Hello Dear Readers,
I hope this post finds you well and your kids working hard to meet their full potential!
This summer has been just a truck load of work for Birdman aka Dill which he still does with more work ethic (most of the time) than any 12 year old training for the Olympics as he patiently endures his mom’s attempts to work on changing grey matter with little to no training. Their are many other components to this summers works to get Bird read for 8th grade so I will list them in no particular order before going into our socialization notebook. Skip this if your child is not similar in age, grade and academic need.
Lesley is back and working with both twins to prepare for algebra in the fall! She works roughly 2.5 hours a week on math something I do poorly and both kids start algebra camp at school Monday for 2 weeks 4 hours a day as a program FCPS offers kids who are taking algebra but not going into 9th grade (so a year earlier than some…but not many at Robinson a pretty competitive school where a few kids take Geometry in 8th grade!) They work with her twice a week and both like and do well in math so not a real deficit but we wanted Dill to have an extra year to understand algebra if he needs it. The school is not jazzed about this but they should be as it really needs to be about what is best for the student not AYP! If Dill gets a B or better (which we expect him to do) than he will move onto Geometry in 9th like his brother but if he does not he will retake algebra and the grade which counts for high school will be expunged as if he never took it and he will have the best chance at passing the SOL and understanding the material. Dill’s only issue with math really seems to be word problems and he totally gets what Les is working on right now so this is all just being proactive. When the twins start algebra camp Dill will work with Lesley on reading comprehensions. Sadly he got a 381 on his reading SOL just 19 points shy of passing. Comprehension and writing are his deficits so more about that in a bit.
Nick is working with Birdy on writing! Nick spent a lot of time this school year learning about LD kids, DRA and reading comprehension. He and Dill work together twice a week for close to 3 hours total on reading passages, writing answers to open ended questions about the short story and then writing an short essay with a graphic organizer about the story. They just finished Robinson Crusoe I think but am unsure. Like Lesley and math I tend to get an overview from Nick (chat briefly about restaurants and food) and then trust that because he has done great work in the past that things will continue. Writing is not something I excel at as most can tell reading my blog so when I work with Dill on writing it is less grammatical and more lengthening sentences, using novel vocabulary and staying on topic. Needless to say we are pretty grateful to have Lesley and Nick for the time we have them!
Dill’s usual summer job for the last 2 years is working at his dad’s computer company once a week or two for a few hours. Being in a work environment is valuable in learning what is and is not appropriate, controlling your volume, prepping to go to work with good hygiene and appropriate dress (very business casual but unlike their dad they wore a collard shirt), having lunch at the office and hearing how people relate to each other as adults. He learned how to make cables for the internet and phones, take out trash, move boxes, work on his two hand typing and other office related stuff. It was useful but only to a point as our oldest seems to be the only one right now who really is interested in programming so can fully utilize the opportunity of being at the office. This summer Dill and his sister (who will be 13 in August) wanted to start babysitting. Both have experience around younger kids and at autism camps so I added their name to a post with other providers on our list serv (sequa sorry,to clarify as we do have a rule about not posting for financial gain I drive my kids 25 minutes to Lorton and wait 90 minutes and 10 minute in Fairfax and wait the hour usually in a parking lot with a book and without compensation…so no monetary benefit for me). Posting to the list did not yield any mothers helper or baby-sitting jobs for my dynamic duo! it did yield two families who wanted their kids to work on socialization with kids similar enough in age to not be adults. We went to the homes on a trial to see if this would be at all reinforcing for the kids because if socialization is not reinforcing you should STOP and either work on it later (not never just not now) or you should rethink what you are doing. One family has two boys and Bird and Peep both work in their homes twice a week a one family has one boy and Bird works their alone twice a week. They have been their 3 weeks and have learned so much. Peep was bragging yesterday that one of the boys had the most amazing memory she had ever seen and was so impressed by his drawing. Dill/Bird worked with his one young friend yesterday as well and when I probed him about what he felt he was learning from this beautiful young man he told me that because James (not his name) was non-verbal that he had to watch for physical cues about his wants and needs and that not speaking meant he (Dill) could work on social thinking to understand rewarding vs. stress inducing by watching body language and change in verbal pitch and tone. I was stunned, impressed and near tears that he thought about this and was so dead on! I totally missed that part of their relationship and he nailed it, appreciated it and is learning from this! Because all of these boys are older the process of pairing is pretty much all that is happening right now but all 3 kids seem happy to see my kids! The two boys were away last weekend as were we when they usually have their session and both mentioned the twins repeatedly which is great and both boys now look to the twins when playing Wii for verbal feedback and high fives which is great and Dill’s other little guy (not James) is starting to sit with him and take turns a little bit which is huge! All and all a win win situation that we hope to continue for a long time and slowly start placing demands per parents direction as I am not offering (nor should I be) any therapy feedback as the only kid I know well on the spectrum is mine (short segua …I know to many BCBA’s who don’t even know one child well enough to work with them and be successful so I am not being to hard on myself just real!) but these parents know what they want and what their kids need and so far so great I am impressed!
Birdy and I are spending our summer going through socialization and much of what we read (aside from Hogsfather by Pratchett, Disney After Dark, and Stuart Little more on them later) is from Michelle Garcia Winner’s book Socially Curious. Dill read 2 pages and I read 3 pages and we stop every paragraph or two (sometimes every other sentence) and discuss salient points and talk about situations we have experienced making self to text corollaries writing down the most pertinent stuff in a notebook we keep with just our socialization notes and it travels with us. Below are the notes from this book. We take the book from place to place; most recently The North American Disc World Conference and sit together observing people and talking about what their relationship might be and how to approach them or people we know similar to them making up random reasons why we would want or need to speak to them eg. at Panera last week we saw a couple who were about 5 years older than me and I mentioned our lovely neighbors Kim and Scott and asked Dill based on their mood, intensity of conversation, his relationship to them, the environment if and how he would approach and we played out a short conversation related to being at Panera as part of our free form script. Dill like most kids on the spectrum does better with visual cues so being in a novel place and seeing people we can equate to other people helps in understanding setting and observation in socialization. How you approach someone at a funeral, public park, lunch room, library are all different based on those locations, their demeanor, your personal relationship with them and more. Being great at social observation is the key to talking to people! I learned this and so much more from Michelle Garcia Winner and can’t thank Katy enough for convincing me to see her! That being said field trips are important as is writing it all down. So part of the writing it all down and going back to the multiple books we are reading (also on audible we are listening to Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational…so fantastic) clearly you see that Dill suffers from Mom with Severe ADD syndrome and you should pity him for that but he seems to keep track of all our books better than I do (and he finished Stuart Little in an hour). We use our field trips and our books to work on building emotional language which Dill has in short supply according to Children’s National Medical who he did a study with several months ago. I was surprised by the info and took it badly until I chose to probe and than I had to agree that his ability to use descriptive language with regards to feelings is limited and he is lazy about using what he has! but thank you Dr. Kenworthy for the totally worthwhile study which I highly recommend to those wanting info on executive function, IQ and more. Back to what we do…okay so I have those little arrow stickers more well known used by lawyers and accounts in our socialization notebook and on it are a list of feelings words. Dill has to use one of those words to describe if we are reading one of the characters in the book or if we are out in public than people we are observing (not stalking..we don’t move or follow). He or I write it out on the back and than after using 12 words/sentences (think smaller notebook) we create a new sheet with new words and do the same. Now that 2 pages are filled with sentences I have combined the words he has not yet used so that he learns them.
Rules- we also make up rules about things from the book, things he has done or others often do and just plain things he should know!
Here are our rules so far- I will update this after the summer but intend to fill the book so this will be a work in progress!
Rule 1- when approaching a group stand 2.5 feet away approx and use the persons name to catch their attention.
Rule 2- Don’t use your last name when introducing yourself to a peer (Dill is only 12 and that looks weird) and NEVER apologies for something you did not do. Dill is excessively apologetic.
Rule 3 – Judging means someone is better than someone else. Reality means accepting that differences are good. Caveman would have froze to death if one of them were not interested in textiles and clothing design.
Rule 4- Check yourself before leaving the house! Teeth, hair, nose, zipper, pants tucked into socks.
Rule 5- You do care about others hygiene but you usually don’t tell that person you tell other people. This means people won’t tell you that you smell bad but they will tell each other. So don’t loudly or unkindly mention aroma in groups only to that person and only if they are someone you deeply care about and take care of yourself!
Rule 6- Most people aren’t bad. Give them a chance to show you who they are and then believe them.
Rule 7- Don’t talk to yourself in public it looks weird. (this is new again and I think related to hormones…yippeee!)
Rule 8- Call most women Ms. and older women Ma am.
Rule 9- Wait one arms length away from people in line. (okay, he knew this one but I shared it with him loudly at the conference we went to because this 40 year old man was the worst at waiting and I wanted to embarrass him mentioning my 12 y.o with autism was better at waiting! He did not care.
Rule 10- People see you in public so make sure to represent yourself the way you want to be seen! Nose, butt, ear, crotch picking…get the picture.
Rule 11- Everyone has an SST (from social thinking) Superficial Social Test try to determine if you WANT to be someone’s friend by how they treat you and always THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK…embarrassment if likely #1 for kids on why they will or won’t speak to you so show how smart you are by pausing first. We are now using a full physical prompt of a hand in front of our own face to show PAUSE to remind him of something we have said till blue in the face but learning really means figuring out what works and telling Dill to think first was not so likely full physical to faded prompt over time will work.
MORE LATER and ROCK ON PARENTS!