Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kindergarten Celebrations

Kindergarten is full of excitement!

Zane was chosen as the VIP for a week. He brought home a large, orange t-shirt to decorate and share with his class. We dug out some pictures and he helped me write all about him.

  My favorite... "I like red."

The kindergarteners also celebrated 100 days of school this month. Zane's class made Fruit Loop necklaces and head bands with 100 feathers. They also put 100 kisses on a large pink lip cutout to hang in the hall. Some of the boys were too embarrassed to put on red lipstick and kiss the paper. Not Zane. Although he was a little hesitant to tell Dad about that one. 

No Peace

Morgan had finished her shower and paused to see what Dad and Zane were watching on TV as she was headed to her bedroom. "Go to your room and get dressed," Scott told her. Not an unusual request. No one suspected anything. Until, Zane giggled.

A few seconds later Morgan came flying out of her bedroom with her towel barely on her and what sounded like a wounded coyote pup under her bed. Scott and Zane were hysterical with laughter but Morgan was not happy.

Later that evening, Scott asked Morgan if he could borrow a pencil from her desk. She promptly went into her room where it seemed that wounded pup was under her bed again. "Dad!" she screamed in disgust. She was not impressed.

For Christmas, Scott received a remote control electronic game calling device. (Thank you Brittany and Levi.) I guess Scott is just testing it.

Zane was feeling left out after Morgan got spooked twice. Scott assured him that he would be next. A few days went by and Zane mentioned it again. Then, Monday evening after dinner, Scott asked Zane to go find something in his room. Zane was hesitant and made Scott show him both hands before he would enter the room. Cautiously he took a few steps in and just as we all expected, he came screaming and running out of the room. Yep, that darn coyote pup had found it's way to Zane's bed.

This time Morgan was hysterical with laughter and Zane did not think it was funny any more. He hid behind the rocking chair crying and yelling he would never forgive his dad. Always a good scene when it's time to be putting pajamas on.

I comforted Zane and Scott went outside to get some more wood for the fire. It was time for revenge. I promised Zane we would get Dad back.
We made a plan.

Last night we put the speaker in the bathroom. (I hid it in the cupboard which was a mistake because it muffled the sound too much.) We listened carefully for Scott to finish his shower. (Morgan was afraid he would come running out without his towel.) When we were sure he had his towel wrapped around him, I pushed the button. 

Scott opened the door and gave us some pity screams and even said, "Oh, I'm so scared!" in a girly voice. We'll have to try harder but we will get him. You never know where and when that coyote pup will show up again.

I have a feeling there will be no peace in our house until the batteries on that thing are dead.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

And now, the rest of the story...

After several emails with Morgan's teacher, I was more frustrated. Her teacher assured me that Morgan was doing great at school. She always seemed happy and ALWAYS stayed on task. She was doing good work and seldom asked questions. (Her fear of being in trouble or doing something wrong was in full force.) The teacher didn't understand why homework was taking so long.

At parent teacher conferences I broke down in tears. I tried not to. The frustration just overwhelmed me. Then the teacher took me seriously. She submitted my request for a formal evaluation.

The initial questionnaire showed autistic tendencies and the school psychologist wanted to continue with a full evaluation. We spent a month answering questions, filling out forms, and having Morgan's abilities tested. We looked forward with great anticipation to our team meeting day.

The results were tallied and the decision made. Her social skills put her in the autism spectrum. Her cognitive and language was borderline autism. But her behavior and coordination gave little indication of autism. (She is one of the strongest and fastest 4th graders even though she is the smallest.)

The experts all agreed that Morgan's spelling and writing are below level. They all agreed that she needed extra help with reading, which she is currently getting. The speech therapist agreed to work with her on a few lingering issues. But, because she is on the bottom line of the average range she is still considered average. She doesn't qualify for any additional help until she falls below that line.

I strongly feel it is because of my interventions at home that she is able to stay on the line. The experts all praised me as I shared what I had been doing to teach Morgan about emotions and how to deal with anxiety. They told me to keep up the good work.

The principal said she noticed that Morgan is the first one out the door at the end of the day. She agreed that Morgan is probably so overwhelmed from holding it together at school and that's why she falls apart when she gets home. She also felt Morgan was just a little immature and things would get better when her maturity level catches up with her peers. That's what the teachers have been saying all along, she'll catch on eventually.

The experts agreed with all of my concerns, showed me test results that confirmed my frustrations, and then patted me on the back and sent me on my way. I shed a few more tears and then continued my research online. Autism is getting a lot of attention right now and there is TONS of information. Even without an official label, there are things I have found that help her.

I am committed to helping my daughter be a successful learner. If she wants to be a veterinarian then I will support her every step of the way.
I am her biggest fan!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Glimpse of our Journey

How do you know if it's simply the child's personality or an actual disorder? Is it just "the way she is" or is there more to her behavior? Is it autism that is causing all the anxiety issues? Or is it anxiety that looks like autism? Does a label really matter?

Morgan started out as a normal, healthy baby. Except that she wasn't snugly like I remembered her sister being. If I rubbed her back she would sit perfectly still and quiet. She always felt somewhat stiff when I tried to cuddle her.

At 3 months she started getting ear infections and at 11 months had to have tubes in her ears. She was very quiet but started "talking" more after the tubes. That made sense to me.

I worked full time but would visit Morgan at daycare on my lunch break to feed her. She was about 7 months old when I noticed she would only let certain people know when she was hungry. Sometimes, I would pick her up at 5:30pm and she hadn't eaten anything since I nursed her at noon because her regular caregiver had left early. She would be starving but would only cry when she saw me. They didn't even notice she hadn't eaten.

We talked to a speech therapist when Morgan was almost 2 years old because she was not talking. I decided to quit my job to stay home with her. It seemed that she needed more one on one attention than she was getting at daycare. (She was happy to play quietly by herself.) After a few weeks at home her language did improve.

At age 3, however, I decided to do a formal speech evaluation which showed her language skills were typical of an 18 month old. Hummm... We started speech therapy and even felt she was ready for kindergarten at age 5. Our insurance decided she was done with speech but she had made so much progress I thought we could handle it.

She did well in kindergarten with her standardized test scores in the above average and average range. She made some friends and loved to play with the neighbor kids. She did not like to be separated from me at church, however. Primary was always a struggle. She would only go to her class if her teacher was there. (Her teacher was gone a lot.) I got tired of the screaming fits and just started taking her to class with me.

First grade was hard. She cried every day, except for maybe 2. She required some extra help but her scores were still in the average range. She made a new friend but would play alone if her friend wasn't at school. She had a more regular Primary teacher which made church more enjoyable for us all.

We moved before 2nd grade which meant leaving her friends and a having VERY short summer break. The change was challenging but she did better than I expected. Her teacher was sweet, soft spoken, and very positive. Morgan did well but required lots of extra help. Her tests scores were low in the average range. It could be related to changing school districts so we didn't think too much about it.

In 3rd grade she continued to require extra help. We talked to her teacher about repeating 3rd grade and were advised not to. We worked all summer to keep up on some of the things that she continued to struggle with like telling time, reading a calendar, writing and spelling. Her scores were on the bottom line of what is average but she was hanging in there.

It was this summer that I began to realize how much her anxiety was consuming her. We made a list together of the things that scared her and I was amazed by the length and the things on that list. I understand being afraid of bad guys and even bees. Some items though, were a little strange. Like moths.

Everything related to school causes her anxiety. She has a huge fear of failing or doing something wrong. She is extremely afraid of being in trouble. She is also afraid of being made fun of.

She cried for a full week before school started because she was so scared of 4th grade. We worked through some issues and talked about things she can do when she is scared. We even went and visited the school a 2nd time. I thought she was doing better.

Two weeks into the school year, we were spending hours doing homework every night and she was begging me every morning to stay home. As we worked through her homework together she would cry and say, "I just don't get it!" Something had to change. What could I do to help her? How could I speak up and be her advocate? Her teachers keep assuring me that she'll get it and eventually catch up. Why does it seem the opposite is happening?

... to be continued...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Let There be {Peace} on Earth

"Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin with me!" This is one of my favorite Christmas songs and it seemed to be stuck in my mind this past month. I would wake up singing it. I would go to bed singing it. I would blurt it out while folding laundry. It has just been constantly on my mind.

Then, I went to church today. It seemed the hymns were about peace. The lessons were about peace. Everything is about peace! So, that is my focus this year. What is true peace and how do we find it? 

Can there really be peace on earth? And does it really begin with me?

I've thought about how peace can begin with me... If I, one little ol mother, can encourage and teach peace in my home, maybe it can make a difference. Hopefully my home can be a place of peace and that's a start. Hopefully we can carry that peace with us when we go out and bring peace to someone else as well. Maybe there can be peace on earth!

"I come to you tonight with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we try to "accentuate the positive." I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort."  
~ Gordon B. Hinckley ~