Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Losing His Level 4 Privileges

Kai’s performance at school recently has been mediocre at best. It is not so bad like in the old days when he had major incidents a few times a week, but we’re not seeing very many high scores on his daily Point Sheet either. The feedback from staff has been that Kai has been excessively silly and hyperactive.

At his therapeutic school, students earn extra privileges as they advance on the Level system. When Kai reached Level 4 last spring, he gained the privilege of moving about the school independently and using the Level 4/5 Lounge. I believe the lounge has special games and activities that students can play during breaks. When we visited the school, we saw Kai’s photo among those on the door of the lounge.

In order to maintain their Level 4 privileges, students must maintain at least an 85% average on their Point Sheet. This week, Kai’s average dropped below that.

The good news is that he seems motivated to get his average back up.

Yesterday, he had his highest score in a long time. Though it didn’t seem so high when my wife pulled the Point Sheet out of his backpack. It said 85%.

Kai immediately protested and said it was a mistake. He said he had a great day. And when my wife added up the scores from each period, she saw that the total was wrong. It should have been 93%.

Kai’s reaction?

“The teacher’s stupid!”

My wife did not agree with that comment but she did email the teacher to let her know to correct the score. Kai will need every point to earn back his privileges.

We shall see if he can raise his score back up over the threshold, and then maintain it. We are wondering whether a change in his medication might be contributing to his behavior, and are contemplating what to do about it.

Well, let’s see what happens the rest of this week.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Missing the Big Event

Kai is not much of a sports fan, certainly not like I was as a kid, but he does look forward to big sporting events.

He has enjoyed watching the Super Bowl the last few years, not so much for the game, but more just the event of the Super Bowl (like a lot of casual fans).

He also wanted to watch the Winter Olympics with us the past two weeks, though much of the time he was working on a Lego model or on his iPad instead of actually watching what was happening on the television.

Yesterday was another big event, the kickoff of the NASCAR season with its most prestigious race, the Daytona 500.

Kai and I have been watching the Daytona 500 together for the past two or three years. I wish he were as interested in watching a Chicago Bears football game together, but I’ll take my father-and-son bonding moments whenever I can get them.

I let him skip out of his usual Sunday afternoon special needs workout group, and we got his math work done in the morning. So we were all set as the race started at 12:30.

Kai has developed a rooting interest in NASCAR. His favorite driver is Jimmie Johnson – I think my son is a bit of a front-runner as Jimmie won the Chase last year. His second choice is anyone other than Brad Keselowski, who is his PE teacher’s favorite.

We watched the race for about an hour when a storm hit Daytona and the race was stopped.

We waited for the race to resume, but after awhile it became evident that it would not be a short delay. We went on to other things.

We made it over to the sledding hill.

With a brief warm-up earlier in the week, some of our snow had melted, and the resumption of the cold weather later in the week put a coating of ice over much of the hill.

It was great conditions for going fast. And with all of the sledding we’ve done this winter, Kai had no trepidations about the speed.

It was a fun time.

When we got back home, the race was still delayed. We told him that at this point, even if the race resumed, it would not end until after his bedtime and that Mom and Dad wanted to watch the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics.

Kai said that his PE teacher would watch the race until the end. Ha, well when he gets to be his PE teacher’s age, he can stay up late, too.

All in all, though, he handled his disappointment about not seeing the race very well.

This morning, the first thing he asked when he woke up was who won the race. He didn’t mind that his driver finished fifth, but he wasn’t happy to hear that his PE teacher’s guy had finished ahead in third place. In the past, some good-natured kidding from his PE teacher caused Kai to become angry. Let’s see if he can manage his frustration at school today as well as he handled his disappointment yesterday.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Drawings His Notes

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how my son has been doing poorly on the quizzes he takes after watching short BrainPop videos. I had him start taking notes in an attempt to improve his scores. But instead of writing down only the most important thoughts, he wrote down nearly everything that was said. And so, it took him 30-40 minutes to watch a 4-minute video.

My blog friend Shiroi commented at the time that Kai would get tired of writing too much and will start learning to shorten it.

Well, that has come to pass.

Though I don’t think it is quite in the way that Shiroi had in mind.

Instead of writing sentences or phrases, Kai has started drawing pictures for his notes.

Here’s one sheet of drawings he made while watching the video on the Civil Rights Movement:

If you look closely at the above, you will see images that reflect segregation, the landmark Brown versus Board of Education ruling by the Supreme Court, the time when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, and the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, among others.

The following is the sheet of drawings he made while watching the video on Galileo Galilei:

I did not watch this video with him so I don’t know what all the drawings are about. And that is where my concern comes in.

It doesn't particularly matter if I don't understand his notes, but I wonder whether Kai will remember what these images represent?

I like that he enjoys drawing these pictures and has much more fun than when he was writing out long sentences.

But I do wonder whether, after time passes, he would remember what each image represents. At some point, I would think that he would need to learn proper note taking.

But I also know that some people are more visual learners. And if this helps Kai stay motivated, then I suppose it is a good thing, for now anyway.

By the way, he got 100% on the quiz on the Civil Rights Movement and 90% on the one on Galileo. So that is good.

Though he only got 60% the following day on a quiz on Abraham Lincoln. So the jury is still out on this.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Absolutely Mad

My son is definitely getting more mature but that doesn’t mean that he still doesn’t get extremely upset at times.

When Kai is in the car, he regularly listens to the Kids Place Live channel on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. One of the regular features on the station is to announce kids’ birthdays.

My wife thought that Kai would get a kick out of hearing his favorite personality on the station, Absolutely Mindy, announce his birthday, and so she completed the online request.

Last week, on the day she had requested, she went to pick up Kai at school and waited with the car radio tuned in to the station. But before Kai came out of the building, Absolutely Mindy’s show started and she read the birthday announcements.

When Kai got to the car, my wife told him that Absolutely Mindy had announced his birthday on the air.

He was not happy. Not at all.

Apparently he was loud and angry the whole drive over to his therapist.


Never mind that it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, really. You just cannot schedule the announcements for a specific time.

I didn’t find out about this whole thing until the next day. And when my wife started telling me about it, Kai was still mad.


He didn’t want to talk about it, but my wife explained the whole thing to me anyway.

I tried to explain to Kai that it wasn’t Mindy’s fault that he missed the announcement, but he would hear nothing of it.

So, at ten years of age, he has matured quite a bit.

But he still has a ways to go on the whole misplaced anger thing.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Birthday Celebration, Part III

This weekend, we had our third and final birthday celebration for Kai, this time to coincide with his actual birthday.

In the morning he received phone calls and voice messages from grandparents who all sang “Happy Birthday” to him.

In the afternoon, at his boxing class, he told the instructor that it was his birthday, and at the end the whole class sang “Happy Birthday” to him.

In the evening, we Skyped with his grandparents in Japan and had a multi-continent singing of “Happy Birthday.”

His grandparents had a good view as he blew out the candles.

And they got to watch as he opened his presents.

Amidst all of the singing and celebration, it has not been forgotten that our boy is now double-digits in age.

He is truly growing up fast, and not just in size. While still child-like in his innocence and enthusiasm, Kia’s maturity is emerging in many ways. He is able to tolerate things better than ever. He seems to be more understanding of things that were beyond his comprehension before.

To a child, birthdays are about cake and candles and presents and having “Happy Birthday” sung to him. But to us parents, it is a marking of a milestone, a measuring of progress, and a reminder that the little boy won’t be little all that much longer.

Happy birthday to you, Kai.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Birthday Celebration, Part II

Our birthday palooza series of celebrations for Kai continued this past weekend.

This time, his grandparents and a cousin came over.

His cousin arrived with a gift for Kai in hand. But his grandparents had Kai’s present delivered to our house earlier, though we hadn’t shown it to him yet. As some of us went to the kitchen, Kai went up to his grandfather who was settling in in the living room. “Papa, did you forget something?” My wife rushed to explain to Kai that his grandparents had, indeed, gotten a gift for him.

And that brought the smile back to Kai’s face.

The only tense moment came when I asked Kai not to use his iPad at dinner. After protesting for a brief moment, he engaged in conversation the rest of the time. He even volunteered to play the piano for his guests without anyone prompting him to, saying that he knew they liked to see him play.

Soon it was time to open presents…

blow out the candles…

and have cake and play.

He received a couple of great Lego sets, and started on one right away.

It was a nice evening. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about it was that there wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy. There were no meltdowns, no stress. Just good times.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Birthday Celebration, Part I

We have been pretty busy here. Not the least of which was due to two birthday celebrations for Kai in the past week and a half.

And it’s not even his birthday yet.

The first celebration was the weekend before last. We had my sister, brother-in-law and father over so it was a perfect time to have our first early birthday celebration.

We had a rib roast for his birthday dinner, but for Kai, the only thing that really mattered is birthday cake and presents.

Here he is blowing out the candles on his cake.

And then it was time to open presents. My sister’s dog wanted to see what Kai got.

It was a balloon game from his grandfather.

Kai was really absorbed in two science experiment kits he got from his aunt and uncle.

Kai wanted to start doing some experiments right away, but we convinced him to play the balloon game with everyone. The object of the game is to take turns pushing the rods in a little at a time until the balloon pops. Kai was nervous in anticipation of the pop.

But when it finally did pop, he laughed along with everyone else.

The next morning, he started on his first experiment.

And every evening for the rest of the week we did science experiments instead of our usual evening game.

And so it was on that first week of celebrating Kai’s birthday. But this year, his birthday celebration will be a nearly month-long event. There will be more to come.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

“Do I Have Autism?”

As the Super Bowl turned into a rout, I lost interest in the game. I got my laptop and began browsing a couple of my favorite blogs.

Kai came over next to me to see what I was looking at. I was on my friend Betsy’s blog and she has a photo in the sidebar of a person’s hand holding the autism puzzle piece.

“Do I have autism?”

The question took me by surprise.

We have a magnet of the autism ribbon on the back of our car. Over the years we have had numerous autism books and publications in the house. My wife and I have had conversations about autism while Kai was sitting at the kitchen table with us. Not once had he ever asked about autism.

I told him that, yes, he does have autism.

“Is it a bad thing?”

Oh boy, is that a loaded question. I know that many grownups get upset about how people answer this question. I was just concerned about saying something that might make Kai feel inferior.

I told him that it wasn’t a matter of it being a good thing or a bad thing; it just is.

The moment I said it, I knew it wasn’t a particularly good answer. It surely wasn’t going to satisfy him.

He asked the question again, but I couldn’t think of a better response. In my head I started cursing the Seattle Seahawks. It’s their fault for putting me in this position.

Kai then mentioned a boy in one of his special needs activities.

“A___ has autism and he can’t talk. He just grunts.”

“But I can talk really good.”

Yes, autism is a wide spectrum, I explained. It affects people differently.

He mentioned another boy.

“C______ sometimes gets too close and violates my personal space. He doesn’t talk either.”

He then had me click on the puzzle piece which took us to the Autism Speaks website. I pointed out the stat that said that autism affects1 in 54 boys.

“That means that if you had 54 boys, I would be the one with autism!” he said enthusiastically.

I was trying to think of what to say, but before I could come out with something Kai said he had to go to the bathroom. When he came back his mind was on something else.

So I totally failed to take advantage of the opportunity to have “the talk” with him.

But it is good to know that he now has an awareness of his autism. It opens up the opportunity to talk to him about it more. Hopefully I will be better prepared to have that conversation the next time.

Right now I kind of feel like Peyton Manning. I didn't take advantage of my big moment.

I’m not sure if Peyton will get back to the Super Bowl. But I’m pretty sure I’ll have another chance to have a talk about autism with my son.

I better start preparing.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Kai’s Second Piano Recital

A year ago, Kai performed his first piano recital. Ahead of the big event, my wife and I were very nervous. Not so much about how well Kai would play, but whether he would be able to play at all. We were stressed over whether he would get irritated about something and have some type of public meltdown.

As it turned out, he did not have any issues, and ended up playing beautifully, too.

I suppose it is a sign of progress that this year we were far less concerned about the potential for any behavior issues.

However we were concerned about the quality of his play.

He would perform two songs this year. And in the days leading up to the recital, Kai could not seem to get either one right. He has been more silly and hyper than usual recently, something his school noticed as well, and his piano practices suffered from his lack of seriousness and concentration.

At the recital, he made a mistake right at the outset. But he knew to keep going. He made a few more errors. It wasn’t his best performance. But he played better on his second song than on his first. He was one of the few students who remembered to take a bow at the end. All in all, it was not too bad.

Though it’s not always top-of-mind with us, the reality is that Kai has raised the bar with us, not just in his piano skills, but in his ability to cope and get through life.

And when I see it like that, this performance, though flawed, was a triumph nonetheless.

Good job, Kai.
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