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!

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!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Piper's School

Here's our Piper on her first day of "school." She was excitedly showing me an airplane in the sky as I was taking pictures. She is attending the "Toddler Class" at the same school Morgan went to one day a week last year. She's one of the youngest in the class as her birthday is right before the school district's cut-off...but we'll be dealing with that more seriously as she gets closer to starting Kindergarten. For now it's nice that she gets her own school day.

I'm most excited because I had a hard time participating in this program with Morgan because I was chasing Piper around the whole time. When the kids are doing their activities the Moms/Parents/Grandparents gather in the lobby area to have our own discussions. It's nice to get to know the other parents and share our experiences and advice. It's also quite different this time because I will be discussing a "typical" child instead of one with special needs, though I'm sure I'll share some of that too. It seems like a good group with many backgrounds to share.

Piper did great! She did not come out of the class once to see me!! (As I'm post-dating this entry, the second class she did come out once at the end, which I loved!). Many Moms were in and out of the class with their kids as well as some of them having a younger child to take care of. I'm enjoying this time...I've earned it! I think Piper remembered Morgan's class and how badly she wanted to be in there. It's so exciting that it's her turn now! We really like this school and the director is really professional as well as nurturing to the kids. We've got Piper signed up there until Kindergarten, so we hope she loves it too!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Bus

Here's Morgan's bus coming down the road to drop her off at home the first day! Little did we know it would be the beginning of a fiasco that has still not been resolved. We decided at the end of the school year last year that Morgan would take the bus when school started again in September. Her AIM program goes from 9:30 am - 1:30 pm. The pick-up time would be right in the middle of Piper's nap time. I'm not ready to have her give up her nap... so the bus it was! The teachers assured me that the kids love it, so I thought we'd give it a try.

A few days before school started I received calls from the morning and afternoon bus drivers, letting me know when she would be picked up and dropped off each day. I took Morgan to school on her first day, but she was scheduled  for her first bus ride home that afternoon. The morning driver asked me if there was a turnaround on our street, as it is a dead end. I told her there is one between the last two houses on the left side. When our development went in, this turnaround was mandated by the city until it was know whether the street would eventually continue through (to date, the owner will not sell the land). Garbage trucks and delivery vehicles turn around in this spot weekly. I watched as this bus driver turned around with no issues and pulled up in front of our house.

So...when I walked up to meet Morgan the driver said, "Oh no, my "Boss" isn't going to like that." You are going to have to meet us at xxxx and yyyyy cross-streets two blocks away. I questioned this and she said she would have her Boss look at it. Later that day the morning driver called and said she'd talked to the afternoon driver and that the turnaround "was too short," so we'd have to meet her at the spot two blocks away. I then asked for the Boss's phone number, which she gave me. It was late in the afternoon so when no one answered I left a message.

In the meantime, Morgan did okay on the bus her first time. They said she cried some and didn't want to get on, but they assured her they were taking her to "see Mommy" and she eventually got on and did well on the ride home. It was a hot day and she was a little flushed, but seemed to be happy. She mentioned later that she wanted to go on the school bus again, so that was encouraging.

Then next morning the "Boss" called around 7:30 am. He talked about "policy this" and "policy that." I still pushed back saying the turnaround was approved by the city and the garbage trucks and UPS trucks used it frequently with no issues. I then asked, aren't special needs children guaranteed to be picked up at their homes? He then asked if she had a "transportation IEP", which I don't know if this is different that a regular IEP, which she has. Anyway, I asked if there was anyone else we could speak with and he said he'd call back. He called back shortly and said no one else was in the office. To date, we have not had a call back.

With no resolution I had to take Morgan the few blocks away to meet the bus. The driver said she'd be there at 8:25 am and when she called at 8:20, asking where Morgan was I was a little annoyed. Sweet Morgan (with Piper in her stroller) protested all the way down the street saying "I want to go in Mama's car, open the garage!" and "I want Mama to go on the bus too!" I felt just awful, like I was the worst Mom ever putting my three year-old on this bus to school. The driver and bus aide were really sweet, saying they were taking her to school and they'd have a great time!! She seemed to be OK after that. I set her up with her granola bar for the ride. Then I walked Piper home and started crying. I called her teacher just blubbering. She was so sweet and promised to call when Morgan got there. She called about 15 minutes after Morgan arrived and reported that she got off the bus happy and they'd asked her if she liked it and she said "yes." Though...Morgan says yes to a lot of  things that I'm not sure she really means yes. Hmmm. I do think this is an adjustment in routine for her. Once she knows it's part of her school routine she'll be fine with it.

When I went out to pick her up that afternoon (stinking hot, by the way!)... I took Piper's monitor with me which worked almost the whole two blocks. Morgan was very happy to see me when she hopped down the steps and walked home asking for her favorite TV show of the moment. I had also sent some water with her this time, so she seemed less hot and sweaty this time. I asked her a few questions about her day and got more information out of her than I did last year! Good progress! She told me some of the other kids' names, which included a few kids from her class last year... whom I don't think are actually in her class this year, but their classroom is close by. But there were new kids' names too. I asked her what she had for breakfast (cereal) and lunch (pizza). I asked her if she ate the pizza, because she doesn't at home, and she said she "licked" it. Huh? That's a whole other story. At first I thought I didn't hear it right, but found out later that's what actually happened. More on that later...

So, heading into Monday David is going to take over the call to the Boss, and if needed, the Superintendent's office...or whatever we need to do to get this resolved. More soon.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And not to be outdone by her sister...

Morgan decided to surprise us tonight when we were putting her to bed. I was in Piper's room waiting for her to come in from Morgan's room (as part of the usual routine). David put Morgan in bed and gave her the usual goodnight kisses. I suddenly heard her say to him, "I love you!" I had not heard David say this first, so this came as a surprise. David said he loved her too. Then she said again "I love you too, Daddy!" Awwww!

Then she topped it by telling David she wanted to see me. He asked her if she wanted to go see me or if she wanted me to come to her room. She said right away that she wanted me to come to her. Of course I did. I gave her a big hug goodnight and, like she did with David, she said to me, "I love you!" I told her I loved her too, and she said (again), "I love you too, Mama!" My heart just melted!

Sweetest thing ever!! If I haven't mentioned this, it was all TOTALLY spontaneous! No prompting, nothing. Occasionally she's said she loves us after we say it to her, but she's never said it first. Wow! What a day!

Piper's 2-year Well "Baby" Visit

She's not a baby anymore! We had Piper's 2 year appointment this morning. She did great! She was patient while we waiting for the Dr. She did little dances around the room and was very concerned when she heard a baby crying and kept trying to open the door saying "baby, baby" (so she could go help him/her, I guess).

When the Dr. came in she let him examine her as I stood next to her holding her on the table. He'd look in one ear and she'd say "I did it!", then the next ear, and so forth with the whole exam. She was a little nervous when she had to lie down. She only cried a little when she got her flu shot.

Her stats:

Weight: 26.5 lbs (47-48%)

Height: 33.5 in (39%) - I'm not sure how accurate this is and they have her lie down and make marks on the paper at her head and feet. She was in the 59% six months ago?

Head: 18.8 in (53%)

So really right in the middle and proportional. I was a little concerned about her gross motor skills as she does not walk up stairs on her own (still crawls). Morgan was also able to jump at this age and Piper does not. Actually she thinks she can, but both feet don't come off the floor! The Dr. was not concerned at all. She climbs all over furniture and into her own car seat. He thinks she'll get there soon with the stairs and jumping.

What a relief to have a 2-year appointment with a typically developing child! You have no idea how relieved we are to make it past the critical 18-24 month period...our child psychologist said that some kids who have autism have an "onset" during that time (though Morgan was always delayed, we cannot pinpoint an "onset"). It looks like Piper is doing everything she should be!

Here's a super cute picture Grandpa B took. Please ignore the cracker crumbs...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Piper!

We can't believe Piper is TWO!!  Here is our sweet Piper getting ready to enjoy her birthday cake! We had such a fun day playing with new toys and just enjoying her. We also had a wedding to go to that day, so it was a busy one! We were able to make it back home for a wonderful strawberry birthday cake baked by Gram B. She loved it! Grampa A called and David put him on speaker. He said "Happy Birthday Piper!" and she said "Happy, I two! Happy, I two!" So cute! Now everything birthday related is called "Happy." Sounds good to us! She had her two year well check next week, so we'll let you know the stats as we have them.

And now to leave you with one of the many faces of Piper!! She makes all kinds of expressions when you pull out the camera. I was lucky to get a semi-nice one (above)!