Here are some updates on how the summer went... What I've written down is very specific, but there are several abstract that we cannot put our finger on and explain it descriptively...
1. DS has gotten (or is getting) comfortable with numbers and word problems. He is now playing monopoly, getting a roll of quarters from Whole foods checking (counting by stack of 4s), playing a card game (counting by stacking in 10s) - we have begun using the Whole Movement template for that (the fractals and whole concept) and touch wood, it seems to have worked well.
2. He is getting motivated to get rewards for his efforts; black tape for learning in karate class, star in tennis class, ice cream on Fridays post week-in-review, if his weekly schedule is complete, surprise reward is the plan is followed in Teach Social. The funny thing is this - His karate classmate was on leave one week. DS was happy that he could get the black tape while the other boy misses out (since they started the same and the other boy had overtaken DS due to similar reasons)... The key thing about Karate class is this: DS has realized that there are hundreds of things to learn in karate (and extended it to Tennis). We are now hoping that he realizes that about other things in life and is no longer that anxious about new things.
3. DS has started playing games that he doesn't like with his friends (pretend and otherwise). He has started coming up with different ideas to play with few objects like cars, bean bags.
4. He has definitely shown signs of reading non verbal clues, in non-RDI-lab environment. Reading facial expression, he had asked, "why are you scared" ? The other day, while he was searching for something, he self-talk with his DM, let me see where your eyes are looking and follwo the path of her vision.
5. He is more aware of others and their needs. DW had made ragi aaloo rotis. He likes them... As he was eating and finishing those, he asked DW, "Is this for appa too ?" and then left two of them for me. He has started helping his DM with cutting vegetables; and agreed to watch an English movie at the theater (Ice-Age 3), with us.
6. He has shown higher order of thinking and problem solving and coming with alternate ideas - he had a lot of different size of boxes to junk... He came up with by stacking them one inside the other to make sure it was at manageable size to carry... Another time, when the door of the bedroom came off, he had safely taken the screws and kept them aside, calling parents for help.
7. Improved story reading comprehension. DW is using drawn pictures of the character and places, one of us read the story, other moves around the papers like puppet show. He has shown full engagement, not shutting off which used to happen when reading...
Has been a good summer... The DS is also growing up physically - he is taller than his mom and is almost as tall as me - just about two inches shorter than me.
Just keeping our fingers crossed and hands together for the trajectory to continue !
- DW and I were tired on one weekend afternoon and crashed out - sometimes during weekends we take an afternoon nap as a family - get together talk for a while and then doze off. That particular day, it appears DS didn't feel like sleeping, so perhaps knowing that he could disturb us, he left the room... The funny thing was he came in after about 1.5hrs and woke both of us up, saying, "Appa, amma wake up - its 4.15PM - its already evening...".
- DS sleeps in a separate room during nights - however, he still finds it hard to sleep through the night alone. So he comes into our room around 2-3AM and crashes in with us. Its likely he would also use the bath room at that time. However, he isn't very quiet with the door and most times it is very loud - as the door is shut, the automatic bolt makes lot of noise as it slots in. So, one day I showed him how to close it, so that the noise can be minimized - ie turn the handle down and carefully release the bolt gently. Next day, at night, when he came into sleep, he actually followed it ! It was an indicator to us that he is "in the moment" most of the time !! He is also getting aware and stays very conscious about it... I told him then that I'm very proud of him that he remembered and cared for others...he responded by snuggling up close ! :)
- Tonight, he and I went out for a walk. We were playing a scenario - where he played the role of himself and I played multiple roles - myself, DW, his friends, my mother and a stranger. During the role-play, my conversation was to get him to disclose his gmail password; he didn't reveal it; but once he slipped up and then we thought and talked through that. Then I was stranger asking him to reveal the password and making (sexual) advances (the one thing we are told that we need to be safe in this country)... He didn't budge from his stand. All this was good; and then came the icing on the cake - after the role-play, he commented that people could say anything and try to trick him !! and he needed to careful !! Cool !!! I like his recognition of the possibility of trickery !!!
Btw, we do find role-play and socio-dramatic play is helping him internalize a few things. He also loves acting scenes... particularly assigning his own life experiences to movie characters' names.
...but I'm digressing. After the class, we had gone to a local shop to look for a tennis racquet for my friend. DS was obviously very tired and wanted to get back home - i think the shoes were also bothering him. So he sat on one of the empty shelves...
...and then commented, "I'm on sale, will I get bought by someone ?" :-) Even without a discount we would ! And there was severe sale going on ! Its a bargain !!!
It has been a long time since we had updated the blog. Touch wood, things are going ok and well. More importantly, DW is happy and DS is happy with DM and both are happy together... This itself implies that the situation is positive :-).
DS has finished his schooling year - the first in the US of A. The school report says he has done well. And he has said that he likes the school, very specifically the class room that he goes to. He is getting a lot social cues at class and is beginning to talk to his class-mates about his likes and dislikes and share those stories. I also believe he feels more comfortable with the school here, since he goes to a special day class and does not feel the pressure as much as it is in normal classes. Although this is probably slowing down his academic progress, we believe it is helping him develop is EQ and functional thinking..
Re summer activities - this summer has been labelled as "physical summer" - He has suddenly found interest in Tennis and we have put him in a Tennis class - the coach who has taught special kids before seems very patient with him. His swimming classes start next week. Additionally, he continues to go the Karate class which he seems to enjoy. I believe these are all providing the neccessary sensory inputs to him and that is the reason he relishes it himself. And my own belief is that physical activities help in high level of mental engagement.
On others, this summer, he has got into group session at Michelle Garcia Winner center of Social thinking - this is now known as Teach Social. This is in addition to the individual classes. All of this is helping significantly. We have also started using Connector Rx. It has helped us (ie DW/I with DS) to be "in the moment" - he has shown some initiation skills when we have strapped this on. We are continuing with RDI, Impulse creations, aura healing, whole movement... we believe each on its own is not the sole reason that contributes to the development. To me this is like, solving the a problem in the "complex" quadrant of the Cynefin framework. This framework is a good way to look at PDD - we apply "Emergent Practices" approach, where the Cause and Effect are not immediately seen and aren't close to each other. One probes, senses and then responds. So these multi-dimensional practices helps us to probe different possibilities - for example, Impulse creation helps learning with the body; Whole movement is a tool that I believe helps DS to look at the way one can organize information and to be able to address a larger problem, but starting from fractals. RDI helps in developing functional thinking, Teach Social helps him in the intersection of functional and skills. His regular school is where he is learning specific skills. To us, function is the thinking part (why, what) and skills is the doing part (how, when). Each of them separately isn't that helpful.
And with all this, DS has said this summer has been the best for him ! So, something is working for him - like they say, dont fix it, if it ain't broke...
In spite of all the uncertainty in my job front, things are looking up... Hopefully, the trajectory continues to remain true North. Touch Wood. Thank God.
We want to treat DS as a grown up and he oscillates being a big boy to a small kid. Sometime he resents being told something (just like any other boy in the cusp of teen-age) and sometime he is just a baby... So I was telling him that day that we talk about all these things, because he is growing up and he is no longer a baby and there are social expectations of him (not in so many words though)... Also, we told him that he would live far beyond us and at that time there may not be much help available to him; as my parents have outlived their parents etc etc. He heard that and asked some questions around that... Later on, that night, while in bed, he asked me couple of times as to what I told and why I told those (ie we, as his parents would die earlier than him)... We can see it was playing in his mind.
The very next day this event happened. He has a very favourite pillow - its his imaginary everything - friend, confidante etc. There was some damage to it and he was really broken. He cried for long and during that time, he told me that neither of us are important for him and his pillow was important; and we could leave the house or he would with the pillow...
It was quite rending to hear those words... But after a while, thinking about it, I wonder if his reaction was based on the talk we had the night before - on impermanence of us...
Last week, there was a reading comprehension lesson given to DS. This was about the heart-beat - there were several sentences given about heart and he had to find what the central theme as about (which he did); but the offshoot of that is what was that made us more happy. He was really really unhappy to know that heart beats stops and all of us would die - including us; i think he is internalizing that himself, although we have talked about death to him sometime ago. His DM has also talked about Hindu philosophy of the soul and body (there was another correlation that he made - that in a different post later)... Back to the story, hearing about the heart-beat he was very disturbed and said that he wanted to have the same body (hmmm, what was that about not being in control of their body and sensory integration issues - do they really have that or is that our perception ?) even after he dies ! But then he wanted to know how to live forever !
He then went ahead and googled "live forever" and found out some work done by this researcher, Aubrey de Grey. He has now started reading about Aubrey de Grey and still shown interest to know more about what this researcher is doing; the only challenge is the words are high flying and a lot complexer !
One idea we had was to use Whole-movement Tetrahedron to explain different biological system within the body and then build it from there... Again, the worry here for me is, is this the right approach - in system vs details ? do we build the system as a whole and get him to see the details ? Or build he details and let the system emerge ?
We have used the visual medium effectively to develop (and in the process of doing it) some key skills in DS.
We have movie days every friday - where we bring in known Tamil movies. Ahead of time, we tell DS the story of the movie. While he is watching, we try to work on his comprehension and see if that could be improved; we also freeze the movie at certain place and ask S to identify what the character feels and why does s/he think so ("he is happy because he got a job and i can see from his face, since he is smiling; He is angry, because the other person cheated him and I can find out because he shouted" etc)... Also, it is helping him look at the story-level rather than details ( which would earlier be - "he opened the left door of the car, drove through trees to go to the shop and on the way he crossed a dog and an auto" vs "he went shopping for his wife")... The movies has become a tool for us to teach Emotional Intelligence !!!
DS has now begun to want to dance as the heroes do - it gives him a good SI input. We have also seen some of the SI exercises prescribed for him form some portions of the dance-moves in the songs. So, its easy to get him to do those SI moves. He now wants to tape his dances and watch them - I believe they improve his self-awareness and his own view of his body and balance. I'm hoping the recording would help him see the differences between what the movie actor does versus what he does (in terms of performance/moves)... I hope that would lead to DS's better understanding himself.
Additionally, for him to watch movies on Friday, he needs to pay out "3 Poker chips" - so he earns those throughout the week doing work. And he is learning some basic accounting. Also, some negotiations, since he wanted us to make movies a bit more in-expensive, particularly when he doesn't have enough poker chips (or happy sticks)...
We have also used his favourite movies (he has seen) to teach the concept of history, based on their release date and the timeline on a white-board and what else did happen in that specific year. We plan to teach the "history of movies" now... We use the upper-half of the timeline for movie-history and the bottom-half for some other history (like cricket, India etc).
- I had written about DS sleeping alone. However, he sleeps in the living room; and in there, the sound of the rain on the roof and the wall mounted AC is pretty high. So. he does get scared of that sound (and it has been raining quite incessantly for the past few days). So, I had asked him last night that since its raining, would he want to sleep with us, partly due to my own issues. But he was quite clear. Nope, like last night, I'll sleep in "Thatha's room" (the room, that my parent's used when they visited us). For the past two nights he has been sleeping there soundly...
- Last weekend he had an invite from one of his class-mates for a birthday celebration at a bowling alley, that he really loves to go to and bowl. But he hadn't told us about it at all; the invite was amongst his books in his bags. When DW saw that on Monday morning and asked him, he said he didn't want to go, but didn't really explain really well. However, later on during the evening, when DW talked to him using the "Rahul story" (which DS has taken to, with his own version of character called "Red Thala"), DS had explained that he didn't go to the party because he had several dietary exceptions already in the recent past - 'boys day out' with me (at Chinese joint), eating out the local Komal Vilas, eating at a friend's place; and he simply didn't want to eat cake at the party which they would ask him to. And to avoid the temptation he simply decided he would not go !!!! Amazing !!!!!!!!!!!
Two days later, he was talking to DW. He has been struggling with the fact as to what would happen to the HAL airport since the new airport in Bangalore had come up ! In his talk to DW, he said, "Amma, I know what they can do with the old HAL airport. We could leave it as is. It would be the history for Bangalore"...
On the first one, we have been kind of talking about it... We talked about my grand-parent's passing away when he grew old. His athai-patti (my favourite aunt, if I may add), who he has seen, had passed away. So, we had talked about death... But didn't think he had internalized it...
The second point was that he is 'different'... We have been kind of talking about it in generalities... That people are different, I am different, I like so and so, DW is different... Etc and you are different. You like Thayir-sadam uncle (tamil actor Vijay) and amma like (yet another tamil actor) Surya etc...
We got an opportunity, to (again, kinda) bring them together. A slight by-story. We travelled from India + we have been told that DW should not be lifting heavy objects. So, I told him that he is a big boy and he need to help me more. Since then he has been stepping up... Even being flexible, to carry the two galon milk carton (that he does not like)... So we have been using the fact that he is 12 and he needs to help out at home much more... he needs to "listen to himself" (his own term - there is another story there)..