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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Visiting High Schools

Although it's extremely hard to believe, Janey will be in high school next fall.  And so we have been doing visits to the high schools in Boston with an autism program.  It's been interesting.

We've visited three schools so far.  There's another program which is in a building that is closing this spring, and the future of it is unsure, so we haven't visited there, and there's a few other specialized programs we haven't seen, such as the high school part of the inclusion school Janey used to go to.  But the three we've visited are the three main choices we have right now.

To start with, I'll say that at all three schools, I was impressed with the dedication, talent and caring of the teachers, administrators, aides and other staff I saw.  That has been the case almost universally as we've been involved in the Boston public schools for the last 21 years with our three kids.

However, there were rather huge differences between the programs we visited.  This is another hallmark of the Boston schools---the uneven distribution of resources and the way it always feels like each school is a world unto itself, with little feeling that any school really gets what another school in the very same district is doing.

The complex map of Boston schools!
The first school we saw was very close to us---we could walk there.  It was in an old building that in fact Tony's 3 siblings went to high school in (he's the baby of the family by 13 years, so their high school years were a while ago!).  The building had been totally renovated, and was strikingly clean and orderly.  The program was in the lower level, and had 4 main classrooms.  We saw all the classrooms, but at the time we looked, none of them had students in them.  I guess that's not that uncommon a state of affairs.  The woman giving us the tour said that some students in the program are actually fully integrated, others are away at work sites almost all the time, and some are working at places within the building.  That was a bit of a theme there---work.  The program seems mostly set up as a pre-vocational one.  The students, once they are 18, actually get paid for their work, and they do all kinds---car washing, catered meals, recycling and others, in and out of the building.

We did see the students eventually, in the gym shooting baskets.  We got to talk to a few of them.  The ones we talked to were quite a bit more verbal than Janey is, and although we were told there are a wide variety of students there, I got the feeling most were probably more academically and spoken language oriented than Janey.

We asked about electives like music and were told there are none at all, at least not formally.  Aides do provide informal electives.

We left feeling that Janey would be safe there, but not that it was really the place for her.  I somehow couldn't quite picture Janey there.  She isn't interested in or really aware of money, she certainly wouldn't be into shooting baskets, music is too huge a part of her life to not have any music at school, and overall, it just didn't feel like a match for her.  But it was a good program, and I think would be just right for many kids.

The second school was in a very, very run down building, in the heart of the city.  It was, quite frankly, a dump.  The classrooms for autistic kids were again in the cellar, in 2 crowded rooms.  The room for the older kids, especially, was very crammed, mostly taken up by a large setup for serving sandwiches, which is the main activity for older students.  The hallways were claustrophobic, in my eyes anyway.

However, the teacher of the room full of younger students was great, just highly gifted as a teacher.  The students were doing their morning meeting, which they pretty much ran themselves.  Each student said good morning to every other student, in verbal or non-verbal ways.  They discussed the weather, said the Pledge of Allegiance and talked about current events.  The students were at widely varying levels of speech, and some that didn't appear to speak verbally went up to the board and wrote down things with perfect handwriting and understanding.  It was an impressive class to watch.

In some ways, I could see Janey at that school.  However, in a lot of ways, I couldn't.  It was sad to see how little had been done to make the school a nice place for the kids.  There seemed to be very little for the students to do when they were older (special needs students go to school until they are 22, generally)  Again, there were no electives.  I asked about kids being paid for work, and they don't have that program and seemed only a little aware of it.  It's not that I want Janey to work a paying job, but it's an example of the variation between schools.

We would not accept a placement for Janey at that school, we decided.  It was too crowded, too chaotic in the halls, and somehow just felt a little unsafe---with nothing taken away from the teachers, who were great.

And then the third school.  This one was VERY far from us.  It took us about an hour to drive there, and to get there, we had to go through several other towns than Boston, although it's in Boston---just at one extreme end of the city and we are at the other extreme end.

However, the program there was GREAT.  It's our clear choice.

They had us there pretty much at hello, as the directer giving us the tour said "First we'll show you the students and classes, and then the students will all be going to music and dance, so you can talk to the teachers".  They have music and dance!!

There were four classrooms in the program.  The students move from room to room, like regular high schoolers.  We saw many students, working at many different tasks.  In general, the students seemed to be academically much like Janey.  Many seemed to not speak verbally, or speak verbally just a little.  Some seemed to have multiple challenges, like being in wheelchairs.

The teachers all seemed very dedicated, and there were many aides.  One room at first didn't have students in it, and the teacher said they were in the greenhouse.  A greenhouse!  That made me so excited!

The students have swimming at least twice a week, and on Fridays, most students go offsite to various places.  There are various opportunities to work within the building, although again, they aren't paid---not an issue.

It's hard sometimes to say exactly why one program seems right, but this one did.  We could see Janey there, absolutely.  The fact there is music, even if it was just that alone, is a HUGE factor.  The distance---not ideal.  But Janey loves to ride the bus, and with Tony now retired, if we needed to go get her, we could (I couldn't do the drive---I just don't drive much, and not in complicated areas like needed for this drive, but Tony can!)

So---we know what our first choice will be.  I very much hope that is where Janey is placed.  If not, I think we are ready for a fight.  We've never really fought for much for Janey at school, mostly because we just haven't had to.  We've agreed with most decisions made.  And from what I've heard, usually you can get into the program we liked, partly because not everyone wants that far away location.  But with the one program possibly closing, things could change.  We are ready to be advocates.  It's not my favorite thing to do, but we've both decided that Janey WILL attend that program.

I'd be very curious to hear from others about high school decisions (or any school choice decisions).  I know most places don't have as many choices as Boston.  Growing up in a rural area, the only school choice at that time was take it or leave it.  We are lucky to have options here, but it can feel a bit nervewracking.  I wish Janey could just stay where she is, but life does keep moving.  And next year, it will be moving Janey on to high school.  Wow.

Monday, October 29, 2018

The start of the next part

Since I last wrote, a big change took place in our lives.  Tony retired from work, 30 years to the day after starting federal employment.  He is 56, so this is a fairly early retirement.  Having him retire early was a huge decision, mostly for financial reasons, but it was the right decision, I am quite certain.

On the day Tony retired, a thought kept running through my head---"The hardest part is over now".  That's where the title of this post comes from.  Of course, I knocked on wood, and of course I know that there are still going to be many tough parts of life.  But from now on, there are two of us to care for Janey.

The smile of a man 5 minutes into retirement!
About a week after Tony retired, I looked at him and realized he truly looked about 10 years younger than he had for the past few years.  Mothers get all the glory and sympathy often in this special needs parenting game, but it's hard to overstate all Tony has done over the years.  Especially the past few years, he was working a job that was extremely stressful.  He woke very early every morning, helped me get Janey off to school, went to work all day, came home, took over with Janey usually, took her for car rides and made her supper, then had to go to bed when she did so he could get up and do it all over again.  He often went days without any time to himself, save maybe his time on the train.  He did all this while dealing with a serious health condition (severe type 2 diabetes---he's been insulin dependent for many years).  Tony's brother lives upstairs from us and is increasingly disabled from the complications of diabetes also, and Tony helps him a lot too.  When Janey didn't sleep, often Tony didn't sleep, and there were so many days I simply didn't even know how he got through the day.

Financially, retiring this early is not going to be a piece of cake, but that isn't something we find nearly as important as our health and happiness.  As long as we can eat, have health care and have a roof over our heads, the rest is gravy.

I've often thought of how in cartoons, characters run off cliffs, but keep going along just fine until they realize they have gone off the cliff.  That's how a lot of our life the past few years has felt.  Not everything is within the scope of what I write about here, but suffice to say we've been running on fumes a lot of the time.  Despite Janey being our joy, our delight, despite her being far happier than she was during some darker years for her, the demands of special needs parenting are always there.  That is something it can be hard to explain to those who haven't lived the life, and can be seen as a complaint, as something I shouldn't mention because I should only emphasize the joy.  But I want to speak the truth here, and the truth is that it's hard.  It's very hard.  It's very hard having a child that will never, ever care for herself, that needs supervision that realistically only we as parents can safely provide when she is not in school, 24 hour, 7 day a week supervision, and that this will be forever.  I know my dying thought will be of Janey, of her happiness and safety.

And so we start the next part.  The next part has been good, so far.  It's the little things that are the most surprisingly special.  On the 2nd day Tony was home, after Janey went to school, after a long night when she didn't sleep well, we went back to sleep after she got on the bus.  We slept in until 10.  We woke up astonished.  It was the first time ever we have slept in together.  Ever.  Last night, we stayed up to see our beloved Red Sox win the World Series.  We didn't have to think for one minute that we should be getting to sleep.  We knew we could rest a bit today.  Those kind of moments are worth the change in income.  They are the kind of special small things I think our new life will include a lot of. 

And most importantly than anything, it's wonderful to see the joy having Tony home gives Janey.  Afternoons when she got off the bus were always a very tough time.  Now, Daddy greets her, and right away cooks her whatever she wants to eat.  Together, they blissfully eat things I wouldn't touch---fried eggplant, steamed greens, tuna salad---and Janey dances around with happiness. 

Here's to you, Tony.  We made it to the next part.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

"I hate you, Mama!"

Yesterday after school, Janey got off the bus cheerfully, and I was determined to keep her that way.  We snuggled, I gave her each snack she asked for, a shower when she requested one, and then I put on the shows she wanted.  And changed the shows when she changed her mind after a second or two.  And again.  And again. And again.  Then the phone rang, a doctor's office wanting to set up an appointment, so I couldn't instantly change the show.  I managed to get the call done over Janey's increasingly loud requests.  Then I said "What show do you now?"  I do freely admit my voice had a hint of annoyance in it.  I wasn't yelling, I wasn't openly angry sounding, I don't think, but I didn't sound patient.

That was enough for Janey to get furious.  She screamed, bit her arm and spilled a bottle of soda on the floor.  I made her help me clean it, and then put on the show she wanted, which she instantly turned off, glaring at me.

Then she said her favorite new phrase.  For background, I'll say that one day when she was very angry and lashing out, I told her she needed to tell me how she was feeling in words, and I gave her a lot of example phrases---"I'm angry at you, Mama!  You made me very mad!  I don't like what you did!  You aren't listening to me!"  And then, because she learns through hearing phrases and I don't want to censor her, I added "I hate you, Mama!"

Well, she ignored all my other suggestions and went right for that last one.  Since then, she's been using it often.  Sunday night, she screamed it in fury so Tony could hear it a house away.  And yes, that is what she said yesterday.  "I HATE you, Mama!  I HATE YOU SO MUCH"

I was proud she added in that last part of the phrase herself, despite the sentiment.  I said "It's okay if you feel like you hate me right now.  I love you anyway.  Sometimes people do feel like they hate their mothers, and other times, they feel like they love them".  Just so she was clear where she stood at the moment, she said "feel like you HATE your mother!"

I have to admit---I kind of liked the idea that having an autistic, low verbal teenager might mean that I would escape some of the teenage drama.  It seemed like I had, at first.  But lately, I am reminded that in so many ways, Janey is like any other teenager.  She has times when I annoy her and anger her to the point she can barely take it.  I get that.  And I know how that might be even harder to deal with when you aren't able to fully communicate what you want all the time, and when you spend a lot more time with your mother than most girls your age.

We're seeing more signs of Janey growing up lately, and we are realizing more than ever how much she understands without being able to fully show her understanding.  In the last month, Tony and I have both noticed how much she monitors everything we say, especially actually when the conversation is not directed at her.  She is quite an eavesdropper.  We can be chatting away, and somehow say something about going someplace, and she is instantly next to us, saying "Shoes on!  Go for a car ride!"  Or we are talking about food, and she runs over and adds her two cents worth---"Go to the store.  I want salami"  or "Pizza!  I want pizza!"

It's hard, because much more than actual words, Janey picks up on tone and mood. Contrary to many beliefs about autism, Janey is better at sensing moods and tone of voice than anyone I know.  The slightest hint of argument or sadness or even when we take a serious tone in a conversation gets her very upset.  And the opposite works---if she's upset, we can sometimes make her happy by talking to each other in an upbeat way and laughing (but it has to be sincere laughter---she knows the difference)

It can be easy, even for parents like us with quite a few years now of autism parenting experience, to fall back on some of the silver lining thinking about autism, thinking things like "At least she's always be our little girl!  At least she's spared from adult worries!  At least she doesn't want to purposely make us upset!"  But thoughts like that aren't fair to Janey.  They make her less than---less than a full, complex person.  We need to always keep in mind Janey's age.  She is growing up.  She's going to be angry at us, sometimes.  She is growing in understanding, even if we don't always see the growth day by day.  We need to adjust our thinking, to treat her with respect, and yes, to teach her to treat others with respect.  It's not always going to be easy, but not much about this whole gig is. Nothing worth doing usually is.

Friday, September 28, 2018

For new readers of the blog, or seasoned readers that want an overview!

Hello, and welcome to my blog!  I've noticed a lot of blogs provide an introductory post.  After 10 years, I thought it might be time for me to do the same!

This blog is mostly about our daughter Janey.  She is now 14, and she was diagnosed with autism when she was 3 years and 3 months old.  Our family also consists of my husband Tony (age 56), myself, Suzanne (52), our son William (24), who now lives in Chicago after finishing grad school and our son Freddy (21),  who is a senior in college, and our two cats, Tommy and Merg.

Here's a little about Janey today, and our road to today.

Janey, at 14, is an amazing person.  She's got a personality that draws people to her, a sense of humor, a smile that melts hearts, a talent for and love of music that is amazing.  She is also what would generally be termed low-functioning.  She talks in phrases or single words, and in scripted language from videos.  She doesn't read, write, draw, do math.  Her academic skills are at a toddler level.  She is semi-toileted trained---enough to wear underwear to school with few accidents but not enough to wake up dry most of the time.

Janey was born after a very difficult pregnancy and labor.  She was colicky, but not quite as much as her brother Freddy had been, she would never nurse (I pumped milk for a year) and she didn't walk until she was 2.  However, the one thing that we didn't think was an issue during her first 3 years was autism.  She talked a lot, she was outgoing and engaging and funny.  I remember so well at her 18 month appointment with her pediatrician how he said "Well, one thing we don't have to worry about is autism!" as she tried to engage him all during the time he was examining her brother.  She had early intervention for her motor delays, but never speech therapy from EI.  They discharged her at 3 without referring her for further special ed. services, and we agreed.  The last time her physical therapist saw her, she remarked on how interactive and funny Janey was.

I cry sometimes when I recall those early years.  I have videos of Janey's speech I can't watch to this day.  That is because around the time she turned 3, she stopped talking almost entirely.  She stopped interacting with us.  She stopped smiling.  By the time she was fast-tracked for an evaluation and was diagnosed with autism, it was not a surprise. We already knew.

This blog is not one of those that writes about miracle cures, or amazing breakthroughs.  I wish I could, but Janey in many ways has not made progress from the time of her heartbreaking decline.   Her talking has at no point regained the level it was at when she was 2.

However, I like to think this blog can be one that inspires hope.  There have been dark times with Janey, but today, she is happy, most of the times, and we delight in her, almost always.  The breakthrough we've had is more one of acceptance, but that's not a strong enough word.  It's one of learning to embrace what Janey is, rather than mourn for what she isn't.  I am not a Pollyanna.  There are still many parts of this autism parenting gig that are hard, and most likely will always be hard.  But life with a child like Janey can be a wonderful life.

How did we get to today?  There are many, many little things, but two very big things that I believe led us to our current way of thinking.  Two hospital stays, both during the year Janey was 10, one for psychiatric reasons, which included a stay in a psychiatric hospital, and then, a long hospital stay that involved a burst appendix and many, many complications from that event.  We realized several things from these stays.  One is how little help society is prepared to offer children like Janey with anything but strictly medical issues, with the notable and important exception of the public schools, and the other is how much we treasure Janey---how the very real chance that existed of her dying from her medical emergency made us realize that nothing on this earth was more important than her (and our sons) life, health and happiness.

My purpose in writing this blog is threefold.  First, I want to write about the experience of having a daughter with autism as honestly as possible.  When I was starting out, that is what I craved to read---accounts that told the truth, without an agenda or a bias.  I've tried very hard over the years to be as honest as I could, while respecting Janey's and other family member's feelings and privacy.

My second purpose in writing was to try to find a community.  I felt so alone at first.  It felt like no-one else in the world was living my life.  Gradually, more and more over the years, I met so many wonderful other families, mothers and fathers and children like Janey and siblings like my sons.  I started a Facebook page to further those connections, both for myself and hopefully for others to meet families travelling a path similar to their own.

My third purpose was totally selfish.  I need a place to write about Janey, because writing has always been my way of coping.  When times got tough, or when wonderful things happened, my first thought often was "I want to write about this!"  It has helped me so much over the years to have a place to vent, to cry, to rejoice, to share.  It's also helped me to remember what events were actually like, by being able to look back at what I wrote while going through them.

It would take anyone a long time to read this whole blog from start to finish!  I haven't even done it in full for a while.  So I'm going to put some links here to posts that I think most illustrate points along our way, if you want to get a condensed tour through the last 10 years.  Or jump in anywhere, and if you like, join the Facebook group!  Thanks so much for reading.

Posts to get your started

I put this post first, out of chronological order, because I think it might be the most important post I ever wrote---a heartfelt plea for everyone about how physical pain might be shown very differently in a child with autism than in typical children.  It was written after we almost lost Janey when her appendix burst...

Autism and Appendix Pain

This post isn't one of my better written ones, but it's about a day that's often stood out in my mind as the last day for many years I took Janey out and about alone.  Her behavior that day was scary, and it was the start of some tough times...

The bad McDonalds trip

Here's a post where my pediatrician at the time talked about various labels that might apply to Janey...

Janey around age 5
Talking about labels

An example of the early dark days, when I didn't think anyone read the blog and I was realizing how little help was out there...

Dark Day

When I started thinking about medication, causes and a depressing report I got..

Long Week

A preview of how hard it would be to get good medical diagnoses for Janey's physical illnesses...

Doctor's Appointment Rant

A day I remember as a turning point, when I realized we just couldn't go on as things were...

Unbearable

My reaction to a phrase we as autism parents often hear...

I don't know how you do it

My anger over the summer program the first year Janey went...

Summer Program

One of the many sleepless nights!

Sleepless Night

My fantasy idea for what would REALLY help

The autism center

A post from the thankfully fairly short-lived extreme mischief phase..

Dennis the Menace was a slacker

Details about the drug allergy I truly feel is a leading contender as to what caused Janey's autism..

Aldomet

A day I remember as the start of the 2nd very tough period of Janey's life...

CVS Hell

Going against the general stereotype...

How autism has made me a worse mother

Why I haven't written a book, kind of!

The books I can't write

Why we stopped using the only respite we've ever gotten...

A tough decision

Janey and chocolate...

Why I don't discount anyone's theories

The heartbreaking decision to take Janey out of the inclusion school...

When inclusion is no longer working

The first post in a series about Janey's psychiatric hospitalization..

A Whole New World

Freddy's writing on the rudest people we ever met..

Rude People 

Letting myself be bleak...

Don't read if you are new to autism

The first post about Janey's burst appendix and long hospital stay...

Part One about the Appendix...
Janey now, at age 14

A switch to a new doctor, which should have been years sooner..

The New Doctor

One year after the health crisis, and the start of our new attitude..

One Year out

The first best weekend ever---we've had more since then!

The Best weekend ever

What it's like at our end of the autistic spectrum

Janey's end of the spectrum

How life is now, and it's not a bad life!

Reflecting on progress at the Whole Foods


So there's my probably too long list of posts that stood out to me.  It was hard to choose, and a different day, I'd have chosen a different list, but this list might give you some ideas where to start.

Wherever you are on your journey with autism, I wish you the best.  Please know you aren't alone, ever.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

How Janey would tell the bus story

The start of this school year was marked by bus issues.  The buses that Janey had assigned to her did not have aides on them, and several times, the morning bus simply drove by our house as Tony tried desperately to wave it down.  He wound up driving Janey to school those days.  The afternoon bus twice drove her home without an aide, breaking their own rule (the aide for Janey is not something we requested, but something the transportation department had said she needs) and twice relied on a school aide kindly riding with Janey so she could get home.  Knock on wood, these issues seem to be resolved, thanks to Janey's terrific principal advocating for her.  Janey is on new buses, ones with aides.

I've been struggling to explain to myself and in this blog why the whole bus issue upset me so much.  Every way I tried to write about it, I found myself reading what I wrote and thinking "Yeah, that doesn't sound like such a big deal"  Then, looking at some pictures I took today, I realized that it's a big deal to me because it was a big deal to Janey.  She loves the bus.  She loves routine.  She loves things happening the way they are supposed to happen.  And the fact that it seemed, on the surface anyway, that the bus department didn't consider it a priority to get her to school, bothered me a lot. 

Janey doesn't talk verbally that much, but she talks volumes with her behavior and her facial expressions.  Here's the story of the bus issues, translated by me.  Forgive me, Janey, if I have made mistakes!

"I am so excited to go on the school bus to school!  I love riding the bus"

"Daddy and I are waiting for the bus. It's coming!  Oh, it's not stopping.  Daddy is trying to get the bus to stop.  Why can't I go on the bus?"



"Daddy is driving me to school.  I love to ride in the car, but this isn't right.  I don't go to school in a car!  Daddy is saying goodbye and I am with my teacher, but it's all wrong.  It doesn't feel right.  I'm crying because it's not the way it's supposed to be"



Not the actual bus that didn't stop, but a photographic recreation!














It is the little things, the small inequalities, the minor, not big enough to make a big deal of issues that sometimes are the toughest.  So the transportation department originally assigned Janey to a bus that by their own rules, she couldn't take?  It's fixed now, so why does it still bother me?  Because it's a million small moments like this that add up to block Janey from being fully included.  It's not just the bus passing her by---it's all the times that the small adjustments that would allow her to ride life's bus with everyone else are not made.

Janey---"Now the bus is here!  I'm happy!  I'm going to school!"

It's the little things that make Janey part of the bigger world.  Sometimes, we have to fight for the little things.




Thursday, September 6, 2018

Summer Summary

If I had to use one word to describe this summer with Janey, I'd have to say "uneventful".  Not much happened.  We did very little.  There weren't many huge ups or downs.  And I guess that is mostly good, but of course, as always, I still feel like I failed somehow.  I had big plans to take Janey places this summer, to keep her busy, to plan out our days.  I should really know better, by this point.  I'm not a summer person, and to be fair to myself, it was close to the hottest summer ever in Boston, with much horrible humidity.  On the very bad days that way, and there were lots of them, I felt accomplished if we left the house and the AC at all.  But still...

What DID we do?  Freddy was home all summer, and that was great.  Most every day, we did do a walk to the nearby 7-11, the "ice cream store" as Janey calls it.  And about twice a week, we got lunch out at either Five Guys or Chipotle.  Once a week or so, we went to Whole Foods and shopped.  I had Janey help me water the garden every few days, and that turned into some fun spraying water around.  We "snuggled on Mama's bed", Janey's term for lying together on what is actually her bed, not mine, and me singing to her, reciting nursery rhymes, reading or just cuddling.  And Janey watched TV, plenty of TV. She had a lot of showers, sometimes several a day, which she loves.  In the evenings most nights, she had a car ride with Daddy. That was the summer.

Janey awaits the bus
Most of the time, Janey was fairly happy.  When she got upset, it was almost always because I couldn't do what she wanted right away, because I said she needed to wait a minute for snuggling or a shower or a walk.  That turned into one of my summer projects, getting Janey to understand and honor "wait a minute!"  I would praise her heavily for being patient for even tiny amounts of time, and I started gradually asking her to wait a minute even if I could do something right away, and by a minute, I mean a minute, or sometimes less.  I think she made a little progress with patience.

I had thoughts of working a lot on her "talker", her AAC apps.  I put three on her new iPad, but she almost always chose Proloquo2Go over the other two, including TouchChat, which is the one they use at school.  However, as I've seen in the past, Janey did NOT want me teaching her, or demonstrating for her, or basically touching the apps at all.  I honored this, because I want her to like the apps, and she does.  She often chooses to use them instead of watching YouTube Kids, her usual favorite iPad thing.  She doesn't use them for conventional conversation, but rather sort of play around with, which is fine---it's how you start learning to talk, but I wish she would communicate with them, I do admit.  Generally she'll pick two words and hit one after the other, like "play" and "read" or "happy" and "silly", and will push them in turn over and over and over and over, for up to half an hour.  She seems to delight in this.  I think she loves how it makes having a word be said an easy thing to do.  But when I tried to get her to say what she was feeling, for example, when she was screaming, she'd either push away the iPad or would always pick "happy", as if she wanted to tell me what she thought I wanted to hear.

Janey's verbal talking sometimes improves after being at home and not in school for vacations or other longer time periods.  That didn't happen this summer.  In fact, by the end of the summer, her talking was at one of its lows.  She has been saying very little at all.  As the summer wore on, more and more, she wanted to snuggle, and to have me next to her, with us looking at each other, without talking.  It seemed to make her happy, but it's a pretty passive activity, and I must admit I get bored of it after a while.

I think Janey was excited to go to school this morning.  I will say freely I was excited to have a day with her at school, where I know she is loved and cared for, and where there is a lot of things going on.  I don't regret skipping summer school this year, though.  I think Janey needed that break.  We'll try summer school again next summer, but if she needs another summer off in the future, we'll that.

I hope you all had a good summer, and I hope school is off to a good start!  Much love to all of you and to your girls (or boys!)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Reflecting on progress at the Whole Foods

At times, progress with Janey can feel glacially slow.  It can stop for long periods, or even go backwards.  However, yesterday morning during a trip to Whole Foods, I realized that Janey has made a lot of progress in the past years, and even just over this summer.

It started with the car ride, and the music in the car.  Earlier this summer, we were going crazy with Janey's constant need to have us switch songs.  We would hear about 10 seconds of a song, and she'd say "Music, please!  Music!" which meant she wanted us to go to the next song.  We decided to gradually stand our ground on a few songs here and there, just calmly saying "I really like this one!  I'm going to listen to it!"  Then after that song was done, we'd switch as much as she wanted to for a while more.  It was surprising how quickly she got used to listening to songs that weren't her total choice, and actually liking some of them.  On this ride, I played a song list of songs from the early 80s, my high school era, and Janey seems to like that era too.  She rocked out a lot and I was very happy!

Janey at the Whole Foods
At the Whole Foods, I realized as we went in that I really don't hold Janey's hand in stores any more.  She's never been much of an eloping threat.  She doesn't run away from us much.  I still always hold her hands on the sidewalk or in parking lots, as she isn't as aware of car danger as I wish she was, but in stores, she does extremely well just walking on her own.  It makes it easier for me, and more fun for her, I think.

I told Janey before we went in that she could pick out some salami.  That's her biggest treat, the extremely expensive salami rack at the Whole Paycheck.  She picked out some very thinly sliced kind that I think if you stuffed it all in, you could eat in one bite, at a cost much closer to ten dollars than five, but a promise is a promise.  And I realized she totally understands now that you have to pay and get out of the store before you eat.  We used to wait until the very end of the trip to get her treat, and then if Tony and I were both shopping, we'd buy hers separately and go right out for her to eat it, but she happily this time dropped it in the cart and didn't mention it while we shopped.

As we walked the aisles, Janey started singing "Oh Susanna"  I love to hear her sing, and she wasn't at all loud, just tuneful.  And we got looks, but not really stares.  Or maybe I'm made progress too, and I don't see things as stares.  We got a lot of smiles, and I felt proud of Janey.  I'm almost always proud of Janey inside, but this was a different kind of proud, a feeling like "Sure, she's different, but she's also so cool, so pretty, so interesting, just a neat kid"  I was on a bit of a high, just thinking how wonderful it was to be walking the store with so few worries about Janey.

We checked out, Janey still being patient, went out to the car, and I asked her if she wanted the salami in the car.  She said no, so I put it with the rest in the trunk.  On the way home, she asked for salami about three times, but each time, when I reminded her we'd have it at home and that it was in the trunk, she accepted the answer calmly.  We got home, and she ate her salami in about two seconds flat.

Janey's reserved look, like at the Five Guys
Today, Freddy and I took Janey to Five Guys for lunch.  Janey looked nervous as we got there, and said as we got out "Whole Foods?"  I said today we were going to a different place, and she didn't fight it.  She said "no" at first as we were at the door, but we coaxed her in, saying "You can have peanuts and french fries!"  She wasn't exactly thrilled to be there, no big smiles or anything, but she sat and eat and behaved.  Thinking about that, it's almost a bigger deal than the Whole Foods, that she would do that well at something she didn't prefer.  She did a whooping kind of scream a few times at the end, not her angry scream but more like a "I just feel like making noise" scream, and we reminded her to be quieter, and she listened and did.  I again noticed looks, but didn't feel they were stares.

It's been a long summer.  And a hugely hot and humid summer, a lot of the time.  But for the first summer in a while without summer school, seeing Janey the last few days, I do think there's been progress, behavioral progress especially.  It's a wonderful feeling, seeing that.

School starts two weeks from today.  I'm still keeping close tabs on that special day.  But I don't feel desperate or close to breaking, as I've felt some summers.  My Janey is growing up, and our journey together, to mutual understanding and compromise and acceptance, is marching on along with the years.