Wednesday, October 27, 2010

He's gonna be just fine... Looking at preschools...

 John Michael will be 3 in a few weeks.  We've been checking out a couple different preschool options in our school district last week and this week.  It's been very helpful for me to picture him in a full inclusion classroom with 15 typically developing kids and 5 kids with special needs.  Both classes I've seen each have a little girl with Down syndrome and some other kids with special needs. 

On one playground, there were many trikes like the one above.  John Michael can't yet pedal, but he's trying.  But the coolest thing was that a few trikes had an extra seat on the back, like a fixed trailer, and one little boy gave John Michael a ride all around the playground.  It made me so happy to see the kids fully included and accepted.  A win-win for both sides.

The second school I visited had a really neat, small playground.  John Michael really blossomed yesterday.  When the teacher turned on the slippery fish song, he tried to keep up.  It went too fast, but he did his best.  He also liked sitting next to the kids and interacting with them.

I had a chance to talk with both teachers while the kids were on the playground.  Both have backgrounds in special ed, both thought he was really cute and were very encouraging. 

John Michael's IEP meeting is in 2 weeks.  We visit one more school tomorrow.  Unfortunately, all the school options are a good 20 minutes away.  While I'd envisioned a private preschool setting for John Michael where his 3 older sibs went, I think this is a great start for him since he will need extra help at first.  He will also have speech and adaptive PE onsight.  Adaptive PE will help with stair climbing and building strength for trike riding, but doesn't take away from playing with the other kids on the playground.  I'm starting to feel a bit more at ease with the whole school thing. 

I'd love to hear other peoples' experiences with starting preschool for their child with Ds.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Uh oh, Oh no, YAY!

John Michael's speech continues to take off... branching into 2 word and sometimes 3 word phrases, like "Hi, Luke", "blue block" or "love you".  He is a parrot and often copies the last word in a sentence or picks up expressions. 

This morning, while feeding Luke, I quietly observed John Michael building towers with Legos.  He built the tower by himself (not the bottom, larger structure) and was quite chatty.  He would say, "Yay" when a block or section fit.  He'd say, "Oh, no" or "Uh oh" when blocks were tipping or fall off and would say, "fit" when the blocks didn't fit well.

Here he's standing proud of his accomplishment.  That was as high as he could reach without the whole thing falling over.  He stayed with this activity for about 15 minutes, which is pretty good for self-directed play.  If Greta were here, they probably would've played for about 30 minutes.

Eventually, he branched off to playing with the Lego animals, cars, trucks and people.  But the whole time, I noticed how his expressive language is growing.

Some other expressions he frequently uses are: "Whoa!" for when he catches himself falling or bumping into something; "Oops! (soop)" for when something goes wrong; "Bonk" for when he bonks into something; "Wow!" when something's exciting or cool; and, "Ow!" for when he's hurt.  This has really come in handy lately since he can now show me where he is hurt.  It used to be a guessing game with lots of tears.

This was taken last week and he built it all on his own.

 I just love Legos for all the things you can do with them. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ArtBeast, New Friends and Spaghetti Factory, OH MY!!

Last Friday, a blogging buddy, Darlena, came up to Sacramento to meet some of us.  I've been following Darlena's blog for over a year.  She has a beautiful family, but we especially love reading about her darling son, Brayden.

Isn't he a cutie?!?!

We first met at the ever-cool ArtBeast for some music, art and creative play.  John Michael looked quite at home on the drums.

A John Michael masterpiece. 
We love his painting so much that Doug wants to make greeting cards out of it.  :-)

John Michael loves to give his friends hugs.  Miss Gabby doesn't seem to mind.  Isn't she precious?!?!

At Spaghetti Factory, John Michael and Brayden took over the waiting room inside the old train station.  If you look carefully, you can see the front door is cracked open.  John Michael and Brayden discovered that if they pushed a bit, they would be able to escape. 
Let's just say these two will not be left alone -- who knows what kind of trouble they'd get into!

I didn't get everyone's photo, but I did get this cute one of John Michael feeding Sofia.  Her brother, Joaquin was in the stroller and Sheridan came later to join us just for dinner.

Just the moms... me, Darlena, Debbie (she came to say hi), Sheree and Jennifer.

And finally, the evening ended with a nice bowl of ice cream.  Besides meeting up with his friends, this was for sure John Michael's favorite part!
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Brown Bear, Brown Bear... Book Embellishing Party

Last Friday night, I hosted the Ds Sisterhood for a Brown Bear, Brown Bear book embellishing party.  We had 14 moms and one nana, plus a few adorable kids.  The book is called Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and artwork by one of my favorite artists, Eric Carle.

I borrowed the embellishing idea from Bessie Barth, Music Therapist and Director of Music to Grow On.  She writes, "This was my original idea especially since I had some clients with visual impairments that needed something to experience the book.  I also found that it was more engaging for many of my clients and made it multi-sensory and easier to follow along."  Two of her interns took the idea and really tried to make the book true to textures related to the animals as best they could.

John Michael loves to feel the different textures.  We love the book because of the sing-songy text.  For each page, we sign and say the color and animal name and then make the associated animal sound.  For goldfish, we usually call it orange fish and smack our lips.  It's very funny to watch JM do it! 

It was a tight squeeze in my kitchen, but we managed to craft and enjoy appetizers and wine.
When was the last time you played with glue?
The hot glue station...
Some moms even made two books that night!
Joey, Eva and Sofia played while their mamas crafted.  My daughter, Anna, did a great job entertaining them. 

We finished the evening watching Deedah.  "Deedah is an honest, touching and often humorous account of a seven-year old girl’s relationship with her six-year old brother, who has Down syndrome. The 26-minute film, shot in documentary news style, follows the siblings through their daily lives."

While watching the film, I saw glimpses of Greta (5) and John Michael (almost 3) a few years down the road.  Greta loves John Michael without condition.  She nurtures him, cares for him, plays with him, dances with him, chases him, encourages and motivates him and is an advocate for him to other kids at her school.  He calls her "Deh duh" for Greta and we sometimes call her that, too, just for fun.  This is one of those films that should be seen by every school-aged child, as well as doctors, teachers and other parents. 

I've included several more photos from our book embellishing.  I'm hoping to contact Eric Carle to show him how cool his artwork looks in 3D!

Red bird has red feathers that fly off the page!

The blue horse has yarn hair.  We used hot glue for this. 

Here, we added a suede collar and rhinestone.

The teacher's glasses were made out of blue chenille stems.

The bottom row of children have googly eyes glued on.

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