Just a little nuts

Just a little nuts
A blog about single parenting & autism

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Autism or Just Naughty?

When an autistic child is verbal and high functioning, it can be hard to tell the difference between what is the autism and what is just being bad. It's the talking that does it. When a child can talk then everyone expects more from them, and assumes their behavior is a result of choosing to be naughty, rather than anxiety/sensory overload, frustration intolerance, developmental delay, etc.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The dilemma: Do we really need an IEP?

IEP meeting Nov. 9. Meanwhile I'm wondering if we need one anymore. Little Squirrel is advanced academically and is getting the social skills practice for 15 minutes a day in the special ed room. I don't think she needs the "tracking" that an IEP does, and that seems like so much to ask of the teachers who already maxed out. I don't really care how many times she does this or that. I only care that she's able to remain mainstream. And she is. Not even any need of a para in sight. My long term goal is for her to go to a magnet school starting middle school, and I know some schools only take a quota of IEPs. It may be in our best interest to ditch it and go rogue! All Little Squirrel really needs can be handled with a 504 plan--such as how she eats in the special ed room to avoid the chaos of the cafeteria. And she eats with a small group of varied development lunch buddies so she still gets the social aspect. Though she does still need speech therapy, to continue how to use language correctly and efficiently. But with medicaid we could likely get that outside of school. I read so much about parents having to put on their butt-kicking boots for IEP meetings. Little Squirrel doesn't happen to attend a lazy school, so I don't think that's necessary. Unless they have some good reason we need to keep the IEP, I think we might call it quits.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"Just" is a "girl noise"

For months I've been wondering what in the world a "girl noise" is, as I am often accused of making Little Squirrel make "a girl noise," in moments of her (or our) anger or frustration. There is usually some mystery phrase like this that circulates our daily life. The last one was "don't say that to both kids," which would be yelled in anger, and it took me and others in our life a long time to determine the provocation. Turns out "don't say that to both kids!" was because she didn't like it when more than one person was talking at once, and especially not when the voices were saying similar things, such as in giving her praise, or instruction, or making an observation, at the same time. The greatest culprit of this was Grandma, since the phrase came to include, "don't say that to both kids like Grandma!" This make sense since Grandma is the most likely person we know to be constantly talking.

And now after hearing about this mysterious "girl noise" for so long I have finally been given a clue: apparently, the word "just" is a girl noise. I'm still not sure why, but at least that narrows it down.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Rewards a double edged sword

While Little Squirrel responds well to a reward system, the school is learning that it can backfire when she becomes obsessed with earning the reward, and hysterical about not getting the reward.

At one of her preschools last year they used a system of "green, yellow, red" - a visual stop light made out of pie tins with student's names clipped on the edges with clothes pins. Bad behavior resulted in having your clothespin moved to yellow as a warning and then to red if continued. Being on red meant you lost 15 minutes of free play.

Little Squirrel HATED being on red and even the thought of it. She was only on red one time and that was enough. It was enough of a reinforcement to keep her line throughout the year without raising her anxiety too much.

At her kindergarten this year, she is at a school that uses a system of tickets for "getting caught being good." A student gets a ticket (like a fair ticket) for doing something "responsible, safe or respectful" and the ticket goes into a bucket and names are drawn at the end of the day. The drawn names receive a small prize.

This system seems all fine and good, but for Little Squirrel it throws in an extra level of anxiety over "NOT getting something" or "losing" or "being left out." She talks of the tickets often at home and I have noticed the reward system is the basis for some meltdowns at school.

A recent incident involved Little Squirrel grabbing a book from another student, which I believe she did on impulse because she was in one of "those moods," and the book ripped, which led to a massive meltdown.

The teacher sat down with her and drew a story about what happened and sent it home in her backpack.

I talked with Little Squirrel about it and based on her responses was able to determine the meltdown wasn't over the book being ripped, but anxiety at the realization she was in trouble and being in trouble meant a time out and WORSE: no ticket for the day. That seemed pretty obvious to me.

Her teacher had a surprising response to my email, assuring me there was no time out involved and that the tickets weren't involved either. In the teacher's mind, since a time out or withholding of ticket did not materialize, that could not be what Little Squirrel was freaking out about. But in Little Squirrel's mind, nothing had to materialize--the deep anxiety and fear connections were enough. People with an autism disorder can often connect anxiety or fear to objects or events in indirect ways.

I was a little disappointed the teacher didn't seem to understand this because she is a veteran kindergarten teacher (she's like a drill sergeant, lion tamer, orchestra conductor combined), but the woman does an excellent job with a huge class of 5 year olds, I would never criticize her. I just have to remember the quirks of the autism spectrum aren't as obvious to everyone, and I can't expect anyone but me to understand how autism looks on Little Squirrel.

I'm reading a great book about anxiety in autism, called "Managing Anxiety in People with Autism" by Anne M. Chalfant,, Psy.D. Little Squirrel is like a case study for this book. A post about this book to come later.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Introduction to The Learning Support Room

The Learning Support room is modern lingo for "special ed." It's not the special ed of decades past, however. Little Squirrel doesn't have any cognitive impairments when it comes to reading, writing, math, etc. In fact she's advanced, if not on the edge of gifted. What special ed provides these days came as quite a surprise to me, in a good way, because it's exactly what Little Squirrel needs.

For 15 minutes each day Little Squirrel goes to the Learning Support room to practice classroom etiquette, responding appropriately to teacher signals, sitting beside someone without touching or bothering them, etc. This is a vital component of the day. Without these skills, a kid like Little Squirrel with exceptional abilities would never be able to advance academically. Special Ed has come a long way. Yay, for special ed!