Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cured? Matured? Maybe Adjusted?

We celebrated the birth of our fourth child and slowly got back into routine and life with 4 kids. Slowly we could refocus and try to see what was going on with MJ's schooling.

We met with his teacher and she seemed to tell us everything was great. We saw some of his work and his grades, and it looked as if there was some huge improvement. One thing in particular was his handwriting. Before he had shown terrible terrible shaky handwriting, and yet all of his work we were looking at now was super improved.

MJ's teacher said she had seen such a maturing in him over the last several months and that he wasn't having the problems that he had had before. She said he was fitting in well with the other kids, and he wasn't appearing so awkward as last year. His speech was improved and he was really shining as a 2nd grader.

OK, so it was weird. I'm not saying we were upset or disappointed that he was doing well, but it was just so weird that only months before he had been the "what can we do for/how to fix/how to manage" child, to now the "nothing is wrong at all/superstar student/well adjusted" child.

I mean, maybe he was cured? Maybe it was just a maturing thing, like some kids can grow out of their asthma, maybe you can grow out of Asperger's? I still saw him walk around on tippy toes, and I still saw his awkwardness and his speech was still in spurts, but it's not like any of that bothered me. He still had his meltdowns, and he still seemed to fit all those autistic things (don't worry, I'll post more characteristics posts later), but we were used to it, we understood and accepted him. Maybe his class and teacher just learned to take it as a part of him. Maybe they learned what worked and what didn't. I don't know for sure.

So, maybe this was wrong at the time, but I gave up the idea to worry about any I.E.P. and any monthly meetings with the teacher, and I even discontinued the therapy sessions with the childrens hospital that MJ was going to.

Maybe this wasn't any big deal. Maybe he just needed a little growing up to get a handle on things. Well, the year went well for MJ, but we were soon to see things differently as he entered 3rd grade.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Speech Therapy and Inability to Summarize

So, MJ was in speech 2 days a week. I'm not sure really what it could do for him because it seemed to me that it was more of a part of his brain functioning and processing delay that caused him to speak in chunks or spurts or to repeat the same phrases over and over. But I figured what would it hurt, so I let him go to speech and read things to the speech teacher.

He would get little reports home from the speech teacher saying how he was improving with his reading with "smooth talking" as she called it, while I was thinking she needed to work with him more on spontaneous things rather than reading because that's when he seemed to have more problems.

But anyway, this is when I found out something quite incredible.

For years I had known that MJ had this super memory and was really smart. I remember he would always be reading some 500 page book when I'd take him to the store or wherever, and I would cringe when people asked to tell them about his book because I know he would tell them word for word the entire book chapter by chapter! Well, not quite, but he would start telling them detail per detail about almost everything and it would take a good half hour minimum for him to answer. I know they were probably looking for "it's a book about this boy and a dragon" when he is going to tell the entire storyline to them. I guess I find it quite funny now.

But anyway, MJ would bring these speech homework sheets home where he was supposed to read this page long story and then in his own words tell me back the story using "smooth talking".

Now these were maybe 5-6 paragraph short little stories, and I'll emphasize that he was supposed to summarize in his own words, because it just amazed me what he would do.

There would be a story about Bob and his grandpa and how they went fishing and the boat wouldn't start and how they were scared and blah blah blah.......etc.......until they figured out what to do and got home. Anyway, Micah would read it just once for the first time, then I would take the paper away and wait for him to retell me the story in his own words.

The only thing was he couldn't do it. Now, I don't mean he couldn't, but he could not summarize in his own words, and it was somewhat amazing.

Here I was holding this paper and MJ would retell me the story almost word for word EXACT to what I was holding in my hand. Like he was doing the speaking part and even saying "said Grampa" and something something something, "Bob cried". It was as if he had the paper and was just reading me the whole story all over again, but this was from reading it once and it was memorized or something. It was incredible!

So, I began taking notice that really this was a part of MJ that if you asked him what he did today, you wouldn't just get the "we went on a field trip and I played outside", but instead you would get a layout of everything he did from the time he hung up his back pack to come home from school.

Maybe it was our fault for not explaining exactly what we were expecting, but that's a part of this whole Asperger's thing. It's like you asked me the question, now why don't you want to hear me answer? (Don't worry, I'll get into this a little later.)

Speech went on and I suppose maybe MJ got a little better at his talking, but I'm not really sure. I didn't know if it was something that could be fixed like that of a lisp or a natural stutter.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Starting 2nd Grade---Promises Not Kept

So, over the summer we met with the team of doctors and kind of put the appointments on hold. From what his teacher had told us, it looked like the next year of school was going to work out. Supposedly he was going to have an IEP set up in the fall and we were going to be meeting with the teacher the 1st week of every month.

Well, he started school, and he was in 2nd grade, but he had the same teacher because his class was a combined gifted 1st/2nd grade classroom. The first month went by and I didn't hear anything from the teacher about meeting or setting up something. I was patient. I figured I'd let school get going first.

Then another month was slowly creeping by, and by now I figured no meetings or appointments were going to be made. Maybe they weren't needed? From last year's "special ed" meeting, they had put MJ into speech, and a speech pathologist was working with him on a weekly basis, but besides that, there were no other accommodations made.

OK, maybe he didn't need any. Maybe everything was working out. Maybe I was still in denial. Maybe I thought MJ didn't have any problems anymore. Maybe he had grown out of it?
I suppose I should have been the one that requested a meeting, or said, "hey, didn't you say you were going to do this or that, or what about that word processor thing?" But at this time in my life I was 9 months pregnant and expecting our 4th child. I didn't have the energy, so I just waited to see if I would hear anything.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Super Focused---Good or Bad?

One thing that I find really frustrating, is how hard it is to get MJ's attention. A lot of people could think it is an ADD thing that a child won't pay attention and is focused on something else, but it is a little different with Asperger's.

I've had a hard time when I'm talking to him or teachers are talking to him and he is so focused on some picture on the wall, or some glue stuck to a desk that he isn't paying attention. He hardly looks at us when we're talking to him (but that is a story for another post), although I am often surprised when I think he's not paying any attention or listening, but he can recall everything I've told him.

With Asperger's you have a sort of great ability to be super focused on something. It can be great that you can accomplish a lot because you don't lose focus, but at the same time, it can be bad if you are focused in on the wrong thing.

Like, great, you are focused on doing your work, and that's wonderful, but what if you need to focus on something else now?

Or, what if you need to be doing something else, but you are too busy focusing in on some weird design or sound, or something else, that you can't do your work?

It can go both ways. With MJ, one of the comments that had come from the teachers was that he was supposed to be doing his work, yet she could see him staring at the wall for a half hour looking at who knows what and then get nothing accomplished.

One of the tests they did was on MJ's auditory processing. They told us that he had some sort of a right ear advantage that interfered with the way his brain processed things. Basically this meant that he must be cued in before being told anything important.

OK, so I already knew this---I had been dealing with getting him cued in for years, but it was nice to be able to tell the teachers that this was a real medical thing and they needed to touch his desk or make sure that he is focused on them ready to take in the information.

So, hyper focus, good or bad? It can be good as long as directed in the right place and if we can cue him in at the first place.