Monday, May 19, 2014

Herding Cats: Trying to Manage the Insanity

I've been kicking this post around an awful lot recently.  I've known this blog hop was coming, and I thought I maybe had some good ideas to share.  Inevitably that's where things take a definitive left-turn - which is exactly what happened.  I'm looking at the topic for this hop, and honestly?  I'm anxious to see what everyone else has to say, because I'm about set to rip out my hair over here.

But, as I stopped to really think about it, I've realized there are a bunch of things we already do - things that might help other families.  And so, here we are again, full circle, with a bunch of suggestions for things that will hopefully help other people.

Tips and Tricks From Our House:

1) Routine.  In our house, routine is *essential.*  Not the scheduled to death, what time am I allowed to pee kind of routine, but...  We wake up in the morning, cuddle, get dressed and have breakfast.  Then we watch  Magic School Bus or Bill Nye The Science Guy, do our schoolwork, have lunch, and have free play.  On sunny days we go outside, on gross days we watch a movie.  I start dinner while Mad Natter plays whatever games he wants to play, then the TV goes off from dinner until bedtime at 7:30.  Lots of time to change things up, but there's also a sense of knowing what comes next day to day.

2) Physical activity.  My life is SO much easier when Mad Natter has had time to get out of the house and run.  Or run through the house even.  Jump on his trampoline - ANYTHING.  If he's able to burn off some of his excess energy, it makes a giant difference in how our day is going to go.

3) Scheduled breaks: In our homeschool day, I have set aside break times.  Math, which is usually his most mentally stimulating subject, is followed *immediately* by jumping on his trampoline.  Then we do handwriting and spelling.  Since spelling also takes sustained mental effort, it is followed by stretching.  After stretching is (depending on the day) a science experiment, history, or logic - all of which are considered "fun" subjects, and then we have reading.  Reading is followed by a 6m flat dash through the house to the Lone Ranger Theme.  It helps keep him from exploding along the way, and I'll take anything that helps there.

4) Anticipation.  This is one I learned over long times of failing.  I have to anticipate overwhelm, melting down, impulsiveness, and sensory needs - this means that when I go out, I have my big Blackhawks shoulder bag with me.  This has a ton of happy meal toys (they have to go somewhere!), a sensory brush, a book, a drink, a snack, coloring pages, a couple pull ups and a spare pair of pants inside, because every trip out of the house has to be planned like a war without that bag.  It ensures I have the tools to cope with most possible needs Mad Natter could have in a public space that aren't immediately easily met.  Things like reactive hypoglycemia. "Mooo-om, I'm thirsty!" Forgetting until the last minute that I can't read minds and whoops, potty-mergency.  Need to put him in the cart so I can actually move through the store without his pulling everything off shelves, or running off into the mall, here's something to DO while you're sitting.  I also have learned that a grown up jacket does well as a makeshift tent over the end of a department store cart, as is allowing Mad Natter to "steer" the cart - he can sit in the basket and imperiously point to where we need to go.

Of all the possible things to have in terms of tips, I find anticipation is the big one.  If I can head off a meltdown, the entire rest of the day goes much more smoothly.  If I forget my bag... I'd better be under five minutes in the store, 'cause otherwise I'm going to regret not having it, and wish I'd turned around for it.

You'll notice I have very little in tips and tricks for focus, and a lot for energy.  This is because it has been extremely easy for us to find ideas for how to cope with Mad Natter's sensory issues and his inexhaustible energy.  What has been less easy has been things like finding ways to deal with his inability to focus on one task from start to finish, his inability to listen to a full set of instructions (even if the instructions are "read the addition equation.  Use the same numbers to make a subtraction equation"), and his sudden flip from fine to R.A.G.E.  When you have a young boy with suspected 2E issues relating to things like ADHD, it is neigh impossible to find the resources you need to help.  Or, at least, it has been in our experience.  Every doctor we've seen has either misdiagnosed, or told us to come back when he's seven. They send us out of their offices with information on ADHD, but not anything to do with how to manage what they seem to be quietly telling me without pulling out all my hair before Mad Natter reaches seven.  It's been a matter of observation to get this far.  Getting farther...  That seems to be my challenge, and I'm truly hoping there is someone else out there (maybe even on this hop!) who has been right where I'm standing and can pass along some tips and tricks of their own to ensure that I am not putting away more wine than is good for... well, two or three of me.  ^_~

This post has been a part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum's May Blog Hop: Tips, Toys, Tricks, and Tools for Gifted and Twice Exceptional Kids.  Please check out the other bloggers on the tour - they have a wealth of great advice!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Grief and the Gifted.

I did one just like this ages ago when Mad Natter was still my Monkey, and my uncle passed away - so, a year ago now.  Almost precisely.

Now it's my turn.  This past week, my circle of homeschooling families around the world was rocked by a tragedy in which one of us lost her young son - the same age as Mad Natter.  This alone is an unbelievable tragedy, particularly in light of the fact that this little boy's elder sibling escaped the tragedy that killed the younger, meaning mother very nearly lost both.  Being on the outskirts of this, I was mostly able to keep a distance from it, knowing how these things effect me.  It was very difficult to sleep, particularly once it occurred to me what the child must have gone through.  But, I was going to be okay.

The following day, Mad Natter started a new spiral of intensity.  Each of these lasts about two weeks, and by the end has me wondering if I'm maybe not supposed to be a mother after all.  It's extremely intense (obviously), stressful, and it tears at the very fabric of our family, trying to keep everything together well enough to actually parent... and exist as a person simultaneously.

Then the day after that, I found out that a woman I'd known the last five plus years had passed away.  Nobody knows when, why, how, anything.  We have a vague guesstimate range, we know that the police have contacted her mother, but nothing more.  With no answers, not even to the basic fundamental question "what happened?" I have been a wreck.  Dealing with the intensity spiral plus the death of a little one was going to be difficult.  Add in losing a friend, and I'm now sunk.

I can feel it happening.  My imaginational OE kicked in the first night, as I was picturing scenarios without intent.  I was trying to sleep, but I kept thinking what this poor little boy must have gone through.  How it would be fortunate if he'd knocked himself unconscious in the escape attempt... oh, but if he did, he might have been able to escape if he hadn't.  Over and over, my mind went through scenarios, and by 4:30 in the morning, I was so exhausted and wrung out and unable to sleep that I dragged (literally, as he was a foot over my head) Mad Natter out of his bed, put him in mine, and was finally able to rest.  During the following day, there was exhaustion of course, but also a very sharp increase in my perfectionism.  I needed things to be just right, so I could internally deal with what was going on.  But things weren't just right.  With Mad Natter in the picture, things are never just so.

That night, I was going to be okay. Mad Natter crawled into bed with me just because, I finished reading a good book... and then I looked on Facebook, just to make sure.  Only... Something was odd.  On Tuesday, a friend of mine had been posting, and she put up a batman/catman pic that made me laugh and share... and that night people were posting sentimental goodbyes.  Excuse me?  I panicked.  I wrote, apologizing for being creepifying, but what the heck?  And then did some digging while I waited.  I found out about 4 in the morning, again, that a friend had passed away.  I'm not going to pretend I'm some kind of super-friend and that everyone I meet is the closest friend I've ever had.  I knew Poxy casually, and over the course of five plus years.  For a person like me - who usually has only three to five "friends" and a whole ton of acquaintances - though, being a passing friend is closer than it seems.

BAM. Intellectual OE in overdrive.  When? What happened? How? How *could* this happen? She was only 31, how do you die at 31?!  The next several hours were spent looking through police blotters, google searching, and trying to find anything there was to find to help me understand.  But there was nothing to find.  My mind is spiraling.  I can't find anything, but I need to.  I can't stop imagining, but I need to.  I can't stop the overwhelm that is tugging at my heels, but I need to.  And the first two combine to make the overwhelm even worse, and if I'm very lucky, I'll be able to unwind enough over the next few days to be actually able to function in the next week.

Grief winds me tight. My OEs kick in, and they run in circles, never fully satisfied even under the best scenarios, and my edges start to fray.  And then there is the stress of raising a child even slightly outside "the norm" and the bindings I use to keep myself within an 'average' range start to split, and I feel like I'm going to fly apart, and I don't know how to handle it, or how to make things better.  And what's all the more difficult is that there really isn't a way to make it all better. I just have to ride it out, try to meet the needs those OEs kick up, and hope like hell I can get myself back to reasonable before I have to deal with people in society again.  Maybe I'll play a quick game or two, turn on a movie for Mad Natter, and read a book until I have to cook dinner.  At this point, anything that helps will be welcomed.  Just until I get back into my own variation of normal.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The G Word.

We all know "those" words.  The F-word.  The S-word. "He-double-hockey-sticks." There are as many different ones as their are families, and as there are creative ways to swear.  What I didn't expect was to spend most of my adult life trying to skirt around one of my own.

The G-Word.  There are people the world over who seem to have an off-the-cuff opinion on The G-Word.  They "know" it, and they either feel they can somehow disbelieve it (as if choosing not to believe in something impacts whether or not it exists), or feel they know enough about it to disparage it.  I often wonder, if we'd had another word, one that wasn't quite so loaded, one that made people look up what it is, and then treated them to ALL the disadvantages... Would we still have things like this?  Would people still choose to not believe? If looking up a term like... say "asynchronous learner" led to a list like this, would we still see people screaming about how "elitist" meeting a child's needs was?

Asynchronous Learners: 
Specialized learning needs

Frustration in classroom setting
Low self esteem
Increased rates of suicide
Increased rates of existential depression
Increased rates of depression and suicidal ideation
Rapid internalization of learning
Ostracization by peers
Potential for large amounts of excess: energy, imagination, sensory input, curiosity, emotional outburst
Potential for large discrepancies between chronological and behavioral age, fluctuating at any point

Seriously, do you think anyone would look at that list and shout "sign me up!"  Because that's the reality. We're dealing with children who have an awful lot of highly specialized needs, and who are marginalized on a daily basis.  Not only do these kids have to deal with people who believe they're exactly like everyone else, despite the fact that neurologically they are not at all, but they also have to learn to navigate the world while trying to meet their needs covertly.  They can't ask for what they need, that's elitist. They can't speak up about their challenges, that's bragging.

Then we have their parents.  They have those same challenges, plus the challenges of trying as hard as they can to raise these complex children... only to have their noses shoved in it daily.  "You know, he needs more than you can give him at home" is common, right along with "if you sent her to school, the other kids would take care of that..."  People don't know how hurtful these types of statements are.  In the first, if you can find a school that can give 1:1 student to teacher ratios, as well as individualized learning, and the ability to tailor learning to interests and abilities, that might be true. But right now, even small class sizes sit at 20 children to 1 teacher.  Individualized instruction is just not possible, and funding for these learners is minuscule at best, so finding the specialized classrooms is needle-in-haystack difficult.  In the second, you're advocating to let the other children in a classroom raise your child. This screams Lord of the Flies to me, which is never any kind of good.

The parents are stuck talking to each other in code. If it's another parent with this kind of child, they will understand.  If it isn't, you haven't just completely ruined your (and your child's!) social outlet. If it comes out that your child does something unusual, you often will hear things like "sure, Billy could read at three, but he's almost six now and can't tie his own shoes!"  Parents forced by social convention to cut down their own children so they aren't accused of bragging. So there's hope they, or their child, might make friends.  Because instead of knowing the full story about Giftedness (see? I said it!), people only know "very smart" and "prone to excel" and then extrapolate "teacher pleaser" and "excellent marks" from that, and suddenly there is no downside to being Gifted. It's just a gift. Something given to you, that has no drawbacks, like a free million dollars. And that couldn't be further from the truth.

This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on The “G” Word (“Gifted”).  To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at