Sunday, September 27, 2009

Klonopin helping

A quick update to say that I think the Klonopin is helping Anna a little. She is not perseverating as much and she has not attempted to leave the house this weekend without permission. She only tried to leave school a couple of times Thursday and Friday instead of constantly. We still have a long way to go to get our little girl back, but it's a start.

Thanks for all of your support.

Mayan Families Needs Your Help

Amigos of Mayan Families,

Many of you may be aware that Guatemala is facing a huge crisis. The President of Guatemala has called it "a calamity". The drought has caused severe food shortages and the cost of basic food items continues to rise daily. According to Unicef almost half of Guatemala’s children are chronically malnourished—it has the sixth worst record in the world. In parts of rural Guatemala, where the population is overwhelmingly people of Mayan descent, child malnutrition reaches 80%. A diet of little more than tortillas does permanent damage. This is the only diet that many families have right now.

In Guatemala, which has some of the worst levels of chronic malnutrition, children have already started dying. In rural areas, thousands of families can no longer afford to eat. Malnutrition rates are rising among the very young, and the elderly. We have many mothers who are not eating, just surviving on a few tortillas a day so that they can give the food to their children. Children who suffer from chronic malnutrition are not in immediate danger of starvation, but they will face stunted growth and a diminished mental capacity. The children don’t look underweight — they just look tiny. Some have light hair, others have patches of hair missing, some are even bloated. Families that before could afford to feed their children, are now struggling but the families that were already living without enough to eat are now facing daily hunger and the children are quickly becoming malnourished and sick. Daily, we have families coming to our door who have nothing to eat. The worst affected are single mothers whose wages were barely able to keep the family together before this crisis. Now, they just do not have enough to feed their children even the very basics.

Through your help, Mayan Families currently feeds over 110 children everyday at our three pre-schools. These are children that have been identified as malnourished or are in danger of becoming malnourished. We have started a feeding program for the Elderly this week. Many of the elderly people do not have enough to eat and are becoming very malnourished and weak. We need your help to be able to continue to feed these people and the many more who need help. This is a crisis situation and while we believe in long term solutions...right now... people who are hungry cannot wait for crops that will grow during a severe drought or chickens that will lay eggs. They need help today. The biggest need and challenge facing the indigenous people of Guatemala this year and in the coming year will be the struggle to have enough to eat. The United Nations children's fund, UNICEF, reports that Guatemala has the worst malnutrition problem in Latin America, even higher than the 35.2 percent average in Africa!

October 1st is Children's Day in Guatemala. We traditionally celebrated this with a pinata and cake. This year, in the hopes of giving children food, we are asking for a small donation of $10 or more to be able to provide a child with a bag of corn and several pounds of beans to take home. Beans are sometimes the only protein the children will receive. We need food for general distribution... this is for families that are in desperate situations, many of these will be single mothers.

A 100 lb bag of corn is $35US. This will supply a family of five with tortillas for two weeks.
A 100lb bag of black beans is $90 US.
A carton of 30 eggs is $5US.
A basket of food with a cooked chicken is $35 US.

To help a family get through this crisis, please consider donating today. Any donation of any size, to help feed a child and their Family will be greatly, greatly appreciated. We don't want to turn people away that we know can be helped. With your generous donation, we can help those who are in terrible situations and give them hope. If you would like to nominate your sponsored student to receive your gift of food, we would be very happy to do that.

TO DONATE: Please click on the link to visit our website and donate online at
Donate Online
and put it in the General Donation area, "Where most needed". You may also choose to send your donation in the form of a check. Please make it payable to Mayan Families and send to:
Mayan Families
P.O. Box 52
Claremont, N.C. 28610

We are asking you to join in our efforts to help the Guatemalan people by giving a tax-deductible donation. We hope that you will be able to help us with a donation of $25, $50 or more, this will feed a lot of children. However, any donation no matter how small is always welcomed and appreciated. We make every dollar count! We are asking that all contributions - personal, employee and corporate - be made as soon as possible.

You can make a difference right now, today! Thank you for your support.

Best wishes,
Sharon Smart-Poage
Tel: 619-550-2608
ABOUT US: Mayan Families is a small non-profit group working in the Highlands of Guatemala. We are a registered 501(c) (3) Non Profit Charity. Your donation is tax deductible.

Thank you once again for supporting Mayan Families!

From Holly: Our family has made a small donation so that Irma (our sponsored student, #778) and her sister will have food to celebrate Children's Day. Please consider donating just $10, it can make such a big difference! Thank you!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Talked to Anna's class and her neuro

I am overwhelmed.

I talked with Anna's class this morning while she was out of the room. Her teacher offered me a chance to do it or the school counselor could've come in, but we thought I might offer a more personal touch. I was really nervous and not quite sure which approach I should take. My exceptional women friends that meet once a year for a retreat (moms I met on iVillage when Anna was a baby and they all have children with special needs) made some great suggestions about how to talk to the kids. (Thank you so much, ladies! You have no idea how much you helped and how I felt your support while I was there today.) I made it very Anna-centered instead of talking about just autism and how Anna is different.

I discussed autism, the five senses, how she was born with it, how it affects her. I talked about the things that Anna loves (SpongeBob, AFV, sports, frogs, baby dolls), things that scare her, things that are easy for her, and things that are hard for her. I focused on how she is the same as them. I talked about how Anna (with more emphasis on Anna's brain) reacts to stress and fear. The kids had TONS of questions. I was there for 45 minutes. I ended the session with asking them to share some things they really like about her and how they could be a good friend to her. I think it went pretty well. They are having a hard time understanding why Anna wants to leave class and come home, why she asks the same things over and over, why she pushes/shoves/hits, why she wants a wheelchair so bad, and why she refuses to work.

I told them we are having a hard time understanding too.

Things have really changed this last week. It's tough to realize when you are in crisis mode with your child, how much it consumes you. All of a sudden, your reality is completely different (again) and when you stop to take a breath, you realize that this is really hard and it really sucks. I can't imagine what it's like to be in Anna's head right now. I can't imagine that she can find any kind of equilibrium. Just when I think I have a handle on how to be her mom, something changes, and I really question my ability to parent her well.

There are days when it feels like I'm juggling so much, I don't know if I can keep all these balls in the air. Between Dominic's challenges (setting up OT appointments and arranging changes in his classroom), Jenny's senior year stuff (I think I'm supposed to meet with her counselor Friday to talk about college planning and applications?), my appointments (did I tell you I found a lump in my breast? I'm seeing my GP tomorrow), Charlie the puppy (he starts intermediate obedience class Saturday), being the SEPAC representative for our campus (I'm supposed to volunteer Saturday for a parent summit and be in a mock ARD), and Anna (the list is too long), and all the regular crap (I bought a laptop three weeks ago that I can't get calibrated properly and have spent hours and hours on the phone with customer service, now I have to prepare to send it in for repair)... I'm so overwhelmed. I know what I need to do... take one day at a time, one task at a time... but actually doing this without this internal churning in my head and heart... well, I'm a little lost in it all right now.

Writing does help me. Sharing helps me. Making siggies and such really helps me. So I thought I would put this all out there and maybe get it out of my head. Sorry for the vomit of overwhelms... I appreciate you reading all of that, lol!

I just don't know how to help her or what to do, and that is just so very sad for me as a mom. I talked with Anna's neuro yesterday and tonight we are starting her on Klonopin for anxiety. She historically hasn't reacted well to most medicines so we are nervous. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will help her and that she can start to manage and cope again. As I was leaving the school, one of the teachers said that she was worried about Anna... yesterday she was in Anna's class (the administration now has Anna supervised 100% of the time since she is such a flight risk right now) and said that in a split second of distraction, Anna was out the door. I just wish I knew what's going on in that cute, little confused brain of hers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Occupational therapy evaluation and an update on Anna

Dominic has his OT evaluation this morning and what a suprise! It looks like he has proprioceptive issues caused by sensory integration dysfunction. I would never have guessed. Anna has very intense sensory issues but they are the opposite of what Dominic has. Dominic needs to move his body constantly to know where his body is in space. This could be the cause of his impulsivity, hyperactivity, and even poor fine motor skills. It takes practice to learn how to color and write and he needs to move too much to sit still. The OT has recommended therapy twice a week initially so we are going to start that as soon as possible. There are many things his teacher can do to help him prepare for desk work; I'm excited to see what changes will happen once we implement some new strategies.

Anna is continuing to struggle at school this week. Last week, Anna left her classroom without permission three times on Tuesday once making it to the library before being intercepted and once she picked up another student and actually left the building to go to a portable at the back of the school property to see her resource teacher. We thought at the time that was because the 2nd grade class had a walking field trip that morning and the change in routine disrupted her. Well, she has continued to leave her class several more times and she has gotten physically aggressive with her teachers and peers. Anna is refusing to do any work, insisting that she wants mommy. She wants to call me and continually is asking for me. Her poor teacher looked so defeated yesterday.

Last night, I took Dominic out to dinner as a reward for really turning things around at school. He is no longer chewing on his shirts and he is following the rules and not getting in trouble. I also wanted Anna to have a break from me since she is getting so incredibly dependent. My mom kept both kids for a sleepover on Saturday and Anna actually cried when I left, kind of like separation anxiety. Curtis had to take some work calls while Dominic and I were gone and when he was finished, he realized that Anna had disappeared. He discovered his car door open and the car running! Anna was down the street. When he asked her why his car was running, Anna said that she was going to try to find me. I nearly threw up when I heard this. Anna was in her room crying when I got home since daddy sent her there for the rest of the night.

I've emailed her neuro just now to talk about what might be going on. We have several theories...
~ She is pre-ictal and might have a seizure soon.
~ She is spoiled and is manipulating everyone to get what she wants.. or is just simply being attention-seeking.
~ She is dealing with anxiety and fear, and that is driving her perseveration with seeing mommy and wanting a wheelchair. Having the routine change last week at school crossed her threshold for coping.
~ It's a combination of these issues.

We think the third scenario is most likely. It takes a lot of her coping skills to deal with school and such a large classroom of children. If we operate under the assumption that she is anxious, then we can intervene in several behavioral ways. First, lots of reassurance. Break the day down into small chunks. The teacher can say, "I know you want to see mommy and you will see her at 2:45. First we need to do ___, then we will do ___." If she begins acting badly, ask her, "Anna, are you scared? Do you need a break? When I see you make a better choice, you can have a break. Can you try that in a different way? Can you ask me in a different way?" etc. I think the wheelchair issue is driven by a 2-year fear/fascination of a little girl who is in FLS... this has been a long-standing issue for Anna.

We are obviously pretty freaked out about her safety right now. Thank goodness she didn't figure out how to put the car into gear... I shudder to think what could have happened. I think she is capable and determined enough to leave school to try to walk home to find me. She will really need intense supervision for the short-term until we can figure out what is really going on with her. The car keys will be kept hidden. I'm worried that she is not capable of learning right now and is disrupting her classroom too much. We need to find a good balance between expectations and reality. This could be a big cry for help; she is a people-pleaser by nature and all the people around her are not happy with her right now. I think going through the day feeling overwhelmed and anxious could cause all of these symptoms. It may be time to try an anti-anxiety med. We're not sure what to do next. Hopefully her neuro will have some advice.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A funny story about Anna

So Anna has had an off week. She's been difficult at school and a little tough at home. On Wednesday, Anna left her classroom three times. The first time she wandered around in the hallway for awhile before coming back in. The second time she made it to the library and the librarian brought her back. The third time, Anna decided that since they had a field trip that morning (which is probably why she was so off that day... the change in routine) and she hadn't seen her resource teacher, she would just leave and go see her by herself. On the way, Anna picked up another student, actually left the school building, and went out to the back portable where her resource teacher is housed. She was just determined to do her own thing and no one was stopping her! This is important to understand her state of mind when reading the next little anecdote.

All week, Anna has been perseverating about wanting a wheelchair, I mean like it's completely taken over her brain. We've talked about how she can't have a wheelchair because she can walk and how they are only for people who need them. She just can't let it go. It's the first thing she talks about in the morning, the first thing after school, the last thing before bed, and it even wakes her up in the middle of the night. I don't understand why her brain does this to her. Yesterday was a particularly bad day at school that included her shoving and hitting other students. When she got home, I only talked about {not} getting a wheelchair once with Anna; then I told her I wouldn't discuss it anymore. She got so worked up about it that she had a full-out meltdown in her room for 20 minutes. Then she got calmed down and said, "Fine! I just go myself. I go to the doctor's office and get a wheelchair!" I asked her how was she going to get there? She said, "I will drive the car!" She then stomped away, returning about 5 minutes later with my driver's license and cash in a ziploc bag saying, "Mommy, I can't find your keys." OY VAY!!! She's only 8 years old! I really think that if she had found my keys and I wasn't paying attention, she would have attempted to drive the car and you all would be reading about us in the newspaper! She is too much. We all had a good laugh and were impressed with her determination and logic. Thank goodness I still had my car keys in my pocket!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Met with school staff about Dominic

Whew, it's been such a busy week. I met with the Assistant Principal and Dominic's teacher on Monday to talk about the test results from the child psychologist and strategize on how to best help him be successful in kindergarten. We were prepared for it to be a 504 meeting if it was necessary. To be quite frank, I really didn't know much about the 504 plan... IEPs are what I'm accustomed to.

It was a very amicable meeting. Dominic's teacher had lots of positive things to say about him, especially in how much he's improved in just the first few weeks. His behavior is actually pretty good and the teacher was surprised to hear how much he struggled at preschool and at home. She said that he definitely needs more attention and redirection, but overall follows the rules, is well-mannered, and respectful of her and his peers. He seems to have little control over his body, constantly moving, swinging his arms around, fidgeting, wallering in the floor during circle time, etc., so his peers are fearful that he is going to bump them or hit them. The teacher is going to make a large taped area on the carpet for him so that he has more room when sitting. She lets him get up as often as he needs to and allows him to stand during seated work. We're going to implement the OT recommendations after he starts therapy (his evaluation is next Tuesday) at school and they are going to start him in a social skills group at school. They are also going to consult with the TAG (talented and gifted) team on how to help him not be bored during kindergarten; TAG doesn't officially started until first grade.

Overall, I'm very pleased that they are so willing to help him, especially without a formal plan in place. We can always revisit the 504 in the future if these changes aren't enough to make a difference.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Charming Boy by Becca

Becca has a new kit out today called My Charming Boy available at Enchanted Studio Scraps. Isn't it darling?

My layout:

Thanks for looking!

August 2009 Siggies Slideshow

Thank you for your input about seeing my siggies. Here's what I made in August!

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What would you like?

I am falling a little behind on my regularly scheduled posts. At the beginning of each month, I like to show the previous month's siggies in a slideshow. It takes a while to wait for them all to display in that format however. Since I have some family who reads this blog, it's a nice way to show them what I've been up to... I'm not sure anyone else cares, lol.

So my questions are these:
1. Do you want to see my siggies each month?
2. If yes, would you prefer a slideshow or have them displayed in the post?

Thanks for taking the time to answer!!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Make Me Smile by AnnaBV Designs

Oops! I totally forgot to post Anna's new kit on Friday, sorry about that! Anna has a new kit called "Make Me Smile" available at ScrapMatters. It's so adorable with lots of fun elements and awesome polka dot patterns!

Make Me Smile

My layout

Thanks for looking!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dominic's child psych test results

Wellll.... isn't this interesting??? It looks like Dominic may NOT have ADHD after all! The pyschologist did IQ and achievement testing and our little pickle is smart! His overall IQ tested at 124 and his achievement functioning tested at 132.

Here's the really interesting part about the ADHD. On the IQ test, three subtests indicate excellent performance with attention (working memory), concentration (cognitive efficiency), and delayed recall (scoring 132, 126, and 138 respectively). Because of these scores, it is highly unlikely Dominic has ADHD!

There are three types of ADHD:
1. Inattentive
2. Hyperactive/Implusive
3. Combined Type

Previously, Dominic was diagnosed as Type 3, Combined Type ADHD. Now Types 1 and 3 can be ruled out. There may still be a possibility that he is Type 2, but the doc recommends making some environmental changes first to see if the hyper and impulsive behaviors stem from being under-challenged. If the changes do not make a difference with these behaviors, then we'll feel more confident that Dominic has an organic problem with impulsivity and hyperactivity. He's testing at the 2nd grade level for reading and math. Writing in on grade level (kinder) and is a source of great frustration to him. Little did I know that he has fine motor delays as well as trouble with some oral language; and the doc tenatively diagnosed him with Developmental Coordination Disorder and Phonological Disorder. She recommends occupational therapy and a home-based writing program to help him with the writing delays ("his impairments in fine motor cause him to find seated and written work laborious and almost unbearable"). He could also benefit from some speech therapy to help with some pronunciation issues he's having (though I think this is a mild issue since he is completely understandable). Emotionally, Dominic does have some trouble with social skills and being oppositional. She recommended a social skills group and environmental changes. Again, if these changes don't make a difference in his behavior, then we might be dealing with something more substantial like Oppositional Defiant Disorder (I hope not).

So we have a long list of recommendations:
1. Private occupational therapy for fine motor delays and a sensory dysfunction evaluation.
2. Speech therapy evalation for phonological processing problems.
3. Challenging academic material, gifted and talented program.
4. 504 plan for fine motor coordination and behavioral challenges.
5. Modifications to curriculum for fine motor issues (use a pencil grip, assessments not based on writing, etc.).
6. School-based social skills group.
7. Home-based instruction writing program.
8. Individual and family counseling.

Now I need to set up private evaluations for OT and ST. I need to talk with his teacher, principal, and school counselor to create a 504 plan and see what options we have academically. Our school does not offer a TAG (talented and gifted) program for kindergarten... it starts in first grade. I'm not sure how we will be able to challenge him now. If we can't find something to interest him, he will be so bored that his behavior problems will intensify. He's only had 1 good day at school so far.

Egad, am I glad I listened to Curtis about not continuing the ADHD medication! No wonder Dominic hated it. When he said, "Mommy, it makes me slow," he really meant it. I am so glad we went ahead with the psychological testing! I am feeling relieved that Dominic may not have ADHD (for his sake... I think having a brain that can't stop you before you start would be quite frustrating!) but I also realize that his issues will continue to be challenging for him. Sometimes it's easy to forget that he's just a 5-year old boy!
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