Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘special needs

Feeling Included

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So today was finally the day.  My nerves have been wracking for weeks as I faced up to the challenge of public speaking.  I’d been asked to participate in a conference on international inclusion, and as much as my instincts have me running away from such opportunities, I decided to follow the example my girl sets me every single day: I got out of my comfort zone.

The conference had started yesterday, but Pudding was down with what turned out to be a double ear infection, so she took priority.  Spectrummy Daddy took today off work instead so I could still do my bit.  I got talking to the lady at the table next to me, a principal of an international school.  Before long she revealed that her daughter is also diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and now doing really well- not just in college, but spending a year abroad in Paris.  I felt that feeling of connection that we spectrum parents always feel when we meet.  We’re never alone.

Part of the day the conference participants were divided up into groups to see learning support in action, but I wasn’t placed in  group, so I did the “mummy tour” of just the bits that were relevant to Pudding’s education.  I got to check out “Pudding’s office” which is also known as the sensory room.  There I learned how Pudding manages her sensory needs in school (just the same as at home, really) and the awesome Ms. B reiterated how much she loved working with Pudding.

I had a bit of free time, so I sat near Pudding’s classmates as they ate lunch.  The teaching assistant for Pudding’s class was there, and we’d recently discussed how she was hoping to continue as the teaching partner in her classroom next year.  Not only that, but she was fighting with a few other teaching partners who also had their eye on working with Pudding next year!  How far we have come, from schools that wouldn’t admit her and teachers who couldn’t work with her, to a place where she is accepted and loved for who she is.

Next I moved to Pudding’s classroom, where her teacher presented a slideshow of videos about Pudding and how our inclusion project is working out.  The video ended with one of Pudding’s classmates sagely noting that “she learns from us.”  It kind of sums up inclusion in a sentence.  What this little girl hasn’t realized yet, though, is that she is also learning from Pudding.

One of my favourite parts of the day was the student panel.   A group of middle and high school students talked about their experiences of inclusion: the diversity here included South African children on scholarships, as well as those receiving learning support.  These students were incredibly articulate, and could detail the many benefits they received from an inclusive education.  It was a showcase of all that is great about the school, and fascinating to me considering that not long ago some of these kids wouldn’t have even been admitted to the school.

And then it was my turn.  I’d love to say that I conquered my nerves, but that isn’t the way these things work.  I did, however, acknowledge those nerves- it is just part of who I am, and as I neared the end of my presentation, I found that the shakiness in my voice had almost disappeared.  I talked about our experiences- both positive and negative- with special education, I talked about how this school had initially rejected Pudding for pre-K, our conditional acceptance into Kindergarten, and the incredible successes we have enjoyed ever since.

Everyone at the conference responded really positively to what I had to say.  The director of the school hadn’t known that we were initially rejected from his school, and wished to speak to me privately.  He reiterated that the school was developing and learning how to really build a community.  International schools can only really do that when they’re allowing all of us to be part of that community.

It was time to leave, but not before more I met with more educators and faculty members who told me that our story further resonated because they too were parents of children with learning differences.  We are all connected, in some intangible way by our experiences.  Here in South Africa they call it Ubuntu:  a philosophy that can be summed up by ‘I am what I am because of who we all are.’  I think these international schools are going to be whole lot better because of who we all are.  And including us- as parents to speak at conferences, and as children to be educated- is going to make them the best that they can be.

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Easy

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I’ve got so much going on this week that I don’t have time to post.  But I’m such an excellent procrastinator, I’ll do just that.  This week, for instance, I’ve got a video conference tomorrow, a cocktail reception on Thursday evening, organise our family to fly out to the states on the weekend, and I need to draft the presentation for a conference upon my return.  Oh, and the thousand other things that I need to do in my job.  But I only work part-time (32 hours a week), so it should be easy.

And then there is the day to day dealing with kids with special needs.  Trying to eke out time with each to put what they learn in therapy to good use.  I’m effectively dealing with three different schools, and two sets of speech and occupational therapists.  Yet somehow I only have two kids, and their needs are comparatively mild, it really should be easy.

I was talking to a colleague today who said I make it all look so ‘easy.’  I had to laugh.  Of all the things my life is…easy would be the worst adjective.

I’m dropping balls, but somehow my juggling act keeps going.  I forgot that one of Pudding’s schools has spirit week this week, and I forgot to dress her up like a movie star on Monday.  Lucky for me that Hello Kitty is a movie star (shut up, she is!) and Pudding always opts to dress like Hello Kitty.

She is helping out in other ways too.  Taking on more little duties as I shirk them.  She has been making leaps and bounds with her reading and writing since starting in an inclusive classroom.  On Thursday Spectrummy Daddy and I will be taking her in to school for a teacher conference in which Pudding will demonstrate her progress.  

One thing I’ve made certain of, even as we get busier and busier, is that Pudding always reads her reading book from school every evening, then I read a story of her choice.  After she has finished, I comment on the reading log sent from the teacher.

I guess Pudding thinks that she’ll save me a job here, because tonight I went to write, and I found she’d already done it.  Her verdict on this book?  Easy.

Image

 

I don’t think any of this is easy, my love, but thank you for always reminding me that it is worth it!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

February 26, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Wordless Wednesday 30 Jan 13

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Okay, I’m adding a few words just so you can get some context.  This photo, kindly supplied by Pudding’s teacher left me speechless, which is a kind of wordless. 

This morning, I posted this on my Spectrummy Mummy Facebook page:

When it comes to Show and Tell, Pudding prefers to adopt a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. We’ll see if she wants to explain why there is a Luxembourg flag in her backpack today.

And then her teacher emailed this:

Show and Tell

With these words:

Pudding did her first real show and share today…so cute!

It’s the first time she wanted to go up…I thought it might be a Welsh flag, but she corrected me and told us that it is from Luxembourg. 

Your girl is amazing…just love her 🙂

If you are familiar with Pudding’s challenges, you’ll probably share my joy.  If not, let me tell you that this is the picture of an everyday miracle. 

By the way, yes- she came from Luxembourg, but the really amazing thing is gettting to see where she will go.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 30, 2013 at 11:44 am

Mother Like Me

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After yesterday’s post, I had some people question why I didn’t react more to what happened during our flight.  It is a valid question, and one that had whirled around my own head ever since Saturday.  You see, my instinct was to protect my children.  Adrenaline was coursing through my system, and my body felt like it needed action.  My brain even pictured the various actions which would have satisfied it- all were physical, and all of them would have landed me in trouble with aviation security.  But I wasn’t thinking about that.

I was thinking about what the children would do if I raised my voice, or had a physical altercation, or even moved to argue face to face with the man in front.  Pudding had already had a meltdown over the change of seats.  A meltdown during which she became violent, briefly clawing at my face with her fingers.  Pudding is not usually an aggressive child, but she already felt threatened, and was lashing out. And this was with me being calm.

If I get worked up, if I raise my voice, if I give in to strong emotions, it is absorbed and reflected back at me by two people who need me to stay in control.  That isn’t to say that I never get angry, or I’m always in control of my emotions, but I do know that when I explode, so does everyone around me.  And I really didn’t need that.  Nor did the rest of the passengers crammed on to that painfully full flight.

Well, all apart from one, that is.

Before I actually confronted him, calmly, I’d spent several hours with Pudding and Cubby sleeping on me, peacefully oblivious to the barely-contained rage I was feeling.  Any parent who knows this forced calm- and I’m certain there are a few of us with children on the autism spectrum- know that this inertia is a hundred times more difficult than acting on our feelings.

We do it, because we can.  They can’t.

We can take a deep breath, calm ourselves down, refuse to let things escalate.  My kids don’t know how to do that yet.  They are learning, and like with many of life’s lessons, they need them modeled time and time again.  Even when there are jerks within hitting distance who totally deserve it.

Now, maybe you have children who don’t follow your every move, hear every word you say (even if they conveniently don’t pay attention at times), or detect every change in your pitch.  That way you don’t risk the same consequences.  Maybe you haven’t had years of learning to show Zen when you feel anything but.  I’m glad for you, and I’m jealous of you.  You don’t have to hold it all in until you find a suitable outlet.

Believe me, it gets hard, when you mother like me.  Certain situations are just harder.  But at least when the gory fantasies (I’m always like Buffy the Vampire Slayer in my daydreams) I had of what I could do when the plane touched down and the kids were handed off to the husband didn’t get to come true, I can always write about it here.

Because some how, some way, this stuff has to come out, if you are going to mother like me.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Talking Politics

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Really, I’m going to talk politics, after I only just said that I don’t have a political agenda?

Power to the purr-ple

Yes, I’m contrary like that.  Anyway, I’m not really talking politics, but talking about how we talk about politics, or don’t.

You see, Spectrummy Daddy and I can’t talk about politics at work.  Under the Hatch Act, we are expressly prohibited from sharing our political preferences.  This makes a lot of sense.  More than most people, the government decides our work and where we live, so we might feel strongly about one form of government or another.  But we go to work no matter who the President is, and support United States Government interests no matter who is running the show.

This election season has certainly been heated.  In a sense, it is good to see that people feel so strongly about their civic duties.  I, for one, have grown a little tired of just how heated things have become, but Spectrummy Daddy pointed out the ways in which listening to other perspectives can only be a good thing.

Embassies and Consulates around the world celebrate democracy by holding Election Night parties, or due to the time difference in our case, an Election Breakfast.  There was truly a buzz of excitement from our South African guests at our event.  In this country, where there has been 46 political killings in the last two years, it is even more important to reflect the stability of a peaceful democracy.

I was musing this over yesterday evening, and I thought about how we hadn’t really talked to our children about politics.  Obviously, they’re both very young, but they are ambassadors too, and one day they’ll also be voting citizens of the world.  They will have to learn the meaning behind the rhetoric.  They’ll have to learn to speak up for themselves, and for those who don’t have a voice.

They are also little sponges, and I was interested to see how much they’d absorbed of our world these last few days.

So I asked Cubby who he would vote for President: Romney or Obama?

Steve.  (I assume he means Steve Rogers aka Captain America– the only person he thinks should be running the country.  After all, who would uphold American ideals better than his idol?

I asked Pudding the same question, and if you can’t guess her response, you’ve obviously never been here before.

Hello Kitty.

In fairness, it wasn’t as absurd a response as you might expect.  Hello Kitty was indeed running an election campaign for the Friendship Party.

Maybe they are learning something after all.  They don’t sacrifice their ideals for the sake of the popular vote.

I have to hand it to both kids- they at least vote in their own interests.

Wordless Wednesday 31 Oct 12

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Happy Halloween- have a spooktacular wordless Wednesday!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

October 31, 2012 at 8:14 am

Dancing Teapots

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I decided to take the kids out for an early dinner.  Today is one of those perfect Jozi spring days.  The Jacarandas are blossoming, but they’re not quite at their vibrant peak yet.  On a Friday afternoon sitting outdoors at a cafe in Sandton, you could be in Europe, only with better weather.  This is an unexpected treat for us all.  I was supposed to be having dental treatment, but the water was out- sometimes water and power outages are the only sign that this is still a developing country.  Developing being the right word, for all its economic slump, there is a lot of construction going on here, and sometimes the wrong pipe gets hit.

I sipped at my capuccino with cream, and enjoyed the moment of perfection, knowing it couldn’t last for long.

Pudding was content.  She’d had the Halloween Parade at school, which she’d loved.  She ordered herself a bacon and avocado sandwich and apple juice by herself.  Yes, it is the same thing she always ordered, but I’m pretty sure it is exactly what she feels like eating.  She isn’t just doing okay, she is doing really, really well lately.  She seems more comfortable in her own skin than I’ve ever seen.  The wind picked up and she turned her face to it, enjoying the caress to her skin.

Cubby was out of sorts.  I knew he hadn’t napped, and was too hungry and too tired to know what was wrong.  Normally very expressive, he was down to grunts and shouts.  He couldn’t decide what to eat, even if he wanted to eat.  A siren in the distance hurt his ears.  He was in and out of his chair.  Putting his hands in his drink and smearing it over the table.  Then he began playing with his spit when the drink was confiscated.  Finally he turned to tormenting his sister for entertainment.  The wind picked up, and he shrieked in pain as it whipped at his skin.

Watching the two of them was a study in contrasts.  Pudding, at peace; Cubby intent on disturbing it.  This was her two or three years ago.  This disorder and chaos.  Feeling something was wrong, and not knowing how to put it right.  How far she has come.

Then I let my mind wander further back.  I remember holding infant Pudding.  Apart from when she was nursing, (which I naturally did a LOT) she was screaming.  Arching her back, red-faced, furious at me for not fixing what was wrong.  And I’d go through everything I thought I knew about babies, wondering what I must have missed to make her thrash around like this.  She pulled at my hair in her rage.  The screaming made my head throb, and I wanted to run away from this tiny creature who put all her trust in me.  And though I wanted to shout and scream, I pulled her in closer, and kissed her downy head, and held her until we breathed together, just rocking and kissing, until the screaming was done.

I picked up Cubby and cradled him.  He resisted at first- pushed away, then caved in.  His floppy body curled into mine and I kissed his face.  “I’m a baby.”  He said, like he does so often.  I didn’t correct him this time.  I kissed his fingers and his arms.  He twirled his hands through my hair, just like his sister always had.  I kiss the soft nape, and when I close my eyes, I forget where I am, or when I am.  It doesn’t matter- I am mothering instinctively.

Three year-olds can only be held for so long, so I release him, and he dances for a while- trying to catch the eye of the waiting staff.  I turn back to Pudding, with her wry, contented smile.  I see what’s catching her eye: some paper teapots attached to the ceiling are fluttering in the breeze.  “Dancing teapots”, I say out loud.  “Dancing teapots”, she echoes.  We watch them together, and her hand creeps up into my hair, but in comfort, not in rage.

In that moment of calm, I feel all the many joys she has brought me.  All the dancing tea cups that I would otherwise have missed.  I know, if I have to, I can do it all over again.  Even if I still feel more rookie than veteran.  We’ll grow, and develop, and get there together.