My Not Everyday Joys

February 22, 2019

Goggles

The weather was cold and windy. The ski instructor gave Robert goggles to protect his eyes. Robert hesitated but then he put them on.  He has never done that before.  His instructors and we, his parents, tried to persuade him many times to wear goggles, but Robert presented strong resistance. Now, he put them on after a few seconds of hesitation.  It was surprisingly easy to convince him to wear the goggles. He probably deduced that since he forgot his regular glasses, it was only natural that he should wear goggles as a replacement.  The fact, that since that day, he purposefully kept his glasses home while going skiing supports this implication.

Doggie Bag

Robert always protested taking any left over food from the restaurant. When we suggested that he didn’t have to finish his dish since he was obviously full, he responded by eating even faster and placing large pieces of his food in his mouth. Not that he WANTED to eat more, but he COULDN’T leave anything on a plate.  Moreover, he protested whenever either his father or I wanted to take our food home.  We developed a system of avoiding Robert’s loud, vehement protests.  Robert and his father would leave restaurant first while I would stay longer to ask for box or boxes and pack the leftovers.

This winter, however, I finally dealt with the problem. As we were driving to the restaurant I kept telling Robert that he doesn’t have to eat everything. That he will eat only part of the ordered food in the restaurant and the other part we will take home, so he could eat it later when he gets hungry again.  I repeated the same thing when we were waiting for our dishes. Robert not only agreed but before leaving, placed his own leftovers in a box and took it to the car.

Dentist Visit

I picked up Robert from his program and we drove straight to the dentist for cleaning and check up. The dental hygienist came to the waiting room to call on Robert.  Almost automatically, I moved too.  The hygienist asked if I wanted to accompany Robert.  But she asked as if my presence was not obvious. And it hit me.  It shouldn’t be obvious because Robert could manage without me.  My presence only clouded the interaction between the hygienist and Robert.  Robert would expect me to give him directions and the hygienist would also expect my support if Robert didn’t follow immediately her request.  Thus instead of her repeating the words to make her demand clearer, she would turn to me to do the same. That is confusing to everybody. So I chose to remain in the waiting room while Robert had his teeth cleaned. It felt great!

Park in Winter

Robert wanted to go for a walk so we drove to Stony Brook. As soon as we got to the place where the trail begins, I realized that it was indeed winter. The trail was covered with all forms of wintery water.  There was slushy snow, there was snow covered with thin layer of ice, there was fluffy snow, and there was uneven ice that probably melted and froze again a few times.  I wasn’t ready for walk on such surface as I do have a tendency to fall even on flat surfaces. But Robert set his mind on walk and walk he did. I followed him with uneasy steps. A few times I called on Robert to help me conquer a few slippery spots. He always returned and led me for a few steps, then he went ahead again.  I called him again and again and again. Well, I really didn’t need his help, but I wanted him to understand that this walk although easy for him might be challenging to me. That would also make it easier for him to change his walking habits. Nonetheless, I also wanted him to be prepared for a variation to his walking routine.   “Robert, we would walk only to the water and we would come back the same way.  We would not go around.”  I kept repeating afraid that Robert, who always insist on doing things the same way, would have a hard time accepting changes to his walking routine.

Well, he did hesitated and made a few steps farther, but then he turned back and walked with me to the parking lot.

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Where Do the Screams Spring From

February 14, 2019

I realized that I could write about Robert’s screams only because during the last few weeks he was much calmer, happy really, than in the previous few months. So, it was easier to hypothesize about the causes of the cluster of behaviors that included loud noises, slapping his own face, and, sometimes, stumping his feet. The starting and the finish points were clear and easy to define. 

Very often, the screams sprout from confusion.

It was no later than 7 PM. I was not feeling good.  From my bedroom I called to Robert to bring me a bottle of water.  Robert was sitting on the sofa and seemed reluctant to move.  I asked again, and then I dozed off.  A few minutes later I woke up and asked Robert again to bring the bottle of water. Robert didn’t move.  But he produced a few short screams, the sounds of impatient irritation.  Only then, I noticed that the bottle of water was already on the nightstand next to my bed. Robert brought it when I was sleeping. Thus when I asked him for water that he had already fetched, he became confused.  He didn’t have tools to address that confusion. He couldn’t say, “I brought the water already”  or something similar. Even though he knew all the necessary words, he couldn’t recall them and string them together to respond properly. So he replaced words with the sounds of frustration. The screams subsided when  I said , “Robert, you brought the water already.  Thank you, thank you!”

They spring from pain.

He screams, stumps his feet, and hits his cheeks.  His eyes are red from desperation and powerlessness. I don’t know how to help him. He cannot tell what hurts.  I suspect that when he is in pain, he feels that he did something wrong and doesn’t want to admit it. I suspect that for him the pain is something that attacks him from within and thus he feels guilty that he brought it upon himself. I can only  guess that his pain  is related to his digestive system, as his belly  feels hard and bloated.  He tries to calm down, but cannot really.  He holds his breath as if holding air would alleviate his discomfort. Then he exhales in a heavy, artificial way. After a few minutes, the screams return. We are still baffled about origins of pain.  One doctor stated that he had spastic muscles in his face and neck. Sometimes I suspect it is related to asthma. I suspect it is because of gases. I suspect his eczema flare ups drive him mad. I suspect everything cannot confirm anything. So, I try to massage his cheeks, even though Robert moves backwards from me and keeps hitting his them. I give him additional pill of Zyrtek in case it is allergy.  I give him inhaler in case it is asthma related.  I give him Metamucil crackers in case of gases.  And I give him Advil if it is something else.  He looks at me as if he couldn’t understand what is happening to him and why I don’t help him. When he is in pain his eyes scream too.

They erupt from mixture of disappointments.

Last Friday, Robert had pretty good morning.  We went together to his physician to pick up permission slip. On the way home, we stopped in two supermarkets.  We did some learning together. Robert’s horseback riding lesson was uneventful.  However, after we came home, Robert began screaming and hitting his face. Everything was going wrong. He felt cheated and disappointed.  I didn’t buy him buttermilk sandwich as I often do after the riding. (Well, he asked for taco which we did buy.) He learned that Tim, who usually comes on Friday afternoons, won’t come that day.  He also learned that there wouldn’t be any skiing that weekend. “Ski, ski, ski” he kept repeating. “We will go skiing next week”, I told him and pointed to the date on the calendar.  Robert took a pencil and wrote “ski” on the calendar space for the following Saturday. “Tim, Tim”, he kept repeating.  “Tim will come next Friday”  That was not the answer Robert waited for.  He screamed again.  Finally , he asked for coke.  But there was none at home that day. So, Robert screamed louder.

Robert was clearly angry. His emotions formed a volcano from which shouts erupted,  But then,I am not sure, if the pain was not not an additional factor.  It might be that he had allergy to something as the back of his neck got very red. And his breathing seemed different.   It is possible, that the salsa he used with his taco irritated his stomach.

So it could be the unidentified pain attacking him from within. It could be.

But then, when Jan told him, that he that he would go skiing after all, Robert became his happy, charming self again.  So, maybe he didn’t feel any pain after all.

And of course the screams are Robert’s way to tell us something when the words – the tools needed for the construction of tunnels of communication – don’t.

All Robert’s screams are caused by his  lack of ability to communicate verbally reasons for his distress. Precisely because of that lack it is important to find the causes. Different roots call for different approaches. If I could understand the origin of Robert’s anguish I could not only offer a solution – for instance take Robert to a doctor- but also teach him the proper ways of expressing himself.  I could teach him and practice with him the simplest sentences or phrases, “Stomach hurts” ,”I am angry” . “I did it already” which  he could use in lieu of screaming.

 

 

 

 

For the record 10

That’s not writing. That’s just typing” Said Capote about Kerouac. I could paraphrase his words, “That’s not writing.  That’s recording.”  Writing  expects that the author would search for the meaning, or at least the structure,  while recording leaves the searches and discoveries to the hypothetical reader.  Person doing the recording might hope that the reader would find some form or sense in the pile of words and details.

In this context, recording is a sign of being overwhelmed and/or lost.

Writing to recording is like creating a structure to gathering building materials with hope that someone else would do the work.

Recording seems easier than writing but it also more treacherous as it might lead to nowhere.

Week without studying

I had an unpleasant cold.  I didn’t want to breathe my germs on Robert so for 5 days we didn’t study together.  Each day, however, I dropped pieces of a puzzle on the table and each day Robert engaged himself in assembling them.  He wasn’t applying any special method and yet each day, he managed to put together at least half of a puzzle.  Three quarters of the frame and a couple of central parts of the picture.  Then he had enough and for a few minutes he  watched a movie on Netflix. However, before the evening bath, he managed to complete the puzzle.

I also left on the table simple tasks, he could complete on his own such as, counting perimeters of different polygons and  area of different rectangles. To my surprise, he did better than I expected remembering how hooked he was on my presence.  Most importantly he did it without waiting for my support.

Robert;s dad built with Robert a corner shelf.  Over all, to my relief, Robert didn’t fall apart without our evening study sessions.

At Sunapee

Robert continued skiing with NEHSA at Sunapee.  I was told that he did better with the narrowing a gap between his skis. That was a big thing , as Robert is used to skiing with legs either  far apart or father apart.     More important, however, was the fact that he didn’t protest, as he had done years ago, when his instructor wanted him to wear goggles to protect his eyes.  It was also important that he  flexibly  switched from skiing on South Peak to North Peak and vice versa.

Watching the Road

We were driving from Doctor’s appointment to Robert’s program.  Instead of taking exit 12, I took the exit 13. As soon as I directed our car toward that exit, Robert softly but clearly reminded me, “HMEA, HMEA” . It was too late and I had to leave the highway and reenter it after few minutes.  Robert learned his lesson.  Just as I was slightly slowing before the exit 14 A, Robert reminded me. “HMEA, HMEA” so I proceeded to exit 14B.  When a few months ago, I slowed down before the turn we usually take while going to Stop and  Shop,  Robert managed to corrected \ me, “Dentist, dentist.” and I kept straight toward the dentist office.   He doesn’t panic, he doesn’t scream. He just calmly and warmly reminds me where we are going.

 

 

 

 

 

For the Record 9

January 17, 2019

Robert and I did a lot of easy studying, repeating, and reviewing during the last couple weeks.

Every day, we read two pages from Autism and PDD Expanding Social Options and practiced sentences related to each topic.

We advanced to the Intermediate level of presentation while working with lessons from Functional Routines for Adolescent & Adults Home. I expand the lessons to relate them to our previous experiences while performing many daily chores.

Robert is still solving one 9×9 Sudoku a day with my help. However, there are more moments when he independently enters a few numbers in the grid. Moreover, he grasped the idea that although sometimes we cannot point to the cell were given number belongs, we still can deduce that it belongs to a given column or row.  Using that information helped Robert to enter other numbers on the chart.  I consider this to be very important development.

I brought back Take Me to Your Seat folders. During the last two weeks, we used them to

1. Add positive and negative numbers to find the temperature  outside.                                                                                                                                                                                         2. Count the percent to find the sale price of clothes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. 3 .Count vertices, edges, and faces of different 3D shapes.                                                                                                                                                                                                            4. Retrieve data from  bar, line, and circle graphs.

We practiced cursive writing to increase the length of some of the letters which Robert changes into microscopic, undecipherable waves.  There is not much improvement on this front.

We used Fun Deck cards to address among others the fluency of Robert’s speech. Lately, we went through set of Do and Does, Let’s Predict and a few others.

And of course we are still practicing pronunciation with old, huge Weber book, repeating each word or phrase twice.

we continue reading one chapter (around 10 pages each) a day from abridged children’s classics.

I realized, however, that Robert would benefit much more from original versions.

The time we study together is the most peaceful time in our home as everything hangs in balance.

However. it worries me that there is no increase in the length or number  of Robert’s independent activities. It worries me, that he relies too heavily on my support, suggestions, or even my physical presence to continue learning.

He demonstrates more drive with some of the chores – mainly laundry from loading the washing machine to folding and hanging and emptying dishwasher.

Unfortunately, as he is getting older, it is easier for me to see how many things I neglected to teach him or practice with him. Making list of such items would be much more useful than the list I have just written above.  Such list would allow me to set new goals instead of pretending to be satisfied with what I almost automatically do every day.

It is not what Robert needs most.  I know it, and he probably knows that too.

Connecting Parts of Robert’s Universe Part 1

I wrote this text two years ago as an introduction to my report about our trip to Philadelphia. However, the problems related to Robert’s ontology present themselves frequently enough to warrant a second look and more detailed description. 

When, during our trip to Philadelphia, Robert was exposed to new arrangements of familiar elements, he exhibited  the behaviors I knew from the past.  I dealt with them years ago and believed they were extinct.  They weren’t.

In the past, I discovered that Robert’s universe was made of separate bubbles. Each bubble consisted of specific places, concrete people, and a particular set of rules characteristic to that sub-world.

1.  Each person has assigned her own place  in the world and shouldn’t encroach  on another person’s space. Robert tried to push me out when I visited HIS classroom.  He attempted to block his teachers from entering OUR home.  While we, the parents, could take him to almost any restaurant, only his respite providers (any of them) could take Robert to McDonald’s.

2. Each person also had  special role in Robert’s life.  When outside, Robert followed Amanda example to the T’s.  She climbed on a rock, he did too.  She walked on a fallen tree, he walked on it too. She jumped in a funny way from the curb, he returned to the sidewalk to emulate her movement.  But when Amanda reached for the bottle of juice which was placed too high for Robert (he was shorter than she at that time), he got mad. It was not her job to do so.  Only parents could give him his juice.  It was their prerogative and their responsibility.

3. Robert could go to any place provided that after each visit we returned home.  Then he could go again. The home was the center connected to other bubbles, but the remaining bubbles were not supposed to be connected to each other.

4. The things should remain in the same places.  All things, including cars and people.

Over the years, we managed to help Robert expand his worlds and connect many of those separate sub-worlds into more complex but hopefully more uniform universe replacing narrow rules with more general ones that allowed for flexible adjustments. However, during our trip to Philadelphia Robert seemed to recreate his old model of the universe.  When we didn’t act in accordance with this model, Robert tried to remedy  that by constantly remaining us about the problem and, when we didn’t react properly, he protested.

 

The Battles for the Teachers’ Souls

December 19, 2018

This is a difficult subject to write about. It opens never entirely healed wounds. It is also  complicated.  At the same time, it is both painfully sharp and confusingly foggy. There are hundreds e-mails, which I still keep, demonstrating how desperately I tried to deal with those never-ending problems  but kept failing. Finally I gave up.  Many parents burn all the documents related to the struggles for education of their children with special needs.  They want to move forward. This doesn’t help the children who come after. New parents have to go through the same battles and the same pains. That is why, almost 5 years after Robert “graduated” from Mytown Public Schools, I do feel obligated to write about some of the past experiences.  But because it is a difficult subject, I will write in short paragraphs which might seem loosely connected to each other.

1. Teacher and Teacher Aid

One of the reasons I took my son from a good private school for children with autism was the fact that he was  only taught in one to one arrangement. I wanted Robert to be a part of the group and listen to group instructions. So, what was my surprise when during observation of Robert in his new public school setting I noticed that he was separated from other children in the classroom and taught by the teacher aide in one to one model.  It was worse than what he had experienced in private school as he could see first hand that he was the only one not included. I voiced my concerns with the classroom main teacher and soon enough everything changed.  From that point on, all throughout the day, Robert was learning in one of the  few groups of children formed depending on the subject, the theme of the lesson, and  student’s skills and needs. I believe that this teacher was also using elements of Universal Design. The teacher’s aid became more important and his job more diverse but also more gratifying. That was the best year in Robert’s education.

2. How to Destroy a New Teacher

The wonderful teacher, I wrote about above, was  fired by the end of her first year in the school.  I don’t know what was the rationale of the school principal but I do believe that he didn’t know much about special needs and complexities of running as diverse classroom as was this one.  Instead, the principal hired a young teacher.  He based his choice on what he believed were her “qualifications” of which the most important one was that she had a brother with autism.  Moreover, she worked as a teacher’s aide in another district and before that she worked in a private school. Still, that was her first year of leading a classroom. It would help her if she were required to write lessons plans for, at least, a few hours a week.  It would help if she were supervised and instructed properly. It would help if she had a mentor who would be familiar with the range of needs the students had. It would help if  she were open to listening to their experiences of the teacher’s aides who worked in the classroom before.  Unfortunately, the principal never entertained any notion that this teacher might need intensive support.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Each month,  Robert became more anxious and agitated  – the consequences of his increased confusion.  Robert lost the classroom in which he new the rules. There is nothing Robert hates more than  contradictory directions. So, almost every week I was summoned to school, to pick up my bewildered son at the front door to which he was escorted by two people. One day he was brought home on a school van an hour before scheduled time without any prior notification. It was lucky that I was home. The day, I picked him up while he was hitting his own face with the full force of his two arms  I decided never to bring Robert to that program again. I believed that this  teacher’s abilities were destroyed beyond repair and thus my son who had been already seriously damaged would continue the spiral to abyss.

3. Hindering the Teacher’s Growth

It was his first year of leading a classroom.

He had the best possible personality to work with young people with special needs. He was warm, patient and calm. There is no doubt on my mind, that it was he, who let my son recover from distrust, confusion, and anger.  The consultant who had seen my son in his previous program and this one, attested to that. It was just a second week but Robert, according to the consultant, was much calmer than he was in the previous classroom.  “He was relaxed,” she said.

Unfortunately there were also problems. The classroom, although at first considered part of the high school, was situated  in the administrative building. Consequently, the TEACHER didn’t have any support from other teachers. And thus he relied heavily on a job coach/teacher’s aide working in this classroom. His reliance on her was amplified  by the fact  that this person was also a Gray Eminence as she was a secretary for the School Committee.

Moreover, she was very invested in this particular program because her daughter was attending it. As every mother, she wanted to make the program fit her daughter’ needs perfectly.  She had every right to do it, but somehow, her concept of that classroom didn’t involve group teaching. As she told me much later, in a heated phone conversation, “This program was for the students over 18 years old as a sort of waiting room from which students were bused to different places”.  Those different places might be a course in college, (provided that other institution and NOT Mytown Public Schools paid for it)  be it a place the students volunteered. As the woman stated, this program  could offer some job training, but no academics. Students were not to be told what to do and they could freely accept or reject what the teacher suggested.

As it happens, all of them rejected the idea of having gym with Robert. So it was Robert’s teacher’s aide and the gym teacher who exercised or played ball with him. Nobody else. This broke my heart and I blamed the teacher for it. He was in charge.  In my opinion he was there to install in the students that they do have some obligations toward others. That there are rules of the classroom.  He had a power to persuade them or convince them to play a ball for 30 minutes a week .  But he didn’t.  He didn’t because he had the gray eminence of Mytown Public Schools who told him that this is not, “HOW THIS PROGRAM WAS DESIGNED”  And thus Robert was  again lonely if not shunned by other students with special needs.

IN a letter to the School Board I stated that The School committee has a right to design program as it wishes, but the Mytown Public Schools cannot place my son in a program that is so horribly incompatible with his IEP.  Of course, it had to be said, that the most members of the School Committee had a very limited idea about IDEA or the state laws governing special education.  It is possible that they look at special education through the eyes of the former principle of High School or the secretary of the School Committee.

As I am writing this, I am still angry, as I see how much money was wasted on a program that didn’t accept my son and how many chances for learning social skills were lost. I am angry about the time and energy I spent trying to persuade the TEACHER, the special education director, the superintendent, and the members of the School committee to TEACH MY SON.  I wrote hundreds of e-mails persuading, begging, filling for mediation, and then for hearing,.  At some point I knew I just had to preserve my sanity and give up.

Even now, when I remember some of the things that happened,my blood boils and I have to take a break.

I don’t know how, but this TEACHER by the end of the January of the following school year, changed dramatically.   He began planning his lessons and he connected them with the real life experiences from community trips. He organized more opportunities for job trainings for the students. And he did so much more about having Robert accepted. He always had a very good, calm personality to work with special needs population but now he became a great teacher. He became the TEACHER,   I always wanted my son to have.

And then he quit.

Possibly, he couldn’t take the pressures coming from Gray Eminence and me.  He quit.

It is possible that I am the person who was blamed for his decision. I wanted the classroom to teach my son despite the fact that it was considered a waiting room for adulthood.  I wanted to make the way my son was taught to be also beneficial to other students.  I was the one voicing concerns, by bringing educational consultants to the classroom and offering new educational materials.

The Grey Eminence, was soft-spoken and only once she lost her cool when I asked her “Why she doesn’t want this classroom to teach its students”  It was clear that the anger about my effort to change the program was boiling and she exploded. That was when she told me that the program was a place where the teacher’s activities were, more or less,  reduced to janitorial supervision of students.  It was also implied that it was not the program, that was designed to answer my son’s need. No, she didn’t say, my son should go somewhere else. But she implied that.

Yes, I regret terribly that this TEACHER left, but I do not feel guilty.  I do think that it was The Grey Eminence who was impeding his teaching. Yes, I was loud, she was soft-spoken.  I was trying with the help of consultants bring changes to the classroom while she peacefully and pleasantly tried to keep the status quo. Yes, it was I who introduced criticism hardly hiding my disappointment which might come out as anger while she was spraying the balsam of contentment over  the classroom. .

At some point, the special ed director accused me of “hating the TEACHER”.  I told her, that nothing was farther from truth. He did save my son after hiatus of the previous 6 months in an old classroom. He did save him. I have never stopped being grateful for that. I liked his calming personality, but I did believe that given his appeal to the students, he could do so much more and I was bewildered why he was not trying.   Then I learned about the politics of the classroom.  The politics of opening a program by Mytown Public School and not giving almost any money for teaching materials.  It was the politics of the School Committee which had to separate students whose differences in ages were over 4 years as the law demanded after the expiration of the grace period given a few years before by the state.  The classroom had to be created and so The Mytown Public schools built it in such a way as to limit any expense  and by doing so it hindered education of almost all students placed there  including the Grey Eminence daughter.

I understood later how hard it would be for any teacher to open his/her wings and soar in those circumstances.  But he did.  For 5 months but he did.   I hope he is not discouraged from teaching.  I hope somewhere some other young people benefit from his skills, from his calm and patient attitudes and, most of all, from the strength and determination he showed when he regained the control of his teaching profession.

I have to add.  I don’t blame The Grey Eminence.  She fought for what she considered to be the best solution for her daughter just like I fought for my son. It is not her fault that she was given a power to influence the way, the program was designed. She might not even be aware of her prominent status. But I do blame members of the School Committee and the former superintendent of the Public Schools in Mytown. They allowed for this imbalance to the detriment of my son’s education.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Confusing Pains of Changing Habits

December 1, 2018

A few times during the last week, I told  Robert that we would move his horseback riding lesson from Sunday to Friday.  He accepted that change in a schedule without protests. However, nobody made Robert aware that during a lesson, he would have to use a blue helmet instead of a purple one. That was the last-minute switch and he was not ready for it.  As soon as the instructor told him to put on a new, blue helmet, he protested.  When, he was told that the purple one is not there anymore, he ran to the riding arena and came back with the  purple helmet already on his head.

This was one of those moments when I don’t know how to react.  Insist?  But insisting might result in failure to accomplish acceptable response.  Of course, when insisting doesn’t work, I can reduce the feeling of complete lack of influence over Robert’s behavior  by asking Robert a question. For instance, “Robert, do you really want to wear the purple helmet? Start with I, and tell me which helmet do you want to wear.” Then I should wait for an answer. Since the most severe of Robert’s problem is his very limited functional language, having Robert to respond in a full sentence could be treated as a valuable consolation prize. It could give Robert one more example of using language instead of non verbal behavior  and reduce his anxiety related to the fact that he did something other people consider wrong.  Because, even when he “wins” the battle” and continues wearing purple helmet, he is not happy, he is anxious and doubtful and he doesn’t know how to solve his dilemma.

This is what I should have done, but didn’t. In a public place, my responses are almost always tainted by the presence of other people.  I understand that each person brings to the conflict Robert has been causing, a different perspective. I feel obligated to take those perspective into account, even though, I don’t exactly understand them. Moreover, Robert usually gives the person who is in control of the physical place and who is his teacher preference over me.  Finally , there is a confusion I feel because on one hand I feel obligated to address Robert’s problem myself, on the other, I  prefer others to address Robert directly.  The effect is more doubts and hesitation on my part and more confusion on Robert;s part.

And confusion he hates.

That Friday, Robert’s instructor agreed that Robert could wear the purple helmet. She just made sure that Robert knew that the next time the blue helmet is obligatory.

Robert was fine with that. Well, for 10 seconds.

As soon as he felt that the pressure to wear blue helmet subsided, Robert discovered the freedom to do what was right.  Such freedom is a very difficult thing to deal with specially if you are used to always do what you are told  or by what you have done many times in the past.  When other people words or the past behaviors shape your reactions, then taking it upon yourself to make decision seems overwhelming.  And Robert was overwhelmed.  He moved closer to the shelf with the blue helmet, then away from it toward the riding arena. He didn’t know yet, what to do.  It took him a few more minutes to decide and many more trips between his horse and the shelf. He suffered, he was anxious.  He was confused. he made noises of frustration and patted his cheeks in short and quick motions.  He didn’t know what to do. He wanted to do what was right, what his instructor Meghan told him before, but that would mean he needed to change his habits.  The habits which suited him well for the last few months. After a few minutes, Rober was almost ready to mount his horse, Calvin, when he turned back and ran to the shelf.  He took off the purple helmet and put on the blue one.

He was still not sure that was the right decision, but as Calvin walked out of the arena to the the woody path by the edge of the lake, Robert’s doubts disappeared. He was fine.

 

For the Record 8

November 26, 2018

On Screaming

There was much less screaming in the last two weeks.  At least less screaming at home.

1. A few days ago, Robert began emptying dishwasher before the cycle ended.  I told him not to do so and Robert started screaming.  He was confused and upset. He wanted to help but instead was told that he did something wrong. He must have hated that. He expressed his confusion quite loudly.  When he calmed down, he didn’t continue taking dishes out, but instead stood silently in the kitchen.  After a while, he said softly “dishes”. “OK Robert,  you can put dishes away.” I decided that I would rinse dishes before using them.  It was late and I was not in a mood to teach-explain- struggle.  That is why I told Robert to put dishes away.  But at that moment, he wasn’t really sure what to do as he asked again, “Dishes” and I responded the same way.  He asked two more times before he removed cups and plates from the dishwasher.

2.  Robert waited for his lesson at the barn.  The cold, wet wind was passing through the corridor.  I asked Robert to move a few steps to escape the draft. He didn’t move.  Instead he patted/slapped his cheeks and he screamed.  Maybe for him my suggestion meant that the lesson was not going to happen.  Maybe he felt neglected.  Maybe he felt confused.  In the barn it was the instructor who should give him directions not his mother.  I don’t know why he screamed.  However, later that day, he threw up in the bathroom.  so maybe he was not feeling well.  Again, I don’t know.

3. Today, as he was undressing himself to take a bath, he  produced two sharp and long screams.  I don’t know why.  Maybe something hurt him.  Maybe he waited for one of us to turn on the water, although that is something he usually initiates. We  get inside the bathroom when we hear the water running.  Then we check the temperature and adjust it if necessary.  today, I turned on the water and that somehow calmed Robert.

On Visiting Relatives and Guests.

Grandma came for two weeks visit.  The uncle only stayed one night.  Robert didn’t tell grandma, “New York, New York” as he used to do during previous visits.  “New York, New York”  meant that grandma should go back to New York City. The fact that Robert refrained himself from repeating those words was a sign that he got used to grandma’s visit.  It is also possible that grandma bribed Robert by inviting the whole family to Outback restaurant. Whatever the reason, the visit became much more pleasant for everybody.

Not so for Robert’s uncle.  On the first day of the visit, he heard, “House, house, house” quite often.  Robert wanted his uncle to return to his HOUSE instead of staying in our HOME. Still, Robert expressed his demands with much less intensity than he did it during previous visits.  The second day, he accepted uncle wholeheartedly.

Robert tolerated a few guests during Thanksgiving dinner.  Not even once he told anybody, “House, house”.

 

We Are Still Learning

But nothing very challenging.  Easy, simple, short.

A page from Autism and PDD Adolescent Social skills Lessons.  Interacting.  Today, Modesty and Looking Neat

A page from Functional Routines Work.  Today, Housekeeper Hotel Bedroom

One Easy Sudoku

One simple writing exercise.  Today, writing a friendly letter

Two pages of math – mostly reviews, Today, adding and subtracting fractions.

A page from Weber’s book. Today, words ending in “L”

One chapter of a 2-4 grade book. Today, Usborne Reading Programme A Story of Ships.

 

 

 

He Voted

November 13, 2018

A couple of years ago, Robert accompanied me to my pooling place.  He didn’t vote.  He was not a registered voter at that time. I dragged him along for learning purposes.  The visit would not help him understand what election is.  The purpose of that visit was to create images related to words “Ballot”, “Candidate”, “pooling place” and to observe the steps each voter had to take to fulfill his or her civil obligation.

My efforts to teach Robert  the idea of selecting a better person for specific responsibilities related to either activity or position were not successful. With Robert narrow social circle there was nobody to choose from.  Yes, we read about three branches of government.  We read about elected positions.  I tried to explain to Robert that people chosen to be his representative might do something that would either benefit him or not.  I tried.  But I wasn’t sure Robert was ready to vote in 2016 election. so, he didn’t vote.

I am not sure he was much more attuned to the idea of electing his representatives even this year.  Nonetheless, we continued to read about elections, practice vocabulary, and learn a few names of people who were candidates with election on our minds.

I helped Robert to become registered voter.  We voted in primary and we voted on November 6.

Robert was extremely serious. He took the ballot, followed me to a booth,  and without one word between us, he… copied all my choices.

No, I didn’t feel bad about that. Robert didn’t vote the way Trump directed his supporters to vote.  No, Robert didn’t attend any of Trump crowded, loud rallies. He would hate them. No, he didn’t vote like Trump’s base did.  However, he didn’t vote the way I told him to.  I didn’t tell him anything.  He decided on his own to vote the same way I did because he trusted my judgement.

And in doing that, he showed more maturity and wisdom then  you know who.

 

For the Record 7

November 12, 2018

I had to pick Robert from his program before 11 AM.  I heard he was sleepy. He was asking for the bus, so it was assumed that he wanted to go home. When asked if he felt good,  he answered , “No”. He was pacing.  Of course, I am not sure really what was the cause. He could ask for a bus because something out of ordinary happened in his van today.  There was a different driver.  Moreover, other passengers ordered Robert to sit in a different place. They always do that when there is a new driver. They order him around. He listened but maybe he wasn’t happy about that,  So, when he was saying, “Bus” it might be that he wanted to share that information but didn’t have verbal tools to express himself.  That might be why he was pacing.  That might be why he said, he wasn’t feeling good. Of course there is also his sleepiness and that is harder to explain.  Because he slept well at home.  Maybe he didn’t sleep but was just enough quiet not to wake up anybody.  I don’t know.

I am saddened by this experience, because whatever happened Robert couldn’t express himself and nobody was able to understand him.  Not that I can either.  I picked him around 11.  I was at least relived that he was calm. He doesn’t like to leave in the middle of the day. But today  he was fine.  Although, he ate his lunch already, he still wanted to eat an eggplant which he planned for dinner. Since he insisted, I asked him to help cooking. And he did.  I peeled and sliced the aubergine and Robert  seasoned it with salt and pepper, sprinkled with flour, dipped in the egg and breadcrumbs, and fried in the oil. He ate and watched Netflix.

Later he went with me to Stop and Shop.  Two different man who suddenly appeared in front of him seemed to startled him and for 10 second he froze then he hit his face a few times, made some sounds. After we passed one of those men, he calmed down and continued shopping.  From that point on everything was uneventful.  Yes, we had to wait at the self register as one shopper had  problem with payments and needed assistance, but Robert didn’t mind.  He didn’t ask for potato chips, as I told him before entering the store that we are not going to buy them.  At home, he unpacked everything and put all the groceries away. I let him do that, but from the living room I heard one short expression of frustration.  I didn’t run to check what was the reason.

Later we were folding laundry together.  Robert patiently kept folding white T-shirt. He didn’t mind that I corrected him a few times.

As always, we studied together for an hour and a half.  I prepared pages for Robert to copy, trying to improve the size of some of his letters.  Over last couple years, they became tiny and hard to decipher. Robert finished reading book about Olympics, worked on ratios, and with my diminishing assistance solved Sudoku.

It was a good day at home. Robert had an opportunity to practice skills I used to teach him – cooking, folding laundry, using self register.  It was over all good day, and yet those few moments of his frustration, his psychological or physiological discomfort he cannot explain left me concerned and worried.