Taking the Scenic Route

Sunday at Church

30th September 2008

Sunday at Church

First, gotta say, I love this new church. Sort of sad that I post less about church now that I am happy. Human nature I guess.

This Sunday the children’s choir sang. I was debating up until the last minute whether to go with Zane to the front or stay in the back. I want him to be able to handle it independently, but it really isn’t fair to him to have his first “being up front and singing” (well, on purpose at least) on the Sunday the church is as packed to the gills(the church’s 25th anniversary and they had special speakers, etc…there were people standing in the lobby when the seats ran out). So, I followed the group up there. Zane was on the end of the front row, so I could sit right up front (there is a banister in front of the front row of pews) that can sort of hide me, plus, the kids were up on the steps, so even when I was sitting down there, I wasn’t blocking anybody at all.

I wish I could say that all the work we did on the music (and all of hours of earworms for Zach and me) meant he just stood there and sang like everybody else (a mom can have fantasies, can’t I?), but I will say he didn’t run away, he stopped trying to blow out the alter candle once I told him to stop doing that (and the breath taking moment when he used the sheet music to “point” to the candle and was within an inch of catching it on fire…that caused my stealthy movements to change to a quick jump up. lol), he stayed in the same spot and only turned to the side a few times, and he did actually sing every once in a while (big YEAH! to that). He also didn’t flap or screech that I can recall, which he doesn’t do a lot normally, but can when he is overstimulated…so it was a big possiblity in this situation. He also smiled and seemed to really enjoy it, which made the whole thing worth it to me.

Overall, a success. Not a fireworks exploding success, but a great step never-the-less. I was literally dripping sweat by the time the kids walked back out of the church to their Sunday School from nerves, trying to remain unobtrusive to the people behind me, and the constant juggle of trying to decide if something is distracting enough to cause further distraction by refocusing him.

On a very cool note, I was approached by one of the Sunday School people who said there was a teen daughter of somebody who works with kids of SNs professionally who asked if she could come help out in his Sunday School classes and was putting out feelers wondering if I might need a babysitter. WOOHOO! The young lady who does the kid’s music is getting her certification to work in intergrated classrooms, which, combined with the relatively small group (there are 15-20 kids ranging from Pre-K to 5th grade instead of 20-30 kids the same age as Zane) really makes it a much better experience. I am SO glad we changed to this church. Not only are the adults enjoying it so much more, both of the kids seem to be doing better too.

posted in Autistic Life, Church, Music, Zane | 3 Comments

30th September 2008

Muncha Muncha Muncha Saturday

This fall we are planning on doing this with the kids:

It is at the local hands-on science museum Exploration Place. I talked to somebody in charge to make sure it was a good fit for Zane. She is a retired SpEd teacher and was positively delighted that I would be bringing Zane. What a great fit! She brought her rabbits, and she has had them at several different event for SN kids, including the repsite care group (ROCKKO) and I think she said Heartsprings. (could be wrong on that though)

The motivating factor of getting us to go from “I think this would be fun” to “we have to try this” was the fact that this week they were using one of Zane’s favorite books as the theme “Muncha Muncha Muncha“.

It is the story of a man who is trying to keep the rabbits out of his garden, and every night he erects another obstacle to keep out the rabbits, but every night the rabbits get through the obstacles (each obstacle has it’s own sound effect, so the rhythm of the journey to the vegetables builds each time). 

They had several stations set up, including a craft, playdoh, toys & books, and snack.  After they explored the stations, there was a story time and she brought out the rabbits to pet. She made sure that Zane was able to participate as much as possible, giving him a little time when he needed it, making sure instructions were clear, etc. It was a great experience for both kids.

posted in Autistic Life, Exploration Place, The Kids | 1 Comment

30th September 2008

Tooth fairy on hold.

Zane lost another tooth. Remembering the utter disaster of the whole tooth fairy debacle*, this time we asked him if he wanted to leave the tooth for the tooth fairy and get money or if he wanted to keep the tooth. He wants to keep it. No tooth fairy for us. lol.

*we had him leave it under the pillow, the tooth fairy came and left him money, but he was so upset that the tooth was gone that we had to call the tooth fairy and ask to bring back the tooth. All was well the next day when he had the tooth back.

posted in Autistic Life, Zane | 1 Comment

27th September 2008

Two Zora characteristics

1) She refuses to acknowledge that she might need to slow down and take a rest.
2) She can sleep in any position

Leads to scenes like this:

posted in Giggle, Zora | Comments Off

26th September 2008

Harvest at the Farm, part 3 (end of series)

When Zach and I pulled up to the farm after work, we saw the grader going down the drive and laughed. The kids talked Grandpa into a grader ride too. We found out later that Zane had also been in the backhoe and moved a lever and some residual hydraulic pressure caused the bucket to move just a little…he was thrilled. (the backhoe was off). They had also ridden on the 4 wheeler with Grandpa a bit too. (He goes really, really slowly)

The bike is turned off here, but mom got a great picture that shows one of the interesting ways he contorts and balances on top of things.

Steve’s truck was there when we pulled onto the farmstead, but he was in town dropping a load off at the grain elevator, but the kids were starving (ok, so were the adults), so we sat down to a great supper of roast, potatoes & carrots. He came in to eat after a while, then the two guys headed out to keep working, each on a different combine.

The kids goofed off for about an hour before heading home.
Zora occupied herself by giving the cat a ride in the wagon, loading the goose and goslings (garden decorations I used to play with at my grandparent’s house) in with the cat, and then trying to feed the cat.

Zane was “digging for treasure”, and specified “gold”. He made a pretty decent size hole too.

Zora checking things out and wanting to “help”

A beautiful, full day.

posted in At the Farm, Autistic Life, Autumn, Extended Family, The 2 Opas (J's Parents), The Kids, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

26th September 2008

Harvest at the Farm, part 2

After taking a quick break, we load up to go to another field, this time the beans. The combine is a lot smaller, without the buddy seat, so only one kiddo at a time. Zane rode with his Grandpa in the combine, and Zora went with her Grandma out in the truck. This round soybeans are going to be hauled into town as the loads finish up.

This is how they always did it when I was a kid, except that when I was little, it was a combination of trucks and pick-up trucks with home-made sides that made the bed higher. They prefered the trucks because they could haul more, but I loved it when harvest was going fast enough (and the lines were slow enough) that we got to take the pick-up truck. I thought it was a lot more fun to dump the pick-up truck in the elevator because you had to drive on a lift and then they lifted up the front of the pick-up to get the grain to dump out the back (instead of the hydraulic lifts that trucks have). It was like a carnival ride to me as a kid. lol. I used to go with mom to the elevator a lot and remember that one of the best things about harvest was the bottle of cold pop we could get at the co-op, a rare treat.

Zora wanted to drive. She tried to convince Grandma to get in the passenger side. lol.

Shelby hoping for a ride.

Heading out to the field.
This is the more typical type of header on a combine to me. We didn’t grow corn when I was growing up (the new hybrids do a lot better in Kansas, the prices are better, and my Dad’s allergies are under better control so he can handle it now). This header will cut wheat, soybeans and milo/sorgum. It cuts the stalk and drops the grain into the bin and the chaff out the back.

In the foreground: Grandma and Zora. In the background: Grandpa and Zane in the combine.


Watching Grandpa head back out into the field

The famous Zane lean. He does this all the time…puts his full body weight against you.

Zora was pointing out all of the tracks made by the combine and trucks all day.

And, back to the house so I can go get Zach from work and mom can get supper ready.
During the walk back Zane was very concerned when Shelby went out into the field or off the path. He kept working to herd him back into the group to walk back to the house.

(will continue…)

posted in At the Farm, Autistic Life, Autumn, Homeschool, The 2 Opas (J's Parents), The Kids | Comments Off

26th September 2008

Harvest at the Farm, part 1

The time of year where a “field trip” is actually to a field. (Split into a few posts because of length.)

Zach had to work in Mac yesterday, and it happened to coincide with the beginning of harvest for my folks, so Zach worked the morning here in town and picked us up after ST to head out to Mac, then I drove the kids to the farm.

They were cutting both soybeans and corn. The entire field isn’t ready to cut, but some parts are. (they weren’t all planted at the same time)

The corn combine has a “buddy seat” in it so that another adult can ride along. My Mom rode along this round to make sure the kids stayed safe their first ride on a combine.

Turning around at the end of the row and picking me up.

Because corn is so specialized, you can only use a corn combine for corn. The machine doesn’t cut the stalks, instead, it strips all the leaves and husks of corns off the stalk, leaving the stalk mostly in tact. Inside the machine it strips the husks off, strips the corn off the cob, and then spits the leaves, husks and corncobs back out and the corn goes into the bin.

Watching the stalks being stripped and the corn going in.

At the end of the row, the bin was full, and the semi truck driver had arrived, so we headed back to the driveway where Mom and the driver were waiting. The semi truck holds 3 loads of corn, so two grain trailers plus the corn still in the combine bins all fit into the truck. With the price of gas, it is cheaper now to hire a semi to come out rather than truck it into town yourself. (plus the hour or two it takes while waiting in line at the elevator to dump the load). The following picture is the process of emptying the trailers and combine into the semi truck. The kids stayed in the cab of the combine.

You can see the corn in the trailer as the process starts (taken from the stairs landing at the combine door)

Waiting with Grandma

The grain trailers are empty, so Dad takes the combine to empty it.

Off to take a quick break inside and get a drink.

(will continue…)

posted in At the Farm, Autumn, Extended Family, Homeschool, The 2 Opas (J's Parents), The Kids | 1 Comment

25th September 2008

And the newest nerd enters the fold…

On Monday Zora figured out the mouse enough to be able to successfully play a game independently. (it was a page where you put “stickers” on a background).

She was very proud of herself. Here she is showing me that there are “two Dee-gos” (Diego, from Go Diego Go). A whole new world opens up to her and she is excited.

posted in Computers, Zora | 1 Comment

25th September 2008

Supercharged Brain = Autism. No kidding.

Fee wrote about this a few days ago and I started blogging on her comments and decided I should just blog it on my blog instead.

Can we get a big, collective “DUH?!?” from crowd. This is what I have been trying to say to people for a long time, although they usually look at me like I am crazy and dellusional.

First, the article, then I will make some more comments.


Autism is caused by a ’supercharged’ mind, scientists claim
Children who develop autism have “supercharged” brains that are so clever and sensitive that they make everyday experiences utterly overwhelming, new research claims.

By Richard Alleyne
Last Updated: 10:32PM BST 17 Sep 2008

According to a theory developed by Swiss neuroscientists, the condition is not caused by a brain deficiency but by a system overload which causes the world to seem frightening and overly intense.

Husband and wife team Kamila and Henry Markram of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, believe the idea could explain the erratic nature of the condition.

“Our hypothesis is that autistic people perceive, feel and remember too much,” Kamila Markram told the New Scientist.

Faced with this “intense world” , autistic infants withdraw, with serious consequences for their social and linguistic development, she added.

Repetitive behaviours such as rocking and head-banging, meanwhile, can be seen as an attempt to bring order and predictability to a “blaring world”.

Most of the theories surrounding autism involve the idea of an underperforming brain but the Markrams believe the opposite is true with the brain being “supercharged”.

Their research, which included studying their own son who is borderline autistic, is backed up by one of the most replicated findings in autism which is abnormal brain growth.

At birth the brains of autistic children are small or normal sized, but grow unusually quickly.

By age two to three, when symptoms of autism occur, their brain volume is roughly 10 per cent larger than average.

The Markrams believe that autistic children suffer from “hypermemory” which lock them into certain compulsive routines and develop their savant skills.

“They build very strong memories,” said Mrs Markram. “So strong that you establish a routine that you can’t undo: you are stuck on a track.”

Their theory chimes with the depiction of an autistic savant in the film Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise.

It also rings true with anecdotal evidence from autistic people.

“When I was younger, the school bell was like a dentist’s drill hitting a nerve,” said Temple Grandin, an animal scientist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins well known for being autistic.

“I think it’s difficult for people to imagine a reality where sounds hurt your ears and a fluorescent light is like a discotheque.”

Although I do conceed that this is probably not true for all autistic people, it certainly holds true to what I know about Zane. Instead of “not feeling emotion” (an autistic stereotype), he seems to over-feel them. He is often the embodiement of the emotional charge of the room. I also think that a big problem with eye contact and reading people’s emotions is that he is feeling how they actually feel, and it often conflicts with the social mask people are wearing and it’s confusing.

Zane is also hyperlexic and taught himself to read around two. By Zora’s age, he had been writing the alphabet for a while too. (she isn’t even close to writing the alphabet out). He also knew how to get around anyplace we had ever been before…inside stores, driving around, and made it clear from the backseat when he was unhappy with the route we were taking or if we missed the turn, even as a young toddler.

I know he is brilliant. It actually interferes with ST and OT if the person watching isn’t really sharp. This is why I like his current STs and the OT that I loved (and hope to have the car and the money to go back to soon.) This is also why I like the Clinical Educator so much at WSU… she is able to pick up on when he is just playing with the ST student and when he is actually not getting something…a very subtle thing, and you have to be able to see that he is smart to even be looking for it. I am so glad the next generation of STs are being taught to watch for this so well. It is really neat to see the creative problem solving, but can make planning for an activity to target a specific skill a lot of work. I think that is one of the biggest problems with people trying to educate Autistic kids, in the classroom or in specialized settings like ST and OT; you have to be really smart and good at what you are doing to be able to read these kids and know when they are BSing you. It is exhausting and intense at times. In a lot of classrooms, there are so many other things going on it makes it a lot harder to do this well. This is why it is so difficult to find good SpEd programs and why that is usually the main topic of conversation when two parents meet up.

Honestly, this is a large part of why we were so delayed in getting a diagnosis. I read what “autism” is supposed to be and, although the actions were the same, I interpreted the cause of them being almost exactly opposite of what they were saying and it took a while for me to accept that it was the actions that defined the diagnosis, not the root cause.

I could go on and on with antidotal stories that support this theory, but Zora is making it hard to type (and think), and I need to get back to real life.

Oh…and on a side note…ds’ head size has always been a little large, just like his dad’s. Finding hats that fit, especially as a baby when the sizes are more dramatically different, was always a challenge.

posted in Autism, Autistic Life, OT/Sensory, ST, The Kids | 1 Comment

25th September 2008

Sunday evening

(Yeah, I am a little behind on the blog)

We met my folks at Sams, shopped with them for a bit, then went to Brahms and had supper, then to our place to look at the car and see what it needed to stop throwing a wall of smoke out behind me when I drove my 1 and 2 mile jaunts. (the car gets a total of 12 miles a week now over 4 days going to ST. We can’t do OT or Hippotherapy or Music Therapy right now because, even if I could find the services and could afford the services, I couldn’t get us there unless it was within a really small area here)

Brahms had some problems with their computers, so the wait was exceptionally long. It didn’t matter though because Grandma had the kids entertained with the salt and pepper shakers and table tent. lol.

posted in The 2 Opas (J's Parents), The Kids | Comments Off

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