THIS SUMMER'S GOOD STUFF, THUS FAR
-Chef attended Folk Fest Retreat! And he did not remain velcro'ed to me the entire time! I cannot express how incredible that was! Andy White spent quite a bit of time with Chef, teaching him guitar chords and having meals together and just hanging out. Connie Kaldor also spent time with Chef, encouraging his musical exploration, and played a big part in getting him up on stage performing a solo part with his retreat band!
-Chef carried a flag in our local parade. Almost the entire length of the parade, he talked with a schoolmate about all the food at the FolkFest Retreat. His schoolmate has invited him to a youth group this coming year! My eyes teared up.
-Chef attended our Folklorama pavillion and discovered that he has more of a community there now that he's attended for a second year. One evening, without prompting, he sat at a table with some of the men he knows and was very pleased to report that one of them was working the bar one evening and allowed him to switch cups of soda (which he wasn't allowed to have) for bottles to bring home - "just cuz I know him. He's my friend." Also, Chef was not allowed any treats that week (due to his earlier overdose) and handled that very well. He was also very pleased to discover that there were women working in the kitchen who remembered him from last year. Chef handled coming home at 4am twice in a row, managed himself well when he was very frustrated with the volume level coming from the stage as well as from the crowd, and wasn't velcro'ed to me the entire time when I was busy with other things at the pavilion.
- Chef volunteered with the Summer Arts Day Camp
- Chef has read Edward Rutherfurd's "Sarum" as well as "The Rise and Fall of the British Empire" by Lawrence James. He has taken great pride in the fact that he has his own copy of "Sarum" (sort of a family tradition) and has thus far taken very good care of it in his room. He has also been re-reading both of these books as well bits of various other books, and is requesting more of Rutherfurd's writings.
- Chef remains fascinated by food preparation. I was surprised at how very very pleased he was when I canned homemade lemonade (and wasn't quite so surprised to find that he sneakily drank almost all of it the next couple of days. I have yet to discover a workable way to store prepared food). He frequently talks about how hopeful he is that we'll pick some apples so we can make apple sauce/juice, etc.
- We talk a lot. A lot! And Chef is open to that. It's important that he absorb as much healthy teaching/information/humour/storytelling/etc as possible, and it's equally and possibly more important that I get glimpses into the way his mind operates. It's a good reminder of how much he often has to work at understanding the world. As difficult as his tantrums are, I immensely appreciate having a 16 year old son who seems to enjoy walking and talking with his Mom, and who appreciates being out in nature and has come to a point in his life where he seems to really appreciate what he receives.
- Chef's school bus driver told me this morning that Chef is a joy to have on the bus
- Aside from when he's tantrummed, Chef's growth/development really has come a very long way this year. He seems much more settled than other years, he seems more sure of himself, expresses great appreciation for what he receives, and is (again, tantrums aside!) taking more responsibility for his actions more frequently. I also have to say that even though Chef does tantrum, there are a myriad of times when he does handle it well when things don't go the way Chef would like them to go or when he doesn't get what he wants, etc.
-When he was younger, Chef worked very very hard at trying to wear turtlenecks every day in summer. A few months ago, Chef found big puffy outerwear vest at the thrift shop and was thrilled when I purchased it for him. This summer, the vest started showing up over Chef's arm, in a bag, and on Chef when we would go out. He was reminded by various family members that he would have heatstroke if he wore that outside on such hot days. Most of the time, he would then put it back in the closet. Eventually it became such an issue, however, that the vest was returned to the thrift shop with the statement that we'd look for another one once the weather turned chilly. Chef accepted that without meltdown.
-Oh, and in the clothing department - CHEF IS STILL WEARING THE SAME SHOES HE WORE LAST SUMMER AND ALL THROUGH THE SCHOOL YEAR AND ALL THIS SUMMER!! This is unprecedented. Croc-esque shoes are apparently the answer.
-Chef still isn't wanting to use visual aids for independence pieces and prompts from me are still often barely tolerated mostly due to the high frequency. HOWEVER, Chef is now often carrying a notebook around in his pocket - he's almost never referring to it, but he's carrying it and that's a good step.
-Having now realized that it really does help him and that he feels better when he takes it, Chef is now agreeably taking one of his meds on a regular basis. He has also communicated that the other med gives him headaches. That's a pretty big communication piece for Chef.
-Chef continues to be a wonderful (and very loved) uncle to his two nieces. He is also starting to be quite proactive in setting boundaries with them which, needless to say, has been interesting to watch. It also reaffirms that he's learning and does have a sense of appropriate social expectation/boundaries
-Chef had his first Greyhound ride. He was very nervous about it, then expressed much relief when he discovered we'd be travelling by van rather than bus. We arrived at our destination much later than anticipated, house/pet-sat for another friend that weekend, had a schedule that was all over the place (Retreat weekend) and a myriad of new people to meet. And Chef did it all.
-Chef experienced his first bee sting. We were walking from our friends' house to Wolseley. We stopped to buy drinks but Chef couldn't come inside because he was having a shoeless day, and when I came out I found a very-loudly-crying Chef. Once he was able to calm enough to form words, he showed me his sting then put a cold bottle of water on it and continued walking. On our way back home later in the day, we again stopped at the same shop for drinks. This time when I came out after buying the drinks, a smiling Chef greeted me. "Mom, look. I found my bee. It's the one that stung me and now it's dead." Sure enough, there in the palm of his hand was a dead bee. He carried it all the way home. He might even still have it somewhere.
-Splash Park: We went to the Wolseley splash park. I sat on a nearby bench. Chef sat on the edge of the wading pool and basically didn't move for close to an hour. I eventually called him over and we walked down to Westminster. I asked why he hadn't done anything other than sit, especially since it was such a hot day that there were even adults and other teens cooling off there. He shrugged and said he didn't want to. I asked him if he thought he could try to be more active there if we stopped by again on the way back. He said ok - and he did. He splashed under the sprinklers and submersed himself in the wading pool and kept looking over at me with a look that seemed to say "are you watching?" and afterwards announced that he'd had fun
-Wolseley: Chef loves Wolseley. When he was younger, he used to call it his neighbourhood. On the day that we were going, Chef was shoeless (he'd had to deal with some frustration just before leaving and had thrown his shoes back into the house in anger and had just shrugged and grumped when reminded that he needed to be ready to leave) and therefore had to wait outside instead of choosing produce at Organic Planet and choosing a special stone at Prairie Sky. And he handled it.
It really has been a pretty big summer. After Retreat, I was so amazed at what Chef had accomplished there that I figured that was more than enough for an entire year. And then he successfully managed through Folklorama, plus all the other successes he's had.
This blog was initially set up as a means of communicating with my son's team. Since then, I've heard from other parents with similar stories. If you are living with challenges or journeying alongside someone who is, you are not alone. There are many of us. I'm a single adoptive Mom (http://richesofsimplicity.blogspot.com/) of a young man who lives with many abilities and many diagnoses. We have journeyed together through many challenges and a few adventures over the years as my son has tried to find space in this world that makes him feel more comfortable, an attempt made especially difficult when living with Attachment Disorder, PDD-NOS (Autism), Developmental Coordination Disorder, ADHD, prenatal substance exposure, etc. Some of the strongest elements used in this journey have been music, visual arts, therapeutic parenting, team-connection, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, communication skills, community-building, continual lifeskills training, and elements of Theraplay. (Click here for some written resources.) On this journey, there is laughter and tears and growth and hope. The greatest of these is hope.