Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘preschool

Preschooler

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Just before Cubby started preschool, I mused about if we were ready for this next step.  Here is how it went…

The first day, he’d been as excited as can be.  He happily carried in his backpack, and ran to get to his class.  Pudding and I stayed with him for a few minutes as he discovered new toys.  Then he cried when we left.  And when I say, I mean CRY.  I could hear his screams as I put Pudding back in the car to get to her school. I collected him early, and he was still crying when I turned up.  He’d spent the whole morning in either the teacher’s or assistants’ arms. His dummy (pacifier) never left his mouth.  He didn’t speak to anyone.  He didn’t interact with anybody else.   He wouldn’t eat or drink.  He didn’t focus on a single thing apart from the gate, waiting for me to collect him. I felt awful.

On Tuesday, he woke up in a state.  He knew what was coming, and he didn’t want any part of it.  When we arrived at school, his teacher had to pry his arms away from around my neck.  I skulked away with the promise that I’d return in 2 hours.
The following day, he attached himself to a particular assistant.  As long as he was with her, he was okay.  He wasn’t crying as I collected him.
The day after, he cried as usual when we got to school, but he sobbed that he wanted his dummy and I left, still feeling guilty. When I collected him, he was happy.  He’d stayed by the assistant all day, and he’d made a racecar in baking.
Still crying on the fifth day, he entered the classroom and asked where his favourite assistant was.  I waited until noon to collect him.  It was circle time, and he was the only child not in the circle, sitting by himself on a bench.  He couldn’t wait to tell me about the book they’d read together.

Then came a busy weekend, complete with dislocated elbow, a friend’s birthday party at the fire station, and giant slide.

The next day was Monday again, and the tears were back.  But when I collected him he was playing in the ball pit near the other kids.

On Tuesday there were more tears.  But  when I collected him, he told me the name of the boy he was playing with.

Wednesday, there would have been no tears, but then I dropped his cup on his head as I got him out of the car, and it was just.too.much.  He needed the dummy and his assistant to get over it.  By the time I returned, he was eager to tell me about his painting.

Today.  No tears.  No dummy (though he did stash one in his pocket).  No guilt.  Just a preschooler going to preschool, and a Mummy finally convinced she is doing the right thing by her boy.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 29, 2011 at 10:13 am

Ready or Not (at Hopeful Parents)

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Hopeful Parents

This was originally published at Hopeful Parents.  You can read the post here.

I was out of sight during a game of hide-and-seek, and Cubby couldn’t find me.  Just a few months ago, this entire scenario would have been impossible.  Before we started Early Intervention, I couldn’t leave Cubby.  Ever.  I couldn’t go into another room.  He could only sleep next to me.  I couldn’t use the bathroom alone or take a shower.  His occupational therapist began introducing games of hide-and-seek for the three of us at the local playground, and slowly, slowly, he got better.  He learned to trust her, and eventually learned to trust that I would come back.

Mummy, where are you?  I miss you!

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t marvel at this boy’s language skills.  His ease at expressing himself and his emotions, so strikingly different from his older sister.  I let myself exhale a little.  It won’t be so hard for this one.  He can communicate, he can tell someone else what is wrong.  He doesn’t rely on me to decode every situation, every adverse sensory reaction.

He made other kids of progress too under Early Intervention.  He strengthened his muscles, both fine and gross.  He can hold a crayon correctly, he can jump from one place to another.  He learned to tolerate being touched, and ask what was making the noise.

But there were some goals we didn’t achieve before we moved.  He still struggles with waiting and turn-taking.  He is still an anxious little boy whose attention span is very short.  Most of all, though, he is still a child that can’t always play well with others.  He gets too overwhelmed.  He prefers to sit on the sidelines, observing.  For all the great strides he has made, I still worry.  Of course I worry- I’m his mother, and he will always be my baby.

As his mother I can do so much for him.  I can give him a sensory diet, to lessen his need to spin himself in circles.  I can distract him when he repeats things over and over- echoing his sister’s echolalia.  I can explain things, prepare him, help him understand this at times confusing world.  But I can only do so much.  What I can’t do is be a typically developing peer and playmate.

So today he starts preschool.  He is excited.  He is ready, but I’m not.  I’m afraid that this sensitive little soul will become overwhelmed and will withdraw just as Pudding did when she started school.  Recently we’ve spent a lot of time together, just the two of us.  Over a cup or two of rooibos tea, we’ve talked about school, and how Mummy can’t stay, and the teacher and new friends will be there to play, until I collect him before lunch.  Every day he asks to go to school.  He is ready.  I can’t hide from it, not when he is seeking something more.

So I stepped out of my hiding place.

I miss you too!

I gave him a hug, and he giggled.  Ready or not, here we come.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 19, 2011 at 10:52 am

Me, Me, Me.

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The world revolves around Pudding.  I’m not just talking about her vestibular issues, (I will get to those one day, Courtney!) but in the way that she likes herself a lot, and everything is about her.  She has always enjoyed looking at herself in the mirror, in fact, her teacher bought a mirror for the classroom just for her.  She preens, and says: “Who’s adorable?  Pudding’s adorable.  Yes, I’m adorable.”  Should I draw the line when she starts kissing the mirror?  The girl has had three years of everybody in her family telling her how adorable she is, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that she says it too.  It is a fact, and I’m told that Aspies like facts and sharing them with other people.

In the last couple of months, some of her dolls that previously had their own names have started to be called Pudding (apart from male dolls: they’re Cubby).  Princesses are still princesses in books, but any other girl character has become Pudding too.  And of course, a dozen times a day I’m asked to draw a Pudding for her.  And pronouns being a real problem for her, she constantly refers to herself as Pudding.  So it isn’t really “Me, Me, Me”, more like, “Pudding, Pudding, Pudding.”

The word “autism” comes from the Greek “autos”, meaning self.  And here is the dictionary.com entry for autism:

–noun

1.

Psychiatry . a pervasive developmental disorder of children, characterized by impaired communication, excessive rigidity, and emotional detachment.
2.

a tendency to view life in terms of one’s own needs and desires.
It is the second one that is interesting to me here, is this what is going on?  I don’t know, it seems like something all little girls do.  I can’t tell any more.  My idea of typical is pretty skewed these days.  It seems like the kind of thing I might have done at her age, but I’m not exactly certain that I’m all that typical either!  Although, having read that definition of autism, I don’t think I have it.  I’m too busy focusing on what certain other people want and need.  But if you ever see this entry:
puddingism
-noun
1. a tendency to view life in term’s of Pudding’s needs and desires.
you will know for sure, that not only does she have it, but I do too!  Pudding, Pudding, Pudding.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 9, 2010 at 8:23 am

Stepping into the limelight

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Thursday was Pudding’s last day of preschool for the summer, and Graduation Day for two of her classmates.  At 3, Pudding has another two years of preschool before she will start Kindergarten, though we’ll probably move next year.  She’ll be back in the same classroom in less than a month.  So really, this was a day about the other children who were leaving the class.  Little ones who had worked so hard, come so far, and deserved their moment to shine.  Not, I repeat, not a day about Pudding.

The graduating children of both Pudding’s class and the other PAC in her school were seated at the front with their teachers, wearing mortar boards they’d made in class.  They all looked so adorable.  The teacher read a story, and the kids performed a couple of songs.  While all this was happening, Cubby, Pudding and the other children were playing in a corner of the room.  I was seated a few feet away, ready to grab Cubby should he try to leave the classroom. Not that he had much interest in doing so, for here were cars and trucks galore to play with, and he was in his element.  Still, you never know…

You never know that it will be your quick-as-a-flash girl who will decide to bolt to the front “stage” and sing along to ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’!  She doesn’t even particularly like the song, nor have I ever seen her perform the actions to it, but it seems I have a natural-born performer when there is a captive audience.  She had no business being up there at all, this newcomer, stealing the thunder from her friends.  Of course, everyone found it funny, it is hard to take offense at a spectrummy 3 year-old.  All eyes were on her, and she lapped it up!  She had her little moment in the limelight, then was quickly grabbed by Ms. S, so the parents of the graduates could film their kids.

When we first got Pudding’s diagnosis, I devoured everything I could read about Asperger’s Syndrome.  As many children aren’t diagnosed so early in life, there isn’t much information about very young children with Asperger’s.  As there are 4 boys diagnosed for every 1 girl, there is even less information about young girls.  I found some though.  I learned that these girls tend to be extremely shy, and will hide on the edge of a crowd, desperate not to to attract attention.  They tend to be smart and love reading.  Their interests are usually the same as their typically developing peers, such as loving horses, fairies, princesses, they just are a bit more intense about it.  So: shy, bookish, horse-loving…it sounded just like me as a child, but not like Pudding (apart from the princesses bit, of course).

Perhaps Pudding will change as she gets older, but for right now, she is more attention-seeking than shy.  Sure, she gets anxious in conversation with unfamiliar people, but that is because their language is so hard for her to process and respond accordingly.  But she is not shy.  The 3 year-old me would never have got up on front of a room full of people, but she shined!  Even now, I’m uncomfortable in a room of strangers, I hate public-speaking.  Where I was calm and quiet as a child, she is loud and dramatic. She is intense.

I had a funny feeling as I watched her that it won’t be the last time I see that kid on stage.  She loved stepping into the limelight, I have a feeling she won’t want to step back out.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 16, 2010 at 12:10 am

An Education

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We had Pudding’s IEP meeting on Tuesday.  IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan.  All U.S. children are eligible for special education services have an IEP that sets out measurable goals for them to attain.  Generally an IEP lasts for a year, but if you…erm…pull your child out of a placement and put them in a completely different program with a different teacher in a different school, it is necessary to do a new one.  Oh, how we like to be different!

Pudding’s first IEP was written in December right after she turned 3.  We’d been a long time without any services, so we were ready.  I’d read a lot about how I’d need to be her advocate, but I honestly didn’t think that would be necessary.  We were all on the same side, surely, in wanting what was best for Pudding.  Having deliberately moved to the area specifically for the quality Preschool Autism Class (PAC) we were initially discouraged to find that the IEP meeting was taking place at an elementary school offering only special education classes which were not autism specific.  My concerns were shot-down by the teacher asserting that the PAC classes were only for “low-functioning” children with behavioural problems.  And so proceeded a meeting where almost everything had been predetermined.  A lot was made of using a visual schedule for transitions, something I knew to be neither effective nor necessary for Pudding, who transitions well (most of the time).  When I said this, I was reminded that the teacher had vast experience with lots of children, including those with the same diagnoses.  Feeling like a “helicopter parent” I backed down.  How I wish I’d spoken up!  But I’d lost my voice back then, and it took me a while to find it.

I started to find it when we watched Pudding become more and more anxious and withdrawn.  Then we saw more regression than progress.  When I spoke to the teacher, she just kept telling me to give it time.  One time in a meeting the teacher casually referred to Pudding crying every Wednesday when it was the group OT session.  It was the first time I’d heard of her crying, and apparently it had been happening every week.  I suggested that there may be sensory issues in the gym, but the teacher did not seem to know what I was talking about.  Now I was on edge, and debating whether the social aspects of preschool were worth the cost.  I suggested she call me, or send a note home when she had a bad day, but this never happened.  Instead we got photos of Pudding looking everything from sullen to miserable.  I had to carry her in tears to the bus- the one she’d once been so excited to ride.

The culmination of our fears was when I talked to the teacher about how Pudding was possibly over-stimulated, and that was causing her to shut herself off in school.  Rather than admit this was a possibility, the teacher replied that perhaps we should “lower our expectations” when it came to Pudding.  Every professional who has come into contact with Pudding has said the opposite of this, but even had they not, how dare a teacher ever say this to a parent?  Rather than choose to lower our expectations with Pudding, we decided to raise them with regards to her education.  All children deserve to be taught by someone who will help them reach their full potential.  That potential can’t possibly be determined at 3 years of age.

One day, another child was being observed by a PAC teacher, who voiced concerns about the way Pudding seemed so withdrawn and isolated.  She felt her program would be beneficial for Pudding.  The teacher asked myself and Spectrummy Daddy to meet with her.  We took Pudding along, and watched her hug Ms. S and saw our happy, silly girl return.  Less than a week later, she was at the new school, and we haven’t looked back.

This IEP meeting was entirely different.  A negotiation where every person around the table had the sole interest in helping our child.  Ms. S talked about the special relationship she has with Pudding, and joked about coming overseas with us next year.  We agreed, and laughed, but we weren’t joking!  If it weren’t for the pesky business of her being about to be married, we would have made her sign a contract on the spot.

A good teacher looks for a way to connect with a pupil no matter how hard that might be.  They communicate whenever necessary with the parent, looking for ways to help both in and out of school.  Both giving and taking advice from those who know the child best.  They look beyond the diagnosis to see all their strengths and weaknesses, playing the strengths to their advantage and finding ways to work on the weaknesses.  A good teacher can make a world of difference to a child, whether they have special needs or not.

I lost my voice for six months this year, by keeping quiet when I needed to speak out.  I let Pudding down when she needed me, and I’m so sorry for that.  I’ll do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen again.  Now I can use my voice to say what really matters: Ms. S, you are amazing- thank you for being the teacher Pudding needs, the kind that every child deserves.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 2, 2010 at 7:17 am