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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Busy Week!  I can’t believe how fast this week went by – some great activities for the kiddos!

Utah Symphony: I wish we had a better picture but as we mentioned in one of our previous posts, the Utah Symphony hosted a “Special Needs” Concert this week.  This was our second year going and like last year, it was a ton of fun.  We actually had a few meltdowns prior to leaving (I’m going to throw the Smurf DVD away soon) but once we got there, the kids had a great time.

Thanks for a fun night!

The concert date is set for next year but unfortunately, I’ve lost the date – I’ll post it sometime in the future.  Another highlight of the night was getting in contact with two of my MBA friends who also have autistic children.  One of them saw my, “check in” on facebook and he was also at the concert.  Despite being “Facebook Friends,” I hadn’t seen him for years so it was nice that he waited to say hi.  Another friend responded to a post and now we’ve found a little group of us that all did our MBA together, all live relatively nearby and all have kids on the spectrum who are about the same age.  Excited for a get together when the weather gets warmer.

Annual Winter Festival At Wheeler Farms: The festival was held this past weekend and despite my post that I’d run the 5k, we opted to do the 1 Mile Run as a family but. . . . we got there late of the start time so we’ll have to do it again in the future.  I know – I’m a slacker.  🙂

Balloon Sword at Wheeler Farms Winter Festival

The kids had a blast – I’m glad we got there early (actually while everyone was probably running the 5k and Kid’s Run) because the tent with the free popcorn, face painting, balloon artist, and other activities got crowded quickly.  The boys both got balloon swords – probably better to use as a prize in summer versus winter since the balloons were popping left and right but still, they were so excited!  We also came home with a new book, “Carl’s Sleepy Afternoon” that we will happily add to our collection.  Thanks for a great day and thank you to the Rotary for organizing a great fundraiser that benefits a ton of charities.  My goal next year is to get a group together to run the 5k and support the great causes!

Week Accomplishments: A coworker once told me about Dr. Emoto and his studies of the effects of different influences on water.  His thesis further constitutes that since our bodies are more than 60% water – his studies and findings also correlate to the human being.

Regardless of whether you believe it or not, I strongly feel that the more a child is praised and brought up in a positive environment, the better it is for them.  So the other night, I was sitting with one of our twins and we were talking about the ‘good things’ he’d being doing and what a good kid he is.  He looked up and stared at me for a long time then said, “Thanks Dad, you have brown eyes.”  Usually he says, “Dad, you’re a rascal” or something to that effect but I liked that he’s expressing gratitude, noticing more things in his environment, and learning to vocalize different expressions.

Frosty the Snowman

Week Opportunities: We’ve had more meltdowns recently and we can’t figure out why.  The boys had been doing very well with their transitions but over the past two weeks, we’ve noticed a digression.   My wife started using more social stories and visuals to help the boys with transitions which has helped. I was hoping we were moving away from having to use a timer for everything.

We were glad to celebrate one of the boys’ cousin’s birthdays as well – they had such a fun time and it’s neat to see them all play together.  We did have some struggles with the presents and the boys understanding that it isn’t their birthday.

Tip of the Week: This is a simple eye exercise that their OT uses.  In the picture below, she has two different objects at the top of the paper and then lines of the two objects below.  She’s covered everything but the top line in this picture but she has the boys point to the objects one by one, and then point to the corresponding object at the top of the paper.

OT Eye Exercises

She uses this exercise to increase hand / eye coordination and also, develop vertical movement in their eyes.  She mentioned that they are noticing more and more children have problems looking from say their desk to the front of the classroom.  This simple exercise helps the boys develop some of those needed skills.

Have a great week!  Can’t believe that January is almost over!  WOW

The Year of the Dragon!  Happy New Year to all our Chinese Friends – the best to you and yours this upcoming year.  Well, not only do we welcome in a New Year this week but we also had our first snow in what feels like forever here.  While it only lasted a day, it was nice to see.  Hey – if it’s going to be cold, let’s at least have some snow to play around in!

We had a ‘very normal’ week as far as the boys go.  Next week will be full of upcoming activities including the Utah Symphony Concert and the Charity Fundraiser, both of which were highlighted in earlier posts.  We’ll see you there!

Highlights: The boys have been more independent and are not only helping around the house, but are expressing more activities they want to try.  They both are helpers now at the store and have taken the responsibility (for better or worse in some cases) to take items out of the grocery cart.  They also are helping with some of the cooking around the house.

Making Homemade GuriGuri

If you have been to Maui – the boys have a favorite island treat is called Guri Guri.  The store, Tasaka Guri Guri, is located at the Maui Mall not far from the Kahului Airport.  Here, Twin A is anxiously awaiting the finished product.  It’s amazing how fast that stuff disappears when we make it.  Both boys, well and our daughter to, have helped make it and enjoy making a mess with the ingredients.  We’ve got a version that is almost exactly like the strawberry version back home!  Email me if you want it!

Ice Skating at the Olympic Oval

The twins have been suggesting new things to do – “kangaroo bounce place” and “ice skating” have come up frequently so. . . . . a few weeks ago we tried ice skating at the US Olympic Oval in SLC.  One of the boys loved it . . . . the other went around a few times but decided he’d rather sit and watch everyone after that. Gotta love GroupOn – I’m always hesitant to fork over money when I’m not sure how the boys will react but we got a family pass for the Oval at 50% off on GroupOn over the holidays so hey – can’t beat that!

Phrase of the Week: “Hey Mom, howzit going?”  – said by Twin B as a greeting to Mom one morning.

Tip of the Week: Our OT’s use theraputty with the boys for a variety of exercises to strengthen their hand muscles and get them more accustomed to the ‘pincher grip’ – which will aid in everything from writing to eating.  The boys are getting better at using utensils while eating and also, using the proper grip with writing.  Amazon.com sells a number of theraputty options.

We use a variety of play dough and another form which I believe it’s called ‘foam dough’ at home.  However, the thing I like about the theraputty is that it’s more resistant than the two we use so it provides more of a workout for the boys.  My biggest pet peave about play dough is that I always end up finding little tiny pieces of it stuck to the table or on the floor – the theraputty cleans up nicely and is more durable in that sense as well.

Theraputty Marble Exercise

Our OT Specialist has a series of exercises she goes through with the boys.  In the one above, she gives them the theraputty in a big ball and has placed a number of marbles and other objects in the theraputty for the boys to find.

Theraputty OT Exercises

After finding all the marbles, the boys then spread the theraputty out and roll it into a ‘snake’

Theraputty Exercises - Cutting

The boys then take a scissors and cut the snake into pieces.  Afterwhich, they will put all the pieces back into a ball, put the marbles back in, and begin the cycle over again.  For those of you exercise enthusiast – it’s an OT version of circuit training that personally, I need to be more consistent with at home because this is something the boys enjoy and they’ve been showing steady progress in.

Keep warm!  Thanks for reading!

We are enjoying a relatively mild weather so we’ve been able to spend more time at parks and outdoors than we normally would in the middle of January.  We had a full week of school as well as sessions with both their speech and occupational therapists.  I had the opportunity to go to spend a morning in school with the boys and also, attend both therapy sessions.  Our highlights and ‘opportunities’ for the week:

Park Play: We split the twins up for a bit and took them to the park a few minutes separate from each other.  One of our boys started playing with an older boy at the park.  We were impressed that he was listening and responding correctly to the boy’s questions – engaging in conversation and playing games ‘outside of the norm.’  I got to the park towards the tailend of the encounter but it was obvious that the two boys were having fun and it was neat to see the boys running and laughing, toys being shared, turns being taken, and a proud mom watching it all.  Quite an accomplishment!

"Why don't you go first?"

Transitions:  This is our area of opportunity for the week.    One of our twins struggled this week with certain transitions – play time to bath time (well – what kid doesn’t really?), play time to dinner time, leaving one area for another, etc.   In particularly tougher situations,  my wife used simple ‘story boards’ for the boys.  For example, at church we have our daughter draw out pictures in order of what the program will be.  When we move from one step to another, she crosses it out and explains to the boys what’s coming next.  This has helped our church mtgs go exponentially smoother versus a few months ago.  We did this prior to our trip to HI, using pictures from the net and a powerpoint to help the kids understand what would go on between our house and arriving in Hawaii and it seemed to help then as well.

The boys are usually good with certain transitions as long as we give them enough prep time, “Boys – bath time in 5 minutes” is usually a sufficient warning. . . . but some of the normal ones were struggles this week. Our focus for the week is to keep the prep time warnings clearer on the ‘tougher’ transitions and as needed, implement a story board for the situation.

Hanging out at the Bounce House

Phrase of the Week: I have no idea where they got this but both boys are using, “it’s not a pretty picture.”  Twin B used it as follows, “we went to the beach and I fell in the water.  I was sad – not a pretty picture.”  Hilarious

Tip of the Week: Wow, I came out of the therapy sessions with a TON of ideas – the boys really have great teachers and specialists working with them.  This week’s tip is the ‘picture clock’ shown below.

The boys would use a pointer and go both clockwise and counterclockwise around the clock pointing and naming each item.  The concept behind the wheel isn’t a vocabulary building lessons, rather it’s for eye coordination.  One of the skills that children need to develop is the ability to focus on an object.  Many children, autistic children included, have trouble remaining ‘in focus’ on objects.

Twin A working on the Picture Wheel

What the instructor is looking for is if the child will focus on the item being pointed on and after completing that item, visually move to the next item without their eyes wandering.   Many children tend to look at an item, but their eyes wander around and they lose focus either in the transition from one item to the next or even while staring at the original item.

The goal is to get your child to go clockwise and counter clockwise around the board while maintaining visual focus.  Following that, then it’s a “can you point to the truck” type of exercise, picking random pictures from around the clock  to further develop eye coordination.  Their instructor used the phrase “where the eyes go, the attention goes as well.”  The wheel, in it’s purest form, is to help kids tune out other things around them and both visually and mentally, focus on things at hand.  Boy, I could use this exercise.  🙂

I’m planning on making our own Picture Wheel using Cars, Thomas the Train, and Kung Fu Panda stickers / drawings with the boys.  Have a great week and thank you for visiting.

“Rodney Peete writes a compelling book that will help fathers emotionally deal with the challenge of raising a child with autism. The mental toughness of a man all but disappears when faced with this reality, but Rodney’s candid message will encourage anyone who is chosen to be on this journey.” –Alonzo Mourning, former NBA player (quote from amazon.com)

I love those words by Alonzo Mourning “chosen to be on this journey.” Sure, Rodney Peete and his wife Holly Robinson live in an entirely different world than the ‘normal person.’ Rodney played quarterback for USC and went on to play for 16 years in the NFL. You may also remember him as a broadcaster on a few different NFL shows. Rodney married Holly Robinson Peete who I remember from 21 Jump Street. However, his book is a very honest and compelling view from a dad as he copes with changing expectations of his son and their journey as a family.

Not My Boy Cover from http://www.hollyrod.org

While I don’t have the financial resources to dedicate to my twins that Rodney and his wife do, what I liked most about this book is that Rodney is a dad and he tells the story as a father would. . . . . the initial dreams and expectations every father has for his child. . . . his struggles coping with accepting his son has autism. . . . the emotional decision he made when he realized if he didn’t ‘get on board’ with his wife and change his outlook, he would lose his marriage. . . . finding the right schooling for his son. . . and the everyday experiences they share along the way. The thought that I wasn’t alone in my initial denial and feelings really stuck with me.

Rodney shares insights on a number of subjects from his relationship with Holly to maintaining relationships with their other children to coaching his son at soccer. I loved that RJ (his son) took to the water just like my kids have. . . . . maybe there is something there for autistic kids?

Boys charging into the water on Maui

The book was a quick read – I think I finished it in a day and honestly, just reading about his thoughts, ideas, and experiences was the highlight of the book. You can find the book on Amazon.com or by clicking here. The Peete’s also have a non-profit that supports autism at hollyrod.org. I noticed perusing the site that they have another book on autism by RJ’s twin sister Ryan. – My Brother Charlie. More to come on that one!

When all is said and done – I am grateful that I was chosen to be on this journey with my twins and appreciate Rodney’s willingness to share his experiences of his journey. Good to know that there are others who also, were chosen to take this journey.

I want to be as open and transparent about our experiences as I can but at the same time, maintain some privacy for safety reasons for my kids.  However, I thought a weekly update into the boys’ activities, progress, or setbacks may be interesting for people.  I’ll also include a tip of the week that I notice either at school or their therapy sessions that is easy to implement.  I’m not mentioning the boys by name but using the names doctor’s gave them prior to birth – Twin A and Twin B.  🙂

I may skip weeks occasionally but here goes:

Progress: Saw some key accomplishments for the boys this week

Cars 2: Our younger twin (Twin B) is very possessive.  We alway buy double of everything so you can imagine if there is a ‘hot item’ for the holidays, we’re running to a number of stores tracking it down.  This holiday, the boys kept asking for Finn McMissle and Holly Shiftwell from Cars 2. . . . . so glad they were relatively inexpensive choices but we did hit 5 different stores before finding two Holly characters.  We always give them a choice of bringing a car or two along wherever we go and it’s always, without fail, Holly and Finn.

They love their cars – blanket made by Grandma Coco

Anyway, Twin B lost his Finn Car prior to us leaving for Grandma’s house and went two days without finding it, without taking his brother’s car, and WITHOUT THROWING A TANTRUM. We had him look through the house with us and when we couldn’t find it, explained to him that we’d continue looking since it was so important to him but right now, Finn was missing.  He actually made eye contact, composed himself and seemed to accept the fact that he wouldn’t have Finn and his brother would. . . . .He said, “Ok – we will look later” and settled on an alternative car.  That was a big step forward for him and it was great to see.  I mean, this is a big step for any little kid that is missing a favorite toy and I was so happy to see this from him.

Empathy: Related to our lost Finn McMissile, Twin A realized that his brother was without one of his favorite cars.  When we were telling Tutu (Grandma) the story of Finn and how we would continue looking for it the next day when we returned home, Twin A said with a reassuring look to his brother, “Yeah – and me, mommy, daddy and sissy will help find the car, don’t worry (brother’s name).”

My wife and I looked at each other and I could see how touched she was that here, Twin A had figured out how worried his brother was and was showing not only genuine empathy, but had also formalized a plan to help his brother that included people he knew would help.

One of the things their teachers have been working on during school is emotions, both showing and understanding and this was a breakthrough for us. I look at their schooling curriculum and I know that the boys are picking up on things from their lessons and transferring it over with much more regularity now. . . . great to see.

Nice weather = cars @ the playground!

Speech Therapy:  We had our first session since mid December and it was a blast.  I feel so bad that the boys come into speech and since it’s at their sister’s school and a new place, they are always just bouncy and energetic – ideal for the playground but not so much in a learning session.  This week if you combine that with the fact they haven’t seen their speech therapist for three weeks, they were jabbering away about holidays, presents, new movies, and the plot of the Despicable Me “Banana” Short they love.

Honestly, their speech therapist is awesome and she has great conversations with the boys and always has a fun and interesting  activity for them that the 30 minutes flies by.  The focus for this week is to increase their tongue and jaw strength to get their tongue movements correct for certain sounds and vocalizations.

So the tip of the week is her suggestion to use straws more and focus on keeping the straw at the tip of their lips and tongue versus, as they usually do, sticking the straw farther down their tongue.  This helps them build the muscles necessary to move into more advanced sounds.  She suggested not only using straws a little more frequently, but using thicker liquids (shakes, smoothies, etc) since that will help them use more muscles at the same time.

Both boys were up early this morning – the moon was still out and it was pitch black and cold but our week has started!  Have a great week everyone and don’t forget about the upcoming concert and festival!

The Annual “Family Winter Festival” sponsored by the Rotary Club of Sugar House.  The festivities will be held on Saturday, January 28, 2012 from 9am to 1pm at Wheeler Farm (6351 South and 900 East).  This is my first time going but benefits go to a number of charities including the Carmen B Pinegree Center for Autism.

Playtime at School

Sounds like a blast – activities include Face Painting, Balloon Animals, Obstacle Courses, Story-time. . . . plus Golf in the Snow, a 5-k and a Chili Cookoff!  I’ve attached the flyer at the end of the post for more information on the activities and also, the charities that will benefit from your participation.

So while both my golf game and running suck right now, I’ll participate in the 5K so come out and run with me or come and support!  Bring your friends – it’ll be fun and great to support some outstanding charities.

Click here for the event flyer: 2012 Winter Festival Flyer

In August of 2009, ESPN profiled Clay Marzo – a professional surfer from Maui, Hawaii (personal note – that’s where I grew up as well).  It’s a great story, especially since at the time Clay was growing up, “autism” and “aspergers” were not words that the general population were familiar with yet.  As a parent, I can relate to feelings that his mother and father share, especially his mother’s “relief” when Clay was diagnosed with aspergers since now, she found resources and individuals that would help her understand Clay more.

Surfer Clay Marzo - photo courtesy of http://www.go211.com

Clay was born in California but grew up in Lahaina, HI.  Clay is a professional surfer (click here to see his website) and (according to Wikipedia on 12/24/11) is sponsored by a number of companies including Quicksilver, Rockstar and Skull Candy.

The ESPN video can be seen by clicking here.  Also, there is a more recent story on Clay from ABC news that can be found here.

My twins LOVE the water. I wish I had a better picture of them at the beach but here’s one of them at the waterfall at Turtle Bay, HI

Being from Maui and watching my twins enjoy the ocean made me appreciate this story even more.  I’ve heard a lot about autistic children and their connection to animals, specifically horses.  However, there’s also an increasing amount of stores of autistic children and their love for water.  One of our goals for the year is to find more time in the pool / ocean with the boys since they seemed to have really enjoyed it in 2011.

We spent hours last summer at different pools and water parks around our house.  When we were in Hawaii, the kids LOVED the beach and practically ran into the water.  We started swim lessons this past year and plan on continuing it when the weather gets warmer. . . . maybe their love of swimming and the ocean will allow me to get back to Maui more often.  🙂

Enjoy!