Saturday, March 31, 2012


When Kai was younger, he was afraid of dogs. Particularly, Emi, my sister’s dog.

When Kai met Emi the first time, she was a very active puppy. And he was four years old and much smaller than he is now.

Emi is a border collie, and border collies love to run and chase things that run. Like little boys who are afraid of dogs. So it wasn’t a great combination.

Kai would be afraid of the dog and try to run away, which would only prompt Emi to bark and chase after him, which, in turn, only made Kai more afraid.

But a lot has changed since those first visits.

Kai is older. He is not afraid of everything as he used to be, even active dogs.

This week, my sister and brother-in-law came to visit us. And they brought Emi with them.

Kai loved playing fetch or catch with Emi.

And this boy, who I often can barely get to take a short walk with me, loved going on long walks with Emi, insisting on holding her leash (along with Mom).

Kai engaged with Emi more than he does with other children. So she was as good of a play partner for Kai as he’s ever had. In that way, she was very therapeutic for him.

And that is huge.

But what I loved most was that when he was with her, he was just a kid like any other kid.

And that was really, really nice.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Crayons and Go Karts

Kai is on Spring Break so we took a few days to visit grandparents.

We always have a nice time visiting Bubbe and Papa. Bubbe always has a special activity for Kai. This time was no exception.

With Kai’s latest obsession of crayons, Bubbe got him the Crayola Crayon Maker. This device takes old crayons, melts them, and molds them into new crayons. Kai was really intrigued watching the crayons melt and blend together into new color combinations.

Kai also shared a special time with his grandfather. Papa took Kai out on a go kart for the very first time. Kai picked out the #34 Pepsi car and they were off and racing.

Kai clutched onto Papa’s arm the whole time, and said afterward that he was “a little scared,” but that it was a lot of fun. The picture below shows them just after they lapped Mom.

For a few days, it was just a boy and his grandparents having a great time. We had no worries of school incidents or medications or anything else. How awesome is that?!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Boy, Girls, and Young Love

My son is only eight years old, but is already learning that it is not easy when you like a girl.

Read about Kai’s history with the opposite sex in today’s Patch by clicking here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

“Exciting News”

My son came home from school on Friday and said that he had “exciting news” for us. He told us that he wanted us to open his backpack.

It was a sure sign that he had had a good day at school. Usually he has a look of dread when Mom asks if he had a good day and asks to see his point sheet.

And sure enough, when we checked his point sheet this time, he had earned a 100 for the day.

We whooped it up, and Kai had a big smile on his face.

It was nice to see that he had a good day at school, and even nicer that he was so proud and happy about it.

It sure beats hearing that he peed on the floor. And it was a great way to kick off Spring Break.

Friday, March 23, 2012

On the Floor!?!

It has generally been a good week for our son at school. He has been safe most days. I’d say that three of the four days so far have been pretty good.

But then there’s the one not-so-good day.

The whole day was not bad. It was just one thing that sent things hurling down the wrong path.

My son’s class was watching a video. And he had to go to the bathroom.

At home, he is used to our pausing the movie when he needs to go. But I certainly understand that they can’t do the same at school. A whole class can’t be put on hold just for one child.

But my son doesn’t understand.

And he doesn’t like it.

And when he doesn’t like something, he gets angry.

And when he gets angry, he does things he really shouldn’t.

Like, in this case, pee on the bathroom floor instead of in the toilet.


How does he even get an idea to do something like that?

He has done the same thing at home a few times. And when we find out, we make him clean it up and he loses privileges.

The first couple of times he did it, I got really mad. But I wondered later whether all that did was show him that this was a good way to get Dad to feel as angry as he was.

So, since then, I’ve tried to stay calm, while having him clean up his mess.

It’s still frustrating though. And I wish I knew what to do about it.

Maybe the school will have an idea.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Identifying Crayons

I was down and out with the stomach flu yesterday; it was one of the worst I can recall, though it probably always seems “worst” whenever it is happening.

I did get out of bed to see Kai when he came home from school. He had not snorted in nine of his ten periods so he earned a bunch more crayons. At this rate, he will finish collecting the entire box of 120 by Friday.

When I give Kai the crayons he has earned, I have him guess to see if can tell what color it is. I cover most of the crayon, leaving only the tip and the bottom part of the label exposed. Remarkably, he is correctly guessing about 75% of the colors.

Yesterday, he identified such varied choices as Sea Green, Cadet Blue, Timberwolf, and Plum.

His memory is amazing, really.

At least when it comes to things like crayon colors.

I just wish that he would remember to wash his hands when he goes to the bathroom.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to Overcome Crayon Envy

When I was a kid, there was one thing that distinguished the haves from the have-nots.

A box of 64 Crayola Crayons…

So begins this week’s column in the Patch, where I reminisce about the significance of crayon boxes in my youth, and tell about how Kai’s latest obsession is affecting us.

Click here to read the whole story.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

We live in the suburbs of the city that colors its river green for St. Patrick’s Day, so of course we had to celebrate it a little bit.

On Friday afternoon, Kai helped Mom make green muffins.

They tasted yummy!

On Saturday, the temperatures were predicted to be in the 80s, which is crazy warm for this time of year. Kai declared that he wanted to go to the beach.

It sounded like a good idea, but when we got there, we discovered that the temperature along Lake Michigan was much lower than by our house, and the strong winds made it seem even colder.

We shivered through a picnic lunch, and came home before our skin turned green.

We later went to a park where Kai did one of his favorite things – rolling down the hill.

And for our movie night dinner, we had corn beef and cabbage instead of the usual pizza, and homemade green vegetable juice.

Hope you all had a nice weekend as well.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Pup and the Kid

Last weekend, we got together with relatives from out of town that we hadn’t seen in quite awhile. They brought along their puppy, Winston.

Winston is only eight-months old. But you couldn’t tell by looking at him. He looks pretty big, especially with all of his fluffy hair. Though he actually is about the same weight as Kai.

He and Kai share other qualities. They are both affectionate and playful.

Puppies and kids – two of a kind.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

“Super Day”

The emails we get from Kai’s school are usually for the purpose of letting us know about something bad that happened. It is from these emails that we often get the details of why his shirt was torn up, or what precipitated an unsafe incident.

So it was nice to get an email yesterday that gave us good news.

His therapist at school wrote just to tell us that Kai “had a super day.” And when my wife went to pick him up at school, another staff member told her that Kai was very happy all day because it was Pi Day.

His point sheet from school reflected the good day. He had earned a 98 for the day, a score not often seen in recent months.

And so, our day that started off so well in the morning turned out to be a “super day” indeed.

I can’t say for sure that his strong performance was because it was Pi Day. I am hoping that this is the start of a new trend. But I wish that every day were Pi Day.

In the meantime, I remain cautious.

Be hopeful but vigilant. And beware of the Ides of March.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Reason to Celebrate, and Not Just for Pi Day

As the geekier among you know, as well as those who read my Patch article yesterday, today is Pi Day. (3-14, get it?)

As is custom at our house, after he gets dressed in the morning, Kai goes down to the kitchen and watches the BrainPOP movie of the day on the iPad. Today’s movie was about pi.

After he watched it, my wife told him about Daniel Tammet, a man on the autism spectrum who once memorized and recited pi to over 22,000 digits. They found a video of Tammet performing the amazing feat. The clip below is a short version:

For those interested, you can learn more about Tammet in the five-part video which begins with part 1 here:

Kai watched the short video and was fascinated.

I don’t know if he will try to memorize pi to hundreds of digits (or more). Frankly, I’d rather he do something else with his mind and time. But, I would not put it past him.

After he saw that video, he went on to watch some of the other videos about pi that he loves, including some with The Pi Song.

But our real cause for celebration came later, as he was preparing to go to school.

For the first time, he tied his shoelaces all by himself!

It was a day that I was not sure would ever happen. And it is thrilling to know that he again accomplished something that seemed so difficult for him at one time.

But, I can’t take credit for it.

My wife asked Kai’s swim instructor extraordinaire, James, to teach Kai how to tie his laces. Yes, that is the same person who taught Kai how to ride a bike.

James worked with Kai on tying his shoes during his regular weekly sessions. Through years of teaching other kids, he had come up with a technique that helps kids learn faster.

But the real progress came when my wife video-recorded his lesson with Kai so that we could replicate it at home.

My wife and I took turns working with Kai at home, though she had more patience than I.

And today, we saw the culmination of our efforts.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been giving a lot of thought as to how self-sufficient Kai can be when he is grown up. Today, we have a bit more hope.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Father Cautions Unsupervised Internet Usage

“I know most of you parents are aware of the risks of letting your child surf the Internet unsupervised. We certainly were.

“Yet, we allowed it. Let our experience be a warning for you all.”

So begins this week’s column in the Patch. And there is a particular reason why I chose to run it this week. Click here to read the whole thing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Colorful Weekend

Kai’s latest obsession is crayons.

No, he is not going crazy using crayons to draw things. Rather, he is obsessed with learning all about them. Specifically, he is interested in the history of Crayola crayons.

It all started over the weekend when he discovered a Wikipedia entry that listed all of the Crayola crayon colors. The website shows the 133 standard Crayola crayon colors, the RGB color code for each, and the year that the color was first issued.

My wife was amazed that this information was on Wikipedia and wondered if there was anyone besides our son who cared about such things. I don’t know if there is, but Kai was thrilled to find the information.

He loves knowing the order of things – the order the 50 states entered the U.S., and the year that each Ugly Doll came out are two previous examples – and finding out that this information exists for crayons was heaven for him.

He had me print out the listing that shows the pack size and year that each color was first issued in, and he is now on his way to becoming an expert on which were the original colors that came out in 1903, and which were added to the 8, 16, 24, 48, 64, 96, and 120 packs.

He wanted to take the list to school this morning, but we figured that it would just distract him from doing his schoolwork. Though, knowing him, he will be talking about colors all day and his teachers will be wondering what he is talking about.

One nice thing, though, is that that I found a website that lets you enter in any RGB code and it will display the color on the screen. So, Kai got a fun learning experience as he entered various Crayola crayon RGB codes, and then played around with different settings and seeing how it changed the color.

So, as obsessions go, I guess this one is not too bad. Maybe one day he will be able to identify paint colors for us.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pickles and Ice Cream

The power of pickles lasted for more than two weeks.

We had told Kai that if he was safe at school all week, we would go to Fuddruckers, where he loves the choose-your-own fixins bar that lets him have as many pickles as he wants instead of the usual skimpy one or two that come with burgers at most places.

And so, for two weekends now, we had gone there to eat as Kai had his longest consecutive streak of safe days at school in months.

But that came to an end on Wednesday.

As is often the case, it was a change in schedule that led to an unsafe incident.

The school had an Ice Cream Social to raise money for a school in Thailand where a former staff member of Kai’s school is now teaching. The event was held at lunchtime, and students could buy ice cream and add on toppings. Parents were invited, though we could not make it this time.

But we heard what happened.

Kai first got upset when he had to wait his turn to get ice cream. Waiting is a long-standing problem. And though he calmed down after that, he later got even more upset.

Apparently, the event was a success. Students and parents were enjoying their ice cream and socializing so much that the staff decided to cancel Kai’s PE class so that the fun would continue.

And that change in schedule set him off even worse than before.

He did not like that there was no PE. What was fun for most of the kids was not fun for him. And when he got mad, as has happened before, he bit his shirt and tore it up.

The next day, his schedule returned to normal. He had PE class.

But he got upset again, this time when no one passed him the ball during a volleyball exercise.

He again came home without his shirt. Two shirts destroyed in two days.

So, we will not be going to Fuddruckers this weekend. The power of pickles goes only so far.

And instead of going out to eat this weekend, we will go shopping for cheap shirts.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Music Machine

When people meet us for the first time, they often ask what Kai likes to play. Sometimes, the question is asked in the context of a potential play date between Kai and another child.

I think they are thinking that we would say something like video games, or cars, or sports, or other things that most boys like to play with.

Kai really doesn’t like any of that. And, I always have a hard time answering the question.

The things he does when he plays are hard to describe, and, shall we say, unusual. And that is because he often makes up his own play from various thoughts he has in his head.

A good example of this happened just the other day. He had the idea to create a “music machine” and then proceeded to make it by lining up various toy musical instruments. Once the "machine" was made, he rolled things like marbles and drum sticks along the instruments to make music sounds.

Kai has a very active imagination. His mind is constantly thinking of new things. We try to practice the Floortime model of play-therapy that involves following the child’s lead, but it is sometimes it is hard for me to keep up with Kai as I am not nearly as creative as he is.

It also makes it hard to answer the question “What does your son like to play?” How do you succinctly describe this to another parent? Even if you could describe it, it is not the kind of thing that is easy to work into a play date with another child.

But Kai is very happy when he is playing like this. And I am happy to see how imaginative he is.

And maybe that is all that really matters.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Green Eggs and Ham

Every morning, when the taxi comes to take my son to school, Kai climbs in without saying a word to the two girls who are already onboard.

They are very friendly girls. Usually, they are chatting away with each other, and they sometimes will say something to me. But Kai always ignores them. And that is not unusual; he rarely initiates conversation with any child.

Earlier this week, I opened the door of the taxi and the two girls were talking about what happened at school last week. One of the girls had been away so the other was filling her in on what she missed.

Suddenly, Kai burst into the conversation. He told the girl who had been away that she missed Green Eggs and Ham. I had no idea what he was talking about.

The first girl said something about the book, but Kai jumped in again to say that he wasn’t talking about the book. Rather, he explained, a member of the staff had made green eggs and ham for lunch.

I was startled that he spoke to the girls.

But then again, you don’t get green eggs and ham every day.

When I came in the house and told my wife about it, she said that Kai had asked her to make green eggs and ham. So he was thinking about it a lot.

That evening, Kai couldn’t wait to help make it.

He helped scramble the eggs.

And season the eggs.

And he even enjoyed eating it.

I do so like green eggs and ham!

Yes, it was something to talk about.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The 3 AM Yoga Mat Incident

“I had it good.

“My son was sleeping through the night on a regular basis. That meant that I was getting a full night’s sleep every night for the first time since I became a dad. It felt wonderful to wake up feeling refreshed every morning.

"And then we changed Kai’s medication. He has not slept through the night since…”

This week’s column in the Patch describes the strange things that can happen in the middle of the night when your son cannot sleep.

Click here to read the whole story.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Preview of Kai’s Wedding?

In addition to books and dvds, on our weekly trips to the public library, Kai and I pick out a Wii game. This week’s selection was Hasbro Family Game Night 3, a collection of classic board games that have been turned into Wii games.

The set includes Mouse Trap, Twister, Yahtzee Hands Down, and Clue. We haven’t played all them yet – and some were disappointing – but we had fun was playing The Game of Life.

Although The Game of Life has been around forever, I had never played it before this weekend. A few months ago, one of Kai’s therapists had suggested that the board game might be a fun way to teach him about life events. So we looked forward to trying the Wii version.

For anyone else who is not familiar, at the beginning of the game, each player decides whether or not to go to college, and then chooses a job and embarks on life. As the game plays out, players may get married, have kids, earn money, lose money, and have a variety of life experiences as they head toward retirement.

Kai loved keeping track of the money, and was happy when he got big sums and angry when he lost money. And he was thrilled when he was the winner at the end.

Now we do realize that this game is not a serious way to teach about life events. (Ha, I’d like to see The Game of Life: Autism Style for that, but that is for another post.) But it was fun to play.

My wife and I’s favorite part was when Kai got married. His wife actually bore a strong resemblance to my wife, which pleased her. (I, on the other hand, took pleasure when my wife was disappointed with the choice of her husband in the game, who did not look anything like me.)

It is hard to imagine that Kai will ever grow up. And it is tough to think about whether he will be capable enough by then to live independently and be able to take on the responsibilities of being married and having a family.

But for one afternoon, we had a fun diversion.

Here is a preview of what we hope to see in about twenty years or so – Kai and his new bride dancing at their wedding reception:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Two Tough Hours

I have been trying to keep our New Year resolution to have Kai exercise more. We don’t have time to run very often, but I have been trying to get Kai out at least a couple times per week.

The last time we went, he ran nicely, staying on pace and not complaining one time. So, I was hopeful as we departed to go to the Rec Center yesterday.

He seemed to be in a good mood, not whining about going like he sometimes does. And we even got through having him tie his own shoelaces (with a little help) without too much difficulty.

The Rec Center is only about a mile from our house as the crow flies, but to drive there you have to make two left turns at busy intersections. When a large number of cars are lined up to turn, you may have to wait through a couple of light changes, with a long wait in between each time.

As we were stopped at one light for what seemed forever, Kai’s throat-clearing tic, which has returned in recent weeks, got particularly vociferous. It was a sign that he was feeling anxious.

The short drive to the Rec Center easily took 15 minutes and Kai’s mood had changed dramatically in that time. It took a long time just to get him to walk from the car into the building.

We wanted to start stretching, but he said he had to use the bathroom first. As it was a one-person-at-a-time men’s room, we had to wait for someone to come out before he could go in. And when it was Kai’s turn, he entered and started screaming.

I went in to see what the problem was. He said he hated this bathroom because it was dirty. In actuality, it wasn’t really dirty at all, though it was a bit stinky. He started to pee, but was shaking his you-know-what in anger, spraying his own pee around the edge and outside of the bowl.

Of course, I had him clean it up (though I had to clean it up afterward to get it really clean).

By this time, my hopes of running were dim, but since we were there I still wanted to try.

My wife was calmer than I was and she led us in our stretching. But Kai whined that he did not want to run.

I could see that we were not going to run this day, and told him that we would leave. But I added that he would not be allowed to watch any videos or use the iPad the rest of the day, as he had not given a good effort. He did not like that idea, so he insisted that he would run.

We walked one lap to warm up. But when it was time to start running, he again said that he did not want to.

I threw him his coat and told him that we were leaving. He would not have any video time.

He started yelling that he would run, but we told him that it was too late. He had a chance and did not run. There would be no more chances on this day.

We drove home, arriving about an hour after we had started out, having accomplished nothing but getting everyone upset.

And then it was time to do homework, which he refused to do for quite awhile, even tearing up the paper at one point. Eventually, he did his homework. It took about five minutes to do, just a fraction of the time he spent complaining about it.

It was a draining couple of hours.

And I question whether it is worth trying to do the whole Family Run thing if he hates it so much. On one hand, the confluence of the light signals and stinky bathroom may have just been too much to overcome and we should try again. But I know that he doesn’t really enjoy running, even when I get him to do it.

Perhaps I need to try something else. Or maybe change my approach.

Though the whole thing is tiring to think about right now.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Math and Art

Math remains one of my son’s favorite subjects.

At home, we are having him do some extra math work through IXL, a website that enables kids to practice a wide range of math topics at levels from pre-K through eighth grade.

Lately, Kai’s preferred topic usually involves shapes. First, he was just interested in learning shapes beyond the basic ones he knew years ago. These include things such as knowing the difference between a rectangular pyramid and a triangular prism. After that, I showed him how to calculate the area of rectangles, triangles, parallelograms, and trapezoids. Most recently, we’ve learned about vertices, edges, and faces.

And when I say we, I include myself. The IXL site is great for testing your abilities, but it doesn’t really teach the concept. So, when Kai was interested in knowing about vertices, for example, I found that I had to research the topic myself before I could teach him as I had forgotten what I learned so long ago.

This past weekend, we were invited over to the home of a family we had met recently. My wife and I were able to speak with the other adults when we kept Kai occupied with a pad of paper and a pen. Later on, I saw that he had filled the page with pictures of various shapes, and the formulas for calculating the area of those shapes.

I don’t have a picture of that sheet, but below is a page that Kai doodled at school on his break the other day.

It is interesting to see that Kai’s art abilities have improved. My wife and I could hardly believe that he drew the shapes on his own, but he insisted that he received no help. And these days he is much better able to stay within the lines than before. I’m not sure if that is an indication of improved patience or better fine motor skills.

What is most interesting, though, is what he chose to draw. Even on his free time, the boy just can’t stop thinking of shapes!

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