Monday, December 12, 2011

Dancing Queens (or not)

Saturday morning Morgan and Piper had their first dance recital! We were so excited, but apprehensive as well. We have one "dancer" with autism and the other is technically too young for the class she's in. Anything could happen, right?

Morgan loved being on the stage so much it was hard to keep her off of it. In fact she broke away from us just as the teacher/director, Miss Michelle, was welcoming everyone and introducing the first dancers. Morgan ran right on the stage and David had to catch her halfway across. I'm sure the audience thought it was funny, but we were sweating it backstage wondering how this would all go.

Here's Piper's first performance:


Yes, we are "that" family, with "those" kids.

She ran right to me when she exited the stage. I tried to get her to go back out once, but then she just sat in my lap and watched. When they finished she clapped and said "again!" Sorry, not so much Piper.

And we will not be showing you her second "performance"... as she did manage to sit in the stage... in her spot... the entire time... but did not move. Hmmm. She did go out at the end for the finale, but ended up crying and her sweet teacher managed to mostly calm her down until I came and got her. Well, we knew she was the youngest. We'll be curious to see how she does at the next performance. Really, I didn't have high expectations for this and was just glad she got to be there. Everyone commented on how cute she is though!

As for Morgan, check this out:



She turned in TWO, yes TWO amazing performances! Really! She ran out there and went right to her spot and danced with all the other girls. It was backstage that was tough. She did not want to hang out and wait her turn to dance. She finally interacted a little with the other girls, but she mostly demanded to go find Miss Michelle, or go potty, go home or go on stage. This involved a lot of tag-team running after little girls. Exhausting.

Oh, and Morgan capped the show off in and interesting way. We were in the wings wait to go on for the finale and we heard some little pops coming from her. Usually she just says "I tooted" and laughs. This time she persistently tried to get her teacher's attention... "Miss Michelle! I tooted!" Again and again. Luckily Miss Michelle was too busy herding girls onto the stage to notice.

Whew! We are constantly amazed at what Morgan can do when she wants to...but that's the trick, the motivation. It's a constant juggling of pushing her limits as well as giving her space and allowing her to be in her comfort zone. I think it works this way with most young kids, but with the ones on the autism spectrum we have to deal with the extremes.

Overall we are so proud of both girls. They will learn and grow from these experiences their own ways.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Nutcracker

I had the privilege of escorting my Morgan to a performance of the Nutcracker this year. I considered it last year, but ruled it out pretty quickly. I wasn't even sure she was ready this year, but after discussing it with David we decided to give it a go. Morgan loves her dance classes so much and I wondered if she could make the connection between her classes and the dancers on stage. Here's how the evening went:


The ballet was performed at the Fox Theatre in downtown Spokane. It is a beautiful art deco building which was restored just a few years ago. We made our way in through the crowd and found our seats. They were perfect for us. In the first section of the balcony right on the aisle and next to the exit. This came in handy as Morgan had to use the potty once during each Act. We also wanted to make sure we had a quick escape route if a meltdown ensued. If you noticed, in the picture above, Morgan has a pink weighted lap pad across her legs. Her teacher was kind enough to loan it to us. She uses it at school during her circle time to help her sit with less wiggling. It worked great!

Here's Morgan checking everything out while I was trying to get her to smile. The theatre also has "booster seats" for kids. How genius?! They are a couple of inches of foam upholstered in the same material as the seats. It give the kids a bit of a lift while helping to keep the folding seats from popping up.

Unbelievably she made it through the whole performance! She really seemed genuinely interested in watching what was happening on stage. I explained the story as we went along. I'm not sure how much she "got", but she definitely listened. I think the best part for me what just being there with her. Occasionally she would want to hold my hand or put her hand on my leg. She loved when everyone clapped after the groups of "sweets" performed (bon bons, spanish chocolate, etc.) and joined right in. She got a little fidgety at the end and I knew she was really tired...the performance started when we usually start our bedtime routine. She handled it well though.


This is the best shot I could get with one of the Nutcrackers in the lobby. There were a ton of people standing around after the performance and she was fascinated with it all. Once we got back to the car she told me "I want to see Christmas lights and Tinker Bell and have lunch!" But before we got out of the parking garage, I saw this:


Out for the count. We had a great night. Oddly enough she does not talk about it and does not respond much when asked. David's theory for this right now is that, for now, we need to live in the moment with Morgan and just have a good time. She currently does not draw on these kind of experiences for future use or reflection...but we hope that comes with time. We might be surprised one day when she says something about the evening or the dancers. We would like to make this a tradition and will bring Piper too in a few years. It's the perfect Mommy-Daughter date night.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy Birthday Morgan!


Hey Pretty Girl! You are four years old today! We love you so much. You give us joy and challenge us so many ways each day...some are tough, some are to be expected. Your sister adores you and you love her more than we imagined. You have given us new perspective on life and make us think about what really is "normal." We love that you love the color orange and you wake up requesting "dance class" every morning (though always have a fit if you hear "it is not Friday yet). Though it may not be every day, but we promise you will always have you "dinosaur sandwiches."

Hugs and kisses our Boo Boo Girl!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Annual IEP Meeting

We had Morgan's annual IEP meeting today. It was a whirlwind of discussion and juggling teachers, therapists and two little girls as we sat at a "kid-sized" table in Morgan's classroom. Overall it went well. Morgan has met all of her goals (at least to the 80% requirement..) and now has completely new ones. We are so proud of her! She seems to have especially come a long way since she started the AIM program in September.

I won't go into details of her new goals quite yet. I am still working out clarification on one of them. It needs to be amended or possibly another goal added. She has some good challenges for the next year that currently seem daunting...but her goals last year felt that way at first and she did great.

I was impressed with two things at this meeting. The first was that the school principal participated. He was not involved last time, so I was surprised to see him when we walked in. He seems to genuinely care about all the kids and I like that he is so involved in the details. I guess I hope that this is the case with all school principals, but I'm not familiar with how involved they are day to in these sorts of meetings. The school psychologist was not there this time, but this made sense to me as I believe overall we have confidence in Morgan's placement for now and really we did not discuss anything that the other teachers and therapists couldn't handle.

The other thing was that the Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) attended as well. She did have to split her time between two IEP meetings, but the fact that she was there was amazing. If you remember Morgan does not technically qualify for speech therapy per the district's evaluations. During the AIM parent night I discovered that the SLP really does work closely with the kids in the intervention classroom, so Morgan is receiving these services in an way I was not aware of. At the home visit I brought up a point that concerns both the social and language areas... so I was thrilled to see they incorporated this into her IEP and involved the SLP in a greater way than I thought they might. She also agreed to meet with me at a separate time to discuss our RDI program. These therapists are certainly not required to do this, so I am excited that she agreed to it. Now I've got to follow up and get it scheduled!

We continue to be impressed with Morgan's school and the AIM program. I always hear horror stories about school districts and their refusal to provide services. Unless the wool's been pulled over our eyes, we think we've got a good deal so far. Let's hope this continues.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Home Visit

On Tuesday, Morgan's AIM teacher as well as her OT (Occupational Therapist) came to our home for her parent-teacher conference. There has been no school this week to allow the teachers to do these visits. At the beginning of the school year Morgan's teacher from the integrated class came to our house to introduce herself. I believe they do these home visits to also assist parents in issues at home. If they share about how they conduct the class this can be adapted in many ways to the home. Also, I think it also helps the teachers get to know the individual child better, so they can enhance their learning experience.

Well, overall Morgan is doing really well in school. They said she is happy and flexible in her routine and her peers really like her....huh?! What?! Is this the same kid we have screaming at us at bedtime that she doesn't want to give her sister hugs and kisses goodnight and then when we close the door of her room she screams to give Piper hugs and kisses? The same kid that MUST watch Tinker Bell RIGHT NOW and has a fit if we say no? Hmmm. Well, we know enough about kids her age that this is not uncommon. Even for typical kids, at home they push the boundaries and up the demands. Really, it was great to hear that her behavior is so good at school. We can deal with the home issues, we know she has it in her to behave well and we do see it at home...but we know developmentally there's a place for the challenges as well.

Morgan's teachers showed us where she is at with her IEP goals. These are up for review/revising next week, so it was nice to have this meeting to give input on next year's goals. She has surpassed some goals and gotten close on others. We are really happy with her progress, especially these first few months of the AIM program. Whatever they are doing, and we are doing, it is really helping her progress.

They shared that she does well academically. Morgan does not have any "cognitive" goals on her IEP. This means that she is keeping par with typical kids on her overall understanding many processes and knowing facts. She can sequence pictures, match like objects, of course her counting, number recognition and such things have always been good. This gives me a lot of peace of mind as I hear the better "outcomes" for kids with Autism tend to be for the ones with average and above average intelligence. We have been reassured many times in the last few weeks that Morgan falls in this area of at least average intelligence.

Her fine motor skills are improving. She struggles the most with her "grasp" of writing instruments. She automatically wants to put her fist around it instead of holding it with the tips of her fingers. This is something we can work on at home as well. She is getting better with scissors on cutting straight lines, but will soon graduate to working on cutting shapes. The OT gave us a list of activities we can work on at home. I always have a hard time coming up with these things at home, to having this tool with really help.

I loved it most when they said her peers like her and like to be around her. I'm pretty sure this is mostly the kids in her intervention class. I didn't think to ask about kids in her integrated class. I'll have to ask in her IEP meeting. I shared one area I wanted to see added to her goal and that is working on pretend/imaginative play. She just does not do this much at all, individually and with peers. There is so much socially that is learned from pretend play...making up games, problem solving, role playing. Really, it is real life stuff. If they can help her to develop this area, it will help her so much.

I'm sure there is more that was said, but memory is failing me now. We are just so glad that Morgan has this wonderful program and such support around her at school. I know families struggle so much with school districts and the services available. We may encounter issues in the future, but we are grateful for what we have right now.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tinker Hell... I mean, Bell


This little sprite-ly creature has managed to take over our house lately. This can be good and bad. I bought the first movie and costume for Piper for her birthday. The idea came from the fact that Piper loved to wear Morgan's Sleeping Beauty costume, but it was just too long for her and she'd trip all over herself. One day when shopping at Toys R Us I saw the Tinker Bell costumes and thought, hmmm, that just might be right for Piper since the skirt is so much shorter. Friends had told us the movie was cute, so we tried it out.

So, three more movie sequels since, we are now in Tinker....Hell. I love it because they love it. They ask to watch one or more of the movies (only about an hour and ten minutes long) each day and they are still totally entertained by them. They like to wear the costume and have Daddy "fly" them around the house. But...I don't like it because if Morgan doesn't get to watch it she throws an absolute fit and it keeps her from doing other, more social activities. So, it's a challenge to keep things balanced and make everyone happy.

A bit more info on the movies. We also love them be cause they are a nice length and the plots are not too scary or complicated. Sometimes Disney goes a little overboard in those areas, especially introducing the topic of death at an age where kids can't possibly understand what's happening. The Tinker Bell movies are fun and sweet with just the right amount of conflict, but always with a happy ending and wonderful music to enjoy.

That said, Morgan and Piper did get their first glace at the "Disney Fairy" toy section at Target this week. There may be a few more items appearing at our house soon, but hopefully ones that will encourage some imaginative play and not just fill the house with junk. So, family members, if you are reading this and think you may wish to include a Tinker Bell item in a holiday or birthday gift...please ask me which one would be most appropriate and I'll be glad to provide you with the information.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Morgan's First Movie


A few weeks ago David had the privilege of taking Morgan to her very first movie!

First, I will explain this picture. It was taken by another parent and it was pretty dark in the theater at the time, thus the blurry shot and the fact that David's head was cut off.

David called me right after and said he was almost crying...they had SO much fun! We have hesitated to take Morgan to the theater because we fear it would be too loud, crowded or just too long for her too stay seated.

Our local Autism Society informed us of the AMC Theatre's "Sensory-Friendly" movie screenings. They are offered the first Saturday of every month at our downtown Spokane location. They are wonderful!! I think any kid/family would benefit from this. The showing is at 10:00 am, so convenient that kids are hopefully not too hungry or tired. They keep the lights dimmed, but not totally dark and sound is only projected from the front of the theater, thus it is not as loud and the surround sound doesn't come from all sides. The kids are also free to get out of their seats and roam/move about as necessary.

David got Morgan a small bag of popcorn and he said she munched and watched happily for the first hour or so. Then they took a bathroom break and she roamed a bit, then watched the rest of the movie. When she got home she said she liked it and that she saw a movie with a "Cat and Humpty-Dumpty." It was Puss in Boots. Ha ha!!

We'll be attending the next movie The Muppets on Dec. 3rd with the whole family. Can't wait!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Project AIM Parent's Night

This week we were presented with the opportunity to attend a "Parents Night" for Morgan's school program. It is called Project AIM (Autism Intervention Model). It is also sometimes called Alternative Intervention Model because there is opportunity for kids with other developmental disabilities to benefit as well, though at this point I believe all the kids in Morgan's class do have an Autism diagnosis. This program is a part of the school district and I believe we are completely blessed that we live where we do and that this program is in place. I also received some confirmation of this from the professor we are working with on the research study. She is contracted to work with this program next year and thinks it is a great one. This means a lot coming from someone who's worked with hundreds of kids with Autism and many school districts.

Currently there are only two children in Morgan's class. Morgan and a little boy named Hayden. They offered childcare for the evening and as soon as I brought the girls in, Morgan spotted Hayden right away. Hayden looked up at her (from sitting on the floor) and asked "Is that you, Morgan?!" Too funny. That is just how Morgan talks sometimes, completely stating the obvious, but in a question form.

We gathered in the "music" room and were asked to fill out cards, one for recent "successes" and one for "challenges." All the parents introduced ourselves and shared which classes our kids were in. Morgan's program consists of 2 1/2 hours integrated with the ECAAP program (Early Childhood Associate Apprenticeship Program: low income, but typical kids) and 1 1/2 hours of "intervention." There is another group where those time-frames are flipped, more time in intervention, less integrated. The teachers and therapists introduced themselves and shared the list of "successes" that  we shared. They informed us that the challenge cards would be shared with the staff and taken into consideration for each child.

I also learned at that time that two more children would be joining Morgan's class. As much as I love how much attention she was receiving (one lead teacher and two assistant for two kids), it is much better for her socially to have more kids to interact with. The two new students, are not surprisingly boys, as Autism tends to appear in many more boys than girls. The new boys' parents were understandably apprehensive, but by the end of the evening were pleased with what they saw.

Then we broke up into groups by class and went to tour the classrooms. We started in the "Move to Learn" area that they use to work on gross and fine motor skills as well as sensory issues. The physical and occupational therapists create a sort of obstacle course that can be changed up every few weeks. The kids start in a particular spot and have to wait their turn to make their way through the course. It's amazing that just being told they have to sit in a spot and wait their turn can require so many different skills sets. It's so hard for these kids to sit still, listen, then follow direction. What can be so easy to some typical children, can be so difficult for kids on the Autism Spectrum. And some areas are difficult for some and not for others. This can be the same case for typical kids, but it tends to be the extreme for kids with ASD. The course itself looked like fun and gave me some ideas of things we can do at home with her as well. I could tell Morgan probably really enjoys this activity.

After the Move to Learn areas we visited the ECAAP class. This is such a fun classroom. It is so big and filled with so many activities. I've learned this can be overwhelming for kids like Morgan...but in this case they have a great routine established and all of Morgan's teachers from her intervention class are in this class to help her if she needs assistance and redirection. There are 18 spots for three-four year-olds in this class, this includes twelve "typical" kids and six from the AIM program.

Morgan's teachers shared that during breakfast time she is always in great anticipation of drinking her milk. All the children have to wait until everyone has their food until they can start eating and Morgan needs to be reminded a few times as she tries to sneak sips. They also shared that when in the kitchen play area one of the other little girls wanted Morgan to play with her. I believe this was prompted by a teacher, but the little girl took the suggestion seriously and would not take a "no" from Morgan. Slightly reluctantly Morgan went with her and followed the directions of what the girl wanted her to do. I was so glad to hear all of this. Imaginative play is something Morgan does not do much of and to hear that this is really encouraged is great. She also needs some other kids in her life that can pull her into play situations. So many times kids just leave her out since she does not readily engage them.

Gosh, this is getting long. From there we went to the "intervention" classroom. They really pack a lot into the hour and a half time period! They have lunch there and each child is required to have a little of everything offered that day on their plate and even if they don't eat it. They encourage the children to touch it, kiss it and even sometimes try a little bite. Autism often results in picky eating habits in many kids due to sensory issues or just not wanting to try anything new (inflexibility). I've also recently learned that some kids are "stuffers," as they don't know how to regulate how much they put in their mouth before chewing. Hmmm...Piper's not on the spectrum (at least that we know at this point), but I'd say she's definitely a "stuffer." I'm going to have to ask for tips on that. Ha!

After lunch they have circle time and one-on-one time with the teachers to work on academics, language and other individual skills as outlined in their IEPs (Individualized Education Plan). In Morgan's case they are really working on her fine motor and social skills as she struggles in these areas. The lead teacher had such a sweet story about circle time. As it's just Morgan and Hayden right now they both sit in little cube chairs in front of the teacher as they do a little music, talk about the day and the weather, etc. I was surprised to see they both have weighted lap pads that they use when they sit. These pads help them to sit still and focus better. The teacher said one day they sat down and Morgan noticed Hayden didn't have his lap pad on. She went and got it and essentially "tucked him in" to his chair, saying "There you go, Hayden." I about cried! This is so sweet and caring. Morgan cares about her friend and wants to help him. I love it!

Overall it was a great, informative evening. I came away with a much better understanding of how the program works and the amazing teachers and therapists that work with our little girl. They just seem to care so much about these kids and want to give them the very best start in their eduction. You can really tell this because Morgan loves to go to school. Sometimes we get a little resistance in the morning as she's waking up and having breakfast, but I think that's just the fact that, like both her parents, we are not morning people! There's not much we can do that. I do know that when Morgan gets to school she is happy and ready to participate.

I also was surprised to learn that Morgan is the youngest child in her class. The other parents also seemed surprised about this when the teacher mentioned it. The majority of the time these kids only have one year in the AIM program before they start Kindergarten. Because we got Morgan in Early Intervention before she was two, we were able to transition her to the school district program at three, she will have two full years in the AIM program before Kindie. That will give her such a great opportunity to learn and mature. We can give ourselves a pat on the back for that!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The School Bus - Update


No news is good news, we think. We got a message from the school district that they received David's appeal letter. They are actually considering it! Until then, the mornings get colder and I dread how we are going to deal with trekking a few blocks to the bus when there is snow on the ground and unshoveled sidewalks. I imagine I may need to put both girls in the car and drive, keeping them inside until the bus pulls up. Ugh! It's hard enough getting those two in their car seats now, but every morning to drive two blocks?!

We're hoping they make an exception for us and can use the "generous" turnaround so they can pull up in front of our house. I'll let you know when we hear more!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gram and Grandpa B Visit

Gram and Grandpa B came for a visit the weekend of Halloween and we had a great time at lots of fun events and Morgan and Piper got lots of grandparent time. My Dad takes nice pictures, so it's always great to get some of his shots on my blog instead of my iPhone versions. Here's a few from the weekend:


They like to squirt each other as well as anyone else in the room with their plethora of bath toys.


Look at that smile!


A fun project with Mama at Piper's school


Our sweet cupcake

If you look very closely, there is a pea at the end of that chopstick. Piper was fascinated with them as I like to use them when we get take-out. She was so proud of herself!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Two Girls in a Box

Smile pretty!

Morgan had her six month check-up at the dentist yesterday. I don't know what I was thinking bringing her in the day after Halloween! They actually did not eat as much candy as I thought they might. The trick or treating was the most fun.

Morgan did so well at her appointment. I am thrilled!! Well, actually, she didn't do everything they wanted her to do, but there was MAJOR progress. I give that staff major props for working with her and being patient.

The big success was that she allowed them to take x-rays of her teeth!  I tried to prepare her a few days before that they were going to take "pictures" of her teeth. I think that helped, but the assistants did really well reading her cues and knowing when to back off and when to push her a little. She sat so well and bit on the "lollipop stick" and let that machine go around her head. I was just amazed!

Now, when it came down to trying to clean her teeth she wanted nothing to do with it. I could tell she was at her limit. The dentist was thrilled that they got the x-rays and thus, no cavities! She withstood the dentist checking around her mouth and putting on fluoride, but that was enough.

One step at a time, I always say. I'm so proud of my girl!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween


Though I've post-dated this post, obviously I'm behind on so many topics I've wanted to blog about. So much going on, yet so little time to write about it.

The girls had a FABULOUS Halloween this year! We had Gram and Grandpa B visiting and we made our way over to Couer d'Alene Place for a little Trick or Treating. I think CdA Place is Halloween "Mecca." Our friends just moved into their new home their...they had 450 kids show up and their door that night! Wow! We literally felt the crunch too. There were a few homes that had narrow entrances to their porches, and the number of kids coming in and and out caused a bottleneck several times. Morgan got the hang of it quickly and as she finished at one house she said, "More houses!" every time. Piper was so cute running with those little legs to keep up with the bigger kids.

As you can see, we had the most adorable pumpkin and cupcake!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Dancers

Morgan and Piper's sweet little dance studio had a Halloween "Performance" for us on Friday. All the kids wore their costumes and had a brief class. Then they got to play some special games with Teacher Michelle. At the end of class we got to see their tap dance they'd been practicing for a few weeks. I don't know what got in to Morgan and Piper, but they paid attention so well and did more of the actual dance than they ever did before. I have the actual videos of the dances, but have just realized I need to get a wireless router before I can upload to YouTube. They are too large to email from my iPhone, and the 3G only goes so far to get it on YouTube. Hopefully I can do that this week. Until then, photos will have to suffice. Note: the pics from Piper's class are from my phone...and mu Dad took the gorgeous ones of Morgan's class. Thanks Dad!


All little tapping at the end

She actually stood nicely at the barre and participated! 

 Speaking of participating...look at Morgan go! (Piper in the background)


Look! She's even standingon her "pink tape"!

 And a pose!

And another pose! Amazing!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Piper's Dance Class

We were finally able to start Piper in her own dance class on Friday! We had trouble finding shoes in her size as she has smaller feet for her age. It turned out they were bigger than we thought (though still small in comparison). So, the size 7 shoes (the smallest ones they have at Payless Shoes, where most of the kids get their dance shoes)...are still big, but not too bad. I moved Morgan up a size in her tap shoes, so Piper is now wearing hers and the itty bitty ballet shoes are sooo adorable! Here's Piper in her class!

 Most of the kids are just fascinated by Teacher Michelle. She wears super pretty ballet outfits and tutus. Piper wanted to hold her hand while they "chasse'd" across the floor.

 Turning with her arms "above" her head.

The girls' favorite part of class is the "wand" dance they do to a song from the Tinker Bell movie. We just got this movie, so both Morgan and Piper recognize the song.

video

Let me know if this video plays okay. I had to reduce the size of it a little when I emailed it from my phone. It's more of the "wand' dance. I'm amazed how Piper mostly follows along and listens to direction.

Speaking of "listening to direction," it will be an adjustment the next few weeks because this was the first week we tried Piper's class, which is followed by Morgan's class. It was two loooong hours in that dance studio. It was hard for me to get Morgan to understand that the first class was only Piper's and that she'd have to wait for her own class. I finally distracted her with the iPad (loaned from the WSU study). Unfortunately it distracted another child in Piper's class who didn't feel like participating, oops! I was able to get that child back into the class though (most parents don't stay for the class, so her Mom wasn't there).

Another way I was able to help Morgan understand when her class was going to start was telling her that when her "friends" got there it was time. Specifically we talked about a girl Morgan is fascinated with..." Kai Lan." Yes, there is a pretty little Asian girl in Morgan's class with the same name as the animated character on Nick Jr. I'm pretty certain Morgan thinks she's the same person. So...when the kids' in Morgan's class arrived, including Kai Lan, they gathered around Teacher Michelle. Morgan got as close to Kai Lan as she could... then Kai Lan moved as FAR away from Morgan as she could. Honestly it broke my heart. This is where it starts, people! I was grateful Morgan didn't keep following her and really didn't noticed how Kai Lan pretty much shunned her, but it really hurt my heart. Later in class there was a part where the girls lied down on the floor in a sort of spoke pattern. Morgan was the only one not in the circle. Another little girl noticed and said "Morgan, come here!" Morgan turned around looked at the girl, smiled, and joined the group. Yippee! That is the kind of girl Morgan needs as a friend. One who wants her to be a part of the group, not outside it.

Whew, it takes a lot out of me physically and emotionally, but they both love their "dance class." As long as the teachers says Morgan is doing okay, we'll stay. Hopefully as she gets more in tune with the routine, she'll be able to pay attention better and better.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Language Learning

Morgan has really come up with some interesting phrases lately. I'm not sure if this is scripted or spontaneous, but it's nice to hear anyway. It's funny, whenever Morgan says something new or interesting when both of us are in earshot, David and I look at each other as if to say "Did you hear what I heard?!" Then we laugh.

One thing she said last week was in response to me asking her to go upstairs to Quiet Time. She said "I want to stay down here for a little while." Ummm. "For a little while?" Really?

David told me a few days ago that he heard her say "actually" to begin a sentence. I hadn't heard this yet. Then we were at a friends' house this weekend...Morgan had just finished using the potty and said "Look, those are cars!" and pointed at their Cars (movie) shower curtain. Then she went up to the curtain, pointed at Lightning McQueen and said "Actually, this is a red car." People...do I say "actually" a lot? This has to be coming from somewhere.

Then finally, I got a message from her teacher today. I had called a few days ago to check in on how Morgan's been doing. She said Morgan's been doing great and seems really happy at school. Then she said yesterday Morgan came into her classroom, sat down at a table and said "I love this place!" OK, I wasn't there and I'm always skeptical of when I hear things like this through other people...but, why shouldn't I believe her? It's not a phrase I've ever heard coming out of Morgan's mouth, but I'll take it! I'm not sure if this jump in random language skills is due to anything in particular, but we like it!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Our little whiner

Wow. I can't believe we're so far into October and I am so far behind on my blogging. I'm also currently hiding for a few minutes upstairs to escape our expert whiner, Morgan. The last few weeks she seems to have mastered this "skill" and is making us all nuts. Currently she is whining because it is Halloween and not Easter. I pulled out our box of Halloween/Fall decorations and found that I had also stashed some Easter items in there (can you say, mistake?!). Morgan was obsessed with hiding the plastic eggs last Easter, so as soon as she spied them it was as if Halloween did not exist. So now there is an awful lot of "I neeeeed the Easter eggs!" going on downstairs as I type this post. Even a fun game with Piper and some cute ghost candles could not deter her from the whining. Sigh.

So, I'll be trying my best to catch up with the goings-ons around here in the next week or so. We've got a good routine going now with school and Fall activities. Still busy, but less overwhelming.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Not to be Outdone (Morgan)

I spoke with Morgan's AIM (Autism Intervention Model) teacher today. I hadn't had any news from her this week, so I thought I'd check in.

She said Morgan was doing great! I didn't get too much detail on how she does in the integrated preschool class (though I'm sure she'd tell me if there was a problem), but she had a fun example of something that had happened the day before. Morgan and her classmate Hayden were working on some artwork and one of the teachers told Morgan she was doing a good job. Morgan piped up and said to Hayden "you're doing a good job too!" (Or something like that, I don't know the exact wording she used). Then Hayden surprised them by encouraging Morgan back! They said they all sat back and laughed and said, "Well, our job is done!" The biggest goal of this AIM program is to help the children develop their social skills. The fact that the two of them acknowledged each other, unprompted, is amazing! Go Morgan and go Hayden!

Piper's Tea Party

This afternoon Piper decided she wanted to have a Tea Party. She didn't use these words yet, but she grabbed my hand, took me over to the little kitchen and pulled me to sit down. When I sat she put a saucer and tea cup in front of me, saying "There go Mama." They she took one over to Morgan, who was playing across the room. She put the saucer and cup in front of her and said "There go Morgan!" (BTW, she now calls Morgan by her name, not Boo Boo. She's figured out how to pronounce it and is very proud of herself!)

Then she came back to me, sat down and gave herself an saucer and cup. They she grabbed the tea pot and "poured" us all some tea. Happily slurped our tea with some "cheers" thrown in.

This was very simple, but HUGE for me. Piper initiated this on her own. She did not follow any particular "way" she had seen this done before. She included her sister, though Morgan didn't really participate, and lead the whole process. This was REAL pretend play happening on it's own. Though we'd done Tea Parties in the past, it was not recent. I didn't  have to initiate it or "teach" her how.

Amazing. I know this is not a big deal for most parents, but it is monumental to us!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Little Buddies

I just started watching our neighbor's little girl, Annalie, on Tuesday mornings. It really just covers her brothers' school day, from 8:30 am - 3:00 pm, when their afternoon babysitter picks her up.

This is a GREAT thing for both of them. Annalie (Annie), is about 9-10 months older than Piper. It's fabulous for Piper to have this regular one-on-one time with a slightly older child who is developing typically. She actually extremely verbal, so this is a great example for Piper too. This is also great for Annie as she'll get good playing time with another girl as well as a child younger than her. 

The first day Annie was just excited to play with all of our "things," the little kitchen, play-doh and the outside sandbox and swings. She went from one the other so quickly it made my head spin. Piper also tried to play with her as she does with Morgan. Annie did not like how Piper wanted to tickle her and wrestle with her. That's what Piper does with Morgan since their interaction is more physical than verbal at this point.

The second Tuesday we got into a better "groove" and I was able to keep them focused longer on tasks and they really played better together. It was so nice to see them both in the play kitchen with the dolls, food, shopping carts...nice pretend play!! These are things Morgan does not do a lot of and Piper doesn't always like to do it alone. Thus she ends up playing Morgan's "way" more than hers. Not to be so negative about Morgan, they have a nice connection of their own, but seeing an neuro-typical (NT) child play is very different. Piper was very sad when she woke up from her nap that afternoon and Annie had gone home. She woke up and pointed to Morgan's room (where Annie napped), saying "An, An!" When I told her Annie wasn't there, she plopped back down in her crib and cried a little. I was sad for her...but secretly thrilled that she felt emotionally connected to Annie. It was so sweet.

Overall I think we're going to have a lot of fun with this arrangement! It's good for all of us!

The loved sitting in this little car together. The door doesn't quite close. Can you see that they're almost the same size. Piper is not big for her age, Annie is just little, but it makes Piper look enormous!

Piper's goofy "smile"

Annie had their car's cup holders all loaded up!


Monday, September 19, 2011

School Bus Update

We are still trying to make some progress with the school district on Morgan's bus ride. Until then we are taking her two blocks to a corner where the bus can drive through without backing up. Such a pain! The afternoon driver keeps changing their route (who they drop off first), so we don't know if she's going to be there at 2:00 or 2:30 pm! One day I think I have it,  and it changes. A few times I've been out there waiting and have to call them to find out where they're at. This is not ideal as Piper is napping at home...thus why we are still fighting this issue.

So the original Transportation Director came out to look at the turnaround and told David no right away. Policy this, policy that...etc. So, David asked for his supervisor's contact info. This guy is the just under the Superintendent. They had a good conversation. He lived in a neighborhood close to our's so he knows how the city works in the winter with the snowplows (or doesn't). He even said something about coming to look for himself to consider if an exception can be made.

We're supposed to hear by this Friday, so for now it's a wait and see situation. In the meantime, Morgan is doing well with her rides and looks forward to it every day. This is good, because it's a long ride for her in the morning... not sure how the afternoon will be when they work out their route. I still feel guilty about this, but since she is enjoying it I'm trying to let the guilt go. There's so many things to feel guilty about as a Mom. That's a whole other topic!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Spokane County Fair 2011

It's County Fair time again!! This was actually the first time we've been since we've lived here. We told Morgan all day we were going to go on and "adventure." Well, we learned the hard way that "adventure" can only mean "Jump and Bounce." Once we passed the street that was on she became very agitated and kept saying "No Fair!... Adventure!" This is what we've found we encounter when we try something new with Morgan. We get resistance because she has anxiety about things she is not familiar with. So, we were so happy when we got there and she LOVED it! We ended up staying about 4 1/2 hours and had a blast!

Here's a desperate look from Piper. She really wanted to go here...

Unfortunately Piper wasn't big enough, but Morgan had a great time sliding with Daddy!

Checking out the pigs (we saw cows, bunnies, sheep and chickens too)

One of the ferris wheels we "tried" to go on. Morgan wanted to go so bad, but she wasn't tall enough...and they would even let her on if she rode with us. So lame. They did enjoy a ride on the "spinning bears", kind of like the teacups at Disneyland. The carousel was a great one as well.

Morgan requested to have her face painted and got this pretty flower with sparkles and a rhinestone. She did so well!

video

The big slide again!!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dance Class Experiment

Morgan started her first dance class today! This is something I've debated about for a long time. I took ballet and other types of dance throughout my childhood. I took the time to consider this carefully for Morgan. I didn't want it to be because I did it and wanted her to experience it. I didn't want to set myself up for disappointment if she hated it either. I built it up to her over a period of time. When she danced with the kids on TV shows I'd ask her if she liked dancing. She always says yes. I'd then asked her if she would like to take a dance class and try to explain what it would be like. Early on she said no, but when we saw clips of a ballet class on TV I asked her and she'd say yes.

So, I head about a studio from one of the Moms in Morgan's preschool class last year. I called and talked to the owner/teacher this summer about classes. She gave me the details, but I thought I'd check out some other places as well. I didn't think Morgan was quite ready yet either. Then a few weeks ago I got a postcard in the mail from another local program I'd heard about. When I called, the director was a little pushy. When I mentioned Morgan's autism she became very nervous and suddenly seemed very negative. This wasn't the place for us.

I called the original studio again and the owner was so sweet when I expained about Morgan's autism. She offered to let Morgan try it out for a few weeks without us paying yet. So, that Friday we went to check it out... it is the sweetest little place. You open the door right into the studio and there are big mirrors all around. The teacher wasn't there yet, so we played around a bit. Morgan and Piper loved running around and watching themselves "dance." I found some little tap shoes (they were having a shoe swap that day) to try and Morgan LOVED tapping...or pretty much stomping around in them. I didn't know how she would handle the noise, so I didn't want to run out and buy some. I asked her a few more times if she wanted to take a class and she said yes. We observed the class for a bit and the teacher (a different one from the owner) encouraged us to come back.

So...the next Friday approached and I went out and bought Morgan a leotard and tights at Target. They had the ballet and tap shoes at Payless. She was set!  Here's how it went...

The kids start off "stretching" at the beginning of class. Morgan sat some and other times got up and ran around. Notice Piper participating too!

"Butterfly" stretches. When the teacher asked what color everyone's butterflies were, Morgan said her's was orange (of course!). I was so glad she answered the question.

The girls at the barre on one side of the room. The girl on the far left was in Morgan's preschool class last year.

Another little barre on the other side. This was one of the few times Morgan actually stood still!

Piper wanted to dance too!

A sort of ring around the rosie dance

I think they were "dancing" to some pretty ballet music this time. Notice Morgan and another girl tending to their "wedgies." Oh, and Piper's in there too!

Checking herself out... again.

Little fairies "falling asleep" after their wand dance. Notice Piper. Where's Morgan? Looking at herself in the mirror of course!

Tapping!! One of the few times she was listening.

The girls getting their "treats" after class. I hope this isn't a metaphor for Morgan's life...

Now she joined in!

Really, the pictures make it look like she participated more than she did. I was exhausted after class trying to get Morgan to focus. Hmmm, probably a lost cause at this point. The teacher said Morgan did way better than she thought she would! I felt better and ws more encouraged to come back after that. This teacher was substituting for the owner/teacher that day, so I wanted to see what she thought as well, since it was her class. We'll see how it goes!