Skateboards and Letterboards

On Saturday, we were fortunate enough to get Ryan a time slot at the A.skate event in Dallas, Texas at 4DWN.  From A.skate’s website, it states that:

“We provide one on one skate lessons for persons with autism in an environment that is appropriate to their sensory needs in order to learn. We provide this service at no cost to the families who participate.  We also provide the skateboard gear and safety equipment (helmets, skateboards, and pads) for the participants to use during their skate session. We strive to make the experience as incredibly successful for the participant as possible!……. Askate offers a “safe environment” for persons with autism on all ends of the spectrum to not only learn a therapeutic skill but to learn it in a place where persons are accepting.”

Our family has attended many different autism events over the past 7 years  Ryan has gone surfing, rode on horses, “walked” for autism, bounced in bounce houses, gone to carnivals, etc.  The A.skate event was by far the best one that we have attended.  The individuals who ran the event were extremely kind and jumped right in to make Ryan feel comfortable.  Ryan was paired up with two volunteers, coincidentally both were named Chris.  These guys were awesome.  They spoke to him like he was any other nine year old, and they worked so hard to give Ryan an absolutely amazing experience.

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As you can see from this picture, Ryan is not wearing a helmet.  Ryan had a lot of difficulty at first due to his sensory issues.  He persevered though and managed to be able to tolerate it as long as it wasn’t fastened at his chin.

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They took him around the entire park many, many times.  Since Ryan has a lot of issues with being able to control his body and getting it to do what he needs it to do, Chris and Chris had to work very hard.

I mean very hard.

But, of course there was time for some fun too.

At the event, Ryan spelled out with his letter board DEARLY HAVING SO MUCH FUN and CALLING IT BEST EVENT EVER.

At the end of the event, he spelled out for Chris and Chris, THANKS I HAD THE BEST TIME.  We got to meet Diane Odom and Kurt Odom, the parents who organized the event and brought A.skate to the DFW area.  Ryan spelled out to Diane:  THANK YOU SO MUCH.  I HAD A VERY GREAT TIME.

After an hour on the skateboard (more time than I ever thought would be possible for Ryan), he was done.  There was lunch provided at the event, but due to the noise and the amount of time Ryan had already spent at the event, we decided it might be best to hit up Ryan’s favorite restaurant Chipotle.  While in line, I asked Ryan what he wanted to order.  His response:  KNOW THAT I HAD A REALLY GREAT TIME TODAY.  Obviously, his experience at the event was still on his mind.

Later, once we were home, Randy asked Ryan about it.

I GIVE IT FOUR STARS.  REALLY GLAD I GOT TO PRACTICE SKATEBOARDING TODAY.

Ryan and I sat down to collect his thoughts about the day.  Here is what he spelled:

LEARNING TO SKATEBOARD WAS SO MUCH FUN.  THE REALLY CARING CHRIS(e)S MADE ME FEEL SO COMFORTABLE.  EVEN THOUGH I AM LEARY OF WEARING HELMETS, I DID IT.  REALLY I’M SO HAPPY THAT I GOT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE AWESOME EVENT.  CALLING IT BEST EVENT EVER FOR KIDS WITH AUTISM.

“Ryan, what did it feel like on the skateboard because I have never done it?”

MADE ME FEEL LIKE I WAS TOO CLEAR HEADED.

“What do you mean by that?”

MEANS THAT I FELT NORMAL ON THE SKATEBOARD.

“I noticed that there was not much stimming in the skate park.  It wasn’t very noisy.  I didn’t hear a lot of kids yelling or squealing and I didn’t see much stimming from any of the kids.  I wonder if other kids felt the same way as you?”

MAYBE THEY DID.

“How about the helmet?  I was nervous in the beginning because you were having a really hard time with it.”

CAME TO THE REALIZATION THAT I NEEDED TO DEAL WITH IT IN ORDER TO PARTICIPATE.

“Do you have any other thoughts about your experience?”

GEARING UP FOR THE NEXT ONE.

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Ryan and Chris and Chris.  That smile says it all.

Progress

This past weekend, Ryan participated in a local workshop in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area with ACE RPM, the company that Ryan and I originally started RPM with back in January 2014.  We have seen Erika Anderson of ACE over the past 22 months at local workshops in the Bay Area in California, for a camp at their location in Wisconsin, and I have had consults with her that entailed  me sending a video of Ryan and I working together and she would then give me feedback. 64252_10153090930881445_2111050850040365421_n

Ryan as a “Cheesehead” in Wisconsin in March 2015.

All of this continued contact has been invaluable to Ryan’s progress.  Erika last saw Ryan this past May when we were still living in California.  She was very pleased with the progress that he has made since them.  Ryan had 6 sessions with Erika over 3 days.

The first day, they learned about Hugh O’Flaherty, who used his status as a priest and the safety of the Vatican to rescue thousands of POWs and an untold number of Jews and other refugees from the hands of the Nazis. She asked Ryan at the end of the lesson if he could think of anyone that he had learned about previously that had taken risks like O’Flaherty and helped others?  Ryan’s response:  MARTIN LUTHER KING.

I told Erika that I was having some trouble with Math with Ryan.  He has continued to tell me that the math that I am teaching him is TOO EASY and that MATH IS VERY EASY TO ME.  I have been warned not to do too high level math with Ryan yet but I know that it is important to continue to have him learn.  Erika suggested that Ryan come up with his own word problem.  She had him select the operation (he chose the multiplication sign) and then he wrote the following word problem and then the equation to solve it:

A LARGE GROUP OF TURTLES TRIED GOING TO THE BEACH.  THREE OF THEM HAD BABIES.  IF EACH HAD NINE BABIES, HOW MANY WERE THERE?

3X9=27

The next day, Erika asked me how Ryan’s creative writing was going with me at home.  I told her that he does very well with Soma, but we really haven’t done much story writing at home.  Erika showed me how to incorporate pictures into creative writing.  She showed Ryan these two pictures and had him select one to write about.  He chose the one at the bottom, but as you will see, he incorporated both of the images.

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Ryan’s story:  ONE DAY I HAD FOUND MY WAY FROM THE GREAT LARGE FOREST IN THE SPECIAL MOUNTAINS OF BEAR COUNTRY WHERE MANY HAD DIED, TO THE RIVER OF LITTLE SWAN. GOING INTO THE WATER SHOCKED MY BODY FAST AND MADE ME SCREAM. I RETRIEVED MY CANOE AND GOT IN QUICKLY. HAVING SOME NEW SUPPLIES I DETERMINED HOW MUCH WEIGHT NEEDED TO GET OFF. I HAD ONE DAY TO EXPLORE CANADAS WILDERNESS BEFORE HEADING HOME. IT WAS BREATHTAKING. I TOOK MANY PHOTOS SO I COULD SHARE THEM WITH OTHERS. THEN I HEADED BACK HOME. THE END.

Ryan struggles with handwriting.  He cannot seem to do it without resorting to scribbling.  She gave me some tips to practice with him at home as handwriting is a goal of both Ryan and mine.

On the final day, I worked with Ryan so that Erika could give me feedback.  The key points were to not allow Ryan to use stim words.  He was struggling a bit with it during our session and I was stumped.  This has happened before too.  Her tips were helpful as I was not sure how to break him of these.  It is still a work in progress, but it is better.  Ryan has told me before NOT TO LET ME REUSE WORDS.

In the final session, Erika wanted Ryan to participate in a project by ACE.  They are having their students who have open ended communication participate.  ACE has been collecting photographs from their different travels around the world and they are having the students caption them with quotes, stories, or poems.  Erika had Ryan participate in the project and the two of us loved what he had to say.  You can find it here.

Ryan flew through that one so fast that Erika was going to have him do another one.  He started writing, but then seemed to have a thought and wanted to talk to Erika.  He wrote:  WANT TO FIND OUT WHY I CANT FOCUS WHEN HAVING TOLD MYSELF TO DO SO? LAST TIME I HAD GROUP WITH WILL (He was referring to when he was in Wisconsin and had his first joint session with another boy named Will who is a student at ACE’s school in Wisconsin) I COULDNT GET MY BODY TO REMEMBER WHAT I NEEDED IT TO DO.  HAVE YOU HAD IT HAPPEN TO OTHER STUDENTS TOO?

Erika responded that “Yes that happens a lot to other students too.”

GETTING OUR BODIES TO LISTEN IS HARD.

Behind the Scenes at Home Depot!

On Wednesday, Ryan and I met Kim McCollister, the ASDS (Associate Support Department Supervisor) at the Home Depot #6548 in Keller, Texas.  Kim was gracious enough to agree to take Ryan and me on a behind the scenes tour of Ryan’s “HALLMARK” favorite store.

We had no idea that Ryan liked Home Depot so much.  Before we moved from California, when his open communication began taking off, when he was asked what he wanted to do, he answered GO TO A REPAIR STORE.  So Reisa (our beloved babysitter in California) and I took turns taking him on outings to different repair stores in the area.  He always gravitated towards Home Depot and began to mention it by name when spelling.  If you remember, Ryan has shown his strong interest in repairs in this post when he noticed right away about his door hinge not being perfect.

We got to Home Depot a little before our scheduled tour at 2pm, so Ryan and I used the restroom in the back of the store before starting. On the way, I noticed an employee who was helping out moving some product in the store.  For some reason, I thought that it might be Kim.  Anyway, we made our way back to the customer service desk where we met Tami.  She was kind to us and made a phone call to let Kim know that we had arrived.  She and Ryan had a brief conversation and he really gravitated towards her.  He kept hugging her and smelling her.

Kim arrived and Ryan greeted her with his board.  She was the employee that I saw and she had noticed us too as we were leaving the restroom!  She introduced herself and told him that she had an apron and a tape measure for him.  His face lit up (really!) and he spelled MEANINGFUL TO ME TO HAVE AN APRON.  I asked him if he thought that he would be able to wear it as his sensory issues often get in the way of wearing anything out of the ordinary.  His reply MOM I REALLY WANT TO WEAR IT.  So I put it on him and he was pleased.  I was surprised that he did not try to take it off right away.

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Kim, Ryan, and Tami!

And he loved the tape measure (which proved to be challenging during the tour.)

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We started in the area where the trucks unload the product.  It was staged on pallets and we met a few employees who worked in the area including a woman named Lesli.  Ryan spelled for them too and asked DO YOU LIKE WORKING HERE?  All of them indicated that they did.  Lesli showed us the Hazmat area and then we continued on through the store.

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Ryan spelling in the staging area.

We went to Kim’s office and then that is where we met Kyler Klopfenstein, the store manager.  Ryan spelled briefly with him and he spelled I WANT TO WORK HERE WHEN I GROW UP.  Kyler thought that was great and indicated it would be possible.  We learned that Kyler started working at Home Depot at 18 and worked his way up to managing stores, which he has been doing for several years now.

We walked around some more and met a few more employees along the way.  Kim asked Ryan if he wanted to check out a particular area.

HOW ABOUT HARDWARE?

So we checked it out.  We then met David, who works in the windows and door installation area.  Ryan again asked him DO YOU LIKE WORKING HERE?  David’s reply was consistent with all of the others that in fact he did enjoy it.

As we were walking around the store, Ryan was fiddling with the tape measure.  He was sort of whipping it around and it was making me nervous.  I explained to him that he needed to be careful and not swing it around so much.

I AM BEING CAREFUL MOM.  I CAN HANDLE IT.

I still was not so sure.  He was so infatuated with it that he was having difficulty spelling with the board at times.  I ended up telling him that for everyone’s safety that I was putting it in my purse until we got home.

Kim asked Ryan again if there were other areas of interest.

MOSTLY WANT TO KNOW THE STORIES OF EMPLOYEES.

We met back up with David and one other employee named JC.  Ryan sat down and we had a short conversation with them.  I explained to them about Ryan’s interest in repairs and I bragged about how he had noticed the door hinge of his room.  They were impressed.

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Ryan holding court.

I then asked Ryan if there were any more repairs or things that need improvement around our home.

MY CLOSET DOOR NEEDS TO BE FIXED.

“Okay.  I didn’t realize that.  Anything else?”

THE LANDSCAPE NEEDS WORK.

“Really?  Where do you think it needs work?”

IN FRONT OF THE HOUSE.

For the record, he is right as it could use some weeding and the front flowers have all died.

We then walked to the middle of the store and met up with Lesli again.  She noticed that Ryan was very interested in checking out the carpets and rugs.  She told him that she knew where the softest carpets were.  She had us follow her.

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She did.

Our last stop was the break room.  We met several employees there and spoke to them for a bit.  We learned that most of the employees had been working at Home Depot for a long time.  The employee who was the “newest” had been working their for 3 years.  That really said something to me.  It was very evident that the employees liked their jobs and were treated well by the management.  Kim was very good about introducing us to every employee by name.  We checked out the bulletin boards in the break room and then saw the training room with a few computers.  Kim explained that all Home Depot new hires do 20 to 30 hours of computer work and then they get training on the floor too.  I asked Ryan his thoughts.

NOT SURE IF I CAN DO IT BECAUSE COMPUTERS ARE HARD FOR ME.

I explained to him that we worked very hard to get him to where he is on the letter board and that just took practice and time.  I assured him that he had 9 years to work on it!

We then met two more employees, Tom and Spencer.  Tom said to Ryan, “So you are going to be my boss one day?”

Ryan’s response:  CALLING IT EARLY THAT I AM GOING TO BE HIS BOSS.

All of us were surprised with Ryan’s quick witted response!  I still can’t believe that he spelled that!

We wrapped up the tour at the Customer Service area.  We saw Tami again and Ryan continued to want to smell her and hug her.  I asked him about this as he only chooses select people to continue to do that to.  (He did smell many of the employees that we met and he spelled out IT IS MY HALLMARK WAY OF CHECKING PEOPLE OUT).

I asked him why he chooses to do it to some people more than others and I mentioned that I wondered if it had something to do with how he views people.

GOOD PEOPLE SMELL DIFFERENT.

We finished up and said goodbye to Kim and Tami.

Here are Ryan’s thoughts about the experience:

I REALLY LOVED IT.  I MOSTLY ENJOYED GETTING TO KNOW THE EMPLOYEES.  YES TO GOING BACK TO VISIT ALL OF THOSE GUYS.  HALLMARK STORE (Home Depot) MADE ME FEEL SO AWESOME.

Ryan’s Birthday Week Celebration Part 2 – The Party

If you remember, in a previous post found here, Ryan mentioned that he wanted to have his party at North Richland Hills Fire Station #1.  We set that up several weeks back and planned for a Sunday so that all of our local family (Granny, Mark, Aunt Jennifer, Uncle Patrick, and cousins Jillian and Elizabeth) could make it.  Unfortunately, we have not really made too many friends here yet.  We invited two families with autistic children who communicate with RPM, but both children were not feeling well that day.  So we had our family and Ryan’s local RPM provider, Adriana, attend the party.

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The only picture of the party that I got and of course the decorations are behind me.

We hung out for a while as we were scheduled to have a tour of the fire house once the firefighters returned.  Ryan did not seem pleased.

SO MOM IT IS BORING.

He was right.  It was a lot of us just hanging out and eating the snacks and chit-chatting.

And then, Officer Hodges arrived.

He was introduced to the family and the small talk continued.  I then suggested that maybe we should do some sort of game (which of course I did not bring.)  Officer Hodges to the rescue!  He had the game/app “Heads Up” on his phone.  This game is much like charades but in reverse.  You pick a category and hold the phone over your head and the other players try to give you  clues to help you figure out the word.  It was a ton of fun, but I could see that Ryan was still not involved.  I then suggested that he take a turn.  He agreed.

And he blew everyone out of the water.  He got all of his words right, some of them with just one clue given (things like magic wand, Goodnight Moon, and other ones that I can’t remember now and neither could Ryan).  He was at a disadvantage as it was timed and he had to spell out his answers, but in the two separate turns that he had, he got all of the answers right!

So that perked him up.

And he opened gifts.

And he had cupcakes.

And then, Officer Hodges told Ryan that he had his gift for him.  He explained that he was going to take Ryan on a ride in one of the fire trucks.  There was enough room for one more adult, so I asked Ryan who he wanted to have go with him, Mom or Dad?

I WANT DAD TO GO WITH ME.

So they went.

Randy took these pictures when he was in the truck.

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And this one as he got out of the truck.

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Randy said that Ryan was grinning from ear to ear.  He absolutely loved it.

Ryan was then given a few more gifts from the fire fighters.

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And then was given a very important task.

It was amazing.  I asked him about the party once we got home.

KNOW I REALLY LOVED IT.  IT WAS AN AWESOME DAY.  ONE OF MY DREAMS WAS TO RIDE IN A FIRE TRUCK AND MR. HODGES MADE THAT HAPPEN.

“So would you call your birthday week a success?”

SO NOT SUPER SUCCESSFUL BECAUSE MARGARET TWO DIED.

“Good point.  Okay.”

We sat down to write a thank you note to Officer Hodges yesterday during school after we did a lesson on thank you note etiquette.  Ryan selected a blue thank you note that was plain in design.

DEAR MR. HODGES,

I CANT THANK YOU ENOUGH FOR SUCH A WONDERFUL BIRTHDAY PARTY.  I LOVED RIDING IN THE FIRE TRUCK.  YOU ARE MY LEADING EXAMPLE OF WHAT I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP.

SINCERELY,

RYAN

We delivered it to his office today.

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Ryan thanking Officer Hodges at the end of the party.

Just an FYI that I am hoping to get a Friday post up about a behind the scenes tour that we did today that was absolutely wonderful.  Stay tuned.

Ryan’s Birthday Week Celebration Part 1

Ryan turned 9 years old last Tuesday.  We started the day with some school work and went to one of his favorite local parks where they have a zip line for disabled children that does not require them to hold on for the entire ride.

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Ryan has music lessons every Tuesday, so we had that as well.  Once Randy and Grace were home, we ventured out to Ryan’s favorite restaurant, Chipotle (we only recently found this out on our trip to Cape Cod when after we landed we were trying to figure out where to grab a quick bite to eat and while we were in the car Ryan spelled out MY FAVORITE RESTAURANT IS CALLING MY NAME–CHIPOTLE).

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Yes that is an entire bowl of just barbacoa…..hey it’s was his birthday!

Our plan after that was to go to Petco to pick up new betta fish for Ryan and Grace.  We got to Petco and went over to the betta fish display.

“Which kind of betta do you want, Ryan?”

I WANT A HALF MOON BETTA.

“Here are the choices for colors gray, red, and blue.”

I AM GOING TO PICK, CALL ME CRAZY, RED AGAIN.

Randy and I were dying laughing.  I had no clue where he was going with that spelling until he was done!

I asked him if he had already picked out a name.

MARGARET TWO. (For those of you who don’t know, Margaret was the name of Ryan’s first betta fish in California and he was a red half moon betta.  You can read more about that here.)

We went over to the accessories and Randy was looking at the gravel for the tank.  He asked me to bring Ryan over.

Randy explained, “Ryan we have different choices for color of gravel.  We could do blue, gray, multicolored, red, black.  We could choose any of these here.”

I CAME HERE FOR FISH.

Again, we couldn’t stop laughing.  Ryan takes after his dad as that is a total “Randy” response!

We brought the fish home and needed to run the tank for 24 hours before adding the fish.  We had some cupcakes at home and had a great rest of the day.

The next night, we moved the fish to the tank with the divider.  If you are familiar with betta fish you know that the fish are also known as siamese fighting fish.  They are not supposed to live together.  We purchased this specialized tank with the divider for the two fish.  Once we moved them into the tank, within 10 minutes, they were both on the same side.  Grace and I panicked and Randy came in and moved Margaret Two back to his side.  Margaret Two had lost part of his fin.  I googled it and I learned that the fins could grow back.  I was still concerned as I did not know if we had a faulty tank or if there were problems with this particular model.  They seemed to be okay though.

As part of his birthday, I wanted to take Ryan to the movies again.  Many of you know that we first tried to do this last spring and it was successful although Ryan did not make it the whole movie.  Cinemark was very kind and gave us passes to try again.

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The flash got him!

On Thursday, we went to see Hotel Transylvania 2 as it was the only PG movie playing around here.  He spelled out what he wanted to the concession workers: YES TO POPCORN.  YES TO WATER.  The young woman who took our tickets spoke with him.  I mentioned to her that it was a special occasion for us to go to the movies.  She asked him why he came to the theater.  SO I AM CALLING IT MY BIRTHDAY WEEK CELEBRATION.

Ryan did well again.  We stayed for for a total of an hour and a half (with previews as he wanted to see them) and he spelled NEED TO LEAVE NOW.  We did.  As we were leaving, one of the young men from the concession stand asked if we made it the whole movie.  I told him that we made it most of it.  He asked Ryan his thoughts on the movie.  NEXT TIME NO CARTOONS.

Saturday morning we slept in a bit.  Grace came into our room and said, “Mom, Margaret Two is kind of just resting in the tank.”  I was half asleep and I told her not to worry about it because he was probably tired.  Randy went out to the kitchen and came back and told me that Margaret Two was dead.  I was angry and sad at the same time.  We had to tell the kids.

We sat them down and explained what had happened.  Grace immediately started crying and said, “I am so sorry that I picked a mean fish.  I didn’t know that Clarko would do that.”  We calmed her down and explained it wasn’t her fault and that it was an accident and that Clarko did not mean to injure Margaret Two.

Ryan spelled with the board:  SO NOT SUPER MEANINGFUL TO ME BECAUSE I WANTED A BLUE FISH.  Both Randy and I were surprised by his response.  I told Ryan that I would call Petco and that we would go over and pick out a new fish.

About 5 minutes later, I noticed Ryan just staring at the blank screen of his iPad.  I asked him if he was okay.

SO MOM I AM SUPER SAD ABOUT IT.

We got to Petco and of course it was a Saturday and they had dogs from one of the local shelters there to adopt.  It was noisy and Ryan was distracted.  He was very interested in the dogs.  I asked him what kind of fish he wanted.

I WANT A HALF MOON BETTA.

“They only have plakats or crowntails or veiltails in blue.”

PLAKAT.

“Okay and do you still want blue?”

YES TO BLUE.

We got it and the manager Julie (who I spoke with on the phone) very graciously exchanged it for us.  There was a leftover credit as the new fish was not as expensive as Margaret Two.  She asked if we wanted to pick out a plant and I told her that it was kind of her to exchange it and it wasn’t necessary.  She said well there is extra money and we could donate it or get something for the tank.  I said to her, “I will ask my son.”

Ryan was a short distance away but did not seem to be paying attention.  I just held up the board and he spelled:  DONATE IT.

Both Julie and I were a bit surprised as neither of us thought that he had heard the conversation.  He then spelled:  I AM ALWAYS LISTENING.

Julie then asked Ryan if he had a name picked out for this fish.  I had avoided asking him as it was so loud and noisy and I figured it could wait until we got home.

MARGARET THREE.

To be continued!

This post ran a little long so I am dividing it into two parts.  Part 2 will be all about the birthday party from Sunday.  Here is a sneak peak of what is to come!

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The Wedding

What a weekend!  We have had a lot going on that we wanted to share with all of you.  I was originally going to blog about both the wedding weekend and Ryan’s birthday yesterday, but there is just too much to say about the wedding.  I will blog about Ryan’s birthday later this week.

Ryan and Grace are good travelers.  We have been doing it for a while now, especially when we lived in California and all of the rest of our family lived on the east coast and in Texas.  But still, Ryan has autism and with autism comes the repetitive behaviors and stims that he can’t always control.  Given this, I would have never dreamed that a passenger would have passed me this note.

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I almost fell out of my too tight airplane seat!  What a blessing to receive something like this to start our weekend!  Of course this was about an hour into the 3.5 hour flight, so I basically held my breath for the remainder of the flight (and the kids did do great!)

The following day, we met up with a mom named Julie that I had met at an autism conference in St. Petersburg, FL (we both lived there at the time) almost 5 years ago.  She and I have kept in touch through Facebook all this time and we got to see her last weekend at the Autism Education Summit.  She recently moved to Cape Cod over the summer and she picked us up and took us to her favorite gluten free restaurant and bakery and Ryan, Julie, and I had a very relaxed and delicious lunch!  Ryan spelled out I REALLY LIKE JULIE as we were enjoying each other’s company.  It was so nice to spend the afternoon with someone who “gets it” and she was an excellent hostess!

Next up was the rehearsal and dinner.  This was Ryan’s first chance to shine with all of our family members.  He was amazing.  He conversed with many different people in a very loud restaurant setting.  He often had to take breaks because he was having so much difficulty with the noise, but it did not discourage him.  He used his noise canceling headphones some of the time and took walks with various family members and spent some time in a quieter area of the restaurant.  Randy was flying in from Chicago as he had a work conference that he needed to attend.  We met up with him at the after party at the hotel lounge.  Ryan continued to spend time with family and he seemed happy.  We got back to our room that night and he was having a lot of difficulty settling down.  I asked him what was going on.

SO I AM HAVING TROUBLE TRYING TO SLEEP BECAUSE I  AM SO EXCITED ABOUT MY NIGHT TONIGHT.

He was proud of himself and so were we.

The next day was the wedding.  He couldn’t contain his excitement either.

SO MOM I AM READY TO GO TO THE WEDDING.

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“Ryan we still have to wait a bit longer as the ceremony is in an hour.”

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It was a Catholic Mass and Ryan was on his best behavior.  About 40 minutes in, he spelled:  NEED TO LEAVE NOW.  Randy took him out for a walk.  Again, the significance of this is great as he lasted that long and was quiet for the ceremony and was able to calmly ask to leave.

Now time for the party.  Well, he did great again.  He conversed with people within our family, friends, and some people whom he had never met but had read his blog.  He answered questions.  It was loud.  He still did it.

He was very affectionate with family, often giving many spontaneous kisses throughout the night.

And he danced.

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And danced some more.

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And on top of all of this, there was this incredibly, unbelievably kind gesture by the bride and groom.

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How can you not be moved to tears by a gesture like this?  I have dreamed of the day of Ryan being able to communicate with our family.  Many, many dreams of this.  At one point, I hesitate to share that I was not sure if this would ever become a reality.  Well, Ryan has exceeded my expectations and then some.  I think that he blew people away.  He was not only able to communicate, but he was able to communicate so maturely.  He was told that he is “so smart” and “funny” and “amazing.”  He was spelling so fast that it was hard for everyone to keep up (including me at times!).  I can honestly say that this weekend was one of the best of my entire life.

We got back home and Ryan was not feeling his best on Monday morning.  His stomach was bothering him.  As a very pushy, excited mother, of course I wanted to hear all about what he thought of the wedding.  He was barely able to spell during the lessons due to his stomach issues, so I backed off.

Later that night, I picked Ryan up and told him how much fun I had at the wedding and that I was so proud of him.  After I put him down, he started to get very sad.  I asked him what was going on.

STRONG MOM, I HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE AT THE WEDDING.

“Ryan, there will be more weddings.  You have another aunt, two uncles, and many cousins who will get married.”

KIND OF LOVE WEDDINGS.

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The beautiful Bride and Groom exiting the party!

The Autism Education Summit, Sound, and Finding His Calling

I had an idea on Saturday night to bring Ryan to the beginning of the third day of the Autism Education Summit this weekend.  The Autism Education Summit is a national conference on autism and it was literally in our backyard (okay about 45 minutes away).  One of my best friends came into town (her son and Ryan are buddies too) and we attended the conference.  I figured that it would be a good experience for Ryan to see what I was doing the first two days of the weekend and that he could try out some of the vendors who had sensory related products or programs.

We got there and did half a lap around the vendor area and Ryan motioned for his letter board (which he rarely initiates) and spelled (very angrily) I AM NOT LOOKING TO CURE MY AUTISM!

I said to Ryan, “I am not looking to cure it either.  I am here to get information to help you with your sensory issues and to keep you healthy.”

VERY HAPPY TO HEAR THAT.

So we continued to walk around.  We checked out the different vendors and Ryan sat in on one of the sessions (Seizures and Epilepsy in Autism) and seemed to be interested.  Along the way we ran into parents that I knew and Ryan spelled for them.  Some of the things that he wrote in response to questions from parents were RPM IS LIFE CHANGING and RPM HAS MADE ME AND MY FAMILY’S LIFE BETTER and I AM REALLY TIRED OF SPELLING.  A few parents commented on how smart he was and he replied I AM HAPPY TO BE THOUGHT OF AS SMART.  He had several parents in tears.  I told him that he probably impacted about 50 people that day.

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One of the most interesting things that happened during the day was when we passed the Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber booth (HBOT).  He saw the chamber and went right up to it.  He motioned for his board and he spelled I WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN.

We had rented a hyperbaric oxygen chamber on two different occasions over two years ago.  As a parent of a child who is severely affected by autism, you are inclined to try anything within your power to help them improve.  We had the chamber in our home in California and Ryan and I used to do two dives a day, five times a week for a month.  He slept so well while we had the chamber.  The second time we rented it, he did not seem to enjoy it.  He struggled to stay in the chamber and at that point, I was not sure how much Ryan understood what was going on around him.  He was allowed to bring a DVD player and his iPad in and I tried to keep him as entertained as possible in order to make it work.  We ended up discontinuing it as Ryan had a seizure at school (first one in 2 years–he has had a total of 3 that we are aware of) and I was uncertain if the HBOT played a role in it.

MOM, I REALLY WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN.  I WANT TO DO IT TODAY.

“Ryan okay.  I will ask them about it but I don’t know if I can get you in today.”

We got on the waiting list for that day but it did not look good.  We walked around some more and eventually made our way back to the HBOT area.  I REALLY WANT TO GO IN THE HBOT TODAY.

“I understand Ryan but I don’t think that that is going to happen.”

The doctor who was in charge of it spoke to us at length about the benefits of HBOT and included Ryan in the conversation.

MOM YOU ARE FAILING ON GETTING ME IN THERE TODAY.

“Yes Ryan you are right.  I don’t think that it is going to happen today.  Can you tell me why you want to do it again?”

IT MADE ME FEEL DIFFERENT.  IT MADE ME FEEL GOOD.

So I am now looking into possibly renting a soft chamber for our home soon.  Ryan has asked for this for his birthday!

Today, we tried to do a module/theme style in Curry Curriculum land.  Thanks to another parent (I owe you Meredith!), we were given three different lessons all related to speed:  one on Wilma Rudolph, one on the speed of sound, and one on speed word problems (math).

During the Wilma Rudolph lesson, Ryan commented:  ALWAYS TREATING PEOPLE WITH RESPECT IS IMPORTANT (this was after talk about segregation) and MOST PEOPLE UNDERESTIMATE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES.  HALLMARK TRICK (his ability to memorize) ENABLES ME TO PROVE PEOPLE WRONG.

The open-ended question at the end asked if he could think of someone who was successful because of determination.  He spelled:  I AM DETERMINED TO PROVE MY INTELLIGENCE TO THE WORLD.  LEANING ON MY LETTERBOARD SKILLS IS GOING TO EACH DAY MAKING ME MOSTLY CAPABLE OF CHANGING PEOPLE’S OPINIONS.  LEANING ON IT MAKES ME NOT SO SAD ABOUT NOT TALKING.

When we began talking about the speed of sound, here is what Ryan had to say:  HALLMARK TRICK MALLEABLE IN SOUND.

“What does that mean?  I don’t understand.”

MEANS I AM SOUND SENSITIVE.  GETTING TO HEAR THINGS THAT OTHERS CANNOT.  FEARFUL OF LOSING THIS ABILITY.  BECAUSE OF THIS I CAN LISTEN AND LISTEN TO COMPETING SOUNDS.

“Is that why you always like having your iPad on with your shows?”

YES BECAUSE IT HELPS ME FOCUS ON KNOWLEDGEABLE THINGS.  ALWAYS LISTENING.

“Have you ever heard anything that you probably weren’t supposed to hear?”  (Thinking about any conversations that I might have had in ear shot of Ryan)

CALLING ME RETARDED.  CALLING ME NAMES ON THE PLAYGROUND.

I explained to Ryan that those kids’ parents are not raising them well and I am sorry that that happened to him.

I think that this is another reason that it seems like a good fit to homeschool Ryan.  Ryan was able to “show off” his skills at the conference because I was able to hold the letter board for him.  When he is at school, he has no way to “show” that he is cognitively intact.  I know that kids who are not autistic can get bullied or teased, but Ryan has no way to defend himself.  I want him to continue to have good self esteem and it seems like homeschooling is a great fit for both of us.

Yesterday we were doing a lesson on Diego Velazquez, who began studying painting at 11 years old.  This began a discussion of what he wants to be when he grows up.  He spelled I AM NOT SURE I CAN DO ANYTHING AS I THINK THAT YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE TO HELP ME.

I told him that he could do anything that he wanted to do and that we will continue to work on his independence.  I also said that many people work from home so there are opportunities for him that way too.

We then were talking about careers and I explained to Ryan what I did before I was a mom.  His response:  I THINK THAT YOU FOUND YOUR CALLING TEACHING ME.

Today as I was writing this post, he again picked up his letter board to initiate a conversation (this is very exciting to me) and spelled:  LEANING ON MY CALLING TO BE AN AUTISTIC ADVOCATE.  LEARY OF LOSING MY SKILLS.  HAVING MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS WITH PEOPLE HELPS ME RETAIN MY SKILLS.

I asked him why he felt like he needed to tell me this.

CAUSE I KNOW WHAT I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP–AN AUTISTIC ADVOCATE FOR NONVERBAL AUTISTICS.

I told him that that was a great idea.

FINALLY LIVING THE LIFE I HAVE ALWAYS DREAMED OF.

First Field Trip, Challenging Behaviors, and Uncle Dan

It has been a bit of a difficult week. There is still a bit of an adjustment period for both Ryan and me.  I am trying to find a balance of preparing for and the actual homeschool day (and it possibly not going exactly like I had hoped or planned).  Ryan is adjusting to being home all day and controlling his impulsive behaviors.

We went on our first field trip this week.  I planned for us to go to the C.R. Smith Museum, Aviation Through American History, which is the American Airlines museum located in Fort Worth.  Ryan was excited to go.

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Well that excitement quickly gave way to body control issues, not feeling well, and disinterest.  We stayed for a while but most of the time was spent sitting here due to not feeling well.FullSizeRender 13

It was a rough day.  This was the second difficult day this week as Monday was tough too.  I tried to have Ryan write about the experience.

MY FIRST FIELD TRIP WAS CAPABLE.  I DID NOT SUPER LIKE THE MUSEUM VERY MUCH.  PLEASE CAN WE GO ON MORE FIELD TRIPS?

“Ryan, I would like to take you on more, but today was difficult.  Would you even call anything about it educational?”

YES TO NOT SUPER CALLING IT EDUCATIONAL.

“Do you think that maybe we should try to do field trips where you have some sort of guide besides myself?”

HAVING A GUIDE IS A GOOD IDEA.

So we will try again next week.  We are going to have a behind the scenes tour of a known restaurant, so we will report back on it soon!

We started back up our regular school today and even before the day began (which was at 3 am for Ryan), Ryan managed to empty half a box of Cheerios on to the kitchen floor and some into the family room.

We sat down and began the school day with our Daily Devotion (thanks for the book Aunt Sarah!) and it was about forgiveness and being able to forgive ourselves.  It was very, very timely.  I then talked to Ryan about how I needed to work on this with forgiving Ryan for his behaviors, with my patience, with forgiving myself for the guilt that I have after getting angry with Ryan, and the guilt that I have for thinking that we have not gotten enough done in the homeschooling day,

I asked him what he thought after the devotion.

ALWAYS CAUSING TROUBLE.  GOING TO TRY.  I AM BEING SO CAGED.

“What do you mean?  I try and give you frequent breaks and allow you to move around.”

AUTISM KNOWS NO FEELINGS FOR CREATING HARDSHIPS.  TOO MANY SENSORY ISSUES TO DEAL WITH.

“I want to help you with this.  How can I help you?”

BEING PATIENT WITH ME.

“I think that I am failing you in that area.”

CAN I FEEL SORRY FOR HAVING SO MANY CHALLENGING BEHAVIORS?

“I am not sure what you mean.  Do you mean feeling sorry for yourself or apologizing for the behaviors?”

FEELING SORRY FOR MYSELF.  YES TO NOT SUPER HAPPY ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING TODAY BECAUSE MY BEHAVIOR IS GETTING IN THE WAY OF MY LEARNING.

CAN I HAVE AN ART HISTORY LESSON TODAY?

So here is where I am trying to be flexible.  I know that Ryan wants to learn despite the behaviors.  Even though it wasn’t on the schedule, I gave Ryan a break and quickly prepared a lesson on Caravaggio.

Caravaggio was controversial.  He was known for his hot temper and for his ability to create extremely realistic, yet violent, religious paintings which people at that time did not appreciate.

We had a great lesson where we branched off in talking about what controversy means (CREATES HEADLINES) and could he think of someone controversial (DONALD TRUMP).

We then spoke about how Caravaggio’s work was not well regarded until 250 years later when it was noted how influential he was to so many painters.

I asked Ryan to define influential.

EACH DAY MAKING AN IMPACT.

Can you think of someone who is influential to you?

CAN (Uncle) DAN DEAL WITH ME IN ONE OF HIS ADVENTURES?

“So are you saying that your answer is Uncle Dan?”

IN TOO MANY WAYS.  YES TO PROUD OF HIM FOR MAKING IT TO THE TOP.

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Rewind about 4 weeks when Uncle Dan and Ryan were FACETIMING together.

Uncle Dan tells Ryan that he is going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa.

I AM NOT SURE YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE IT.

Uncle Dan then explains to Ryan that he is confident that he is and that he has prepared for it.

I AM STILL NOT SURE YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE IT.

Uncle Dan then tells Ryan that he knows that he can do it and that he survived running with the bulls.

IT IS NOT THE SAME THING.

Uncle Dan is not able to convince Ryan that he can do this.  They continued the call and Uncle Dan told Ryan all about his account of running with the bulls.

I AM INTERESTED CAUSE I WANT TO RUN WITH THE BULLS.

Dan then tells Ryan all of the details including how terrifying the experience was and includes how the bulls get slaughtered after the event.

DONT KNOW NOW IF I WANT TO RUN WITH THE BULLS.  EACH ANIMAL THAT LOSES A LIFE EVERY DAY IS SAD TO ME.

They chatted more and then Ryan spelled:  I AM BEING DEARLY INTERESTED EACH DAY IN YOUR STORIES OF EACH TRIP THAT YOU GO ON.

So the first person that Uncle Dan reached out to tell about how he made it to the top of the mountain was Ryan.  He Facetimed us from Tanzania once he was back at the bottom. Ryan spelled:  I AM PROUD OF YOU UNCLE DAN.

Okay back to today…

“So Ryan, today turned out to be a pretty good day, don’t you think?”

FACING A BAD START I ROSE TO THE OCASSION.

SO MOM I SOMETIMES CANT BELIEVE THAT I AM LEARNING SUCH INTERESTING THINGS.

“I agree Ryan.  Two years ago, if someone had told me that I would be teaching you about art history and lessons on how the brain works, I don’t think that I would have believed them.”

CAN UNDERSTAND THAT.

“Would it be okay with you if I blogged about all of this?”

EACH DAY I THINK DETERMINES THE BLOG TOPIC.

And there you have it.  Until next week!

The Stockyards, Change, and the Game

Last weekend, we assumed the role of tourists since my mom (Grandma Chris) was in town.  We had not yet been to the Fort Worth Stockyards, so we ventured out there and met Granny (Randy’s mom) there too.  We had a great time.  Ryan was very happy to be there.

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We watched the cattle drive, met some cowboys (and got to spend time with their horses which Ryan absolutely loved), he rode on a steer, ate lunch, shopped, and went through a maze (that was featured on the show The Amazing Race!)

Ryan had this to say about the experience:

MY FAVORITE PART OF TODAY WAS LETTING ME SIT ON THE STEER.

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“Ryan, can you describe what that was like for other people who have not had that experience?”

REALLY INTERESTING FEELING WHEN YOU SIT ON IT.  LEANING ON MY CAPABLE BOIST(E)ROUS AMOUNTS OF THINGS TO LOOK AT.  HITTING ALL OF MY SENSES.  LEARY OF MYSELF LEANING ON MY HEADPHONES BECAUSE I MIGHT MISS SOMETHING COOL.

PLEASE FORGIVE ME FOR HAVING VERY DIFFICULT BEHAVIOR IN THE STORE.  UNDERSTAND THAT I AM TRYING SO HARD NOT TO TOUCH STUFF.  (Ryan was having a hard time as he was grabbing for necklaces and belts in the store and Randy eventually took him outside because of all of the temptations).

KNOW THAT I LOVED IT ALL.  I then spoke to him a little bit about the cattle drive and compared it to the lesson that we recently did on cowboys and how they did these drives all the way to Kansas many years ago.  ALWAYS GRATEFUL THAT I AM ALIVE DURING THIS TIME PERIOD.

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So this week we made a big change.  We began a new adventure of homeschooling for Ryan.  This was a carefully thought out decision that we did not make lightly.  Ryan and I are very excited and enthusiastic about it.  We had a our first day of “Curry Curriculum” on Wednesday of this week and so far the week has gone well.

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There were many reasons why we chose to go this route, but I wanted to share with you a conversation that Ryan and I had had late last week that factored into it:

“Ryan, I don’t think that I am going to be able to make it to your Flag Day ceremony tomorrow morning (this was last Thursday).  It begins at 8:05 and I have to drop Grace off at school and I won’t make it to your school in time with the distance and the traffic and construction that is going on nearby.  Is this a problem or will you be okay?”

NO NEED TO COME BECAUSE IT IS STUPID BECAUSE I DONT REALLY GET TO PARTICIPATE WITH THIRD GRADE.

I got some clarification via email that the ceremony consisted of the different grades singing patriotic songs and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the Texas Pledge.  As Ryan is not able to speak, he did not feel as though he would be included.  On that Friday, I asked him how it went.

STREAMING TEARS WALKING INTO SCHOOL AFTER THE EVENT CAUSE NO ONE LET CAPABLE KIDS PARTICIPATE.  HALLMARK TRICK IS MEMORIZING AND I KNEW THE WORDS.  (He now refers to his ability to memorize as his “hallmark trick.”)

I don’t believe that he was actually physically crying (although I am not sure) as I just assume that he felt this way on the inside. I told him that I could hold the letter board and that he could do a mini ceremony in front of his grandmas, his dad, Grace, and me and he replied MY GRANDMAS KNOW THAT I AM SMART.

And then he spelled this:

REALLY SICK OF BEING VIEWED AS RETARDED.

Ryan is very conscious of the way that he is perceived by others.  We don’t know where he heard the word retarded as we don’t use that word in our home.  I share this as this is heartbreaking to me.  So many professionals think that autistics are trapped in their own worlds, without any regard for the what is going on around them and that they are not capable of feeling this way.  That is absolutely false.

On a much more positive note, we made it to the Rangers game last night! IMG_5943 IMG_5946

When Ryan spoke to his friend Fox yesterday (via Skype) he said the following about going to the game:

EACH DAY DEMONSTRATES HOW COOL MY LIFE HAS BECOME.

Ryan wrote this about his experience last night:

FINALLY I GOT TO SEE A GAME IN PERSON.  CALLING IT MY DREAM DAY.  LOVED EVERY SECOND.  BASEBALL OWNS MY LIFE RIGHT NOW.  YES TO MAKING IT MY HOBBY.  HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING.  I AM NOW A RANGERS FAN TOO.  YES TO MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCE BECAUSE OF YOUR LESSONS (referring to the books and RPM lessons we did on baseball).

I told Ryan how much I love baseball and that it is absolutely my favorite sport to watch.

I LOVE IT TOO.

“Were you disappointed that we left early?”  It was a school night for Grace and we got to the stadium early so by the time we had left, we had spent 3 hours there.

A LITTLE.  UNDERSTAND THAT I CANNOT SIT FOR LONG PERIODS.

“Anything else that you want to say about this?”

HAD A GREAT TIME.  MY LEARINESS (leeriness) OF LOUD NOISES DID NOT GET THE BEST OF ME.

More Baseball, a Request, Baseball Again, and a Revelation

Ryan’s one request last weekend was for us to do his BASEBALL SCOREKEEPING LESSON.  I stayed up really late and finished the lesson and the next morning we did it together.  He was very engaged in the lesson.  I based the lesson off of the book from our reader Marcus B. (thanks so much again!!!) and used the scorekeeping sheets to show him some examples.  I asked him his thoughts at the end of the lesson.

TOO MUCH WORK.  I WOULD RATHER WATCH THE GAME.  I LIKE THE IDEA OF KEEPING SCORE BUT MY MOTOR SKILLS ARE TOO POOR RIGHT NOW.  MAYBE IN THE FUTURE I CAN DO IT.

Ryan is not able to hand write.  His fine motor skills are extremely poor so it would be difficult for him to keep score as he would likely have to spell out directions on scorekeeping and I would mark it.  I can see why he would feel this way.

Randy and I decided that before the season was over that we would try and take the kids to a Texas Rangers game.  We got some tickets for next Thursday night’s game.  I will let everyone know how it goes!

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This week, in continuing with some art history, Ryan and I did a lesson on the painter Raphael.  We learned that Raphael took up painting after his father.  I asked Ryan what he liked doing with his dad.

ALWAYS LIKE GOING ON TRIPS IN THE CAR.

Randy and Ryan do this a lot.  I mentioned to Ryan that we would be having a long car trip to Austin soon to see Soma next weekend.

PLEASE CAN I MAKE A REQUEST?

(At this point, I am so giddy that I can’t stand it as I love getting a glimpse of what he wants to ask me about!)

BEING SO SOUND SENSITIVE CAN I GET SOME NOISE CANCELING HEADPHONES WHEN WE ARE OUT IN PUBLIC?

I said, “Of course.  Do you think that you will be able to tolerate headphones on your ears?”  Ryan cannot stand having his ears checked at the doctor’s office and does not tolerate ear phones or ear buds when listening to his iPad.

REALLY WILL TRY.

“Have you ever worn them in school or therapies?”

LET YOU NOT BE DETERRED BY MY FAILURE IN SCHOOL.

I went out and got Ryan a pair at Home Depot (thanks to another smart parent for the recommendation!)  I asked him if these would work.  YES TO LEANING ON THEM AS NECESSARY.

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We continued the lesson and at the end I asked Ryan if he had anything that he wanted to say.

CAN I CALL MY UNCLE KEVIN SOON?

So I was very excited and surprised by his request.  My Uncle Kevin is my mom’s brother, Ryan’s great uncle.  Ryan only sees him about once a year for family events.  My mom is one of seven children so Ryan has a lot of great aunts and great uncles and a lot of aunts and uncles in general (I am one of seven children too.)

“Of course!  What made you think of him?”

HE IS SO KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT BASEBALL.  ALWAYS WHEN I SEE HIM HE IS COACHING A BASEBALL TEAM.

I then asked Ryan if he was excited about going to the Rangers game.

YES TO MY BASEBALL DREAM IS TO GO TO A GAME.

Right after that, I reached out to my Uncle Kevin and we set up a phone date for the following day.

Ryan prepared one question ahead of time:  GIVE ME AN IDEA OF WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE A COACH.

Uncle Kevin and Ryan’s call lasted about 20 minutes.

YES TO LOVING ALL OF THE INFO.  I AM INTERESTED IN THE BASEBALL STATISTICS.  YES TO LIKING WHAT I HEARD.

Ryan’s attention span for things like this is about 20 minutes.  He was super quiet most of the call until the very end.  I mentioned to Uncle Kevin that it might be best to continue the conversation at another time, possibly the wedding.

YES TO CONTINUING AT THE WEDDING.

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Ryan’s teacher sent home a worksheet last night.  It was from one of the third grade classes and she thought that it would be great for us to work on at home.  It was on maps, grids, and coordinates.

I started doing it with Ryan and adapted it so that he could answer with his letter board.  I quickly realized that he had already read the paper when I had left it on the kitchen table.  He answered the questions that I asked verbatim of what was on the worksheet.

I asked him, “Did you already read this?”

YES.

“Did you memorize it?”

YES.

“Really?”  I then proceeded to quiz him (which maybe I should not have done, but he got it all right and then recited back the exact directions in order on the paper.)

LEAVE ME ALONE WITH A PAPER AND I MEMORIZE IT.

I should have known this because he has done this before with a map of the United States and the state capitals.

HAS TO BE A SINGLE PAGE.  I HAVE TROUBLE BECAUSE I CANT LEAD WITH MY EYES TO MORE PAGES.

“Do you want more wall posters?  We can go to Michael’s and get the ones that we had from the old house framed too.  What if I get you a poster of something like the Declaration of Independence?”

REALLY LIKE THAT IDEA.  EACH DAY I HOPE SOME MORE POSTERS ARRIVE IN THE MAIL.

“So your birthday is coming up.  People want to get you gifts.  Should I tell them that you would like wall posters?”

GIVING ME GIFTS IS NOT SUPER NECESSARY.

“That is kind Ryan, but people are really excited to learn what your interests are and want to buy you gifts.  We have been waiting a while to get you gifts that you really like.”

ALWAYS AMAZED BY THE KINDNESS OF OTHERS.