Life And A Little Update

Hello all. It has been quite some time since I have posted here or on my social medias and I do apologize for that. It seems I have been struggling with a thing called life, and laundry but that’s another story.

In the past few months we have had our first hospital trip for a piece of metal in Bug’s eye (how in the…??!!!!), readjusting our school days and teachers, have had more than enough sick days to last a year, had the first kid-free overnight in six years, and so much more. So many meetings and classes and presentations and places to be and things to do. It is hard to do all that and run a blog/social media, so I took a break from it before it broke me.

Life.

I may continue to take a break from documenting our homeschooling, especially on Facebook since the algorithms were changed and small pages like mine may not be seen much anymore. I am focusing more on my first responder presentations and contacting people to get them involved with trainings as well. I can’t do it all, and I don’t want to push too hard in several directions at once.

So there is a little blog-y update, a little life-y update. But there is an update I would like to share with you. An update that has just reaffirmed my belief that homeschool is what is best for Bug. An update that has answered a lot of questions, and has made me breathe a little easier.

While I have known for a while I have a laundry list of issues including anxiety, depression, OCD, dyscalculia, and onychotillomania; I never really thought to delve deeper. After many sessions, it has been determined that I am on the autism spectrum, specifically Aspergers. Daddy is going to be evaluated as well because we are very similar and he shows a lot of the same characteristics.

A weight was lifted when she told me that. I have always know I was different, I never fit in, I was weird (which is a good thing!), I thought differently, I did things differently. I am different. I just like to have a name for it. A label if you will.

So with life being the way it is, it looks like I will be back with you guys intermittently. I still strive to share our homeschool, autism, feeding issue journey with you and will share when my head isn’t moments away from exploding. I may choose sleep over writing a blog, but it is always in the back of my mind.

I enjoy this, I love to share and I will continue to do so, but I won’t beat myself up if I don’t publish something every week.

Enjoy the ones you’re with, I have been. ❤

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Our Favorite Story Time

Do you listen to podcasts? Do your kids listen? I have found such great learning experiences with many podcasts, I talk about some in this blog post and how we use them in our homeschool. That particular blog was written before I stumbled across the podcast I will be talking about today.

Circle Round Podcast. Great for adults who love to listen to stories and great for kids to build Theory of Mind as well as something everyone can agree on!

I am always on the search for podcasts. I have a few favorites, but I am always hoping to find something fun and interesting that I/we can learn something from. I have my just-for-mommy podcasts and I have some that I will gladly play for the girls any time they ask.

We listen while playing in a sensory bin, instead of me reading out loud at bedtime, in the car, while I make dinner, on no-tv days where they are getting too worked up, while they play outside, or even while they take a bubble bath!

With Circle Round, my girls have been asking for episodes by name! I surprise them every Tuesday (sometimes Wednesday if I haven’t been online much on Tuesday) with the newest installment. I always get a little bit giddy when it shows up in my RSS feed.

Personally, I love folktales and stories. I love being transported to a world where I need to think and ponder the events, to get out of my own head. I have yet to find the perfect just-for-mommy version of this, so I just love how Circle Round is not just a kids podcast. It really does rope in the grown ups as well!

I also love that at the beginning of each podcast, they say where the story is told. We have had to look at our world map to see where Thailand, Sweden, Nigeria, and Asia are located and I explain that people live there who have had the story told to them by their great grandparents (It is hard to explain generations to 4 and 6 year olds who have no concept of what day it is let alone the concept of time!).

Bug’s favorite story so far is called Onions and Garlic. She loves the actors’ intonation and silliness. This has been the go-to when we get in the car and I ask : Story or Music? and they respond with: STORY! 9 out of 10 times. I will then ask which story. Sometimes they want to listen to Stella And The Dragon, or The Princess In The Mirror. The Rice Cakes And The Oni sparked her curiosity to learn about mythical beasts and we went to find a book on mythical beasts at our local used book store. We learned about how it is mean to make fun of people in The Barber’s Secret, and we heard a folk tale about Why The Ocean Is Salty.

There are so many things to learn while listening to this great podcast. My girls ask a LOT of questions…why did she do that? Why is he talking like that? Why isn’t he happy? They are learning to think and question the world around them.

This is what Theory Of Mind is.

Theory Of Mind is how someone thinks and responds to other people’s thoughts. It is “the idea that each child develops an understanding of their own thoughts, desires, and beliefs—and can recognize that other people have their own thoughts, desires, and beliefs”.

Story telling is so important for building this skill. Asking questions is important for them to be able to understand other people having different ideas in a situation.

I know at leas, or especially, with Six, I can tire easily from all the “why” questions she throws at me all day every day. But I take a deep breath and remember that she truly does not know. She is still trying to understand the world around her and asking why to every.single.thing is her way of learning.

Bug is still learning that she can ask questions. When she starts asking, boy, she just won’t stop! Building Theory Of Mind in kids with autism can be a challenge. People with autism can sometimes not understand that other people around them have their own plans, thoughts, points of view, beliefs, and emotions. I am certainly no expert in how to help everyone with that difficulty, but every single article I have read of Theory of Mind, has said that reading stories can really build that skill.

I love that Circle Round was created for kids but is engaging for the grown ups as well. I love that it makes us all thinks and ask questions and maybe even learn a lesson in among the tale.

Not only do they produce a podcast every Tuesday, they also have coloring pages* for each of their stories available here. So for those of you homeschoolers out there, having your kiddo color one of these pages before/during/after listening to the podcast, can count for Social Studies and Art!

I hope that by sharing this podcast with you, I have helped build the desire to listen and learn. I wish for all of you to be as excited about this podcast as we are every week. Keep answering all the Whys, keep telling stories, and keep the spark to learn alive.

 

*If you do a coloring page and have an Instagram account, tag #CircleRound so they can see your artwork!

The Cure For Autism

I recently read a post by one of my favorite blogger/FB peeps, the wonderful and hilarious Mama Fry.

Mama Fry is wonderful. She finds the humor and tells it how it is. She was the first autism page on Facebook that I liked and followed after Bug got her diagnosis. Mama Fry has been in the autism world longer than I have, and I have learned so much from her and I enjoy and look forward to her blog posts.

This post was about a cure for autism. You can read about it here. And Mama Fry hits the nail on the head: “Your kid has autism and that doesn’t change a damn thing about them. It just explains their neurology. That’s it”.

I don’t believe there is a magical “cure” for autism. If there was, don’t you think everyone would have heard of it? Wouldn’t you think every doctor, speech therapist, feeding therapist, occupational therapist, resource teacher, behavioral therapist would be sharing the “magical cure”?

Essential oils do not cure autism (or ADHD or feeding issues).

Bleach enemas do NOT cure autism. Just no.

Rhythmic movements do not cure autism.

And while I’m here:

You cannot catch autism.

Vaccines do not cause autism (follow the link for SCIENCE) (Edited to add: this awesome info as well as more science, some Q&A, a Japanese study, this, even more science here, and more info on ASD specifically. Although I know that if there is any anti-vaccine person reading this blog, these articles will to them be poppycock, but I am aware we can all have different opinions so you do you ❤ ).

You did not eat some non-organic carrot that caused your kiddo to have autism.

I may have gone off on a slight tangent, but I am passionate, it is relevant, and it is important.

Bug has autism. So what?! It doesn’t change who she is! It is a label to get her help she needs to grow and learn to reach her potential.

The reason I say all of this, the reason I am so frustrated is because I have heard most every “cure” and every “reason” she has autism. And it hurts, as a parent, to hear “oh you must have not eaten organic foods that were pesticide free while you were pregnant” or ” oh it is because you vaccinated her, vaccines cause autism”. You know what I hear when someone callously TELLS me their OPINION? That it is something I did, that I failed as a parent, that I did this to her. That is not fair. That is not the truth.

I spent so many anxiety-filled nights till 2, 3, 4 am researching, doing my homework, trying to find out if it was truly something I did. I spent YEARS doing this research. I happen to trust peer-reviewed, scientific evidence when it comes to things I am not a PhD in. So I trust that if there was a cure, we would know about it.

That being said, even if there was a cure, I wouldn’t use it. Bug is the best kid I know. She is truly amazing, hilarious, loving, kind, smart, and so many other things. Autism does not define her.

So let me tell you a little story of why Mama Fry’s post really struck a chord for me.

When we started with occupational therapy back in September, I was expecting some fine motor games, some hand strengthening exercises, some techniques to use with pencils, writing surfaces, writing materials, games to play to promote writing skills, and things of that nature. What I have been told to do with Bug, however, is far, far from what I was expecting.

Rhythmic movements. I call them jiggling, because that is literally what it is.

Our OT at school has told me about her teacher/mentor who is apparently quite big in the OT community, or at least with a certain type of OT. And somehow I wound up on this lady’s email list….to this day I truly have no idea how. Now, I ranted and raved about cures for a good long while to get to this story that made smoke come out of my ears.

The subject line said: “I am usually skeptical of miracle cures but…”.

Before I even clicked on the link I was rolling my eyes so far back in my head I almost fell over. Remember, this is the lady that our OT seems to idolize. I clicked on the link despite my better judgement. It was screenshots of alleged emails this lady has received saying that the jiggles CURED someone’s ADHD, another one’s depression, someone else’s anxiety and someone’s kid’s autism.

I wanted to scream.

Firstly, how many other interventions and/or medications did these people have, how many YEARS were they involved with these other things? And you are solely crediting these movements for “curing” these diagnoses.

Secondly, what is the {scientific} proof that these movements do what you claim they do? And to be clear, they are claiming it can cure things ranging from anxiety to autism here. I have found little to none. Research on this particular topic is sparse. There are mainly claims to success with no real backing. And like I said above, I really like science and trust peer-reviewed, scientific journals.

Thirdly, is this particular form of therapies (not used by every OT, I should clarify) designed to be NOTHING BUT the movements? Because that is what our OT experience has been. We have been doing nothing but the movements in the 30 minute session once a week and I am expected to do them every day. We haven’t held a pencil since October, and that was for the initial evaluation.

I call hokum. Balderdash, nonsense, malarkey, poppycock, twaddle, drivel, bunk.

Wouldn’t every OT be using this form of therapy if it helped kids with Downs Syndrome, autism, ADHD etc?

Shouldn’t we be doing fine motor games, hand strengthening exercises, learning techniques to use with pencils, utilizing different writing surfaces, writing materials, games to promote writing skills, and things of that nature, not just waiting to see a result from the movements before we continue?

And I have no doubt that these movements could help build some reflexes and help overall. However…..THEY DO NOT CURE AUTISM.

Bug has shown some improvements in her writing skills. Want to know why? Because I went back to my anxiety-ridden self from four and a half years ago and have been staying up till 2, 3, 4 in the morning researching what OTs go to school for years to learn about.

Puddy play to promote hand strength and form, butcher paper scribbles to engage full body awareness that builds up to control of their body, weighted pencils, inclined writing surfaces, tiny pencils, pre-writing shapes, games involving hand-eye coordination and crossing the midline, and so many more.

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pre-writing shapes

This was me.

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A modified tripod grasp (I believe). Wrist down, elbow down.

Not jiggling her on the floor. Me.

I’m not even trying to brag here. I just don’t want credit for my hard work and dedication to Bug’s learning and development to be credited to this jiggling that I do occasionally, when I have 20 minutes with just Bug in the house and I remember.

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I have to give credit to our wonderful aid for gifting Bug this game for Christmas this year, it has helped tremendously in building her tripod grasp as well as strengthening those fine motor muscles! ❤

This is something that could take years to “see progress from”. Meanwhile, we have an IEP goal date of May and I had expected to see more progress towards that (reachable) goal by now.

I fail to agree with the large expectations being placed on these movements and am very disappointed in the lack of evidence that they truly help with anything but reflex integration.

So to get back to my main point here today, there is no magical “cure” for autism. These comments and thoughts are still very prevalent, especially among those WITHOUT children on the spectrum.  But if you want to  improve your kiddo’s quality of life, their future; love them, support them, if possible, get them into any early interventions you possibly can, fight for them, believe in them, and be okay with them being their own person. Be their support, their rock, their shoulder, their cheerleader and their mama bear. Throw a drink in the face of anyone who thinks there is or wants to cure your child. They are amazing, you are amazing. Keep on keeping on.

 

The Christmas Season

Whether you celebrate “the true meaning of Christmas”, Hanukkah, presents, or Festivus, you probably experience the busy, illness-filled, crazy-hectic month that is December. There have been many events and happenings crammed into this month and I just want to lay down and hibernate for a few months! Stick a fork in me, I am done!

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December for us was so busy. So. Busy. So busy, in fact, that I ignored all of my social medias almost completely. I am sometimes asked how I “do it all” and the fast answer is: I don’t. I fed everyone, made sure we all had regular showers, and got us to appointments on time. I did not spend hours on Facebook, I did not look for the perfect picture in every activity we did to post on Instagram, and I forgot completely about Twitter.

I tell you all this to share what actual real life is. Real life is busy and stressful.

But, as all this crazy business is starting to slow down, I am slowly getting posts ready and working on future blog posts (I have some really awesome reviews in the line-up so stay tuned!). But I wanted to share some of what has happened in the WDWW house during the holiday season.

The month of December started with a Bang. I was planning another meet and greet complete with Santa and gifts, when I was graciously given a donation for even more gifts than I had already planned for. It was a wonderful way to start out the month!

We didn’t slow down at all and we bundled up to go and see the world’s largest living Christmas tree be lit up with lights! It was a great event, but there were WAY too many people for me with both girls sans daddy. But we stayed and watched from a slight distance, then we went to get pizza! I had the girls eat it in the car on the way to get daddy at work and while we waited in the parking lot, we had some nice warm hot cocoa to warm up. We played “questions” and ate yummy pizza and drank hot cocoa till daddy was done then went home and collapsed!

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We did throw in some math games and a sight word snowman!

Along with the regular weekly classes and therapies, I took the girls to an excerpt of the Nutcracker at a local theater with our Charter as well as a truckers parade where local truckers decorate their trucks with lights and they drive through town. It was a great night but so chilly!

I also took Bug on a special mommy-Bug date to see her first ever play at another local theater. She loved it! I was almost in tears watching her smile and giggle and be so well behaved! It was truly an amazing experience and she still talks about it and shows anyone who visits the program.

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We made erupting snow! If it isn’t going to snow here, then we will bring snow to us!

Bug was also able to come to the meet and greet I hosted. Gwama hug out with her then walked her down to the fire station when there was a lull. Gwampa volunteered to be Santa for my meet and greet and Bug instantly knew it was him! She also got to ride in a fire engine, talk on the loud speaker of the Highway Patrol vehicle, and try on turnouts and a helmet. I will make a post specifically for this meet and greet because I believe more of these need to happen!!

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We grew magic growing crystals! Which, if you haven’t done so already, should be at the top of your to-do list!

 

Here is where things started to go wrong. The Sunday leading up to the last week of school before winter break, every school in the local area was hit with a nasty flu. So bad in fact that many public schools closed in the middle of the week. Bug was hit with it Sunday, conveniently after a sensory screening of Ferdinand (great movie, by the way!). She was down. Bug doesn’t get sick often, and if she wants to lay down, you know she is very sick. Bug wanted to lay down around noon on Sunday and she didn’t move till noon on Monday afternoon. Then Six got hit Wednesday-Friday, then I was hit Friday and Saturday which was also convenient because Auntie Fred flew in for Christmas and got in Friday night and came to the house Saturday. Daddy was the only one in the house who got out of being sick!

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To keep them calm and occupied I had them play the very rare game Eye Found It Disney. It is a special occasion game.

We got to go ice skating this year too! We do not live where it snows, unfortunately, so a local town rents an ice rink and sets it up in the parking lot of a park. Bug was her normal self and ran before she could walk and fell down quite a few times. Thankfully, they had walkers that Bug and Six were able to scoot along with by themselves. Hot cocoa was needed afterwards to warm up frozen (but intact!) fingers.

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Ice Skating!! Break time!
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Remind me again why I chose to brave Target by myself with two kids three days before Christmas?!! At least they both still (barely) fit in the cart!

We managed to drive around Christmas Eve to see all the light displays. There were some really awesome set-ups for sure! We saw so many inflatable decorations and lots of bright lights!

Auntie Fred was here for one week, we had planned to make cookies and do Christmas dinner with my grandma and a great uncle. We exchanged gifts and ate cake. We even went to a few shops a few days after Christmas to see the sales and I was able to grab a few odds and ends that were 50% off! Oh, how I love sales!! We had another set of relatives come over for some sweet treats and more presents. Then we sent Auntie Fred home. Boo. Six LOVES Auntie Fred, she was talking about what she wanted to tell her when she finally got here, what games she wanted to play. So many things!

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Gwama got each of them their own dream tent for their bed, but they refuse to let us put them on their beds, instead they have to be on the couch. Because, of course!

So we didn’t escape December without getting sick, but we did make it through fed and mostly happy! I will even admit that I really slacked on our weekly worksheets, but we were learning the entire month! And that is why homeschooling wins during the holidays. Baking cookies? Math and Science! Family coming to visit? Social Studies! Caught the flu? Health! Singing Christmas songs non-stop? Language Arts, Speech, and Music! Learning is happening all the time if you talk to your kids about what is going on around them.

I hope you all had a festive, illness-free, somewhat relaxing holiday season, no matter what you celebrate (if anything!).

I hope we all can have a happy New Year! ❤

Maybe This Is What I’m Supposed To Do?

In high school, everyone was so concerned what we were going to be or do after we graduated. What school we were going to, SAT or other tests, scholarships, majors, jobs, resumes. It was a lot to deal with, incredibly overwhelming and stressful. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but everyone wanted me to make a decision.

I did make a decision. I didn’t participate in the SAT or ACT tests, I didn’t apply to colleges or for scholarships. I still don’t regret that decision, but it did eat at me. For years, people asked what I would do once the girls went to school; get a job or start a business. The stress was back. Should I do something more?

Well, then autism happened. Homeschooling happened. It felt like I was working, a job I loved with bosses that tested me to my limits then told me I was pretty.

Being a mom is a job. It is many many jobs in one. I am happy with where I am. I am with the tiny humans I love, I am married to a great, supportive guy, and we are molding future generations.

Being a mom, wife, teacher, cook and so many other things can be extremely hard to juggle at times. Often, my attention will go to one or two subjects and I will ignore the others. I do not “do it all” every day, heck, there are even some days where I am forced or I allow myself to do nothing.

I often think about the future; a room just for our classroom with sensory items everywhere, presenting to a meeting room of first responders on autism, laundry that is folded and put away nicely, a book published. Maybe my life is supposed to be filled with many things I can be good at. Not one job I go to daily. There are many things that I am good at, many things I have practiced, overcome and persevered, I am a Jane of all trades, master of none.

I am okay with that. My life is full of things that interest, inspire, drive and delight my heart and soul.

I would not have overcome my discomfort of speaking in front of a group of people if I had not believed what I was doing made a difference. I would not have taken on homeschooling if I had not known I had support, I would not be here had I made other life choices at a time where life was so uncertain and scary.

I have never seen a conversation involving a high schooler that didn’t have the question “so what are you planning to major in” or something of that nature. At 18, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Had I been forced to choose something and go into debt following a subject I may or may not have ended up using/liking, I would be in a totally different place than I am now, not necessarily for the better.

I am 26, I still barely know what I want to do with my life. But maybe this is it. And maybe I am fine with that.

I want to raise my own kids, I want them to have quality family time, I want them to feel loved and important. I want them to know they are important, that they are smart and clever and silly. I want them to look back and remember all the fun times we all had together. Together.

One day I may have a “job”, but for now, they are my job and I love them.

Calves

 

Occu-what? Another Therapy

ABA, Feeding, Speech, and now Occupational therapy.

We have a FULL schedule. It’s a wonder I make 3 meals a day some days.

Bug has been having some discomfort and hatred towards doing worksheets and writing for quite some time. Long enough we saw a need for an evaluation.

The evaluation took a few 30-minute sessions, followed by a team member IEP meeting that determined that yes, she could in fact benefit from OT.

She cooperated for a few of the sessions, and came around during two of them when the therapist brought out the slime. Slime is magic. It is my secret weapon at home during worksheet days.

We are still in the beginning stages of this new and interesting approach to helping Bug to write. So very much in the beginning that I may need some time to comprehend what the actual heck is going on.

Now, I mean no disrespect to our therapist. None at all. I am just beyond confused and a bit frustrated at the research I have done.

Our therapist is having us do what is called rhythmic movements. It is apparently a reflex integration to help “wake up” reflexes that are still left over from the baby stage. You know when you put your finger in that brand new baby’s hand and it closed around your finger? Or if you put your baby’s arm up, its head would turn? Apparently, Bug’s reflexes didn’t integrate completely and could use some of these “rhythmic movements” to help build them up.

I have done some Googling, and I have not found much in the way of studies or research on this and it all just feels a bit strange to me. How is jiggling Bug on the floor supposed to help her write? I just don’t understand.

I have even made a few phone calls to a couple other OTs in the area (which is very few actually), and had them try to explain to me just what these movements were doing. One said there hasn’t been much clinical research to support this method. I like science and research and studies so this makes me even more concerned than I was when she showed us these movements for the first time. Another mentioned that our particular OT has seen great results with this method for many other issues. All well and good.

I just fail to agree that not doing these movements is the reason Bug was having a hard day. She has hard days on school and gym days. It isn’t because I didn’t do the movements, this has been happening for months longer than I even knew the OT.

I just fail to agree that the only thing we should be doing is these movements. We have had Bug hold a pencil maybe three times total over the course of 3+ months of sessions.

And I fail to agree that I should be the only one practicing writing with Bug. Our wonderful resource teacher would be a fantastic support for not only Bug, but for me as well.

It doesn’t help that I am terrible at communicating so I struggle with asking “what exactly is this doing?” or “will we be working with a pencil soon?”.

So, because I have been having these struggles, I have taken it upon myself to learn as much as I possibly can about fine motor skills, pre-writing, pencil grips, types of pencils and pencil tools.

I have created sheets upon sheets of pre-writing shapes and lines to practice, I have made weighted pencils, found really short pens, made extra big grip pencils, and found activities that include a vertical surface and crossing the midline. I have found fun Christmas themed fine motor activities, workbooks with pre-writing support games.

This is what I had I guess expected from occupational therapy.

Yes, the reflexes are a valid concern. However, one that I didn’t think would be the focus of our short sessions.

I will continue to do the movements, but if Bug starts showing progress in writing, I will know in my heart that it was because of my dedication to her. Not from jiggling her on the floor.

I will continue to Google “rhythmic movements” in hope there will one day be some empirical evidence on the subject. But for now, I feel like I have just been handed a candle and told to light it every day and it will cure my allergies.

Does anyone on this world-wide web of ours have any suggestions for me? I could use them right about now… ❤

Oh My Gourd! Be-leaf Me, Fall is A-maize-ing

Hay there! Happy November! Anyone else in disbe-leaf that it is already NOVEMBER?! What happened to April, June, August?! Sheesh. Okay, I’m done with the puns…

I shouldn’t complain too much though, October is my favorite month. Not only is it my birth-month, but also Halloween and when the weather starts getting crisp in our neck of the woods. I love the change of colors on the trees, and going for drives to see all the amazing colors with hot cocoas and a podcast.

Plus, it is the lead up to Bug’s favorite, my second favorite, season: snow. Well, not where we live, we plan to take a snowcation to play in the snow. But I am jumping ahead now!

October.

This past month was a bit crazy. Busy with appointments, classes and meetings. We had an IEP amendment meeting to add occupational therapy officially to our already busy schedule, we had some fun field trips, we had some bad days, and we had some really awesome days. And cake, we had cake.

So in addition to our regular Monday and Wednesday classes/therapies, Thursday morning gymnastics and Friday afternoon ABA sessions, we crammed a lot of fun and learning into one month, and the best part? It was all fall themed…some was spooky, some smelled good, but it was all fun!

We started out the month with a ride with Gwampa in the milk truck. We climbed on some marshmallows, pet some calves, found a kitten and ran off some energy in a field. Gwampa just got a new truck…his old one kind of exploded, it was a lemon; so we had to break it in with muddy footprints on the dashboard and slimy handprints on the window. As you do.

Calves

 

Being October, the start of apple season, one of the local festivities was an Apple Harvest Festival. An entire town overrun with vendors and activities and chili cook offs and welcoming faces and good food and tractor rides. The local fire department even had an open house with so many fun games and activities and even a helicopter landing! Fire truck rides and candy and police officers letting little kids setting of the sirens. Oh this was a fun day. Bug did so amazingly, too! She did get overstimulated at the fire station because of all the commotion, but we used her calm-down techniques and we were golden!

We did a lot of art this month. We did some pinecone painting to start out our October art. We did this on 18″x12″ paper and I hope to make this into a book cover later.

Pinecone Painting

I also made some new sensory bins with colored rice (how-to video on my Facebook page!) and some fun additions. We had to make a spooky bin, hence the eyeballs, and a fall themed bin with fall colors and scented pinecones.

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If you believe in the old wive’s tale, we predicted the coming winter when we went on a hike and I let the counting-obsessed Bug collect woolly caterpillars. There were so many caterpillars!!! We also painted with snails, You can read about this weekend here.

It also happened to be fire safety and prevention month. I created a week-long, autism-specific safety plan which you can read about in this post. It was not intended as a week only learning plan, but for a very broken down, make-it-fun, learning time to help you teach your kiddo fire safety.

Along with the sensory bins, we also made a sensory/iSpy bottle. There is some debate in the WDWW household of what the black things are. I intended this to be a spooky Halloween bats sensory bottle, but half of us think they are spiders, the other half, bats. What do you think???

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On a perfect fall day, I took the girls for a little stroll through a very sweet little town about 20 minutes away from our house for some leaf collecting.  We packed a paper bag full and then went off to have the best pizza in our county. The next day though, we did a lot of leaf activities. Leaf stamping, painting and shadow-ing. I love this so much. They did the leaf stamping on 18″x12″ paper so we can use it as the cover of a book or something like the pinecone painting.

And of course we had to go to the pumpkin patch. This year though, we actually did pumpkin carving with help from BOTH of the girls! For the past few years, Bug has not been okay with the smell/look/feeling/sound of pumpkin guts. Overall she has been extremely opposed to all things pumpkin except picking one out. So this year when she was so excited to carve  pumpkin and play in the guts, we jumped on that. The pumpkin patch trip was so needed, we needed to get out of the house and it reset all of us.

We made applesauce with apples from Gwama’s trees, used one of those apples to make jack-o-lantern stamped artwork, made bird feeders for our non-existent birds, and we made yummy sweet tortilla chip jack-o-lanterns. We made green-apple pie playdough (recipe below!), read spooky Garfield books, broke out the boots, and had one too many spooky-sprinkle-covered vegan doughnuts.

 

Also trick-or-treating, of course! Bug went as a fire fighter ❤ Thanks to a friend, Bug even got to wear real turnouts! Thank you, Thank you!

Halloween 2017

It has been a great month. Busy, but fun. So, before I write a play-by-play novel of our month, here is our recipe for green-apple pie playdough!

This recipe was adapted by my wonderful aunt’s recipe for cooked playdough that she gave me from her time as a teacher.

Green-Apple Pie Playdough

1 cup water

pea-sized blob green food color or healthy squirt liquid food color

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1 tbsp oil

1/2 cup salt

1 cup flour (mine needed two extra tablespoons)

2 tsp cream of tartar

2 tsp cinnamon

 

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp allspice

1/8 tsp cardamom

Combine salt through cardamom and mix well, set aside for a moment and in a large saucepan, heat oil and green-dyed water till bubbling slightly.

Pour in dry ingredients into the pot and mix very well with a wooden spoon. mix till a dough forms and you cannot see any more dry bits. Remove from heat, place the dough blob on a cutting board to cool for a few minutes.

If it is too sticky, knead a bit more flour in.

Enjoy!!

 

A Weekend Full Of Adventure

This weekend was filled with slugs, pumpkins, woolly caterpillars, vegan donuts, and learning fun.

We started off Saturday morning with a trip to see Gwampa and to go on a little hike on the (decommissioned) railroad tracks to the tunnel. Both of which are in the town I grew up in so I am very familiar with the turf.

The hike ended up being just over a mile round trip, we didn’t make it all the way to the tunnel and decided to head back to do our observation journal at the park. But on our walk, I set Bug in charge of collecting woolly caterpillars…I put the child most obsessed with counting things in charge of collecting caterpillars. We ended up with well over 20! I lost track after 14. Six was in charge of slugs. Not picking them up, we forgot our rubber gloves, but spotting them for me to put into our container.

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I took them hoping to find some snails for an art project I had planned for when we got home, but only found slugs. Thankfully I knew our back “yarden” was full of snails.

We got to the park and I told them we were going to draw in our journals first then they could play. Motivation! We had made our journals out of a blank book I found in the dollar section of Target at the beginning of the year. I even made one, it is actually really fun to participate with what I have them do. So we drew the slugs and woolly caterpillars and what we used to look at them with; Bug drew eyeballs and Six drew a magnifying glass.

I shoo-ed them off to play on the playground and I released the slugs and caterpillars.

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Crawl away!

We eventually meandered homeward but I decided they had been very well behaved and had great listening ears so they deserved a donut. I recently discovered one of our local grocery stores made vegan glazed donuts and was excited to try them! They were delish! And of course we had to make sure their sprinkle donuts were tasty too. I had happy girls and I was happy we now had a special occasion treat option again!

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A spooktacularly Halloween-y themed #vegan treat!

After our donut tangent we made it back home. Uncle C and Hubby were playing video games so I broke out the paints and told the girls to go snail hunting. They found some really awesome snails too! My surprise art (and science!) project was to paint…with snails! I did lots of research to find a paint that wouldn’t harm the snails, and made sure the girls were gentle with them. Six had to be reminded that we don’t push on them….that particular snail protested with a lot of bubbles. But they had a lot of fun dipping the snail’s foot in paint and watching it paint as it crawled along the paper. It also produced some interesting artwork the girls insisted needed to be hung up immediately.

We played a “find how many” game with our new MobiKids that we love so much but forgot to take pictures of on this particular day, then I ended up letting them watch Ninjago till dinner. What even is that show, by the way?! I am clearly not the target audience, but Bug sure is! I had to protect everyone from getting ninja-kicked in the face…and really anywhere on our bodies, it wasn’t like she was aiming! But I got all seven loads of laundry that had been sitting in my “laundry room”, aka garage, for the past week and a bit so fairly productive.

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Sunday morning I dressed up the girls to go take some pictures. I am in no way a photographer, I don’t have the photoshop skills, but I love taking pictures of the girls for seasons and sometimes just for fun! They are so photogenic that it is easy for even me to get some great shots! I am just good at filters. But I got some great shots to share with our family as well as a few pictures of our surroundings! I think I like taking pictures of plants and bugs because I don’t have to tell them to stop squirming 9,000 times for one shot. Silly squiggly sisters!

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We came home from taking pictures and changed back into our jammies. Bug and I did a worksheet and Daddy and Six worked on letter formation. We made lunch, ate lunch, cleaned up lunch then they, and by ‘they’ I mean Bug, Six AND Daddy, badgered me into letting them watch Ninjago. I got to work on my first responder project so I’m not complaining!

Learning is everywhere, you just have to know what questions to ask and what to talk about. It doesn’t hurt having a kiddo *cough cough Six cough* that asks exactly one million questions a day. I have to keep reminding myself that they genuinely do not know the answers to these questions, but my goodness does it get exhausting. I may have hid in the garage to eat a So Delicious ice cream sandwich to recover from what felt like a quick fire round of questioning from Six about why we had no yogurt.

Find the learning everywhere, in everyday; have adventures and make moments. Be with your kiddos, they like you like you!

October Fire Prevention and Safety Month and Autism

Every October since 1922, The National Fire Protection Association has sponsored Fire Prevention Week. This is always the Sunday through Saturday of the week that October 9th falls, this is to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire that started on October 8, 1871 and did most of its damage on October 9. The fire was blamed on a cow, but  that’s another blog post!

Fire Prevention Month focuses on a different aspect of fire safety each year. One year it could be preventing forest fires, another year it may be creating an escape route from your home in case of a fire.

When I was in school, the local fire department visited our school for a demonstration and petting zoo. They taught us how to get out of a burning building, what to do if somehow you are on fire, and showed us how their engine worked. We got to see them dressed in their turnouts, we got to sit in their truck. It was fun and great for us to start learning fire safety at such a young age.

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Goodie bags!

All of this is wonderful if you have a neurotypical kiddo in public school.

But what about a kiddo with autism, or other disability? What about a homeschooled kiddo?

This is where I want to come in.

I have had the wonderful opportunity to be able to give presentations on autism awareness to some great fire fighters. So far I have spoken at three separate departments with three more on the docket. I am so grateful that these guys see the need I see and are willing to learn more about a topic that is so complex.

I have been able to collaborate with these awesome fire fighters on what parents can do to help the first responders if ever there is an emergency situation involving you and your kiddo on the spectrum and have made an entire blog post about that here.

But what I want to do for Fire Prevention Month is to share what you as a parent can do for your kiddo with autism or other disabilities to learn about fire safety and fire fighters.

This can be difficult as I am well aware. Bug has no concept of danger. She laughed when we got into a minor car accident because she thought it was fun. She would run right out into the street when we go to cross if I didn’t stop her, she can and will jump straight into the deep end of the pool without caring if someone was there to help her, and she will put her hand straight into a flame because it is pretty if we weren’t vigilant.

Making S’mores the first few times was very difficult. We now put a hula hoop on the ground so she has a visual limit to how close she can get to the flames.

Bug’s safety is our top priority. It always has been. She would elope, she would try to touch flames, and she would run away from us in the parking lot. All of these things I have dealt with and I understand how hard it can be to teach a kiddo with autism how to be safe.

We still have a long ways to go, but we have had a massive improvement. Why? because we work really hard. And I don’t say that to brag. Autism is hard work. But I am determined to produce a productive member of society and if that means reading the same social story 50 times a day for three months until she gets it, then so be it. That is what needs to be done, so we will do it.

I hope that you all are as determined as I am, because safety is important and we need to do whatever it takes to help our kids be as safe as they can be.

So, here are a few tips to help teach your kiddo some fire safety:

  1.  Social stories. Social stories are individualized short stories that illustrate a social situation that your kiddo may encounter. These stories model appropriate interactions using social cues and responses to a situation. I am in the process of creating a social story for kiddos on the spectrum about fire safety and fire fighters, however, it will not be completed before the end of October 2017 Fire Prevention month sadly. Creating a social story about the dangers of fire as well as what to do in case of a fire and what to do if you see a fire fighter could be very useful. Repetition works.
  2. Visit your local fire department for a tour. Until recently, I never would have thought to call a fire department to ask for a private tour. I thought I would be bothering them. No! You’re not bothering them. And if you live in a small town with a volunteer fire department, you might just know a fire fighter, or in my case, live next to the chief! Call and explain you have an awesome kiddo on the spectrum, or with another disability, and would like to bring them down to meet a fire fighter and would like for them to become familiar with fire fighters and talk about fire safety. These guys don’t mind kiddos checking out their gear or trucks (inside and out!), they do tours at elementary schools and are great with kids! At the meet and greets I’ve been able to coordinate, I have seen some amazing interactions between these kiddos and fire fighters, it was heart warming and amazing to watch. So call and ask!
  3. Having a fire drill. Much like a social story, acting out what to do in a fire can help our kiddos not stress too much if the real thing happens. Show them a picture of a fire and smoke then explain what to do to get out of the house. Do this once a month, repetition is important and it works! So if you go through the motions of a fire escape from your house every month for 3 years, then one day they have to use that information, yes it will still be scary and stressful, but it is a routine for them now, they know what to do without thinking. That could be the difference between a successful escape and a difficult escape.

Fire safety can look like many things; I just ask that you think about the fire safety you have in your home now. Yes teaching fire safety to a kiddo with autism is hard, we are still working on it and it may take a while, but it is a needed skill to know. Try, try your best to teach your kiddo about fire safety.

And for kiddos who may be a little more advanced than needing red tape on the floor around the stove to know where the danger is (currently part of our kitchen decor), I found a wonderful “report” from Arthur (the TV show):

Be Smart

  1. Don’t touch matches. Stay away from lighters and candles, too.
  2. Don’t touch radiators or heaters. Ask a grown-up to turn a heater on or off for you. Don’t stand too close to a fireplace or wood stove, either.
  3. Don’t play with electrical cords. And don’t stick anything into an electrical socket.
  4. Don’t play around in the kitchen. If you want to cook something, be sure to check with a grown-up first.
  5. Don’t put anything over a lamp. Things thrown over a lamp (like blankets or clothing) could catch fire.

If there is a fire:

Be Prepared

  1. Make an escape plan. Work with your family to plan how to get out of your home if there is a fire.
  2. Plan two ways out of every room. The first way out should be a door.
  3. Choose a meeting place. Pick a safe and easy-to-remember spot outside your home where you will meet your family after you get out.
  4. Practice! Every escape path needs to be planned and practiced with grown-ups.
  5. Test smoke alarms. Help grown-ups remember to test smoke alarms monthly and to put in new batteries twice a year when the clocks change.

Be Safe

  1. Get out fast! When you hear the loud beep of the smoke alarm, get out of the house. Never hide or take time to grab your belongings or pets.
  2. Follow your escape plan. After all, you’ve been practicing!
  3. Feel a door before you open it. If it is hot, there may be fire on the other side. Try to get out another way.
  4. Stay low to the floor. Since smoke rises, the safest air for breathing is down low.
  5. Call 9-1-1 or the fire department. Be sure to do this after you get out of the house. Remember: Only call 9-1-1 if there is a real emergency.
  6. Stay out! Once you’re out, stay out. Don’t go back for anything!

And Remember…

Stop, Drop, and Roll. If your clothing catches fire, remember to stop where you are and drop to the ground. Cover your face and mouth with your hands, and roll over and over until the flames are out.

…………………………………..

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Meet & Greet

Fire safety is a difficult topic, and I get it. We tend not to want to think about the worst case scenario, I am guilty of it too, but despite it making us uncomfortable we need to find the strength to think about how beneficial it could be one day (but hopefully will never be needed) to have prepared for it today.