Very Special Special Olympics 2012

Tuesday, May 1st was our Special Olympics track and field events. All I can say is WOW… and that doesn’t even do it justice. There were over 250 children that participated and over 1500 fans, volunteers, and staff. And, believe it or not, I only got emotional ONCE! The rest of the time I was too busy with the kids to really let the enormity of this event sink in. But believe me… it was powerful.

My boys had a blast! They all did really really good in their events and seemed to have a good time despite the crowd and the noises. Kids with Autism probably have the most difficult time at the Special Olympics because of the sensory issues, but these boys held up like the champions they are!

Robin (my partner) came and took loads of pictures, but as you know, for anonymity sake, I can’t/won’t post pics of the boys… but I do have a few of the event in general to share!

The torch being carried in…

One of our local schools’ welding program made this amazing cauldron

for the event and a local painting place powder coated it for us!

The beginning of the parade of Athletes.

One of the biggest crowds to date!

There was one of these signs posted in most of the schools.

Kids that vow to stop using the word “Retarded” all got to sign it!

Some of the athletes!

One of our boys took 1st!!

I, personally, was having a blast!

Thanks for popping in to have a look see!

~Kari

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Filed under Autism, Autism Coolness!

Updates and the Special Olympics!

Howdy folks. Been a while since I have been able to post. My Masters program has been pretty busy… just finished my first class on Friday! I am so stoked. Once you have the first one under your belt you feel so much better! I also lost a very dear friend to cancer and that has kind of kicked my butt.

So… with all that being said, I have quite a few updates. Grab some coffee and enjoy!

I have decided to use initials when I am talking about the boys so that way I can refer to them individually, but not name them specifically. Just easier that way… for me. LOL

So, my non-verbal guy, “J”, has been quite amazing over the last few weeks. To make a long story very short… HE SPOKE!!!
“J” has always made noises… happy noises, funny noises, jumbled words, angry noises, and a few interspersed words that were never in context. But for some reason, one day a couple of weeks ago, he had led one of the people in the classroom over to the freezer where there were Otter Pops (Popsicles) hidden inside. His iPad wasn’t around, so she said OTTER POP… and “J” repeated her!!! Now, along with the iPad, our guy can verbally let us know what he wants. This is with prompting and a lot of reward. You should see this kid. He is super happy and not as pinchy. I guess I would be in a better mood too if I was finally able to communicate!!

“N”, our quiet and happy go lucky guy has been doing fantastic! He is one that is in to routine and if that routine is broken, he will tantrum, but lately, we have been working on switching things up (within reason), and he has dealt with it superbly! He also doesn’t like to go places that are unfamiliar… but with a lot of work, he is taking our outings with stride and has come a long way. He seems to be happy when we are out and I think it is because he feels secure. His academics are soaring. Hell… even today he shocked the crap out of me. Normally when he washes his hands, he doesn’t get all the soap off, so we help him hold his hands under the water and count to 10. He counts so good! Well, today, he didn’t get rinsed, so I took him to the sink and helped hold his hands under the water and told him to count to 10… the little booger says “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1”! I didn’t even know he could count backwards!

“E” is our little artist. He can read and write and does pretty well academically. He can watch a video and then draw the graphics from that video. This is usually the end credits because he likes letters and numbers. They are all done in bubble letters. His memory of the details is fantastic! He is a great kid with a lot of potential. Love working with this kid!

“D”, our talker, and by talker I mean ALL DAY… lol… he loves to know “why”. He has made huge strides in his communication of how he his feeling. He is big on personal space and we have come a long way of being able to get closer to him to be able to work with him. He is getting really good at using his words to get us to back up if we are too close or if he needs a break.

Since September 2011 when I started there, these boys have come so far and they seem to enjoy being at school and working with us. They have all made such great strides! I am so blessed to be able to see such a change. It is pretty fantastic.

Tomorrow (May 1st) is our Special Olympics. I am so excited… it feels like Christmas! I am a big ol’ emotional baby when it comes to stuff like this. I will have my camera and will be taking loads of pictures of all the Olympians. I am hoping to post some pics (generalized un-labeled pictures) for you all to see.

We got the boys all ready and prepped today for what is going to happen. They seem pretty excited. We will see how it goes. I just can’t wait to see them feel good about their accomplishments.

I am kind of sad and happy all at the same time that the school year is coming to an end. I don’t know quite what to do with myself while I am off work… I am sure there will be plenty of honey-do’s!! I will still be blogging… just more generalized educational stuff.

Did I mention I have a 4 day weekend coming up… woot!!

Thanks for popping in!

Kari

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Filed under Autism Coolness!, Field Trips

A Beautiful Hike!

This morning started out fantastic! We got to go play mini-golf!!! The boys were great!

Even my really nervous kid had what seemed to be a great time. He figured out that not only could he hit the golf ball with his club, but he could use his feet too! It was hysterical! My favorite was when he couldn’t get the ball in the hole with his club or with his feet, he reached down… picked it up… and dropped it in the cup. I laughed and gave him a high five and got a gorgeous smile!! It was like he absolutely knew what he was doing.

I think it was the fasted game of mini-golf in history and all the boys were pretty excited at the whole adventure.

What came next was my favorite part of the day. Please pardon the resolution on these pictures (as an amateur photographer I am quite embarrassed…lol), but they were taken with my cell phone as I didn’t want to lug my camera with us today.

We went for a long and absolutely stunning hike. The photo’s don’t do it justice AT ALL, but we were way up above the city. For the trained eye, you can see a teeny tiny Mt. Garfield on the top left of the screen and at the top middle/left is the Grand Mesa. You can also see the smoke in the background as it is burning season.

I was in a small slice of heaven and the weather was absolutely perfect. We even tied our jackets around our waists!

Tomorrow we get to go to the movie and I hope we have as much fun as we did today. I am sure that we will… nothing like a bucket of popcorn, 4 amazing boys, and a great movie on the big screen!!

One more pic to leave you with…

Have a fantastic night!!

~Kari

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Playdoh… and The Lorax!

This week and next  is TCAP (Traditional Colorado Assessment Program) testing for our general education kids at my school. Our boys have done their testing already, so we get to have tons of fun for the next two weeks. Before I get in to all of that, I have a bit of autism coolness to share!

Last week, we were going to work with Playdoh with the boys and discovered that our Playdoh had somehow turned into some sort of snot concoction and really needed thrown out and replaced … we didn’t even want to guess how that happened. So, this weekend, I went out and purchased a 4 pack for our classroom. I came in this morning and set it on the table and thought nothing of it. The boys came in and my non-verbal guy started hovering over the Playdoh. I went and got him and told him it was time to work. After we finished with the section (Calendar), I was sitting next to him and another kid waiting for our next project, when all of a sudden, I hear… from his iPad… “Clay Please”… I was stunned and said “Oh… you want to play with clay?”…. He then touched “yes” on his iPad!!!! Needless to say, we jumped right up and broke open our new batch of Playdoh!!

A little background… we had previously programmed “clay” into his iPad for another activity… I am not sure I could find clay on that iPad… but he sure as heck knew where it was!!!! Remember, this is the kid that gets pinchy and grabby when he is upset, but lately, he has toned way down and I think it is because he realizes he has a voice now. He will still get grabby, but it is fewer and farther apart and not near as hard (most of the time). It is nice to see his gorgeous smile and hear him laugh!

Now… on to the fun stuff for the week.

Yesterday (Sunday), I went to one of our local theaters to see “Act of Valor”. While I was there, I stopped and talked to the General Manager. I introduced myself, told him what I did for a living, and asked very nicely to see if there was a showing of  Disney’s The Lorax that would be best to bring the boys to. He was super nice and agreed to open the theater at a special early time for us (4 boys and 4 adults)!! I think it will be so much fun to sit in the big theater with these kids, munch on some popcorn, and see a great movie! I have found that our community is getting really supportive of these kids. Knowledge is power and the word on autism is getting out. We are doing a good service to our boys and the community.

Other fun things on the list for this week and next are Miniature Golf, Pet Smart, Home Depot, Hiking, playing with remote control cars, visiting a doctors office… and a lot more fun things! I am so excited! Going to be a really fun couple of weeks.

Thanks for stopping in!

~Kari

 

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Filed under Autism Coolness!, Behaviors, Field Trips

Did you know…

….that “sugar could be the entire cause of autism”???

Ok… so now before you hit the roof, please let me explain.

The other day, I had the unfortunate experience of running over something that gave me an awesome flat tire … so there I was sitting at Discount Tires awaiting the fine gentlemen to fix the flat. I sat outside because it happened to be a gorgeous day, pulled out my book for school, and began to study.

As time passed and my back began to cramp from leaning over the book on a very uncomfortable bench, I sat the book down and decided to people watch a bit. There was an elderly gentleman wandering around … likely in the same predicament I was in. I watched him for a bit and then offered him to have a seat next to me on the bench. He happily agreed and we had the obligatory discussion about the weather.

That is when he looked down and noticed my textbook, “Learners on the Autism Spectrum”.

Him: “Autism huh?”

Me: “Yessir, I am getting my masters degree in applied behavioral analysis with an emphasis on autism.”

Him: “What do you think about this thing called autism.”

Me: “I find it incredibly fascinating and am excited at the possibilities!” (insert a big DUH here…. why else would I do it?)

Him: “You really should read up on the Gastrointestinal aspects of causes for autism.”

Me: “Oh I have read a lot of stuff on a variety of different ideas about causes and cures for autism.”

Him: “Wonder if the parents of your kids know about sugar and its affect on the GI and autism. They really should check into it…”

At this point I am starting to get frustrated and his words are becoming very similar to every adult on Charlie Brown; wah wah wah wah wah… so I smile and nod, thank him for the lovely conversation, say my goodbyes and get my keys.

Now I KNOW how you parents/caregivers/and other teachers must feel. Don’t people realize that, for the majority of families, everything has most likely been tried? Lordamercy… it is so frustrating. I would love for a cure to be found for autism. I would love for these kids to have some “normalcy” in their lives. Unfortunately, right now, there is NO cure for autism… there are just a bazillion ideas and interventions out there to help these kids lead a more normal life… a life that suits THEIR needs.

I just find it amusing that people that don’t have someone with autism in their lives become automatic “Dr. So-and-So” when they hear that you have someone in your life with autism. One part of the conversation that I left out is that I explained to him that there are many things that work for one child with autism that don’t work for another. A miracle cure for one kid will not work on another. A very sad, but true, aspect of ASD.

All we can do is continue to help these kids until there is a definite cause and cure. And that is my intention… to be there when nobody else can or will… and to not try and cure them… just help.

~Kari

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Spring Break… well sort of..

Monday was the first official day of Spring Break for our kiddo’s.

Friday at school we had 3 out of four of the boys with fever, so it was an even earlier beginning to our very looked forward to break (they are all fine now, but it was pretty ugly on Friday). Nothing like 3 sick grouchy boys. LOL

Yesterday, I started my first day of my first Masters class! Woot woot *insert happy dance here*!!

Now because I am obsessive compulsive, I have already posted on the forum (3 times), found 3 articles for my first paper (due Monday), have started taking notes for another forum post, and have thought about my final research paper. This blog is a way for me to take a break.  And.. as a special surprise.. as I am typing this, my textbook just arrived! That just means more work, but right now… at the beginning of the first course, I am excited and not burnt out. So, I will give it my all and do the absolute best I can.

Interestingly enough, just from the first bit of studying that I have done, I realize that there are SO many different ideas and effective ABA treatments that are being utilized right now in the classroom I work in. These boys are definitely getting cutting edge, super powerful, and life-changing interventions. With, and without realizing it, I am learning so very much through my on the job training. I may not have had a name for the stuff we are using, but I am soaking it all in like a sponge. I have finally found what I want to be when I grow up. It is such an enormous weight off my shoulders and makes my whole body smile!

A lot of people that work with special needs kids say “If I make a difference in one kids life, then I will have done my job and be happy.” .. I won’t settle for just one kid. I NEED to make a difference in multiple lives. I desire to help every kid that I come in contact with. EVERY ONE.

Now it is time to get back to learning… studying… soaking it up.

Gentle hugs!

~Kari

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Parachute Smiles

Each day we pick a theme and try to do some activities in the afternoon that encompass that theme. Yesterday was Parachute day. Apparently a long time ago (in March) someone got the idea to jump out of a perfectly good airplane with just some cloth strapped to their back (why they would do that ON PURPOSE is beyond me).

I digress… ANYWAY…

For our theme yesterday, I chose parachutes based on the March holiday. First, we watched a YouTube video about skydiving. As the video played, we explained how the parachute is packed on someones back, an airplane takes them way up in the sky, and how they will jump out and pull open the parachute. Second, I had drawn, on our smartboard, a picture of a bear with a parachute opening and we discussed where the bear was (on the ground or in the sky). Third, we colored printed pages of parachutes (one with a cartoon boy, one with a cartoon penguin, and the last was of a man with a parachute). And lastly, we went outside to our play area with a giant parachute!

I have never seen all the boys smiling and laughing as much as they did yesterday during this activity. We were laughing and running and making the parachute do all kinds of fun things.

It is neat to see them full of joy when they are at school. As we all know, school can be tough even on the smartest and most typical children. When school is fun, it causes learning. Remember when you are working with your child with Autism to have fun! Those activities will remain the best forever!

~Kari

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Filed under Autism Coolness!, Lessons