Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Few Funnies

Today I turn 38, AND it is our 15 year anniversary. For the want to see my 39th birthday, I will state for the record that of my 38 years on this planet, the last 15 of them have been the best years of my life.

Now, onto the funnies.

This morning Maya sang the Happy Birthday song to me. Afterwards, she asked me, “What kind of cake do you want to buy me to eat for your birthday?”

Demetrius wished me a happy 6th birthday. I mentioned to him that if I were 6 then I would be younger than him, and not able to drive the car. These facts are irrelevant. He then asked me what toys I wanted for my birthday. I didn’t bite. This is a leading question, if there ever was one, to get Demetrius toys he likes… for my birthday.

The kids have their first swim meet tonight. I attempted to explain what this meant to Maya. Maya swims with her team in the mornings at one pool, then she swims for fun in the afternoons at our subdivision’s pool. For 10-15 minutes each hour, at our subdivison pool, the lifeguards call an ‘adult swim’ so the kids have to get out and rest and they can run through their check lists of testing the water for chlorine count, etc….the kids, obviously, hate adult swim. Maya had it in her head that the swim meet was at the subdivision pool – because the meet is tonight, not this morning. So in her mind, if her team won, would they get to swim during ‘adult swim’ while the other team had to ‘sit out of the pool’. That’s a trophy for Maya.

I didn’t even remember it was my birthday until I found out I shared it with Brooke Shields from a radio station this morning. I thought, ‘Holy Crap, its my birthday!’ Then I thought, ‘Holy Crap…I didn’t get anything for my anniversary!’ Of course, I then thought, ‘Whew – I have an out tonight. The kids have their first swim meet.’ So its ice cream for everyone all the way around!

Who am I kidding. I still gotta take Kim out and pay for a sitter sometime in the near future. I’m gonna take her some where really nice…maybe Chilis?

Finally, aren’t good things supposed to happen on your birthday? I noticed this morning on the way to the gym that one of my headlights in the car is out. Happy Birthday I guess, please pay the VW dealership $150.00 to replace the bulb….

They have free coffee and Wi-Fi there… 

Posted by Jerry in 14:57:41 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Peanuts: Charlie Brown Christmas/Outkast: Hey Ya

If you guys haven’t seen this, it is a crack up. Demetrius loves it.  He LOVES Charlie Brown Christmas (pretty much has it memorized, owns two copies of the picture book – one is upstairs, one downstairs) and this OutKast song (Hey Ya) is put to scenes of the show.

It is a crack up.  Worth a few minutes to watch and smile.

Posted by Jerry in 23:54:56 | Permalink | Comments Off

Swim Team

I’ve written before that the kiddos have been testing out being part of a swim team…Maya’s a water bug (well, they both are) but she’s really taken to it, and she wants to win every heat they practice. There was never a doubt in my mind, for the 4-5-6 year old age bracket, that she’d be on that team…

Demetrius though, well….

Kim did the right thing, she had him ‘practice’ with the 4-5-6 year olds. He swims a bit, gets out of the pool, swims across the ropes (rather than use them for lane markers….what’s the point of that?!?), sings a few songs while in line waiting for his turn..but the coach is understanding, and has ‘accepted him’ onto the team.

Ain’t that great!

Will he be swimming in meets? Initial reaction is probably no, but the more he practices, the more he gets it; and who knows, he might just end up actually swimming a bit, maybe more than a bit, with the kids his age. He too loves the water, he’s just one swimmer with a few more ticks. If he gets this down, I’m sure he’d love being part of a team (assuming he really wants to be part of the team).

In fact, in terms of ‘body build’, for swimming, he seems to be long and lean….Maya’s a little muscular thing….he’s actually built long term for it better than she is…

But that tenacity the Pink Bombshell has…oh Maya Marie, are you competitive.

This should be alot of fun folks. I’m excited to see where this goes, for both of them!

When Kim told me, I was very, very happy.

Maya calls it ‘team swim lessons’. She’s kinda right….

Posted by Jerry in 15:26:53 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. We had the Grasso grandparents in town (Nonni and Grandpa) and Kim’s sister, Rachel, and her husband, Cam. Full house, full of fun.

Kim’s nephew, Garrett, was throwing the javelin in the NCAA national championship track and field tournament in Charlotte. Not bad for a freshman, eh? So Rachel, Cam and Kim all drove up to watch him toss the stick. Every time they talk about him throwing I think of Monty Python’s javelin catching skit. I know, I have the mind of a 12 year old.

Unfortunately, Garrett apparently got the jitters and did what freshmen do, freeze up a bit. But wow, to be 18 years old and throwing in the national championship, what a rush that had to have been for him. Next year he’ll be a sophomore, have all of this under his belt, and will, of course, win the whole shebang. Don’t know if it will be in Charlotte again for Aunt Kim to go and watch.

Here at Casa Grasso, we attempted to do what we do best – wear out Nonni and Grandpa. This was our Saturday routine:
• Jerry runs with running group
• Shower, give everyone baths, to see Shrek the Third at 10:30 am
• Buy three new pairs of shoes, sneakers for Demetrius, sandals/shoes for Maya
• To Target to buy more toys (grandparents = suckers)
• Lunch
• Home to play new computer games for one hour
• Walk Buddy
• Take kids to swimming pool for two hours
• Home to play more computer games
• Go get pizza for dinner
• Watch Spongebob and play more new computer games (the kids got, like, 7 I think)

Sunday was very much of the same – minus the shopping.

So what was great about this? Well, take away Demetrius’ OCD, “When are we going to Target?” “Now are we going to Target?” “After this are we going to Target?” He was extremely engaged.

And I saw something yesterday that just had me beaming.

At one point, before the kids went to show off for Grandpa how well they ride their bikes, Demetrius was sitting in the living room with some new toys (all Spider Man 3 action figures, of course), and he was doing some imaginative play. I would say watching him, it was more in line with what you would expect of an older toddler, 4 year old, in this respect (Maya’s already done this type of play and is onto more complicated tea parties with stuffed bears, having slumber parties for them, etc…) but he kept at for about 10 minutes. That is a long time for him to entertain himself, and he just sat there and played. I’d love to see more of that, but if you jump in, or start talking to him, he’ll stop and let you start to lead for him…which is absolutely not what I want him to do. Maybe we’ll see a lot more of this throughout the summer.

A couple of funnies from the weekend:
• The fam went out to Buca di Beppo for dinner. Lots of statues Maya noticed of men with their ‘weenies covered by leaves’. She also noted that this form of ‘clothing’ would be ‘itchy’
• Nonni opens the suitcases with toys, she pays for the new pair of shoes for Maya and pays for toys at Target. Demetrius mentioned that he wanted to go to Target again (why not? It’s here, Nonni and Grandpa are here…why not visit the store 3-4 times a trip?) and Maya told him to, “Ask Nonni, she has all the monies”
• You have to wear ‘expensive’ shoes to a wedding. Like you would get at Target or Kohls
• I started to get my stuff ready for work last night and Demetrius told me I couldn’t go to the office, “I don’t have school, you don’t have to go to the office!” Wouldn’t that be nice?

Finally, below is our family picture from the Autism Walk a few Saturdays ago. Again, thank you to everyone for participating. We are very, very grateful for your donations and support…with your help we raised about $3700.

Team Super D..with a little bit of Buddy in the photo….

Posted by Jerry in 15:21:57 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Friday, May 25, 2007

Waiting Rooms

I was trading emails with a friend about his second son – his first is autistic, and making great strides….the second? Well, Dad doesn’t think he’s autistic, just a bit delayed. His reasoning? Alot of time being dragged into waiting rooms for his older bro’s therapies and appts. Sad truth in the lives of the autistic siblings.

It made me think of a conversation I had with Maya once. Typical four year old language, but still – she was telling me about the neat waiting room and all the toys and tvs and kids at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s hospital…and which ones had nothing for her to do.

Yea, my heart kinda broke when she told me all of this.

Just made me think of the siblings, and what they have to go through. If you’ve got a couple of kids and one is autistic and the other isn’t…give the other an extra big hug, maybe go out for a special ice cream or something.

Sometimes we forget about them…even if it is just for a moment…they get a bit lost in our thinking about autisim, IEPs, social cues….

Yea, a hug and ice cream would be perfect.

Posted by Jerry in 14:26:41 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Graduation Pictures

Remember my writing about wearing Dad’s oxford yesterday? Here’s a photo of it…like a graduation gown, I guess (her friend Jesse is to her left)…look how big the collar is!

Once they started walking out, the parents with the cameras and video cameras all popped up…(parent-atzi, as Kim called it)

We were all kneeling, waiting for our little joys to walk down the aisle… Maya approached, I got fallen on. What are the chances of that? Apparently better than my six number combination winning the lottery!

Getting a PINK graduation hat (she loves it)

Diploma in hand…..

Told you she loved the pink hat…..

Ms. Stacey (Maya’s teacher) gave her an award: The art deco award. Go figure! Wink

Posted by Jerry in 20:03:11 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Silly Thing

We are desperate for rain here in greater Atlanta, however, it hasn’t kept my rose bushes down.  As you can see, we are getting some great blooms.

Always nice to have fresh floowers on the kitchen table

One other thing happening in greater Atlanta is graduation from local colleges, high schools…and pre schools.

Yes, I said pre schools.

Tomorrow Maya graduates from pre school and is on her way to Kindergarten…when did this become momentous?  Did I not get the memo?

Now, she’s been practicing a song for me from their presentation and there is a cookies and punch ceremony afterward, and she is very excited, and very serious about all of this…and it is relatively harmless. The song is cute as can be…but it is utterly silly to make a production event out of ‘all this’. 

All the kids are required to wear one of their father’s ‘white button down oxfords’ for the presentation, if they want to go through it.  Give me a break (not too mention they’ll swim in these shirts). Its pre school, and having an hour plus presentation about ‘graduating’ is senseless…and will probably be like herding cats. A little event in each room with mommys and daddys….sure, I can see that. But a whole, big production/presentation where the kids (135 of the rascals in this school) go across the stage and get a diploma in front of the parents in an auditorium? C’mon….

I’m reading about school districts ‘reigning in’ proms around the country that are costing kids and families in the tens of thousands of dollars to attend for all the ancillary crap that goes with the event: limo rides, expensive dresses, etc…I bet it all  starts with making too big a deal about pre school graduation.

No doubt we all feel it is important to celebrate our kids achievements and to be proud of what they do and who they are becoming…but I also believe there is a line somewhere about what’s really appropriate and what’s a waste.  Clearly you all know my opinion on this event.

Of course, I’ll be posting photos of it because I’m proud of her and think she hung the moon…but this is a very silly thing.

Posted by Jerry in 20:56:47 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

IEP for 1st Grade, Part Deux

I wanted to take a few days before I wrote about the IEP. I think I’ve learned that writing too soon about these meetings…I’m a bit too emotional and so I write what I’m feeling at that moment, more so than what I think through that comes out a couple of days later.

This allowed the emotions to sequence appropriately:
• Initial disappointment/anger about the meeting
• Discussion about how Kim and I are beginning to see things after a night’s sleep
• Discussion about what we aren’t agreeing on post meeting
• Fight due to stress and worry, but ignited from something trivial – in this case, her grandmother’s pillow cases in a linen closet
• Numbness
• Back to work on Monday, a deep breath and onto another day

To recap: we didn’t finalize the IEP in the initial meeting in April, and reconvened a month later after the school district’s autism specialist had a chance to evaluate the boy and we could further discuss the mathematics portion of his education curriculum for next year.

The big takeaway, or new news, in regards to the specialist evaluation was the emphasis on how stressful lunch is for Demetrius. She noticed that he started fidgeting and losing his attention to tasks as lunch approached. Lunch is then just a hard time for him with his sensory overload and then he has to decompress afterwards. Part of this isn’t new info – but I didn’t realize that he had stress about it, even though he loves eating with all the kids.

What to do?

The initial remedy is that we’ll go the headphone route…. but not in terms of noise reduction, rather, we’ll get him an iPod so he can listen to some music. This is also forbidden fruit for the other kids, so I’ll purchase a splitter (gadget that allows two sets of headphones plug into the same jack in the iPod for the music) and another set of headphones so a ‘friend’ can listen with him at lunch. We think this will enable him to stay within his own world during this stressful time, but also allow another child or two to join with him. Then we’ll monitor to see if his pre-and-post lunch stress dissipates.

I did comment that I, of course, would have to purchase two iPods. I got confused looks by some of the educators…why would that happen?

I can’t buy one for him and not Maya. She’ll end up requisitioning it, or breaking it. We’ll also have to explain that he can bring his to school and she can’t bring her’s…but we’ll tackle that when it happens.

We also agreed that the autism specialist would train both his teacher and his aide before school starts next fall. This is big for us. I’m glad to see that this happened.

In terms of math…well, the school district is going to a new curriculum, and there is a concern whether the way it goes is appropriate for him…he’s a bit behind now, and if he’s in the mainstream class and falls back…and even if we react immediately, then he falls further back. So this means he’s got to learn what he didn’t get in resource room and also work on the skills that keep him on course with the other kids. This is a big concern – which he falls further behind in math skills.

One of the instructors, she has a special needs child. She spoke from her experience as a parent and from having set up IEPs for so many children over the course of a number of years…that not only would he fall behind, but he’s a little person, and he’ll feel frustration and more stress, which only factors into making his education a bit harder for him that it has to be…in the end this swayed us; we put him in IRR for math too.

So the majority of his time, just under 70%, is in IRR. This is one of Kim’s absolute worst fears for Super D: that he is that kid that spends his days in IRR…and as all of you that worry about these things too know – the fear of once in IRR, always in IRR…even though they say they want to do everything they can to move him/her back into mainstream. But they don’t have the social/group skills they mainstreamers have…. thus, they fail in social dynamics. This is the autism/school rub – autism is primary a social/communication disorder and educators are focused on academic success. There is spillage… which can lead to ADHD, processing issues, etc…affect/effect schooling…and thus the falling back and IRR issues. Vicious cycle. I will say this is a well-grounded fear, but I think the instructor made her points very well. All I can say is, “well, we’ll see.”

There you have it.

Now, what are we looking for next?

For me, it’s a bit of Jerry McGuire: “Show me the money.” We have taken their recommendations and have agreed to them. Show me that he is making progress in the smaller, more focused IRR environment. If he is, then, well, okay. We’ll consider options from what the other side of this looks like. Let me just say – we are getting excellent results in his language arts since we moved him into that environment about a month ago. So lets see where we go with it next year. Okay, show me that this works.

I have spoken with a number of people I trust deeply, that care about the boy, and us. The analysis is pretty much unanimous from them – and it is sometimes hard for Kim and me to see since we are thick in the morass: school is about education, and since he is high on the spectrum, and he has potential, then he can be more than the token special needs ‘class pet’ for some first grade class…he can be…something in life (path to be followed is yet to revealed, so to speak) and we should at least take the educators recommendations and try this program out and see if it does deliver the results. The point is, we should listen to a lot of experts. One of these folks said to me, “You seem to take what your special needs pediatrician and many of these therapists say seriously, because you pay them directly. You buy in. Maybe you should give these folks, who are as educated as your doctors and therapists – a chance.” I was a bit taken aback from that statement. Truthfully, we are defensive when it comes to the school folk…there’s something hard I need to consider in those wise words.

The second point was that if educators are worried about his education, then it is incumbent on Kim and I to make sure he gets socialization in other ways. Swim practice, baseball, etc…this is true too.

There’s more, and I could go on longer – but you get the drift…am I coming around? That might be too strong at this point…but am I letting my guard down in terms of what will happen next year? Hmmmm…lets just say I should maybe be a bit more open minded, and of course, very exacting – when evaluating how he does in school in first grade.

This is where I stand today, four days later.

Any one want to chime in with thoughts?

Posted by Jerry in 16:10:59 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, May 21, 2007

It wasn’t all Demetrius this past weekend….

Maya had an art show on Saturday night (yes, we all crashed after autism walk, art show, swimming, running 6 miles at 4:30am…)

Maya made this beautiful bowl that is now featured prominently on the dining room table….

Clearly we got into the mood to pose…Here is Daddy’s Father’s Day gift, which will hang on the wall of our bedroom to ensure the least opportunity of breakage in the house (obviously, Mommy and Daddy’s room have some ‘hands off’ stuff in there…)

And we hammed it up with the Groucho Marx glasses and nose we got as a gift from our friend Skye’s birthday party…

Oh…and we lost a second tooth.  Two in a single week. The tooth fairy is gonna run outta one dollar bills at this pace…


Posted by Jerry in 22:47:49 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Today’s Autism Walk

This morning I got up at 4am and Buddy and I went for a 5.5 mile run. Usually on Saturdays we get to sleep in until about 5:30am and then get up for running club, but this morning was special.

Kim’s friend Janet showed up at about 7:30 am and we went down to Atlantic Station for the walk. We were all wearing our Team Super D tee shirts. As we got down to the exit from the highway, we couldn’t get off at the exit. Too many cars, mini vans, SUVs idiling to get off for an Autism Walk. Wasting fossil fuels for a good cause.

We had to drive to my office, about a mile away, and walk – to a walk! Kim, Jerry and the kids will sleep well tonight, I am sure. (However, they have wells of energy I do not. They are on their way to swim at this time, while I lounge and blog.)

I was not prepared when we turned into the area where the walk began for what I saw – thousands of people, all in different ‘teams’ tee-shirts, walking. Since we were a tad late (walk from the office) we had to hustle at the back and see all of these people in front of us walking. Many had autistic children, like us, they were walking for…themselves; many orbited those children, whether extended family members (my parents and sister and brother-in-law were walking in Texas) or through professional relationships (therapists, doctors, etc…); many were walking because their company sponsored it (legions of people from UPS were walking) – many because autism has become somewhat a ‘cause celeb’. But they all walked.

Early in the walk we finally found our friends the Carraghers. They walked with us. This felt right to me on so many levels. I think I’ve said before that Demetrius and Joseph Jr. have known each other probably as long as the two of them can remember. Joseph has grown into a seven-year-old boy, with a seven-year-old friend, that is different from him and all the other little boys he knows. Demetrius has played at his house, has played with his toys, has watched his videos, and has periodically, when he is having a good day, played with him (more recently wrestled with him). Joseph knows him only this way, and Joseph walked with Demetrius, at times holding his hand – while Demetrius squirmed due to the noise and discomfort from all the people. But Joseph held his hand.

We chatted as we walked as a small team.

“Excuse me, are you Jerry?”

Me: Yes?

“I’m Christopher’s Dad.”

If you are a reader of this blog, Christopher’s Dad is a recent commenter. They knew me through the tee-shirt we were wearing saying, ‘Team Super D.’ We shook hands. I wished I had a business card on me to share email addresses, and now was not the time to stop walking. Christoper’s Dad: please provide me contact info, when you read this, in the comments section. As soon as I see it, I will take it down and I will then take it off the blog.

Here is a photo of Christoper, and his beautiful family:

Christopher’s Family

The walk ended and the kids wanted to play on some of the bounce houses they had there..too many people. So we went to get our tee shirts and leave.

That was it.

What is my take away? All of these people represent a consciousness that there is something in ‘this autism epidemic’ that affects all us – whether directly like us, indirectly like the Carraghers, or collaterally like the person next to me…that may have to bear the burden of his or her taxes caring for the welfare of an autistic child in the future. This is ‘the start’, and the energy is very high, as we put effort into making autism part of our collective medical consciousness and lobby for govt funding.

What will these walks be like in ten years? Will there even be walks in ten years? I don’t know. But I think the people at Autism Speaks have done a wonderful job here at the ‘start’. I don’t think, personally, that here in Atlanta we could have asked for more.

I thank all of you that took time out of your day to walk with us this morning. You lent your energy to raise awareness for the cause. I thank all of you that took dollars out of your checkbooks to donate through Team Super D to raise money for research — to build the infrastructure in people and places to conduct the research.

This was a good day for all of us that were affected by this. It showed me that we aren’t alone, that we are part of something larger, and hopefully, part of something that is growing stronger.

This was a good day.

Posted by Jerry in 23:28:28 | Permalink | Comments (3)