Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Chart

Will the Reward Chart Work? We'll know after 20 or so days....

Will the Reward Chart Work? We'll know after 20 or so days....

Homework with Demetrius can simply be painful. He dawdles and he runs off and then if it gets to a point where you have to take something away, like, say, dessert – meltdown city.  It’s even worse on days where he has therapy.

Tonight was that special occasion where you feel that at the end of the night you are just going to stare at the wall and contemplate that another day of this and we’ll know the real reasons the good lord taught the Irish and Scotch to make whiskey many moons ago.

I decided to take all the good advice and ideas out there in ‘autistic dad blog land’ and create a chart of rewards for Demetrius, that’s long to achieve but focused on homework.  IF he does his home work without fits/crying/yelling/throwing things/telling Mommy he hates her – he gets a check off of one of the number boxes. After 20 checks, he can go to Chuck E. Cheese, then we do it again and we can get a DS game.  Same with Maya.  He’ll hopefully model better if he sees she’s in the same boat for her rewards (Gattitown/American Girl Outfit).

My hope is she doesn’t run away with this and he ends up frustrated, that he can keep up and hit the Chuck E. Cheese reward pretty quickly.

Kim and my reward? Not having to spend the moolah that would have gone to the rewards on the whiskey.

Posted by Jerry in 02:12:48 | Permalink | Comments Off

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nervous Energy

Tonight the kids had an ‘open house-PTA-cookout’ at the school, where we could come and find out how to get involved and the kids could run around and act like monkeys.  Though at about 4pm, Kim calls me and tells me the kids are acting out – Maya had been sent up to her room and Demetrius was pretty much on his way.

The long and short of it all is this is the first full week of school (Mon -Fri) and the kids are tired, they don’t have any friends of the sort yet where they can just drop their backpack and run to play at so-and-so’s house, and other nervous energy/I just moved/angst and apprehension fears (ex: Maya wants a little girl to come to our house and play, but she won’t go to her house to play because she scared of not knowing the parents or the neighborhood, etc…).  The pandora’s box kind of just opened up this afternoon and tonight.

I watched them run around the playground as the cookout was obviously outside, they didn’t really socialize with any kids that I could tell (I kind of expect to herd cats with Demetrius, but Maya’s shyness is a bit surprising for both Kim and I), but they played hard. That in itself is a good sign, it is only a matter of time before Maya finds another wild one to run around with, and Demetrius did attempt to talk to a few kids, but he was just more interested in being able to run at will (he did at one point join another group of boys who all took their shirts off.  Why, I don’t know, but a gaggle of us parents swooped in to put an end to that!).

The patience part of finding a new friend(s) is the hard part, but by this time come next May, I would expect the playground scenario to be a bit different, as they make a few friends and the energy they have won’t have to be spent because of fear of the unknown, rather, it will be spent having a blast with some good, ‘relatively new’, friends.

Posted by Jerry in 02:12:22 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, August 13, 2009


As Grandpa so aptly put it on the phone yesterday, you could have cut the nervous energy in the house with a knife the past few days.
Why? Well, we started school this morning.  New school. New teachers. New kids.  New fears and concerns.

Maya, will any girls like me? Will I make friends? Will I be the lonliest child in the history of lonely children? (Yes, quite dramatic, but we are good at that.)

Kim, IEP, IEP, IEP…what do the teachers need to know that I haven’t told them? What if…fill in the blank.

Demetrius? Well nothing really from him.

Me? Shit, I just wanted to stay out of trouble with Kim and Maya, mostly. But I was nervous if it wasn’t going to go well, what the ‘spillage’ might look like with the Grassos and the school.

So I bought some special ice cream, cherry pie, and other comfort foods to help…but that’s enjoyed, and then the worrying sets back in.

This morning, after I ran the dog, Kim popped out of bed at 5:45, very determined and very worried.  Maya popped up not long thereafter, chatting non-stop. Nervous chatting.  Filling the quiet space, and quiet space allows concerns and worries to crop into it….

Demetrius came downstairs with a comic book, singing a song from Willy Wonka.
As we got ready to leave for school, Super D turned to me and said, “Daddy, you don’t need to come, I’m fine.”

Okay, to not ruffle feathers, I stayed home. Gave some kisses and hugs, and the van pulled out of the driveway.

Surprisingly, Kim was home soon after? They kicked her out already? ☺ No, in fact, when Demetrius got to his classroom he turned to his Mom and said, “Mom, you can go now. I am fine.” And waltzed right into 3rd grade.  Maya was a bit more complicated…a bit.

So that nervous energy has floated out of the house….

Hopefully not to return any time soon.

Hope your first days were as uneventful as ours.

BTW – had dinner at restaurant called AP Roots tonight, very tasty.  D had two plates of French fries, so clearly school did not affect his appetite….

Posted by Jerry in 02:10:11 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

School Starts When?

There was that bad movie a few years ago, well, more than a few years ago called One Crazy Summer.

Well, we knew that would be the case this summer, but still, I couldn’t believe that on Monday that school starts for the kids next Wednesday.

Lets see, the last week of May, moved from ATL to KY.

Second week of June we went to DisneyWorld.

Following weekend we moved into the new house here in Lexington.

The following weekend we had workers in the house.

The next weekend, my inlaws came.

Weekend off.

The following week Kim and the kids went to the beach.

The following weekend our friends the Sellers came up from ATL.

This past weekend members of my wife’s family came.

Lets see – yep, that’s summer.  Next up – my folks over Labor Day weekend.

Our new carpet is definitely getting some traffic!

Posted by Jerry in 15:17:11 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pictures From The Reflections Contest

Demetrius on stage after accepting his award

A bit nervous, biting his nails….like father like son

I told him to look at me to take a photo…

Demetrius, his ribbon and his art – the winning robot!

My girls at lunch after the ceremony at the OK Cafe (yes, Maya cut her own bangs)

Me and the award winner!

Posted by Jerry in 00:09:17 | Permalink | Comments Off

Sunday, March 22, 2009

An Award Winning Artist

Today Demetrius received his reflections award from the Georgia PTA.  Hopefully later tonight I will be able to post the video and photos from the awards ceremony.

Needless to say, we couldn’t be prouder.  Here are a few of the details:

•    There were over 28,000 participants from the state of Georgia in 2009
•    Only 1st and 2nd place go to a committee for consideration
•    24 finalists are selected and considered by the state committee
•    Of those 24 finalists, Demetrius was the Special Artists, Visual Arts Second Grade State Winner, First Place

Wow SuperD!

It was overwhelming for him.  When we got there, his ‘shy gene’ kicked in and he began twirling his hair and chewing his fingernails.  He kept wondering when he had to ‘go up’.  When they called his name, he walked up on stage, said thank you and stood on stage, staring at his feet as I took digital photos.  As he does when he becomes very nervous or overwhelmed, he grasped his chest with his arms and squeezed as hard as he could.

As he walked off, he buried his head into my stomach.  He was quiet throughout lunch (although the location was loud) and Kim and I discussed she was going to have to coax a discussion about it out of him.  We hope he is proud (he got a big ribbon, document, and a $25 check!)  I know he was overwhelmed because he also leaned on me for stimulation in the lunch booth, and kept retreating to the corner of the booth and wouldn’t talk.

So I don’t know if he was happy, proud or not.  He just wouldn’t engage and verbalize.  I told him many times we were certainly proud of him.  And we really are! 

But it is at moments like this where you realize the autism does get in the way of the moment and you hope that it was in, some way or shape or form, special for him.

Some small way, as special for him as it was for his mom and dad.  I sure hope so.

Posted by Jerry in 21:02:15 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Co-Op Discussion

One of the more interesting speakers yesterday was the Danville High School Co-Op teacher, Mike Pennock.  He’s been doing this a long time. He is in his 31st year of teaching and he discussed a number of things I found more than just a little bit interesting.

As he got started, he discussed when he started teaching in the late 70s.  Back then, he stated ‘your’ (he knew he was speaking to a special needs parent audience, so I was okay with this language) kids would have been taught in their own special classrooms in their own special wing of the building.  Further, if this wasn’t bad enough, they wouldn’t have eaten with the neuro-typicals, nor socialized in anyway with them.  It wasn’t they were shunted, rather, it was they were separated.

Today, as he said, its inclusive and he feels that this is absolutely huge. Yes, there are moments when some neuro-typicals act inappropriately, but for the most part, they integrate to the best of their abilitites and they should be integrated, because, as he said, life is integrated.

So how does this integration translate into his classes and co-op programs?
First, one of the things the special needs teachers, IEP team, parents and Mr. Pennock do is evaluate the student.  The painful part of this conversation was here – your kid may be at his/her highest ability of education, at this point we need to start ‘training’ (my word here) him or her for the workforce.  Ex: that the special needs teacher gave – training your child to shake the hand of his/her employer, not hug him/her.  Good point.  

So a parent asked, what type of jobs?  Hostesses, cashiers, etc…and you could hear a pin drop. Is this it? The best we can hope for our children in these types of programs?  No said Mr. Pennock, but it is the type of employer that will work with your child, or any high school kid, for that matter.  He does have a child (not special needs) working with the county lawyer, but it is unpaid – but the kid wants to go to law school.

While this made everyone a bit more comfortable, I still had visions of Demetrius working at Walgreens or CVS, putting Cheetos on the shelf and helping grandmas with ordering their digital photos.  

But I get it – school is about preparation for the future, for each kid, not for your parental dreams.  Nuff said.

He further stated that you know what, not only are these kids in the classroom and its great for the kids and school, they are often the best performers in the program. They are proud of their jobs, they do their best, they don’t resent being asked to do things that they may think may be ‘below them’, they aren’t petulant, and they get their forms signed and turned in on time.  There are 174 ‘work days’ in a school year, and most of these kids only miss when they are sick or its vacation. What more as a teacher can you ask?

Who else is in this program, a parent asked?  Teenage mothers, kids who want to be involved in ‘business studies’ (he also teaches a marketing and business principles class) and ‘at-risk’ kids who won’t earn a high school degree in a traditional college prep program, this is their other option.  Again, the parents went quiet.

Can I see a kid teasing Demetrius or bullying him?  Absolutely.  Isn’t this me being stereotypical, not unlike other parents are when they think of special needs kids? Absolutely. Shame on me.  But in many ways this is the saving grace of the Co-Op program, it is training kids to be proud and better at things that I may not be putting value in/on.  Again, shame on me.  So I rationalized this fear out of my head.  

I found this session interesting and Mr. Pennock to be very engaging and positive.  He wants kids who want to make a difference and try hard, and you can say that he genuinely didn’t see an issue with a kid being at risk, a teenage mother or special needs, as long as they were willing to try, learn and work for what they wanted.

At the break, some of the parents approached him with questions.  He answered many questions with regards to his program, and then would bring the special needs high school teacher into the conversation when it came to particulars on IEPs and the Co-Op program.

I heard him say that simply some kids didn’t need a lot of IEP support due to where they are on the spectrum or their disabilities. Others, he’ll spend half an hour or so every couple of weeks on going through to make sure the kids are hitting stride, and working with the employers so they understand what the kids are supposed to learn and work on.

Isn’t that great?!?

This guy will probably be long retired before Demetrius ever would get to high school, and I’m not moving 45 min-to-an-hour south of Lexington to go to Danville High School, but I will tell you what – I did like what this guy was saying from a micro (IEP for your kid and working with a teacher) and macro level (70s non-inclusion and 00s integration).

Well done Mr. Pennock. Well done – keep it up. Any kid working with you to develop life skills is a kid that’s better off.

Posted by Jerry in 21:14:35 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Good Content Regarding IEPs And Such

This morning (Saturday), I drove to Danville, KY for a seminars on IEPs in the state of Kentucky. I would guess there were about thirty parents there, and a number of local educators.

I’ll be writing over the course of the weekend about it – while it is fresh in my mind. 

Now, as I’ve said before, I’m not the most compassionate guy in the world, and if I wasn’t new to the state, I’d have left with having listening to the whining and crying.  But eventually it died down and it turned to some good solid conversations.

However, I will start out on the personal side, and one of those things you realize while listening to stories and lectures that I often forget in my day-to-day life.

Kim and I are EXTREMELY LUCKY that we have a lifestyle that enables her to be so active and involved in Demetrius’ life. 

One woman at this meeting was talking about her husband who had to work today and couldn’t come to the seminar… and that she had to have the IEP for her kid scheduled at 7am in the morning, and it took about 3 IEPs to get through the content, because she’s carrying two jobs right now, and to be at work by 8:30 am.  One of the jobs she is carrying is giving her enough hours to qualify for health insurance, the other pays for therapies.  She just doesn’t have enough time to read everything she needs to read about autism, go online, and read everything the teachers send home.  She feels that she is letting her son down, not as in the loop as she needs to be, and she has to trust the school too much, etc…  Of course she cried.

Every time the discussion turned to ways to create templates for teachers, emails, special meetings or calling an IEP more than once a year to go over things, she would whimper and put her head down.

At one of the breaks I heard her say she came to the meeting to learn some things, but ultimately she’s learning she’s not doing enough, and she’s not involved enough.  The meeting probably was anything but helpful for her, rather, was fulfilling her worst fears.

So it got me thinking.

I guess, like anyone, I could view my life as being a bit unlucky – unlucky that I’ve got a special needs child that will grow to be a special needs adult – one I worry about in this economy and the future of being able to fully take care of in his life…create an environment that could lead to a comfortable and fulfilling life for him…that Maya’s life is at some level unlucky because she’ll probably have to take up the rope to an extent of caring for her brother after her mother and I are gone…

But instead, I should be viewing my life as lucky.  Lucky that Kim can stay home and go to the school if there is a problem, or not. That she can get to know the school faculty and administration… because she can spend a couple of hours running copies for them or working in the library, or help out in any other way they need.  Read everything, respond to everything, work with the teachers on…well, everything.  To help them and the boy have a better educational relationship and experience.

That ‘everything’ includes creating a template on his going to the library by himself to check out books, what steps he has to take to get a smiley face and continue with this activity that he takes such pride in.  In fact, I’ve heard, this actually has helped him curb his TV/movie talk – too much of it and he can’t go to the library. 

These things can be created and worked on when you have the time to focus and figure things out.  Great IEPs are written when you can interact with the teachers and feel like everyone has the same POV, or at least, everyone knows what everyone else’s POV is.  Individualized strategies and tactics can be tailored when you have the time that Kim has…and she throws herself into it.

We are lucky, because after this morning, I kind of feel like we have the whole enchilada, and is there anything in life where you can say that?  Especially when talking about an at risk autism child?

This mom I described above?  She’s probably dog tired every night, and does what she can before she drops into bed, to do it again the next morning – and she feels like it isn’t nearly enough.  Only she knows. I know Kim doesn’t feel she does enough, but I can’t imagine Kim’s guilt if she had to work two jobs and couldn’t be involved.

At 2:38 pm on a Saturday, she probably feels depressed after this morning’s session.

So today, on this Saturday afternoon as I type this, I’m feeling pretty lucky. I need to keep this perspective.

Posted by Jerry in 19:05:45 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My kid is a….

Don’tcha just hate those bumper stickers?

Anyway, both my kids are awards winners!

Maya was Jaguar of the Month in her homeroom class, and yes, her teacher’s name is actually ‘Ms. Kill.’ With a name like that, the kids stay in line….

For the second year in a row, Demetrius won an award for an art project he did for a ‘reflections’ program.  Now his art is entered into a contest district-wide. Go Super D!

Yes, and I know, your kid can beat up my kid……   

Posted by Jerry in 01:33:12 | Permalink | Comments Off

Friday, November 14, 2008

1st Grade StoryBook Parade

Today Maya’s 1st grade class had a ‘storybook parade’ where they all dressed up like a character in a book, read a book report on the book (parents invited) and then paraded through the halls of the school.

Maya read a book about ‘Disney Princesses’.  Her teacher, Ms. Kill is next to her in the pictures.

I’m tuckered out, I initially wasn’t going to go, but she gave me sad eyes just before I took Buddy for a run this morning – so I ran extra fast.  As fast as a 40 year old overweight guy can run!

Here are some pictures from the storybook parade -

Maya and Mary Elisabeth trying to hide from the camera

Maya about to start reading her book report

Reading of the report

Her mother’s daughter, she would never have learned that behavior from me while taking a bow…

Walking down the hall during the ‘parade’ portion

Posted by Jerry in 15:02:04 | Permalink | Comments Off