Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving Post

The first thing I think of when I hear the word thankfulness is my little family of five.  

Life with three kids these days is crazy and hectic (and makes me want to pull my hair out some days) BUT, I wouldn't trade it for anything.  There's a lot of love in this house and I am so grateful to have so much.  This Thanksgiving I had a lot to be thankful for. 

Taking family photos was surprisingly easy!

Although I'm not so sure Cody would agree...

This year for Thanksgiving we had Chris' family over.  We had a full turkey dinner and lots of good company.  It's exciting that the holiday season has begun and I'm looking forward to all of the wonderful things that lie ahead. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Karate Lessons

Sometime last year, a local Karate school went to Colin's daycare on a day he wasn't in public school and did a Karate lesson with his class (they still do this 2x a month).  He had talked a lot about it then and so the thought had crossed my mind to sign him up for lessons but I never followed through.  This year when the behavior issues associated with school started, the idea came into my head again and so we called and set up a trial lesson with Master Dave.  Chris took him to the first lesson and he LOVED it.  

Because the lesson went so well, we decided to sign Colin up for private lessons with Master Dave.  We really think Master Dave is PERFECT for Colin as he has a lot of patience, is great with praising him for the things he does well and for following directions, but is also stern with him when necessary.  I could tell from the first day that Dave felt comfortable working with Colin and the simplest thing to say is that he is just really great with him.  Colin works the entire 30 minutes with him and does a really good job listening to what he has to say.  


We are looking forward to all of the many things that Colin will learn from participating in Karate.  There are so many benefits to it and it's appearing to be an activity Colin really likes.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Potty Business

Before Colin started his second full year of pre-k (he was 4), I made a book for him to have at school that he could use for speech therapy or in class.  The book was all about his summer vacation and loaded with pictures that he could use to talk about while in school.  When Colin finished pre-k last year, the book came home and it's been hanging around and occasionally read.  One of Kailey's choices the other night at bedtime was the book and on one of the pages, I had highlighted the fact the kids spent several days in potty training "boot camp" (3 day method).  While Chris was reading the book, I had to laugh because it was so long ago that we had started working on potty training (Colin was around 3 when he started) and here we are  just finally getting to a place where I can confidently say that Colin is just about there.  There have been SO MANY posts about our trials and tribulations when it came to this process (Kailey wasn't easy either, my *typically* developing child - for the record) and in fact, I was really nervous when Colin started Kindergarten this year because he still wasn't fully communicating the fact he had to go.  

I can honestly say that we have come SO FAR and although it takes a lot of work every day, Colin has really made such great progress.  When school first started, Colin did really well and only had a few accidents (but only because of having to poop) but it prompted the nurse to set up a "potty plan" for him.  We really scheduled his bathroom breaks to ensure that he went enough during the day so that he wouldn't have an accident.  It has worked really well and I can count on one hand (or less) how many accidents he has had since school started.  In addition, while he is still mostly schedule trained, he is finally communicating the majority of the time when he has to go and we are seeing fewer and fewer accidents (and they usually are related to poop accidents).  We are doing a lot of celebrating around here when he does tell us because of how well he is doing.  I still feel that we really have to be on top of him because depending on how tired he is or what activity he is doing, he may not say anything and go for a long period of time (which then causes an accident).  We just make sure that he goes plenty of times and then if he tells us, it's a bonus. We are so happy with this progress! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

More About Colin's Behavior

In the last post that I wrote, I eluded to the fact that we have been dealing with some challenging behaviors with Colin.  This has become a more recent challenge for us as they have worsened a bit with time.  This has been quite stressful for me because it's never easy to hear the negative things that he does in a day.  While we can actually explain most of the reasons to the behaviors, it's still difficult.  At the last meeting we had with school, we were all in agreement that a lot of the causes to the behaviors were stemming from frustration.  Some changes were made to his IEP and in addition, we consented to a FBA (functional behavior assessment) to be done by the district.  In this case, a behaviorist comes in, observes the child in their environment and then develops a plan to deal with the behaviors. 

In the meantime, I have spent a lot of time researching this topic, speaking with people more experienced with this than me, watching videos/webinars, and scouring different internet sites with the hopes that I may find some strategies that could assist us at home and Colin's teachers at school.  I recently posted in a facebook group that I belong to specifically about inclusion for kids with Down Syndrome and received a lot of feedback but in particular, the most helpful piece of advice I got was to watch a video of a talk given by Dr. David Stein at a conference on the topic of behavior in children with Down Syndrome.  It was EXCELLENT and provided me with so much information that I found to be incredibly helpful.  I included that video below because it truly is a valuable piece of research on this topic. 

I have been hesitant on posting the specifics about Colin's behavior because I wasn't sure how I could post about the topic without my frustrations pouring out in the form of words on the screen.  I have been incredibly emotional on the topic as I have seen so much change in Colin and fear that I haven't been able to "fix" it.  However, this talk shed a LOT of light as to the scientific/medical reasons (differences in the brains of kids with DS versus their typical peers) behind the behaviors as well as other influencing factors.  Because of the brain differences among kids with DS, the influencing factors include things like difficulty with executive functioning (reasons why kids with DS tend to be more impulsive), language, socially, information processing, and motivationally.  

I felt better after watching the talk just because I had a better understanding as to why this is so challenging with Colin.  Because of these differences, when things are frustrating and overwhelming for him, he is going to communicate in ways that might be different for him than they would be for typically developing children.  The easy part is now in understanding but the hard part is still in the execution of the strategies to help improve upon the behaviors.  I really liked Dr. Stein because he addressed some things that I found to be helpful for me emotionally.  One point he touched on was the fact that while it's easy for him to explain all of this, he understands that the execution IS hard. 

Some of the challenging behaviors include: yelling, hitting (when he's REALLY frustrated and it's mostly me that deals with that), running (he's doing it on purpose because he knows he's getting a reaction out of us) and avoiding doing things asked of him.  A lot of the time you can tell he's frustrated.  In school, the behaviors include crawling on the floor or going under his desk to avoid work, using his hands inappropriately, etc. 

One simple change we have made at home is in utilizing a visual schedule.  This is helpful because Colin can SEE what is coming next and we give him time to prepare and transition to the next thing.  This is helpful for tasks he DOESN'T want to complete because then he usually sees something more motivational following the nonpreferred activity.  Another strategy that Dr. Stein talks about is really in emphasizing the positive behaviors.  In addition, unless it's something that needs to be addressed immediately because of a safety issue, trying not to address the negative behaviors (because even negative attention IS attention to that behavior). 

The thing is, despite the fact that these behaviors are occurring, Colin is still his lovable sweet self.  Even on the hardest days that I have had with him, he still has so many moments where he is being really good and we see our hard work paying off.  He is helpful, loving, playful, fun, etc.  It's not all bad and discouraging. 

In an alternate way to work on Colin following directions, we tried out an introductory lesson to Karate today.  It was something we've been wanting to do for awhile and felt that  Colin might benefit from it.  He LOVED it and so we are looking forward to seeing the benefits of this kind of activity for him.  I'll definitely keep you posted on that one!  
So yes, dealing with this current challenge IS hard because it's a job that requires CONSTANT attention.  We still see the positives and we will keep working...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Post About Colin

Over the course of the past few months, we have seen a lot of changes in Colin.  A lot of them are really positive while some of them are particularly challenging.  We have been working on a lot of different things, most of which are social and behavioral, but also includes academic things as well. 

We have seen a lot of nice progress with Colin and his fine motor skills.  His interest level and time on task for activities such as coloring and cutting has increased greatly as his strength has improved.  You can tell that this is easier for him in subtle ways like the way he holds a writing utensil and how hard he presses down while coloring and writing.  He is also spending more time on tasks like lacing cards and picking up smaller items because it has become easier and he has more patience with it. 
Gross motor activities have always been things that are more motivating to Colin and we have seen a lot of nice changes in the way in which he runs (and unfortunately/fortunately he has become so much faster).  He is able to jump pretty high off the ground as well as from different heights and can now pedal pretty easily on his bike (Santa will be bringing a bigger bike for him).  He currently loves baseball and can hit a ball that is pitched to him.  He is also really interested in soccer and basketball as well. 

Basketball season has begun at Monmouth so he was really excited to attend his first game again this year. 

Another big area that we have seen a lot of progress is with Colin's speech.  He is becoming more clear and easier to understand and it's exciting because he is able to string more words together now to make sentences.  We've had some pretty funny conversations with him where it's hard not to laugh at what he is saying.  The other night when Chris was working late (Colin has a hard time with that) I  made the mistake of checking on him and Kailey.  He popped up and said "I'm awake Mom" and so I tried to coax him back to sleep.  He came walking out several times and I kept putting him back.  However, after the umpteenth time of him coming out to see me, I let him stay knowing that Chris would be home shortly after.  Here is a glimpse of our conversation...

We have seen nice progress with Colin's identification of numbers and letters (still struggling on a few lower case letters) and he's consistently counting up to 20.  He is struggling a bit with counting specific items because he often skips over or clumps items together incorrectly but we are working in hand over hand to make sure he counts one item at a time.  He has been learning his sight words that come home each week and so I've made some little books that he can read with family pictures and the words together. 
Colin has become really independent which has both its positives and negatives.  He wants to do a lot himself which I am really happy about and have forced myself to have a lot of patience with.  However, sometimes this is a challenge in where and when he wants to exert his independence. 
The biggest difficulty we are facing right now is Colin's behavior.  He is having a hard time at school (we did have a meeting recently to work on this) and then a lot of the behaviors are coming home as well.  This has been difficult for me because they are things we have never seen before.  We are constantly working on them and I really hope that we see an improvement soon.  We are also working on Colin's social skills because while his speech is improving, he is still learning how to appropriately communicate.  These are things that need constant work...

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Cup Runneth Over

So THIS happened today...

And I swear, my heart could have burst in that moment as brother and sister shared a little moment together today while we took a little walk around the neighborhood. 

Leave it to bringing home a newborn amidst a HUGE transition for Colin to Kindergarten, a 3 year old with a very strong personality, a husband working long hours and you have yourself some VERY challenging times.  It's really easy to get caught up in all of the things that are just really hard but then moments like these happen and my heart is so filled with love that all of that other stuff just falls away.  I am thankful for these moments that can bring me back to the present and appreciate what's here.  That was a pretty great moment...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What We've Been up To

As you can imagine, life in our household these days has been different and it has taken quite a bit of adjustment to get used to.  Adding a newborn to an already hectic life has required us to figure out new (and often creative) ways to get done what we need to keep things as normal as possible.  We've also been trying to figure out some of the challenges Colin has faced since starting Kindergarten this year.  This alone has me spending a LOT of time on the computer researching ideas and creating tools to use to help with these challenges.  I've been neglecting some other areas so that I can spend more time finding, reading, and watching resources that will help with this.  In all honesty, I have had a bit of a hard time over the past few weeks with all of it BUT I am really grateful for a lot of the support that I have received.  I KNOW that this is just another phase of life to transition through but as you all know, sometimes that's easier "said than done". 

October has been pretty nice overall so we have been trying to take advantage of getting outside knowing that in just a short bit of time, this will permanently change.  The kids have really enjoyed some trips to one of the newer playgrounds in town.  Unfortunately, we haven't made it to any of Chris' games in awhile because either the weather has been bad or the games have been at night when it has been chillier. 

Being an extremely schedule oriented person, I am anxiously waiting for Cody's to be worked out. While is he is ONLY coming up on 2 months (and I know that is relatively early still), I am greatly looking forward to the day that he sleeps through the night.  We have been extremely lucky so far because he really only gets up once and then goes right back to sleep afterwards so we are headed in the right direction.  Overall, he is a really good baby but he does prefer to be moving most of the time. 

We had a lot of fun getting ready for Halloween and then once Halloween got here.  We went pumpkin picking with our good friends and then painted pumpkins. 


Both Colin and Kailey had parades at school this year and for the first time (since I am home on maternity leave), I was able to go and watch Colin.  Colin waved the first time around but then when he saw me the second time, he was a little mopey/near tears because he wanted to come over by me. 

(Kailey was crying in this picture because our neighbor was dressed as Elsa and then went back into her house.  Kailey "wanted Elsa back!".)

We did do some trick or treating this year which ended up being fun now that Colin is in our neighborhood school because we ran into and met a lot of the people that we never knew were actually in our neighborhood.  The downside is that Colin has a little bit of a hard time with houses that are overly decorated or have dogs and he spent a good amount of time needed to be consoled or talked into going up to a house.  Kailey was beyond excited and couldn't wait to run up to the next house. 

Other than that, we have just been taking each day as it comes.  Colin decided to draw on his face with red marker the other day (thank goodness it was washable marker). 

We've also been working really hard at incorporating academics into our days in as much of a fun way as possible. 

In order to help with Colin's difficulty with transitions lately, I decided to try a visual schedule at home.  I've been wanting to do this for a long time but finally got it started.  I hope to build a little library of cards inside the binder we are using so that we can walk Colin through parts of his day with minimal difficulties.  I am hoping we can then maybe help to implement this at school so that it helps with his transitions there as well.  Below is an example of how it's used (we only have two cards on there for this video). 

And finally, a video just for fun :)