Thursday, September 8, 2011

What a summer!

My wife Krysia is amazing.  Throughout the summer I kept thinking about how she did a great job of planning summer activities for our boys.  Planning out the right mix of things to do/sign up for is always tricky.  I suspect you can relate.  In doing so, we think about the following:  
  1. Get them out of the house, but not too much where you're running around non-stop. 
  2. Get them some social interaction so that they can practice social skills. 
  3. Get them some physical activity as opposed to letting them be raised by their DS or Wii. 
  4. Try not to lose ground on the academic progress you were able to accomplish the previous school year.
  5. Oh yeah, maintain a marriage and have some vacation time for yourselves too while you're at it...
No pressure really.  Can you sense my sarcasm...

It's a tough balance.  We've overcommitted in previous summers that's for sure.  I think back to January, February and March of this year when Krysia was pouring over all the options that exist, balancing dates and times and evaluating costs.  What a juggling act!  I think all families struggle with this no matter if your child has special needs or not but the special needs factor definitely adds a new level of complexity to the equation. 

We enjoyed a variety of activities including:
  1. Camp Woodbrooke out in Richland Center, WI
  2. Camp Invention in Waunakee, WI
  3. Camp AweSum in Moon Beach near Minocqua, WI
  4. Peer play groups with select individuals
  5. Swimming lessons at the local pool
  6. North Branch Music Festival in Waubeno, WI
  7. Art in the Park at Lakeview Park
  8. Neighborhood Kickball at Parisi Park
  9. Family cottage in Sturgeon Bay
What I thought was great about this year was that the planning effort also fired up an effort on our part to raise awareness in our town about the lack of options for kids on the spectrum (and non-sports loving kids in general).  So many of the activities are sports driving and team oriented not to mention facilitated by people (often teens) that aren't trained to handle kids with special needs.  Once again Krysia got to work.  She put together a meeting in our living room one afternoon this spring that was attended by our State Senator - Jon Erpenbach, City of Middleton staff as well as about a dozen concerned parents.  That was a great meeting to share concerns and raise awareness. Action items came out of that meeting that are still being pursued including finding meeting space for the group Middleton Abilities Group Improving Community (MAGIC), engage with new leadership at the City to look for additional recreational options that better suite our kids, and continue with positive dialog.

I'm thrilled that our summer was fruitful, safe and filled with a well-balanced mix of activities to nurture our kids yet not overwhelm my wife and I.  Now we tackle the day-to-day grind of school. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tae Kwon Do And Special Needs

Last weekend Harrison and I competed in the Association of Acadamies of Martial Arts Spring Classic Tournament (AAMA) in Grafton, WI.  We went there with our Tae Kwon Do school - Oh Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do - and our instructor Mr. Kevin McDaniel.  It was my first Tae Kwon Do tournament and Harrison's second.  One of the TKD schools in attendance was the Special Needs Academy of Martial Arts which works with kids with disabilities.

I was so proud to participate with them and, on several occasions, compete against them.  They certainly didn't go easy on me!  I sat and waited with my group of beginners for 30 minutes prior to our patterns and had the opportunity to speak with each of them.  They were so proud of their abilities and were eager to comment about how much practice they'd be doing.  It was great to see the boost in confidence and the joy on their faces when people applauded after they completed their patterns.  Check out some video we captured of Harrison and I giving it our best.  Take note of the young woman I compete against in our patterns.  She does the best 4 Direction Block I think I've seen from a white belt.  Of course, I didn't notice until I reviewed the tape afterward.  Good stuff.

It was a great experience and very inspiring to see people of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities getting out there and doing their best.  My bruises are almost healed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Poop and Run

Potty training is a rite of passage for every parent and their child.  Unfortunately, the process is notoriously difficult for kids on the spectrum.  We've certainly had out battles.  I used to joke with family and friends that I was going to write a book on potty training entitled "How To Potty Train Your Kid In 3 Easy Years".  It would have sold millions...

We are fortunate in that all 3 of our boys, whether on the spectrum or not, have figured out the benefits of potty training.  There was a time, however, that I seriously doubted if the time would every come.  What we deal with now is what I've affectionately come to call the "Poop and Run".  It's namesake is the criminal "Hit and Run".  You know that feeling you get when you come out of the grocery store to find your car door dented and nobody around to own up to it.  It's a crappy feeling (pun intended).  That sense of disrepect.  The anxiety over the fact that you now have to deal with someone else's mess.  You look around to see if someone is peering at you from around the corner but there's never any sign of anyone.  You look for clues.  Who did this?  When did it happen?  Why didn't they flush?  There's not even any toilet paper in the toilet?  Geez.

But then you resolve to the fates and the good samaritan in you kicks in and you think "maybe they didn't even realize it" or "maybe they just don't know how to drive yet".  So you buff out the scratch or dent and you forgive 'em and move on.  You flush.  You tiddy up.  Then you do your business.  It could be worse.  You could spend days on horseback in northern Mongolia to meet with a shaman of a tribe of nomadic herdsmen.

An obscure reference you might think.  Mongolia?  Shaman? What are you smoking Paul? Oh contraire.  I watched "The Horseboy" with my wife the other night.  The Horseboy is a documentary about a couple and a 6 year old boy named Rohan.  Rohan is on the autism spectrum.  He's got serious issues with incontenance and like me, his parents coined their own phrase of "code brown" to refer to his regular accidents.  Rohan has an uncanny relationship with horses and he is cured of his incontenance after they take an adventurous trip to Mongolia and meet with shamans.  You can believe in shaman or not, but the immediate results don't lie.  It worked. 

The story illustrated so clearly to me the extraordinary lengths we'll go to in order to help our kids be it with pooping, speaking, socializing or anything inbetween.  I guess dealing with the poop and run isn't so bad after all.