Thursday, February 23, 2012

Special Needs

So, do you watch Parenthood? If you have kids, you really should. I was totally brought to tears last week with the storyline involving Max (the character with Asperger’s) befriending his classmate in the wheelchair. To me, it was like once they gave him a break from having to try to fit in with the typical kids, he was able to find someone he really connected with. I cried. A lot.

We recently had Owen’s three-year IEP review with his school – you review and update an IEP every year, but the three-year is where they do testing and observations to make sure the kid still qualifies for special education services. We didn’t think much of it really since we knew he’d still qualify for services.

The outcome was a little surprising, though, in that they recommended that Owen move from receiving level 2 special ed services to level 3. (Think of typical kids as level 0s) It means that he needs more help than he’s been getting.

On the one hand, this seemed obvious, knowing the trouble he’s had since starting third grade. On the other hand, this isn’t what I wanted to hear. I don’t know whether this is common or not, but ever since Owen was diagnosed and it was clear that he was on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, the people (“the experts”) we've talked to have always given us a pep-talk of sorts along the line of “he’ll be fine.” More than one person has said things to the effect of, “He might even outgrow his symptoms.” And I guess this created an expectation within me that all of this special ed stuff was only temporary…that we didn’t really need to go too far down that road.

I now realize that I was placing that expectation on him and that it was unfair. Really, it’s wrong for people (experts, even) to use that as some sort of carrot. Like, that’s what we should be looking forward to…the day that he can fit in. The day his autism isn't so much damn trouble. And I worry that it was that mentality that finds us here now, at age 8, putting him into the center-based autism program with the autism specialist, when maybe he could have been benefiting from it all along. Maybe things didn't have to be so hard.

I worry, you know. I worry about everything. But in this case, I worry that we should have known to do this sooner. I worry that I've been resisting the special needs realm (getting by with only the bare minimum of help) because I equated it with lower expectations and I never want anyone to expect less of him than what he is capable of. I know that sounds really small-minded of me and I thought I’d gotten over the label thing years ago. Obviously I know that “special needs” does not equate “lower ability,” as I gave birth to the counter evidence, but I’ve still been afraid that many of the programs are geared toward the lowest common cognitive denominator – which, maybe in some cases, they should be – and so I’ve never really felt like we belonged there.

I had a glimmer that I had been thinking about this all wrong just a few months ago when, after a frustrating experience with the local ski school last year, we enrolled him in the adaptive recreation ski program offered through our city. I began to feel relief just filling out the registration paperwork. Questions like, “Describe your child’s conversation ability” and one the choices was “Limited, except for topics he chooses.” And “Describe your child’s ability to cope with stressful situations.” (Seriously, I think they should ask that about all kids.) And he ended up getting one-on-one ski lessons with a teacher who seemed to have unending patience and positive words for him.

This is all to say that trying to hold him accountable to expectations set for people with neurotypical brains isn't asking him to aim high – it’s asking him to develop coping mechanisms rather than helping him hone his innate abilities. So we're trying this new thing and we’re not going to let anyone have lower expectations of him; we’re just going to create realistic expectations and then actually give him the help he needs to meet them.

And hey, maybe along the way, he’ll make some friends who have similar ways of viewing the world...or at least a similar obsession with Pokemon. And maybe that will be exactly what he needs. And it might also be kind of special.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Little Love

It's February in Minnesota and I ran outside yesterday. This would be an uplifting tale of the positive effects of global warming, were it not for the quad that I pulled, or strained, or whatever I did that is causing the pain in my leg. (and I have to run a 7k in less than 4 weeks!)

And now it's snowing. Which I'm not really bummed about. Not just because it means I have an excuse not to run again (did I tell you my treadmill is irreparably broken?), but because when you have a winter that feels like spring, you kind of don't mind when the real winter comes to visit. VISIT.

Have I lulled you to sleep with this blog yet? Sorry, friends. Sometimes I used to write these things ahead of time and edit them before it's more of stream of consciousness thing because otherwise there's just no blog at all.

Ok, so the reason for this post today is that I wanted to spread a little love in the world. This past week, one of my BFFs adopted a baby! Well, the baby is almost two now because international adoption is a bureaucracy of nearly unfathomable proportions (and don't get me started on the injustice done to gay couples in the process) but the important part is that she's here now. Not here, here. She's at home with the parents that I truly believe in my heart she was meant to have. (and you know I don't throw around such mushiness haphazardly)

And that's amazing.

It's just another reminder that miracles happen. They really do.

All my love to the Sade family. I'm dubbing myself an unofficial aunt.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

How to Make a Pookie

You may recall that last Super Bowl Sunday, I made a pake. Well, this year, we took on the pookie. That's a pie inside a cookie.

As with the pake, the idea came from CakeSpy, only this year I actually had a bonafide recipe to follow, thanks to the CakeSpy cookbook!

How does one make such an amazing treat? Well, you start by making cookie dough. In this case, it was butterscotch chip cookie dough, which I had never made before, but will probably make again, because YUM.

Then you take this dough and you smush it down into a pie tin...sort of like you're making a crust...even though the pie already has a crust.

I should have mentioned that before I could put the cookie dough in the pie tin, I had to take the pie out of it. It was a frozen apple pie that I par-baked, so it wouldn't be frozen when it went into the pookie.

And now it's time for it to go back into the pie tin, on top of the cookie dough.

Ok, so if I were to make this pookie again, I'd try a pie tin that was larger than the pie. Using the pie tin that came with the pie resulted in a gap between the edge of the cookie dough crust and the top of the pie, so I had to fill it in with dough, as you see here.

Once I was done making what was essentially the walls of the pookie, I covered the whole top of that pretty little pie with dough.

See, it's a giant cookie!

Ok, so then the baking. 400 degrees for 45-50 minutes...I think I must have used too much dough because we had a bit of a breakdown while in the oven. (This scene caused my husband to begin calling it the "pukey.")

But no one who attempts to put a pie inside another dessert could be scared off by a little mid-bake disfiguration, right? Right. So we stayed strong and waited until that dough was golden brown on the edges and...


It's a pookie!

We served it with vanilla ice cream and it was a hit. Seriously good. If you could figure out how to make it less ugly, you could serve this thing in a restaurant. The butterscotch and apple were perfect together. Yummy, yum, yum.

Oh, and we watched some football, too. But the pookie was the show stealer for sure. Yay pookie!

This summer, maybe we'll attempt some sort of sugar cookie/blueberry pie bonanza. And next Super Bowl? Well, it's time to start researching other things we can fit a pie inside.