Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dear Gwen: Month Eighty-Two

Dear Gwen,
Today you are eighty-two months old.


It’s been a very exciting month. A lot of our family’s time and mental energy is going towards Operation: New House, which means that we have gone out to see some open houses for sale, and we have also been working to get our house ready to sell. It’s been really neat to work on these things as a family, with you as a real participant. As we set out one weekend to go see another open house, you happily told me, “Don’t worry, Mom. I know the ex-patations of visiting an open house.” And you sure do love picking out which room would be yours, and giving us your feedback on the house and yard, and so on. You’ve even been co-operative and helpful in the efforts to put a huge amount of our possessions – including yours – into storage, so that our house will be clean and uncluttered for potential buyers.


You’ve been on your ADHD medication for six weeks now, and my, what a difference. You are just so much less intense now, able to transition smoothly from one activity to another, able to focus on a task without constant intervention and redirection, able to accept disappointment and frustration and work through them without pitching a fit, able to work independently and effectively, and so much more. At the same time, you are no less joyful, creative, exuberant, or hilarious. We were recently reading “My Brain Needs Glasses”, a book for kids about ADHD. The narrator, a child with ADHD, says “I get distracted by noises, and also by my own thoughts. It's really hard to concentrate!" I asked you if you still feel that way since starting medication. "I don't get distracted any more at all, I just sit and do my work. The only thing that distracts me is if someone is talking to me. Then I just answer them and go back to my work." I asked, “Does it make your life easier, to be able to concentrate like that?” You replied, "WAAAAYYYYY easier!” It made me so happy to know that you are feeling the difference too.


Even better, the medication has not produced any unpleasant side effects (knock on wood) and, with a recent switch to morning dose instead of evening dose, your sleep schedule is improving as well. I am very happy to say that you have gone to sleep without melatonin for the past week, and that you are able to fall asleep around 8pm instead of the previous weeks’ time of 9pm, 10pm, or even later. Hooray for sleep!

It’s hard to believe that your Grade One year is halfway over. Your homework has certainly increased over the past month or so; you have a book bag with three books you are supposed to read every week, and you are having weekly spelling tests that you need to study for. Unfortunately, with our busy family schedule, it’s incredibly hard to find time to fit all these things in (we do read together every night, but you don’t always want to spend that brief time reading the books you ‘have to’ read, preferring to choose your own). I admit I am particularly baffled about how to help you with your spelling. Spelling comes very very easily to me, and I rarely have to think at all about how to spell something. Which means I have no idea how to teach YOU how to spell, because, y’know, you should just SPELL! For a language-loving English major like me, seeing your spelling scores of 4 out of 12 just makes my stomach drop, so we’re going to have to sort this out. So far, the only strategy I’ve figured out is to print the words in large print and put them on the wall near your bed, so you can see them as you’re trying to fall asleep, but this approach doesn’t seem to improve your score much. More strategies to come!


The other side of your school experience is, of course, the social aspect. There is a child in your class (code-name Amy) who is making your life pretty difficult in this area. She’s not bullying you per se, but she is attention-seeking and manipulative and doesn’t seem to know how to be a good friend (even though it seems that she wants to). It’s very hard to know what strategies to encourage you to use when Amy starts pushing your buttons. If you ignore her, she starts crying and lies to the teacher that you hurt her; if you engage with her, she keeps pushing and pushing you until you do something hurtful (with words or hands) and then the teacher puts you in a time-out; if you walk away from her, she follows you. The teacher is aware of the situation and is trying to figure out the best solution for everyone.

These days your favourite hobby is playing “Just Dance” on the Wii, and you have also become very aware of pop music and love to sing along to the lyrics. It’s pretty funny to hear. And of course, every song you love is your “very favourite song ever in the world!!!”. Some of your favourites include Roar & Dark Horse (both by Katy Perry), and Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars.


You’ve been learning about kindness at Sunday School, where your teacher encouraged the kids (and their parents) to sign up and participate in The Coldest Night of the Year, a fundraiser for local charities that help the homeless. So last Saturday, you and I bundled up in our warmest clothes and walked 2km as part of our church team. It was pretty fun! Two kilometres is about as far as one should force a six-year-old to walk at one time, I think. I was very proud of you for participating in the event, and proud of you for calling your grandparents to solicit donations. You and I raised $120 to help the homeless in Nanaimo – our team raised a total of $670, and over $30,000 was raised in all of Nanaimo. Pretty cool!


As always, Gwen, we are so proud of you and love you so much. You are such a fun kid and it’s a treat to be your mom. You are my BFF!

Love,

Mom

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dear Gwen: Month Eighty-One

 Dear Gwen,

Today you are eighty-one months old - six and three-quarters.

It's been a very busy month. Right after your last newsletter, of course, was Christmas, with all its attendant gift-opening and chocolate-eating and general glee-making. It was great. I'm sure it goes without saying that you got a bajillion presents, and you were gracious and thankful for all of them, which is pretty great. I think the hit of the holiday was the Nintendo DS, which we scored on the online Swap and Shop with about 25 games. You had no idea that was coming your way. You were also ridiculously pleased with the backscratcher you received, which you had specifically asked for. It's a toss-up which one of these items is getting more use ... you use the backscratcher more often, but certainly not for as long a period as the DS.



On Boxing Day, I took you to the Winter Wonderland skate at the arena. This was the first time that my presence at this event was completely extraneous. I ended up just hanging out at the side, taking photos or video of you when you went by. It didn't all turn out great, because the lighting was very low, but it's still a neat memento. I love watching your confidence grow!

video

For the first time ever, we spent New Year's Eve all together as a family (usually we leave you with a babysitter and go out to party with our friends, and when we say 'party' we mean 'play board games and stuff ourselves with appies' because we are nerds, not goofballs). We went to the "Family Finale" at Beban Park, where they provide tons of entertainment and activities for families - well, let's be honest, it's all aimed at kids, and the parents are just hanging around. It's not like *we* went on the bouncy castle or made jellyfish out of paper plates. But nonetheless, the live entertainment was really fun, and I think we all had a good time. Best of all? The countdown was at 8pm, and then we boogied on home to bed. Yes, non-parents, getting home to bed before 10pm is a wonderful exciting thing when you have kids. Just trust me.

Very early in the new year, I had to be the most hardass mom I've ever had to be one Saturday when I discovered that instead of going to sleep the night before, you had been drawing pictures in one of your storybooks. I was incredibly disappointed that you would treat a book this way. There was no question of your knowing that you were out of line; you have always understood that storybooks are for reading, and activity or colouring books are for drawing. Even as a toddler you never drew on your books (or on the walls or anything else for that matter). You freely admitted that you understood what you had done was wrong. Well, obviously I had to punish you, something that does not come naturally to me.


Also? Some of your drawings were really creative, meaning I didn't know whether to punish you or give you a high-five. Damn it!

When your dad came home and we discussed it, we agreed on two consequences for your behaviour. First, you would have to choose several of your books to be donated to Literacy Nanaimo. Second, you would have to write lines. Yes! Lines, that terrible awful boring punishment that is usually given out to grade school kids (at least, it was when I was a grade school kid). Technically you now ARE a grade school kid, so it seemed appropriate, and I thought that writing lines - two to five lines a day, I'm not a monster - might help the lesson of "I will not write in my story books" fresh in your mind.* I had you count how many pages of your book you had drawn on, and assigned that number of lines to you.

*Sidebar: When I was in elementary school, the punishment for forgetting one's gym strip was to write over and over, "I will not forget my gym strip". The punishment for remembering one's gym strip was to participate in gym. I very quickly made up my mind about which one of these worked better for me.

The big news this month is that you are on medication for your ADHD. It's a very low dose, and you started it only two weeks ago, so it's hard to know what the outcome will be. Unlike every other ADHD med ever, this one is not a stimulant. In fact, you take it before bed and it can cause drowsiness. It also lowers your blood pressure slightly, which causes some kids to have dizziness/light-headedness or even faint when standing up from sitting. So far, none of those things have happened, which is good because it sounds scary! You were certainly tired the first few days taking the meds, but now you have adjusted and the bedtime drowsiness is gone - which is a shame. You have always had trouble getting to sleep, but in the past we could give you a little melatonin. Now we can't because it is contra-indicated with your medicine, so you just lie in your bed for hours waiting to fall asleep. In the morning you are so exhausted that you can't dress yourself.

As far as the positive effects, it's hard to say definitively, but there have certainly been lots of positive moments - transitions, in particular, seem to be easier for you now. One particular moment leaps to mind, when I was calling to you from another room to put down the iPad and come do your piano practice. Now, what kid is possibly going to take that order well!? I'm happy to report that you did. "Okay, Mom," came your cheerful voice, soon followed by your cheerful face as you came to practice the piano. WOW! Your teacher reports you are doing well at school, too, getting all your work done and having fewer outbursts. We'll be going back to the pediatrician in a couple of weeks to report all this, and see how we can adjust things to get you a better sleep.

In writing all this, I confess, I'm not really talking to you, Gwen. I'm talking to every other parent out there who might stumble across this (admittedly very low-profile) blog while they're looking for info about ADHD and medication. I will never forget how it made me feel the first time I stumbled across a blog whose author wrote, with great vulnerability and raw honesty, about how hard it was for her to breastfeed. I was having a TERRIBLE time breastfeeding you, had never achieved what I thought was "successful" breastfeeding, and everyone around me kept telling me that it was supposed to be easy and natural and painless and most of all, that I should enjoy doing it and somehow be grateful for the opportunity. Nowhere around me did I see my own feelings of inadequacy and frustration mirrored, until I saw this blog. So if I have the chance to be that mirror for one other person, to share my own experiences with another parent who is wondering (as I think we all do) whether we are doing the right things for our kids, that is why I write these intimate details.  The quickest and most straightforward way I can explain my choice to try medication is that while I was trying to teach you all the social and organizational and sequencing and attention and focus skills that you need to succeed, all the cognitive behavioural strategies that are going to improve your life, it felt like that Bible verse where the seed falls on the rocky ground. It can't take root and grow, because your brain is not ready to take in any information. I needed your brain to be softer and more open, to give you a baseline where you could start to learn these strategies.

Okay, enough seriousness! What other fun stuff has been going on? Well, you had a playdate with your friend Gracie and introduced her to the joy of frozen blueberries.

 

You also had a super fun playdate at Jumpin' Jiminy's with your friend Rhyan, but I don't have any pictures of that, because you both were just blurs of colour zooming by me.

One of your new charming habits is that you are finally saying your own bedtime prayers. I have always said prayers with you as part of your bedtime routine, and encouraged you to participate, but until recently you felt very shy or embarrassed about this and wouldn't say anything. I guess a few weeks ago at Sunday School the activity was to make a "prayer list", and you came home with a very colourful sheet of paper detailing some things you love (Mom, Dad, Me, You (meaning God)) and things you wish (to have a 'kitn', to be a 'butrfli'). Since then, you will often pray for these things - and others - at bedtime. It's pretty cute. Tonight when I tucked you in, you prayed for all the people you love to have a good day tomorrow, for us to afford a new house, and for Dad to "get way way way way better with kittens so I can have one." 

This is also the month you invented a new dessert: Whipped Ice (originally called "Ripped Ice" before I foolishly corrected you on the pronunciation of whipped cream, a key ingredient).
You'll need:
Bottle of whipped (or ripped) cream
Bucket of ice cream
Cup of berries (three kinds recommended)
Ice cream scoop (YES THAT IS AN ICE CREAM SCOOP)
Secret ingredient: sprinkles!

How to do it:
Spray whipped cream into the cup
Pour berries into the cup
Put ice cream in the cup
Add sprinkles, done!


I love how the drawings on the right side clearly show whipped cream being sprayed into a cup, and berries being poured in. Nice action shots, kiddo! And oh yeah - it is delicious!

Well, that's it for this month, Gwen. As always, I love you like crazy, and am so happy I get to be your mom. Keep being awesome, my girl!

 Love,
Mama

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Dear Gwen: Month Eighty

Dear Gwen, 
Today you are eighty months old.



What is life with you like? Well ...

"Mrs. Claus doesn’t like Christmas. Know why? Because her husband doesn’t come home for dinner. She works hard making dinner and Santa doesn’t come home to eat it because he is out delivering the presents. So she doesn’t like it at all. She waits all day and night for him to come home. It’s not fair! And you know what else? He eats all the Christmas cookies that the kids leave for him, and he never brings any home to her! You know what we should do? We should make some special cookies and put them in a paper bag for Mrs. Claus."

The above is the sort of random-yet-logical story that bursts out of you on nearly a daily basis. You think A LOT. Now that I'm coming to better understand your ADHD, I think this is because you can think at four or five times the speed of 'ordinary' people, because you are always thinking about four or five things at a time. It makes for an interesting life.

You got your first term report card this month, and for the most part it confirms what we already knew - you are a very smart, very capable girl with some specific areas of difficulty. You are reading above your grade level, and are "meeting expectations" for writing, speaking, math, PE, social studies, and music. Most of the notes for "approaching expectations" (what used to be called "needs improvement") are under Personal and Social Development:
Is considerate and respectful of others; accepts learning challenges; cares for personal and school property; works and plays cooperatively with others; follows class and school rules and routines; works independently when necessary. Your biggest struggles are in "Uses appropriate strategies to resolve conflicts" and "maintains focus". We will be meeting with your teacher and your principal early in the new year to figure out how best to help you with these things.


You had your piano recital recently at your piano teacher's house. Unfortunately, it was a students-only recital so I (and all the parents) have to just imagine how it went (though your teacher said you did great). You played "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas", with bridges on your left hand. You are really enjoying piano still, and I'm really happy and proud of you for continuing with it.

Dad and I didn't have to miss out on your school Christmas concert. Your class and another class were dressed up in charming aprons and chefs' hats to sing "Christmas Goodies" and "Yummy Yummy Christmas". It was a blast! Having learned our lesson last year, we were able to strategize more effectively and actually get seats that allowed us a view of the stage. We still could barely see you - being somewhat taller than other kids, you're always in the back row, but the chefs' hats blocked the back rows completely. Even more than watching your performance, I loved watching the cliche moments when you first came on the stage, looking around the audience with a big frown on your face until you spotted us, and then waving enthusiastically. You crack me up, kid.



Speaking of your Christmas concert, I should tell you that earlier this month, you told me that you would have preferred to sing a solo at the concert instead of singing with all those other kids. I told you that if every kid got a solo, the concert would be five hours long, but I encouraged you to ask your music teacher as well, just so you could hear the same answer from someone else. I was proud that you did ask her, and that you didn't lose your mind when she told you no. Better luck next year.

We also had our annual English Family Christmas this month held at my cousin Mike's house. I was pretty sick that weekend and so didn't take any pictures, but I can tell you that you had a terrific time playing with your cousins and opening presents. I was really glad we made the trip even though I had the plague (and lost my voice halfway through the weekend). I do have to mention, though, that when we got back to our hotel room to go to sleep, you had an enormous meltdown/crying fit for about thirty minutes. Hi, overstimulated child! Welcome to the Christmas season!

We took the opportunity to go to the Rogers Santa Claus Parade the next day; it was really neat that you got to go with your cousins. I expected the parade to be SUPER UH-MAZING but really, it wasn't all that much better than most of the parades we see here on the Island. Which gives me a weird sense of pride that actually, we Islanders have got some pretty great parades!


This past weekend we went to the annual Christmas panto at NTG, "Pirates of the Panto". This is the fourth year you have attended the panto, and you enjoy it every year. On the other hand, about halfway through the first act, you were losing your mind and begging to leave. I think this is a combination of factors: first, you had been looking forward to the panto for weeks, and had worked yourself up into a frenzy; second, the villain was menacing and grouchy; and the combination of these made you into crazy overstimulated child again. You were bouncing in your seat and begging to go home. "We can't leave until the intermission," I said, "So just deal with it until then." By the time the intermission came around, and with some helpful pep talks from your dad, you were engaged in the story and curious about what would happen next, so you no longer wanted to leave. Thank goodness, because neither your dad or I wanted to leave either! You then spent the next several days singing all the music from the show. So you did enjoy it after all, you just needed a bit of encouragement.


You got to do the Advent Reading for the fourth Sunday of Advent this year, and you were able to do the reading all by yourself, which was pretty cool. Your reading is quite amazing, and you seem to enjoy it more and more, which is wonderful. You allowed me to come up to the front with you and light the candle for you, but I bet next year you won't even let me do that for you.

Right before Christmas, we invited three of your friends over - Delaney, Rhyan, and Izzy - for a playdate. You had a big plan to watch a movie, but the four of you were way too wound up to do anything so sedentary. You did manage to sit on the couch, snuggled up in cozy blankets, just long enough to eat all the popcorn, but then it was time for something different. The four of you played Just Dance, made Christmas crafts, and had lots of fun being goofy together. A good way to blow off some steam.



As always, it's been a fun and sometimes frustrating month, and we continue to do our best at being your parents. We love you to the moon and back. Merry Christmas, my Gwen!


Love,
Mama

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dear Gwen: Month Seventy-Nine



Dear Gwen,
Today you are seventy-nine months old.

I feel like the main change this month has been within me. I feel much more free to strategize and discipline in out-of-the-box ways instead of expecting the things that work for other kids to work for you (and just ignoring the problem when they don’t). It’s also very liberating to understand that so many of your “problem behaviours” are not really behaviours; you are not acting out because you want to get attention or manipulate people; you are, in certain situations, simply not able to act any differently.

It’s also been a busy month. For Halloween, you dressed up as Wonder Woman. You had a great time trick-or-treating with your Dad. I got to go to your school that afternoon and watch all the kids in the Halloween Parade. Also, a few days before that, I got to go on your class field trip: a hayride in a pumpkin patch! That was an enormous amount of fun for both of us. I’m so glad I got a chance to enjoy that with you.

You continue to enjoy gymnastics and piano lessons, and these two extra-curricular activities are all we’re going to attempt for the time being. I see a huge improvement in your ability and your willingness to play piano, now that you are in private lessons. I’m so grateful to your amazing teacher Mrs. H. for working with you to keep the lessons fun and engaging. You seem quite devoted to her and eager to please her, which works really well!

Your school days are becoming a bit of a challenge, for reasons that have nothing to do with your academic skills and abilities. You are struggling to get along with the other kids and fit in with them. Some of this is due to the fact that your ADHD brain works differently from theirs, but a large part of it is due to typical girlhood drama. You are in a girl triangle with two other girls (A and R) and just about every day it leads to tears. Either you and A are playing together and R gets rejected, or A and R are playing together and won’t let you join … etc. Naturally, because emotional regulation and impulse control are beyond the ADHD brain, your responses to these situations are WAY over the top and lead to time-outs, interventions from the teacher, notes home to us, and so on. It’s hard to figure out how to help you navigate through this, since I’m never going to be there with you when it happens and it’s hard to predict which circumstance you’ll be facing on any given day. For the most part you are still a brave, friendly, and outgoing girl, but from time to time this effort wears on you and you break down crying that “No one likes me, I don’t have any friends.”

Your school is trying to help, though. Your teacher recommended you for a “friendship group”; for 45 minutes once a week, you and two other girls meet outside the classroom with the school’s family support worker, who helps you learn and practice social skills like approaching people, making eye contact, initiating conversation, joining play, and so on. None of these are things that come naturally to you, and I confess I don’t have a clue how to teach them to you, so I’m absolutely thrilled that someone else is helping on that score! You enjoy the group, and hopefully it will help you interact more effectively with your friends and classmates.

We’ve found some strategies at home that are working well, too. For the first time ever, you have a reward chart. It’s a very simple chart, really just a grid of squares where I can write in a running tally of numbers. You can earn points for a variety of things: completing your morning routine is 75 points, trying a new food is 10 points, practicing piano is 30 points, keeping any house rule is 10 points, and so on. Once a week, on Saturdays, we examine how many points you have, and you get to pick one reward from the list. It could be a trip to Dairy Queen (500 points), a playdate with a friend (1500 points), a family game night (800 points) … your choice. This system seems to be working for you, and I enjoy it too. It gives me many opportunities throughout the day to point out your good behavior, and reinforce it.

My favourite part of the new system is the ‘lists’ I made for each of your daily routines: morning (getting ready for school), afternoon (getting home from school), and evening (getting ready for bed). I found clipart online to represent each little piece of the routine that you needed to follow, for example:
-        Putting hat, coat, and shoes away
-        Emptying lunchbox
-        Putting leftover food in garbage or in fridge
-        Rinsing containers and putting in the recycling or the dishwasher
-        Filling water bottle and putting in fridge
-        Putting lunchbox away
-        Getting out school planner for Mom and Dad to check
-        Removing any other extra items from backpack
This looks like a huge list, but that’s just because it’s broken down into the smallest possible steps. It actually takes about three minutes to complete, if you stay on task. I printed these pictures, cut them out, and hole-punched them so they fit on a binder ring. That way, you can take the list with you from room to room as you complete the tasks (as opposed to a checklist on the wall, which you can only see when you are right in front of it). As an added bonus, the fact that you have something in your hands already tends to remind you that you are in the middle of a job, and discourages you from picking up something else and getting involved with that. Since implementing this system, the number of reminders and nagging I have to do for these routines has decreased by 60-70%. I can only imagine how that feels for YOU – for ME, it is WONDERFUL!!

We’re gearing up for Christmas now, and you wrote your letter to Santa Claus just a couple of days ago. It’s pretty cute.


Here’s the translation:

Dear Santa I hope you can bring me one of these presents.
Ipad #1
Fluttershy train #2
Spirit #3
Barbie mermaid #4 (purple)
Nutcracker #5
Monster High toque kit #6
From: Gwen
To: Santa
Thank you very much
Have a great day

Your writing has come a long way in the last couple of months, and more importantly, your willingness to write has improved a great deal. It’s pretty fun to watch you express yourself in this way. Last week we were talking about palindromes … you know, just like any other six-year-old and her mom … and I suggested that you make a list of palindromes for your Show and Tell. You were thrilled with this idea. Last year this would have made you miserable, to do so much writing. But you happily tackled the task, first making the list and then writing the list of “cloos” to help your class guess what your Show and Tell item was (no one guessed, which you tell me is the mark of a really good Show and Tell item). Your awesome teacher then launched into a lesson about palindromes. How cool is that? I bet your Uncle Mikey would be super proud!



Palindromes:
Mom 1
Mmm 2
Dad 3
Racecar 5
Bob 6
Otto 7
Wow 8
Aha 9
 
Cloos:
It is a kind of word 1
It has mom and dad 2
I made it 3

(Yeah … you have a thing about writing her numbered lists with the numbers after the item? I don’t know.)
Well, that's it for this month, Gwen. You are an awesome kid - bright, caring, funny, creative, interesting, and fun - and we are so glad to be your parents.

Love,
Mama

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dear Gwen: Month Seventy-Eight


Dear Gwen,
Today you are seventy-eight months old - six and a half years.


It’s been an astounding month, and I can’t find any way to write this letter without talking about the truly game-changing news we received this month, which is that you have ADHD. It’s not exactly a surprise, but it has shed a lot of light on who you are and how your brain works. The past few weeks I have been doing a lot of reading about ADHD and your behaviour and abilities are certainly well-reflected in the literature. Sometimes my reading leads me to major revelations, as seen in the following email I sent to your Dad a couple of weeks ago:

Just read online that “ADHD kids have trouble learning from past experiences.” OMG THIS EXPLAINS EVERYTHING.


And now, a short play that has been witnessed in our household approximately seven million times:

Gwen: *exhibits undesirable behaviour*
Me: Man, this behaviour is undesirable! How can we teach her not to do that?
Internet/Parenting Book/Knowledgeable Friend/Family Member/Magazine Article: Just introduce the following consequence whenever she exhibits that behaviour. Believe me, you won’t have to do it more than a couple of times before she gets the message!
Gwen: *exhibits undesirable behaviour*
Me: *introduces consequence*
Gwen: *is terribly upset but refuses to change behaviour*
Fin.

So, a lot of the frustrations and confusion we have had about your behaviour has been explained. We still don’t know what to do about it, but hopefully all these books and websites I am reading will help.
 

In the meantime, really, you haven’t changed at all, though our perception and understanding of you has grown a lot and will continue to do so.

Your Grade One year is well underway, and Dad and I were thrilled to learn that a good friend of ours, Kim, is your teacher for the year. She is a great teacher and a lovely person and I know that she will be great at creating accommodations for you. So far your year is going well, although there have been some bumps. We are starting to see some social problems which are upsetting for all of us. Your intensity and need for control, your hair-trigger temper, and your obliviousness to social cues – all of which are part of the ADHD package – are far less tolerated by your peers than they were last year, and you are experiencing frequent rejection. It’s heartbreaking to see or hear about. In some cases, your obliviousness prevents you from seeing that you’ve been rejected – for example, we saw you at your after-school club being instructed by some other kids that your “job” in the game was to run away from them to the farthest tree and then wait there for more instructions. Their game had nothing to do with running or trees – they just wanted to get rid of you. And you complied, enthusiastically, because you are so eager to be accepted. Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead of us.

Your academics, on the other hand, continue to be strong. In fact, your doctor feels that you may well be gifted. I confess that I didn’t understand until recently that “gifted” is a real concept that can be tested and valuated. Unfortunately, we don’t know yet how to go about having this giftedness tested, as the schools do not provide that testing. I am determined that we need to do everything in our power to make sure you are able to reach your potential, which I am convinced is great.   



In your last newsletter I mentioned that you are really enjoying gymnastics, and this continues to be true. I hope these classes are giving you some positive strategies about being in your body and controlling your movements. Your piano lessons have started again, and this year you are in private one-on-one classes with your first MYC teacher, Mrs. H. She is absolutely amazing and you are blooming in this environment. After watching you struggle so hard last year to stay on task and hear the teacher while five other kids (and their parents) provided a constant level of noise and distraction, it is a joy to see you and Mrs. H. work together. The fact that your lesson time is all yours means that Mrs. H. can meet you where you are at and tailor things to suit your needs, without having to “keep up” with anyone else. I’m so very, very glad we took this step. Here are some of the moments from your first month of piano class.

At your second lesson, while sitting at the adult-size piano, you dropped your pencil on the floor and immediately crawled under the bench to get it. Once on the floor, you became interested in the pedals and began to press them. Mrs. H. quickly adapted. While the pedals are not part of the curriculum until you are a few years older, she saw that you were interested and went with it. “Listen to this note. Now hold the pedal down while I play it again. How did the note change?” The two of you spent a minute or so on this and then she re-directed you back up to the piano to continue the lesson. I was in awe! She could have spent two minutes arguing with you, or one minute meeting you where you were and following your interest, then going back to what she intended to teach that day. I was so impressed!


Another tale of success at piano was actually my contribution. Again while sitting at the adult-size piano, I could see your feet swinging around, reaching down towards the floor, which then pulled your torso out of balance and made it hard to play the keys. Having shared a bazillion mealtimes with you, I knew what the problem was: it was bugging you not to have a place to rest your feet (as they don’t reach the floor while sitting up properly). I looked around and saw a small stool by the door, and suggested to you that we put it under the piano as a footrest. This had the extra benefit of preventing you from fidgeting with those fascinating foot pedals. These are the types of accommodations you need in all of your daily activities, and it’s just a matter of us figuring out what they are and convincing the people around you to help us implement them.


Well, I guess that’s it for this month, Gwen. I am fiercely proud of you, entirely in love with you, and so grateful to be your mom.


Love,
Mama

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