No matter how many times or how much we encourage her, Kaitlyn just cannot seem to believe in herself. She is very much a perfectionist, but the standard that she sets for herself with everything is so high that she is bound to miss her mark on occasion. Amber and I just cannot seem to get that across to her sometimes.
This morning, for example, Kaitlyn was working on a word search in her baseball puzzle book she bought a few weeks ago. When she would find a word that she did not know the meaning of, she would ask me what it meant. Of course, I was more than happy to provide the information to her. She told me that she wanted to “know everything about baseball,” so one can imagine how that made me feel.
A few minutes before I left for work, I figured it would be a good idea to do a quick review with Kaitlyn for her math test today. We reviewed for a little last night, but I wanted to be sure that Kaitlyn was ready. Today’s test is on double-digit addition and subtraction, and Kaitlyn was a little worried about it.
We went over the review sheet she brought home, and she did fine. She even gave me her own example (100 minus 40 being 60 because 10 minus 4 is 6), so I thought she was more than ready. When I told her that I knew would do great, she told me that she was worried she would not do well. She said that, “the answers are not all in my heart.” I told her all she has to do is take her time and make sure to answer every question, and she would do great.
Her comment about not having the answers in her heart was typical Kaitlyn. She believes that she should get a 100% on every test she takes, and while that is a great goal, Amber and I know that she may miss a question from time-to-time. As long as she gives maximum effort, we are happy, but Kaitlyn does her best to talk herself out of doing good every time; the sad part is that when she brings the tests home, she does the best on the ones she was most worried about.
Amber and I both know and understand that Kaitlyn will continually think that she is not good enough, or that she can do better. It is pressure that she puts on herself, and it is not necessary. It is a delicate balance for her when it comes to self-esteem, and we do the best we can every day to reinforce positives with her, without dwelling too long on anything negative.
I am confident that Kaitlyn will do great on her test today, no matter how hard she tries to talk herself out of it. If she does not meet her expectations, we will use today as an opportunity to do better next time.
When you are 6, almost anything qualifies as exciting news. Kaitlyn, however, sees very few things as worthy enough to qualify as being “exciting” news. So when the very first thing she just has to tell Amber after school, and the very first thing she has to tell me when I get home after work, qualifies as exciting, we know it is going to be good.
Since school started back in August, I have tried to provide updates on Kaitlyn’s progress in all subject areas. There is one area that I especially key on, probably because the raw numbers are right in front of me and I can dissect them nicely. That area, of course, is the Accelerated Reader program the school uses.
To give a quick overview, AR is a color-coded system of evaluating a student’s reading level. Like every student, Kaitlyn was given a baseline evaluation to determine what books in the library would be available for her to check out and be tested on for comprehension. Her baseline was 1.0-2.9, basically first grade and second grade. She was given particular point totals she was to achieve each nine weeks, and has consistently exceeded her goals by a lot. Not a real surprise to us because Kaitlyn really loves to read.
You might be able to guess where I am going with this, but I will share anyway. Yesterday, Kaitlyn was excited and proud to share with us that she was now allowed to read books that are coded in green. I knew that was a good thing, but I was not 100% sure on what that meant as far as grade-level goes. I checked out the chart on her AR folder, and I learned that green is for books that are rated 3.0-3.9, third grade reading level. She was given a goal for the last nine weeks of school of 6.5 total points, and she has already gotten 1 point thus far.
The books that are coded green will be somewhat more difficult than the books she had been reading, but I don’t think they will present too many issues for her. In fact, the first two books she brought home that are green that she will be tested on are ones she should have no problem with. One of them is on Carrie Underwood, and Kaitlyn read that one back in October or November, but was not allowed to take the test on it; the other one is part of the Rainbow Magic series that she already has a ton of (I don’t think she owns the particular book she brought home).
Amber and I very proud of where she is with her reading. We encourage her constantly to do her reading, and challenge her to sound out difficult words before she asks us to help her. And yes, it sometimes means that she will read more of the cruise guidebook to us, but we do not mind at all. Kaitlyn is bright, and she loves school, and she loves to learn, and Amber and I could not be happier about it.
Once again, Kaitlyn made the honor roll at school. She has made the honor roll in each of the grading periods she has had the opportunity to do so in her first two years of school (the first 9 weeks of both kindergarten and first grade did not afford her the opportunity to make the honor roll because they are considered “baseline” grading periods). Her making the honor roll is presenting a little bit of a problem for Amber and I though, but it is a good problem: at some point, we will run out of wall space in Kaitlyn’s room for her honor roll and other certificates. Right now, and this is without the two certificates she brought home yesterday (honor roll and citizenship), one of her walls is close to one-third covered in framed certificates.
As for the actual report card, she earned “very consistent demonstration” in both behavior and work/study skills again in the performance section. In the achievement section, she earned “extends/applies in many ways” in reading, writing, math, social studies, science, health education, and physical education, with consistent effort noted. She slipped a little in visual arts, earning “satisfactory progress,” and maintained “satisfactory progress” in music, with consistent effort in each.
Of course, my favorite part of her report card is the area designated for teacher comments. It provides us with a concise recap of Kaitlyn’s progress, and expectations moving forward. Here is what was on this report card:
Kaitlyn continues to make excellent progress in all academic areas. She has done a wonderful job on our reading comprehension tests and is mastering all of the first grade standards. In math, she understands the concepts and is able to apply them to her assignments. In writing, she has been adding more details and has such interesting stories to read.
I guess maybe part of the reason I love that section so much is that the comments reaffirm what Amber and I work to do at home with Kaitlyn. We have always stressed the importance of school, while trying to not put too much pressure on Kaitlyn, either. We are lucky that Kaitlyn enjoys going to school and excelling, and that she rarely needs us to provide her with extra motivation.
Before we left for school this morning, I asked Kaitlyn why she does so well in school, and her answer was simple. She does well because she loves school and she knows that we support her. Pure and simple. As parents, Amber and I could not be more proud of what she has accomplished in her first two years (almost) of school. If we face one obstacle, it is that we will probably have to work to keep Kaitlyn challenged; the academic part of school has come very easy for her so far, and we have noticed that there are times where she does not challenge herself, especially when it comes to her at-home reading. I guess there are worse problems to have though.
Children with Asperger syndrome often have an intense and obsessive level of focus on things of interest. Some have suggested that these “obsessions” are essentially arbitrary and lacking in any real meaning or context; however, researchers note that these “obsessions” typically focus on the mechanical (how things work) as opposed to the psychological (how people work). Sometimes these interests are lifelong; in other cases, they change at unpredictable intervals. In either case, there are normally only one or two interests at any given time. The interests are often linked in some way that is logical only to the AS individual. In pursuit of these interests, people with AS often manifest extremely sophisticated reasoning, an almost obsessive focus, and a remarkably good memory for trivial facts. (source)
Kaitlyn fits the bill, almost too well, and for the past 100 days (since Christmas), not a day has gone by where Kaitlyn has not educated Amber and I, or whoever is at our house, about one thing in particular. Our upcoming Disney cruise. She has even been so kind as to educate all of the kids in her class about the cruise, too. I am sure they love hearing about it every day.
It is rare anymore for Amber and I to see Kaitlyn without her handy cruise guide in her hand. Kaitlyn has already read it cover-to-cover at least twice. I know this because she has read it to us at least twice. And that does not count her daily lessons about different, more specific parts of the book. She can tell us all about the port adventures in Nassau, and everything there is to do on Castaway Cay. She knows the design and theme of every restaurant on the ship we are sailing on, the Dream, as well as those on the other ships in the Disney fleet.
Kaitlyn has already, based off what she has read in her book, determined where our next cruise destination is. Apparently, we are taking a 12 night Mediterranean cruise. She has already familiarized herself with each port on that cruise as well. It is her goal to sail on each of the four Disney ships. Money is no object to her, either.
She takes her guide book with her almost everywhere she goes (we draw the line at her taking it to school). She takes it in the car with her and reads to us. She even took it to the Old Capitol when we went for the Light It Up Blue event, although I ended up having to carry it most of the evening.
When Kaitlyn gets focused on something the way that she is on our cruise, it almost consumes her life, but she somehow manages to do other things, too. Amber and I have already said we cannot wait to get on the ship and for one of the cast members to say something that is incorrect and for Kaitlyn to provide the correct information.
Amber and I are just going to roll with this current obsession, knowing that it is coming from a place of pure excitement and joy. We have learned to not worry about Kaitlyn’s obsessions, provided they do not interfere with her school work, and this one has not.
Kaitlyn, Amber, and I made our way to the Old Capitol Building yesterday after work, excited that Tallahassee and the state of Florida would be doing their part for autism awareness. As we were walking up to the courtyard area, we noticed that the blue lights were already on, and that just made it even better.
It’s hard to categorize the event as anything but a success, especially knowing that not every state capital was participating, and knowing that the White House would not be blue, either. So when we learned that CFO Jeff Atwater was not going to be able to make it to “officially” announce the state’s participation, we were really not disappointed at all. The most important part was that the state was participating, and we are especially thankful to CFO Atwater’s office in arranging the lighting again this year.
We sort of milled around and talked with the other advocates who showed up, with all of us really just happy to be there. The crowd grew from last year, and that was pretty cool, too. It is really heartwarming knowing that someone like Sharon would bring her son (who has autism) up from Port Charlotte, just to see a building bathed in blue; she made the five and a half hour drive last year, too. The fact that she would make the trek, and that she is planning for next year’s trip already, tells me how important advocating for her son is to her; I know the drive was difficult for her to make, but I know she would not have missed it for the world. Hearing her talk about the big plans she has for the future and direction of her non-profit was inspiring. Talking to someone like Paula, who came out to show her support was wonderful, too.
For people who advocate for or care for someone on the spectrum, however, last night was really just a new starting point. Autism does not go away for us the other 364 days of the year. We don’t light our houses blue for one night and put the bulbs away until next year. We fight to raise awareness and make the world more knowledgeable on a daily basis.
I think Amber said it best (she probably didn’t realize I was listening) when she said that we were there because autism awareness is important to us. Every day, Kaitlyn is faced with an array of challenges, and every day, Amber and I have to “answer the bell” and be there for her, and we do it proudly. The hard days, and there are plenty, are well worth it because we are making a difference.
The crowd this year was bigger than the crowd last year, and it is my hope and my goal that the crowd next year be even bigger. It would be great to see even more of our family and friends at the event next year, and even better if we could somehow work with CFO Atwater in making the event even bigger.