msagara: (Default)
Something [ profile] comrade_cat said in the comments tickled a thought I frequently have.

Blaming the crappy part of my life on my parents' divorce is so fucking
cliché though, and I don't want to penalize my parents for making what I
feel was the right decision at the time.

Maybe this is what [ profile] msagara means about not blaming people.

It’s exactly what I meant )
msagara: (Default)
I have written a lot about my older son, and very little about my younger son. This is in part because I didn’t start writing these posts until the oldest was old enough to give me what I felt was informed consent.

My youngest is not yet at that age, so most of this post will actually be about my oldest son. He was in senior kindergarten when his brother was born.

There’s a lot of anxiety when one is contemplating the advent of a second child. Most of it centers around the reaction of the first child. I’m going to assume that both parents are cognizant of the second child’s arrival, and that both parents have some say in it. I realize there are exceptions, but, that’s my general assumption for this post.

The other child, however, has no say. It’s not like we take him aside and consult with him, or ask his permission. He is going to have a sibling, regardless of how he feels. I have read in other places that for some children this is unwelcome and highly destabilizing - it would be akin to a husband telling his wife that today he has brought home a brand! new! wife! and his old wife is going to love! her!.

A few thoughts on the introduction of a second child into the ASD household. )
msagara: (Default)
When I started writing these posts well over a year ago, I had two things in mind.

First, I wanted to write about how my ASD son and elementary school. I wanted to talk about how the environment was safe, and the efforts required to make it safe for him. The efforts are not small, and they're not about punishment. If the environment does not feel safe for almost all of the children in it - including those who bully - it frequently fails.

It's vastly easier to make the household a safe environment. It involves far fewer people, and far fewer cultural contexts.

Second, I wanted to write about my own experiences with an ASD child, because I know a lot of people out there are facing some of the same difficulties, and they often feel isolated. By putting these posts up, I wanted to let people know, for a few minutes at a time, that they were not alone.

These posts were not meant as advice )

Also: if anyone has any questions about anything I've written, ask them here, and I'll try to answer them. If you don't want to ask them with identifiers, ask them anonymously, or ask them in email.
msagara: (Default)
My son's pediatrician was a woman who was shorter than I am and I swear half my weight; she was also in her fifties. I met her when she was doing the round of newborns at the hospital at which my son was born. She was the *only* adult who could, when he was newborn, handle him at all without causing an outburst of screaming. So I asked if we could continue to see her outside of the hospital visit. She agreed.

One of the things I really liked about my son’s pediatrician was that she was ultimately an extremely pragmatic, no-nonsense woman. She had strong ideas of what would be best for a child - but she also had strong ideas of what would be best for a family dynamic. She understood that asking parents to do things they simply could not willingly/happily do over the long-term was courting the type of anxiety and resentment that eats away at a family.

Advice from the pediatrician, applied )
msagara: (Default)
When I first started posting about my ASD child, it was indirectly in response to discussions on the internet about bullying in its many forms. I had intended to speak about how one Principal at our school had landed firmly in its midst to put a stop to bullying and its culture.

Of course, in order to do that, I had to talk about the school, and I wrote about my son because in some ways, he would have been an ideal victim. He wasn’t. He wasn’t in part because of the teachers and their certain faith in a Principal who backed them up.

I’ve spoken about my son’s grade two educational aide.

What I haven’t mentioned in any detail is that my son was not the only child with whom Mr. Virk worked. The other boy was not ASD. He was in no conceivable way -- except for age and gender -- like my son. If my son did not pick up social cues, and, until the middle of the year, had not developed the theory of mind that neurotypical children develop by age three, he was nonetheless a reasonable child if you understand his particular quirks.

The other child who also shared Mr. Virk’s time was not. )
msagara: (Default)
If you’ve been reading these posts for the last week, you know that my intention was to write two posts. The first, about help, I did write. The second, I still haven’t written. This is very much in keeping with the way I write anything. I have a general idea. I put the words on the screen. And then other words arise out of interaction, and, well.

We, as parents, all want our children to be happy. I take that as a given. We do not always make our children happy - but at base, we want our children to lead happy, long lives.

Given the way life works, life is not predictable. We are adults, our children are not. We know the things that caused us pain - and we want to help our own children avoid that pain, and avoid bearing those scars.

But... )

And now, I am running out of the house because it’s our 23rd anniversary :)
msagara: (Default)
[ profile] spiffikins asked:

Looking back at our own efforts, we had lots of battles :) I've love to hear how you applied these rules to situations where your son didn't want to do something, like have his bath or get dressed/put his shoes on for school or participate in the day to day activities of helping out (setting the table, doing dishes, doing homework) - it seems we always had conflict, and the majority of it with my brother was getting him to do something that he didn't want to do, but that needed to be done.

I’ve been thinking about this today while at work shelving books - which hopefully will not result in too many mis-shelved novels.

This answer was too long for the comment thread, which is why it’s a post. )
msagara: (Default)
I’ve said, in my previous post, that ASD children are afraid to make mistakes; they’re afraid to be wrong. They speak of the things that interest them because, in some ways, they feel secure in their knowledge - secure enough to talk. If they become comfortable enough about speaking - even if it is about their current obsession - they then develop confidence in the act of conversing, and since conversation itself is now familiar, it becomes a second comfort-zone from which they can then begin to tackle topics which are not as relevant to them.

I think this is true, on a vastly smaller scale, of anyone. Hold that point for a moment.

Two days ago, I wrote about communication, and this post, although it’s in theory about my son at age seven, ties in with comments made on that post, which was about two adults who were both working toward a goal of mutual understanding - when words alone were not enough of a bridge. The right words for me, in that post, were not the words that worked for my husband. He wanted to understand what I was saying, but the first several times, it didn’t happen.

I felt that I understood my son as well as - or better than - a raft of experts could. I lived with him. I observed him daily. But I’m also myself, and I come at things from the paradigm of my interests. Even the things I observe are coloured by me.

My son had a successful, if trying, grade one year. His teacher was a godsend. More. I can’t emphasize how much of a difference she made to my six year old. She had him for five and a half hours a day for ten months of the year - and everything she did during that time laid foundations for all of his school life thereafter. In my universe, she would be paid more than most CEOs. Sorry, that was a digression.

Grade Two and the educational aid )
msagara: (Default)
I replied, in my previous comment thread, to a comment, and then realized that I had more - I know this will come as a surprise to you all - to say.

One of the hallmarks of an ASD child and his general speech is that ASD children can talk non-stop for hours about the topics which interest them. Or obsess them. From an outsider's perspective, it's often hard to separate the two.

They frequently cannot talk about anything else. When my oldest was in elementary school, I could ask him about his school day, but by the time he crossed the threshold and entered the house, the last thing he wanted to talk about was school. At all. I therefore got a blank stare, when he was younger, or "it was fine" when he was older. That was the extent of the information I was given. For this reason, among others, I was in steady contact with his teachers in the early years.

My oldest was that variety of Aspergers which is precociously verbal. He taught himself to read in order to play The Incredible Machine and Diablo. He couldn't stand to wait for us to read things to him, in the first case (all of the level goals were of course in words), or wait for me to tell him what items the monsters had dropped, in the second.

He could talk about Diablo or the incredible machine for days. So I played the Incredible Machine and Diablo. We played Diablo together on the home network. I played video games before he was born, and after, so we had an interest in common.

The interest in common was very helpful in turning the exposition or monologue into a dialogue, because he wanted to talk about the things that interested him.

To a lesser extent, all children are like this. They want to be heard. ASD, non-ASD, they want to be heard. ASD children are developmentally much younger than normative children, and their social skills are therefore several years behind the curve. When other children are engaging in conversation, the ASD child will be engaging in monologue, because he is arrested at the 'want to be heard' level for far longer than the other children.

I was asked, by the parent of a five year old ASD boy, what I'd done to cause my nine year old son to converse. The prevailing thought is that it is neither healthy nor normal to allow an ASD child to monologue, and if the child is doing this, he must be stopped.

I'm afraid I disagree with this.

I'm afraid I disagree with this. )
msagara: (Default)
[personal profile] reneekytokorpi's comment in a previous thread made me think. In particular:
This is so helpful, and I'm very grateful that you're sharing. While I'm not familiar with Asperger's or Autism, my family struggles with my brother's Kleinfelter's and your insights are helping me explain things in new ways. They're not related disorders, but the coping skills and ways you approached things give us fresh things to try to clear up confusion. Thank you!

Coupled with my oldest son's eighteenth birthday, made me thoughtful.

A disclaimer, which is not ritual, and some thoughts about compromise & consistency )

I'm sorry about the constant interruptions, here. I have a whole new set of page proofs (but they are small, compared to the beginning of the month's novel's worth), but I am halfway through the exit interview of grade one, and looking toward grade two.
msagara: (Default)
Towards the end of the grade one year, I was allowed to accompany the class on a field trip as a volunteer. I say allowed because in this case, it's the correct word. My son's teacher knew two things about my son: He was extremely 'challenging', and I understood him well. My understanding of my son, however, was a product of my home environment. Her classroom was obviously not our home; it was her space. She needed to be in charge of it, and she needed to handle my son in a way that allowed him to be integrated into the class's activities as much as he possibly could.

My first field trip with the grade one class )

ETA: I think one of the things that made dealing with the teachers, the classmates and the other parents simpler was the constant evaluation of what I would feel like if I were the parents of other children affected by my son, because if I were those parents, I wouldn't know him, and possibly wouldn't care.
msagara: (Default)
In the comment thread of the previous post, [ profile] aanna_t asked:

When my kids were very little, I often had to ask them to "use their words" rather than just glowering. That really clicks with what you explain about your son.

To take that one step farther, might that phrase be a helpful tool with ASD, too? I teach one ASD student, and my best friend's son also has Asperger's. They seem frustrated so often... I wonder if this is one reason why.

How would your son react if asked to say what he is thinking? Do you think it would be helpful?

This is an interesting question. using your words )
msagara: (Default)
I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: theory of mind is a phrase that's used to refer to the development of the knowledge that what you, as an individual, know is not known to everyone else. Up until the time one develops theory of mind, lying is impossible -- a lie relies on the fact that what you know is not the same as what other people around you know.

Most children reach this stage early -- and at three years of age, they can, in fact, lie. It's a natural progression, which parents will then spend time trying to curb, and it's positive precisely because it indicates developmental growth. It is, however, hard to appreciate this in a cheerful way when your own child is lying to you, but it's the silver lining on the cloud.
the first glimmering of theory of mind )
msagara: (Default)
I've been absent for far longer than I intended, but while I was absent I made a little list of things that I wanted to write about, a continuation of the small posts about life with my ASD son.

I had been writing my way up to -- and through -- grade one, and I'll continue from there, although if anyone has any questions they want to ask, I'll also happily answer them if I can. I do want to make clear, though, that this is my perspective, my memories, and the things that I found either helpful or instructive; my son's memories of grade one are actually pretty dim at this point. He remembers Jane Fletcher, and he remembers his grade one teacher, but he doesn't remember very much with any specificity. So this is largely one parent's perspective. I know that ASD children frequently have many traits in common -- but those traits meld with personality, so some of the things that worked for us won't necessarily work for other ASD children.

With that caveat, I want to talk a little about Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Or the Sorcerer's Stone, if you grew up reading the US version.
Our attempt to read Harry Potter )
ETA: for some reason my LJ defaults were set to screen anonymous comments - a setting I've never previously used. So I've fixed that.
msagara: (Default)
The store is moved, and two thirds of it is on the shelves; the computer that died (which was ancient) has been replaced with a computer that's less ancient, and it's now sitting on the new countertop in said store; I've finished contract negotiations for something upcoming in future (about which I'll speak more when things are completely firm), and I've been working at catching up on the writing I lost to the move and the convention.

I still have outstanding reading (not books, not reviews, but pre-pubbed things I really want to read), which I hope to catch up on in the week to follow.

Because it's heading into that time of year, I want to talk about Santa Claus in our ASD household.
Why there is no Santa Claus in our house )
msagara: (Default)
One of the phrases I've heard from time to time is: "That's not normal." It's said in various degrees of anger, confusion or even fear.

I understand the fear, especially when it comes from parents (being one), but it's also a phrase that we took care not to use in our house, because for an ASD child, it has no meaning. 'Normal' covers such a wide range of behaviour, it can't be easily grasped and pointed at, and 'Normal' varies widely because of things like age; what's normal for a toddler is not normal for an older child or an adult. It also varies widely by cultural context.
A bit about normal and peer pressure )
ETA the paragraph I clipped by accident.
msagara: (Default)
Having described the various problems facing a Teacher who is attempting to integrate my son into her classroom -- and given his particular stim behaviour, I think it was actually harder than it could have been with slightly less disruptive ASD behaviours -- I want to now say that I think the flat-out most important thing that she did in the classroom was simply this:

She accepted my son, in his entirety, as who he was. She didn't condescend to him, and she didn't spend most of her time berating him; she didn't complain about him. She accepted that my son was simply…my son.
Grade one, and acceptance )
msagara: (Default)
Having previously discussed the principal, I want to make one thing absolutely clear, because it occurred to me that I possibly hadn't. I do apologize for the less than stellar outline/organization of these posts -- but I tend to post things as they occur to me, even when I'm working on the middle of the next post (a continuation of grade one).

Being the principal that she was is not for the faint of heart. It is not for the delicate, the emotional, the entitled or the timid. Especially not for the timid. To be the principal that Jane Fletcher was requires a focus, a will, a determined affection and respect for the children of the school and an ability to take a crapload of heat.

Because there will be heat.
Read more... )
msagara: (Default)
Let me take a minute to describe the composition of my son's class at the start of the grade one year: there were sixteen boys and seven girls. Most of the girls who had started school in my son's year had been sent into the French Immersion stream; most of the boys had not. So there was some imbalance. (My son's grade two teacher was horrified by this imbalance, but I'm getting ahead of myself).
Grade One continued )


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Michelle Sagara

April 2015



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