Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘teacher

Sensory to Supernatural

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About a month ago, I went to see Cubby’s teacher for his report.  Now, Cubby is 4 and only in preschool, and I’m not really sure we should be doing reports, but this is the way of the school, so we do.  Actually, it is a good time to catch up with the teacher and address any concerns.  Cubby gets speech and OT during school hours, and the therapists send me weekly reports, and on the whole he is doing well.

On the whole he is doing well at school too.  He has a couple of areas of brilliance, and a couple of areas of all-too-familiar struggles.  For the most part, there was nothing new.  This teacher likes Cubby and handles his eccentricities and active imagination very well.  Only one thing she said actually surprised me: he wasn’t participating in music class.

Cubby loves music.  He is musical.  Even in his sleep he makes harmonic noises.  He loves to sing, and he can identify all the popular songs that come on the radio.  When I told him my friend had written the music for one of the songs we heard on the radio, he became convinced that all music was made by our family and friends.  He doesn’t always let me sing, but he certainly enjoys to do so himself.  My dad plays guitar in a band, and Cubby tells me he will be a rock star too.  He struts and dances like a Jagger-Mercury hybrid, so it wouldn’t surprise me.

But telling me he won’t participate in music class?  That surprises me.  Cubby being quiet?  Surprises me even more.

I wondered if he just didn’t like the choice of rhymes.  If the teacher played Maroon 5, Fun or (eek) Bon Jovi, she’d surely see another side to him.

Or would she?

Cubby was singing at the dinner table some South African song I wasn’t familiar with, and I guessed he’d heard it at school.  I asked him why he didn’t sing in music class, and his response shouldn’t have come as a surprise to a seasoned spectrummy mummy.  He loves hearing himself sing, but the other kids sing “different.”  I guess some of his classmates-like me- sing different notes (okay, off-key), and he just can’t stand it.  He told me he really didn’t like music class, and didn’t want to go any more.

We had a little chat about how problems have solutions, and if something is hard for him, he can always tell us so we can look for ways to make it better.

I suggested he wear his blue head ‘cones’ to protect his ears, and he was so enthused with this idea that he was wearing them the next morning before even setting off for school.  I emailed the OT for her suggestions (that would be another round of Therapeutic Listening) and pulled them from his head to tuck in his backpack.

And then came the next problem: without the protection he could hear ghosts, vampires and zombies.  But problems have solutions, I just need to shift the battle from sensory to supernatural.

 

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 6, 2013 at 1:54 pm

10 Things

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!0 ThingsPudding is about to start first grade in her mainstream school.  She is returning after completing kindergarten, so many things will remain the same, but there are new challenges for her to face.  Most importantly, a new teacher.  She asked me to tell her about Pudding, so here I will try…

1. She is always trying her best

Always.  It may not seem like it.  Especially at 3 am, it can be hard to see it, but she is aways trying her best.  She isn’t lazy, or naughty, or clumsy.  She makes every effort.  Praise her efforts.  Rejoice in her successes.  Never punish her if the results don’t match her peers.  She is trying her best.  Always.

2. Make her comfortable

Sometimes you can’t tell she is trying her best, because she is trying to get comfortable.  Getting comfortable for her could be a lot different for her than it is for you and I.  Comfort needs to be on her terms, and you might have to try a few things out before you both figure that out.  Does she need to be away from the bright light coming in from the windows?  Does she need to be seated close so it is easier for her to hear you amongst the classroom noise?  Is somebody doing garden work with loud equipment?  Does she need to get up and move?  Perhaps a stint in the sensory room.  Try and make sure her every sense is satisfied, and you’ll have a much more comfortable learner.  You’ll even find she tolerates more if you allow her to be in control.

3. Ease her anxiety

This one is easier said than done, I know.  Let her be your guide.  We’ve read the social story all through the break, and she is familiar with the school, but there will be changes to her routine that take her out of her comfort zone.  She knows when she has had enough.  Respect that, and know that if she trusts you, that is already half the battle won.  When she gains confidence, she is bold and resilient.  If she is pushed into doing something, she is scared and stubborn.  Let her be your guide, and she will push herself harder than you could imagine.

4. Speak her language

There are no shortcuts here, I can’t really give you a phrasebook in Pudding.  Communication will be a struggle until you figure out the idiosyncrasies of her language.  You’ll get to know her quirks.  She may reply ‘no’ if you ask if she is okay, and ‘yes’ if you ask if she is fine.  If she is struggling to process something verbally, try a different way.  Always respect her no.

5. Listen to your own language

What you say in the heat of the moment will echo in her heart.  I’m working right now on assuring her that her writing isn’t ‘ugly’ and that she isn’t ‘clumsy.’  Thoughtless expressions like this resonate with her.  She’ll repeat them to me, but worse than that, she’ll repeat them to herself for even longer.  Let your lasting testimony be words that build her up, rather than knock her down.

6. Give her time

I mean this both literally and figuratively.  Remember that she is taking in a lot of other information at the same time as your words, and these need to be decoded before she can respond.  Give her a few extra seconds to process a question or verbal command.  Better still, provide visual cues to assist her interpretation.  If she doesn’t seem to pick something up, try another approach until you get the right one.  You will.

7. Presume competence

Believe in her, and she’ll show you how right you are.  Do otherwise, and you’re both doomed to failure.

8. Help her to belong

She is an amazing, fascinating, beautiful, kind, brave, multi-faceted little girl.  She wants nothing more than to belong in her classroom.  Help other classmates to understand her value, and interact with her in a positive way.  Not just for Pudding’s sake, but for their own too.  Sooner or later, all of us will feel that we don’t belong.  Teach them that everybody does.

9. Embrace the special interests

Yes, you’re going to have to learn to love Hello Kitty.  Special interests can be a weapon or a tool, depending on your approach.  See Hello Kitty as a way of cutting through other distractions and helping her to focus.  You can count the Hello Kitties, write stories about them, paint pictures…the list goes on and on.

10. We’re here

We aren’t going to tell you how to teach, but we can tell you how to help her learn.  The most important thing is that the two of you develop your own relationship, and you learn from each other.  Trust me, I’m still learning from my girl, and I’m constantly amazed at all she has to teach us.

Happy learning!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 15, 2013 at 8:38 am

Worried

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I’m not worried.

Pudding is coming up to the last month of Kindergarten.  She has been supported, praised, held and loved.  And now it is time for her to move up to first grade. 

I’m not worried.

She has made friends, in her own way, and those kids have accepted her and liked her.  Perhaps some will stay in the same class with her.  Maybe she’ll make new friends.  I’m not worried.

Her current teacher is arranging for us to meet the next one.  She will prepare social stories and prep Pudding , and maybe even the new teacher, as best she can.  I wonder if she is worried.  I’m not.

Just as we’re looking at the next step with Pudding, our eyes are also a little further on the horizon.  It isn’t just next year we have to plan for, in the same school, but our next move.  Our next country.  Maybe even a whole new continent. 

And still, I’m not worried.

Because I know she can do it.  I’ve seen her, time and time again rise up to new challenges, and develop resilience, confidence, and the skills she needs to succeed.  I know now, I know, that with time, supports, and preparation, she is equal to anything.

I think I knew it even before we moved to Johannesburg- this was just testing our hypothesis.  Being prepared to run other experiments if we didn’t succeed the first time.  Knowing that there is always another way…we just had to find the best way, for her.  And we did.

And we will again.

I’m not worried. 

I’m grateful.

I’m experienced.

I’m prepared.

I’m ready.  Just like my girl.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm

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

Starting School

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Pudding has started at her new school.  You’re probably wondering how it is going.  I could have written that things were going well after the first day, but I didn’t.  Nor at the end of the first week (half-week, really).  Only now dare I actually say it.

Things are going well.  I daren’t jinx it.  I want it to keep going well.  I want that more than anything.

I want her to continue to have the same enthusiasm for school that she does right now.  Where she is mad at the weekend, because she just wants to go to school that much.

Her whole team has been pleasantly surprised with the ease of the transition.  Last week, she started going until 12.30, which means she is now dealing with leaving her homeroom and attending art and music classes.  All this she is taking in her stride.  Our girl is blossoming, just like we knew she would, if she was planted in the right soil.

Just in case you think we’ve swapped Pudding, she still proves herself to be just as she always was.  Her teacher has been kind enough to send home photographs so we can see for ourselves how she is doing in class.  One photograph was of all the class: children and teachers.  I asked Pudding to name everybody in the photo for me, and she dutifully obliged.  And when I asked who her favourite kid was, she responded with “Pudding.”  She is who she is, and we love her for it!

But don’t just take my word for it, this is what her teacher emailed to me today:

Hello (I want to add the word Kitty!)

 

Pudding* had such a wonderful day at school today.  I wanted to share her Journal writing with you.  On previous mornings she has drawn for me and been done…. But today she wrote more than most of the kids in the class.  Her phonemic knowledge is very good and I use her to help find letters when we are working on a whole class writing piece.   

I am also getting her to use computers more and she is very good at navigating her way through to programs that she likes.  Pudding has also found where I keep my ipad and enjoys some of the alphabet apps on it. 

I just want you to both know that Pudding has wormed her way into my heart and I am really enjoying learning with her and about her.

 

Best email ever.  She had me at the first line.  Seeing the picture almost had Spectrummy Daddy and myself in tears.  I’m going to save that for tomorrow.  It won’t be a Wordless Wednesday, because there is a whole sentence in it!

So there you go- this is almost a straight up, unqualified, things are going great kind of post.  Almost.  Because in less than two weeks we’ll be pulling her out of school for R&R, and she might really not want to miss school for that long.

But I’m not about to start complaining about a child who wants to go to school, nor a school that wants to have my child there!  I’m just going to enjoy Pudding starting school.  I’m the luckiest of all spectrummy mummies to get to do that.

 

*Nope, she doesn’t call her that, in case you were wondering.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm

The Next Chapter

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After our first trip to Pudding’s new school, we looked through the book her teacher had made, and talked about them a little.  We were going to return on Monday, so this time I learned from my mistakes.  I was more specific about what would happen.  Instead of going to see the new school, teachers, playground and friends, I told her we would be going back to play on the playground at the new school with the new friends, and her teachers would be there too.

I don’t think it was just the choice of words, but at least she knew what was expected of her this time.  While everything is still new, it wasn’t so overwhelming this time.  Instead of parking in the huge car park and walking through the rest of the campus, I parked around the back, so we only had to walk around the elementary part of the school.

Pudding showed none of her reticence this time.  She skipped up to her teacher when she saw her, and took her hand to accompany her to meet some of the children in the classroom.  Cubby, recovering from illness, had come along too, so he and I busied ourselves on the playground.

It was some time before they returned.  Pudding had been playing.  She’d immediately taken up with another little girl in pink, and told her that they matched!  She ran out with a few other children and they all piled on to the playground.

I caught her teacher’s eye, who smiled back.  After the other children left, Pudding moved on to drawing, then we went for a look around her new classroom.  Pudding discovered another place to draw, and in no time at all had made herself quite at home.  I wasn’t sure she was going to want to leave.

She’s going to be fine,” said her teacher, and I honestly think that she will.

I think we all will.  She belongs here, with teachers who see a child’s strengths as well as weaknesses.  And who know that calming a parent goes a long way to easing anxiety in children.  We’ll be coming again next week for a final familiarization session.  This time we’re both looking forward to it, and the start of the next chapter in Pudding’s education.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

May 24, 2012 at 11:26 am

First Impressions

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On Friday I took Pudding to her New School to meet her New Teachers and play with her New Friends.  Did you notice all the New in that sentence?  Pudding did.  She did pretty well, but she was the most anxious I’d seen her in a long time.

The new school is quite a distance away, so I sipped on a hot chocolate on the drive over.  Only when I got out did I realize the drink had been leaking on to my top the whole time.  I wasn’t going to make a great first impression.

When Pudding gets anxious, she tends to withdraw and disengage.  Some children on the spectrum (and some who aren’t) have other ways of expressing their anxiety.  It is obviously hard to see a child who becomes aggressive or tearful, but at least you can see that something is amiss.

I, of course, was feeling anxious too.  But seeing Pudding’s new teachers pick up on Pudding’s anxiety made me feel calm. If they can read her, I can relax, and focus on other things, like the amount of hot beverage I spilled on myself without noticing.

Pudding’s new teacher had very thoughtfully made her a new book with pictures of her new school, class, playground and teachers.  Pudding hung on to that thing like a life raft as a sea of new people, big and small, came to introduce themselves to her.  No, she didn’t want to play.  No, she wasn’t going to say ‘hi’.

And that was fine.  Pudding needs to be comfortable before she can be herself.  First impressions don’t matter much to her.  That can be a problem for strangers who don’t allow for anxiety.  Who makes judgements from isolated incidents that prove that she is antisocial and withdrawn.  It isn’t the whole story.  It isn’t even a whole chapter.  But it can be enough to make some people but the book down.

Back down to just two teachers and us, Pudding relaxed, and even spent some time alone with them.  We all agreed that bringing Pudding back another couple of times before the end of term would be beneficial.  While this might be the first impression, it wasn’t going to be the last.

And then the teachers mentioned how they’d found this blog.  So it wasn’t exactly first impressions any way, not if you could read about our lives for the last couple of years.  I finally got over the fact that my top was stained by the persistent thought that several of these people had probably just read my post about nipples!  (But artfully done, right?).

Pudding was willing to come back, and really that was the only thing that mattered.  My first impressions were of a welcoming, experienced staff, and a caring community- the kind that I’d be happy to return to.  Which is just as well, because we were back there today (more on that tomorrow).  With someone as beautifully complex as Pudding, you don’t so much judge the book by the cover, as find that you want to keep reading more and more as her story unfolds.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

May 21, 2012 at 5:02 pm