Monday, May 23, 2011

The World's Most Sensitive Pallet

Jack went to the doctor today. He's 5'2" and weighs 91 pounds. That's a pound less than he weighed last month. Boy is a stick!

After his appointment, we decided to have lunch out as a family, a rare treat on our budget! I still had a gift card we got for Christmas from Lucille's Smokehouse Barbecue, one of my favorite places. Yum!

Unfortunately, when we ate there on Thanksgiving (which was wonderful! Good food and no cleanup!), he'd had chicken fingers which were kind of bland. Tasteless actually. Somebody forgot to salt them. As a result, he thinks Lucille's is the worst place in the world and never wants to eat there again. (Boy can hold a grudge!)

We coerced him into going there anyway since I had a gift card, but the whining and complaining was never-ending! I think he was enjoying driving me crazy.

He eats very little meat (no BBQ for Jack), so we ordered him some penne pasta with alfredo sauce. I specified that there should be no Parmesan cheese or garnish of any kind. Not even a sprinkle of parsley. When it came, he took one bite and said it tasted "weird." He did eat the carrots and ranch dressing I ordered him as a side, and oh yeah, he ate a biscuit, but that was it. And the whining!!! Did I mention the whining?

Next time we'll leave him at home. He's such a picky eater! When we eat out, he'll only eat pasta with red sauce (smooth only, no chunks!), plain white rice, grilled cheese, pizza (cheese or pepperoni only), plain quesadilla (cheese only!!!) or pancakes. It's really hard to take him anywhere or even to feed him at home.

All his life I've been told I should just "make him eat" what we're eating. I'm told "he'd starve to death at my house," and he probably would. They just don't understand that's the way his brain works.

Do you have a child who's hard to feed? How do you get your child to try new things? (Mine refuses to open his mouth and taste, as if I'd poison my only child!)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Civil War Experience

Sorry I haven't been here in a while. We've been busy with end of the school year activities. So much to do and only two more weeks to do it in!

Yesterday we went on a field trip with Jack's 5th grade class. It was a Civil War Experience at a regional park in our area. I loved it and found it really interesting (I'm a little bit of a history buff). He, of course, was bored. Too bad Mario wasn't involved in the Civil War or he would have been fascinated!

When we got there we were greeted by volunteers in Civil War garb giving us instructions. We went from station to station learning about medical practices of the era, California soldiers who fought in the war, cavalry and sharpshooters, cannons, what the soldiers ate and what people wore. There was a lot of walking involved between stations, but we were fortunate that the weather was cool and sunny, and there was a lot of shade available.

Jack got tired of walking from station to station. When he started in with, "When are we going home? I'm bored!" I had to instate the "no whining" rule. Too much walking for him. Too much standing at each station. He was afraid to sit in the grass, because there might be bugs. One of his buddies who has a bug obsession, actually found a big beetle and was thrilled with it. Jack, of course, was horrified and creeped out!

I learned a long time ago that this is the way it goes on a field trip with Jack. He's rarely interested in what anyone else is interested in. He doesn't see the value in talking about things or people who existed a long time ago. In his mind, it's all just a big waste of time and he'd rather be playing on the computer. I know this is partly just a kid thing, but I look at the other children engaged and asking questions, and sometimes wish he could be a little more like them. But then he wouldn't be the special, wonderful boy he is.

He is who he is. He has his gifts and talents--some of which are extraordinary!--as well as his challenges. But at the end of the day, we love him just the way he is.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Crime and Punishment: Part 1

When Jack was in kindergarten his teacher used a form of discipline known as the "red and green cards." At the end of every day that a child was "good" and behaved well in class, the teacher handed him a green card  as he filed out of the classroom. If he was not good, he got a red card. When a child had accumulated 20 green cards, he or she could trade them in for a toy from the treasure chest.

I don't recall Jack getting a red card in kindergarten. He almost always got a green card, but there was a time or two that he didn't receive a card at all. Usually it would be for not being a good listener or for compulsively mimicking his best little buddy. This is an except from a message I sent to his kindergarten teacher at the time:

I'm really concerned about this obsession Jack has with copying or mimicking. When I'm in the classroom, I notice that he looks at C rather than at whoever is speaking and does whatever C does. When we were coming into school today, C was carrying his Weds. Envelope in his hand, since it doesn't fit in his backpack. Jack immediately had to unzip his backpack and take out his Weds. Envelope, too. Yesterday at the park, we almost had to go home because he was refusing to wear his helmet on his scooter, because C wasn't wearing his helmet (his mom forgot to bring it). 

Looking back I realize that his copying compulsion was a social coping tactic. Not having good social skills himself (we didn't yet know he had autism), he thought he needed to do everything his buddy did.

The couple of times he didn't receive a green card, he was devastated and would sob uncontrollably. Charlie and I both felt the upset he felt over not getting the green card was punishment enough. We would always tell him, "Tomorrow is a new day. You can do better and get a green card tomorrow."

When he entered first grade, the system changed slightly. There was a chart on the wall of the classroom with every child's name and a slot which contained three colored cards: green, yellow and red. Everyone started the day with a green card. If the teacher felt they were misbehaving or not working as they should, a child would be instructed to "go change your card to yellow." They could at some point be changed back to green, but if the behavior got worse, they would have to change the card to red.

One day I had business in his classroom. As I entered the back of the room, three children ran up excitedly to me and reported, "Mrs. K, Jack got a red card!" My heart sank. Even more so when later that evening, my husband said, "Jack, I hear you got a red card today," and Jack's response was to hang his head and whisper, "I hope you still love me." Breaks my heart even now.

Our sweet, bright boy was having difficulties at school. We didn't understand it. We knew there was something not right here, but it would be almost another three years before we would get a diagnosis.