Friday, October 3, 2014

Day 3 of 31 for 21: A Day in the Life (school version...)

So, today I filled in for John Michael's aide, Sara. Luckily, it was Friday and only a half day! Overall, we had a good morning and positive experience.

First thing every morning, John Michael has a daily job of Messenger with his class buddy, Lucas, to deliver mail to the office. That all went without a hitch and it was great to see him so independent. There were only a couple times throughout the day that he needed some correcting, including the 2nd half of the Mass and during his story reading time. His 6th Grade and 8th Grade buddies, Carson and Casey, are fantastic with him! They take him to Mass where he sits between them, and they do their best to keep him on track for the hour long Mass. I sat behind them and only on a couple occasions during the 2nd half did I need to encourage him to kneel or stand at the appropriate time. He sang the Mass parts he knew, shook hands during the Sign of Peace and sang all the songs he knew. Looking around, I could see many fidgety kids, so in comparison, John Michael did very well.

We went back to the classroom for his spelling test and reading test. I've been so impressed with his spelling and sounding out words this year! We don't even practice at home because he is so tired after a long school day and then picking up Anna from high school, that he rarely does more than a quick page of homework. Today he got 8 or 9 out of 12 spelling words correct! I sat with him at a table at the back of the room and slowed the pace for him to allow him to finish writing before the next word was read. I am also excited with his writing ability this year. His letters are much smoother and more legible and his writing is speeding up. For the reading test, the teacher read a sentence from their story of the week and he would have to circle the appropriate word to complete the sentence. He did that just fine... There was also some reading comprehension related to the story. Since I didn't know the story, I don't know how well he did.

They were excused to mid-morning recess for their snack break and it was nice to see him interact with other kids. They came back to the classroom for story time, which is where his hand started to wander and bother another boy. I pulled him away for a little bit and let him return when he said he was ready after about 10 minutes. After stories, they went to the gym where the priest gave a blessing of the animals for St. Francis' Feast Day. He enjoyed petting the cats and dogs, hamster and rabbit. There was even a pig :-) It was quite chaotic and noisy, but everyone had fun. They headed back to the classroom for a quiet coloring page and he did that unassisted while I sat in the back. I only sat with him briefly to snap a couple photos for this post!

So that was that… I would say he had a very positive morning. He definitely has grown and matured since last year and I'm thrilled that he is part of this wonderful environment. Throughout his day, big kids say hi to him and want high-fives. He doesn't always oblige, but it is wonderful how much he is cared for at this school!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Day 2 of 31 for 21: Who does John Michael look like?

Day 2: 31 for 21...

Down syndrome is a condition -- a set of symptoms and features common among people with Down syndrome (and yes, the word "syndrome" is lowercase in the US and Canada)... Your child is *your* child -- more like his or her parents, siblings and other close relatives than anybody else. These two facts make your child a distinct individual -- a person who will grow to have a unique personality and capabilities. No one can tell you who or what your child will become. No one can or should even try to predict. It is just so for all children -- all we can say for sure is that you have a beautiful baby, a child of God... who is not a mistake or an accident, for He makes no mistakes. (paraphrased and embellished from NDSC's expectant parent guide...)

I can say that John Michael most resembles Anna in the family... they have the same hair color and texture, similar face shape and eye color, but John Michael has very soft hands and Anna has strong, lean hands from piano. John Michael also has the characteristic "almond shaped" eyes and flat nose bridge, smaller fingers and toes and a sandal gap between his toes... Other than that, he looks all Crumley... a complete amalgamation of his parents and resembling his sibs in various ways... John Michael and Anna have a very strong and loving bond between them. Greta is the most patient and fun for John Michael... she teaches him to dance and sing and she has always been a mini-therapist to him having carefully watched his early intervention therapists over his first 3 years... Luke is the best playmate and I can't imagine John Michael not having Luke to play with and battle with. They have a very strong, caring bond and they are very competitive with each other this year, since Luke is now in TK at the same school as JM (2 classes apart). When I ask JM how to spell "Mom", Luke yells "M-O-M" from the backseat. John Michael will then yell back, "NO LUKE! I can do it!" Finally, Nic and John Michael have a very unique and strong bond as well. John Michael adores and idolizes Nic and gets very sad when "Bruller" (brother) isn't home. Nic is the one who takes him to the fish hatchery with the bike trailer and rough houses with him. I would say John Michael is extremely blessed to have his sibs, but they are also extremely blessed to have John Michael and I LOVE the compassion and caring I'm seeing in my kids towards people with physical or intellectual disabilities. And for that, I'm eternally grateful...

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

DAY 1 of 31 for 21: Happy?

OCTOBER 1 marks the beginning of Down Syndrome Awareness Month...
My goal is to post a fact or share a story surrounding Ds or John Michael each day (maybe more!)

FACT: People with Down syndrome are NOT happy all the time...

I know... I post a LOT of smiley photos of John Michael, but that's cuz it makes ME feel good and I love his smile. In reality, he has a huge range of emotions each day from STUBBORN (he can put the stubbornest person to shame ;-))... to ANGRY at Luke for grabbing a toy... to LOVING when he first wakes up and finds me still keeping cozy under the sheets... to PROUD when he gets something that he's been working on... to MEAN (occasionally) when none of the other emotions seem to make sense and out of the blue he might push or hit or say something that isn't kind usually to get attention or because he's bothered... to COMPASSIONATE when someone is hurt and he wants to give a gentle hand or encouraging word or grab an ice pack... and of course, HAPPY because the joy he feels when he's happy is pretty high and it makes everyone else around him happy. ALL of these and more make up John Michael. He is definitely NOT happy all the time, and his emotions run higher and lower than most, but I love him just the same as all my other kids... I challenge you take time to get to know him or someone with Down syndrome this month. Support and nice words are great... but really spending time and talking with someone with Ds is the only way you'll feel what I feel... He's pretty amazing and I KNOW his extra chromosome was placed there to bring greater joy and resilience and compassion to our family and those around us. (Thanks for reading ;-))