A Fall Filled With Adventure!

Back in Michigan, fall was always a time of adventure for us.  Our last year there, we took a cruise on the S.S. Badger for my birthday, then went camping for Halloween (and first started discussing living aboard–we thought we would move to Lake Michigan in 2 years!).  In Texas, however, daily life has been adventure enough.  We’ve been learning our way around Houston, and getting settled into a succession of new homes.  Our only trip was visiting the cabin at Canyon Lake for Thanksgiving (which we will do again this year!).

But now that we’re living comfortably on the S/V Morning Mist, the adventure bug is biting us once again.  Until recently, it had been 3 years since we’d cruised.  We’re all thinking that it’s time to make life interesting again!

And interesting it will be.  We have so much planned for October and November, that I’ve had to set up a Google calendar!  We’re visiting San Antonio next weekend, and a highlight of our trip will be a special needs amusement park.  After that, Rob and I are attending a moped rally in New Orleans.  The week after Halloween, Beanie will have her first competitive cheer competition!  And then it’s off to Canyon Lake two weeks later!

And all that excitement is in addition to our adventures this weekend and last weekend.

“Rockstars!  Rockstars!  Rah Rah Rah!”

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Living in an urban area has had many advantages for us, and one of these advantages has been the number of “mommies'” groups available to join.  I joined Moms of Galveston Country, which lead me to two other special needs groups on Facebook.  It was through these groups that I first heard about Rockstar “Special Stars” Cheer.

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Beanie has always had kind of a “cheerleader” personality, especially with her pigtails!  So a free, special needs competitive cheer group seemed to be right up her ally.  The group has kids ranging from age 8 to high school, so the older kids help keep an eye on their younger “buddies.”

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From her first rehearsal, Beanie was in love!  The parents get to watch the practices on monitors in the waiting room, and it is a delight to watch, as I get to know the other mommies.  And don’t let the “special needs” part fool you–there are some talented tumblers in this group!

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Beanie’s first performance with the Rockstars was last weekend, at the Down Syndrome walk in our town.  They don’t have their uniforms yet, but their t-shirts coordinated.

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The fun began with dancing, and of course Beanie attracted attention!

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She immediately fell in with some local junior high cheerleaders.

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Who let her borrow their pom poms!

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Finally, the Rockstars had the stage.

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Beanie gains some altitude as a part of their routine!

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And this is my favorite picture of her cheering!  It’s definitely a fun, low-pressure group, with some talented athletes!

Setting Sail Once Again

Grandma and Grandpa took Beanie home from the cheering event, and Rob and I headed over to the S/V Reprieve, three slips down from us.

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My friend, Deanna, greeted me with a birthday bouquet.  We piled onto their boat with two other couples.

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We rounded Clear Lake Shores island.

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And then the reason for my flowers was revealed, as we made our departure, past the Kemah Boardwalk.

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The whole “flock” of sailboats was out on Galveston bay!

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We were quite well-fed on our journey!

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I was a little exhausted…

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And while I was getting sunburned, this is what passed us…

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Meanwhile, this is why I have blisters on my back…

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And then I woke up in Galveston!

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We arrived in Galveston in time for dinner (it was a 6-hour nap…I mean sail!).  The marina we stayed at was near the Strand, which is the shopping/tourist district.  So we walked into town, hit the shops (the three of us ladies bought $10 dresses!) and enjoyed dinner at a shrimp restaurant.  Two of us had been wearing our bathing suits under our clothes, so we spontaneously jumped into the marina pool, before retiring to our various beds on the boat.

In the morning, we had some company in the marina.

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We headed out at a leisurely pace, stopping for lunch and swimming at Red Fish Island.

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Underway once again, there was no wind, so we motored back toward the bridge that led the way home.

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It was a fun, wonderful trip, and now we’re eager to get our boat up and running, so that we can cruise next summer!

The Cardboard Challenge

This weekend, it was all about cardboard.  Beanie had the opportunity to create something out of garbage, for her school’s “Cardboard Challenge.”  She eagerly went to work on a Pokemon stage, which she displayed at school this morning.

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Of course, Beanie’s favorite part was exploring the other creations!  She spent a lot of time in the Tardis.

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October has been a great month so far, and we look forward to sharing our upcoming fall adventures with you!

 

Snowball Fight in Adventure Field

Sometimes, we just have fun.

We’ve got a structured evening routine, here on Breaking Tradition, but it does leave room for fun and games.

For example, yesterday, I came home and read with Beanie while dinner cooked.  Then, after I ate, I got her started on “homework,” which meant writing a letter to a friend in Michigan. Then, after piano practice time, we played rhyme Dominoes.

After that, we had an hour until shower time.  What were a mother and daughter to do?

Well, we headed out to “Adventure Field.”  There are two good-sized grassy areas in the marina, and Beanie has named them Adventure Field and Chaos Field.  Last night, she wanted to go to Adventure Field.

We couldn’t find her ball, so we brought a bag of cloth “snowballs,” made by one of our friends in Michigan.   A fun (and funny!) evening ensued.

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I hope your October is treating you equally as well!

 

First Day of School,Take II

School has always been something Beanie has loved, even with the number of times she has been the “new kid.”  She has always gotten excited about going, and she has always chattered endlessly about her friends and about science class.

But this year, something changed.

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Beanie has always gotten into mischief, but she started getting bad reports daily.  And her behaviors went from “normal” trouble-maker limit-testing, to hitting and screaming.  Instead of talking about her friends, she made up a bunch of imaginary friends.  She still enjoyed doing her homework and going to piano lessons, but she began throwing tantrums when it was time for school.

With her ARD meeting coming up (those are called IEP meetings in the other 49 states), I had a lot of correspondence with her case manager.  I learned that Beanie was screaming in class nearly everyday, in spite of the added supports and sensory diet they had her on.  She was needing an aide 4 hours out of the day, instead of the 30 minutes she had needed before.  And the kids were less interested in hanging out with her, due to her screaming.  And all of this was affecting her academically–her reading level dropped from a level F to a level B.

I have to admit I was nervous.  I knew that this was not the best situation for my daughter, but what would be? She really wouldn’t benefit from a resource room, where she would go for smaller reading, writing, and math classes.  She’s not very far behind academically, and this wouldn’t solve the problem of The Rest of The Day.

And she really didn’t belong in a life skills program, which would be a special class just for kids with autism, where she would learn cooking and other independent living skills.  This wasn’t the place for a kid with above average intelligence.

And she certainly wasn’t going into a behavioral program, where she would copy the misbehaviors of her classmates.

Those were the three options I was familiar with.  And I knew that the resource room was the only  one I would be willing to entertain at all.

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So I was worried, but not surprised, when her principal called me.  She took a long time preparing me, which only increased my nervousness and defensiveness (which I suppressed quite well!).  So imagine my surprise when she told me about a program I had never heard of!  Their district has a self-contained classroom for kids who have severe speech and language disorders.  Beanie would be in a class with no more than 5 kids, would get lots of one-on-one time with her teacher, would learn her academics but really focus on getting caught up with her speech, and would be worked back into general education classes, until she would eventually be ready to return to her neighborhood school.

All of my defensiveness was replaced with the question, “How soon can we start?”

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Beanie was hesitant to visit the classroom, but once she saw the puppets in the “break” area and the stretchy therapy swing, she was sold.  Since Beanie is above grade level in math and science, she would be in a general education class, with support, for those subjects.  She would also go to P.E., music, and art with her general education class.  She would work on speech,  reading, writing, and social studies with her special education class.  The speech therapist would come into the room to work with her and the other students, and the class would visit the large motor lab on a regular basis.

Beanie met her special ed teacher, her aide, her general education teacher, and her speech therapist.  She then led everyone on a search to find and meet the principal.  And she charmed every one of them.

Beanie rides the bus to her new school, but it gets her home in time to make it to her piano lesson on her old school on Wednesdays.

So how did her first day of school go?  Beanie came home with a very good report and a smile on her face.  She couldn’t wait to tell us about her new friend in her class, and she was eager to go back.

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And thus, the charmed life of the Bean continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Day Excitement!

The first day of school has always been exciting for Beanie!  Even though she’s done it four times now.

Onto the bus for Head Start when she was 4…

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In Grand Haven the weekend before she boarded the Head Start bus once again when she was 5…

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Getting ready to ride a bigger bus to kindergarten, when we lived in our apartment in Clear Lake…

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This year, however, there were some changes!  Beanie would not be riding the bus through Clear Lake Shores

Somebody's excited!

Somebody’s excited!

 

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Don't worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

Don’t worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

 

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It’s only a couple blocks (less than a mile) from our marina to the school, and we thought bicycling would be easier and quicker than riding the bus or dropping her off by car.  When we get a dinghy, there is a canal that ends across the street from the school, so she will probably arrive by boat then.

Beanie had an excellent first day.  This year, she is in a co-taught class, like she was in preschool.  In kindergarten, she was in a general education class, with an aide who came to work with her for 30 minutes each day.  Her teacher and case manager recommended inclusion for her this year, so that a special education teacher or aide would always be in the room, though not specifically to work with Beanie.  That way, Beanie could get the one-on-one time she required, without being stuck with a certain time period where she got the extra support.  So she is in a general education classroom, with the same expectations as the other kids, but there is also a special education teacher in the room.  (I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but I spend the majority of my day co-teaching as a special education teacher at the intermediate level).  She will also continue to get OT and speech.  I think this will be perfect for her!

As for Beanie’s opinion?   I think her joyful rendition of the school song spoke volumes.

Discipline and Kids With Language Delays

Re-posted from June 2011

When I was pregnant, I figured that two areas of parenting would be easy for me: discipline and language development. After all, I have a strong professional background in both, being certified in emotional impairments and learning disabilities (which are mainly language disorders). My kid would be perfectly behaved and be talking in complete sentences by their first birthday.

Well, there’s an old comedy routine, where Bill Cosby states that God has a sense of humor. While the Bean is fortunate enough to have excellent social-emotional skills, when she does misbehave, it is different.

If you pick up a parenting book–any parenting book–, or if you read any book at all on behavioral theories, you will find language. Talking. And lots of it.

Reality therapy is one of my favorite techniques at work. Once the kid has had the opportunity to calm down, you pull them aside and discuss the incident. What happened? What undesired consequences occurred because of the behavior? What can you do differently next time? Lots and lots of dialogue. Do you think I’ve tried this with Beanie?

It would be hilarious if I did!

So what about behavior modification? That’s how we were raised. If you do something undesired, you get a punishment. If you do something good, you get a reward. Of course, these must first be explained. And they are very symbolic, even abstract at times. Other than very simple rewards and consequences, I have not had much success with this.

All that being said, the Bean is very well-behaved! If the goal of discipline is to teach appropriate behaviors, then we are having a great deal of success.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned, about disciplining a child with a language delay:

–Nip problems before they happen. If you know your kid is prone to grocery store tantrums, for example, pick up an apple as soon as you get to the store. These take a long time to eat and will keep your little one busy. If your kid gets into trouble at other people’s houses, get out the bubbles before they have time to get in trouble!

–Repeated redirection. Beanie loves shopping at antique stores. When we first took her shopping, every time she tried to touch something, we said, “No, not for babies.” (She was a baby then). We said it calmly, and as simply as possible. Using too many words is a problem, if your kid has a language delay. It took a lot of repetition, but now she enjoys going to the shops and just looking.

–Distraction. Kids with SPD, especially, get stuck on things. It takes a new, fun activity–preferably in another room–to get her unstuck sometimes.

–Routines. Beanie loves to clean up. She insists on doing it anytime she has finished an activity. This is because her therapists sing the “Clean Up Song” and start cleaning up on their own. Beanie joins in, and at home she will sing the song herself. If she knows that “this is how it’s done,” she will do it that way.

–Make it fun. If you sit the Bean down and tell her to draw a circle, she’ll get mad and flop on the floor. If you both have a crayon, and you start drawing circles (while excitedly saying “circle!” each time), she will join in.

–If there is a problem, it is a language issue. 99% of the time. If the Bean is misbehaving, it is for one of two reasons. 1. She wants to ask for something but doesn’t know how. 2. She doesn’t understand what’s going on.

–Dealing with tantrums. You can’t reason with any kid who is having a tantrum. Don’t even try! Figure out what calms them down the best. Beanie likes to be alone in her room. We send her there when she gets whiny, but she’ll often go there on her own! Some kids like to have you there. Some kids like to be held. While I would love it if we could talk after the tantrum, that is currently an exercise in futility. She still doesn’t get whatever she was trying to get, which may lead to more tantrums. Kind of a floppy repeated redirection. But she’s never had to go to her room more than twice for the same issue. Here’s how it usually goes: I sing the lunch time song. Beanie walks to the table, and sees that there is not candy, ice cream, or at least berries on her plate. She takes my hand and leads me to the fridge, to seek out these items. I tell her that her food is on her plate. She flops on the floor and cries. I tell her she needs to go to her room to calm down. She goes. 5 minutes later she comes back, sees the plate, and leads me to the fridge. The sequence repeats. Then she comes out of her room, nonchalantly has a seat at the table, and eats her grilled cheese.

–Very simple rewards and punishments. I like to use these sparingly anyway, because they are completely extrinsic. But we stick to clapping if Beanie does something well. As far as punishments go, she gets removed from the activity if she is being whiny. If we’re at the park and she get floppy, we go home.

One thing that I always try to keep in mind is that behavior is communication. There is a reason that a child acts a certain way. Our job is, first, to figure out that reason. Next, we need to teach the child to get their needs met in a more acceptable manner.

With a child who has a language delay, it is more of a challenge, but it can be done!

Portable “Time Out”

I am not a hardcore behaviorist.

I practice attachment parenting and gentle discipline, which are ultimately based on Glassar’s Control Theory (for any of you who happen to by psych nerds, out there!).  We treat all behavior as communication, and try to figure out what need the Bean is trying to meet, through her behavior.  (Then, we teach her more effective ways to meet that need).  We don’t use time-outs, per se, but we do sent Beanie to her room to calm down when she is overstimulated.

That being said, there are occasions when what is needed is an old-fashioned punishment.

Riding in the car, is one example.  The Bean loves to unbuckle her seatbelt.  Of course she is meeting a need–she is bored and wants to move around, rather than sitting in that uncomfortable car seat.  The long-term solution might be to find more diversions for her.  We’ll keep problem-solving, of course.

But, the more immediate concern is Beanie’s safety.  Explaining it doesn’t work, because her understanding of language is so limited (and she has no sense of danger).  We don’t believe in spanking or hitting (and Beanie has sensory issues, so she would have no reaction to physical punishment anyway).

So Rob had a stroke of genius.  He gave her a time out.

Rob said, “If you unbuckle it again, you will be on time out.”

She unbuckled it.  Rob buckled it back up, held her hands, and said, “Now you’re on time out.”

I bit my lip, to keep from laughing, and looked away.

Beanie was furious about this injustice, and once her time out was over (after a minute or two), she absolutely kept that seat belt buckled.

Sometimes it’s not the action, but the spirit behind it, that makes all the difference.

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Pessimism vs. Realism

We’re often reminded to “prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.” The thinking is, that, with that kind of mindset, we can only be pleasantly surprised, not disappointed. We call this a “realistic” mindset.

But is it? And does it really do us any good?

When we prepare for the worst, and view the worst case scenario as being realistic, we accept it before it really happens. Whether it comes to be or not, we experience it.

We’re not blindsided everytime something bad has the potential to happen, because the bad thing often does not happen. And being blindsided occasionally is much better than experiencing the worst case scenario everytime.

Case in point: My daughter’s IEP meeting was today. Last fall, I had requested that she be tested for autism spectrum disorder. I thought I was addressing the elephant in the room. I thought I was seeing her fall further and further behind–because I was prepared for the worst, I only saw the worst. I saw her challenges, magnified.

This led to stress in our family, to needless worrying, and to fear. I blamed myself, because I was in the car accident while pregnant, the delivery was difficult, and I am not the perfect mother. When she played with other children, I only saw how different she was, from them.

Realistic? Partially. Only partially. And today I got a good dose of reality. Real, true reality.

It began with the speech report. Last time she was tested, she was 3 years old and functioning at a 15 month old level, across the board. Now she is up to grade level in a few areas, and only slightly below in most others. Her intelligence and academic skills are above average. Her fine motor and sensory needs have improved significantly. She has a number of social skills deficits, but they are all things that can be taught.

The Bean does not have autism. There never was any elephant in the room.

Next year, she will get visuals in the classroom, as well as speech, OT, a sensory diet, and social worker services. She is expected to “catch up” completely, in due time.

So, did accepting the worst case scenario benefit me? Not really. It was nice to be surprised today, but my negative perspective was not realistic at all. I saw only Beanie’s challenges, not her growth. I saw only one side of the coin.

And I believe that I suffered at least as much as I would have been, had I expected the best outcome, and gotten blindsided today.

Pessimism is not realism. The worst case scenario is not the realistic scenario. Having a pessimistic perspective is akin to worrying–it causes us needless anxiety, that is much worse than the event itself.

We need to realize that reality does involve a bit of sunshine.

Sunshine : Sunny Sunshine