• Attendance

    March 2012
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  • The “Class”

    Avery, Naim, Aaron

  • Subjects

  • Portfolio

Soccer

Got this off the website. Spring Break Camp. Thank Goodness for Naim's hair, otherwise you'd never find him.

Naim did a soccer camp out of Hillsboro Soccer Club from March 27th to the 30th. We had tried to organize this last year, but HSC was so disorganized that they lost our registration and we didn’t know that they needed a bunch of equipment until the last minute and so it didn’t work out. This time, we knew what was ahead.  I got him shin guards and a ball, but did not get him shoes yet.

It was so unbelievably rainy and cold and I had the flu. The idea was that we would walk up there and Aaron, Avery and I would hang out at the park and stuff. But I was too sick and it was too cold and wet. So I ended up going back and forth, walking about 4 miles a day, which fucking about killed me with the flu when every step felt dizzy. I wanted to be able to watch him more than I did, but I barely saw any of it. It was just a victory each day to get him there and back. I have no pictures.

But Naim seemed to like it a lot and do ok. He complained about not having the shoes, and he complained about kids being hard to talk to and about losing their game on the last day. But he also said that he really, really likes soccer. He wants to do more. I think that one more summer camp to help get him caught up, and then a team in the fall. With the team, I think it will be easier for him to get to know kids. It is 99% public school kids, who are always more aggressive…but he will have to learn to deal with that. Unless suddenly there is a village home team.

Aaron likes to kick the ball around but absolutely doesn’t want to do soccer. Avery very, very much does want to do soccer. He so wanted to go out with the other kids. He does well kicking the ball around. I was constantly grabbing him because he has no reservations about joining the 12 year old’s game.

HSC people said they can help me with shoes and equipment because they have an equipment exchange, and that we could sign up as if we went to Orenco School, to keep practices there.

Downtown Sunday 7: Riverwalk

Avery playing in his classroom at church with big kids when I brought them early for choir but there was not any choir that day.

I got all nostalgic seeing this castle, which I think might still be in my parent’s basement.

Church was a teacher vacation day so kids did not have choir. Then they went to see their teacher anyway (Andy) put on a puppet show called Hep Cats and [something] Dogs. They also played out in the courtyard labyrinth. After, we walked down by the river and they chased pigeons and we saw the Portland Spirit riverboat dock. We also found the Maritime Museum, so they want to go to that sometime.

On the way back, we were up close to Burnside and Aaron accidentally tipped this shallow box that this homeless guy had his busk money in. I didn’t see it, or it was sort of in my periphery awareness and I didn’t know exactly what happened. But the guy screamed at Aaron for not apologizing. Aaron froze up and I know nothing useful was going to come out of him. So I went back to the guy and apologized and offered to help him pick up his money. He didn’t want me to do that. So I gave him a couple of bucks and we moved on. Then we had a discussion about street smarts and how to be polite yet have boundaries when talking to people on the streets. Always look them in the eye, always be extremely respectful but very straight forward and direct with what you are willing to do and not do. Be friendly at first, but if things start to feel weird then to move on, etc. I don’t think Aaron did it on purpose, but we talked about how these guys don’t have very much and are very protective of what they have. So even though it looks like an old box to you, it may be very important to them and you have to respect that. I think it went ok. But I need to get Aaron out of freezing up when stuff like this happens. You can’t do that. You have to project confidence.

The week before, we stopped at a coffee shop in Goose Hollow because we were scouting out a house around the corner. A client of Nik’s owns both houses side by side, and wants to rent out one house…to us…really badly…for not very much rent (when looking at location.) The location is fantastically great. People like us could never on our own afford to live that close to downtown. The transit and walkability options are mind-boggling. Ten minutes from Nik’s work, minutes from church, NWCT, Zoo, OMSI, children’s museum and a million other things. A block from the max. And it is a HOUSE! With a yard! Not a tiny apartment in a tower like most downtown housing. They want to rent to a dependable family who is going to pay the rent with little fuss and who will stay a long time. She has been working on Nik for weeks. She has been out of town for the last couple weeks (which is why we went to spy on it). But I think next week we are going to see the inside.

The downsides of course are that it is a smaller house than this one (albeit does have a basement.) And it is a very old house (1890’s) which makes me a bit nervous. Right now, there is a vacant block across the street, but who knows what high rise will happen there. But there is no park or playground nearby (but could take a bus or max to Washington park.) Also don’t know about things like dishwasher, washer/dryer, other modern conveniences. This is an older couple, so the other thing to consider is what happens when they die? We get the boot and then we are back to square one with the whole rental/buy thing and no house for back up. It is also not accessible for Dwight. So, I don’t know. But for Nik it is like going home to Roncesville. But I said I would go look at it so we will see.

This is an older picture of it, before some work being done on it had finished. It's very cute, and very old and tiny.....

Super-Mega Catch-Up Post

Nik left for work and I lost my organizational mojo. I am just starting to get it back and get more in control of day to day schedules. But got caught off guard on having time to blog homeschooling stuff. I was going to go back and fill in, but it is getting too hard now, so I will go over the highlights:

Fieldtrips:

  1. Aaron and Naim went to Rice Museum of Rocks and Minerals with Nik, actually via cab…and had a good time. They even got extra time to dig into the rock pit.  Pictures tell all. See below.
  2. We went to Great Wolf Lodge again, via a kick ass rate through the Xtian homeschooling group. It was sort of Nik’s last hurrah with us before he started full-time. We stayed in a regular room this time and things went much easier because we knew what we were doing and how to cut some expenses. I finally went down the watersides and can’t wait to when I can dump my kids and just go there and waterside the whole time. THEY NEED TO LEARN TO SWIM!!!! GAH! We also played Magic Quest, which is a sort of scavenger hunt game. It was fun. It makes you run all over the whole place, though. Up and down a thousand stairs. Naim went nuts for it.
  3. Naim and I went to OMSI alone. Aaron got his bionicle (which happened to be a transformer which was a major crisis but he got over it) from his teacher in measure for treasure. So Naim wanted to make a deal, too. He wanted a solo field trip if he got no bad reports from teachers. At OMSI, we went to “Flying Monsters” about prehistoric birds, went to a LEGO artist gallery, spent lots of time in science playground and a bit of time in Turbine Hall, and went on that rocket simulator thing. It was fun to go with just him alone. And easy. We need to do stuff apart more often, but hard with no childcare. We were able to do this because of a furlough day.
  4. Aaron and Naim went to the Mall with D. Not really a field trip perse, but at least they got him out of the house. The big high light was the LEGO store.
Picture dump:

Village Home

  • The winter quarter is over and we are in Spring Break. we missed some days in the last couple of weeks, which made me feel bad. But I was in big trouble for it so have promised to try harder.
  • Taking Avery is a pain. I have been going to 24 hour fitness and putting him in the playroom there. That is ok, but I end up walking about 4 or more miles when I do that. That is ok, too, but not in bad weather. Avery starts whimpering if he is out too long, it is very sad. So I have missed some days when the weather has been awful.
  • But kids have done well. Aaron got his thing for Measure for Treasure. No bad reports all around. And one day it was rainy out so Avery and I stayed there. I hung out with Avery in Little Villagers, but then left when they started circle time because he is no longer enrolled. We saw that the big kids were in their center time in Discoverers, so we went in and hung out there. Avery, with my assistance, pretty much fit right in. He played in rice and with play doh. We read books. But the cool think was seeing Naim be so social with the other kids. He acts like he can’t make friends, but then you can tell he is totally comfortable there and he gets along well with kids. I think he just gets overshadowed by Aaron sometimes. When we went to OMSI together, we must have talked to 6 different families all day long. He just went right up to these kids and started talking.
  • They LOOOOOOVE Village Home. Whenever I suggest not doing it, they reject it. They like that they get to choose their own classes, they like that they get to go as little or as much as they want. They like the kids and teachers. I’m glad I did not have to take it away from them with a move to BC.

Homeschool Work:

  • This is where I am haziest as to what we’ve done in the last month. At least specifically and number of days. So here is a summary:
  • We have finished Chapter 3 in math, which was addition facts to 10. On the test, Aaron missed one on the chapter test and none on the cumulative test. Naim got 100% on both tests. They are getting how to take tests a bit better than at first.
  • We finished Grizzly Bear Rock and A Queen Makes a Scene in the Usborne books.
  • In the Sylvan books, they are almost finished with their current books. Naim has done up to Yy and just has Zz and a review. Aaron has maybe 3 or 4 lessons in his. Aaron also continues through the first Spelling box. When he is done with it, in a couple of weeks, I will start Naim on it and see how he does.
  • I’m at a loss as to where they are in HOP right now. books are in their room and they are sleeping, so can’t go check. But they have both done a few lessons there.
  • Word Time we are up to the second to last chapter (Week 43 out of 48 weeks.) I am looking forward to getting that done. I’m now having Naim read the sentences as well. At first just Aaron was able to read them.
  • Handwriting, we are up to, oh…done with the “Magic C” letters and have the last group of upper case to do before starting on lower case. That will coincide nicely with going to the book after word time “Sentence School” where they will have to write sentences using correct capitalization.
  • We have done two units in “Little Passports.” One was on Brazil and the other on Japan. They like those.
  • We have done one unit (have a bit more to go) on Magic Schoolbus Science. We are working on magnetism.
  • I’ve kind of unofficially turned my old iPad to them. They have watched a lot of BrainPop.
  • As I get more in control of house stuff and routines, we are working more on getting them doing dishes and laundry and stuff.

Avery

  • The socializations for EHS have been a bit of a disaster. Nik went once, and that was fine. But then a woman at VH was supposed to come get the kids so I could go the next time. The first time, she was over a half hour late, and I had to send the head start bus away. The second time, she canceled at the last minute. Obviously that is not working out. So I’ve asked Danielle if they could pick me up and drop me off at VH.  Then I would just have to get a mom to be back up for them in case I am late, which would just mean sitting with them in the playroom for a few minutes, so that might be easier to get than a ride. (VH kids are not allowed to be unsupervised if they are not in class or between classes.) She is checking, so I don’t know if we are going to be able to keep doing that.
  • Home visits have been fine, but I wish they were shorter. The first half hour to 45 minutes, she works with Avery, then he starts flaking out and we spend the rest of the time gossiping about social service people and orgs we know. Which is kind of fun, but it is time consuming and keeps me from other things.
  • EI Jeanne came once and was blown away by Avery’s progress. She hasn’t seen him since early January. He was a show-off. I think we have made up regarding  private speech pathology. She is comfortable with her place, now.
  • I’m going to cross post from my other blog about his progress below.

Church

  • Just a couple of things. Nik talked to the RE director and Avery is going to stay in the nursery for the rest of the year and start Jr. Preschool next year. Weirdly, Nik met his teacher (for next year) at OCB, she works there.
  • A and N have started to go to choir by themselves. Which I guess means that A is participating now. Then they walk by themselves to their class, which is literally 40 feet away, two doors down. All these parents wait outside choir to walk their kids down and it makes you late for service. Which for us, is a big rigamarole because I have to get FM system and we attract so much attention with the dog. Someone offered to walk my kids down for us, and I was all, “thanks, but they can do it.” They said their own kid had trouble switching classes in middle school. It is SUCH a BIG DEAL when they go to middle school and have to switch classes. And I was like, my kids have been doing it since they were 5 at VH. But I didn’t say that.
  • After getting in trouble for having conniption fits in class, now Aaron is in LOVE with his teacher, and I think vice versa. Aaron turned on the charm and now they all love each other and high five and all that. The teacher, a guy who I peg as gay, but don’t hold me to it, has grown on me a lot over the last few weeks. They REALLY like church and really want to go each week now. What a change.

XPost: Avery Progress

So, last I think I did a major Avery post was here, when I went off the deep end of despair diagnosing him as having autism. So much has happened since then. Looking back, I do understand where I was coming from and why I was so concerned. But thankfully, with a lot of trial and error and work, I no longer think it is likely that he has autism. Language delay? Yes. Quirkiness? Definitely. Autism? If he does at all, it is more on the higher end of the spectrum.

At the time, some 9 months ago. Avery was 18 months old and was really still acting like a 9 month old. Well, he wasn’t really acting like anything at all. He was a baby dud. He whined continuously. He always seemed dazed and unaware of his surroundings. He didn’t seem to understand anything you said. He did not say a single word or use a single gesture. When he played, he went off by himself and would do the same thing over and over again. He was obsessed with steering wheels and circles and would steer a toy steering wheel non-stop for hours if you let him. He would pace, back and forth between two places continuously until you made him stop.  He rarely would come to you to initiate play, and often ignored you when you tried to play with him. He did not voluntarily give or receive hugs and affection. He was a whiney bore. He was a dud.

Thank God this kid likes to eat. Food has been a major language motivator.

We have come a LONG WAY since then. Here is what we have done:

  • First, Nik was speaking to him in Swedish in an attempt to make him bi-lingual. He was spoken to in Swedish and English for his entire first year. Although I think this is fine and helpful for most kids, in Avery’s case, we stopped with Swedish altogether and I started signing to him as well as using English.
  • I started reading up on Autism, which made me nuts because there was so much WOO out there about it and some autism people are CRAZEE. But one thing that was consistently mentioned as something that MIGHT help kids with autism symptoms was dietary changes like removing dairy and gluten. I decided to try to remove diary first (as per book recommendation as it is the most common food irritant). This discovery that he is lactose intolerant, (which we did by doing basically test-retest validity and reliability studies because I am a research/data geek) is the MOST fundamental thing that has affected his change in behavior. After dairy, I did try removing gluten, but that did not seem to have an affect, and also experimented with peanuts, etc. But it was removing dairy that changed things in the most dramatic way. Again. I don’t think removing dairy or gluten cures autism…I think a lot of kids are misdiagnosed as having autism when they really have dietary challenges. Since it doesn’t HURT to experiment with dietary changes and it is relatively easy, I don’t understand why doctors are so resistant to suggesting this. Especially when, as we know, most of the world is lactose intolerant. Most Europeans are not, however, there is a high incidence in Finland. Guess where my baby’s paternal gene pool derives from? Gotland, Sweden…an Island in the Baltic Sea right off Finland. So, it would have been nice to have a medical person tell me this instead of having to read 20 books on it myself.
  • Taking out dairy made my dud baby into a happy-go-lucky, if not still intense and stubborn baby. He laughed more, he made eye contact, he became more affectionate, he played more like a normal baby plays, he engaged with people more, he became inquisitive and curious about his world. Still, to this day, if he has a significant amount of dairy, he will whine around on the floor for the next three to four hours and be a dud. Then, after his GI system finishes its revolt, he becomes happy Avery again.
  • But still, by the point of the end of all that experimentation, Avery was maybe 20 months old and had missed out on 20 months of learning because he was basically sick all the time. We had a lot to make up for, and the behavior problems of a kid whose motor skills are so much higher than his language and cognitive skills were starting to set in. I put him in Early Intervention services, which, although they gave me a bunch of assessments and confirmed the issues, were fairly useless. Mostly because they only gave him 6 clock hours of services for the school year due to budget shortfalls. I also put him in Early Head Start. This was mostly so he could get one on one catch up time from other people than me.
  • Since he still didn’t understand us and had no understanding or interest in books and pictures, I started an object language system for him. This included an object schedule box, where each part of the routine of the day had an object to represent it. Breakfast was a spoon, playtime was a block, diaper changing was a diaper, etc. We also asked him questions and gave him choices using objects. Do you want a drink (cup) or a snack (small bowl). You have to understand that at this point, he would not even point or grab at anything, nor many times not even look at the thing he wanted. This was hard for Nik (and me, too) because we had to start with the most subtle visual cues that would indicate communication. Sometimes as parents, we missed these due to our own vision issues. This is mostly why we brought in EHS and the big kids helped as well.
  • I trained Nik a whole lot in how to work with him. I taught him signs, I taught him how to simplify his language to using one consistent word over and over again, to keep a regular schedule and routine so Avery could anticipate things, to look for body language and small head movements to get a response, to get right in his face to talk to him and not stand over him or talk from across the room. I put Nik in SPED boot camp. Nik was really his primary caregiver after I stopped breastfeeding, so it was important that we were doing things consistently and that he was doing the same quality of stuff that I was.
  • I put all of his toys up on a shelf and made him point to them. To get him to point to what he wanted was a major breakthrough, because it was the first sign of any expressive communication on his part. I would also put his snacks and drinks up on a shelf (but visible to him when I picked him up) and made him point to them to get them. This really pissed him off at first, but it worked and he eventually learned to point. That eventually turned in to his first expressive word “Here Go!” which meant both “here you go!” and “I want that.” (“here go!” Here is my hand, put that item in it already!)
  • Once we had that, we started using food as incentive. (Alfie Kohn would be so scandalized.) I would literally give him one grape at a time at lunch and make him ask for each one in some manner, either by pointing or signing or herego-ing.
  • It took us 8 months, but we did get him into private speech language therapy. Insurance didn’t want to pay for it because they thought EI should provide it. I had to basically state that EI was not meeting his needs, which made me really popular with EI. But I think they understood on a personal level, just made it difficult for them on a professional level.  With Speech therapy, we started doing all kinds of mouth things to get him to realize that mouths can talk as well as eat. We started shaping his babbles into words like Buh for bubbles, and Wuh for walk. We have had a bit of success with this.

At Head Start.

And that is where we are right now. Taking him off dairy changed his whole demeanor and got rid of some of the weird play patterns like pacing back and forth or being obsessed with steering wheels. We kind of had to teach him how to play. Aaron and Naim actually helped a lot with this by modeling and showing by example how to “cover a room” when going to a new play area and how to pretend play and things like that. Since he had no words or context for, say, dishes, he did not know how to play kitchen. A and N really would show him ways to play much better than we could.

He is starting to get interested in other kids. I mean, more than just thinking they are more toys for him to play with.

But the on-ramp learning curve of language has been slow and steady. He still has a ways to go here, but here is where we are now:

  • He understands A LOT. His receptive communication has improved from basically understanding nothing, to having a good understanding of many 2 year-old things. You can tell him now to throw something in the trash can. He understands when you say you are going to change diapers or have lunch. We really no longer have to use the object schedule calendar. He understands simple verbal sentences that are routine. He still cannot identify a picture and doesn’t really understand the concept of pictures, (although I think it is emerging, he is starting to get more interested in books.) This has been his biggest improvement.
  • He can sign “more” consistently. He also will sometimes sign “cracker” or will copy signs that you sign to him. He has also just started signing “go.” More is used mostly with food, and sometimes with something he wants like a toy, but working on transferring words to more contexts. Oh! and he can sign CAR, and WASH HANDS, which is the cutest thing evan!
  • Verbally, he says the following: HERE GO, BYE BYE, GO, NO (which is about three syllables long…no-OO-o),WA (for walk), BU (for bubbles), he calls me GIGA for my name, because Naim calls me my name instead of mom half the time. Avery, I think knows who mama is, but he doesn’t call me mama. He doesn’t call Nik or anyone else anything either. Calling me Giga is kind of a break through because it is the first time he has named a person. It is also kind of funny because a little kid I used to take care of years ago used to call me Giga, and I haven’t heard that for awhile. He will also say DAH for dog and this is usually what he calls Sully. He has also said CA for cat. On the spot, he will sometimes imitate a lot of words that you say right after you say them, but they don’t necessarily carry over yet to spontaneous communication.
  • He has started to help you get him dressed by say, holding up a foot when you ask him to for socks. He can point to his nose when you ask him to, but does not know other body parts yet.
  • You can actually start to have a bit of a “conversation” with him. The other day we were in the kid’s play room at school and I asked him if he wanted to take a walk. He nodded. I told him to put his toy vacuum cleaner away, and he immediately did. Then I told him we were going to get his coat, and he ran over to his coat. Then I asked him if he wanted to walk or ride the stroller, and he said “Wa.” This is something we could not do even two months ago.
  • Mostly he is just so much more aware of what is going on around him and aware of how language can give him control. For a long time, he was just such a chunk of baby that we just drug everywhere with us and tried to interact with but got nothing. He was dead weight (well, squirmy dead weight.) He is now an integral part of what is going on around him.

With Nik at big kids school. Having to take him to big kids school and having him be welcomed in classrooms even when he is so young has helped him. Yeah, for multi-age learning!

So, obviously, if you know two-year-olds and their hundreds of words vocabulary you can see that he still has a ways to go. But I think we are on the verge. The most important thing he gets now is that things have names and language has meaning and is useful. He did not understand that for a long time. Since Nik has been at work and I have been home with him day in and day out (and I don’t mean that in an annoyed I -CAN’T-TAKE-ONE-MORE-SECOND-OF-THIS-KID at ALL way. ahem…) he has seemed to be on a surge of language acquisition. I do not think that is because Nik was bad at working with him, though it was harder for him to do. (lest you think this is a blind thing, Nik was the primary parent of his daughter and she had no language delays. This is an AVERY thing.) I think it is just because I am the one who he communicates with the best and now I am spending inordinate amounts of time with him (and, you know, I’m AWESOME!)

My prediction is that he will continue to improve slowly or in spurts for the next few years, but by say, age five or six, he will have caught up and we will look back on this and say, “remember when we used to FREAK OUT because we thought Avery had autism? Now he talks NONSTOP!”

He is our funny little Avery and no matter how he would have developed, he would have been loved and been ok.  And who knows yet exactly how he actually will end up developing. But this improvement we are seeing now and the personality he is developing after the elimination of dairy is such a freakin’ relief. Slow and steady, slow and steady we go…