Wednesday, July 22, 2015

She Knows.

We haven't talked about it openly yet, but she knows.

Amelia knows that her brother is a little bit different.

I was very much looking forward to summer break with the kids this year. Being six now, they are more mature and communicative and interested in the world around them. Better able to understand things and follow directions. And I was right; this has been the easiest and most entertaining summer break I've had since having children.

It's also been the hardest, emotionally-speaking.

Anderson's quirks and anxieties have been at the forefront this summer. He has developed new interests and worries and it has been sort of trying for both Amelia and me.  Part of me feels guilty about saying that; another part of me says that I'm just human and that I'm just being honest.

One of Anderson's newest fascinations is with roads, specifically with getting from one place to another. I knew he was sort of navigationally gifted from a very young age; before he could really talk in complete sentences, he knew every time we got off of New Circle road onto Nicholasville Road and he would say "No dentist! No dentist!"  When we would pass Harrodsburg Road, he would say "Bye-bye, doctor!"  He has just always kind of known where he is in relation to other things, which is a great skill. I truly believe he will never get lost.  However, now he is curious about street names, and he enjoys traveling on certain roads more than others.  This means that, if I tell them we are going to the store, he is going to ask me a series of questions about the route that we will take (example: "Hey mom! Are we going to get on New Circle Road? Are we taking Harrodsburg Road? Are we going north or south? Will we go downtown? Are we downtown yet?" and on and on....).  Then, as we are on our way, he will continue to ask questions about roadways. I have to be honest; there are only a certain number of roadway questions I can tolerate before starting to feel impatient.  I admit to saying more than once, "I'm not answering any more questions about that.." and refusing to talk about it anymore, despite the barrage of interrogatives coming from the back seat. However, I didn't realize that Amelia was also getting irritated until one day, she just came out with "ANDERSON! STOP ASKING QUESTIONS!"  I was both amused and a little bit alarmed because I just assumed she wasn't really paying attention. The constant and habitual need for him to ask questions wasn't lost on her and she, like myself, wanted a moment of quiet.

This summer, we have also been taking care of my friend's cats while she travels on her honeymoon.  Part of our routine is going to her condo in the mornings and evenings to feed the cats, take care of the litter box, etc.  Anderson, while overcoming his fear of elevators, is still skittish. He seems to have developed a fear that someone is going to get stuck in the elevator doorway, or that the elevator won't open.  Therefore, he HAS to get to the elevator door first, has to "guide" (aka push) Amelia and I onto the elevator to ensure we don't get trapped, and has to ask a specific series of questions as we ride--"Are the doors going to open? What does Diesel Ducy call it when the elevator does this (moves his hands up and down quickly; the answer is 'leveling')"  These are non-negotiables; he HAS to get to the doors first, "guides" us onto the elevator, and asks these questions EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  It doesn't fail.

In the last week, Amelia has become irritated with the routine.  She likes to run in the parking garage, and Anderson's need to control the situation means that he often grabs at her because he doesn't want her to get ahead of him, lest she arrive at the elevator doors before him.  She has pouted, pulled away from him, and yelled at him, but those things don't matter to Anderson.  Finally, tired of the battle, I made a new rule that we discuss every day as we park.  Amelia is allowed to run, but must stop at the door to the building.  Anderson allowed this, but is still clearly nervous. She enjoyed this for a few days, but I could tell she recognized that Anderson was still nervous.  Yesterday, as we were arriving for cat duty, without any prompting from me, she looked at Anderson and said, "I won't run today. Let's hold hands."  Then, I swear to God, the girl looked at me and smiled. I complimented her kindness profusely, and Anderson thanked her and said, "Thanks, Amelia.  When you run it makes me feel nervous." That moment? That was one I'll never forget.  Amelia recognized her brother's needs, and by showing him that kindness, he was able to better verbalize WHY he felt anxious.  It was beautiful.

She went on to assume my reassurance duties in the elevator, answering his questions about whether the elevator doors will open ("They always open, Anderson") and the leveling.  And as we walked back to the elevator doors, she automatically reached for his hand.

I know that there is going to come a time when she will ask questions about what is unspoken. She'll want to know why Anderson does the things he does, and I just pray that I have the knowledge and ability to answer her in the best possible way.  But she already knows. She knows, and she gets frustrated just like everyone else, but most importantly?  She is learning kindness, acceptance, and how to be empathetic to others' needs.  And for that, I am grateful.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Something To Say

Long time, no blog. Yeah, yeah. I know. I'm working on it.

I'll gladly give a little update on everything going on around here, but it has to wait. I have something to say here, and oddly enough, it's about...well...having something to say.

Specifically, it's about autism. And the indisputable fact that it IS truly a spectrum disorder.  Think about what that means for a minute--think about the color wheel. Another "spectrum", if you will.  How many distinct colors are there? Practically an infinite number there, many similar, but with slightly different tints, nuances.  Autism is the same--and more specifically, people on the spectrum are the same.  Just like ALL humans in fact, no two spectrum individuals are the same.  That means that we walk around on this earth, surrounded by people with autism, and sometimes we can spot them clearly because they "fit" the stereotype, and sometimes we can't because the characteristics that put them on the spectrum aren't as noticeable. And yet...just because these people don't stand out--because you can't see anything that you characterize as "autistic behavior" as you pass them on the street--doesn't make them any less autistic or less present on the spectrum.

Anderson is one of those people who doesn't always present as being a kid on the spectrum.  If you were to pass us on the street, chances are you might see a typical mother/child interaction.  He might ask what seems like a typical question, I may answer. He doesn't flap his hands; he makes eye contact. He doesn't run, or vocalize. He doesn't often melt down and he generally follows directions without too many requests. He can appear to be neurotypical.

What you may not see if you pass us on the street is what characterizes the vast majority of our interactions. Repetitive speech. Echolalia. Anderson asking the same questions over, and over, and over. Anderson asking questions that he wants you to answer in a very specific way, and Anderson asking you that same question over and over UNTIL you respond the way he needs. Anderson talking using all of the words that he has heard and knows but not having a clue about their definitions and context, meaning that what he says can be complete and utter jibberish. No, the words aren't "jargon", meaning not made-up words, but if you listen to his sentences, they aren't right! There's often no subject/verb agreement.

Does the fact that he can walk down the street, engage in appropriate conversation, and follow directions for the amount of time it takes to pass you, the average passerby, make him any less autistic? NO. Does that mean that our lives are easier than those of people with "classical autism"? Probably in some ways, yes. I do believe that.  But does that mean that our lives are a piece of cake? Absolutely not. To those people who believe that it is, I invite you to live with us for 24 hours. Check out the accommodations that we make to function. Try interpreting what he's really asking of you when the words come out all wrong. And God forbid he get upset about something. Figuring out what upset him will be, let's just say, a challenge.

I'm not complaining here. I absolutely love him--just as he is--with all of my heart. Many of the things that make him autistic are the things that I love most about him. His quirks are endearing and part of what makes him Anderson.  Yes, it can be difficult, almost impossible on the worst days, and we DO have bad days. But I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Anderson's autism has made me a more understanding parent and a better educator. I'm not complaining.

What I AM doing is begging you to please...PLEASE stop saying that you question whether he's on the spectrum. Please stop telling me things like "all boys have a hard time communicating", or "he's just a little quirky", or "well if that makes him autistic then my kid is on the spectrum, too". Just stop. Go and read the DSM-V.  Being diagnosed as autistic isn't easy and they don't throw the label around willy-nilly, despite what some people may believe. The disorder is a spectrum but the criteria are distinct. Trust me on this. Just because Anderson has words--and trust me when I say he has a lot of them and he isn't afraid to use them--doesn't mean he's any less autistic.

It is hurtful to me, as his mother, to hear you tell me that you doubt his diagnosis. It makes me feel that you think I have unfairly had a label placed on him, a label that you obviously feel is negative (which is a separate issue for another time).  It makes me feel that you're minimizing his challenges, that you believe I'm over-exaggerating the struggles that we have both at home and with him at school. It makes me feel like you believe that the entire context of my family's life is wrong.

I know I joke a lot about Anderson. He's a seriously funny kid with an amazing sense of humor.  Our family tends to deal with stressful situations with humor--you either laugh or cry, and we most often choose laughter as our way to deal with unpleasantries.  But just because we laugh doesn't mean that it isn't hard, or that we don't have strong emotions about all that he has to go through, both now and in the future.

Please. Before you tell me that "he doesn't look like he's autistic", or that your "kid must be autistic, too, if Anderson is", please stop and think. If you have questions about what makes Anderson a spectrum kid, by all means, ask! I'm happy to share! But please, don't say it. Just don't.

Friday, May 22, 2015

End of the School Year Update

It has been...well, it's just been too long.  No excuse other than being busy and just feeling hesitant to write, for some reason. But here we are, at the end of my work year and the kids' school year, so it's definitely time for an update.

The kids are finishing Kindergarten like champs.  In terms of academics, they're both pretty much where they need to be, maybe even a bit ahead in some areas. Of course, looking at Anderson's district test scores, you'd never know it, but taking a multiple choice test on a computer is probably never going to be his thing. He's more of a "show what you know verbally" kind of kid.  Anyway, they can fluently read and write their "essential 25 sight words", they can write sentences to express their thoughts, they have a solid knowledge of numbers through 10.  Here's a little sample of Anderson's writing:
Trust me. That's impressive.We added some writing resource minutes to his IEP (time in a special ed room to work on writing, versus just doing writing in his regular classroom) and it seems to have made all the difference.

More importantly, the kids have come a long way socially this year. Amelia has made friends in her class, which is kind of a first for her. She often tells me that so-and-so is her BFF and that BFF means best friends forever, which is comical. Her class this year had many special needs students, so she's learned a lot about having empathy for others and not judging children as being "bad" just by their actions, which is wonderful to see. She works hard and has become more vocal, which has always been an issue for her. She has developed very good manners, always being sure to say please and thank you, especially when she is given a compliment. She's working on her sense of self-confidence, and we're doing all we can to encourage that at home.

Anderson has come a long way socially as well. With him, it's less about playing with and getting along with others--that's just not on his agenda at this point.  However, his ability to express himself clearly has just really taken off.  I have the Time Hop app on my phone, and it's so interesting to read about big moments with him, where he was able to express himself, or say something "normal". Those things are common now, which is of course fantastic, but I like the reminder of where we were, and how far we've come. It helps me to take nothing for granted.

As for me, I'm still just chugging along. I'm ready for a break from work, to spend more time with the kids. I'm still on the workout train, swimming 2-3 times a week, doing a few classes each week, and trying to squeeze in some running.  I timed my 400m swim tonight and it was about 50 seconds faster than the last time I timed myself, which is good. Running is still...challenging. I'm thinking I'm not spending enough time on it, but I'm also not ready to give up my classes because I really, really enjoy them. It's not quite triathlon crunch time yet, so I'm going to keep up what I'm doing for a bit longer.

Next week marks the end of the year and we are all looking forward to a summer of outdoor fun, which will hopefully include many days at the pool. I'm feeling as though this could be our best summer yet--they're at a really fun age. Remind me that I said that in about 6-8 weeks when I'm begging for the return of school.

That's about it! Now that things are slowing down, I hope to spend more time writing. I've got some pretty good stories just begging to be shared...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Waiting Room

When I was 12 years old, my mother died of breast cancer.

It was the 80s, treatment wasn't as immediate or thorough as it is today.  She got sick, then she got better, then she got very sick and died.  I was a mama's girl, and it was exactly as difficult and tragic as it sounds.

Since that time, we've learned so much about cancer in general and specifically breast cancer. We know that when it is diagnosed early and treated aggressively, it is very curable. We know that there are multiple forms of breast cancer that grow in different ways.  And we know that it can be very, very hereditary.

My mother was young to be diagnosed with breast cancer, relatively speaking, which can (but not always) indicate one of the hereditary forms of cancer.  About 10 years ago, her sister was diagnosed.  Having a mother and a maternal aunt that have had breast cancer ups the odds pretty significantly that my sister or I could eventually be diagnosed.

Two years ago, on a trip to a conference for work, I found a lump.

When I felt it, the blood in my veins literally ran cold. I started sweating; my heart started beating crazily. I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned and thought and worried.  I got up the next day and went on about life. I didn't tell anyone or do anything about it for about three months. I was paralyzed with fear.  When I finally got up the nerve to go to the doctor, I half-expected her to not even be able to feel it--to tell me I was worrying about nothing, that nothing was there.  I'll never forget the look on her face as she, too, felt what I had felt. How she quietly asked the nurse to bring her the ruler, to measure its size.  How they immediately left the room to get me in for a diagnostic mammogram as quickly as possible.  The way she wished me luck as I left.

My mammogram a few days later revealed a very thick, dense area of normal breast tissue. I was relieved in a way I'd never really experienced before. I left with orders to return for yearly scans, despite not being the usual 40 years old (and I am NOT 40 years old...just for the record.).

Fast-forward to this week, when I found myself back in the office, waiting for a diagnostic mammogram (which is different than a screening mammogram; there are extra scans and an ultrasound).  Being spring break, the waiting room was packed with women--literally packed.  I was one of the first in the room, sitting there wrapping my pink gown around me tighter as every seat filled in.

The women around me were a unique group; they immediately began chatting amongst themselves. I'm not unfriendly; I can make small talk as well as anyone. In this particular waiting room, though, I can't relax enough to be chatty. I'm nervous, twitchy.  I can't help it; all I can think about is my mother, and how she must have had a moment in a waiting room just like this one 25+ years ago, where she waited to hear the news.  She probably knew something was wrong, and she sat there, among other women who might have been making small talk, and worried. She waited nervously, I wait nervously.

The women chat on, talking about how "if men had to go through mammograms, they would've invented a machine that doesn't require smashing their boobs". Laughing at their joke, commiserating. I watch the nurses and radiologist take a woman into a consultation room. I wonder if she is getting bad news. My mind is racing tumultuously from all of it, the women and their jokes in stark contrast to the patient in the consultation room. It's almost too much for me to bear. Fortunately, I get called back for my first set of scans.

When I return, one of the women, who works for a doctor in the same building, is talking about cancer. The stages of cancer, specifically.  She tells her neighbor that you want a stage one or two cancer, that a stage four cancer means you might as well say good-bye, it's practically a death sentence. I shudder at her naive words, the insensitivity of the very public comment she made in a waiting room where people are often scared and awaiting news, or even returning for a scan after being treated for cancer. A cancer that, at one time, was one of the stages she is so nonchalantly describing. The cancer that quickly and unnaturally--painfully--took my mother's life when I was young and impressionable. At the age when a girl needs a mother.  I can tell that her words are going to stay with me for a long time, that they'll be a cautionary tale that I will share here, in my own tiny public forum, so that maybe I can spread the word to speak sensitively in places like this. Think carefully before you speak in places like waiting rooms. Use common sense. Be empathetic human beings.

One by one, the ladies are called back for scans, are sent to change into their clothes to go home, with nothing but good news.  They are sad to leave each other, talking about how they can't believe they bonded in a place like a mammogram waiting room. They hug and leave, and my mind reels, trying to understand how they can be jovial and happy in a place like this. I'm alone again, with nothing but my own worry and the echo of their words.

For the first time, a radiologist comes in to do my ultrasound. This worries me; usually a tech does the final scan and sends the images to the radiologist, and then the tech sends me home with a clean bill of health. She scans for quite awhile, but declares that, while the area has grown, it's still just dense normal tissue. She warns me to be vigilant, though, because I have a significant family history and she feels that if I were going to get cancer, it might be in this very spot. She recommends genetic testing/counseling and I leave with the brochure in my hand. Orders to return in twelve months.

This is what the waiting room is like for some of us. Be mindful. Be aware.

Take screening seriously--if you have a family history, you should begin being screened 10 years prior to your family member's diagnosis. Feel your boobies, ladies.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Social Caterpillar

I can't speak for all parents of children with a disability, but raising a child who struggles comes with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. When Anderson meets a milestone or accomplishes something, the pride that I feel is indescribable. As in here, where he is starting to swim.
Someone asked me if I cried, and the truth is that I didn't--but my face literally hurt from smiling.  I'm telling you--he had a legitimate phobia of water, one that left him shaking--literally shaking--with fear in the pool. And that was with me holding him. To go from that, to this...well, it's miraculous. Look at his face. He's so proud. We high-fived and hugged and celebrated for two days.

However, for each exhilarating success, there's an equally disheartening obstacle to overcome.  And right now, that's Anderson's speech and communication.

Anderson is very verbal. If you know him at all, you know what I mean.  The boy talks from the moment he wakes up until the minute he falls asleep at night.  He talks...but it often makes no sense.  That's not to say that he is just saying words...he is formulating sentences that have subjects and predicates. It's just that they don't go together to form a coherent thought. It could sound something like "When I turn 38 (he's obsessed with ages, and someone around here but I don't know who will be 38 on their next birthday) I am going to UK and the blue doors and trees and I drive a car and walk." That was kind of a poor example, but you get the idea.  There are words thrown in there that don't go, and of course the whole going to college at 38 thing is unique. 

Here's the catch. Anderson WANTS to be part of other people's conversations. He absolutely craves being a part of adult discussions. However, he has no clue how to go about it, mostly because he's a small details guy in a big picture world.  You see, he doesn't understand that when we talk, all of the words coming out of our mouths form sentences that are small parts of a bigger conversation that focuses on one topic. He's not listening to the meaning behind what is being said; he just knows that words are coming out, and that sometimes people who are talking laugh. And he LOVES to make you laugh. So...he tries to be a part of the conversation. This can look two ways. He mumbles non-words that increase in volume until all parties are looking at him, OR he says random things, like described above. Things that make no sense in general, much less as a part of the conversation at hand.

This is particularly difficult in public. Take, for instance, the elevator at Macy's.  If someone gets on with us and starts a conversation with me, it's a total crap-shoot what will come out of his mouth.  When it's nonsense, they kind of peer at him with a half-smile. He, in turn, takes this as his cue to kick it up a notch because in his mind, he's become part of the conversation.  He continues on, and the unwitting participant starts to get that squinty-eyed look that only pure confusion can elicit. At this point I usually jump in and say something like "oh, he just likes to talk" or something like that, and they look at me gratefully as if to say "thank you because I certainly wasn't following that"  and smile and we all get off as soon as the doors open and that's the end of it. Except it happens over and over.

Now...I know that in the grand scheme of life, this isn't the worst problem to have. It's not like he's getting overly frustrated to the point of  melting down, and it's certainly not hurting the other people involved in the "conversations". But, it's hard to watch him want something so bad and try for something and not have any clue how to make it happen. He knows that his conversations don't last but he doesn't understand why. His inability to "get it" frustrates him and others, and it leads to an even bigger problem--trouble at school.  Since he doesn't understand that the words we say relate to make stories or conversations, he doesn't understand that when his teachers are reading or talking, he should be listening to all of it and putting it together to formulate a bigger thought or concept. Again--small details guy, big picture world. Thus, he's having difficulty with comprehension and writing.  We just amended his IEP so that he's getting a little bit of extra help in these areas, and I'm grateful for all of my training/experience as a teacher so that I can stay on top of it, but it's going to be a challenge. One that I have no idea how to overcome. I mean, think about it. How do you explain the art of conversation to someone? Try it. It ain't easy.

So far, I've tried talking to him BEFORE he has conversations with people, trying to prep him for staying on a topic. I gave that a shot last week before his swim lesson. In swim lessons, he's notorious for giving the teacher an earful of...nothing. He talks the entire time about everything under the sun not related to swimming. I figured, hey, swimming. That's a topic in and of itself. So, on our way, I suggested that maybe when he talked to the teacher, he focus on talking about swimming. We chatted about it for a few minutes and I even gave him some leads and I thought maybe, just maybe...and then, as soon as he had been in the water for five minutes, I heard him reciting the days of the week. So yeah. That didn't work.

The other unfortunate communication issue is that he doesn't really get the idea that some conversational topics aren't for the general public.  I will spare you the details of some of our more recent conversations that have taken place in a variety of public bathrooms, but let me just assure you that a) they are highly embarrassing and b) the more embarrassing, the higher the volume of his voice.  He's not saying bad words or the typical "potty talk" that five-year-olds enjoy; he's stating what he sees as fact and doesn't see the need for modesty or privacy. Explaining that is equally difficult.

So, that's where we are at.  I predict that this gets worse before it gets better. In the meantime, we just grin and bear it and know that it's just one of those things, one more obstacle to overcome. We'll get there.

Monday, February 16, 2015


I hate that I've neglected this blog for so long. No real reason for it, except generally being busy, but that's a poor excuse. Hoping to be better.

Last week, A and A turned six. just seems so much bigger than five! This year, they really seemed to grasp the concept of getting older and that aging means growing both physically and intellectually.  Every time they've been able to do something in the past week, they attribute it to being six now, which is adorable.  In fact, the first thing Amelia did when she woke up on her birthday was to feel her teeth; she thinks that now that she's six, she will start losing her baby teeth.  She was a bit dismayed to find that they were still snug in their places.  In time, darling time.

So..without further ado...the kids at six.

At six, Amelia loves ALL THINGS related to big cats.  Lions, tigers, cheetahs, panthers, panthers, name it, she loves it.  She has a memory that doesn't quit and knows many various facts about each cat.  She loves pretending to be a lion and watching all of the Lion King movies, and then reenacting them with her brother.  She received a lion tail for her birthday (made by Nana), and that has become her prized possession this week.
Clearly I was just as excited to see the tail as she was. I knew my girl would love it. 

She's not sad. this is her "I'm about to pounce" face.
Post-pounce. She hasn't mastered being lady-like when she wears a dress. Ignore Weird Al back there.
At six, Amelia is excelling in school.  She is a reader, a strategic reader, which means a lot to her Literacy Specialist mama. She loves learning, and pleasing her teacher. She struggles with handwriting still, but we put a 504 plan in place to ensure that she has access to all resources needed to help her tiny hands be successful in school. These include shortened writing utensils, a smaller computer mouse and keyboard, modified writing paper, extended time for writing, etc.  She is obedient and completes her homework independently and willingly. She loves her teacher and her classmates. She has no problem telling bigger kids in the after-school program NOT to pick her up and that she is a big kid just like them.  She's stubborn, and independent, and confident.

At six, Amelia understands that her brother is different.  She doesn't know the term "autism", per se, but she recognizes that his social needs are different than her own.  She recognizes, when he's asking her to 'say something', like a line from a movie or an answer to a question, that he needs it to complete whatever is happening in his mind, and she can respond to his requests without missing a beat in her own play activities. She understands the need to sometimes ignore him, especially if he's melting down (because at times ignoring is the only way to bring him out of it), and recently during an episode of homework-induced frustration on both Anderson's and my part, Amelia looked at me quite sincerely and said, "Just 'nore him, mom. Just 'nore him."  She's patient, and kind.

At six, Amelia is sweet, and smart, and funny. She laughs maniacally at commercials like this one and has a belly laugh that won't quit. She's shy but outspoken, laid back but indignant. She's amazing and miraculous and so much more than I could ever hope for in a daughter.

At six, Anderson is funny, quizzical, and unpredictable.  He is verbal, and his main interests are driving on the interstate and listening to the different sounds that the tires on the road can make, and whatever his sister is interested in at the time.  At six, Anderson is obsessive and stubborn, expressive and very real, in terms of his feelings. What you see is what you get, all the time.  He has a very advanced sense of humor; his ability to understand what is funny and what makes people laugh is so refined that it's even noted in his IEP minutes. He's the funniest kid I've ever met.
At six, Anderson's most typical form of play, or communication, remains echolalia.  He can most often be found playing school, pretending to be any one of the teachers he interacts with on a daily basis.  He seems to fixate on reprimanding students, giving them "oops notes", which is what his teacher sends home when a student has been in trouble.  He can be a sharp-tongued teacher at the drop of a hat, and will give you the "teacher look" with such voracity that you actually believe, for a moment, that you are in fact in school and in trouble. Quite honestly, it is a bit heartbreaking that he seems to focus on only negative school situations, instead of the many positive ones that happen every day.

At six, Anderson has made more academic progress that I expected, which isn't to say that I underestimated him, but I am well-aware of his attention span.  He is also a reader, and he excels in math, able to count well past 100 and understands the concepts of numbers.  He struggles to function in a learning manner in a large group setting, prompting me to ask for an ARC meeting to add resource minutes (pull out to special education room) to his IEP.  Anderson struggles with comprehension, and written expression, and will start receiving one-on-one instruction in both this week.

At six, Anderson is unpredictable, in that taking him in public is dicey. Sometimes, I want to put him in a shirt that says, "Hey, I have autism!", so that his comments which can seem highly inappropriate are more likely understood by the general public. He's also kind-hearted, and conscientious, and he doesn't like the thought of doing something that would be perceived as bad, or wrong.  He's loving and adorable, and he keeps life interesting.

So, they are six.  They keep me busy, and tired a lot of the time, but they're the best things that have ever happened to me.  They keep me humble, they keep me broke. I wouldn't change one thing about them--not one thing. They're perfect.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Art of Imitation

If imitation is both art and the highest form of flattery, Anderson's teachers should feel incredibly flattered and impressed by his amazing artistic ability. He is, quite possibly, the best mimic I've ever had the opportunity to watch.  He imitates the teachers in his school for a good part of his free time each day. He's so good that, at this point, I can tell which teacher he's choosing to be in that particular moment. Today, for instance, he had on some lovely pink sunglasses and was walking around, carrying his cup of milk in a little tub. I knew immediately that he was Mrs. D, his special ed teacher. I can tell by his facial expressions when he's doing his regular classroom teacher or the kindergarten assistant in his room. He's very precise, and he stays in character amazingly well for a child who struggles to focus on ANYTHING for longer than about 30 seconds.

This is both awe-inducing and maddening--and when I say maddening, I mean that in the most extreme sense of the word.  The issue is that he clearly doesn't understand the difference between what is literally occurring in the classroom, and his purpose for actually being there. He's always watching and taking it all in, but he's not an active participant.  At night when he comes home, he can do a read-aloud with the precision of an experienced teacher--complete with comprehension questions and reminders to his students that they should not be talking while he is talking.  But read a story to him, and he has no clue how to listen to it, much less to listen for specific things like setting, characters.  Instead, when I read to him, he's imitating the other people in the room. The assistant who is quietly calling students over to sit with her. The teacher who comes in the room to pull an intervention student.  He's doing what he sees, but he doesn't understand that what he should be doing is listening and learning. MADDENING.

He's learned a lot this year, and he is making progress. I can't stop thinking about the struggles he's going to face as school gets metacognitively more difficult. with the new standards, this happens in 1st grade instead of 2nd or 3rd. I guess it's just something we will have to deal with as the time comes.