Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer Weekend – Strawberry Picking and Water Fun

We went to up to Wisconsin this weekend for our annual outing to pick our own strawberries. The strawberries were the largest we’ve ever seen them. And the fields were crowded with more people than ever.

While the strawberries were large, they weren’t as sweet as ones we’ve had in the past. But Kai wasn’t complaining about that.

Though he did start to grumble about the heat. But after we had picked two boxes of berries, I think all of us were ready to go get lunch at our traditional favorite, The Brat Stop.

After we got home, my wife was ready to rest. Kai was ready to go to the beach.

So he and I went out for a couple of hours. The water was really cold, so after taking a dip up to our ankles, and splashing each other with water shooters, Kai was content to stay on shore and try to skip stones.

The next day, I took him to a birthday party at a home that had a large swimming pool. Kai had a great time swimming and playing with all the water toys, though he seemed pretty content to do his own thing and did not interact much with the other kids.

He’s a happy kid whenever there’s a swimming pool or beach so those will be our common weekend outings this summer.

Ah, if only life were one long summer weekend.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Challenges and the 5K

Our challenges with Kai have continued the past couple of weeks.

During the short break between the end of the school year and the beginning of summer school, we went up to Michigan. We left Kai with his grandparents for two days/one night while my wife and I went to my dad’s old house along with my sister and brother-in-law to go through all of the stuff that is still there.

We had left Kai with his grandparents a couple of months earlier, and that time all went relatively well. This time, not so much.

Kai gave his grandparents a hard time, not listening and oftentimes refusing to do anything other than playing on the iPad. His grandfather is more like me in that he is not one to put up with such behavior, and apparently Kai didn’t like it when he didn’t get his way.

He fired his grandfather, apparently similar to how he has fired me and his teachers many times in the past.


You don’t fire your grandfather.

You can be sure that we had a good talk with Kai on the car ride home. But one of our challenges has been that reasoning does not seem to always work well with him.

How do you correct behavior when he does not seem to comprehend what he did wrong?

* * * * *

The day after we got home from Michigan, Kai started summer school. He also transitioned into his fifth grade classroom.

He did not have an auspicious start.

He had an incident in the very first moment of his first day of fifth grade.

He had some problem with saying the Pledge of Allegiance. We are not sure what his issue with the Pledge is, but we had heard from him before that he does not like it. This time he disrupted class and got him off to a rocky start.

It didn’t get much better.

He had other incidents during the week.

But the worst was at the very end of the week.

While riding the van back to school after a field trip to the aquarium in the city, Kai said that he had to use the bathroom. This, despite having used the bathroom just prior to getting on the van. When the driver could not find a bathroom, Kai dropped his pants and peed right in the van. While we can’t say for sure, it sounds like he did it out of anger rather than because he truly could not hold it.

* * * * *

The 5K that we have been training for was run yesterday.

We weren’t nearly as ready for it as I had wanted to be. Every time I wanted to increase the distance of our training runs, Kai complained about being too tired to run. Or that his leg was sore. Or some other reason why he could not run any more. So, the longest we had run prior to the race was about half of the 5K distance we would have to cover.

I was not looking forward to the race.

But Kai seemed happy prior to the race.

He even was well behaved during the national anthem.

And when we started he ran nicely.

But after a mile or so, he was barely walking, let alone running. Kai was loudly complaining that he could not do any more.

One of his classmates caught up to us, and he encouraged Kai to keep going. Kai kept whining but we kept moving, occasionally jogging for a while before slowing down to walk.

When we were within a half mile or so of the finish, we could see the end and hear the crowd at the end. Kai started to regain energy.

He ran that entire last half mile, finishing up with a strong sprint that outpaced his mom and me.

It wasn’t painless, but it was an accomplishment, of sorts.

He did it. Ultimately, he didn't give up. He finished strong.

UPDATED for the following photo of Kai and me crossing the finish line (courtesy of one of the staff at Kai's school):

Now, hopefully we can all persevere through our other challenges and find a way to the finish line.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Video of Kai’s Talent Show Performance

My wife reported that the talent show at Kai’s school featured quite an array of performances. There were kids who danced, and those who sang. Some played musical instruments, while others had more unique talents. One boy balanced peacock feathers on his hand, while another showed off his Jenga skills. One girl demonstrated why she may be the “world’s fastest paper airplane maker.”

In all, there were 19 performers, which was nearly half of the students at the school. We were impressed that so many had the courage and confidence to get up in front of the whole school and perform. It was something I never would have been able to do at that age.

Kai had been practicing his routine for several weeks. We were initially very surprised that he wanted to sing at the talent show, and at first, my wife, especially, was concerned that he might make a fool of himself in front of the whole school. But as we had him keep working on his performance of “What Does the Fox Say?” we started to see him put his personality into his performance and I started to smile, rather than cringe, when I saw him practice.

As described yesterday, Kai did not perform live, and we were disappointed.

But during the show he sat nicely and watched the kids who did perform, which was a triumph of sorts in itself.

The video I took of him practicing was shown as the grand finale. Two staff members in fox costume got up and danced along while Kai’s performance was shown on the widescreen. My wife said it was a big hit.

Maybe next year he will be able to perform live.

But for now, we will enjoy this performance:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

School Year Winding Down, Emphasis on Down

Our son’s fourth-grade school year is rapidly coming to an end, and with the usual end-of-year changes, along with modifications to his medication, things are not ending on a high note.

Kai’s elementary school goes from kindergarten through fifth grade. Ever since Kai has been attending, there has always been just one fifth-grade class, always with the same teacher, Ms. S. When Kai was in second grade, he went to Ms. S’s class for math, and ever since then he expected that he would be returning to her class when he was a fifth grader. (Since then, he has been taught math individually as no one else in his school has been at his level).

We recently learned that next year there will be two fifth-grade classrooms for the first time due to the larger number of kids at that level. The “other” fifth grade classroom will be taught by Ms. L. who has taught third and fourth graders previously. Kai will be in Ms. L’s classroom.

From what I can tell, Ms. L will be a fine teacher for Kai, but he was very disappointed when he heard the surprising news that he would not be in Ms. S’s class. Kai perceives Ms. L to be the teacher of younger children, and he thought it reflected poorly on him that he was chosen for this classroom. He also was upset that most of his close friends will be in the other fifth grade class. All that is on top of the fact that moving to a new class is a bit anxious for any child, and that Kai, like many kids with autism, does not take surprises well.

Yesterday he visited his new classroom for the first time. It did not go well.

We were told that Kai was very disrespectful to some of his new classmates and the teacher. It is distressing to hear that he reacted that way, and we will have to find a way to curb that type of behavior.

Aside from the stress of transitioning to a new teacher and class, this time of year is also difficult because the regular schedule is disrupted for special activities. Among them are practice sessions for an upcoming talent show (more on that in another post), as well as practices for a group performance at the end-of-year recognition ceremony.

We also recently consulted with Kai’s psychiatrist about altering his medication. He had an okay school year, but we thought it would be good to tweak his medication and see how things changed.

We cut back on one of his meds that treats ADHD and it appeared that Kai got more distracted. It was hard to get him to focus on his homework, especially. His school reported increased silliness and less concentration on schoolwork. So, we have gone back to his original dosage.

We also eliminated the small dose of risperidone that had been taking to help control his anger. We were troubled by its side effects, including weight gain and longer-term health risks. During the first couple weeks after we eliminated this drug, we noticed no difference in his anger. But now that he is having more stressful times at school, Kai’s irritability and anger is noticeably higher.

Yesterday, my wife had to go to school to bring a new shirt for Kai after he chewed up the one he was wearing. This had once been a common occurrence, but we thought we had seen the last of it after many months of no incidents like this.

And so, we will have to consider putting Kai back on the risperidone, or finding an alternative drug to try. We had hoped that Kai’s improvements were the result of therapy and maturity, but apparently the drugs were at least partly responsible as well.

School year is winding down. We need to get our boy back up on the right path.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Water Balloons

The water from the hose was COLD!

But then it was my turn...

Kai loved it!

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