Friday, June 17, 2016

Teach him how to fall

When our son first arrived home from Bulgaria at the age of 4, we started his PT in Alabama. The PT asked what goals we wanted her to to work on with him.  We told her, “We want you to teach him how to fall.”  This might seem like a strange request for the PT.  There are so many other skills we could have asked for her to list in S’s goals.  As we continued our conversation with her, it made perfect sense.  

As a 4 year old, S was very impulsive.  He didn’t realize that he needed to slow down a little bit. He had a reverse walker and was ready to roll!  The problem came when he fell in the hallway or off of the curb.  When you use a walker, you have both hands on your walker.  When you fall forward in a reverse walker with your hands still on the walker, you catch yourself with your face. Unfortunately, this happened more than once multiple times.

They worked on that skill.  He learned how to fall without using his face to catch himself.  We were so excited with this new skill that we would praise him when he fell.  Imagine the reactions of other people observing us as S fell in the store; praising the boy with a walker for a “good fall” instead of running over to coddle him.  Don’t judge!  He worked many hours to make that fall look that good, and he didn’t catch himself with his face!

As S progressed from a walker to crutches, his falls became different and more frequent. Crutches are much less stable than a walker.  S learned how to handle different terrains and floor types.  

Watching him fall

The natural instinct for those around S is to try to catch him if he falls.  That is problematic at this point in his life. It was different when he was younger...and lighter.  He’s not heavy, but he is like a dead weight when he is falling.  We have had to tell people you need to let him fall.  He knows how to do it; if he does, he will get back up because my son is not a quitter.

What does falling look like now?

As a young adult who is in college, falling looks different for our son.  It is more figurative than literal. Entering adulthood brings more challenges into life.  College comes with challenges - meeting deadlines, getting your work done, studying, turning assignments in, making choices about how to best use your time.  Many of these challenges are magnified due to S’s ADD.

My husband and I gave S quite a bit of guidance first semester as he was learning his way through the process.  He has been given the tools he needs to be successful.  He needs to choose to use them or he is going to fall.

Watching him fall

As I stated above, “the natural instinct for those around S is to try to catch him if he falls.  That is problematic at this point in his life. It was different when he was younger.”  At this point in his life, he needs to learn from his choices.  It doesn't mean we can't holler out an occasional warning about a "trip hazard"; however, there are many times my husband and I need to stand back and “watch him fall.” It’s not easy, but he has the tools to catch himself...or get himself back up.

I will be on the couch with chocolate….reading my book....reminding myself it is okay if he falls. He will get back up. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

A funny thing happened on our trip to Minnesota

Last weekend we were in Minnesota for my nephew’s high school graduation.  It was a quick trip because my youngest son is in school until June 17th!  Yes, you read that correctly.  

It’s always fun to go back.  We make it back to Minnesota at least once a year.  My husband and I are from a rural farm community (translation:  small town).  My husband and I graduated from the same high school that my nephew was graduating from.  My sister and brother-in-law graduated from there.  My husband’s three sisters graduated from there.  My mom taught in this school system.  I have two cousins who teach there.  We have a lot of connections to this town.

We flew in Friday and started on our 2 ½ trip to our hometown.  My sister-in-law picked us up from the airport.  We hit Jamba Juice on the way out of the Cities.  We stopped on our trip to have lunch with my mother-in-law and stepfather-in-law.  During this drive, my sister called and asked if we could come straight to their house to help set up a tent for the graduation party. Sure!

We arrived at their house and asked what we could do to help get ready for the party.  My sister-in-law and I were tasked with taping pictures onto the photo boards.  We were in the house working.  My husband, J, my sister and brother-in-law were outside putting up the tent.  S decided he would walk around their yard and check things out.  My sister and brother-in-law moved into this house about 9 months ago.  Not a problem.

We hadn’t been at their house for 30 minutes when my sister came inside laughing.  As they were outside putting up the tent, a cop pulled up to the house and sat there looking at what was taking place.  My sister walked over to see if he needed anything.  She said he seemed rather embarrassed; at this point, a second cop car pulled up to the house.  They had received a call that they needed to do a welfare check at the house.  Why?  Because S who has CP and uses crutches was walking around himself.  The horror of this!  

We all laughed at the situation.  S just wanted to know why no one bothered to ask him anything. Again, he was outside at 4:30 pm with 3 other adults and his 17 year old brother.  He looked like he might need some help (I need a sarcasm font here).

This made for a great conversation piece at my nephew’s party.  Everyone there either knows my son or knows of my son.  They know he is a college student.  Not really needing a welfare check. The biggest discussion was, “Which neighbor called the cops?”

The best part of this whole story is it made the police log in the paper!  You have to love small towns.  

I will be on the couch with chocolate...still laughing at this story.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What my son has learned - the first year of college

S has officially made it through the first year of college!!!!!!  It has been quite the experience for him…..and us.  He has received an education and MANY learning opportunities.  There have been “growing pains”.
He has grown up this past year.  He has always been an advocate for himself, but he really stepped up to the plate at college.  He has addressed many issues on campus regarding accessibility, and he presented at a workshop regarding accessibility as a student (just realized I never wrote about that).  He has learned that college isn’t cheap and that textbooks are ridiculously priced!  

He has learned that his parents have been trying to prepare him for the reality of college throughout the years (schedules, due dates, task management).  He has also learned that he is weak in some most of these areas.

He has learned that he does well with an online format.  Despite the fact that he’s not a morning person, he learned that he prefers morning classes over afternoon classes.  He has learned that self-paced isn’t necessarily as great as it sounds.  He has learned that due dates are real.

I think my son’s biggest lesson learned this year is that he CAN do this.  He has done well.  We encouraged him to start with a lighter load this year to get used to everything. He will be taking two classes during summer school which is on an accelerated cycle. For fall semester, he has currently scheduled three classes for himself.  He can do it.  He just needs to remember that.

He has learned that he has a huge support system in place. He has learned that we all want him to be the best that he can be.

Here is a recap of posts I wrote during S’s first year of school:

I will be on the couch with chocolate celebrating this successful first year and remembering all of the lessons learned.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

How is S with time management?

S:  I’m doing well with my schoolwork.
Me:  And you should be.  You only have one class.

This was the tail end of a conversation that my son and I were having the other day.  This conversation started when he came downstairs at approximately 1:00 pm to start his day.  The deal we have is that if you are living at home as a young adult you need to be a productive member of society.  Most productive members start their day prior to 1:00.  I know, I know. Some people work the night shift.  He does not!

[Disclaimer:  This post might seem like it is jumping all over the place.  It has felt that way at our house the past few months. Welcome to our world!]

How did we get here?

There are so many things leading up to this point.  S graduated from high school last year and is currently a student at our local community college.  He started last semester with 7 credits, and that was enough for him.  

Fall Semester

A few posts I wrote last semester include:

There is a common theme in these posts and they have to do with time management and organization.  Our son who is attending college with CP and Low Vision is having a challenging time with his ADD at school.

Spring Semester

This challenge is evidenced by his idea of a plan for college which I had to write about early this semester:  “Winging it” is not a plan for college success.”

He started this semester with two classes.  He is now down to one.  He was missing deadlines in one class.  Not only was he turning in work late, it was incomplete and not his best work.  We had to sit down with him and inform him that it was time to drop the one class, so he could salvage his other class.  

Discussions with Vocational Rehab Counselor

A couple of weeks ago we were at the ophthalmologist’s office.  S’s Vocational Rehab Counselor from DBVI joined us for the appointment.  Since we were there for approximately 3 hours, we had plenty of time to visit with her.  She asked S how school was going.  

After he talked around the issue for 5 minutes, I asked, “Did you tell her you dropped a class?”  
“I kind of did.”  
“No, you didn’t.”

She asked S how he was with time management and organization; she proceeded to offer him many suggestions to help himself with both issues.  At one point, she asked him if he has heard all of this from his parents because “I see your parents sitting over there laughing.”  We told her he can continue to hear the same information over and over and over and over because maybe he will try implementing some of these strategies.

We met with his VR counselor again a couple of days later for a meeting.  She asked us in the meeting, “How is S with time management?”  It is nonexistent.  We explained to her EVERYTHING we have suggested to S to help with his time management.  My husband and I are great at reading and researching.  Everything we have read, we have tried with him.  The lists on websites, in books, recommendations from professionals are all things we have tried with him.

The challenge we have now is that S is a young adult.  We can’t make him “do”.  We can’t enable him.  We can suggest.  We can support.  He must be the “doer”.  He must implement strategies and ask for help when needed.

I will be on the couch with chocolate.....

Thursday, February 25, 2016

I have a purse full of glasses.

This is a timely post because I just realized that February is Low Vision Awareness month.  Our son was identified as Low Vision right before the start of his senior year (fall of 2014).  The label has actually been a good thing because the Department of Blind and Visually Impaired is providing our son with great services.  We have pondered the question, “Why wasn’t he identified earlier?” although that doesn’t really matter.  We are in the here and now, and he is receiving the care he needs….which brings me to this post.

I have a purse full of glasses.

Yesterday my son and I headed to the optical shop (OS).  We have been customers here for more than 10 years.  They know my family well.

This is how the initial conversation started as we walked in the door.

OS:  How can we help you?
Me:  It’s complicated.
[Now we had everyone’s attention.  It’s an optical shop.  How complicated can it be?  Oh, it was my family.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.]
OS:  Oh, by all means, come to table 2.

We went over there.  It took a little bit to get S maneuvered up on the tall chairs.

OS:  What’s going on?  Didn’t S just get new glasses?
Me:  Why yes.  We just picked them up 3 weeks ago.
OS:  Is there a problem with them?
Me:  No
OS:  What do you need today?

They should have known something was up when I walked through the door with my purse.  I rarely carry a purse.  And, at this point, I started pulling S’s glasses out of my purse….one pair, two pairs, three pairs, four pairs, and five pairs.  Remember, he was wearing a pair also.

Me:  Here’s the situation.  S was referred to an ophthalmologist from his ophthalmologist to discuss a possible eye surgery.  The new ophthalmologist would like to see him again after he has been wearing glasses with no prisms in the lenses.  [S’s glasses have very thick prism lenses in them.  The surgery being discussed would be on his eye muscles and hopefully reduce or eliminate the need for prisms.]  We told the ophthalmologist that we had glasses at home that didn’t have prisms in them.  Unfortunately, they are not the right prescription for him.  Long story short, he needs new lenses.  What is the best option?  Replace lenses in a pair of frames I have with or get new frames and lenses.

This optical shop has always taken good care of us.  We are very good customers (think $$$$). All four people in my household wear glasses or contacts.  Thank goodness we have good vision coverage through my husband’s work; however, we were private paying this pair of glasses.  S’s glasses tend to be expensive because of the high power, prisms, transitions, etc.  It helped that these didn’t require prisms, and we opted to not do transition lenses.  We don’t know what is going to happen - surgery or no surgery, prisms or no prisms.  We are saving our insurance coverage for his permanent pair of glasses once everything is figured out.

The manager of the optical shop clicked around on her computer for a while and presented me with a very reasonable price for frames and lenses.  S hates picking out new frames; however, he picked a frame quickly.  Now we wait and hope that they come in quickly.  

Obviously, since I showed up there with a purse full of glasses, S has glasses that need to be cleaned out of our house his room. We will get in his bedroom and find out how many other pairs of glasses happen to be buried in there.  We will take them to the optical shop so they can be donated through the Lions Eyeglass Recycling Program.

You can find me on the couch with chocolate and my purse and a bag of old glasses ready to be donated while we wait for the call that S’s new glasses have come in.  Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

"Winging it" is not a plan for college success.

My son started his Spring semester classes this week.  It was definitely a different feeling for him starting this semester than his first semester.  He was more relaxed than he was on his first day last semester.

Last semester presented some challenges for him, especially in time management and organization.  During his 4 week break, we spent time discussing with him what went really well last semester and what could be improved.  We spent a lot of time discussing strategies that could help him with his time management:  creating a daily schedule, creating study plans for himself, asking others to check in with him as accountability partners (not nags), etc.

He received his English syllabus a week ahead of time.  He looked that over and put some due dates on Google calendar.  He received his Geography syllabus at the end of last week.  Looked at it and panicked a little bit!  We talked him through it.  It’s all good. His geography class is an online class which means he needs to be diligent in creating time to study and work for it.

Which brings us to this week.  The other day he was hanging out, walking around downstairs in circles, not being very productive.  He had work that could have been done, but he was roaming like he didn’t have a care in the world.  

I asked him, “Are you going to create a study plan for yourself this week or are you just going to wing it?”

“Since it is the first week of the semester, I think I will just wing it.”


I very kindly told him that was the wrong answer.  Please try again.

I will be on the couch with chocolate…..

Thursday, December 10, 2015

First semester of college is finished!

Today is the last day of my son’s first semester of college.  It has been an educational semester to say the least.  Okay, I will be honest.  It has been a challenge.  

When the semester first started, I wrote some posts about my son’s ADD and college.  I didn’t post what I wrote as I tried to figure out new boundaries for myself and my son; what I can write about and what I can’t.  I have been off the grid for a while trying to figure this out.

However, today is cause for celebration.  S made it through the semester.  It hasn’t been easy. He has worked EXTREMELY hard.  He has studied a lot.  

My son attends college as a student with three identified disabilities:  Cerebral Palsy - Spastic Quadriplegia, Low Vision, and ADD.  He had accommodations in place before the semester started.  His professors have been awesome about working with him so he could be successful. His biggest challenges came from his ADD:  organization skills,  time management, creating and executing a plan, and prioritizing tasks.

I have so many scenarios I could write about showcasing his challenges, but I haven’t.  Today’s scenario kind of wraps it all up.  

For his last final, my son had to write a final essay (500-750 words) to be turned in at 1:30 today. We planned on leaving at 12:30.  He had to write a final analysis of his writing throughout the semester for his English class.  They have had the opportunity to do extra credit related to this final project after each essay.  He has done that.  He was setting himself up for success.  He created a study plan to get himself through finals.  He knew what needed to be done to keep himself on track.  That train derailed early on…..

Last night, he was typing his essay.  We recommended that he finish it last night so he could sleep in today.  I will skip all of the boring details.  Here was what happened.

Today’s schedule:

2:30 AM:  S came upstairs kicking each step on the way which woke me up.  He informed me he wasn’t finished.

7:30 AM:  S woke up to finish writing.

9:00 AM:  Told me he was almost finished

11:00 AM:  Thought he was done.  Not sure on his word count.  Checked it.  He had 305 words.  Better write some a lot more.

11:30 AM:  Had 490 words.  Wrote one more sentence to push it to 504.

12:27 PM:  Printed paper.  Couldn’t find his phone.  Needed a backpack to put his paper in.  Needed a pencil.

1:40 PM:  I received a text from him that his paper was turned in.

At the end of the day (or semester), he finished. He made it through.  Next semester needs to be different.  He knows what areas he really needs to work on to help himself get through school and life a little easier.

I will be on the couch with chocolate and wine.  I think my husband may join me on the couch with a beer. Enjoy your weekend! We will.