I had the occasion to have lunch with Kaitlyn Monday, which is something I always look forward to. Amber and I have long since started promising her that we will make it for lunch on the off chance something comes up and we cannot make it; the last thing we want to do is to let her down and have her be upset.
As she always does when she has company for lunch, Kaitlyn lit up when she saw me waiting for her outside of her classroom. She walks with an extra spring in her step from her class to the cafeteria every time. It is really neat to see.
Usually, we go sit in the tables (or on the stage) that are designated for students to have lunch with their guest plus one friend, but Monday Kaitlyn wanted to sit with more of her friends. And that landed me in hot water.
Because Kaitlyn wanted to sit with more of her friends, that meant that we would be sitting at her regular lunch table. By itself, that is not a big deal at all. Where it became a little tricky was when the issue of leg room came up. Because I am significantly taller than your average elementary school student, I balked at Kaitlyn’s insistence that I sit a few chairs in; instead, I had her and one of her friends scoot over so that I could sit at the end of the table. No sooner had I gotten myself as comfortable as a 6’3″ person can be at a table designed for elementary school kids did Kaitlyn get on my case for where I was sitting. Apparently, I was in “her spot.” My bad.
When it comes to some things (ok, a lot of things!), Kaitlyn is very similar to the character Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. I didn’t realize that Kaitlyn had a certain spot that is hers at the lunch table, but the rest of her friends seemed to know it. Luckily for me, Kaitlyn was feeling generous and let me sit in her spot; I doubt I will be so fortunate next time.
Kaitlyn had been looking forward to tonight for a few weeks now. Her excitement started right after school started back up in January. Tonight was the daddy-daughter dance at her school.
A few weeks ago, I could barely even make it in the door before Kaitlyn was asking me a question that we both already knew the answer to: “Will you be my date to the daddy-daughter dance?” The answer, of course, was “Yes!”
From that day on, Kaitlyn could barely talk about anything else (the lone exception seemed to be our Disney trip in January), and pestered Amber for quite some time to take her dress shopping. She finally did get her dress, a beautiful red dress, and got some nice shoes and accessories, too.
Last night, I was walking down the hall and I noticed that her bedroom light was off. I was confused, since she was in her designated reading window. Amber told me that Kaitlyn wanted to go to bed, so I went into her room to tell her goodnight, and I asked why she was in bed so early. She told me, “because I want to save up all of my energy for the dance!”
The dance was a lot of fun, even though I spent a good portion of the night watching Kaitlyn and her friend Lindsay maneuver their way around the cafeteria. When I finally did slow her down for a minute, we enjoyed a dance or two. And of course, we ended the night like we always do: grabbing a frozen yogurt at Nuberri.
From time-to-time, Amber and I have to adjust our approach to how we keep Kaitlyn on track. Since she is usually really well-behaved, we can sometimes get lax in our approach, and we let things slide that we shouldn’t; and once that starts to happen, Kaitlyn gets thrown for a loop and gets overwhelmed.
That is exactly what happened recently.
And then Amber and I fixed it (the solution was mostly Amber’s creation, but I helped craft it some).
One thing that Kaitlyn just cannot stand to do as part of her schoolwork is practice her cursive handwriting. It’s just not one of those things she feels is overly important or necessary to her daily routine. But, since it is being taught in school, we expect her best effort. Her handwriting work has easily been the area where she has consistently underperformed this year in school (she has made the honor roll each nine weeks, though, so we are not too concerned).
In order to ensure that Kaitlyn is meeting our expectations from a behavior standpoint, we developed a system that will, hopefully, keep her on track and also keep her from having to do extra practice on her cursive. Starting this week, when she breaks one of our rules, the first offense will see her writing, in neat cursive, 25 sentences on how she will not break that rule again. For example, if she were to stomp away or get huffy when we ask her to complete a chore, she would have to write, 25 times, “I will have self-control.” There is a tiered system as to subsequent offenses, too.
Since the implementation of this system this week, Kaitlyn has been on her best behavior.
As parents of a child with Asperger’s, Amber and I are constantly working to ensure that we are doing what is right for Kaitlyn, and sometimes that means establishing new rules and expectations. She thrives on structure and rules, and Amber and I are happy to provide those!
For Kaitlyn, one of the most difficult things for her to do has been to make new friends. A big reason for that is because she is extremely shy, and it takes her awhile to warm up to new people. At least that is how she is when she is around Amber and I.
Last July 4, we had the opportunity to spend the weekend with some very close friends at their lake house on Lake Eufaula in Alabama. We have known them forever, and their youngest son was the ring bearer in our wedding; when we were first married, it seemed like we were at their house 3-4 times per week. When we get the chance to spend time with them, it is something we really look forward to.
As we were driving up there, we prepared Kaitlyn for the fact that there would be quite a crowd there for the weekend. In addition to the “regular” family, there was going to be some additional people there as well.
Kaitlyn was sleeping when the bulk of the group arrived at the house, so she was shocked to see so many new faces when she woke up. She was, of course, immediately thrown into “extreme shy” mode, and would not speak to any of the new faces (members of the Georgia Tech softball team).
It didn’t take long, however, for Kaitlyn to take to the “other” Caitlyn who was there that weekend. Before long, our Kaitlyn was talking about how she wanted to go tubing with Caitlyn; not with me, not with Amber, and not with anyone else. Just Caitlyn. When they finally got their chance Caitlyn took care of Kaitlyn as we towed them behind the boat (we didn’t get anywhere close to the 20mph Kaitlyn thinks we did), and our Kaitlyn had a blast.
No more than a few days pass these days when Kaitlyn doesn’t bring up our trip to the lake and tubing with her new friend. When FSU played Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game last December, Kaitlyn was somewhat conflicted on who to cheer for because she didn’t want Caitlyn to be upset (she knew what was good for her and cheered for the Noles though). Now that the college softball season is underway, Kaitlyn is asking when we are going to make a trip to Atlanta to watch the Yellow Jackets play; hopefully that happens soon.
As the first half of the school year drew to a close in December, Kaitlyn brought home an announcement from her PE teacher that starting in January, they would doing a unit on bike safety. Immediately, Kaitlyn was extremely nervous about the unit, because up to that point, she really did not see a need to ride her bike. Sure, she would hop on it occasionally, using the combination of me or Amber, along with her training wheels, to keep her upright; she was not going to have that luxury at school.
We churned through the holidays, and somehow let it slip right by that we had to work with her to get her comfortable riding her bike. Once the calendar had flipped to 2015, time was of the essence; we had about 10 days or so to get Kaitlyn comfortable on her bike, without training wheels.
At first, Kaitlyn was very nervous, and a little scared about falling off of her bike. It was a slow process, most of which took place on our little walkway from the driveway to the front door, so when a fall would happen, she would (hopefully) land in the grass. Kaitlyn took her fair share of spills early on.
Like pretty much everything else she sets her mind to, Amber and I knew that it would not take her long to be steady on her bike. And we were right. In just over a week, and with a few days to spare, Kaitlyn was riding her bike on the road like a seasoned pro.
Now, she rides her bike almost every day. Amber and I have established a loose set of boundaries for her as far as how far she can ride down the road (it’s several houses in either direction from our house; we didn’t want her getting bored riding in circles directly in front of the house.), and she does good staying in her designated area. Sometimes she will see me walking back to the house after I finish my run, and she will ride back next to me, chatting up a storm.
She still has the occasional spill, but she jumps right back on her bike like nothing happened. In a shocking development (at least for Kaitlyn), she talked to our neighbor briefly Sunday after one of her spills; he checked to see if she was ok, and she assured him that she was fine. When he told me that, I was floored because she usually plays quite shy when we talk to him or his wife.
At this point, the speed at which Kaitlyn achieves her goals is not really a surprise to us. We never tell her she can’t do anything, and we always encourage her to do her best and keep trying.