Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Walk Down Sensory Memory Lane

The essay I wrote about my son's experience with sensory integration for the 30 Families in 30 Days awareness-raising event for the blog Hartley's Life With 3 Boys is up today. It's our version of a success story. Please go read, and consider donating to the cause of sensory processing research. You might win a copy of one of my books, and if nothing else, there's a super-cute photo of my guy in younger years. At about the age where he walked into his sister's feet while she was swinging on that very swingset. Good times.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Got an Opinion About Parenting Books? Let's Hear It

Do you like to read special-needs parenting books? Can you remember the last time you read a book that was not a special-needs parenting book? (Okay, I do, but only because I had to try out the e-book readers on my new iPhone this summer and all the free books were general interest. But before that? Nah.)

For a while, on my site, I was reading and reviewing a book a week, which was madness. I fell off that pace and was trying for one every two weeks, which is still eluding me. I read as many as I can, though, and write reviews that I hope are helpful. Check out the index and see if there are some that you've read, too -- it's easy to add your review to mine, whether you agree with my take or want to put out a responsible opposing viewpoint. If you see that I'm missing a book you think is important (or important to warn people away from), you can write a review of that, too. I really could use some help, y'know? I can't read all the books. I've tried.

Wanna see how bad my current reading pile is? Click here to read the titles that have stacked up on me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Halloween Retirees

My son and his best buddy have a tradition of wearing coordinating Halloween costumes. For the past two years, they've gone to a Halloween party wearing "Thing 1" and "Thing 2" T-shirts and rainbow-colored wigs. This year, it seemed time for a new idea. These two guys have a little routine of saying "I'm retired!" when anybody asks them about school, or what they're going to do after they graduate, or in response to pretty much any question at all. They crack themselves up with this, and they're well-known for it among the folks who will be at this Halloween party. So we're borrowing T-shirts that say "I'm Retired, Having Fun Is My Job" from some retired friends of the family, and decorating cheap caps from the craft store with their favorite phrase -- "I'm Retired!" -- and a runner up -- "I'm Old!" -- and they'll go as retired guys. As a bonus, the outfits will be comfortable and not too sweaty. Whether the white T-shirts will survive a spaghetti dinner remains to be seen. They may look like bloody retired guys by the time that's done. Still fine for Halloween.

If you're still figuring out how to survive Halloween this year, I have some suggestions on my blog, and some places for you to contribute your own ideas and horror stories.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Boy Is Mine

Kind of an unsettling experience at my son's special-needs social group last Friday. My son was ... well, I'm going to say hit on by a fifteen-year-old girl who just kept coming up to him, taking his hand, and pulling him away from his friends. He knows her from school, he's a friendly guy, so he went with her, always drifting back to his friends when she set him free. She started with the hand holding, then moved on to putting her arm around him, then rubbing up against him a little. At one point, she dragged him behind a free-standing bulletin board where I couldn't see them, and I sped over there fast. I kept them on my radar as best I could, and at least one other adult in the room noticed what was going on and did the same.

Maybe part of my concern was that I remembered this particular girl from my son's elementary school, where I used to work in the library. She had problems with indiscriminate affection when she was in second and third grade, and it doesn't look like she's grown out of it. Unfortunately, she's doing it now with a teenaged body, and if she finds someone who's less oblivious to what she's up to than my son, she's going to get some indiscriminate affection back. I'm starting to see how so many girls on my son's special-education track have wound up pregnant in high school.

Since the activity was going in a well-supervised, parent-observed venue (as opposed to, say, a school dance with the lights off), it's easy to think of it as kind of cute. But really, it worried me on so many levels. For one thing, my son will be 18 in March, and then it won't matter whether the underage girl is hitting on him or not, he's going to be responsible for anything that happens. For another, his going off with the girl hurt the feelings of his friends, especially a girl friend who may or may not think she's his girlfriend, but certainly thinks she's got dibs. It's a lot of drama for what's previously been a fun Friday night out. Guess he's really a teenager now.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Good News for the Chilean Miners, I Guess

Sometimes I see news items about scientific studies that have somehow gotten funding and produced results, and I have to shake my head and wonder: Did we really need to have this proven? Such a story crossed my computer today. Apparently, scientists at the University of Buffalo have conducted a "national multi-year longitudinal study" to confirm that indeed, as conventional wisdom would have it, what does not kill you makes you stronger.

The title of this study was, "Whatever Does Not Kill Us: Cumulative Lifetime Adversity, Vulnerability and Resilience."

According to a news release, the study "found that adverse experiences do, in fact, appear to foster subsequent adaptability and resilience, with resulting advantages for mental health and well being." This goes against previous research indicating that negative experiences have negative outcomes. Obviously, more research is needed on this pressing issue.

Or not. Surely there are things that psychologists could be researching that have a clearer therapeutic value. I'm not sure what the implications are for the "Whatever Does Not Kill Us" study, although there's lots of technical language in the news release describing it. Are we not going to give people therapy if we find out not getting killed makes you stronger? Are we going to just finish the job and kill people if we find not getting killed makes you weak? Is there something outside the realm of adages that can be more definitively and helpfully examined?

Still, I suppose we can take heart in the study's findings that the beneficial effect of non-killing applies to the small knife cuts that we get every day as well as the cataclysmic events. So that bad IEP meeting, that annoying note from the teacher, that homework it took you all night to drag your child through? Like Wheaties, baby.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Now I Know Why I've Been Putting Off That Paperwork

I've been reading a book about transitioning kids with intellectual disabilities from high school into adulthood, and honestly, it's bumming me out. Not that it's a downbeat book, or that it's discouraging about what adult life holds for kids with disabilities. Just that all the bureaucratic hoops parents have to jump through to ensure services for their adult kids seem to require relentless negative thinking. Don't let your child get a high-school diploma, because that will make him ineligible for some services. So will doing too well on an IQ test. Don't tell evaluators about the things your child can do, or she may be found ineligible for assistance; dwell on the things she can't do instead. Don't let your child have any money, hide back-up funds well, or needed supports and assistance will be denied.

This sort of thing is true of a lot of entitlements, I know. But it sure adds to my ambivalence about the whole process. My daughter's over 18 now, and my son's fast approaching, and I haven't done anything, haven't hidden any money, haven't signed anyone up for the department of disabilities, haven't ensured that they look as incompetent as possible on paper. It's a gamble, but I guess I'm throwing the dice in favor of them being able to make some modest way in the world with the help we can give them. I know there are plenty of families who can't take that risk, and I feel for them, having to hop through those particular hoops. Are you navigating this disheartening process now? Or are you a procrastinator like me?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

With Friends Like These

My son has some friends who are really bad news.

We call them the Doo Brothers. They have first names, but I can't keep track of them all. They have foul mouths. They drive too fast. They care about no one but themselves. They're always buying expensive cars, even though there's no way they're earning that money at the jobs I know about. They drink and smoke. They are not respectful to anybody. They take pride in their bad behavior. ... Join me over at Hopeful Parents for the rest of this post.

Win a Copy of My Book!

My book 50 Ways to Support Your Special Education is one of the prizes being offered today on the blog Lucas's Journey With Sensory Processing Disorder. There are a bunch of free ways to enter, and different prizes for each day in Sensory Awareness Month.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Alcohol Is Not Her Best Subject

My daughter has to go through an online alcohol education program for one of her college courses this fall. Working on it with her this weekend, I was amused by two things: how much experience it assumed a college freshman would have with alcohol, and how much that ticked my daughter off.

The makers of the program probably aren't wrong about college freshmen. I still have a few brain cells left from my first year in college, and oh boy, I could have used some alcohol education. I didn't drink in high school, but the college I chose happened to be a "party school," and the boys' wing around the corner from mine in our co-ed dorm was named The Hall of Mixed Drinks. I went from not drinking to drinking a LOT. And vomiting a lot. I am a small person. The line between "This feels great, I want more!" and "Whoops, too much" is frighteningly thin.

That's the sort of thing we expect of college freshmen, underage though they may be. My daughter, though, is genuinely appalled by it all, and offended that she's supposed to have any knowledge of this or any experience to share. We're not a big alcohol household these days. When my husband and I adopted our daughter and son from Russia in 1994, I still enjoyed a glass of wine or two at the end of the day (two getting me closer to that thin, thin line the older I got). But as we learned more about our son's fetal alcohol effects, and understood more about what alcohol had done to his brain, it became harder for me to justify enjoying something that hurt him, and to imagine how I could ever explain that to him. It just felt right to stop, in solidarity. Since my husband was never much of a drinker, it was easy to become a teetotaling household.

Of course, there are plenty of teens from teetotaling households who still experiment with alcohol. A couple of things have kept my girl from being one of them. For one, she doesn't have an adventurous bone in her body, God bless her. For another, I believe she has internalized a message that "Drinking alcohol makes you act like my brother." And she sure doesn't want to go there.

It's probably naive to think that she'll never want to try a drink. Honestly, given her anxiety issues, a small amount of alcohol would probably help her in social situations, though I'm not about to recommend it. One day, she may fall in with a friend or a boyfriend who will tempt her with liquor, and then I'll have to worry. For now, though, it's a huge comfort to see her shaking her head at alcohol quiz questions and saying, with annoyance, "Why would I know that!" For a change, I'm appreciating her cluelessness.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Give Me a Sign

My daughter's barely a month into college, and already it's apparently time to pick classes for next semester. (Which of course means that it's almost time to pay for next semester, a fact I am trying to ignore. La, la, la, la, I can't hear you.) This semester she had mostly remedial classes and will next semester as well, but with more space to fill with a couple of college level picks. The humanity classes looked mostly scary, so I suggested she try a beginning sign language class. This will either be a great idea, because it will be a good skill to have in her chosen profession as a teacher's aide, or a terrible idea, because it will be harder to learn than we expect. Language in general has always been really, really hard for her, and I've often wondered whether ASL, in dealing with gestures instead of spoken words, might provide a different sensory experience that could make language easier. I guess we'll find out, but if it's disastrously harder, it'll be on my head. (But could it be disastrously harder for a reading-comprehension-challenged girl than some of those history courses listed? No. I don't think that's possible.)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Win a Copy of My Sensory-Integration Book

My book The Everything Parenting Guide to Sensory Integration Disorder is one of the prizes being offered today on the blog Lucas's Journey With Sensory Processing Disorder. There are a bunch of free ways to enter, and different prizes for each day in Sensory Awareness Month. My other book, 50 Ways to Support Your Child's Special Education, will be up for grabs later in the month.