Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Surprise: Making Christmas Ornaments

We began the Sunday Surprise program last weekend to try to help get Kai more accustomed to unplanned activities so that he will eventually be better able to tolerate unexpected events. We thought long and hard about what our second Sunday Surprise would be, and it wasn't until Saturday afternoon that we decided.

My wife was in a craft store and saw a demonstration of people decorating Christmas ornaments and thought that would be a fun family activity. So she bought all the stuff we would need: several clear plastic ornament balls, glue, various colors of paint, glitter glue, and sparkles/glitter.

The basic idea is that you take the clear ornament balls and put glue inside of them...

Then you spread the glue around by shaking the ornament...

You then put sprinkles or glitter inside the ball and continue shaking to spread it all around. Alternatively, instead of glue, you can put paint inside the ball and shake that up. You can also use glitter glue. If you'd like, you can decorate the outside of the ornament ball with either stickers or a marker.

I used mostly paint inside my ornaments while my wife made several nice ones using glue and various aprinkles/glitter inside.

Kai put green paint inside his ornaments and then decorated the outside of them with a marker.

Yes, you see correctly - he made biohazard bombs. After all, nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a biohazard bomb.

I think he enjoyed the activity, but after making just two of those, he didn't want to do any more. So, my wife and I made the rest of the ornaments.

Ah well, it was probably better that way. After all, how many biohazard bombs can you put on one Christmas tree?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Kai's Second Overnight Camp

Kai had his second overnight trip to a YMCA camp in southern Wisconsin last week. The outing is an annual event organized by his school, and all staff attend along with the students.

Last year's trip was his first overnight stay away from relatives. He had a great deal of anxiety ahead of the trip though it helped that my wife took him up to the camp a few weeks beforehand so he could see the place. He ended up doing fine, and seemed to even mostly enjoy the experience. He participated in all of the activities, including the high ropes course. We were told by staff that Kai climbed to the top and waited 25 minutes before finally walking across with the encouragement of the staff and fellow students. The following photo taken by a staff member gives you an idea of how high that ropes course is.

This year Kai was again anxious leading up to the trip, though not quite as much as last year. With Kai, he often seems to forget that his previous experience went fine. This time we did not take him up to preview the camp as he had already been there before, but we did put up photos of it in his room.

But as the day of the trip grew closer, his anxiety heightened. We tried to keep reminding him that all went well last year and that he enjoyed it.

This year, he had a cell phone with him, and as the trip started, he used it to text Mom.

He was texting often, keeping in touch with Mom.

Things seemed to be going well.

Until they weren't.

We're still not sure what exactly happened, though we heard that there was a change in schedule due to anticipated bad weather on the following day. And we know how Kai doesn't deal well with unexpected events. All we knew for sure was that Kai was upset.

We hoped that he wouldn't call and ask us to pick him up and take him home. Not that we would have done so.

We were relieved when we later got another message from him.

Apparently he had settled down and participated in all of the activities.

We later heard from his teacher that he did everything, including the high ropes course. And this year, he walked right across without hesitation.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sunday Surprise

Unexpected events is one of Kai's primary challenges. He likes it when things go according to plan and struggles when things do not, as is often the case in life.

At school, he still gets upset when there is a fire drill or when special events cause things to deviate from the normal routine. At home, he likes to plan out and write down his daily schedule.

A social worker that we have been seeing suggested that we could try to address this by setting up fun, unexpected events on weekends to have Kai realize that unexpected events do not necessarily lead to unpleasant outcomes, and have him practice dealing with these situations. The idea is that my wife and I would plan something fun - it could be an activity, a new meal, really anything - but we would not tell Kai too far ahead of time so that it would be a surprise for him.

Today we had our first Sunday Surprise.

I did tell Kai yesterday that we would start these Sunday Surprises and explained what we were hoping to accomplish.

He was not happy about it.

He wanted to know what the surprise would be. He said he wanted to plan for it and put it in his schedule. I explained again that we wouldn't tell him because we wanted him to get used to dealing with unexpected events.

Today, he got more anxious. I did tell him in the morning that the Surprise would be an activity we would do as a family and gave him a heads up on the time. We would leave the house at 10:30. But he was not happy that he did not have more information about where we would go or what we would do. He started yelling that he had enough stress in his life and this was adding to it.

Finally, when it was time to leave, we told him where we were headed. We would go to nearby Evanston, home of Northwestern University, and walk around the lakefront and look for Pokémon. After that, we would go to a great burger joint where they had special french fries and milk shakes.

He finally seemed somewhat happy.

It was a beautiful fall day with unseasonably warm temperatures. It was a perfect day to get out and walk around.

The lakefront by the Northwestern campus was really beautiful. There is a nice big park and all along the rocky shore, students have created graffiti art.

My wife had never been to this part of Evanston before and enjoyed seeing the Northwestern campus. Kai just enjoyed playing Pokémon Go.

Afterward we went to another part of town to have lunch at Edzo's. We each had their famous milkshakes - Kai had Oreo, my wife had coffee, while I had hot fudge. Kai had already eaten the cherry and whipped cream on top by the time I snapped this photo.

Kai also had a Chicago-style hot dog which he enjoyed. My wife and I had burgers which we both loved. We also had the garlic fries - very garlic-y which was a good thing if you like garlic.

As we were leaving I asked Kai how he liked the first Sunday Surprise. He said it was better than he thought it would be. And he was happy because he caught a lot of Pokémon.

It will be interesting to see if this type of experience every week helps him deal with other unplanned events. But it can't hurt to practice it. And so far we are off to a good start.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Trick or Treat with a Friend

Next to the really big worries we have (like will Kai ever be able to get a job and live independently), one of our persistent concerns is whether Kai will be able to have a good friend as he gets older.

He has known a few kids over the years that he liked and enjoyed playing with, but his first year of middle school was a rough time. He didn't bond with any of his classmates and often said that no one liked him. While we don't always take what he says as the literal truth, in this case I suspect that what he said was largely true. Between easily getting dysregulated, inappropriately expressing his frustrations, and not taking the perspective of others, it wouldn't be surprising if it wasn't easy for the other kids to warm up to Kai.

So it was welcome news this fall when he found out that a former classmate from elementary school three years ago was going to join Kai's class. E and Kai had a great relationship when Kai was in 4th grade. They hung out together at lunch and during breaks, and we even had E over to our house for a few successful playdates. And now in middle school, it seems like they were able to renew their friendship.

Last week, though, they hit a bump in the road. Kai found out that E will be transitioning to his home school. At Kai's therapeautic school, many kids come and go, staying long enough to work on their behavioral or social issues, then transitioning to their home school when ready. For six years now, Kai seems to be the only kid who hasn't been able to transition. When Kai found out that E was transitioning, I think he was crushed. But when Kai feels this way, he doesn't allow himself to feel sad. He reacts angrily.

He told E that he wasn't his friend anymore, and E responded in kind. Kai came home from school upset that E told him that he wouldn't be Kai's friend, but we got the full story from staff later.

The school staff helped to mend the relationship just in time for the boys to keep a planned playdate for Halloween. They would go trick-or-treating together in our neighborhood.

My wife picked them up at school. E did not have a Halloween costume so my wife let him wear the old Mustard costume that Kai wore about three years ago while she dressed as Ketchup. Kai was in his zombie costume.

My wife went with them at the very beginning, snapping the following photo at the famous house down our block that does Halloween up big time.

The residents here always put up elaborate decorations, many that move and make scary sounds, and they give out quarter gallon size ziplock bags full of candy including full-size bars. Plus they serve hot chocolate for the kids, wine for grownups, and doggie treats for the furry members of the family.

After the stop at this house, my wife returned home with the dog she was watching. The two boys went around on their own. 12 year olds don't usually go trick-or-treating with their parents, but this was the first time we've let Kai go without our presence and I was a bit nervous about how he would do.

But apparently all went well.

By the time I got home from work, the boys were exhausted from walking around for most of the past three hours. They had collected a huge bag of candy each. I'm sure the bags had gotten heavy by the time they were done. Kai had gotten some good exercise in, ha!

We had dinner together and then Kai and I drove E home. E was very nice. He spoke nicely with us, answering questions and telling us about how things went. He gave us more information than we usually get from Kai. He also politely thanked us.

And so Halloween was a nice success this year.

Childhood friendships oftentimes are not long lasting. And with E getting set to leave Kai's school in the coming months, this one likely won't last all that much longer. But these friendships can serve as a learning experience, and help teach a child the social interactions that will be necessary to maintain longer-term friendships when they get older.

For us, though, it serves another purpose. Maybe, just maybe, if the right person comes along, Kai can find a good friend.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...