Saturday, November 19, 2016

Bedtime Routine

Middle Son's bedtime routine starts at 8:30.  I give him his night time medicine.  We brush his teeth and shave his face.  Then it's time for his shower.  I scrub him with a loofa, then I give it to him and let him scrub and enjoy the warm water for a while. After a little time, I rinse him off and he gets out.  I dry his back for him.

Middle has always been prompt dependent.  He has to be told to close the shower curtain.  He has to be told to hang up his towel.  He has to be told to pick up his dirty clothes and put them in his laundry basket.

A month or so ago, I started fading out of the room after drying his back.  I wanted to see if he what he would do if I didn't give him any instructions.  I would walk out and partially close the door.  Every few minutes I'd peak in to see what he was doing.  I discovered that if I waited long enough, 10-12 minutes, he finish drying himself.  He would close the shower curtain.  He would pick up his dirty clothes and put them in his laundry basket.

Now most nights he will do everything without prompting.  Sometimes he will forget one of his tasks.  Most commonly, he doesn't get all of his dirty clothes out of the bathroom and I have to tell him to go back in and get a dirty sock.

It feels very slow.  I have to remind myself to give him time.  As he does so often, Middle reminds me that patience is a great virtue.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thumbnails

Middle Son has never liked having his fingernails clipped.  As he has gotten bigger and stronger (he's now 5'8", 175 lbs, and very strong) its gotten harder and harder.  About a year ago, I gave up on using a nail clipper on his thumbs and pointer fingers.  He struggled to much.  I was worried that I would end up getting a finger broken.  I switched to using file.  I continued to use clippers on the other fingers.  For some reason Middle doesn't object as strongly to that.

Also about a year ago, we started doing ABA therapy again with him.  Unlike virtually every other employer, Microsoft's benefits package includes specific coverage for ABA.  On of the things that I told them I wanted to work on was using fingernail clippers.

Wednesday night, Middle allowed me to use the clippers on his thumbnails and one pointer finger.  I was very excited to see the progress.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

School

Yesterday, just as I was arriving at work, I got a call from the Mother of my Children.

Oldest Son is living at her house full time since he graduated from high school.  MomC is now working as a substitute teacher, so she has to be out of the house early in the morning.  We're paying Oldest to get Youngest Son to school in the morning.

She told me that Oldest had called.  Youngest had said he was sick and didn't want to go to school and they were arguing.  She said that Oldest was yelling and Youngest was crying and saying Oldest had hurt him, and she wasn't sure everyone was safe.  She wanted me to go see what was happening.  I a said I

When I got there I asked them what was going on.  They both started talking.  I stopped them and told Youngest to tell me first.  He said he was sick and couldn't go to school.  He said Oldest had picked him up out of bed.  He said Oldest had grabbed him by the arms.  His arms and back hurt.

I had him show me his arms.  There were no bruises.  There were no red marks.  I told him he was ok.  He said it really hurt.  I said it was like getting hit by a soccer ball, or falling off his skateboard.  It hurt now, but it would be fine.

I had Oldest tell me his side of the story.  He said Youngest wouldn't do what he was told, and he got made at him.

I turned back to Youngest.  I told him that he was not going to be the one to decide if he was too sick to go to school.  Neither was Oldest.  If he was sick he need to call me or MomC and talk to us.  We would decide if he could stay home or go to school.  And if we told him to go to school, he would go to school without arguing.  If we told he to go to school and he didn't, I'd come over again, and that wouldn't be good.  I asked him to tell me what the rule was, and he repeated it back to me--if he felt sick he had to call me or his mom.  We would decide.  I asked if he would follow this rule, and he said yes.

Then I turned to Oldest and went through the same thing.  I also told him that he would not pick up Youngest or grab him.  I said I knew he wouldn't intentionally hurt he brother, but that he is big and strong, and when he is irritated or angry he forgets how strong he is and could accidentally hurt someone.  I asked him if he would follow this rule, and he said yes.

It was now 5 minutes after school starts, so I sent Youngest off.

I stayed a few minutes and talked to Oldest.  He said the problem is that Youngest won't do what Oldest tells him to do.  I asked him if he does what MomC tells him.  He said yes, eventually, but MomC isn't really in charge of him, she's only in charge of the house.  I said he lives in her house, and she pays all his bills (except the ones I pay), so she is in charge.  Then I said that she's told me she asked him to help around the house and he doesn't.

I asked if him if, when he was in Boy Scouts, there had been older Scouts who he wanted to be right.  He said there were.  I told him that little brothers are like that--they want to be like their big brothers.  If his brother sees that Oldest doesn't do what he's told by his mom, then he will think he doesn't need to do what he's told by Oldest.  He said he'd never thought of that.

Then it got really interesting.  He asked me if I thought MomC was easier on Youngest than she'd been on the other two.  I started to say yes, then thought better of it.  I said it could be that she is.  But I don't see MomC and Youngest together very often, so I'm not the right person to answer that question.  His aunt or his cousin would be better.  He said that she (his aunt) agrees with him on that.

We talked about the fact that Middle Son usually does what I tell him to do.  He often ignores what MomC tells him.  I've always been careful about what I tell Middle to do.  If he doesn't do something I tell him to do, I will take him by the hand and lead him through doing it.  Over the years, he's realized that when I tell him to do something, we are going to do it whether he likes it or not.  MomC never established that with him, so Middle feels free to ignore her.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Welcome to Dad's House

A few weeks ago, I was driving home with Youngest Son and Middle son.  We were listening to the radio and the song Welcome to My House came on the phone.  Youngest got excited and asked me to turn it up.

We were almost home.  I suggested that we drive around a little longer and listen to the whole song.  Youngest agreed.  We were singing and waving our arms around.  Middle was swaying back and forth to the music. 

I suggested that we buy the song and play it on the way to my house every time.  Youngest thought that was a great idea.

I remembered something I did when MomC and I first divorced.  When I parked in my garage with Youngest (who was about 2 at the time), I would say "what do we say when we get to Daddy's house?"

Then I'd throw my hands up in the air and say "Yeah, Daddy's house!"  And Youngest would do it along with me.  It was adorable.  I remember MomC telling me one day that Youngest was doing it when she brought him to my house as well.


Having a special ritual when the boys got to my house made me happy then.  And it makes me happy now.

Friday, January 29, 2016

ABA

One of the great things for our family about my job at Microsoft is the benefits package.  The health insurance is a high deductible plan, but once you meet the deductible everything is covered.  This year we met the deductible by the end of the 2nd week of January.  And of special importance for Middle Son, there is a benefit for ABA therapy (although unlike the health plan, it does have a 10% copay).

It took a while to get the written referrals, sort through various service providers, etc.  We selected an agency that does lots of work with older kids and works on the entire family system rather than simply doing discrete trial work with the child.  

We have a program manager who we are meeting with, and in a few weeks Middle's behavior tech (the term they use for the person who actually works with the child) will start one on one work with him.

Middle hasn't had this kind of therapy since before the Mother of my Children and I got divorced almost 7 years ago.  It wasn't particularly effective for him at the time.  In some ways at that time he was almost a feral child.  When I look back at some of my oldest posts it's amazing how far he has come.  Living with me, in a household that is much more structured and orderly made a big difference for him.  The first nanny I hired did a tremendous job--she's the one who got him toilet training.  My Beloved Wife is fantastic with him, she's gotten him to do things I couldn't get him to do.

I hope and think that the ABA therapy will be much more effective now than it was in the past.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

School Bathrooms

Yesterday was Youngest Son's parent teacher conference.

After the conference I stopped to use the bathroom.  While I was in the bathroom, I remembered something about hat bathroom and Oldest Son when he was in elementary school.

In kindergarten and first grade, Oldest never used the school bathroom.  He finally started using it in second grade.


Lights

One of the things that drives My Beloved Wife crazy is lights being left on.

For a very long time, Middle Son wanted all lights on all the time.  I can remember when we would go over to his grandparent's house (my ex's parents).  Middle would immediately walk through the house and flip on every light switch.  Grandpa would follow around behind him turning lights back off.  Sometimes they would do several laps around the house.

MBW has been working with Middle on the concept of turning lights off.  A couple of nights ago Middle was getting a snack after dinner.  We had left some of his dinner on the table as we often do.  The lights were off.  Middle walked into the dining room and turned on the lights.  He sat down and ate.  Then he got up, turned the lights back off, and went back upstairs.

MBW was very excited.  It is nice to see it when Middle makes progress.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Influence

One of the challenges of parenting teens is finding ways to influence them and their decisions.  They are working to establish their autonomy and independence, and are not terribly receptive to suggestions from their parents.  In some ways it's easier with kids on the spectrum.  They are more easily moved by facts.  Unless it hits a trigger issue, in which case it all goes out the window.

The lease on our current home ends in July.  We moved to Bellevue specifically to get the kids into the Bellevue school district.  By June both Oldest Son and Younger Stepdaughter will be done with high school.  Given that, and the high cost of housing in Bellevue, we're planning to move when the lease is up.

We're struggling to decide where we will move to.  My Beloved Wife grew up on a farm and very much wants to live a rural life.  I'm not as comfortable with that idea.  I also want to be sure we have good access to public transportation for Oldest.

As we've discussed various options, MBW has talked about getting a smaller house, and then buying trailers or RVs for the Oldest and Younger.  We had been discussing it with Older Stepdaughter as well, but she recently took an apartment of her own and moved out.

Oldest had a school assignment about finding a place to live as an adult.  He had to pick a place to live, find out what it would cost to buy a residence in that area, identify a career that would pay enough to afford the residence, and work through the math of saving for a down payment.

The assignment was WAY overdue.  Tracking and completing tasks is one of Oldest's biggest challenges.  He had gotten an extension, but had only one evening left to do it.  I spent about an hour helping him work through it.  He was trying to find ways to minimize the effort required.  We talked about some ways to do that.  He said he'd asked his teacher if it would be ok to plan on buying an RV to live in, and she'd agreed to that idea.  Buying an RV could be done on a low income, like a fast-food worker, which meant he didn't have to do research on finding a career.

We searched craigslist for an RV, worked out what the down payment would need to be and how long it would take to save.  Then we calculated what the total cost of the loan would be.  He commented when we were done that it was really cheap.  I said yes it would be.  That's part of why MBW has been pushing the idea.

Later that evening I told MBW about the conversation.  She was very excited to see that Oldest is listening to the ideas she puts forth and sees merit in them.

She is having an influence.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Finding the Classroom

Wednesday morning I took Middle Son to school.

He had spent the night at MomC's.   Normally MomC's mother takes Middle to work on Wednesdays so that MomC can get to work on time.  This week grandma was sick.  So I meet MomC at her workplace and got Middle.

We were late, so I had to go to the attendance office to sign him in.  We've done this enough times that the attendance secretary recognizes us and automatically calls Middle's classroom.  His aide or teacher comes to get him from me.

This time the secretary wasn't there.  Rather than explain to one of the students behind the desk, I decided to take him to the classroom myself.  There was just one problem.  I don't know where his classroom is.

I decided to ask Middle and see what he would do.  I asked him to take me to his classroom.  He hesitated and then started walking slowly forward.  I asked him again, and said "You know where it is, show daddy."  He continued at a leisurely stroll.

I wasn't sure if he could, but sure enough he took me to the right room.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Searching for Sweets

As far as we can tell, food is one of the most important things in Middle Son's world.  He has a huge sweet tooth.  He also has a very good map in his head of where goodies are in the house.

For Christmas we got him a yard of licorice and a yard of cookies (3 foot long containers).  We've been letting him each big chunks of them on request.

We keep them in the pantry.  Our current house has a walk-in pantry, and we've put a keypad lock on it so that we can store things there and Middle can't get into them.

Last night, we heard the beep-beep sound of someone hitting the buttons on the keypad lock.  It was Middle.  We asked if he was looking for his cookies and he signed yes.  So I gave him the last box from his yard of cookies.  He was very happy to sit and munch on them.

I turned the big box upside down to show him that it was empty, then left it on the table.  Hopefully he understood that and won't be upset that there are no more cookies.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bottomless Pit

Middle Son eats a lot.  Given that he is fifteen, this is not a surprise.

This weekend, as he sat down at the dinner table for about the 5th time, My Beloved Wife commented that he was having a bottomless pit weekend.

The she asked him if he was a bottomless pit.  To our amusement and surprise, he signed "yes."

I'm never sure how much language Middle really understands, but in that moment it sure looked like he understood the question.

Lunch

I took Middle Son to the neurologist this morning.  It was a routine follow up.

We decided to increase his anti-seizure meds.  My Beloved Wife and I have noticed lately that if Middle misses a dose there is a good chance he will have a seizure.  That suggests that his dose is borderline insufficient.

We also decided to switch him from the SSRI he is currently taking to different one.  We are seeing some obsessive behaviors.  When we increase the dose of his current SSRI the behaviors go away but are replaced by different ones.

After the appointment, I took Middle to Arby's for lunch.  We got our food and sat at a table.  Middle was very happy.  He swayed with the music.  He ate and drank.  He giggled.  At one point I saw him signing "yes" as he swayed.

He looked very happy.  I wonder if "yes" somehow equates with "happy" for him.  I can imagine that it would.  Usually when he uses "yes" it means that he is going to get something that he wants.

It was a very sweet moment.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Flying

The boys and I traveled between Christmas and New Years.  We went to Austin for my parent's 50th wedding anniversary.

On the flight down, Middle Son got agitated while we were boarding. He grabbed my arm and held on.  Hard.

I remember the first time I flew with him. He was very young, three our four. He was seated next to me in the middle seat.  He grabbed my arm and pulled out diagonally across his body. He held out there the entire flight. If I tried to move it he pulled it back.  I was his shoulder belt

Going to Austin I gave Middle a sedative once we were seated.  I've done that on other trips.  I wasn't sure if I would today our not.  On other flights he has calmed quickly after we were airborne and the pressure in his ears equalized.  Since he was upset upon boarding I decided to err on the side of caution.

Coming back, I didn't give him the sedative.  He was definitely more anxious.  He linked arms with me, and held on for most of the flight.  But he didn't have any outbursts or blowups.

In all, two successful flights.


Xbox One Update

As expected, Oldest Son was very agitated when he found out we got an Xbox One.

In conversation, the issue turned out to be what he had heard about the camera.  He thought there was a built in camera.  He thought Microsoft could activate it remotely and take pictures or video whenever they wanted.

There is a kernel of truth in that, but only a kernel.  The original spec did have a built in camera.  There was a plan to allow you to play your games on someone else's Xbox that relied on facial recognition using the built in camera.  There was an outcry when that plan was announced, and it was scrapped.

I reassured him that it doesn't have a built in camera.  He calmed down.  Somewhat.

The next day I asked him how he was feeling about being in the house with the Xbox One.  He said he was now ok with it.

That was a relief.


Nice?

Nice and strong.

I was reading through an old draft that I never posted, and it got me thinking about the relationship between being nice and being strong.  In our culture being nice is often equated with being weak.  Being mean is strong.  People are told they need to be more assertive, more aggressive, not so nice.

The first special-needs nanny I got to take care of Middle when he came to live with me said that I was "too nice."  My Beloved Wife has said that about me a few times.

I find that for me, I need to be nice in order to be strong.  If I come out of the gate aggressively I usually end up backing down.  It doesn't fit my personality--I become very anxious and have a hard time following through.  But if I am nice and persistent and insistent, I usually get what I want.

I've seen it mostly clearly with the school system.  As the parent of two children with special needs, I've had lots of opportunities for conflict.  When Oldest Son was in sixth grade he had a very difficult year.  Bad enough that the district did not want to put him in general education for 7th grade.

We looked at multiple programs in both the district and private schools.  I remember talking with someone from the UW autism center.  She asked if I thought the district was going to listen to us or just do what they wanted.  

In the end, the district asked what we wanted to do and then did it.  I remember that MomC was surprised that they agreed to pay for private school.  I wasn't.  I had invested a lot of time going to the school, talking to the teachers and principal.  They new that I was aware, involved, and knew my rights. I had been pretty sure we'd get what we wanted and we did.

I saw it again a couple of years later with Middle Son.  He had been working with the district's sign language teacher.  I had rearranged my work schedule so that I could be there and get mini lessons of my own.

The following year about a month after school started I still hadn't heard when the sign teacher would be coming.  So I asked.  I was told that the district had set up some new programs in specific schools.  The sign teacher was only going to those schools.

I sent the principle and the assistant superintendent for special ed a very polite email asking why Middle was not receiving a service he had received the previous year.  (For those not familiar with Special Education Law, that's the sort of question that could lead to a lawsuit if answered incorrectly.)  Their response was that the schedule was being "reviewed."  A few days latter I got an email that she would be coming to work with Middle.  The principal said the sign teacher was excited to come work with him because I was so supportive and was using sign with him at home.

I later heard through the grapevine that eight elementary schools had requested that she come work with their students.  The other seven were told "no."

So it is possible to be nice and strong.