2nd grade wrap-up

It is hard to believe Jake has only a week left in the 2nd grade! In some ways it feels like this school year has been long but mostly it feels like it flew by.

Jake has an amazing teacher and advancing to 3rd grade is very bittersweet! The first day we met Mrs. Hansen, Jake was drawn to her and responded to her quickly. She wasn’t all gushy and sweet and over-the-top nice. That sounds a little strange, but Jake doesn’t need that or want that all the time especially meeting someone for the first time. She was extremely nice and kind but her tone let Jake know she was his teacher and he would follow her rules. He quickly fell in love with her; wanting to make her proud and to show her he could do anything she asked of him. Jake had some rough days but overall he has absolutely loved being in her classroom and told me just a couple of nights ago that he wanted Mrs. Hansen to be his teacher forever. That says something about a teacher when you’re child doesn’t want to leave their classroom.

 

 

One of the things I love the most about Jake’s teacher is she not only teaches the required subjects but also teaches respect for others, kindness and the inclusion of others. And in return, from what I’ve seen when I’ve been in the classroom, the kids show her as well as their classmate’s kindness, respect and are always including each other in different activities. As a mom of a child who is autistic this means so much! I know this is only 2nd grade but this is where and when our kids learn this stuff and hopefully take that with them as they go through life. Jake has always been welcomed and cheered on and made to feel important by his peers. Even when Jake is having a rough time I have heard encouragement from his friends trying to help him get back on track.

 

 

Jake loves being a part of his classroom and doing what the other kids are doing as well! Last week the 2nd graders had their spring musical where they had to dress up as a classic storybook character. We chose Tom Sawyer. At first, Jake wasn’t sure about this as he isn’t a fan of wearing anything except his normal clothes. But he wanted to do it! He asked me several times if he wore his costume would he would still be Jake? He wanted to make sure people wouldn’t forget he was Jake; this made me smile! He wore his costume with pride and I have to say he was such a cute Tom Sawyer!! He put aside his anxiety and for this kid, that is HUGE!!

 

 

The progress we’ve seen with Jake this year has been fantastic! He has learned to speak up for himself, he’s become much more independent and able to initiate small conversations with us at home. One of the best things I’ve personally seen is his ability to carry information that he has learned during the school day over to home. Most of the time what he learns at school, stays at school. And what he learns at home, stays at home. But I’m seeing that he is able to make the connection now and do the things he is able to do at school at home and vice versa. He will also remember things Mrs. Hansen wants him to tell me and many times he will make me repeat to him what he said so he knows I get it (something we do with him all the time). Jake is also learning to be proud of himself and his accomplishments. He may have always been proud but hearing him verbalize it is so cool! Recently we were talking and I asked him “Who is proud of you?” and he said “Mommy, Daddy, Sissy and Mrs. Hansen!” I asked him “Who else is proud of Jake?” He thought for a moment and said with a huge smile “I’m proud of Jake! I am proud of me!”

 

 

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things are starting to click

This year has been different for us. I know it is the beginning of March but I feel as if we’ve been in 2017 a lot longer! We’ve seen a lot of changes in Jake. He recently turned 8 and we’ve had just as many birthdays, Valentine’s and Christmas’s. But this year it is as if he is experiencing them for the first time. We have our traditions and do the same thing each year because that is how Jake likes it; change is not good in the Dickan household. 

This past Christmas Jake loved the decorations. He was super excited to get our tree and looked in awe each time a new present appeared under the tree. When he would find one with his name on it, he would look at me with this quizzical look and ask “is this for me?” I would tell him it was because it had his name on it; he would stare in a little bit of confusion and then it would turn to excitement. I asked him if he remembered getting gifts before at Christmas and he said he did. I couldn’t help but wonder if he just went through the motions, not understanding. On Christmas morning he was excited to see what Santa brought and to open his gifts. With each gift he was thrilled, like most kids, but there was something different. It was as if this was his first Christmas. You know the ones where our kids finally “get it”. 

The same thing happened on his birthday. He saw his presents and kept asking if they were for him. Valentine’s day I had a card for him and he looked at it and again asking “Is this for Jake?” (he often talks in the third person), I asked him if it had his name on it and he said it did and then asked “why are you giving me a card?”.  I said “It’s for Valentine’s day and I love you!” He smiled and said “cool!”.  Everything seemed new to him. I asked if he remembered past birthday’s and Valentine’s days and gifts and he just smiled. I’ve tried to get more out of him to no avail. 

In a way, it is all so strange to me. How can we do the same thing for 8 years and then all of a sudden it is brand new? Autism. Although, we have been on this journey for 6 years we are all still learning. I just scratch my head, try to keep up and understand to my best ability. It is hard and frustrating most every day. But thankfully Jake is happy. I wouldn’t change who Jake is but I sure would love to get inside his sweet head and know what he is thinking, why he is thinking it and to see the gaps that keep him from being able to tell me these things. One day…

 

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the first time…

The past few weeks we have seen a lot of growth in Jake. These weeks have been full of many “firsts”. These warm my heart and make those very long day’s worth ever second. For those with children on the spectrum, no matter where they fall, persistence pays off. The hours of tantrums, tears and emotional break downs, both the child and the parent, there is light. It might not be this huge TA-DA moment but they are there. Keep hoping and doing what you do. Even if your child is not on the spectrum but you find this parenting thing so hard; there is always that light and the hope for what will be in the future!

Here are a few things Jake has been up too lately:

  • Jake told me he loved me! I didn’t say it first. He called my name and said “I love you!” I honestly, had sort of given up expecting to ever hear him say these words to me without me saying them first.
  • Jake has been talking nonstop. Less than a year ago I wondered if we would ever have any type of real conversation. His conversational speech has improved just over the past couple of weeks. He is always telling me something he has read or seen or something he thinks is interesting. He wants to make sure I am listening and asks questions and we go back and forth. Ask him anything about Transformers and he will tell you! This is the majority of our conversations but hey, I’ll take it! I always wanted to know the history of Optimus Prime – ha!
  • Loud noises have always bothered my boy. He will cover his ears, fall to the floor, curl up in a ball and cry. Jake used to do this with all loud noises but lately if they are expected they don’t seem to bother him in the slightest. This past Friday we attended the school’s annual fundraising race. The music was really loud, the kids were even louder and Jake didn’t seem to mind how loud it was. I was watching him to see if he needed my help but he did not! He danced, cheered and shouted with his friends!
  • Jake ate a lollipop. He doesn’t eat and won’t try any type of candy. He had gotten one at school one day for being a good helper or something, got in the car opened it and started sucking on it! What?!?! He didn’t eat the whole thing but he tried something new!
  • Jake tried a popsicle. He hates cold things and has been offered popsicle’s many times but this past Friday he decided to try one. He might have licked it once but he held onto that thing like it was a prized possession!
  • Jake allowed his hand to be written on with a sharpie, something for school, and didn’t hate it.
  • Jake got a temporary tattoo at school. Now this one was a little harder for him, he really wanted it because it was part of the race day. After I put it on him he wanted it off. He hid his arm and wouldn’t let anyone see it. He picked at it, licked it and did everything he could to get it off. BUT he didn’t cry or freak out; huge moment here!
  • Jake will say hi and wave to people he knows and responds when someone says hi to him. This has been a long long work in progress and one of the biggest moments thus far in our journey. It is almost strange for me to hear a child say hi to Jake and he responds with hi. I really couldn’t believe it when this happened the other day! (Thanks Dr. Allison!!)

Jake wouldn’t be where he is without the many wonderful therapists (I’ll write more about them later) that have helped Jake. Right now he has this amazing teacher. She treats him with respect and pushes him just enough. Jake trusts her, he loves her, he respects her and because of this he feels secure to try many new things.  Jake had the best 1st grade teacher and I didn’t think he would be lucky enough to have another great teacher but we do; Jake is blessed!

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So you can see, anything is possible! Keep encouraging, offering and keep moving each day. You just never know when your child will do something that you didn’t think he would ever do! Jake may never get his hands super messy finger painting, he may never run through a sprinkler, write without a struggle or try unfamiliar foods. But just because he refuses something today doesn’t mean he will always refuse. There is this hope that I have and with that hope I am certain he will do many more things that today he doesn’t!

 

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iep and social interactions

Two weeks ago we had Jake’s annual IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting. It went well which is no big surprise. For those that aren’t familiar with IEP meetings, this is where we go over goals, review how the child is doing in school and look at what can be improved to make the child’s day at school more productive. Jake is doing really well, meeting his goals and overall being a good student. Since starting at this school the day after Jake turned 3 his IEP has shrunk in size. Jake’s binder was enormous with all of his goals, progress reports from different therapists and doctors etc. I don’t need to carry the binder anymore, which is a good thing!

One of the main things we discussed was whether he needed an aide. Prior to the meeting, Jake’s aide spent about 3 hours with him each day. Jake’s teacher felt that Jake didn’t need an aide except for about 15-30 minutes each day and this was for extra help during music and art and to take Jake to the sensory gym for a break each day. This made me incredibly proud, happy, scared….so many emotions; but Jake is ready. For the past two weeks Jake has done really well without his aide. We have also been going through the regular car line in the mornings versus the special needs car line. We started this the first day of school and Jake loves it. He still prefers to have someone walk with him inside the building but usually by the time he gets halfway down the hall he walks to class, with no help, like the rest of the kids. He said he felt like a big kid! Makes this momma’s heart happy happy!

Jake is continuing to attend the weekly social skills playgroup which he loves. This is one of the most challenging areas for Jake. Like many kids on the spectrum he doesn’t know how to interact and honestly doesn’t want too. He is happiest playing or being by himself. But I feel it is important for Jake to learn how to interact with others as well as how to have friends. This is a hard concept for Jake. In today’s society we have interactions with people each and every day. We may smile at someone and they might look away, grumpy. I myself might think, ‘wow, they have an attitude’ but maybe they don’t know what to do when someone smiles at them. Jake doesn’t a lot of the time. You might smile at him and he might just stare back at you or look away. He isn’t being rude he is still learning how to read expressions when there are no words spoken. This is the sort of stuff I want Jake to learn. The last thing I want is for someone to walk away from him thinking he is a rude kid.

The other day while I was at school having lunch with Jake one of his classmates asked me why Jake named him as his sidekick. I said “I think Jake likes you and thinks you’re his friend” and the child responded by saying “I don’t even know him; I don’t know his last name. When anyone calls him by his name I think, who are they talking about?” So, I’ve obsessed about this a little; okay a lot. Is this how the kids think of Jake, as some boy in their class that they don’t know or don’t care to know? Is he just another body in the class that no one pays much attention too? I’ve been told this isn’t true, there are some kids in Jake’s class that play with him and help him out along the way. But this very short conversation is sticking with me. I had thought I might not continue the social group, mainly because it is extremely expensive, but after praying about it I knew Jake needed it and was glad I re-enrolled him especially after what his classmate said to me.

Jake appears to be oblivious to others around him and what they are saying to him or about him. I use the word appears because he doesn’t seem to take notice and goes on being this happy smiling kid. But I wonder if he knows he is different, does he hear or see what the kids are saying and doing around him? I’ve tried talking to him about his autism and what it all means but he doesn’t appear to grasp it but that doesn’t mean anything. Jake hears and sees all but I’m not sure he knows how to process it all. Anyway, this is a work in progress and one day he will be able to verbalize to me all of this information he is storing up in his beautiful brain!

Overall, Jake is making a lot of progress! I couldn’t be happier. So for today, we will celebrate those progressions and keep working on social stuff in hope that one day it all clicks and we have another box to check, complete 🙂

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it’ll be here before we know it…

Cannot believe we only have a week until school starts back! Well, for Jake anyway. Allie moves into her dorm August 18th. I am anxious about the upcoming year.

Jake will be fine but I am always anxious, worried…you know the butterflies in your stomach. Hoping and praying hard that 2nd grade will be a great year! One thing I am not thrilled about is our beloved aide (MK) will be going to a local middle school and won’t be with Jake. She has been Jake’s primary aide for 2 years. She knows Jake and even when she wasn’t with him during the day she was available to help whomever was with him. She knows his quirks, she can see when he is getting upset or about to meltdown and intercedes. I am happy for MK but selfishly I am really bummed. All summer I was sort of patting myself on the back because I wasn’t nervous or worrying over the next school year. Here I am a week out and my stomach is in knots!! Don’t get me wrong, I trust Jake’s school and the administration as well as the other aides I know. And one thing that gives me great peace, once I put my anxious thoughts aside, is they truly do have Jake’s best interest at heart. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if there is any kind of issues they will work with me to iron them out. But I worry.

John and I were talking about all of this and he said the same thing my best friend said; “it will work out. It always has worked out for Jake and this time will be no different.” Looking back at the past 5 plus years we’ve been on this journey, things have always worked out for the best. I have been fortunate to have had the best therapist’s, teacher’s and aides along the way. Each one of these wonderful women brought their gifts to help Jake and shared their knowledge with me which in turned helps Jake every day. The word blessed is overdone, in my opinion, but sometimes it is the best word there is and I do feel so very blessed.

God has always watched out for me and no matter what I do He always intercedes and takes my doubt and turns it into thankfulness. I feel certain this year will be no different. Jake does need to become more independent at school and maybe having different aides working with him will encourage him to do more on his own. If I have learned anything over the past years is to trust, hope and have faith that God has my boy and will do amazing things, like He always does, not only in Jake’s life but my (our) own.

Okay…then there is Allie. She will be moving into the dorm later in the month…sigh. I have so many mixed emotions about this and feel like I am on yet another roller coaster but this one is going much faster. Hard to believe my little curly-headed girl is going to be a freshman in college and living on her own. Fortunately, she is only about 40 minutes away but still…again the nervousness, butterflies and what not. God has a way of preparing us as parents for our kids to leave home. He makes it a little easier to say goodbye. There is a push and pull between us that I can’t really describe. She wants to go and many days I am ready for her to go!! She is loud, silly and drives me crazy which are things I hate but love. I wonder how quiet our house will be when she is at school and part of my heart hurts a little just thinking about it. The other part is excited that we might possibly have a little quiet. Jake is loud on his own but by quiet I mean she won’t be coming and going all of the time, no dirty towels on the floor of the bathroom, dirty dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is empty and awaiting the used dishes…the list goes on. But she is ready. I am ready. She needs to go and experience college the way she wants too. She needs this time to mature, make mistakes (hopefully without harm) and learn to be more independent. I’m excited for her and am looking forward to seeing how her life unfolds. But the mom in me wants things to stay the same, part of me wants the noise and the loudness and even the annoying habits but honestly a bigger part of me is ready.

With all the changes going on around here I know God has this and I know He has great plans for both Allie and Jake. Being a mom isn’t easy by a long shot. Being a mom to a child with special needs has shown me how strong I really can be and in turn has made me a better mother; at least I think it has.

So one more week for Jake and 3 for Al. We’ll make the most of it and hopefully won’t go to crazy getting to those first few days 🙂

 

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One of my favorite pictures of these two 🙂

 

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

fun stuff

So many things to share and limited time to sit and write. My brain has been going ninety to nothing these past few weeks and it doesn’t look like it will get rest anytime soon. But that’s okay as we have a lot of fun stuff going on 🙂

First off, Jake has had a couple of really good weeks at school! Yay!! He has followed directions, is listening and we’ve had little meltdowns. As of today, Monday, Jake has 2 weeks of school left in the first grade. I cannot believe this year has gone by as quickly as it has! I am looking forward to summer and the more flexible schedule. Jake has adjusted well in the past and I’m praying he does so again this summer. Jake’s vocabulary has picked up even more and is asking more questions when he doesn’t understand something. He is initiating conversation and responding appropriately. Jake’s Grandpa came down from New York for the week and the other day I was in another room and could overhear him talking to Grandpa. In the past Grandpa was the only one talking but on this day I could hear Jake initiating conversation; this will be a memory etched in my brain for a long time. It was just so neat to hear them going back and forth talking. I cannot express how happy this made my heart!

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Two weeks ago we signed a contract on a house! We have been in an apartment for the longest time and the thought of not being on top of each other, having more room and a backyard is exciting! We’ve shown Jake pictures of the house and talk about it all the time. At first he said he didn’t want to move that he loved his room and wanted to stay here. But the more we talk about the more excited he seems to be about this big change. He has told his friends and teacher at school that he is moving and is finding out many of his friends live nearby our new home. We will take him to actually see the house this week; I think once he sees it he will be even more excited to move. For me, the best part is that our new house is in the zoned area for Jake’s school. All of the schools are great where we live but not having to put in a transfer gives me such peace of mind. Let’s just say this next month cannot pass quick enough!

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Allie will be graduating from high school this week! Again, I cannot believe how fast this school year has gone. As you can imagine she is very excited and looking forward to college and living on campus! I am excited for her too; it will just be strange not having her live at home. 

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I’ve also been dealing with my parent’s estate. We’ve spent the past 8 weeks cleaning out their home and getting it ready to put it on the market. I am hoping the house sells soon and then my sister and I can maybe relax a bit.

Overall, things are pretty good. A lot going on! Jake’s routine is thrown off a little bit but for the most part he has been pretty flexible. I owe a lot of gratitude to one of the therapies he is in right now where they work on being more flexible. This social group that Jake is a part of couldn’t have come at a better time.

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Romans 15:13 “ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

a little attitude

The past several weeks Jake’s behaviors have been up and down. I’ve mentioned before how he is like a 3-year-old at times because he’s discovered he doesn’t have to do everything we say. Of course he is required to do what we ask of him but he thinks he doesn’t. Makes me smile in a way. Jake is thinking more for himself and able to verbalize those thoughts more and more each day. But the attitude, his constant use of the word ‘no’ and my least favorite “I can’t”. Oh, and let’s not forget the crossing of his arms and turning away from me when I am talking to him is just the best (sarcasm)! We had this conversation a few days ago;

Me: Stop crashing into the couch.
Jake: Why?
Me: Because I don’t want you to hurt yourself, okay?
Jake (after pausing to think): I won’t hurt myself! (He crosses his arms and gives me the “look” and turns his back to me)
Me: Yes, you will! Do as I asked and quit crashing into the couch.
Jake: I. don’t. like. that! You’re mean!
His arms are still crossed and trying to act mad but there is a hint of a smile on his face. He stood like this for a minute, waiting for me to react. I just looked at him and said “I’m sad that you think I am mean because I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Jake continues to look at me but doesn’t crash on the couch anymore.

The conversation went on a minute with me explaining that I wanted to keep him safe etc. But afterwards, when he was back to being a good listener (we use this term a lot), I was in awe of his verbal and thinking skills. This time last year he would have cried and not said anything when I told him to stop. He wouldn’t have asked ‘why’ because that word was not in his vocabulary.

I am still not used to him questioning me. I am really not used to him talking to me without me prompting a conversation. 

The other night I was reading Jake a story at bedtime. We were reading a book called “Pete’s Big Lunch”; in the story Pete is making a huge sandwich. In the middle of the story Jake says “Hey, I like a chicken sandwich!” I said “you do? that’s great!” and he said “I like it with the rounded bread but I don’t know what that is called.” I ask if he is talking about a bun. Jake said, “YES! I love chicken on a bun, it is gggoooooddd!” I almost didn’t know what to say.

Seeing his progression of behaviors and speech over the past year has been hard but it feels so good to see all the years of therapy coming through. Jake’s had a few weeks at school where he was crying, falling to the floor and telling his teacher or aide that he couldn’t complete his work. He quickly learned that these behaviors were not going to work. Fortunately, his teacher is on the ball and worked with Jake’s resource teacher where they created a behavior plan; it seems to be working and he has had some great days. Like any kid Jake wants to push the limits and see what the consequences will be if he goes too far.

I am pleased that he is testing to see what will be allowed and what won’t be. I am overjoyed that he is using his speech to tell me he loves me and even saying that I am mean. I am glad he is able to understand how the consequences can be good and not to so good. Although it isn’t fun to go through the daily battles; I get so frustrated and it can be really really hard! But I am seeing that Jake is learning, processing information and able to understand more each day! And for that I am thankful.