We had an activity at church this morning, and went to the park after that. The weather has been beautiful, way too nice to stay indoors :).

I have a little photo album I'm going to put some velcro in and then we can take picture schedule pieces on the go too :).

I was back at the school this past week for curriculum night, and Bitty's teacher showed the parents the "green, yellow, red" charts she uses in class and talked about how all the kids are motivated to have their picture stay on green (it's another velcro chart). She had several of them around the room and offered to let the parents take some home if we thought it might be helpful. Another set of parents and I took her up on the offer. So far I've already used it once, Bitty started rolling around on the kitchen floor throwing one of his fits, and I went to the chart, pulled his picture off of green, and said (in my "mean mama" voice), "Do I need to put this on yellow??" He immediately stopped crying and said "no!" Wow...

It doesn't work without the visual though. He threw a fit today at our church activity and telling him I was going to move him to yellow (or even red) did absolutely nothing. I didn't have the chart with me, maybe I should start carrying around a smaller version of that too? Hmm...

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SOOC Saturday - Cow Crossing

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Slurping Life

This sign makes me laugh, so I took a picture of it. There are cows in that field there, although I've never seen one actually go AWOL over the fence and wander across the street. My guess is it may have happened at some point which is probably why the sign is there.


The reason it makes me laugh is it reminds me of a time when I was driving in the middle of nowhere, Texas, and what did I see running (well, sort of running) alongside the road but an fugitive cow on the loose. Of course I slowed way down, because I had no idea if the cow was going to dart out into the road, but it didn't. It just kept on half-bouncing, half-galloping in it's clumsy cow way, as if it didn't have a care in the world :).

For more SOOC Saturday, visit Melody at Slurping Life. And if you're curious, click here to see the post that started it all :).

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Chess Club Update

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After the phone call when the boys had a rough day in chess club, we talked to them about whether they wanted to continue going or not. Cuddlebug wanted to keep going and promised to improve his behavior. Bearhug decided it wasn't really for him so he is no longer going.

The following week, Cuddlebug came home angry. It took a lot of Q&A to get enough details to piece together what happened and why he was upset (most of it at least), and I won't write out the whole conversation, but it turns out that a girl kept knocking his pieces over and that several kids were laughing at him. He wasn't sure why they were laughing, other than because the girl kept knocking his pieces over. He didn't know the girl's name.

I sent an email to both the guy in charge of the chess club and the parent volunteer who had called me the week before, letting them know what he'd told me. I asked if they could shed any light on what happened, and how they handle situations like this. The parent volunteer and his wife called me back, they hadn't seen the incident although the wife said he'd told her he was angry but wouldn't say why. She also said he didn't seem angry, but I told her that because of his autism, sometimes he doesn't sound emotional but he is inside. For example, he can say he's angry and mean it, but his voice sounds very calm and almost monotone. That's not always the case, sometimes he goes into rage and there's no question as to whether he's angry, so I'm proud of him that he didn't do that in this case.

I also called his resource teacher because Cuddlebug was convinced that she was there after school and that if he needed to he could go to her room. I wasn't so sure, but as it turns out he was right (I shouldn't have doubted, I know). She said she tutors students after school so she is still there if he needs to go to her room and she was fine with that. She rocks! A couple of days later, she sent me a note and said she thinks the girl may have been knocking down Cuddlebug's chess pieces as she captured them during a chess match. I hadn't thought of that, it makes sense. Cuddlebug seems to be over it at this point, he's been practicing with the chess computer game we got him (recommended by the chess teacher), and he's getting the hang of it. :)

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To make you smile

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Just some funny cat pictures on a lazy weekend post :). Enjoy!

funny pictures

funny pictures

funny pictures

Find more silly cat pictures at icanhascheezburger.com.
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My family portrait

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I stumbled onto this today, thought it was cute. Especially how the options allowed me to have Cuddlebug wearing his bandana and baseball cap :). You can make one too, at pyzam.com.



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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mystery of the day

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Last week, something happened to Little Bitty's shoes. They are the kind that light up when you walk, but something has messed up with the lights in one of the shoes, they are going non-stop. We tried banging on the shoe, even dropping it down the stairs, hoping to get the lights out of the "on" setting so the batteries didn't wear out. Nothing worked, so now we are curiously waiting to see just how long these lights will go. It started last Wednesday, so it's already been 8 days and counting... too bad we don't know what kind of batteries are in there, they must be pretty good ones to keep those lights going 24/7 for so long :).

Here's a short video clip, sorry for the bad lighting but it's easier to see the lights in a dark room. Seriously, we could direct traffic with his shoe!

video


I would not have guessed the lights would last this long. Leave me a comment with your guess as to how long the lights will last, and I'll let you know when it finally stops.

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Thank you Thursday #1

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Thanks to Jenny for starting this :). I don't even know where to start... but since school recently started I think it's a good time to thank our sons' teachers! They are all awesome, they do a great job with our boys and are able to strike that delicate balance between accomodating their needs and challenging them to stretch themselves. I have no idea how they keep up with all those IEP's, it is hard enough for me to keep up with three.

I will be eternally grateful for how much they genuinely care about our sons, they have absolutely made a difference for them. I have heard horror stories about school experiences so I know we have a lot to be thankful for.

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I'm a mom of three boys on the autism spectrum, 11-yr-old identical twins and a 7-yr-old. My husband is a SAHD.

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