Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hell-oween success!

Since.....oh......about the time Jen was 2 years old, I've become a devout Halloween grinch.  From a parenting standpoint, Halloween has sucked.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out that stuffing an SPD kiddo into a costume and dragging them through Halloween (sensory hell) is going to amount to tantrums, meltdowns, and a whole lot of stress.  It was so bad in 2009 that Jennica was actually physically ill by Halloween night, running an anxiety-induced fever, and she and I stayed home and skipped the whole darn mess.  Even after I had spent a huge amount of time creating a really darling sensory-friendly costume on my very old and dusty sewing machine that hadn't seen the light of day since.....well.......biblical times? late October has neared, I haven't exactly embraced enthusiasm.  We enjoyed did the costume store......blah blah blah........and she picked out a pirate costume that she loved and I assumed she would never wear.  We explored did the pumpkin patch, after a monsoon the night before, and picked our pumpkins out of a barn filled with hay that the farm owner had assembled.  (Even rubber boots were not going to make that pumpkin field hike-able.)  And the anxiety climbed and I griped for the entire last two weeks about the coming of  "Hell-oween."

But apparently, the anxiety climbed only for me.  For today, knock on wood, was a rousing success. 

As I sit here tonight, typing in stunned silence, I feel a little silly at the extent of our preparations.  Mike and I both took the day off today.  Seriously.  So that we could both be there to support Jennica when all hell broke loose during her school party.  We showed up at the previously-scheduled, teacher-appointed time of 12:40, and Jennica came running over to give us a hug.  Someone had already helped her don her costume, and she looked cute and relaxed.  After our hugs, she went back to her desk. ???  And proceeded to sit at her desk, visit with her friends, and participate in all the party activities.  ???  And ignore us.  ???  And then came the all-school parade where the entire school full of elementary children parades through the building so everyone can view everyone else's costumes.  Surely, this would send her over the edge, right?  Wrong.  She had a blast.  And then, since I wasn't really needed, I went across the hallway and helped for awhile in Tiersten's classroom. 

Immediately after school, Mike headed to football practice, and the girls and I headed downtown with a friend and her children to trick-or-treat the downtown businesses.  This is a huge thing in our small town, and is a completely chaotic event.  When my friend chose to park at one end of the "loop" she planned to walk through town, I inwardly groaned.  While I saw the theory behind her plan, when Jennica undoubtedly collapsed at the far end of our walking loop, I was going to have a great distance to carry 50 pounds of screaming girl pirate.  But as Cassie had already unloaded her infant daughter (and I wanted to stay together with the hopes that she would keep Tiersten with her to finish trick-or-treating when Jen fell apart), I parked beside her and off we went on foot.  Much to my amazement, Jen was fantastic.  She stayed with us.  She didn't run ahead or lag behind.  She independently marched into the stores for treats, complimented other children on their costumes, laughed and smiled, never whined about being tired of walking, and enjoyed the whole dang-blasted wonderful experience.

And it wasn't over.  After trick-or-treating downtown for 90 minutes, the girls and I met Mike and the boys at home, and immediately headed back to town for dinner at the local Mexican restaurant.  Still in her pirate costume, she ate dinner and was pleasant.  Heh. 

And then we headed to the Halloween Carnival at our school.  By this point, I knew with certainty that we had pushed our luck too far.  She was tired.....(for Pete's sake, I was tired!) .....she was full of gluten-free candy.......and she had been fantastic until now.  The carnival was sure to be ugly.  It is always a sensory nightmare packed into a gymnasium the size of a cereal box. 

Almost two hours later, we left with Jennica still laughing.  She traded quarters for game tickets. She played the games.  She giggled with her sister and friends.  She had a blast. 

So.......I'm sitting here at midnight unable to sleep.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm ecstatic.  But overwhelmed.  Part of me wants to sob with relief.  Another part of me wants to laugh out loud.  And still another part of me wants to look for the other shoe about to drop.  I was approached by SO many parents and school staff today that have wonderful things to say about Jen's recent progress and the changes they are seeing.  I guess I need to let it all sink in.  It was only one day of success, but we pushed it hard.  Much harder than we have ever dared to push her before and still had it end happily. 

Its going to take a little while to have this all sink in.  Tomorrow is relatively quiet day.  And then Sunday, we will do a little trick-or-treating at family and friends' homes in the evening.  I guess we'll wait and see how that all goes?  But for the moment, I'm wondering if I'm going to have to end my reign as the Grinch of Hell-oween???

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Stranger Danger

Lucky for us (and Jennica), our school staff finds my special needs daughter to be an endless source of amusement.  I'm sure there are staff members that don't think her antics are cute, but the staff members that we have contact with are wonderfully supportive of her differences, and claim to find both humor and inspiration with her different view of the world. 

Yesterday was the dreaded annual IEP meeting.  (Its only our second, and I really have no reason to dread them, but I do.)  I wasn't expecting any surprises, as we've been in constant contact with the school since the first day of the year.  So far, things have been going remarkably well!  I feel like I'm jinxing myself to actually put those words down in black-and-white, but pther than a few moderately heinous occurrences, the first month of first grade has been a rousing success.

Most of our contact with the school is through email, or by one-to-one contact with her teacher, para-educator, or principal.  I don't usually see them all in one place at one time.  So yesterday, as we sat down around the IEP table together, they informed me that they had been holding onto a "funny story" for a few weeks, as they wanted to see my face as they shared this.  My Mom brain immediately said, "Oh NO!  What did Jennica do now?"

The story goes like this:  About two weeks ago, Jennica had a para-educator substitute for two days.  She wasn't prepared for a substitute, and was less than delighted upon arriving at school and finding out that her routine, as she saw it, was disrupted.  Worse yet......her substitute was a 26-year-old MAN.  She's never had a male teacher (yet), and wasn't thrilled with the idea.  She was introduced to him politely, and instantly told him rudely, "I don't like you.  Go away!  I don't need you and I will be fine today without a helper." 

Her rudeness is something we've been working on, but when she sees it as being honest, its a difficult battle.  Miss Cummings, her first grade teacher, immediately pulled her aside and told her that she needed to apologize to Mr. Stark for being rude.

Jen promptly told her, in a whisper, "I can't talk to him anymore." 

When Miss Cummings asked why she couldn't talk to him, Jen told her, still in a whisper, "Because he's a stranger and I can't talk to strangers."

Miss Cummings, bless her heart, introduced them yet again and then told Jennica that they weren't strangers anymore.  Jen still refused to talk to him most of the day.  This.......for a girl who doesn't generally consider ANYONE to be a stranger.  How convenient of her to pull this out of her "bag of tricks" at this optimal moment.  Oy.

But, I will admit, its pretty funny!  :)