Where a dad of two great kids (one on the autism spectrum) muses about life.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Respite, Dolphins, Mummies, and Tractors
Buddy Boy's "Memory Extractor"
I haven't been posting a whole lot lately, especially about personal stuff. Things got really hard for awhile, and it became a combination of not being able/wanting to lay out my personal problems to the whole world (I am basically the silent, keep it in, work it out yourself kind of guy) as well as using all of my spare energy to do my best to keep our family from disintegrating. School's been out for two whole weeks here. And we're finally getting back to some semblance of normalcy.
The school year started out really well for Buddy Boy. The majority of his time was spent included in a regular classroom. Buddy Boy had the best darn teacher in the whole school for his regular class, Mrs. J. His special ed class teacher (Miss E.) worked well with Mrs. J., and pushed for him to be included more this year. Buddy Boy (for the most part) rose to the challenge. Miss E. helped support him for the small amount of time when he was scheduled to be pulled out (for OT and speech), as well as for the few unscheduled times when he had problems in the regular class. Mrs. J. is famous amongst the school's special ed families for her ability to bring out the best in all of the kids in her class. I'm really glad that Buddy Boy had her this year, and sad that he won't have her again next year.
Things went so well for the first several months that I hardly wrote anything about it. I was afraid that I would jinx the good fortune we were enjoying. This was it. This was the year that Buddy Boy would turn the corner on his behavior issues and be seen by his teachers and classmates as a full, valuable member of the class.
The last 7-8 weeks of school things got progressively worse (mostly at school, but also at home). I'm not really sure why. Buddy Boy became upset at the drop of a hat. He refused to do things that didn't bother him before. He lashed out and bit a teacher (which required stitches), and hit another. Liz was literally camped out in the school parking lot, forever on call for when things happened. Some days she was called three times. Several days ended early, with Buddy Boy being taken home.
His teachers looked for causes, we looked for causes. Though Buddy Boy is now quite verbal, he could offer no insight into what was causing him distress. Liz became increasingly distraught, and lashed out at a most convenient target, me. We both felt certain that although this school has been very accepting and supporting of Buddy Boy, that the days were numbered until he was kicked out.
School ended, and we never got "the letter". You know, the official one that says that your kid has been expelled. I am still perplexed, but thankful. This leaves us with more options for next year.
Slowly, ever so slowly, we have gotten back to some sort of equilibrium. It's a big relief that we no longer have the school's sword hanging over our heads (for now). Liz has relaxed, and even gotten some more sleep. We are talking again (instead of snapping and snarling, or even worse, saying nothing). I feel like we're on the same side again.
This week I had time off, which we used to go to Chicago. One of my uncles is dying, and we wanted to see him before he did. He has worsening congestive heart failure which has reached the limits of medical management, and it is only a matter of time. How much is hard to say. This aunt and uncle have always been great to our kids. Even though they don't have a lot of money (due to having had a special needs daughter themselves, as well as lots of medical bills), they have always sent cards with a note and $2 bills to the kids on all major holidays (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving) as well as their birthdays. The kids love those cards.
Since we were going up there, we took some time to take the kids to a couple of museums. Chicago has great museums, though they can be a bit expensive when you're going to multiple ones. We went to the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum. If you plan your trip carefully, you can take advantage of several free days at the Field Museum. Unfortunately my time off didn't correlate with any of those days.
The Shedd Aquarium expanded greatly several years ago, and the kids (and us) loved it. Besides exploring several halls of fish and amphibians and watching a diver feed the fish in a huge glass tank, we saw a movie and a dolphin show. The movie was billed as a "4D" movie, as in addition to donning 3D glasses, there were air and water jets that shot out at us at various times, as well as vibrating seats. It was fairly intense from a sensory standpoint, but Buddy Boy hung in there. The dolphins were cool, especially as we got to go up after the show and get much closer to them.
The Field Museum of Natural History is like Indiana Jones' storehouse of everything he ever found on all of his expeditions. Sweet Pea was a little apprehensive about seeing mummies, but did a good job. She really liked the t-rex skeleton they had there, as well as some of the stuffed exotic animals. Sweet Pea also wasn't totally into an exhibit where they simulated you being the size of a small bug underground, but of course Buddy Boy thought it was totally cool. Liz and I enjoyed a special exhibit they had on George Washington Carver, but the kids seemed they could not care less.
We had ice cream and a ferris wheel ride down at Navy Pier, and headed back to the hotel for another night of swimming.
Having spent three days in Chicago, it was time to move on. On our way back home we took a little detour and went to Moline, Illinois. Why would we want to go to a relatively small sleepy river town for? Well, to visit the John Deere world headquarters and pavilion, of course. As astute readers of this little blog may recall, Buddy Boy has a thing for farming equipment, especially stuff made by John Deere.
While I'd love to take the Ferrari factory tour someday, I rather doubt that they'd let my 6 and 8 year old kids crawl all over them, sit in the driver's seat, push pedals and hit the switches. Yet this is just what Deere lets anyone do with their $300,000 combines, as well as their less expensive equipment. There are several pieces of farming equipment as well as construction equipment located both at their world headquarters, as well as their pavilion in town. They also have some antique tractors (which they understandably don't let you crawl all over).
All in all, it's great to be getting back to normal. I don't know what the fall will bring (in terms of school), but for now it's great to kick back a little, relax, and get back into the groove.
Me- Joe, husband of a great wife, and dad to two great kids, who were both adopted at birth.
Liz- My ever understanding wife, who manages to wear many hats (mom, advocate, therapist, teacher) for our kids.
Buddy Boy- Born in 2000. Funny, intelligent, inventive, and autistic. Loves machines.
Sweet Pea- Born in 2002. Typical little sister. Competitive, outgoing, and smart. Loves anything pink.