Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Where Are We?

Part of our plan is to come from where Liam is now - not where he "should" be or where everyone else is at his age, but where he actually is right now.  In trying to bridge the gaps in comprehension, we're working with subjects he already knows.  Here he's creating a storyboard for an episode of a TV show that is his favoite, "Dr. Chris Pet Vet."
While he did manage to finish it, it took more pompting than I wanted.  My take away from it was - try it again but,narrow the focus and simplify the choices so he thinks more for himself, which is the ultimate goal.

Today we had a chance to play in some more puddles. He was actually disappointed that the rain had stopped.  I said it would start again soon.  "What does "soon" mean?" he asked.  Good question!
On a walk with his Dad the other day, they found a dead squirrel.  Liam has known about death since one of our cats died about 2 years ago, but he had never seen a dead body before.  He struggled with this idea.  "The squirrel is an animal toy.  The squirrel is an object," he said, dismayed.  It seems that having more space and time allows his own thoughts and voice to come through more clearly.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Calling Dr. Butler

Today, Liam has had an explosion of imaginary play, probably linked to his new, favorite show, "Dr. Chris: Pet Vet" and his own recent trip to the doctor, where he got a flu shot.

This morning he dragged out several stuffed animals for a clinic, giving them all flu shots.  Later he arranged them on the couch and recreated a classroom scene he found on YouTube where he gives out "behavior" cards.  After lunch, I found a crew settled around the dining room table.

I just walked in on him tucking Widget from "Wow, Wow Wubzy" into bed, giving her a flu shot and an exam and treating her for a tummy ache.

Pretend play has been a long time coming.  Usually it's scripted bits from different shows (as with the behavior cards).  But in playing Doctor Butler, he seems to be pulling lots of ideas together and even having the patients talk back to him.  It's great to watch him learning, growing and having fun.

In the afternoon, Liam and his dad walked to the grocery store, practicing focus at intersections.  He's grown used to relying on the person crossing with him to cue when to cross.  We're working on raising his own awareness - crucial for future indepenent mobility. 

On to week two. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Meaning of Life (or at least the meaning of "doubt")

Liam's memorization skills are solid.  It's something we share.  I can memorize quickly and easily (my favorite being 800 lines as Rosiland for "As You Like It.")  But for me, there are associations with all of the words, passages and images.  For Liam, it is a direct 1-1 thought.  In other words, Liam could memorize the fact that "doubt" is the opposite of "belief" and still have no clue as to the meaning of either word.

We've been working through a 3rd grade workbook with nice, easy to understand pages.  For him, much of this is review, but it reveals the cracks to me.  We were playing with antonyms and he came upon the word "doubt."

"What does it mean?" he asked.  Negative concepts are hard.  I tried to give an example.  "Do you remember when I said I didn't want you to walk on the rug with muddy boots?"  I asked.


"You could say, 'I doubt you want me to walk on that carpet with muddy boots.' It means you don't think I want you to."  Wow.  Liam's way of thinking in the positive has it's advantages - who needs to say it that way?  I know he didn't quite get the concept, so I found an online thesaurus.

Dictionary definitions are great, if you know all of the OTHER words and concepts described, but most often, Liam doesn't know them either.  Since we were working with synonyms and antonyms, a thesarus made perfect sense.  In almost every case, Liam knew at least ONE of the synonyms and/or antonyms.  This may be the launching place for all definitions.

We took a break at Sherman Oaks Park -first chance in days to get outside.  And we got home just in time to attend the tree lighting ceremony for Universal's Merry Grinchmas celebrations.  His dad perched him on his shoulders to get a better view of the tree and fireworks.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Solving for X

Common Core's math focus is to teach kids how to examine a problem in different ways in an attempt to develop critical thinking.  That sounds great - in theory.  Our experience of it, at least as it's being implemented in LAUSD, is a rush to introduce concepts at age-inappropriate levels - using terms of questionable accuracy.   While typical children can learn shades of meaning for misused words or catch up to concepts eventually, Liam is very literal.  He learns words and concepts and commits them to memory, seeing any deviation as WRONG!

So my husband, John, came up with a different way to show several ways to solve the same problem, using a basic algebra concept - solve for "x."

"X" can equal anything and you can use any function you know to solve the problem different ways.  My husband and I can take turns with different ways to solve a problem, letting Liam come up with yet another.  The more functions you know, the more you can use.  The possibilities are endless.

Today, John and Liam started with "X=1" and "X=2."  Liam took to the idea right away.  The end result looked like this:

The board can be moved anywhere - in this case, balanced on the bed, so Liam could crawl, kneel, stand or sit in any position to work on the problem.  This has a lot of promise.  

And being another "beautiful rainy day," after math class, some puddle jumping was in order.

For music, Liam figured out the 20th Century Fox theme on the piano and on a tiny keyboard as part of "Drawing Carl" on his iPad.  He recreated the gold 20th Century Fox logo too, but erased it before I got a picture.  It was pretty cool.  

Monday, December 1, 2014


Surprises - they come in all shapes and sizes.  Sorry for the rhyme - Liam is on a Teletubby kick.

Today's surprises began with a faint, sour smell wafting from my son as he joined me for his usual morning cuddle.  Musty washcloth last night?  No.  Pee accident?  No.  I nosed into his room and into the bedding.  Cat pee.  Great.

Liam is infatuated with our cat, Jake.  He can't seem to resist petting or scooping Jake up whenever he sees him.  Jake is 13 and very even tempered, but I noticed that Liam had captured him the other day and "tucked" him into the bed.  Liam doesn't get that Jake has feelings and doesn't always enjoy even the "nice pets."  I began to suspect that our non-biting, non-scratching cat had found another way to show his displeasure.

Whatever the source, today wasn't the best day for this surprise.  Liam was scheduled for a doctor visit to be cleared for Special Olympics in track (and to get a flu shot) and it happens to be our first day back from "vacation" and onto our homeschool adventure.  And yesterday's lovely rain had flooded our back porch creating another nasty surprise - a small pond.  I threw down every available towel and shoved the sodden mess into the washer, stripped Liam's bed and scrubbed the mattress, adding peppermint oil (it really kills the smell).

The bedclothes went in after the towels with a vinegar wash.  Liam was fussing and refusing to take off his night shirt.  He also waited too long to get to his morning pee, and so he too had had a pee incident (not in the bed).  Liam is always a little distressed by any bathroom accident and is also uncomfortable seeing his bed "naked." To top it off,  I twas venting about the cat pee on his sheets, trying to impress the "why" of it on him.  "Jake peed in the bed BECAUSE you trapped him.  Don't do that again."

Liam struggled with mounting emotions and finally shot out, "I am dissapointed!"  It wasn't quite the emotion that was showing on his face - angst at being reprimanded, self-recrimination maybe, but is was as close as he could get in his state.  He was bummed about needing new pants and I had picked a bad time to try to explain "why" I was upset about the cat pee and his over cuddling Jake.  I didn't pick my battles well today.

A few sips of my now-cold coffee and Dad, Liam and I were off to the doctor's appointment.  Liam was calmed by the prospect of going to Rite Aid after the visit to take pictures of the digital displays on the lottery machine.  My husband was braced to handle restraining Liam so that he could get his flu shot.

At the appointment, Liam was happy and mostly cooperative.  He hates having anything put into his ears, so temperature and visual exams with a scope were out.  And then it was time for the shot.  Dad held him from behind, around his chest and I had the legs.  Liam was looking at his iPad then glanced over as the shot went in.  Aaaand - SURPRISE!  He just watched calmly as she pushed the plunger.  No yell.  No struggle.  We all high-fived Liam.  "Did that hurt?" he scripted from some cartoon I haven't seen.  "DID it hurt?" I asked.  He didn't answer and happily took the lollipop from the RN.

As I said before - one breakthrough can make up for a whole lot of crap.  So, in all, today is a good day.