Sunday, November 27, 2011

Special Hockey

It's the start of another special hockey season in Minnesota. I've just reviewed the slideshow from tonight's game, and the teams look great.

Even after 6-7 years of it, I'm always a bit amazed that it works. The range of players is mind-boggling. One team has a (mercifully) gentle forward who's 6'8" - and all muscle. We have six year olds. Girls, boys, women, and men. We have players who are minimally verbal and players with Aperger's who take advanced study classes. We have chair bound players pushed by aides, and players who've played mainstream hockey.

We have gentlemen players and we have ... well, actually, the range there is pretty limited. This is a good group of people; even my excitable #1 son is learning some manners.

There's been a lot of progress. Even players with significant motor disabilities often learn to skate. For my #1 it's a chance to have fun in a setting where he doesn't feel embarrassed or anxious or "other". He can play with neurotypical teams at school and community, but he can never truly be a part of the team. For #2 it's been an unequalled opportunity to learn flexibility, to live with mistakes, and to work as part of a team. Even, this year I think, to learn to lose gracefully.

There are many similar opportunities in Special Olympics, but for us this activity has worked extremely well. While #1 could quality for Special Olympics, he performs at a relatively high athletic level for the sports he likes (he may play SO Golf next year). I don't believe #2 would meet Special Olympics guidelines, yet Special Hockey has been enormously valuable for him.

It's a movement worth supporting.

High school tips (grade 9)

We're about half-way through grade 9 for #1 son at a Twin Cities public high school. I'd grade the beginning as a 'C', but now we're probably B+.

These are somethings that have worked for us; things have gotten easier as my son learns the system and improves his organizational skills. B+ is pretty good considering the dire funding situations -- aides in particular are hard to find.

  1. We really focus on his "Planner". Dad tries to review all kids planners every day. Stickers and credit for writing things down, especially when assignments are handed out and when they are due. It took about 1 week but now all use planner well.
  2. We use his planner to communicate with his Aides. I think there's some benefit to this. In our school system we cannot contact an Aide directly.
  3. Wrote 1 page dossier on him for teachers to read. They don't get much information on students.
  4. We read the parent portal web site regularly. It's not great software, and I think the teachers struggle to make it work, but it's better than nothing.
  5. His teachers do very well with email. Phones and meetings are a lost cause -- but email works very well. I didn't expect that, nice benefit.
  6. In our IEP we requested gym every trimester. For our guy this is a big help. Physical activity helps him. We sacrificed Art and Technology (computer skills). The former is probably a lost cause, and the latter he gets at home.
  7. We have a regular weekend slot for homework and a classmate/friend with somewhat similar disabilities joins him for this. I think this is helping both of them, it certainly helps my guy.
  8. We are very aggressive on following up on missed assignments. The Parent Portal can help with this -- esp. prior to end of trimester it gets updated. We track down and do missing assignments.
  9. I am surprised that he can do simple algebra and his basic physics equations. I didn't expect that. He does get help from an aide there, but he's still writing out the expressions and completing many of them. I think his science teacher feels we're exaggerating his disabilities.
  10. His history teacher is relatively demanding, which is working well. Of course he's not evaluated at grade level, but to get a B he has to actually work. If he doesn't work, gets a D. This is a good opportunity to push his cognitive limits. It's a fight of course, he wants to scrawl some illegible roughly related words and move on. Even so, it's not that BIG a fight. For this class I review the topics myself, translate them into diagrams and notes that are very close to answering his study unit questions, then give him those to interpret. I think he's picking up some history, but mostly he's learning to read, interpret and write. (I'm also picking up some history. His "World History" class is light years better than what I had. (I've studied quite a bit of history since, but there's a lot to be said for a grade 9 level overview!)
  11. He's done very well with adaptive sports and we continue to sign him up for those. He also does mainstream sports teams, so there's some push and pull there. Either way - real value.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Aspergers and crying: maybe not a career killer

We're proud and happy with how boy #2 is doing in middle school. Teachers pleased, good grades, he seems happy to go to school. Still has trouble crying though. I think of it as an Aspergers trait; he cries when he's frustrated or upset.

I also think of it as significant career handicap. Maybe I'm overstating things ...

Why xxxx cried

... xxxx cried over just about everything. He cried at the beginning of Apple after Woz's father pushed his son to take more ownership of the company because he thought xxxx wasn't doing much work. xxxx went over to Woz's home and bawled his eyes out. Woz kept him on.

xxxx cried when his employee badge said #2 instead of #1 (which went to Woz), then ended up getting badge #0. He cried when Apple pushed him out of the company. He cried at Pixar during a battle with Disney. He cried when Time put the Mac on its cover instead of him. He cried when he saw the famous Apple "1984" ad for the first time. He cried about Windows "copying" the Mac. He cried over design questions, like when the iMac team put a tray-based CD drive in the machine rather than a slot-loading drive. He cried over deep issues of personal privacy, such as the moment his cancer first became public and shareholders were braying for information. He cried because he wanted the original Apple II to have a one-year warranty, rather than 90 days...

Of course xxxx was Steve Jobs.

So evidently a crying problem need not be a career killer.

As to whether this hypersensitive obsessively detail oriented creative with supreme synthetic skills and narrow interests had other Aspergers traits ...