Every baby is a gift, even if the wrapping is a little different.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Routines, School Bathrooms, and Not-So-Free Food

My son is adjusting to the routine and schedule at school. I can tell that he's learning things at school that spill over at home.

When we were first potty-training, he wanted me to come watch, clap when he was done, flush the toilet for him, and pull up his pants. Then he wanted me to wash his hands. I was more than pleased to do all of this because it meant no more diapers.

At school, this was a problem. The first week or so he came out of the stall with his pants around his ankles and expected his teacher to do for him what I'd been doing. Reality check. His teacher was not going to do that. She's his teacher, not his mother. Truthfully, I was worried about this.

But then I noticed that at home he was pulling up his own pants, flushing the toilet himself, and washing his hands. I still needed to remind him for a few weeks. Now, he goes into the bathroom at home completely on his own. I never have to remind him. He does his own wiping, he takes care of all his business, and I'm not involved at all.

Through all of this, he's not had an accident. He truly is potty-trained because he now monitors it himself. Hallelujah! I think going to school really helped with this and I think he's learning the routine and schedule at school now. He gets in line after going to the bathroom and sits in the right place, in the right way (the school expects students to sit cross-legged and look forward while in line), and then gets up and follows his class back to their room. He's "getting it" I think.

He did have problems in the school bathroom with being silly and going in and locking all the stalls so the other boys couldn't use the toilet. And he did use the urinal to wash his hands--that still makes me dry heave. I went up to the school for a few days during potty time to make sure he was behaving in the bathroom. Hopefully, it's now resolved. At least I haven't heard back that he's still being silly in there. Or--gag, gag--using the urinal to wash his hands. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

We are still in the midst of testing so we'll see what happens after the testing scores come back. I do know he can read and sound out letters to read unfamiliar words. His handwriting needs work, but he's improving. He needs to work on math facts, but he's slowly coming along.

We did have issues with him at the cafeteria. He saw that there were chicken nuggets and cheese burgers and he figured it was free food (after all, the food at home is free). He'd finish his lunch, then go through the line to get what he wanted from the cafeteria. Of course, it wasn't free. And he wasn't punching in his pin number, they were doing that for him. Once I got the bill, I talked to the cafeteria manager and his teacher and others to make sure he doesn't keep getting food. I pack him a lunch every day. It may not be as exciting as chicken nuggets, but I make it for him with lots of love :).

School has definitely been an adjustment for all of us, but I think it's been a positive one. So far anyway.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Moving, School, Testing, Oh My!

We moved to Texas in August. That was quite the project in and of itself--moving 9 people, stuff, cars, etc. It took us two days to drive from Colorado to Texas (we spent the night along the way because I was too, too tired to keep driving).

Up to this point, I've been homeschooling my son. Except for the first two kids, I've homeschooled all the rest for kindergarten so I could make sure they were reading. Once you can read, you can do anything, but you have to have the basic building blocks to begin reading.

I've been working hard with my son over the last two years to help him gain that foundation. He is now reading simple words. And the most exciting part is that when he comes to a word he doesn't recognize, he is sounding it out and then saying it (a score on two counts because it means he's using the phonics I've taught him AND he's saying the words so it's helping with his speech).

One of the reasons we moved was to offer him more opportunities and experiences, including the opportunity to attend school. We researched areas and found that the school district we moved to has a good reputation for special needs education and opportunities.

We enrolled him in the neighborhood school per Texas law. Since he's never had any testing done, he is currently a regular student in the elementary school. We have asked for testing so we can see where he's at educationally and what his challenges may be. I already know that he recognizes letters and numbers and knows how to say them. I already know that he can read simple words like cat, dog, mom, dad, in, out, up, down, how, now, you, your, etc. I already know that he can put a simple sentence together based on a book he's read. The testing will give us more insight so we can create a unique educational plan suited to his specific needs.

We hope to keep him at the neighborhood school and keep him included in his class. He really likes his teacher and the kids in the class and his older sister attends this elementary school and makes sure he gets to class in the morning and picks him up after school to bring him to me. (She loves having this new responsibility).

We met with some of the school staff for a 504 meeting to give him some accommodations until the testing is completed and we can do a formal IEP. I was very pleased with the 504 meeting. The staff that attended was so positive and upbeat. His teacher said he has her heart and they all said they're just in love with him. But the best part was when they said that they went into this thinking about what they could do for him and what benefits they could offer him--it was all about what they could do for him. But, they've found that he's doing things for them. He's teaching kids in the class things they could never learn any other way. They are benefiting from him.

That makes a mama's heart so happy.

Yes, my son learns differently. Yes, he does some things differently. Yes, he speaks differently (for now). But different isn't bad, it's just different. Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't run away from differences, but celebrated them and allowed each other to be different?

We've had a ton of adjustments in the last month. My son has done so well with all of them. His behavior is better now than when he started school. He's learning the schedule and routine of going to school. The kids wave to him and talk to him. The staff has been so kind to him. I know it's been difficult for his teacher to try to meet his needs along with 22 other kids and I'm hoping that one of the results of testing will be that he gets an aide--at least for a while.

For now, I feel good about things.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Potty Training, Part 2

I'd been told that three days was the magic number, so when I tried potty-training before, I'd give up after three days. I have potty-trained 9 other kids, but my son was different, so I felt like I was in uncharted waters.

At the beginning of June, I decided we were going to potty-train, no matter what. I'd used diapers to try before because I didn't want potty messes all over the house. I think that was a mistake. I tried pull-ups and, for the same reason, I think that was a mistake. He knew he could potty in the diaper, and the pull-up, so there wasn't anything new or different about it.

I put him in underpants and told myself I just had to be willing to clean up messes. I told myself that'd be a small price to pay if it meant getting out of diapers.

Day one, I set him on the toilet. He didn't go. We waited and waited and waited. Finally, I let him off, but put underpants on him. When he had an accident, I whisked him into the bathroom and put him on the toilet. We waited and waited and waited. I'd read that it was important to let him actually go on the toilet, even if it meant waiting. That's what we did. We read books, sang songs, talked about going potty while he sat on toilet. Finally, he went. I did a big dance, clapped my hands, told him he was awesome. He loved all the attention.

I put him on the toilet every 30 minutes or so. If he had an accident, I put him right on the toilet and let him sit there until he went. At first, it took him a long time from sitting on the toilet to actually going, but by the end of the first week, he would go as soon as I sat him on the toilet. I still did big dances, clapped, and told him he was awesome.

The first week, we were probably 50-50 for accidents. A big improvement over diapers. I didn't give up after 3 days, I did not let him put on diapers at all, and I consistently asked him to go potty and put him on the toilet every 30 minutes or so. He knew I was serious because I wouldn't let him have diapers and because we kept going to the bathroom. I spent the majority of my days that week in the bathroom with him.

The second week, we were probably 25-75. He was improving. I sat him on the toilet every 30 minutes or so at the beginning, but lengthened it out toward the end of the week. By the end of the week, he started to tell me when he needed to go.

The third week, we were a little better, maybe 20-80. By this time, I was making him pull up his own underpants, flush the toilet, and wash his own hands. As soon as he started to pee in his pants, he'd run to the bathroom, so even though we still had accidents, they weren't very big and he was taking himself to the bathroom to finish.

The fourth week, we were at 10-90 and we worked on him wiping his own behind. During this week, I didn't go into the bathroom at all with him. He was taking care of it by himself--he did come and get me afterward to show me what he'd done in the toilet so I could give him high fives and tell him he was awesome. (He loves that attention).

We have not gone back to diapers. He's dry all night. He uses the toilet on his own and washes his hands by himself. He still has accidents here and there, but he takes his underpants to the laundry when he does and gets a new pair. We still get excited and do dances when he goes. Hopefully, we won't have to keep doing that indefinitely.

This won't work for all kids with Down syndrome, and it's important to pay attention to your child to see if he is ready and can understand what it means to use the toilet. For my son, he was stubborn. He liked diapers. I had to finally be committed to potty-training when we could stay home all week and I had to be more stubborn about it than he was about wearing diapers. This might have worked for him a few years ago, but I kept waiting for him to tell me he was ready, like my other kids had done, until I realized I had to be the one to insist he do it.

We are a step closer now to going to school. And we don't have to buy or change diapers. After 26 years, we are done with diapers. Wahooooooo!!!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Potty Training, Part 1

It's been a while since I've posted on this blog, but I have a great reason. Besides my other kids keeping me so busy I can hardly breathe this summer, we've been potty-training. Yay!!! Can I get a big "woo-hoo"?

When my son was born, I'd heard that he might not potty-train until he was older, like between 6 and 8. I didn't believe that. After all, I'd potty-trained 9 other children and I figured I'd be able to potty-train him at 3 or so. I also decided that the age at which he potty-trained would determine how well he'd do in other things. The later he potty-trained, the more likely he'd have other major issues.

I was wrong on both counts.

He was not interested in potty-training at 3 or 4. When he was 5, he was a little interested but not enough to actually follow through.

Last summer, when he was 6, I tried a few times but gave up after still having regular accidents 3 days into it. "Three days" seems to be the magic number, or so I thought, and when he wasn't potty-trained by then, I gave up. Another mistake. I don't think three days is any more magic than any other combination of days.

I also just used his diapers and took them off for him to use the toilet, only to discover he'd already used the diaper. I used underpants a few times, but not consistently.

Until now.

Disclaimer: this worked for him, but may not work for other kids. If you're like me, you're searching for any and all experiences with potty-training, so this may be worth a try. I think it's still important to keep in mind that each child is different and you need to pay attention to your own child's cues.

After changing diapers for 26 years, yes, that's right, 26 years, I decided that this summer was THE summer to potty-train. My son is 7 and we want to enroll him in school potty-trained. I didn't want others to deal with changing diapers. And, I also knew that he was more than capable of potty-training based on his actions and understanding. He was simply comfortable wearing diapers and making us change him.

(A side note: When I had him, I thought he was going to be happy all the time and always easy-going--that was the stereotype. But I've learned he can be very stubborn and have tunnel-vision for what he wants. He is happy a lot of the time, but not always, especially if he doesn't get what he wants).

This post is already too long. In my next post, I'll start into the process I used to potty-train.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Inventive Solutions

I've been homeschooling my son in hopes of teaching him to read before he enters school, or at least has the tools to begin reading. He knows all of his letters and knows most of the sounds each letter makes. He's been sounding out words he sees. He also spells out the words he sees on packages and signs.

I've been using several methods to help him learn to read, including a set of flashcards with familiar words (like the names of family members and food items). I'm supposed to show him these cards (red lettering on 8.5 x 11 white cardstock) 3 times a day. That gets a little boring day after day. So I started having him stand across the room and then we'd count together and he'd run over to me, say the word, take the card, and then set it on the table. That worked for a while.

He decided he'd turn the tables and have me run to him, he'd say the word on the card, I'd say the word, then he'd hand it to me, and I'd set it on the table. After each card he'd say, "Good job."

Now he's invented a couple of new ways. He counts backwards before he tells me to come get the card and he also uses his Nerf gun to shoot at the word cards. Pretty inventive, I'd say.

Last night, he initiated a game of Duck, Duck, Goose while the family was sitting in the living room. We played several rounds and he understood exactly how to play, who he wanted to be the "goose," and where he needed to sit so he didn't get tagged.

Today, he wanted to play again. Unfortunately, he and I are the only two home. After tagging each other as the goose a few times, he invented a solution. He found some inflated balloons we had around the house (we had a birthday party last week) and he set those next to me as part of our game. And, when he tagged one of the balloons as the goose, he squealed with laughter as I took the balloon and chased him around the room.

This probably seems silly, but to me it showed me that he recognized a problem and came up with a solution. He was bored with the way we were doing the flashcards so he came up with a new, more interesting way for him to do it. He also saw that only two of us playing the Duck, Duck, Goose game didn't make sense so he solved it in the best way he could. He thought about it and came up with a solution.

He may not be talking in long sentences, but he's thinking and he's solving problems that exist for him. For me, that's progress and I'll take it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Are We Any Better Than Hitler?

For the book club reading this month, I was reading, Sarah's Key. It is an absorbing novel about July 1942 when French citizens, who happened to be Jews, were rounded up and sent to their deaths. 13,000 French Jews, mostly women and children, were exterminated by order of Adolf Hitler.

The author alternates between the story of a young Jewish girl living in Paris in 1942 and the story of a middle-aged woman in modern times who is assigned to write a story about this event in French history. An event the French prefer to forget.

While the story is well-written, I admit that I stopped reading it. I'm not a fan of profanity and when I began a passage with the F-word I stopped reading the book.

Up to that point, I was riveted by the story and thought about the cruelty extended to a group of people simply because they were Jews. Hitler decided that they did not deserve to live simply because he thought Jews were inferior. Who gave him that right? And why on earth did so many people follow him? Why were so many willing to kill people--children especially? How could anyone do something like this? Why did so many turn their backs on the Jews and refuse to stop the insanity surrounding the Holocaust?

Then I have to ask myself, how are we, in our society, any different than Hitler? We have laws that protect the practice of killing innocent children every day. Over 3000 babies are aborted in this country every day. Yes, every day. Why? The majority are aborted because they are an inconvenience, because their mothers have decided they don't have the right to live. And we have groups like Planned PArenthood that applaud this so-called right.

For anyone who's read my blog before, you know that I have a son with Down syndrome. 9 out of 10 women whose pregnancies are diagnosed with Down syndrome choose to terminate the pregnancy. They choose to kill that growing baby simply because it has too many chromosomes. So I ask you, how is that any different than what Hitler did? We are outraged that he thought Jews were inferior. We say he was the devil himself to have killed so many innocent people, so many innocent children who didn't deserve to die. Yet, we consistently protect the right of women to do the same thing. Over and over and over again.

We like to see ourselves as advanced and pretend that our society is nothing like Hitler's. And yet, we are no different. Our politicians fight to protect a woman's right to kill her baby, as if that baby has no rights. Why? Because it is inside its mother's womb? Because it can't care for itself? If we were to apply that reasoning across the board then we'd have to say that all children fall into that category.

I cannot understand why any human being would do what Hitler did. I cannot see how he could justify any of his actions. I do not understand killing others because they seem to be inferior. I also do not understand how women's hearts can fail them and they can justify killing their own babies. In our country, women use abortion as birth control and our government wants to force businesses to allow women to do so through the healthcare they provide to employees, even if that business has strongly held religious beliefs (which is a violation of the business owner's rights). We are on the same road as Hitler once was. We are deciding who has the right to live and who does not. We pretend that we are better than Hitler, but we are not. Today we decide unborn babies can die at the whim of their mothers. What will tomorrow bring? When we disrespect the life of anyone, we disrespect the lives of everyone. How can we ever hope to teach people to stop killing innocent people in theaters and schools when we allow, and even advocate, the killing of our most innocent?

I think Mother Theresa said it best, "But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child - a direct killing of the innocent child - murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love, and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even his life to love us. So the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love - that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts. By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion. "

And, "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."

If we want society to respect life, if we want to stop the violence, we must first protect all human life.

Monday, April 15, 2013

My Son is Reading

Any of you who know me, know that my youngest son has Down syndrome. I have been homeschooling him this year in hopes of preparing him to enter school next year.

I have taught all of my children to read. I homeschool them for kindergarten so that I can make sure they learn to read. I believe that reading is the most important academic skill they can have because if they can read, then the whole world is open to them.

For most of my kids, I have used the Spalding method, which is a phonics-based program. I also used Hooked on Phonics for some of my kids. I believe phonics-based approaches give kids the tools to decipher words and think it is the best way to teach kids to read.

Then I started teaching my youngest son. Everything I knew, or thought I knew, went out the window. I had to start from scratch and figure out how to best teach him to read. I read a lot of articles and books that said I needed to use sight words with him. So I made up flashcards with familiar words. We did that for a while, but it seemed like he needed more.

So I went back to teaching him the sounds of each letter. We do sound cards each day and he has been sounding out words now when we read. He has also learned many sight words. He still struggles with how to say the words, but he knows them.

One day, I suddenly had the idea to take the Hooked on Phonics books that I've used and make a flashcard for each word in the book beginning with book #1. I say the word and have him pick out the flashcard. I also say a sentence from the book and then have him find the corresponding words on the flashcards and lay them out into a sentence. It's working really well. He is not only recognizing the sight words, but he's also sounding out words using his knowledge of the sounds of the letters, which means he's improving his verbal skills.

The other day, we read Brown Bear, Brown Bear. I was astonished, and excited, when he started reading the book. I read the first part and he read the second part on each page. And he actually read it verbally. Yay!!!

So I know that he's beginning to read and, even better, he is saying words and using his verbal skills. It's been a long time coming, but I am so thankful to see this progress.