Friday, December 17, 2010


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Have a groovy-spiro-smiley holiday!
We re-discovered our Spirograph this week.  After many false starts, I completed my bi-annual day-long process of completely-cleared-off-floor stripping and waxing.  We lived without a kitchen table for 3 days (gasp!) because the kids had two snow days....we decided to make Christmas cookies on the 1st snow day: why not get the messy job done BEFORE cleaning the floors?  Then day two I caught a really nasty cold which had me icky, achy and crabby.  About 3 pm I decided to bite the bullet and got to it.  I couldn't rest and recuperate when we were all living in chaos and flux.  It's amazing how much we rely on our kitchen table.  It truly is the heart of our home.

So as I was organizing and putting everything back, I found our trusty old Spirograph.  My older 2 kids loved playing with it when they were young.  I remember asking Santa for it when I was a kid, along well as a Bic 4 color pen - I was thrilled with them both.   Now 10 color pens are common - wow!  
Only 99 cents!

With G, it's better to let him discover something himself than to suggest it - everything has to be his idea.  So I coyly put out the Spirograph on the table while going about my organizing project.   Sure enough, within seconds, G said, "Oooh, I want to do that!"  Another organizing job deferred in the name of creativity.  lol.

I discovered that the Spirograph is an excellent therapy tool for developing fine motor skills.  G's school-provided OT is ineffective, so I try to find opportunities to work on his rough fine motor skills at home.  G resists holding the pencil correctly; writing or coloring is rare for him.  The Spirograph motivated him to draw because it was a gadget, a novelty, and instantly produced cool results!  Best, since the pencil/pen point has to poke through the hole to make an image on the paper, he had to hold the pencil firmly and push down with force.  While his first images aren't the lovely intricate samples shown below, his work is festive and amazingly beautiful to me because it required so much concentration, focus and fine motor control.  We've got another fun tool in our toolbox. Great re-find!

Oh, the possibilities!
Our snowy week was filled with great sensory experiences.  The kids went sledding, and G ate lots of snow.  Then we all ate cookie dough...I have a great sugar cookie recipe that doesn't have eggs*, so totally safe to nibble!  The cookie-making process is very tactile, heavy work: measuring, pouring, mixing, rolling, cutting - and of course delightfully creative and yummy.  Guess who did the best job with cookie cutters?  G!  Must be the wealth of playdough experience he brought to the table.

I love the contrast between
G's head-to-toe, flour-covered body,
and Neatnik N's immaculate shirt.
G got his "into it" creative mess gene from moi.
Such concentration! 
Creativity in progress...
175 cookies = big mess!
So glad we did this before
the big floor project!

* Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies
Easy-cheesy, 6 ingredients, yummy and safe to eat raw...because really, who doesn't love cookie dough?  I make these every year and get lots of compliments.

To make tie-dye marblized cookies, add a few drops of food coloring(s) to a dough ball and squish it around before rolling it out.  You can also mix food color in completely to make solid color dough.  Try it - get your groovy on!

One last tip:  We use our lazy susan daily at the kitchen table.  But it's also particularly handy when doing crafts or making cookies.  Just clean it well (I'm a bleach freak), and you're good to go!
I purchased mine at Costco a few years ago, but this one is close:

Ok, don't get me started...I also use lazy susans in my cabinets to organize spice jars, canned goods, etc.  They make searching much less frustrating, and yup - FUN!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Backward Glimpse

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I've put aside my mountains of autism books for the rest of 2010 and declared war on my cluttered home.  I'm so frustrated in my search for answers for/about G that I'm using that raw energy to put order on things that I DO have control over: my body and my home.  I've been working out, cleaning closets, emptying drawers, moving furniture.  Sorting, organizing, pitching, donating.  Joy - it feels incredibly liberating!  I'm finding some surprising treasures in the process.

I found a few "dash and stash" boxes that got lost under the radar during previous organizing stints.  D & S boxes so named by a friend who once described the frantic moments when a friend or family member calls to say they're dropping by in 5 minutes, so you dash and stash the mountain of clutter.  I unearthed a box of D & S paperwork from January, 2008.  The Wonder Years.  Family times filled with wonder, excitement and magic of my 3 delightful children.  Yet - wonder, nagging fears about G.  A word list instantly took me back...

With each of my children, I checked in periodically with the recommended milestones in "What to Expect When You're Expecting", "What to Expect The First Year", and "What to Expect The Toddler Years".  Usually I'd peek at them before a pediatrician visit to see what to expect at the visit, note their progress and ask any questions about upcoming challenges with teething, etc.  Though I took those milestones and well visits very seriously, compared to my worries and prep for doctor visits for G, they were a piece of cake.  For this visit, I'd spent 2 weeks badgering my husband and kids nonstop for words that G could say, carrying my scrawled list everywhere in case of a Brand New Word.  I'd read that at his age children should have 100 words.  I took it literally and devotedly.  I knew, as mothers do, that something was amiss with my miracle boy.  My older 2 children hit milestones waaaaay ahead of the book's chart.  The milestones are written to the low end of accomplishment.  I knew that.  Isn't it funny how we try to convince, even fool ourselves?  I was determined to get to 100 words.  I assembled the list and typed it up to take to the pediatrician. I only got to 96, so I left the remaining 4 blank, bent on filling them.  Then I noticed that I had 2 duplicates, so I was down to 94.  Those 6 blank spaces haunted me, I had to fill them in, had to get G to 100 so that he would hit the mark.  I force fed him words, "Say watch, G.  Watch."  I recall the warm feeling of accomplishment as I wrote in the remaining 4 and added 2 extras.  102!  I was feeling bold, so I wrote in numbers up to 110.  We stayed parked at 102. 

The pediatrician simply swept it away with a glance, another in a long line of brush offs for my concerns.  They'd see this boy with the bright eyes, curiousity and smiles and deem him just fine, a bit slow to speak.  I heard the Einstein didn't speak until he was 4 story time after time.  He's an active boy.  He's just being 1. 2. 3. 4.  He's just clumsy.  His judgement will improve.  He has his older siblings to do things for him, say things for him, it's the "baby of the family" syndrome.  I'd repeat these explanations (excuses) over and over to myself.  But...I'm never able to fool my mind late at night.  I'd stay awake to look up his behaviors online.  Symptoms.  Milestones.  Compare.  Contrast.  Wonder.

All of this came flooding back as I looked at the list, the extra 10 numbers hopefully etched in red. What I didn't learn until months later was that much of his speech was echolalia (repeating our words).  Not necessarily understanding or unsolicited speech.  Expressive speech delay.  Another huge red flag was his lack of word combinations.  He put only 2 words together, rarely 3, but mostly spoke in one word commands or labels.  Still later that year he regressed  to grunts, screeches and pointing.  That pitiful list brought me to tears, then sobs.  Here was a black and white (and red) record of my naive, dogged efforts to make my G right, to fit him into the "normal" box. 

As I sobbed, I hurried into the kitchen to check on dinner, busy myself to work out my woes.  Sigh, blow my runny nose.  Collect my thoughts, clean my tearstained blotchy face - so that I wouldn't upset the kids. 

Just then in the next room I heard M say in a groaning tone,
"G, stop licking the couch!" 
2.5 years later at 5 years old, there's no doubts for me about fitting G into the normal box.  That single directive - like countless others in the course of our daily adventures with G - brought it all home.  I laughed loudly and deeply.  This ride is a wild, manic trip bursting with tears and giggles.  I may not have a distinct label encompassing G's complex personality, but normal is one I can rule out.  lol

In truth, I'm still in the Wonder Years.  I'm pretty sure I'll wonder at G's wonders always.