MBA Mommy

Part MBA, Part MRS, Part MOM…..All ME

Posts Tagged ‘school’

A Rose….In Mandarin

Posted by mbamommy on September 26, 2011

So, you know how Z & S are going to an immersion school to learn Mandarin?  Well, along with coming home with the cutest Chinese songs, teaching J and me Chinese words and getting frustrated with our inability to pronounce things properly, and learning Kung Fu, they also get their own Chinese names.

Here’s S’s name in Chinese characters:


And in pinyin:


And translated:

“little girl”.

Ok, that’s a loose translation.  When I asked her teacher (lǎoshī) what that meant, she said “You know, Niu Niu…” while doing a little shimmy.  When it was completely obvious that I still had no idea what she meant, she further explained that it was a Chinese name they gave to a younger daughter, who was really cute and a little sassy.

And, here’s Z’s Chinese name:


And in pinyin:

xiǎo kēxué

And the (much more direct) translation: “little science”

Yep, I think they see my kids.

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Ready or Not….

Posted by mbamommy on September 23, 2011

As I mentioned in a previous post, I struggle a lot with finding a balance between ‘readying the world for Z’ and ‘readying Z for the world’.  I guess that’s true for any parent of any kid, NT or not, but it feels especially true for me with Z.

When we were first going through the diagnosis process, I was adamant about not allowing any special exceptions for him.  I wanted him to be able to fit into society, square peg and all.  I refused to be one of those ‘helicopter moms’ who always intervened and forced the world to bend to her child’s idiosyncrasies and always paved the way for her child.  Yes, I want to help my child succeed and be happy.  Of course I do.  What parent doesn’t?  But, I am also a realist.  I know I won’t be (nor do I want to be) around forever to protect and hand hold my children.  I want them to be independent and prepared for whatever the world throws at them.  I don’t agree with the new fad of not allowing winners or losers in sports and giving everyone awards just for participating.  I think it’s important for children to understand that you win some and you lose some…no matter how heart-wrenching it is for a parent to sit back and watch.  That’s life, right?

Well, as I started learning more about Z, I realized that we did need to make some accommodations, with the idea being that if we make accommodations now and helped him along he wouldn’t need them later.

And, I decided I was ok with that.  After all, it was still in line with my longer term goal of creating a fully functional member of society, right?  And so far we’ve had some absolutely wonderful experiences with the people who surround our son.  His SpEd team last year was incredible, working with him, accommodating his sensory issues and gently guiding him in his socialization experiments.  His private therapy team was equally amazing.  All together, they’ve helped Z make ginormous strides in a relatively short time period.  So much so that we’ve paused a lot of his therapies because he’s doing so well.  And he’s completely mainstreamed in a private school with no outside support.

But, I expected that from trained professional whose job it is to support him.  I did not expect it from the other teachers/coaches who work with him.  I take the kids to gymnastics once a week.  It takes about 45 minutes to get there and I could probably find a gym closer but I am so impressed with the way the coach works with him and the way he’s responding that I’m reluctant to make changes.  He also goes to yoga once a week as an after school club.  Yesterday, he was completely out of control to the point that the instructor couldn’t run the class.  They told me about it afterwards so I shared with her that he has Asperger’s.  She was surprised but was very interested in learning more about what she could do to make the class work for him and the rest of the kids.

Here’s the flip side of that.  Before we found our fabulous wonderful immersion school, I did a lot of research into different school options.  I looked at public, private, charter and everything in between.  We’ve even found a Plan B if it turns out a ‘typical’ school won’t work for either one of the kids.  At some of the schools (public), they knew all about IEPs and Asperger’s.  They’re required to by law.  But, there were definitely differences in levels of acceptance of even the idea of having yet another kiddo on the spectrum attend their school.  There was even less acceptance from many of the private schools.  I was told flat out by several (not mentioning names) that they didn’t have the support system in place for Z.  Period.  Without even meeting him.  They heard the big A and ran.

Can you guess who didn’t get our money?!

But, it all comes back to the dilemma and balance of preparing the world for Z and preparing Z for the world.  I’m hesitant to tell the parents and the support staff in Z’s class that he’s got Asperger’s because I’m scared he’ll be just a label to them for the next 10 years.  But, if I don’t tell them, like I didn’t volunteer it to the yoga teacher before she came to me, then his behavior problems are attributed to being a bratty unmanageable kid and not some underlying challenges that can be addressed if given the right tools.

J and I talked about it the other night and we’ve agreed that we should move forward with letting people know on an ‘as needed’ basis.  Meaning we don’t necessarily need to stand on top of the school with a bullhorn but we should definitely share information when appropriate.  It’s just hard sometimes to know when it’s appropriate and not too soon or too late.

I’m not sure this is the right path in terms of advocacy or raising awareness, but I think we do plenty on that front.  This is all about walking that tightrope of information.  To tell or not to tell.  To ready or not to ready.

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Bilingual Aspie

Posted by mbamommy on August 13, 2011

S and Z are attending a language immersion school.  They’re going to learn Mandarin…or rather…are already learning Mandarin because we put them into the camp this summer to give them a little head start on the transition.

This was a difficult decision for us.  Not because we weren’t sure whether we wanted the kids to be bilingual (we talked about getting a Mandarin speaking au pair before Z was even born) and not because we were concerned they wouldn’t be able to handle it intellectually.  And, frankly, we weren’t concerned with enrolling S any more than the standard parental anxiety of “Is this the right place for her?”.

No, we, of course, focused most of our discussions on whether a bilingual education was the right thing for a kiddo on the spectrum.  In our hearts, we were in love with the school.  We LOVED the idea of our little blonde hair, blue eyed, middle class middle America kiddos having a global education.  We think it’ll benefit them now and certainly help them stand out in the future.  And, given the way China is growing into such a global power we thought we’d give them that competitive edge as a gift before they even realize we’re doing it.

So, as is typical of J and I, we talked to everyone.  We weighed the pros and cons of private vs public schools, or rather, IEPs vs smaller classrooms.  We asked his IEP team at his old preschool – they gave it a thumbs up.  We talked to his private therapy team – they gave it a tentative thumbs up.  Their hesitation was based on the fact that at its core, autism is a communication disorder, and if it’s difficult enough for Z to communicate well in his native tongue, what sort of additional obstacles will be present if you start asking him to do things in a different language?  They were concerned he’d get frustrated and regress back to his old ways of lashing out, hitting, kicking, or just plain falling limp on the floor…which is a big concern given how well he’s been doing.

I even had the honor of asking Dr. Temple Grandin what she thought of putting an Aspie in a language immersion program at a conference I went to.  True to form, she cut straight to the chase.  She said “Is he verbal”.  To which I responded, “He’s verbose.”  And she thought about it for about 10 seconds and then she said, “I think you should do it.  It’ll make him employable when he’s older.”  Gotta love those uber-direct conversations you get to have with folks on the spectrum. 🙂

We spoke to family, friends, and each other.  We read a lot.  Most articles and studies focused on challenges and strategies for teachers of older children (junior high and above) just beginning to learn a second language.  They talked a lot about the teacher’s needs to understand the individual child’s strengths and weaknesses, how to make the work being taught interesting and relevant, etc etc.  (Side note: isn’t that what a good teacher’s supposed to do anyway?  Just sayin’).

The more interesting articles and studies we read discussed the use of echolalia in teaching an Aspie a new language and how it could be helpful to them.  Well…that was a good sign, right?  Z’s got delayed echolalia down cold.  And, then we started reading articles like —>this one<— that talked about pathways in the brain that open up if a child learns another language at an earlier age.  And that bilingualism could allow a child to develop a keener insight into what and why people are saying things.

So…wait….let me get this straight.  By exposing Z to multiple languages it could actually HELP his ability to read people and understand social cues?  Well, knock me down with a feather.

So…aside from our interest in having our children learn a second language, I was extremely impressed with the school.  When I first went to tour the school, I met with the Academic Director.  He gave me his pitch and I said, “Yes I’ve definitely drank the Kool-Aid on the benefits of being multi-lingual.  But, let me tell you about my kiddo……”

He listened politely to everything I had to say (which took a while, I’m fairly long-winded).  And he responded by saying that no, they don’t have services set up to support an IEP.  But, yes, they do actually have 2 kiddos on the spectrum currently enrolled and are doing great.  And, that he’d like to speak with Z’s teams and go to his current school and do an observation before he’d admit him into the school….to make sure everyone thought it’d be a good fit.  And, then, once school started, if we thought it would help to have outside support come in for Z and for his teacher’s we could certainly set that up.  And, would that be ok?

So….wait….let me get this straight.  You’re going to take time to go to MY kid’s school and meet him.  And talk to MY kid’s team.  And work with ME to make this experience a successful one?  Well, knock me down with another feather.  And then pick me back up and let me sign on the dotted line.

Smaller classes means less external distractions for my sensory overloaded little guy.  Lower teacher/student ratios mean more individualized help.  Being immersed in a new language means that every kid is going to struggle with understanding directions – thereby potentially leveling the playing field for Z.  More challenging curriculum means that my brainy little man would be constantly challenged.  And, did I mention he seems to enjoy learning different languages?

So when the Academic Director went to observe Z, J and I were nervous…was he going to have a good day?  Was he going to have a tough time listening and sitting in Circle time?  (Good Lord, who knew we’d start wringing our hands about our kiddos performance so early in life?)  Well, Z not only behaved perfectly but he also remembered the Director, said hello to him and impressed him with his memory….which is a huge asset when you’re learning Mandarin because you have to memorize so many characters.

So, we’re in.  School hasn’t started yet and J and I can barely contain our excitement.  The kiddos are already coming home with cute little Mandarin songs and new words every day.  They love teaching us the words and correcting our pronunciation (apparently, after a certain age, those pathways in your brain close and you can’t physically make certain foreign sounds so we butcher the language).  Our family dinner conversations have a smattering of French, Spanish and Mandarin already.  Once S and Z figure out that they have a secret way of talking to each other that Mommy and Daddy can’t keep up with, we may have some issues.  But, until then, it is just pure joy.

Yes, sending them to a private school is expensive.  But, J and I agree that it’s an investment in their future.  And one we’d gladly pay out for….even if it means that we won’t necessarily take grand vacations and when we do buy a home, we’ll need to factor in tuition costs into what we can afford to buy.

So….smaller house and bilingual kids?  Yeah, I think that’s a good trade off.

Posted in ASPERGER'S, AUTISM, MOM | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

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