Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Have to Brag A Bit Today...

We begin August with a little over half of the summer over.  We've arrived home after spending July at the beach for a much needed break after a really rough school year. 

While David began his high school career at one of the most prestigious high schools in the state, Michael struggled through his last year of middle school.  Academically, both boys are at the top of their class, however, social aspects of autism caught up with Michael.  We had some tense months but received wonderful support from school and made it to promotion to high school.  

Everyone needed some down time and the beach was the perfect venue. We're now home and gearing up for the last couple of weeks of lazy summer days.  

Michael was accepted to Classical High School and signed up for cross-country track which should start up a couple of weeks prior to the start of school.  He also scored in the top 50 on the history portion of the entrance exam, earning him a spot in AP World History, a college accredited course.  

Speaking of AP World History, David had also earned his position this past year and today, he signed onto the college board website to see what his grade was, highest being a 5, lowest a 1.  He scored a 5.  

As a Freshman in high school, David already has one college course under his belt, thus my bragging rights! 

Congratulations, David!!

#proudmom #smartypants 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Science Olympiad

is a competition that is open to middle and high schools. Top winners in each state converge to a national final, this year in Ohio. Neither of my sons had participated previously, but this year, Michael wanted to give it try.  The kids work as partners and Michael entered an event called Road Scholar with a friend.  It involved maps which is right up his alley.  

We've seen how autism affects every person differently.  My husband and I are relatively sure Michael has a photographic memory and he is fascinated with maps. He has an uncanny knack for directions and I call him my private GPS.  

Michael and his fellow team members worked two days per week after school on their various projects, increasing to three days as the competition neared, and every day the last week.  

There had been some apprehension that last week as his partner for Road Scholar was out sick all and Michael became a little stressed, but Saturday morning, everyone arrived bright and early and the competitions got underway.

Kudos to Michael's classmates, teacher and volunteers who assisted the kids with their projects.  His school placed fourth overall for the state middle schools and personally, he and his partner won the gold medal for Road Scholar.

As always, we are so proud of his hard work and accomplishments.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Our Ongoing Journey With Autism

...has thrown us some curves over the past few months.  Everyone's journey varies and we've had few complaints over the years with successful outcomes to many of our challenges.  But no one gets out of anything totally unscathed and we were about to learn this firsthand.  

Our older son David started high school this September at one of the top public high schools in the country.  Classical High School in Providence is a merit based public high school.  Admission is earned through an entrance exam and student middle school grades.  99% of Classical graduates go on to college, many to prestigious colleges all over the United States. 

In the meantime, Michael was completing his last year of middle school without his brother.  He struggled in the first few weeks and requested a number of schedule changes. Other than that, no one recognized there was a crisis brewing, until a day in October when he dropped his books in the hallway and ran out of the school.  

For the past five months we've been working with the school and outside counseling to deal with Michael's escalated anxiety.  We were able to eventually pinpoint the trigger and correct it, however it's been a difficult road for all of us, especially David, who was beside himself with worry. 

We recently attended a meeting hosted by The Autism Project where a Brown University professor was invited to give a short presentation about how the brain works and then a panel of young adults with autism shared some of their experiences.  The last 45 minutes was opened to questions from the audience.  One thing that was striking to me was some of the perceptions these articulate kids expressed, particularly with their school experiences.  As having just lived this with Michael, I could see how some situations were perceived a certain way by some of these kids when the reality was entirely different.  

Our happy go lucky son, who always appeared as if nothing bothered him became short-tempered and unhappy.  Michael's perception was that no one liked him, he had no friends because he was in classes with the "bad" kids and he had been deliberately screwed over when he was not included in an advance math class at the beginning of the year.  He expressed profound loneliness, depression and a high level of anxiety.  For five months we tried to discover why these kids were 'bad'.  Was he being bullied? No.  Were the kids in his classes mean to him?  No.  

As a matter of fact, just the opposite was true.  Michael was well liked and kids would try and talk with him.  He is not someone who initiates conversation but he will respond when approached.  We were perplexed as to why these kids were so bad.  

It was after a third meeting with the school, as I was following up with one of the autism specialists that the lightbulb went on. Nearly 5 months of everyone having separate pieces of the puzzle all suddenly came together.  Michael had been expressing focus on the 'bad' kids and 'bad' classes. We were all trying to find him coping strategies to deal with this, however it was the advanced math class where the root of the problem was.  As a result of not taking advanced math, Michael was not in the other classes with his preferred peers, the honor roll kids.  Therefore, he was in the 'bad' classes with the 'bad' kids, kids that were lower level learners.  In his mind, they were not his peers and he had no friends.  He perseverated about the injustice of being put in the wrong math class, but didn't express it in a way that made us recognize that was the main problem.  He instead expressed the focus of his frustration towards the kids and his actual classes.  

After my lightbulb moment, the autism specialist and I went to guidance and were able to switch his schedule again.  Since he would be taking a new language in high school, we were able to get him out of Spanish class and into the advanced math class. That simple switch moved him in three other classes with his peers, the 'good' kids.  Michael was called in and when told what we were able to accomplish, his entire demeanor physically changed in front of us and his face lit up. We could literally feel his stress leave his body.  Today, Michael's anxiety has lessened considerably and he is enjoying more of his day.  He still has his regular math class with the 'bad' kids but with the understanding there is nothing we can do about that and he has to deal with it.  But rather than 4 'bad' classes out of 6, he now has only 1.  We are no longer worrying that the phone is going to ring and advise us that he's run out of school again.  He is learning coping strategies with his therapist and we are hoping for a somewhat smooth transition to high school next year.  Michael has also been accepted to Classical and will be with his brother next year. 

Overall, we have been truly lucky with our public school experience.  Beginning with elementary school, we always experienced an environment of acceptance, teachers and students welcoming kids with all kinds of challenges including down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder and a host of other physical disabilities.  We have had caring teachers, administrators and teacher assistants throughout our children's school career.

I vividly recall a conversation with a speech therapist after an IEP meeting when Michael was in second grade.  He told us that both boys were making great progress, but don't be surprised if we see more of the autism once puberty kicks in.  He said sometimes the hormones exacerbate the autism. This conversation always stayed in the back of my mind, and when David transitioned smoothly to high school, we almost breathed a sigh of relief.  

We got zapped with Michael. 

April is Autism Awareness Month
April 2 is Autism Awareness Day #lightitupblue


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hello September...

Hello.  Please excuse my absence.  My sons and I have been living the life, spending 7 weeks at the beach this summer.  My daughter Jaime was able to spend a little time with us as well and we just enjoyed a beautiful, hot, lazy summer at the beach.  

I have also enrolled in the Photography Certificate Program at RI School of Design (RISD) and have been taking courses over the past year.  My most recent class starts on September 15.  

My older son starts high school next Tuesday. OMG, where has the time gone?  It seems he was just a little baby coming home from the hospital, I blinked and he is now going into one of the top high schools in the state.  I am so proud of him!

I didn't participate this April in the blogging A-Z Challenge because life got a little hectic, however tonight, as I looked through some of the posts from last years' challenge, I realize how far we've all come.  With both boys becoming more and more independent, it's time for me to move forward to the next  phase of my life.  That phase involves more work, photography classes and goals to meet, my biggest goal is living at the beach. 

For years I had a successful eBay business that has been neglected for the past 4 or so years.  I had also opened an Etsy store, selling wine charms but that also wasn't a high performing business.  I started thinking about the charms I had and what I could do with them and I decided to make bracelets.  While having my morning coffee on the beach, I did some research, reached out to a friend who is a web designer and located a woman who does graphic design and can make me custom charms.  

I am working with a couple of alumni associations in order to design custom charms bracelets for their members and am hoping to expand that to other organizations that want a one of a kind bracelet with an exclusive charm.  

Currently, I am offering a Back to School special with 10% off.  The coupon code to enter at checkout is BACK2SCHOOL and is valid through 9/6/16.  The bracelets shown in my store are just a small sample of what can be made.  Custom orders are welcome, I can interchange charms if desired.  The prices include free shipping and choice of initial. 

Check out my store at this link Judi's Etsy Treasures

I'm glad to be back although it may not be for long, as I am currently working with a friend on a new website which will include a new blog on Wordpress. 

But in the meantime, I'm back!  Did you miss me?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring Fever, um SNOW?, Let's Go to the Zoo...

Welcome, welcome first day of spring.  But it's SNOWING out!  Yes, a winter 'storm' was predicted for today and sure enough I woke up to snow, although not as bad as it could have been.  We've had a nice stretch of warm weather this winter so I guess Mother Nature feels like she should keep us on our toes.  But yesterday was a nice afternoon and my sons and I took a ride to Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence.  

I have to admit I was looking forward to getting outside, doing a little walking and taking pictures.  Recently a cheetah exhibit had been added and we were looking forward to checking it out.  They did not disappoint.  

While 3 of the 4 cheetahs were just chilling on the rocks, there was one that kept pacing against the wall of the enclosure that abutted the zebras.  Everyone got a kick out of it because this cheetah was determined to try and find a way to get to the zebras.

Most of the animals were outside in the 40 degree weather and I was pleased to see how cooperative they were in 'posing' for the camera.

Our favorites were the snow leopards.  They were pretty active yesterday and were playing with each other.  Both my sons and I agreed we could have watched them for hours.  

Happy Monday and Happy Spring!!  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

It's Super Tuesday ~ Let's Talk Politics...

DISCLAIMER - So before you read any further, I am not endorsing nor condemning any particular Presidential candidate.  In this upcoming election, I don't like any of them.  The purpose of this post is basically to poke fun at them all.  I have also included some of the memes and videos I've found circulating on Facebook.  I think they are particularly amusing.    

I realize that politics is a heated and taboo subject, but the cast of characters particularly on the Republican side is just too bizarre and surrealistic to not poke a little fun at!  I am amused, horrified and flabbergasted at the tone of this Presidential election.  

My sons are avid history and political fans.  CNN, FOX News, MSNBC and virtually any and all news channels are constantly on in my house.  My sons watch every televised debate and town hall meeting, both Democratic and Republican.  On Sunday mornings, parts of any and all political shows are on.  To be quite honest, I have had enough of them all!

I do like to watch the debates.  While I like to think I have a pretty open mind, the Republican debates in particular have caught my attention.  In the very beginning of this process, I have to admit I was amused by Donald Trump. He is an entertainer, you have to give him that.  I find these candidates totally out of control and not portraying the image of whom I would envi
sion the leader of the free world to be!  On February 25, the Republican debate in Houston was totally over the top.  Wolf Blitzen, CNN's moderator could barely control Trump, Rubio and Cruz. They sounded like spoiled rotten little kindergarteners doing little more than bickering.  The Sunday political shows are calling the exchange 'playground rhetoric'.  I simply look at these men and think to myself, "How on earth can these name-calling, petty little men represent the United States of America as President?   Ben Carson and John Kasich did not really get too much time in and Carson actually made us laugh with some of his comments alluding to his lack of time compared to the others.  As we have gotten into the weekend, Rubio and Trump have been flooding the airwaves with jibes, referring to "Mr. Meltdown", choking, Trump's orange hair and fake tan, etc. etc.  I cannot wrap my head around the fact that one of these men could actually become the President of the United States.  

Lindsay Graham was hosting a political roast where he said "Our party is going bat shit crazy!"  My son was drinking a glass of water when this sound bit was played on CNN the other day and he literally spit out his water and almost choked because he laughed so hard.  It was hysterical in a very sad way.

At different points in my life, I have been registered as both a Democrat and Republican, but am seriously shaking my head at all of our choices for the 2016 election! 

I know some are polarized around their particular candidate.  So make sure if your state is participating in Super Tuesday, support your candidate and Get Out and Vote!

 Hope you get as much as a kick out of these as I did...