Summer of '09

We talked about the Summer of '69, jokingly... This summer has been really good for all of us, including the DS.

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 !

Awakenings !

Some nice anecdotes that happened in the past two weeks:
  • 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.


DS had his tennis lessons yesterday. In addition to the forehand, the coach also introduced backhand and overhead serve. We can see DS was trying hard to learn and focus. I had, on the side, told the coach to follow what they do in Karate - a stripe on the belt for a good class - do something similar. The coach drew a star on a ball and gave it to DS; the DS was very proud and he has kept it safely and will have to take the ball next week too, to see if he can get another star...

...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 !!!

Summer of '69...

DS has reprised Bryan Adams 40 years later... DS has said this summer are the best of his life so far... and we are only into 3rd week of his summer holidays - its another matter that 3 weeks have flown by !

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.

Shot through the heart...

Blogging after a long time...

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...

Penumbral Motivation...

Somehow I've always emagined/presenced that DS will become a good doctor or something to do in the field of medicine/life-sciences - his ability to remember things, to be able to co-relate facts to several degrees deeper and masked, and his sensitivity to people would render himself to be effective - I'm hopeful that is his calling !

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 ?

Where Amazing Happens !

Btw, thats the tag-line for the "National Basketball Association" (Professional Basket ball league here)...

Where Amazing happens is also in our lives ! Day to day, where DS amazes us with his repertoire. As springs sets in, there is a lot more sun and today DS and I decided to take a walk to the park nearby and then walk around the apartment. And here is the story...


As we were walking past the tennis courts, there was a kid with his dad going home after their games. The kid was munching an organic bar. As we went past them, I told DS that the kid was eating the energy bar, just like the one we bought him (organic, gfcf, sugar-free)... DS appeared not to hear, but after few steps, slowly turned his head and looked at the kid, looked elsewhere and then turned his head back... I looked at him puzzled and asked, "Kid..."

4 months ago, during Thanksgiving Holiday (late Nov):

DS wanted to go on a local train and we went on the locals. As we were going across town, a family of three got on the train and took a seat in front of us - mom, older child about 7 and a baby. DS, not so socially aware, stared at the baby and his antics. I told him that its not ok to stare like that; and btw, if you know DS, he doesn't like two things - when the voice is raised and if we correct him unexpectedly. And he felt silent after that in that ride. Later on, I kind of explained to him about the whole thing and told him sorry that I had to correct him unexpectedly.

Back to Today:

...I looked at him puzzled and asked, "Kid... what did you do ? Did you see that ?". He said, "yes I did, but you told me long time ago not to look at strangers "straight on their face", which is why I did that slowly after looking somewhere else"...

My heart swelled with pride !!!

ps: Rest of the walk, we talked about social rules vs police laws; what a society is, what are unwritten rules etc, and how he behaves differently when there are guests at home and that is nothing but he following some "social" rules himself... etc etc etc  etc...

Movie Magic

I had posted on this line, in one of the parent support forum, where there was some discussion re ails of visual media (TV).

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).

Growing some Non-chalance

DS and I used to have some standard exchanges. 

He would want to know as to where we (DW & I) went or what we did, in his absence (particularly his mom, since he doesn't like her to do something that he too likes when he is not around). To his question,  I would ask him why - as to why he wants to know. He'd say something that is quite standard - "I'd like to know", to which my standard response would be, "thats not the real why, so tell me why do you like...". After couple of repetitions of such back and forth, it would get to him and he'd show his stress in his face and by his "stimming behaviour" - ie clasping his palms tightly...

Yesterday, after a couple of "you tell - no you tell - no you tell first" between us, he said, "ok, don't tell" and walked away... There is a Buddha lurking in that DS :)

Yay !

Mental Fortitude...

Yep, those are big words ... Lets just call it mental strength...

I'm discovering that DS has great mental strength. Once he decides, its pretty much easy for him to stick to it. I know folks would say thats typical of such kids. Somehow, I think everyone has their temptation and would want to do things that is forbidden :) Here are couple of examples.

  1. 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...
  2. 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 !!!!!!!!!!!
Given this, I believe he has great mental strength. So, I believe this was a good time to talk to him about "melt-downs" (or temper tantrums)... So both of us talked to him about "meltdowns" and why its normal for people to have it and how people react to it differently when they have one. For the past few days, we are playing the "True/False" games around a few melt-down 'facts". Eventually, I want to lead it to a point where he does know melt-downs are pretty normal and he will need to find a way to handle it in a way it does not perturb people around him...

Like Floyd says, "the Child is grown, the dream is gone...", only in this instance, the dream is still out there and it might very much come true ! 

Clarification Please ?

Ok, I'd like to know... The funda about sleep-place. What was it, again ?

Is it that, DS should not be sleeping with us ? Would that mean  that I can go sleep with him, in the room where he sleeps !?!

Ah ! Thank you !

(and yes, I know about the letting go, funda !)

Red day !

We met DS's psychologist during our visit to India in Dec-Jan. She was very pleased with DS's progress and said that the next step for us to get him do things independently. Since then we have been modeling some stories via his alter-ego. We bought a mobile for him and also seeing if he can describe the sorroundings around him. He now can say right-ahead, right-adjacent, right-behind, left-ahead etc, in describing what he sees...

In any case, one of the things we have been thinking about, given his age, that he needs to sleep alone. He has slept with one of us all the time, and lately sleeping in the same room but not in the same bed. He had agreed to sleep in a different room recently... However, I think I was the one who was resisting the idea, perhaps given his fear of darkness and general anxiety. DW was saying it was not DS, but me who was making all the excuses as to why he cant sleep alone. DW was cool, she just moved on quickly... I was the one who wasn't letting go easily. I felt as though I wasn't looking after his safety, although intellectually, I know by doing this, i probably look after his safety more... Stepping back, I think DS is really growing up in his own mind and perhaps really wants to be treated so.

Anyways, as I had said earlier, there is a time to hold on to and there is a time let go - not just mentally, but also physically !

Directional Sense !

DS just amazed us yesterday.

DW was going for a lecture last night and us boys were to have a night-out on our own (which we did and a bit of that in the 'ps').

As we get out of our residential area, in a complex maze of roads, we need to hit a freeway to head to the destination.  From Steven's Creek, we get on to the ramp as an entry into free-way for 3 of them - 85 North, I-280 North and I-280 South. That entrance is quite complex and you kind of go around, that its easy to lose your bearings directionally (atleast for someone like me who is directionally challenged).

So the two key roads to this post are, Steven's Creek Boulevard and I-280. We had to get of SCB and then enter I-280 and travel South. 

As soon as we said thats the way we are going, DS remarked that Steven's Creek boulevard goes in the same direction as I-280; but SCB is called SCB east and SCB West; where I-280 is called North and South. If you see the picture below you'd see what he means (although I-280 takes a turn towards South-East, much further out)... I was quite amazed that he got it - he is not into maps much. I thought it was a remarkable observation or mapping in his own mind !! The two roads are circled in red in the map...

We later on tested if he understood the directions - and asked him what happens if we travel North and take a right-turn or travel west and take a left turn. He got those... jujeebee !
ps: After dropping DW off at the venue, we went to a mall covering the 1.5miles in about 4miles (I did tell you I'm directionally challenged and I'm the only person on the face of the earth, who could lose the way with GPS showing you the way !!). At the foodcourt, DS was all eager to eat McDonald stuff and fries. As we went to the food court, he saw Panda Express (Chinese fast food) and switched over. A few years ago, such a change could not have been imagined !

History, Geography and Comprehension !

We somehow think that DS would do well in descriptive subjects because of his memory retention. The belief is that he would do well in history, geography, life sciences and not that well in math.

So we are setting out to teach him history. But we are starting small. We have a white-board where, we have drawn a timeline. Starting from 1950 (when Rajnikanth was born and for some reason he is a big fan of Rajnikanth - if you ask him, he'd say because Rajnikanth ate Chillies in the movie Sivaji and he finds that funny), we drew a timeline uptil 2009. And started 
mapping out various events, as to who were born at what date etc and other events. And
 then we told him, if we are at 2009, looking back uptil 1950 is history. Then we drew the map of South India and mapped where each of those events took place - i.e the name of places - and termed it Geography. The picture that you see on the whiteboard on the left top corner is that of Rajnikanth (in the movie Sivaji - thats yet another way of getting him to accept the white-board)...

So far good; so we knew he would retain the information. But because of the articulation challenges, I was doubtful if he comprehended the "history" part.

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"...

Comprehended. Articulated. QED.

Questions, questions...

DS has been asking tons of questions these days ! Here are some of them:

1) Why do we sleep at night and be awake during the day ? What happens to people in the night shift ?

2) Why can't we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together ?

3) Did the fruit "orange" get the name from the color (orange) or did the color orange come from the fruit ?

Emotional Intelligence... (or whatever) !

DS has been throwing up surprises as usual.

That day, DW was cutting vegetables and DS was elsewhere. He heard DW gasp and came and asked her what happened. DW told him that she had cut 
herself in a very very small way. Immediately, he wanted to fix it. DW told him that it was ok, but he looked up the "injury" and wanted to "take care of it".  He asked for the "first aid" box (his words - schooling process, I guess), picked it up; looked for a band-aid and then asked DW if she wanted a big one or a smaller one.

On the choice, picked one himself, peeled it off and put it on DW's fingers. DW was over the moon. She said it was her "appalam" experience !

(DS has been a fount of such suprises of late and he has been asking so many other things too... Would blog that a bit later)

Raining Jokes !

This morning, when DS left for the class, there was a slight drizzle. Since he doesn't like wearing caps, I had told him that if it rains heavily when he reaches school, he may want to run quickly from the bus stop into the class room, so that he does not get wet.

Later in the day, during the evening, I had asked him if he got wet in the rain this morning. He said no, he did not get wet. He got only half percent wet. Then added in a serious tone, but "that day, I got completely wet..., fully 100% wet..." (He is also getting the percentage concept these days!)

I was naturally worried (cold, cough, fever and all that flashed through my mind), and asked, "really, when was that ?"...

He responded with suppressed laugh and twinkle in his eyes, "I was standing under the shower !!!".

Joker !!!

Telling him...

We have been thinking for a while now. When do we talk about two things (1) death... I.e., we will not live forever and he would be living on his own without appa and amma, but perhaps with his wife and children and his cousins (2) the 2nd point being that he is special.

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)..

With that introduction... a couple of days ago, he had that laughing thing going for a while. He had done that in the Winner's class (now called Teach Social), but I did not know about it. On return, he also laughed a bit at home. We plunged head-on... We told him that laughter is ok and if he feels like laughing he should. Particularly when he is with us it is not a big deal, since we are all different and he is different too. And then we told him that once he is big enough to be on his own and when we aren't there any more, others around may not understand why he laughs and may find it strange. He said right off - that he doesn't like talking about it (ie death); we did tell him that there is still a long way to go; that we will live upto 75 years old, by which time he'd be my age etc etc...

The crux of the story is yet to come :-). During later part of that evening, while we were walking, he was thoughtful. And he said in a very serious and quiet tone that he laughed during the Winner's class...

We started with something in mind and it has lead some where else. He is reflecting more on his own actions...