Archive for the ‘Independence’ Category

FOREVER YOUNG (Eddie Vedder)
September 20, 2018

Cole’s turning seventeen today.  Yes, that’s right, the boy is seventeen years old.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been riding the wave of his life for seventeen years.  When we became parents to Cole in particular, our own lives ceased to be our own lives.  I think it’s a reality of parents with 24/7 children in a way that is vastly different from parents of typical children.  In many ways, kids like mine are forever young.

Cole’s at an age where most his peers are wildly independent.  They’re staying home on their own, managing much of their social lives and school activities, and many of them are driving.  They’re all starting to contemplate the move from high school to college and hunkering down with their studies to ensure they have top grades, interesting community service in place, and strong SAT scores.

Seventeen looks very different in our family.  In some ways it doesn’t look much different than sixteen, or fifteen or fourteen, which in all honesty breaks my heart, because I know eighteen will likely feel the same.  Cole has delays in his development and will likely never pass the four foot mark.  In many ways he’s neurologically on track, but in other ways his comfort is still found in the same things that brought him comfort and joy when he was little.  His needs remain high, though to us fairly simple and second nature.  We struggle with the same obstacles – encouraging him to want independence, to use his voice (his Tobii – an eyegaze voice output device), and to develop new age appropriate interests.

Yet, he seems content with his life.  He loves high school and has made some good friends who he sees outside of school too, while still maintaining some of his life-long friendships, and he does well in his classes, excepting his lack of interest in using his Tobii has proven to be a frustration to his teachers and peers as well.  Outside of school he’s still happily participating in iDance and enjoying playing in his Champions baseball league.

He’s developed an interest in photography thanks to his summer spent hanging with Nelson.  Art has always been something he enjoys dabbling in but the interest in photography is new and we’re hoping to help him to expand it.  We bought him a camera that he can operate using an iPad/iPhone as both the viewer and button or a switch to take the shot and are keen to see where this hobby takes him. In typical teen fashion, any curiosity we show in his photography is met with eyes rolling and the shut down…

Ebbing on seventeen has also broadened his willingness to expand his musical repertoire and his TV viewing.  There are still times where only the music of Ralph’s World or Sesame Street or endless Holiday music will satisfy him but there are other times, more frequent times, when I can introduce new bands or playlists to him and he’s pleased.  I’ve been having the success with his TV down time. I’m not willing to watch endless hours of Little Bill or even The Barefoot Contessa, so constantly try new things and movies and lately, as he neared seventeen, he’s been a willing viewer. It gives me hope.

I’d love it if he’d show an interest in books.  I feel like resources like Audible could give him some independence and off screen time but still engage and entertain him but he’s not quite there yet.  I love to fall into a good book and so does my husband. To have Cole develop the love of a good book would please me to no end.  Oh the places, people and adventures he could explore…

Turning seventeen brings him a year closer to being an adult and having more adult feelings and curiosities. He has always been very fond of girls and has had crushes here and there over the years but this summer he fell hard.  It’s unchartered waters for us and I don’t really know what romance looks like for him.  I feel like it needs to be treated differently than the way I facilitate or manage friendships, but I don’t know exactly what that means.

I am keenly aware that much of my mixed feelings about Cole aging, or not, are just that, my mixed feelings.  Feeling blessed to have my son in my life, and loving him more than I can possibly convey can live with me sometimes mourning the loss of typical experiences both he and I would have had if things were different.  I don’t know if he considers “what if” in his own mind, and I avoid it when I can, but I’m human and I sometimes can’t help but wonder, or be sad.

IMG_1768My boy is seventeen today. Yes, seventeen years old!  He’s remarkable and brings grace to every day of my life.  I celebrate him today and everyday and hope that he’ll remain forever young…

TALK TO ME (Chris Isaak)
September 15, 2018

Cole’s first junior year report card arrived yesterday.  Straight A’s. He’s fairly consistently receiving A’s and a very occasional B on his high school report cards and always with E’s, and is always proud of himself when the grades are revealed.  We are proud too, of course.  For Cole, the grades are both a mix of subjective grading, his effort, and his understanding of the given subject.  He has modified work and the benefit of one on one class time with his Special Ed (SpEd) teacher.  It doesn’t diminish the grades and is certainly reflective of the attention he puts forth in class.  He takes a fair amount of pride in maintaining his grades and in the attention he receives for doing so.

I just wish he put forth the same interest and effort in developing some of his communication skills and independence at home.  He would gain so much by engaging in conversation with people outside of school, including me and his dad.  He has friends who desperately want him to use his Tobii (eye gaze generated voice output device) to talk with them.  Teens, even understanding, kind hearted teems, don’t always welcome the parent invasion when they’re hanging out.  Having time with friends, independent of a parent or even of a support adult to help facilitate conversation, would be so incredible for him.  It’s such a valuable facet of friendship.

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I’ve gone so far as to suggest to some friends that they tell him that they won’t chat with him until he starts chatting with them using his Tobii.  His friends are too sweet to listen to me and continue to talk to him despite his aversion to the Tobii.  He met a girl this summer who is very similar to him in diagnosis and also uses a Tobii, though she is happily reliant upon it and uses it well and often. I’m told she pressed him to use it during summer school and he was slightly more receptive, which makes me hopeful that he with the right motivation he’ll warm to it.

I understand part of his reluctance, or disdain, for the device.  Cole’s a people person.  He’s very keen on eye contact and adept at communicating some of his needs and reactions through small sounds and various facial expressions and smiles.  The Tobii obstructs his direct view of people he’s “talking” with.  It’s also taxing to use, both physically and mentally, so an element of laziness factors in too, especially if he’s asked to use Tobii with his dad and I.  We’ve developed a strong understanding of him, but even with us there’s so much left to our interpretation.  He’s often just not bothered enough to be frustrated or care. I really wish he were.

I just want him to use his voice…to express his thoughts, opinions, and needs.  I want him to deepen his friendships by opening them up through mutual communication and the intimacy that comes from friends sharing. I want him to engage new people in conversation or to initiate conversation. I want him to show interest in other people by asking questions or simply saying “Hello” aloud.  I want him to expand upon his education by using his voice to express his knowledge and understanding.  I want all of these things for him…

If only he did…

LEAN ON ME
September 15, 2017

The value of a quality caregiver is unrivaled, and it can come in different forms, each fulfilling a specific need or time in our children’s lives.

Summer care is always difficult for us as a special needs family. My husband and I both work full time, and up until this year, we’ve been fortunate to have summer school and day camp at my son’s school, that cover all but a couple of weeks of the summer time off. We usually do a family week vacation or staycation depending upon what’s going on with us financially and schedule wise, and find full day child care and support for the other time off. There’s cost involved, but we’ve been fortunate thus far to have had the school programs to rely upon.

Cole finished up his freshman year in high school, and had over two months off school. Because he has an IEP, he qualifies for Extended School Year (ESY), which is sort of summer school. It’s not quite four weeks of casual education at one of five LAUSD campuses, running from 8:00 am to 12:15 pm. It’s something, but it left us needing childcare for his entire summer holiday, because he still needed someone to be at the house when he arrived home from ESY and for the six hours left in the workday.

Finding childcare is a challenge in itself. We again have been fortunate thus far to have maintained contact with a few of the great support staffers at our former school, and were able to offer competitive salary during the summer and the comfort for us is that we have people we know, like and most importantly, trust with Cole. They know him, he has trust with them and they know how to care for him and to engage with him.

The value of that trust is priceless.

The first weeks of summer were easy and comfortable for Cole. We employed a woman who worked with him at his former school and who he enjoys spending time with, mostly chilling out. He has his moments when he likes nothing better than chatting, watching cooking shows and relaxing. It worked well for the post ESY afternoons, when he felt a little taxed from ESY and was happy to relax.

We then took a few days off for family time in Carlsbad, a little beach town in San Diego County that we all enjoy. Mornings were spent doing some visits to museums and the aquarium, and afternoons in the pool. Cole’s idea of perfect vacation!

At the end of this summer I engaged a former staffer from his school, who we’ve maintained a friendship with for the years since he left the school and went on to pursue his higher education in Northern California, as well as fitness and wellness interests. I thought that it might nice for Cole to have a male caregiver, and I wanted him to get out and do some stuff. The first week they watched a little cooking on the telly and then went out and shopped for ingredients and prepared some of the recipes they watched! They met friends for lunch and went to a local art studio and did some painting and they headed over to our neighbors house for a swim one afternoon.

The second week they attended a day camp I found for Cole. Their summer program was for kids aged 14 and up. Cole was amongst the youngest but really loved being among teens. Each day they did all sorts of fun activities, ranging from gardening, to cooking, to working out, to creating art. They even filmed a movie in iMovie, and did some literacy studies and practice. Their final day was a beach outing. They both made a lot of friends and pretty much had a great time. As a parent, I couldn’t have asked for more.

The bond between these two is pretty special, and having a male caregiver is something that Cole needs. He was respected, treated as a nearly sixteen year old, and engaged in age appropriate, fun, activities. The balance between being a friend, mentor, and caregiver was just that perfectly balanced. He thrived. He soared.

We now need to find someone who can be all of those things to Cole who lives nearby so that he can enjoy some independence away from his parents, and perhaps even with friends, but with someone trusted, creative, and kind, who can also balance friendship, mentorship and caregiving.

Any recommendations???

 

 

 

SHARP DRESSED MAN
July 24, 2017

My boy is growing up.

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Sometimes it’s hard to see the subtle changes in his personality, demeanor, and interests as he ages. There are delays to be sure, and some changes are diminished because he simply doesn’t have the communication skills necessary to adequately express everything that he’s feeling internally. I like to think, hope, that we’ve all (me, Dan and Cole) got some of the communication down to where the important things, especially, are eventually made known.

This past weekend, after running a few necessary errands, Cole vehemently did not want to go home. Having groceries in the hot car, we agreed to stop at home so Dan could run things inside, while I talked to Cole about where he wanted to go. He actually really seemed to need to go somewhere. Turns out he really wanted to go to the mall to do a little clothes shopping for himself.

I’m a big fan of on-line shopping, especially for his clothes. He hasn’t shown much interest in what he wears until recently so it works out pretty well. I made a promise along time ago not to dress him stupidly and I’ve managed to keep it thus far. I frequently ask for his opinion of things and recently he showed interest in selecting a new swim suit ( a cute crew cuts pair of navy trunks with little orange embroidered stars) and rash guard for an upcoming beach get-away.

Needless to say, the mall excursion came as a bit of surprise. He happily searched through Gap Kids looking for, what exactly, I don’t know. We left with a cheery striped polo shirt and a pair of madras plaid Bermuda shorts. Both confidently selected by the boy. He tightly held on to the bag as we continued through the mall (and even into the car). We didn’t find anything else he was keen on, and he made it pretty clear that this trip was not intended for parent browsing or shopping (though his dad did manage to snag a little something on sale at Lucky, despite protests from the boy).

He proudly wore his shirt to summer school today, and has already requested that it be cleaned and ready to pack for our trip. I’ve promised to involve him in any future shopping for his needs. It adds another layer to the process but it will be interesting and fun to see where his taste takes him. Just another reminder of how important it is for him to have every opportunity to express himself, with wardrobe, words, and whatever other ways he finds.