Tag Archives: autism

STEM Wednesday

Kaitlyn is absolutely excited to go to school on Wednesdays this nine weeks.  Or at least that is what she told me this morning.  When I asked her why, he answer was simple: “It’s STEM Wednesday, dad!”  Well, ok then.

STEMKaitlyn has always gravitated toward math and science, and that is something that Amber and I have encouraged her to do and supported her on.  There is just something about using her analytic mind and figuring out how to solve problems on a scientific level that has always appealed to her (don’t ask her to do any “common sense” problem solving.  She is not wired to excel at those kinds of problems and deems them to be inconsequential to her daily life.).

A few weeks back, Kaitlyn went out back and started collecting rocks, twigs, and grass to take to school in a large freezer bag.  She told us that she needed it for her gifted science class.  Fine by us, less for to clean up.  About a week later, we got an email from the teacher with pictures attached; the class was split into pairs and tasked with building a bird nest out of the materials they all brought in.  There was really no “set” way that they were supposed to do it, just work together to build it.  Kaitlyn really enjoyed doing that project.

Their second STEM project was to build a cup pyramid using rubber bands (and cups, of course!), and Kaitlyn got a kick out of that, too.

Which all leads to today.  Kaitlyn just couldn’t wait to see what today’s STEM project was going to be.  She seems to love the challenge of what they are assigned to do, and loves the process of completing the assignment.

It’s great that the school is exposing the kids to STEM activities at such an early age.  Challenging them, especially kids like Kaitlyn, is important.  It helps to keep them motivated and interested in going to school everyday.  From our perspective, emphasizing areas where Kaitlyn already excels only serves to enhance what we are building with her and encouraging her to do.

I can already see that this summer will probably be one where Kaitlyn and I work on several projects that are STEM-related.  I can’t wait, either.

Nervocited

Calendar Circledschoolhouse1Kaitlyn coined a new word over the weekend, and I think it perfectly embodies how she is feeling, and how I suspect a lot of students in her class and grade are feeling today.  Her new word is “nervocited,” and it is a combination of “nervous” and “excited,” and she used it to describe how she feels going into this week’s Florida Standards Assessments testing (FSA).  As parents, Amber and I use different, more colorful words for these types of tests.

Throughout the entire school year, pretty much every lesson taught, every piece of homework completed, and every test taken has been with this week in mind.  And I think it is a little ridiculous.  Teachers are hamstrung from really impacting their students more than they do (they are doing the best they can while staying within the guidelines of the testing structure), and students are missing out on tremendous learning experiences (my teachers always seemed to be able to do a fine job in getting us ready for our testing times while making school fun).

As is always the case with Kaitlyn, she is really stressed about the testing.  She sets such lofty expectations for herself, and Amber and I know that she gets way too worked up about things like this.  We try to impress upon her that the most important thing is that she remain calm, and she will do great.

I don’t know if the new FSA testing will be better or worse for students and teachers than the old FCAT was, but if the buildup is any indication, it will be more unnecessary stress on students and teachers.  Since this is the first year of the testing, there is no baseline on which students will be graded, so that will be fun I’m sure (that was the case about a month ago when I last spoke to Kaitlyn’s teacher about the testing).

albert-einsteinAmber and I are ready for Kaitlyn to come home from school every night looking like the guy on the right over there, and that will be if the testing went well!  No student in third grade should have this level of stress at 8 or 9 years old; all that does is decrease the likelihood that they will continue to enjoy going to school, although I have a feeling that won’t ever be a problem for Kaitlyn.

This is going to be a tough week in our house.

 

Out Of Nowhere

Amber and I both knew the day would come eventually, but we had no idea how it would manifest itself.

Last night, out of the blue, Kaitlyn just broke down and started crying.  This is not typical of her, especially right before Survivor was starting, so we knew something had to be up.  It didn’t take long for us to get our answer.

upsidedown-world1Kaitlyn told us that she “didn’t feel like” herself anymore.  After a little more digging, she revealed that she felt it was because of her Asperger’s.  She said that she felt alone in the world and that she is treated differently by some kids because she has autism.  We were in the midst of a full-blown meltdown.

From the time Kaitlyn was diagnosed, Amber and I started discussing how exactly we would handle telling her, and how we would deal with situations like this when they came up.  When we told her about her diagnosis, she took it just fine.  She asked a few questions about what it meant, and what it was, and we answered them honestly.  We didn’t want to hide anything from her.  Since her diagnosis, we have been upfront with her teachers about it and worked with them to maximize Kaitlyn’s days at school without interfering with or interrupting the classroom environment.

One of the first things we told Kaitlyn last night was that her autism is just part of what makes her special.  It is what makes her the caring, trusting, compassionate, and gifted child that she is.  She was (and is) so scared that other kids will treat her differently because of it, or that she may be bullied because of it, and Amber and I had to convince her again that those things just weren’t going to happen.  (I’m not above going all “Curt Schilling” on people who mess with her, either!)

dolphin11aWe told her that her Asperger’s/autism is what makes her love dolphins so much and what makes her want to work with them in the future (she wants to be a dolphin trainer, and Amber and I will do everything we can to encourage her to be just that).  No, it is not a requirement for a dolphin trainer to have autism or Asperger’s, but it certainly can’t hurt to have someone who has been blessed with it and has such a deep love for them working with dolphins and educating people about them.

Another point we brought up with her is that nobody, under any circumstances, has the right to make her feel like she is less of a person because of her diagnosis.  Nobody.  Amber and I just will not tolerate it.

We know that last night will not be the last time we have to comfort Kaitlyn and reinforce to her what a blessing her having Asperger’s truly is.  We made it a point to tell her last night that we wouldn’t change a thing about who she is; we are proud of her, and we wanted to reassure her that we will always have her back.  Amber and I work hard everyday to make sure Kaitlyn understands how special she really is; we are fortunate to have people surrounding us who share that goal, and we are thankful everyday for the support system we have in place here (I don’t know that we will ever truly be able to express how much we appreciate what everyone does for us and for Kaitlyn everyday).

When people really get a chance to know Kaitlyn and take the time to really understand her struggles and successes, the impact it has on her, and on Amber and I, is tremendous.  It truly is a gift to have a child with Asperger’s, and we do our best to teach Kaitlyn everyday that she is truly blessed to have Asperger’s.  Aspergers 1

Utter Chaos

It seemed a little strange that there would be an open house at Kaitlyn’s school so late in the year, but that is where we found ourselves last night.  Honestly, it was pretty cool to be able to visit the school and her classrooms (yes, two classrooms) and talk to her teachers about the progress she has made this year.

chaosAfter navigating our way through the PTO’s silent auction (although there was very little in the way of actual silence in the cafeteria), we went over to Kaitlyn’s main classroom.  Kaitlyn was very excited to show us around and show us what she had been up to; there was a checklist on her desk of things that she was supposed to show us, and she happily did.  While we were standing by her desk, Kaitlyn’s teacher came up to us and chatted for a few minutes.  She made note that Kaitlyn’s desk was remarkably clean (for her, it seems), and also commented that her desk was not the most chaotic in the classroom earlier in the day.  Of course, this point warranted further investigation (I waited until this morning to ask), and as it turns out, Kaitlyn’s desk was the second messiest in the classroom before she cleaned it earlier in the day.  More on who had the messiest desk in just a minute.

From Kaitlyn’s regular classroom, we made our way to the gifted cottage.  Kaitlyn was very excited to show us where she has been going for the last six weeks or so.  Pretty much as soon as we walked into the cottage, it made perfect sense that Kaitlyn would have such a messy desk in her regular classroom; the gifted cottage is what most would consider utter chaos (although I would probably call it “organized chaos”).  As it turns out, the student with the messiest desk in the regular classroom is also in the gifted program, so it made perfect sense to me once Kaitlyn told me.

It is actually a pretty neat statement on the learning environment that is fostered in the gifted cottage.  In there, it is clear that there is the understanding that each of the kids learns differently, and those different ways of learning are embraced.  We learned that one of the main goals of the gifted classroom is to enhance the strengths of the students, and by doing so, make the weaknesses even stronger.  As funny as it sounds, what with Katlyn’s adherence to routines and structure, I am confident that she will thrive even more now that she will be in that type of environment; next year, she will continue to be in a regular classroom setting most of the day, and will also continue to move to the gifted area to enhance her day.

If you were to look through the archives of when I write about Kaitlyn’s school , you will see that this theme is repeated constantly:  we love where she is and could not be happier with the teachers she has had and the environment she is in.

Annual Report

A few weeks ago, we took Kaitlyn for the second part of her annual evaluation with the psychologist.  This was the one-on-one session where he basically interviews her and gets a good idea of how she has progressed or changed since our last visit.  Overall, the visit was about 90 minutes long.

Last week, we received the clinical report (and when I say “clinical,” I mean it very literally.  As usual, the report was filled with “doctor speak,” which we have had translated for us in the past, so we are familiar with it now.).

There were no real surprises in the report at all, and it read pretty much like last year’s did.  Really, the only “change” that was noted was that, according to the DSM-5, Kaitlyn now technically has Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder.  After researching what exactly that means (she will “require support”), I concluded that it is just a fancy way of saying she has Asperger’s (because it will be so much easier to tell people, “my daughter has Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder” than it was to say, “she has Asperger’s.”  Now, in addition to explaining what her diagnosis means, Amber and I will first have to overcome the blank looks from people trying to comprehend what we meant by “Level 1.”).  Here is what Level 1 is:

Social Communication:  Without supports in place, deficits in social communication cause noticeable impairments. Difficulty initiating social interactions, and clear examples of atypical or unsuccessful response to social overtures of others. May appear to have decreased interest in social interactions. For example, a person who is able to speak in full sentences and engages in communication but whose to- and-fro conversation with others fails, and whose attempts to make friends are odd and typically unsuccessful.

Restricted, repetitive behaviors:Inflexibility of behavior causes significant interference with functioning in one or more contexts. Difficulty switching between activities. Problems of organization and planning hamper independence.

Basically, Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder mirrors Asperger’s.

The report did mention that Kaityln probably also has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which made Amber immediately point out (rightfully) that she inherited that from me.

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