Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thursday Thankfulness - Come Follow Me

blogs, thankfulness, new domain, redirect
Today is Thursday, and thankfully, I actually remembered what day it is! Today I am thankful that I can now redirect you to the new My Autism Insights domain! Please, come follow along, subscribe and please continue to share your insights! New posts will begin appearing there after today. Thanks so much for your support!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Movie Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Asperger's, autism, jokes, movies, noise sensitivity, reviews, sensory friendly films, sensory integration disorder, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

It was only a few months ago that we started taking Gus to the AMC Sensory Friendly films geared toward kids with Sensory Integration Disorder. This past weekend, the rainy weather nudged us to try something new for the kids: a 3D movie without the sound modifications. I was a little nervous, especially at $42 for the 4 of us (Remember when a movie was a cheap family outing?) that we'd last 15 minutes and would have to leave because of the noise or the images or just because we were having an 'off' day. Each of the kids represented separate concerns. Aside from the sensory issues, we worried that Gus might not be able to sit still, and that both of them would be scared, and not just by giant food flying out of the screen. Fortunately, they both sat through the film like champs and loved it!

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs tells the story of a genius, misfit inventor named Flint Lockwood. His only friend is his pet monkey, Steve (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris). The only person who understands Flint is his mother; to everyone else on the sardine-fishing-industry island where he lives, he's a huge nuisance with his weird inventions. Within the first 2 minutes of the movie, I was hooked. Could I possibly relate to the kid onscreen any more than I did? Not likely. Gus was completely still and focused as well. (I wonder if he felt the same connection to the main character.) After his mother (who is only in the film during the first few minutes) gives him his first real lab coat, Flint wants to help his town and gain acceptance with his inventions, the latest which transforms water into food so that the people can finally vary their sardine diets. Things start out well enough, but due to greed and overindulgence, go horribly wrong.

The film quickly went from sadly moving to side-splitting funny. It was very light on really crass humor, which I appreciated. The little inside jokes were great as well, like Flint using the old Simon electronic game as the control panel to his underground lab. The 2 leads, Bill Hader and Anna Faris, were perfect, and some of the supporting performances were excellent as well. My favorites were Mr. T. as the town cop, who was more versatile in the role than I ever would have given him credit for, and James Caan as Flint's unibrowed, laconic dad. One scene with Tim, Flint's father, the town tackle-shop owner, when he tries to send an email was especially hilarious.

There was a little bit of awkward romance between Flint and aspiring weather reporter, Sam, but not so much as to make it inappropriate for a six-year-old. There were some mildly scary images, but the one that got MM worried the most when one character experienced an anaphylactic peanut allergy and swelled up like Aunt Marge in the 3rd Harry Potter film. It upset her because both DH and his dad have peanut allergies, but she didn't wake up with any nightmares, so I think we explained the situation well enough. The noise from the action sequences was very tolerable, and the 3D effects didn't seem to bother the children at all. The only time Gus got distracted from the movie was when he got thirsty and I ran out for water and popcorn.

Overall, I'd rate Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 4 out of 4 stars. To quote Gus, "They hit a home run with that one!" Go see it!

*poster image borrowed according to fair use from Columbia Pictures

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thankfulness Thursday

annual review, Asperger's, autism, growing, school, statewide exams, thankfulness

Isn't it amazing how fast the time goes once the school year starts? It becomes a cyclone of alarm clocks, homework, meetings, extracurricular activities….Then Friday rolls around and it still doesn't stop. Everything moves so fast, the next week sort of sneaks up on you to start the whole process again. Fortunately, Gus is adjusting pretty well.

This week, I am thankful:

  1. That Gus, although he's been a little up and down at school, has had at least two solidly good days. For the second time, this week, he completed all of his independent work without any prompting. It might seem like a small thing, but being able to complete tasks is one of his biggest challenges in school. The fact that he's starting off the year showing that it can be done is amazing.
  2. That Gus is learning to type this year. As I mentioned when I blogged about his Annual Review, Gus will be allowed to use a word processor for at least part of his statewide exams this spring. That access is important because, while his handwriting has improved enormously, it is still often illegible and overcrowded. Plus, it takes him a very long time to write things out, and it's very tiring. During yesterday's visit to the class, I got to see the typing software he's using (which is kind of old so I don't think I'll be able to get a copy for home) is lots of fun. There are 'missions' that look like some of the old-school video games (like Space Invaders of Gallaga) that I can see have great appeal for him. When the missions are completed, random historical facts pop up. That has his name written all over it. If I can get the name of the software from his teacher, I'll update with it.
  3. That I finally swallowed all anxiety and went ahead to register My Autism Insights as its own domain. Once I have the site up and running, I have some exciting plans down the pike! I'll probably transfer the content of this blog over there and then will just pick up where I leave off. In other words, you should have access to all the old posts as well as new material. So keep an eye out, and I hope you'll stay with me as My Autism Insights continues growing!

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Weekend Update: Swine Flu & Soccer

Asperger's, autism, doctors, H1N1, opinions, safety, soccer, swine flu, vaccines
Good morning! Hope you had a lovely weekend as we prepare to enter into autumn. This past weekend we made some decisions about the swine flu (H1N1) vaccine and had soccer practice.

Gus had a crisp morning for his 2nd soccer practice & game of the season. The team has grown quite a bit and I've seen several new faces. Their workout is more geared toward teaching the game and giving the kids some time to run around and interact with each other. Half the time is spent working on a skill and then there is a shortened game with usually half the kids on the field at a time, playing against the coach and a mentor or two.

Gus has been having a great time and I see a big difference from last year when he was often very sluggish. He's got a better handle on the ball and appears much more confident and engaged in the game overall. It should be a good season! Hopefully next week I'll remember to take some pics!

Swine Flu Vaccine
Before I go any further, let me make it very clear that I am no doctor and anything I post here is strictly my layperson's opinion. Don't make any decisions based on my thoughts. Please consult with your medical professional (or several) before choosing whether or not to get the H1N1 vaccine whenever it becomes available.

That being said, I also want to state for the record that I am not against vaccines as a matter of principle. On the contrary, I would prefer to prevent my children from illness if it can be done safely and if it is necessary. We've always chosen pediatricians who lean toward the conservative side as far as medicating children, so there's never been a concern in my mind that we were being advised to take a medication or get a vaccine that wasn't warranted. The two times I disagreed with our doctor was over the chicken pox booster and over the Hepatitis A vaccine. Instead of getting a chicken pox booster, I had both my children titered, and our doctor had no problem with that. Last year she started giving the Hep A vaccine because there had been some cases in the state. I declined because neither of my kids were at risk and would not be likely to be put into a risky position. This year, after Gus developed a taste for sushi, we got him the vaccine because the disease can be spread through contaminated raw fish (as well as other foods that he's been more apt to eat as he's gotten older). All this is just to make it clear that we do the shots when necessary, and if not, then we don't.

On Thursday, I made inquiries to 3 different doctors regarding the swine flu vaccine when it becomes available next month. One RN said that it was, "a good thing to get," but offered little in the way of explanation. Maybe she thought that it was the most obvious conclusion and required no further discussion. I was very interested to hear that the other two doctors - both pediatricians - were not comfortable with the vaccine that's coming out. Their collective reasons were that a) it was rushed to production and therefore hastily tested, so b) there is little knowledge of what the side effects or possible long-term effects may be. Neither intends to offer the vaccine to their patients, and at least one has decided not to give it to her own children. She has instead adopted a "wait and see" stance.

The New York State Health Department has posted tracking information on the swine flu within the state and there is also a vaccine information page. You can also obtain information from your own state's health department.

To my way of thinking, the pros for getting the vaccine are that it will be available in mist form (no shots) and will be available without preservatives (some of the injected versions and all of the mist formulas). It is being made by the same companies, in the same manner (as opposed to the way it was made in 1976) as the seasonal flu. That being said, on the con side, side effects are anticipated to be the same as for the seasonal flu, but no one really knows because it hasn't been widely studied or for any length of time. And while my kids fall into one of the target populations, I don't see enough cause (especially judging from the relatively small number of cases in NYS) for an extra vaccination. My daughter is very conscientious about hygiene, especially hand washing, and Gus does not interact with the general population of his school enough for the benefit to outweigh the risk. So with all that in mind, we have decided to pass on the vaccine when it becomes available, unless some compelling reason arises.

What are your thoughts on the swine flu vaccine that's coming out in October?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday Thankfulness

Asperger's, autism, kitten, family, school, thankfulness
Hello, world! School's just about to wrap up its second week and we're finally starting to get into some sort of routine. Here's what I'm appreciating today:

I am thankful:

1. That Gus has had a really good first full week. At least half of every day, his teacher reports that he's been 'on.' One day this week, he even finished his independent work independently! This has been virtually unheard of, so it is a big deal. Great way to start off the year, dude!

2. That our new kitten is assimilating into our family and our household routine. I think he may be helpful for Gus, who was totally focused on him the first day he was home. Gus gets a little jumpy when the kitten is feeling particularly pouncy, but he's been petting him, playing with him a little and even allowing the kitty in his room before bed or in the morning. I think they'll be great friends.

3. That with both kids in school full days, I am getting a lot accomplished during the day. I've been able to get better work hours, and when I'm not working, I've been developing a project I've been sitting on for weeks. These longer days are also allowing me to do something that feels a little foreign: relax. Every day for about an hour, I just chill out - no errands, no work, no's quite nice.

So that's my gratitude this week. What are you thankful for today? Have a great one!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Focus Building Year

ADHD, brain development, education, EEG, school, focus building, video games, standardized testing

Now that Gus is on the cusp of his 'tween years, it seems more important than ever that he learns to manage himself without the need of constant adult prompting. Middle school is right around the corner, and state exams are at the end of this school year. While he'll get every accommodation available, it will be a major hurdle for him. I'd like to see him do well.

I'm not a big fan of standardized tests as the only way to determine what a child has learned, but I'm more interested in how he will view the results. I want him to do well because if he doesn't he'll feel badly – plain and simple. So whatever we can do this year to help him succeed, we'll do. The two big areas in need of major development are: focus and self-regulating. Gus will need to learn not only to focus, but also to recognize when his focus has shifted off task. He will also need to start controlling his impulses. We've seen some progress over the summer, but if he's going to manage a three-hour test, he's got a long way to go.

This morning I read an article (not a very recent one) about certain video games that could help to build focus. The games mentioned in the article seem older, but the concept intrigues me. One of the things that can hold Gus's attention for hours is his video games. I'm wondering if we can find a focus building game that is reasonably priced. (The Brain Train games were particularly astronomical.) It doesn't seem like a 'fad' method because another article published just this month in the Redding Pilot online, also discusses neurofeedback that uses video games as a basis. Play Attention seems like a possibility, but at $100 a month, I'm not so sure. They offer a free demo CD.

I'll post again if we decide to try it out.

What will your child be working on this year?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Return of Thursday Thankfulness

Asperger's, autism, education, friends, school, siblings, thankfulness
I've been quite remiss lately with posting, but now that school is back in session, I can hear myself think again. It seems rather appropriate that Gus started school on a Thursday. Today I am thankful:

1. That Gus not only started school again, but that he was eager to start school again. Yesterday he said that he had "art-room-sickness," similar to homesickness but for the art room at school. He was a little nervous about starting 3rd grade, but that's normal. He'll have the same teacher and several friends in his class. He seems more concerned about the level of expectation and about getting his work done. This tells me that he values good grades, he wants to do well, and just maybe, he'll be a more motivated than ever to work on his focus and concentration. My fingers are crossed.

2. I am thankful that Gus go his bus monitor from last year! This is a big win, because she is just amazing and adores him. I couldn't have bought a better start to his day.

3. I am thankful that MM enjoyed her first day of school yesterday as well, despite the new bus driver whom has made her his sworn enemy already. We've got full day school now, which means that I have time to myself! I've got some projects that have been on hold all summer that I plan to move on, so extra thankful for that.

If your child has started school, did the year start off well? Please share your gratitude in a comment and have an awesome day!