June 12, 2016: School’s Out!

As a kid, I remember rejoicing when school let out for the summer! We used to sing No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks! And oh, how glorious it was to have ten weeks of freedom stretching before us!

My son, however, does not feel the same way. Not one bit. He actually loved school this year (his words, not mine—though it was written all over his face) and is sorry that it ended. He was particularly attached to his teacher and had a lot of friends in class. So upset was he about the end of the year that he was an absolute pill on Thursday night. Typical Theo, he wouldn’t say what was bothering him, but we knew. He was sassy and snotty and rude, which he pretty much only does when he’s upset about something but doesn’t want to admit it. (Every time Chris has to leave town, which is rare but has happened a few times, Theo has been an absolute turd but refuses to admit he’s upset!)

Friday morning, I awoke and went downstairs, and got bawled out by him because we were out of toaster strudel. We haven’t had any toaster strudel in well over a week, and he hasn’t cared one bit. But evidently he had to have something to be angry about, because he certainly wasn’t about to admit that it was the end of school!

Anyway, the last day went well, as far as I can tell. They had basically a half-day party, and the kids were released, report cards clutched in sweaty hands, at 12:30. I picked Theo up, and he had already ripped open his report card to see whether he had passed. And of course he had, as we knew he would—he was at grade level in everything and above in a couple of areas, so there was no concern. (He actually scored Excellent in music class, which doesn’t surprise me—he loves that class! I hear about his music teacher, Miss Young, in great detail! I’ve not met Miss Young, but Theo thinks she’s the cat’s meow.)

He was odd when I picked him up, though. I told him we’d go to lunch, and he said he wanted to get sandwiches at Subway and take them to the park. So we did, but he barely ate. Then he announced he wanted to go home and take a nap. He never takes naps. I said we had to go to Target, but he was welcome to nap in the car. And actually, on the 30-minute drive to Target, he fell asleep twice! He woke up once briefly to demand, “What the hell is with all of this traffic?!” After an admonishment about his choice of language, he went back to sleep. 😉

I was wondering if he was getting sick, but he didn’t feel warm at all and showed no signs of it. He just seemed tired and off in Autism Land. (Most of the time, Theo is pretty connected to the world. But there are times when he disappears off into what we call Autism Land, and he’s rather unreachable and disconnected from us. He snaps out of it eventually and comes back to join the rest of us.) So we picked up the few things we needed at Target, and he was perfectly fine and full of energy in the store. Then on the ride home, he nearly fell asleep again. He was oddly silent while picking up Sam, and then I gave them both some iPad time to decompress. Theo was quiet and calm, and after about an hour he left Autism Land and returned to me. Sam, Theo, and I went out into the backyard, pulled weeds and played for an hour, then ate dinner, then went for frozen yogurt as an end-of-school treat, took showers, did a bedtime story, and went to bed. And he was perfectly fine and has been fine today (Saturday).

So, my theory as his mom? Trying to process the end of his beloved school year was just a lot for him, and it physically exhausted him and caused him to shut down for a while. Now he’s come back to himself, and all is well. No signs of sickness, no nothing. I think he just needed to shut down for a while and gather himself back together. Whatever works! I don’t pretend to understand how that amazing little mind of his works. Eight years in, Theo is figuring out what he needs to do to take care of himself, and I’m more than willing to step back and just keep an eye on him from afar as he works it out.

Chris was gone on Thursday night through Friday night, too, which added another layer of change to Theo’s day and may have been part of it. Chris just went down to help him parents in San Jose overnight, but Theo is used to him being around and gets a little antsy when he’s not. And Chris had been gone for part of Wednesday night, too, at a Cub Scout planning meeting. Because guess what? Chris is the new Cubmaster for our pack! Den? Whatever the big one is. I can never remember whether the pack is the big one and it’s made up of smaller dens, or whether it’s the other way around. Anyway, whatever it is, Chris is the Cubmaster of the big one. Apparently no one else wanted the job, and they’ve been grooming Chris for it all year. (He was Assistant Cubmaster this year.) He finally capitulated and agreed to do it. Should be a nice thing for he and Theo to share. I told him I’d help out behind the scenes as needed, but I rarely go to the meetings and events because Sam is such a pill at that hour of the evening. It’s just easier and less distracting for me to stay home with Sam, even though I do wish I got to share that more with Theo. Ah well, it’s nice for Theo and Chris to have something to share, too.

In fact, they are on their very first Cub Scout campout today! It was supposed to be last October, but then they had to cancel because not enough certified parents were able to attend. (There’s some certified-parent-to-kid ratio that has to be met for safety issues.) So they rescheduled for January (who schedules a campout in January?! Particularly during an El Nino year?!), and not surprisingly, it got rained out. So now, the long-delayed camping trip is happening, and they’re off doing that while Sam and I hold down the fort.

Sam, on the other hand, has not finished school yet. He has one more week at his old preschool, and then he’ll start his Communication Readiness Program (CRP) on Monday the 20th. I took him for his CRP assessment this week, which was a total hoot. They had graduate students in speech therapy administering the assessments, and Sam was paired up with a guy named Gabe who had long brown hair and a very full beard. He looked a bit like the stereotypical hippie from the ’60s, and Sam was fascinated by him! What a nice guy, too. Sam was rather silly and uncooperative because the assessment was during his naptime and he was overtired, but Gabe, the brave soul, soldiered on and was really good with Sam. At one point, he was trying to prompt Sam to say a word, and Sam just stared very seriously at him and finally reached out and stroked his long hair. That led to quite an interaction with Gabe letting Sam check out his hair and beard, much to Sam’s delight!

And in one of the more amusing parts of the assessment, Sam held out his finger to Gabe, bearing a big green booger. Now, Sam’s preschool’s booger-phobia is a large part of why he won’t be attending there anymore. They stress out every time his nose runs, which is very, very frequently. But Gabe just took one look at the booger and said, “Oh wow, that’s a big one!” Then he looked at me, shrugged, and said, “Job hazard.” Ah, it was so refreshing not to hear, “He has a booger!!! It’s green!! It might be an infection!! You need to get him to the doctor!!” Green boogers are just a part of life for us, and I was pleased to see someone realize that it wasn’t the end of the world. (And yes, I quickly dispensed with the booger!)

I also had to attend a parent meeting about CRP on Saturday, and it left me feeling so excited about the program! I know several of the families who are participating, and a few were also in the program last year. They raved about what a difference it made for their children, so I’m very excited to see how Sam will do!

Basically, the program is designed to help children with Down syndrome be able to communicate effectively so they can be a true part of the classroom at whatever school they attend. Each class has a teacher (ours is a kindergarten teacher during the school year, and she does this on her summer break), an assistant (ours has a background in special education and teaches one of the other classes Down Syndrome Connection offers), and enough volunteers that there is one adult per child. Speech therapists and a behaviorist also work in the two classes; the behaviorist is there because when children are nonverbal, their behavior is often the way they attempt to communicate. So the speech therapists and behavior therapist identify patterns in behavior with the kids and what that is trying to communicate, and then they work with the child to communicate that in a way that is understandable to other people—so in speech, with the aid of an assistive communication device, through gestures, or in whatever manner the child can communicate.

The kids go for three hours a day, four mornings a week, for six weeks. Everything in the class focuses on communication—lining up, snack time, circle time, play time, etc. In everything, they are working with the children to build a back-and-forth dialogue in whatever means the child can communicate. Sam is already very good at following routines—he is a routine-driven kid and loves to follow them once he understands them. So in that sense, I know he’ll do really well. Where he struggles is with communication that isn’t routine—spontaneous communication about out-of-context topics. And that’s something that the program works heavily on. So, for example, if you sit Sam down for dinner, he will gladly point to his plate and announce to you “Fuff, bait, [sign for raisins],” which translates to goldfish, bacon, and cranberries. But he won’t communicate about anything other than what’s on his plate. And if you’re like me, you never really thought much about that before, but if you stop and think now, you realize, “Oh yeah—my child does talk about unrelated topics at dinner (or wherever). She doesn’t just name the three things on her plate; she actually communicates about other things, too.”

Areas like that are where Sam is way behind his peers, and I’m very excited that this program should help him start developing his communication in meaningful ways. Don’t get me wrong—I’m excited that he names what’s on his plate! But if he is among his peers and that’s all he does, he’s quickly going to be the outsider. I’m excited for him to learn ways to communicate more than just the simple facts that are right in front of him. And I think he’ll be excited, too—it’s very clear that he very much wants to communicate more than he can, but he just doesn’t have the skills yet. (Or the tools—he may end up with an AAC [alternative augmented communication] device if that’s what they decide will help him progress. It remains to be seen—they assess the child’s areas of communication strength and work with those.)

They also work on pottying, which I’m very excited about!! It’s not specifically part of the program, but because it’s three hours every morning and kids undoubtedly need to go potty, they all go potty. So Sam will have a more structured potty routine (his current preschool wasn’t much help in that area), which I’m hoping will be helpful. It certainly can’t hurt!

Speaking of pottying, he did pee on the toilet this week—for the second time ever! (The first time was maybe six months or so ago.) Well, actually he peed all over the floor, but he was sitting on the potty when he did it, so I’m calling it a win. 😉

As it turns out, I could’ve taken Theo with me to Sam’s CRP class for the first six weeks of summer! I thought he’d just be hanging out in Danville with me, bored out of his mind and potentially driving me bonkers, so I put him in day camp instead. But as it turns out, some of the other mothers have older kids that Theo has met and liked, and those older kids will be doing park dates and such during CRP time. I could’ve saved a bundle on camp fees!

But actually, the camp will be good for Theo. It sounds like great fun, and it’s nearly 100 percent outdoors, which I like. Theo loves to be outdoors, but if we’re at home and he’s left to his own devices, he will simply curl up with the iPad for long stretches of time. And I really didn’t want him spending large portions of every day glued to the iPad (which he probably would’ve done while Sam napped), so camp will solve that without me having to nag him about it. He’ll be there from early morning (ugh, we have to get up so early because the CRP program is a terrible drive during rush hour!) until nearly 5pm, outdoors all day. It’s held at a nature preserve (so lots of shade—don’t panic, grandparents!), and they have all manner of activities planned every day, most of which are outdoors. Mornings are spent at the nature preserve, playing games, doing hikes, etc. Every Monday and Wednesday, they swim at the community pool all afternoon. (I was a bit nervous about that, but I talked to several parents who have done the camp, and they assured me that the camp makes each child take a swimming test and monitors them closely at the pool. And truly, Theo is a strong swimmer now, so I’m just being overly cautious.) Once a week they go on an all-day field trip—this coming week is the San Francisco Zoo, and other weeks they are going to Angel Island, Muir Woods, an A’s baseball game, etc. This week they have a mini-field trip to go bowling. And then one or two days a week they stay at the nature preserve all day and do activities like fishing for crawdads there. Theo is especially excited about fishing for crawdads, though I think he’ll find it somewhat less exciting when he actually does it, since being quiet and still isn’t generally his favorite thing to do!

Anyway, I think he’ll have a blast, and it will eliminate battles over “you’ve spent too much time on the iPad; go do something that doesn’t involve a screen.” It brings back good memories for me, too—a couple of summers, I did some YMCA day camps when I was a kid, and I had so much fun! I love the idea of Theo having a kind of old-school summer outdoors, like I did when I was a kid.

Anyway, next week I’ll be back with stories of the first week of camp, plus tales about Chris’s and my first night away in a year! Grandma Kathy and Papa are going to watch the boys overnight while we go to Chris’s company’s annual charity concert event. We call this the “boring shareholders’ meeting,” because if Theo knew it was a rock concert and we were going without him, we’d never hear the end of it! It’s a family-friendly event, and the boys could come…but having done it both with and without them, I can tell you it’s much more fun when it’s adults-only! Half the fun is hanging out for all three surprise musical acts to see who is performing, and neither of the boys would last through all three, I guarantee it.

We’re going to take BART into the city so we don’t have to pay for parking and so we can enjoy the free wine at the event! And we got a hotel reservation for the night—wheeeeee! Last year we climbed into bed at 8pm and rented a movie in the hotel room, and I promptly fell asleep on Chris’s shoulder and missed most of the movie. I assume this year will be much the same. But still, it’s nice to get a night away every once in a while. I love my boys, but it’s very nice to get some grown-up time, too!

So who do we think will be performing at the concert? Hmmmm, who knows? Every year we try to guess, and only once have we ever gotten one right—last year I guessed Katy Perry, and she did indeed play (along with Jason Derulo and Imagine Dragons, as I recall). We’ve also seen Colbie Caillet (sp??), Foo Fighters (my favorite of everyone we’ve seen at these concerts!), Jennifer Hudson, Bruno Mars, and Usher, among others. I keep holding out hope for Bon Jovi and Pink, who are both on my bucket list of acts to see someday, but who knows? I’m told in past years they’ve had big-name acts like Elton John, The Eagles, and the Black Eyed Peas, but that was before our time….

Anyway, it’ll be fun, and a great way to celebrate our ninth anniversary, which is this Friday! Wow, we’re almost at double digits!

Happy week to you all!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *