Friday, February 27, 2009

The Start of 3rd Grade

MJ was entering 3rd grade and would have a new teacher, so the first week of school I emailed his teacher asking if I could meet with her to discuss his Asperger's and kind of give her a "guideline" to working with him. She emailed back and set up a meeting on the Friday of the first week of school.

Before this day the school had a "Back to School" night where you can go and meet the teacher and they usually give you handouts and explain class policy and curriculum. It was here that I found out some interesting things she demanded of her students.

Now during the summer MJ had been assigned to practice these timed math tests called 36's. This is where they have 36 math problems that they must complete before a minute and 30 seconds. When we worked with him during the summer, he never finished any of them. I tried them and finished OK, but my husband, the computer programmer barely did. I figured it was no big deal that MJ wasn't finishing them, that is was just to get them to go faster, but when I went to the Back to School night, I found out that she required these to be done in a pass or fail.

Now, when I heard this, I immediately raised my hand and told his teacher that I didn't agree with it and why must they be timed---if they knew the math, wasn't that good enough? I told her how we had timed myself and my husband, and if he, a computer programmer, could BARELY finish them, then how did she expect an 8 year old boy to? She proceeded to tell me how it wasn't that bad and that they work on them for a long time and eventually everyone passes them off. I held off and told her I would discuss more of this with her when we met on the following Friday.

Friday came and I was ready. I got on the internet and printed out a copy of the Oasis Guide for Teachers for teaching kids with Asperger's. It is a great resource and great to give to teachers. you can find it here. I went through it and highlighted the things that more pertained to MJ, and I wrote little add ons and suggestions, as well as writing a list of things very particular to him and how she could handle it.

I thought I had a pretty good resource and guideline/outline sheet for her and it would help her and MJ alot. When I met with her I proceeded to tell her how he was pretty much an average kid, but there were a lot of differences that might cause him problems.

I explained about how he had to be cued for almost everything. I explained how he had problems with transitions. I explained how you had to be extremely literal. I asked her if she had noticed the way he walked or the little jerks and hops he did. She said she had picked up on that from day 1. I explained to her what they meant and how to read MJ in a sort. We discussed his terrible handwriting and spurts and repetitions in his speech. (She would ask a last opinion from the speech therapist that worked with him the previous years if she wanted to continue that.) And then, I began to explain his processing delay and asked her how was he to do these 36's?

She said she would work with him a lot and take him aside, and even have him pass them off orally. But here I am thinking what difference is that going to make because his processing is delayed from brain to mouth or brain to writing. It's not like it's going to be faster orally. I didn't say anything toward that, but I figured I would wait and see, and hopefully something would be worked out.

Mostly the meeting went well, and she seemed very helpful and accepting of MJ's differences, and I was glad she was so open as far as communicating with us.

Things seemed alright, at least the first couple of weeks, but then they began to change and we would soon see an up and down rollercoaster of events to follow.

Once we had thought he had "grown out of" this Asperger's stuff, and maybe he had adjusted or matured, but we would soon learn we were mistaken.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Processing Delay

One of the most difficult thing I seem to face with both my son and my husband is the amount of time it takes them to answer a question. Now, I don't know if this is truly an Asperger's thing or not, but they both have this sort of delay before they can formulate their words to answer a question.

I'm sorry, I must be the most impatient person in the world, but it drives me crazy when I really want to know something and they can't spit the answer out as fast as I want it.

With MJ, it may be something involved with his auditory processing that they tested out, but I'm not sure. Whenever he is asked a question, he may immediately know the answer and react even to raise his hand, but when he is called on to answer nothing comes out. It's as if he knows it but it takes a little longer for his brain to organize the information into words.

We have had a difficult time watching teachers call on him only to assume he didn't really know the answer and then go onto the next student. It is frustrating to see people ask him things and then just assume he is dumb when he doesn't answer right off.

Part of the problem is the way his mind works---it can't be interrupted. Like if you ask him something (and then it takes a bit before he can get it out) but then since you aren't getting an answer you start to say something else, or ask him again, or reword the question, then it messes him all up and he has to start processing all over again. So for super impatient me, I have to seriously hold myself down and bite my lip from trying to coax an answer out of him.

My husband, who clearly understands all this somehow, keeps telling me to be quiet and be more patient and wait for the answer. Now, really, I'm not all that impatient, it's just hard when something bad happened or something is wrong and I can't get the answer out of him. Like if he's upset he can't tell me why quick enough, or if something important just happened he can't produce the information fast enough. I just go crazy!

Besides my insanity, there really has been difficulties that this delay was causing, and some really big ones were about to come. MJ was entering 3rd grade now with a brand new teacher, and we were soon to find out that some teachers only care about how fast you can get things done.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Nods, Hops, and Jerks

Have you ever seen the show on ABC called Boston Legal? It's a rather interesting show about a group of lawyers that all have different personalities and quirks. One in particular is a lawyer who has Asperger's named Jerry. Now, he doesn't have it in real life, but he plays the role pretty well I think. I'm sure it's a bit exaggerated, but it all plays out to see how someone can truly be successful in life even if it means making certain adjustments.

Why I bring this up, is if you have ever watched the show, the character Jerry has all these little quirks about him. One thing in particular is that he always has his hands plastered to his legs, even when he walks. Now, I've never seen anyone with Asperger's do that, but it's the other things that opened my eyes a bit when I started noticing things MJ was doing.

On the show, Jerry makes little sounds or grunts in reaction to things, and often he'll do a little head jerk or a full out hop to show his approval for something. Now, I've always watched this show and just thought he was cute and funny, and I loved to see how the world could get used to a guy that didn't play by the same social rules as everyone else.

Anyway, I started noticing little things that MJ was doing throughout the day that was a little "different". MJ has a lot of problems as far as communication. It takes him a little bit longer to process things, or get his thoughts in order before he answers a question. Also, sometimes it all comes out in jumbled spurts because he has so much he wants to say but his mind can't organize it in time with his mouth. I started seeing when I'd ask MJ a question and he was going to respond approvingly, that before he could make the words work, he would do this little nod or jerk of his head. Often too, he would almost do this little hop in his chair.

He would do this all the time, little hops, nods, and jerks I call them. I found that I could communicate a lot faster with MJ by reading his body language through these nods, hops, and jerks, than to wait for an actual verbal answer.

Interestingly enough, when we met with the teacher starting his 3rd grade year at the end of the first week, she had already picked up on him doing this, although I had to explain to her what it meant.

I don't know if all Aspies have these little things they do. I know they are not a "tic" as some kids can get, because it is not something uncontrollable or like an eye twitch or something else that is habit forming. It is like this is a part of MJ.

I know some Aspies display different physical actions a little differently than an average kid would do. MJ tends to wave his arms around a little too much when listening to music or watching something intense. As always, I talked about how MJ walks around on the tips of his toes. And doesn't walk smoothly, it's always kind of with a spring in his step.

My husband has always done this sort of stress relieving thing I'm guessing where he's spasticly exploding his fingers out of a balled up position and I know that is not normal, but I still love him.

There are all kinds of little things here and there, and it has never really been a big deal. Only recently have people started to come up and ask me "oh, does he do that because of his Asperger's?" And that is always a weird question for a person to ask someone. But I suppose as he's growing older, his differences are becoming more pronounced.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Need for Sensory Overload (or underload)

I've talked before about Sensory Integration Disorder and how before we had the diagnosis for Asperger's, that this is what they thought MJ had.

I find this as a large part of Asperger's. There is this need for some sort of over stimulus in sensory, or maybe there is the need to not have it at all. What I mean in this is that maybe a person might need to be moving all the time or touching and feeling, but then another person with Asperger's might be someone who hates touching or spinning or jumping.

With MJ, he always seemed to be spinning. Jumping, dancing and spinning, he had to be moving all the time. He didn't like to sit still. Along with his spinning and toe walking, it didn't surprise me when one day he came to me and asked if he could take ballet classes. He already didn't like any sports, and so I thought this would be something fun as an extracurricular activity that he could do.

Not just the spinning and moving, but another thing we always noticed with MJ was his lack of personal space. He was always overly groping people I thought. Now, I don't mean this in an ugly way, but he just would be a little too grabby or huggy snuggly up with people. Surprised? Most people who think Asperger's think anti social and don't like to be touched, but really it still breaks down to the not understanding social rules or norms so to say. MJ would sit too close to people, hang on them, snuggle up to them, and always talk to them right up to their face.

This has caused a lot of problems when it came to school or church. He didn't understand or maybe he didn't realize how close he was getting to people. Once at school another boy punched him in the stomach for getting in his space. It's nice for a boy to be loving and snuggly, but it's not great in any given situation. You probably shouldn't be snuggling on up with your new church teacher or whoever strange person you come across.

Now, as far as underload, or the need to not touch or feel---this comes across all sorts of ways. The whole walking on toes things was pinpointed to the sensory need to not have his heels touch the ground. Or what about the way clothes scratch and poke? As an NT, I don't seem to have that much problem wearing something a little scratchy or whatever, but give a stiff shirt to an Aspie and they will just about freak out. I find this more with my husband who thinks he is going to die sitting through a church meeting in a button up shirt.

Or, what about the need to not have people touch you? I am very lucky that my husband is not an Aspie that hates to touch or be touched as far as in a relationship, but at the same time he says that he can't stand to be sitting in a group in a small setting where his knee might possibly touch someone elses. It about kills him trying to focus on not moving his legs or feet in the chance he might touch another person.

We work with MJ as far as his sensory issues by letting him be in dance and spinning away, and then trying to teach him about personal space and when it's OK to hug someone or not. Everyday is a teaching day as far as "what should you do in this situation".