Monday, March 29, 2010

Itty-bitty job, great big panic...

Telerik donated the professional Sitefinity license for the new Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland website.  I'm so grateful.
However, I'm not so thrilled with my response to the need to set the licensing information for the above:  Panic.  My heart is pounding.  I know that our developer was only mostly serious when he said that an admin login can nuke the website and to use the keys to the kingdom wisely, Grasshopper.  I know that.  And I think I could do it.  But frankly, the direction, "To set your licensing information, copy the attached LicenseFile.xml file to the Sitefinity folder of your project placed in the root of your web application" has absolutely NO MEANING to me.  I understand every word (except .xml, but that's not really a word, now, is it?) but have no clue as to the meaning of these particular words strung together in this particular order.  And I have no wish to mess with the Sitefinity folder if I could even find it.  Did I mention panic?
 
I'm the mother of two children with special needs.  Heck, I'm the human of a dog with special needs.  I handle more by 8 a.m. than most people handle all day.  Why is one little direction line causing so much drama in my little piece of the world?


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Expect more, get more: Case in point

Warning:  This post contains shameless bragging on my child.

My son is in 7th grade.  Last year was his first year entering the Science Fair.  At the school level, he earned 2nd place in his category and advanced to the county level, where he gained some good experience.  This year, he won 3rd place in his category at the school level, and he was awarded Lockheed Martin's Da Vinci Award (for entrepreneurial spirit and ability to solve problems).  Framed and everything.  That got him to the County Science Fair and a 2nd-place award in his category.  He moved on to the Prince George's Regional Science Fair, which was held just this weekend.  He didn't place, but he was awarded three Special Awards:
  • 2nd place from IIE (Institute of Industrial Engineers)
  • Citation from the Washington Statistical Society
  • Citation from the Patent & Trademark Office Society
I believe I'll go off and bask now.

Title:  Traffic Power
Category:  Energy and Transportation
Basic Description:  Is the air displaced by traffic a viable energy source?  Year 1:  What blade type, height, and angle are best?  Year 2:  Is it a viable energy source?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

One Word. A World of Difference

When my Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland partner and I worked on getting our new logo, we thought long and hard about our name.  For a number of years, we had called ourselves the Autism Spectrum Disorder Support of Southern Maryland.  Did you catch the difference?  It's just one word:  "Disorder."

My son was diagnosed at the age of three.  He's over 12 years old now -- nine years of having a name for the issue.  We'll always be grateful that we got the diagnosis (and hence the first interventions) so early.  Many, many children with Asperger's aren't accurately diagnosed for years more than that.  But by about Year 6, I was pretty tired of being "a disorder."  And since my son could read -- really read -- by the age of three, he knew what books I was reading by reading the spines of the stacks all over the house:  Disorder.  Syndrome.  Disability.

I'm not one of the group that says that they wouldn't change a thing about their child.  I would.  In a heartbeat.  I'd make the lack of social understanding go away if I could.  What are people in this world but social creatures?  As soon as you add one, you've got two, and that's social.  Imagine always having to do your hardest job at home or at work all the time.  Now imagine that other people believe you should find it relaxing and fun to do so.  It's not an easy world to live in when you don't understand the rules (but, as in my son's case, believe firmly that you do!).

As I've said before:  There is no area of my son's life, and therefore my family's life, left unaffected by his Asperger's.  That's why they call it pervasive.  But when you get right down to it, autism is what it is.  There is no cure; we work to intervene.  But mostly, we just get on with it.

So when my Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland partner and I worked on getting our new logo, we thought long and hard about our name.  We now call ourselves the Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland.  Did you catch the difference?  It's just one word:  "Disorder."


Friday, March 26, 2010

Rosetta Stone for Twitter

Holy heck.  I'm on Twitter.  WHAT was I thinking?  #this and @that.  Tweet this and Retweet that.  All in under 140 characters.  Since when have I done anything in under 140 characters?  And I'm not on Twitter once, oh, no.  I've got two accounts.  TWO.  WHY?

OK, I can tell you why.  Because 1) I want the new Autism Spectrum Support Group to reach people, and Twitter is a tool to make that happen.  In the Southern Maryland area, there are approximately 500 children with the educational label of autism.  That doesn't count children with a different educational label (e.g., developmental delay, multiple disabilities, other health impairment).  It doesn't count children with a medical diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder but who receive no special education services through our school systems.  And it doesn't count...  My point is that we currently have 75 members.  We could be serving so many more.  I want to reach them.  No one has to join, but I want them to know we're here.

And I made a second acount because 2) I have to be really careful about tweeting personal content on the Support Group's account.  Apparently I'm really quick on the personal content draw, but here's where I get into trouble.  Twitter is a whole new country, and I don't speak the language.  I've got a phrase book, but that'll take me only as far as "Where is the bathroom?" and "How do I get to the American Embassy?"  I've spent days reading through the tweets of the people I'm following on Twitter, trying to absorb the ebb and flow of tweeting.  I've added a few sentences to my phrase book, but what I really need is the Rosetta Stone for Twitter.

My head hurts.  Facebook is so much kinder and gentler.

Another thank you to the Southern Maryland Give Camp experience.  Maybe.  The jury is is still out.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Southern Maryland Give Camp: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

The Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland received a great gift this past weekend at the Southern Maryland Give Camp.  (Go here for my take on the event.)

I received an even greater one.  I received knowledge.  Knowledge to keep the website up and running:
  • Knowledge to use some numbers/symbols in those passwords!  (Won't that just generalize out into my whole cyber life!)
  • Knowledge of how to make things happen behind the scenes to look right from the front row.  (Lists and links and uploads...)
  • Knowledge of how to be accessible without revealing our real email addresses!  (Because looney people exist.)
  • Knowledge of how to create news items and newsletters.  (To keep my community updated and informed.)
  • Knowledge that Google Calendars exist and that I can easily tend them.  (If it's as easy as it looks, who knows -- one day I might do away with my own paper calendar and highlighters.  Maybe.  It's a control thing.)
  • Knowledge that tracking exists, and I can have reports that will help me make the website (and therefore services) better.
  • Knowledge to never use the admin login as TOTAL NUCLEAR DESTRUCTION will occur.
I also received knowledge in other areas:
  • I learned what it's like to be on the receiving end of generous donations -- donations that take my breath away.  Jim (and by extension, his family) donated so much of his time that I honestly don't know how he did it.  One hundred and one people volunteered their time and services to make the event a success.  The Support Group is used to helping others; we're not used to being helped.
  • On a personal level, I learned to look at my son's future with hope.  I looked around the roomful of these IT volunteers and I saw a group of successful men who had the depth of caring to donate "themselves" -- their down time, their time away from their families, and their expertise -- for this cause, thereby helping me to help my son.  And (no offense to any of them who might ever read this blog post!) chances are good that some of them may have a place on the Spectrum.  I'd love for my son to be just like them.
Knowledge is no trivial matter.  When you live in the world of special needs and special education, knowledge is critical to getting services for your child, to advocating for your child, to making a difference for your child.

The Southern Maryland Give Camp:  The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Southern Maryland Give Camp -- Don't think twice, it's all right.





Awhile back, I was sitting in a CACSE meeting and Jim Pendarvis started talking about a "Give Camp."  "What's a Give Camp?" we asked.  Didn't understand most of what he said, but I did glom onto the words "free" and "website" and "professional."  And so it began...

To see what a Give Camp is according to Jim, check out Southern Maryland Give Camp.  My nutshell version is that a bunch (herd?  flock?  gaggle?) of techie-types agree to donate their time and expertise in the field of information technology (IT) to help non-profit organizations and charities (very IT-needy people) with their information technology needs.  (Think websites or databases or the like.)  And they agree to do this within one weekend, with very little sleep and lots of caffeine.  And Jim arranges to get just about everything everybody needs for FREE!  I mean everything:  Location and food and door prizes, software and licenses and web hosting, internet access and energy drinks and haircuts (long story).

Nineteen non-profit organizations (NPOs) were selected to receive help.  One hundred and one volunteers showed up to give it.  I was involved with three NPOs:  The Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland, The Citizens' Advisory Committee for Special Education, and The Learning Disabilities Association of St. Mary's County.  All three groups needed websites with various features.  Check them out -- see what IT volunteers made for us in 42 hours.  I think you'll be awed!

My main project was for the Autism Spectrum Support Group of SoMD.  While we've maintained a private listserv since 2003, I've wanted us to have a public website for years.  A couple of years ago, two of us tried to make one on one of those "free" website places, but when you've got a budget of zero dollars (literally), you become the poster child for "you get what you pay for."  Our website was pitiful at best, and when I couldn't maintain it easily, it went downhill from there.  There's just no comparison to the new website.

So now here's the part I've got to say:  Thank you, thank you, thank you to Jim for setting up the entire Give Camp and shaving his head (that same long story).  I don't know how many hours Jim put in prior to the weekend of the Give Camp, but I can tell you that I've never seen anything run as smoothly as this event.  Whatever anyone needed, he was sure to have anticipated.  And if there were glitches, we didn't see them.  His commitment to the event was palpable.  And though the word is overused, Jim was awesome!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to David Makogon for being the lead on the Autism Spectrum Support Group of SoMD project.  I've never, never ever had any service provider listen to what I said the way David did.  He listened, he heard, and he improved on it.  By the time we were "hands off" at 12 noon on Sunday, I had a website that was useful and user-friendly.  (These are not namby-pamby adjectives.)   It contains so much more than the "top 3 priorities" we requested.  And most importantly, I had been trained to maintain and update it.  What more could I have asked for? 

And thank you to Rusty Romaine and Steve Michelotti for working on this project with us.  Every time I looked into the room, some combination of the three of them was hard at work figuring out how to do what they wanted with Sitefinity, a great website content management system.  So thanks go to Telerik  for donating the professional Sitefinity license as well as to DiscountASP.NET for hosting our new website and our database, for free, for life!



Didn't I say that Jim Pendarvis is awesome?



Please visit the new website; bookmark it, share it, love it!!


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Heartsore

My heart hurts again for my dear friend who has just learned that she is not pregnant, this after her precious first-born child passed away in November.  My heart is full again.

I have no words, again, to comfort her.  I have no consolation, again, to sustain her.  So again, I turn to God's word, to God's consolation, to support her.

My heart hurts, again, for my dear friend.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Holy system failure, Batman


Two nights ago, our main PC had a total system failure.  There was no way to safely retrieve the data.  We lost everything that was on it when we had to reformat the hard drive.  (Feel free to blame us for not backing it up.)  In reality, there were only two really important sets of files lost:  the finances and Tom's school documents.  My husband can recreate, with effort, the finances.  Tom now has to recreate, with greater effort, a major school project -- one of those year-long, community service projects with documentation, etc.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Uncle Fester

I've heard some feedback about my three minutes of fame in front of the local school system's Board of Education a couple of weeks ago.  It seems that current staff at my son's former elementary school have their noses out of joint.  (For the expanded version of what I really said that night, go here.)  Sigh...


I've said before and I'll state it here again:  I believe that every member of my son's school team was a kind and caring person.  But I know that there is systemic ignorance within our county school system about what it means to be a person with Asperger's.  (If you believe you're right, why would you contemplate changing?)  And while there have been recent improvements, those bringing about the positive changes are spread too thin.  Additionally, one person on my son's educational team at the time, a person who knowingly and deliberately blocked his success, is still in a position of power within the school system and continues to cause problems for other children with spectrum disorders.

I've said before and I'll state it here again:  My child is not entitled to the best education.  Instead, my child is entitled to a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE).  Try stomaching that as a parent of a neurotypical child.  Now try stomaching it when your child has special needs.  My problem is that the school system tells me that my child can have services and interventions that are availableAvailable does not automatically mean appropriate.  The laws governing special education say that my child should get what he needs; they do not say the my child can have what he needs as long as it's already available.  But this is school culture, so I work to make available that which my child needs.  (If Mohammed won't go to the mountain, we'll just bring the mountain to Mohammed.)

I've said before and I'll state it here again:  There have been many times in my son's school life that we've questioned whether he was receiving any part of his FAPE.  Free?  We've paid to educate ourselves.  We've paid for doctor's recommendations.  We've paid thousands of dollars for an advocate.  We've paid the same hourly rate for the advocate's driving time.  We've paid for books to loan to staff.  We've paid for books to give to staff.  We've paid for equipment for my son to use in school.  We've paid for private therapies because school wouldn't provide them.  (Try stomaching that he can have services at school if and only if they benefit him educationally.  If they're available.  Then listen to all the reasons other people at the table believe he doesn't need them.)

Appropriate?  I could list out everything that was appropriate in about five bullet points.  See my State Complaint from 4th grade for everything that wasn't appropriate.  It might be more useful to say that had school staff and administration truthfully answered the question,  "Is what you're doing working?" I wouldn't be writing this paragraph now.  Had they understood my son as a child with Asperger's and that his behaviors were consistent with a diagnosis of Asperger's, they would have changed what they were doing in order to reach him.  They didn't.  Most still don't.  That's why I coordinate the Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland, why I have in my son's IEP that staff will receive training from an expert in Asperger's, why I sit on the Citizen's Advisory Committee for Special Education...

Education?  What did he learn in all his elementary school years?  Of course he learned the academic content; give it to him and he absorbs it.  But that's not what children with Asperger's need to learn.  Their impairments are in the social arena, in the use of pragmatic language, in executive functioning.  They need training in these critical skills for being successful in school, on the job, in relationships -- in life.  In fact what my son learned was how to get other people to do undesired actions for him.  What he learned was that it's acceptable to be so little challenged academically that little effort gets good grades.

Public?  Yep.  It was public.  Over the walkie-talkies, down the hallways public.  Though it was rarely communicated to me.

I've said before and I'll state it here again:  Children with Asperger's often need to be reached differently.  Just as you wouldn't hand a child who is blind a piece of print material and say, "You're responsible for this information," you don't teach a child with Asperger's in ways that he can't understand.  My child is at home; ring the bell and see if he answers.  If he doesn't, go around back and knock.  He's likely to let you in.  However, if you don't get an answer, please climb in the window.  He's worth reaching.

I've said before and I'll state it here again:  School is a community, and I'm not a member of it.

Imagine five years (eight years if you count the time at the previous elementary school) of beating your head against the wall trying to get your child what you knew your child needed but never being successful.   Imagine that you're told repeatedly that the school team can "handle" your child with Asperger's, that they know what they're doing; then imagine getting called to come and pick him up because he's behaving badly or having his work sent home because he wouldn't do it.  Imagine that at the end of the day, you had to tell your child that you had done the best you could, and it wasn't enough.  Now read what I said to the Board of Education and tell me I'm out of line.

I'm not going to say "uncle," and I'm not going to let it fester.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Destination Imagination


Yesterday was the Destination Imagination Regional Tournament (with State and Global to follow).  I think that my kids did a great job.  They presented their solution to the Team Challenge with great presence of mind.  (They "can't say" anything about the Instant Challenge until after the Global Tournament in May.)

Four of the children stayed for the awards ceremony.  They were disappointed to learn that our team didn't place in our Challenge.  (I have to admit that I'm disappointed, too.)

However, in talking things over with several parents today, I've come to some realizations:

• This year needs to be viewed as our learning year.  (Or as our diagnostic test telling us what we know and what we don't know.)

• The team manager and I were new at this and had never even seen a DI Challenge before.

• All but one of our team members were new to this and had never even seen a DI Challenge before.

• We started late in the DI season -- our first team meeting was Pearl Harbor Day. 

• February happened!

• Team members hadn't read the challenge or the Rules of the Road early enough.

• Probably the biggest thing to learn:  Our team had every part of the Challenge completed.  However, in reviewing the scores, I'm thinking that we had every part completed to the basic level only.  I think that DI is really looking for creativity over and above just solving the challenge.  I think that this year, our inexperience, late start, and interrupted schedule were big factors in the team's solution.  I know I'm not saying it well, but I think my point is this:  I don't think that our team didn't place because they can't do this type of work.  I think that they can do this kind of work.  I think that they are capable of doing better next time around.  More than capable.  I'd love to see them learn from the experience and try again.

• Our kids may have taken the loss hard because they so rarely "lose."

• Seven schedules can be difficult to coordinate.

Therefore, if my team wishes to participate in DI next year, I have these recommendations:

• Try to have experienced team managers.  :-)

• Consider keeping this same team; they were just starting to become a cohesive group.  (One member will be moving on to the middle school level, but the six girls could continue together.)  Perhaps consider going with six instead of seven team members.


• Or consider putting all interested kids together for 1-2 meetings.  Have them look over the challenges and decide which one is really interesting to them.  Group them by interest rather than by what time of day/day of the week they can meet.

• Start as soon as the new season's challenges are available online (idodi.org) even though an announcement hasn't yet been made through school.

• Have every team member read the Challenge description and the Rules of the Road as soon as they have chosen the challenge.

• Schedule regular meetings!

• Practice team building and instant challenges while also working on the Team Challenge.  For Instant Challenges, work on understanding the directions, time keeping, and communicating.  Communicating includes listening to each other.

• For the Team Challenge:  Work with the team on not just solving the challenge but on going above and beyond a solution.  Allow enough time to do so.  Think a cupcake vs. a wedding cake.   Both are a tasty treat to serve your guests.  But one goes above and beyond a piece of cake.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Moving trees and GS cookies

I've been really busy the past couple of weeks.  The kind of busy that makes me sleep poorly and have dreams that confuse what I'm doing with really bizarre made-up details that fit seemlessly into the truth.  (I'm not talking about talking unicorns; it's much more subtle than that.  Why my sister has to arrive to help move the giant tree scenery in the skit my DI kids are doing is beyond me.  In truth, I have a sister and my DI kids are doing a skit.  But my sister lives in New Jersey.  I don't.  I'm not sure my sister even knows that I have DI kids much less that they are  doing a skit.  And there's no giant tree involved.  There's a glacier, but there's no tree.  See what I mean?  Subtly bizarre.)

Too busy.

So I've put on hold some things that are bothering me.  I've set them aside because I just can't deal with them right now.  However, it's quiet right now, and even though I ought to turn off the light and try to sleep -- moving trees or visiting sisters aside -- I find my mind going back to what's bothering me.

One of the things that's bothering me is a re-grieving for my friend whose son lived here on this Earth for only a few precious hours.  When I learned that he had gone to Heaven, one of my first concerns was that my friend was unlikely to have gotten to hold him before the medical team took him.  She didn't.  That fact stuck with me, and I hurt for her.  However, she said that it was OK because she had had all those months of intimacy with him as he grew inside her.  I felt a little better with that perspective, a little comforted.  But now my friend is grieving for that lack of contact.  And I'm right back there grieving for her grieving.  And regretting my insensitivity in making it sound like carrying the sweet baby should have been enough.  (It wasn't what I had meant; it was more that if it is now a fresh source of anguish, I'm no longer comforted.)  This one hurts.

Another thing that's bothering me is that my great-aunt passed away last week.  The funeral was today.  I didn't go.  She lived quietly, and she died quietly.  I didn't go.  More than that, though I'd known her my whole life, I never got to know her.  My brother-in-law did a bit.  As he said today, she was 96, and in all the years he had known her, she was kind, gentle, and without guile.  I didn't go.

I have another friend who is stuck in a job that is just not making her happy.  Quite the opposite:  It's making her stressed, and she's not the kind that thrives on stress.  (I don't tend to be friends with people who do thrive on stress; thriving on stress stresses me.)  I don't know how to support her, but I now know it's more serious than I thought, and I need to gauge the situation before I whip off a smart-mouth comment.

My Girl Scouts are a great bunch of kids.  They have their individual problems, but they're a great bunch.  Right now, when I should be thrilled that my girls have sold 2,006 boxes of cookies, I'm having to track down parents and prompt them to sign the girls up for booths.  It's a question of fairness when it comes time to spend the cookie money.  As a friend said, though, it's not fair to penalize the girls because of the actions of the parents.  So I'll leave it at that one prompting.  But I'm bothered.

Girl Scouts isn't the only obligation.  I am also the co-vice chairperson for the Citizen's Advisory Committee for Special Education, which is gearing up again.  Elections will be held next month; I don't want to be an officer for a 4th year.  I want to sit back and let others fulfill the vision/mission.  But I owe the best I can do for the remainder of the year.  I have to check the By-Laws and see if my year ends in May or in June.  That I want to pull back bothers me.

And then there are the odds and ends that come to trip me up:  school fundraisers, my son's upcoming trip to West Virginia, preparing for the upcoming Give Camp, and this weekend's Destination Imagination competition.  They all come with extraneous -- or maybe better to say internal -- issues that aren't about the events themselves.

As it's now a new day, I'm off to deal with one of the events themselves.  I have to push all this to the side, tamp down on the constant feelings of unease.  Get through until I can deal.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shut up!

I like to teach.  I like to help.  I like to share knowledge.

I need to keep my mouth shut.  If it's not about Asperger's, then I don't really get it.  Even if I think I get it, I don't.  Shut mouth.  Keep it shut.  Shut mouth.  Keep it shut.  Shut mouth.  Keep it shut.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Hymns

My Top Three Hymns I Sing in the Shower When I'm Really Upset

 (This first one I know only the first verse, so I sing it 3-4 times.)

Sweet Hour of Prayer
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare,
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

For Those Tears I Died
You said You'd come and share all my sorrows,
You said You'd be there for all my tomorrows;
I came so close to sending You away,
But just like You promised You came there to stay;
I just had to pray!

And Jesus said, "Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won't be denied;
I felt ev'ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died."

Your goodness so great I can't understand,
And, dear Lord, I know that all this was planned;
I know You're here now, and always will be,
Your love loosed my chains and in You I'm free;
But Jesus, why me?

And Jesus said, "Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won't be denied;
I felt ev'ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died."

Jesus, I give You my heart and my soul,
I know that without God I'd never be whole;
Savior, You opened all the right doors,
And I thank You and praise You from earth's humble shores;
Take me, I'm Yours.

And Jesus said, "Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won't be denied;
I felt ev'ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died."

Fill My Cup, Lord
Like the woman at the well I was seeking
For things that could not satisfy;
And then I heard my Savior speaking:
"Draw from my well that never shall run dry".

Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more--
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!

There are millions in this world who are craving
The pleasures earthly things afford;
But none can match the wondrous treasure
That I find in Jesus Christ my Lord.

Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more--
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!

So, my brother, if the things this world gave you
Leave hungers that won't pass away,
My blessed Lord will come and save you,
If you kneel to Him and humbly pray:

Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more--
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!

Head cold...

Sent my son to school today with a cold and an asthma flare-up.  Had already made an appointment with the asthma doctor for after school.  Got called after lunch to come pick him up from school as he was fading fast.  Now sitting in the waiting room for the doctor's appointment.  Always make Tom wear headphones when he's playing his DS in public.  Can hear it anyway.  That, and his mouth-breathing wheezing.  Got to get him healthy before next week's MSAs.

Since when is my son 167 lbs. and 5'8" tall?  When did that happen?  I was sort of hoping that his currently significantly deeper voice was caused by this cold, but I think that's one "symptom" that's not going to go away.  Funny about this is that Tom seems to think that there's going to be some kind of power shift when he surpasses me in height.  This despite my having told him several times that Mom will always be more powerful than he is.  And he should get used to it; so will his wife be.

Love Tom's allergist.  Practically saved us when Tom was little.  Saved us from the chronic coughing, runny nose, and sneezing.  Saved us, too, from the loss of food choices in an already limited diet when his allergies flared up each spring and caused his tastes to change.  This is not insignificant.  Same doctor treats Nat's mild asthma and graduated me from shots.  I'll always be grateful.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pursestrings...

Tonight I'm going to go before the Board of Education to offer my input to the budget.  This will be my 4th year doing so.  In the past, I’ve talked about funding for the needs of special education students as well as funding for the needs of twice-exceptional (2e) students.  Last year, I asked not for their money but for their interest and attention in using what the school system already has to provide appropriate rigor for students in our elementary schools.

This year I don't have my ear to the ground as much as I have in past years, but I’ve been hearing some good things about additional rigor in our elementary schools; I’m encouraged, and I’m very grateful.  But mostly, I’m hoping to see this trend continue and expand.

I don't have anything new to say to the Board of Eduction.  My concerns are the same as they have been the past three years:  appropriate programming in the special education department, appropriate programming in the gifted department, and appropriate programming for our students who need both.  However,  I don't think I ever told the board why I do this, why I come before them every year and shake and sweat and pretty much make myself sick.

It shames me to say it, but I do this every year because I failed as my child’s primary advocate all during his elementary school years.  (I failed both my children, actually, but I’ll just tell them about the one.)  It’s not a happy story.  It's not a pretty story.  It's an important story.

My son wasn’t often engaged in learning much of his elementary school years.  In part, this was the nature of his disability.  He had an agenda, and it wasn't theirs.  In part, he already knew the material -- to his way of thinking, why should he listen?  When something is done, then it's done; he doesn't wish to revisit it.  And in part, we didn’t use his considerable strengths to address his (then) considerable needs.  We didn't use his strong academic abilities to teach him the social skills so necessary to succeed in life.  In short, we didn’t know the learner or the learning.  In point of fact, my son didn’t need academic remediation; he needed academic acceleration.

It wasn’t until close to the end of my son's elementary school years that I finally uncovered why:  Appropriate rigor wasn’t consistently available, and the special education department declared it not their obligation to get it for him.  Though I tried, I couldn’t work through the roadblocks to get him what he needed.  The result was that by the end of elementary school, nobody really expected much of anything from him.

For his own reasons, my son wanted to apply to the STEM Academy for 6th grade.  He did, and he was accepted.  His school team flat out didn't believe he could succeed there.  We were nervous, but we knew that he had never been tried in a planned program that offered appropriate rigor with general education peers.  We felt that it was time to expect more of him and to give him the chance to show us what he could do.  AND WE GOT MORE -- beyond what we ever imagined.  That child blew everyone's expectations out of the water.  He finished the year with so much more than a year's worth of growth, and he maintained a straight-A average.

He’s in STEM7 now, and if you’ll allow me this proud note:  He placed in his division at the school's Science Fair and won the Da Vinci award from Lockheed Martin.  That advanced him to the County Science Fair, where he again placed in his division.  Now he’s going on to the Regional Science Fair in Prince George’s County at the end of this month.  Look what can happen when we expect more -- we get more.  But it shouldn’t have to wait until middle school to happen.

Elementary school is behind him now, but there are many more students with a profile similar to his who are coming up in the elementary grades.  And that’s why I continue to go to the board's budget hearings every year.  With the Board of Education's focus, we can get appropriate rigor consistently available in all our elementary schools so that those who need it can get it.  I need them to continue to emphasize the importance of providing appropriate input and rigor to all our students.  Expect less, get less.  Expect more, get more...

 *** So I get there tonight and follow 10 teachers and one independent bus driver.  I start talking, make it through the intro., and break down at "I do this every year because I failed as my child’s primary advocate all during his elementary school years."  Great.  Now I'm going to be all wobble-chinned on Channel 96 for the next two weeks.  Next year, no more personal anecdotes; it's back to generic begging. ***
 **** 3/14/10 -- I forgot to mention that I think I was "unfriended" on FB because of my comments referring to my son's former school team.  Oh, well. ****

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bacon... hog heaven

Natalie came home yesterday talking about all the brouhaha over next week's MSAs (big state tests):  Pep rallies; a movie later if everyone is quiet during the tests; how they are to get a good night's rest and eat a good breakfast.  This is her second year of taking them, and her second school.  It was pretty much the same at the first school, except they enticed with extra recess, not a movie.  She close to snorted in her narrative.  (I close to snorted as I listened.)

However, as a good, supportive parent, I talked it up.  I said we'd be sure to get her to sleep early and to give her a really good breakfast.  Hey, she could have some bacon, too, I offered -- a little protein to boost the brain work.  Clarifying, she asked if I meant my bacon.  I said that this was so.  She declined my bacon, however, classifying turkey bacon as "not real bacon."  Hmph.  Again, as a good, supportive parent, I said for the MSAs, I'd get her "real" bacon.  She squealed her delight.

Find the right incentive...

*** 3/9/10 So I taught her how to make bacon in the microwave yesterday before school, and I get a call midmorning from the school nurse, who says that Natalie is complaining of reflux-like symptoms and did I want to bring her a Tums?  All of us agree it was likely the bacon.  Today, the first day of testing, she naturally doesn't want any.  Heck.  Still to find:  The right incentive... ***

Two minutes

I have two minutes to myself.  After nine straight days of prepping something or doing something or cleaning up after something, I can sit down and enjoy two minutes to myself.  Unfortunately, when looking at the calendar to see if it had really been nine days, I found two more things that have to get done now.  Oh, well.  Ninety seconds wasn't bad.