Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sing, Sing a Song, make it anything

Scene from Elf:

Scene at our House:

Mom (from bottom of stairs in a sing song voice): "Good morning, good morning, good morning; it's time to wake up; it's the last day of school before break; it's your day to swim at the Plunge; it's time for breakfast so you don't miss the bus..."

Reid (from upstairs on his feet, entering bathroom): "Stop singing Mom."

The good news: Music motivates. He got up.
The bad news: I do not have a hit single on my hands.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Documenting Miracles

God is always answering prayer. If we are alert, acknowledge it and mark it down, we remember. If not, the results can be as fleeting as a spring zephyr. More than anything, I hope this blog chronicles what God is doing in Reid's life, ours, and others' around him as we journey through autism to the promised land.

Truly in the last few weeks, there is more happening than I have time to articulate. Our cups are overflowing with every imaginable flavor and scent of His presence. I long to turn the winsome face to face praise reports I give my Bible study girls from vapor into lasting ebenezers of His power and faithfulness. December is a swirl of goodness.

The school psychologist at Reid's school helped me out this time. He sent this email last week titled, "Prepare to Hit PRINT." It made our year! (names changed for privacy)

Greetings. I was on campus today doing some research with 4 different students. One of those was Reid and he is doing an outstanding job maintaining his attention and responding to different stimuli.

The more notable thing today was something that occurred during lunch. Another student, Billy, one Pioneer's more noisy students, was not in the best of spirits today. While eating his lunch in the cafeteria Billy would randomly shout and scream out loud, crying, covering his ears with his hands. It was pretty rough for everyone else in the room; Billy had been occasionally going off like this for over 2 hours.

Well, the various students in the room slowly started to filter out. Some had finished their lunches, others were moving away from Billy. After about 5 minutes into this one particular scream session over half a dozen students had left. Billy was the only one left at his table.

At that point, Reid slowly got up from where he was sitting. I was watching him; Reid tends not to to break down any further when other Pioneer students are having a rough time. In this case Reid sat down right next to Billy. Billy was yelling, then quiet, then yelling, putting his hands on his head, waving them in the air. Reid sat on Billy's left, and ate his lunch. He didn't move. Occasionally he would look at Billy, then at the table.

Well, Billy slowly started to calm down. First the hands stopped waving, then the voice got more quiet. Billy started to eat his food. He even reached in his lunch pack and pulled some other things out. After about 120 seconds he and Reid were sitting there together in silence.

Then, Reid left. He stood up, first pulled his right, then left foot over the bench of the "table," gathered his empty plate and cup, and headed to the door. All the other students were outside at this point, playing. No doubt Reid was heading to the couch in the courtyard where he likes to soak up the sun. I approached him as he got to the door.

"Reid," I asked. "Why did you do that?"

He looked at me for a moment, then at the floor. "Billy needed it," he said. Then he walked out.

I went over and sat next to Billy myself.

Cheers, Jake

Flooding my mind after I absorbed this, were verses I'd prayed in years prior all coming to fruition in seemingly a single stroke. The fullness of time. This boy, my boy, over whom I've prayed believing prayers that:

...he would grow in wisdom, favor and stature with God and man...

...that the Spirit of the Lord would be upon Him, a spirit of Wisdom and understanding, counsel and power, knowledge and the fear of the Lord...

...that he would be filled with the Holy, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control (ohhh self-control)...

...that his little light would shine....

...that God would bless him indeed as he had Jabez, enlarge his territory and keep him from evil...

Lo and behold, He did, He had, and He was.

This joyful boy whose hands and head we've anointed with oil and Psalm 23 this month, is not only maintaining his own self-control but also coming alongside others to offer the ministry of presence.

How tender the heart of God to provide me with a detailed, objective glimpse through the keyhole to see the evidence of prayers He is answering.

The celebration widened as Jim shared with our church small group who had trudged the pits of April with us. Equally agog, they chimed in:

Tears….sitting on an airplane back from DC with a stranger next to me wondering what the heck is going on…it’s a family of Christ thing

Killer story…..i can say that reid has a similar effect on me when I hear him chanting in the background at our study. His presence and comments are one of the things that make the Moriarty house a home

Oh my. Joy. "...i think i'm feeling that feeling again..."

Goosebumps. And from Allie, "this is the kind of thing you hear about happening to other people, but not to us."

For this, I can honestly say, it's been worth the wait.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 1o Things I Appreciate about Reid's New School

10. their intentional "Empathy, Invitation, Plan" approach

9. a preponderance of male staff (which is a subtle but critical component to Reid's adolescence and my husband's engagement)

8. allowance for some naturally occurring elbowing and shoulder tapping (who wants to raise a robot)

7. the "practice makes permanent" (not perfect) ideal

6. true partnership with parents

5. daily interaction with the local community (this is valuable even when it, especially when it breaks down)

4. a careful, positive use of the power of words to affect behavior

3. the cohesive team approach of the staff and students

2. a palpable acceptance kids can feel (which fundamentally enables them to trust teachers enough to be vulnerable and learn)

1. the occasional photo text they send that's worth a thousand words (see left)

Last June when it became obvious we had to find a new placement for Reid, we revisited a place I had loved 3 years prior. Pioneer Day School has only improved since then and retained it's intentionally small size.

The teddy bear of a director sat catty corner from me at a conference table explaining the founding principles of his school. Resisting the urge to hug this man, I leaned back--likely scooched my chair away--so as not to block my husband from catching the full drift of truth he was speaking. I wanted them to relate man-to-man. As Mr. Banks said in Mary Poppins, "Enough of this slipshod, sugary, female way of thinking."

Hearing about empathy, social thinking, music instruction, and kinesthetic learning from a beefy man who's educated dozens of challenging boys is very different than hearing your wife say, "let's wait til he's calm to finish the homework." Jim Leiner described how he trains his teachers to first give empathy (ie. "I know this must be hard for you Billy, math was always difficult for me too"); then offer an invitation ("If you'd like I can show you something I learned that helps); and make a plan ("How 'bout if we do 5 problems today and save the rest for tomorrow?")

In one sitting, what my husband used to perceive as "coddling" became logical, within reason, even wise. We listened (well actually, I nodded like a bobble-headed dashboard ornament) then toured the school. This move would represent a return to our original follow-your-gut instinct on what was best for Reid. By moving him, we would abandon the "research-based," straight behavior mod program for something far more holistic. It was a battle between the head and the heart for both of us.

As we got out to the curb in front of the building, I refrained from jumping for joy. I don't like to stack the deck or be subjective. (ha!) My new intention these days is to submit to my husband's wisdom.

Our other set of eyes was a dear friend Kate, who has credentials up the wazoo from evaluating classrooms around the world for a living. Even at first glance observing the classrooms of Pioneer, Kate noticed countless examples of student work and real curriculum which indicated a place of learning. This was a vivid contrast to the starkness of the previous place where the curriculum really was behavior.

Was it just me? Or was this gonna be unanimous? After giving her professional opinion, Kate asked the obvious, what did I think? As I stifled my enthusiasm still wanting Jim to arrive at his own clarity, she ribbed me with the now infamous line, "He had you at empathy!" She knows me too well.

Confirmation came after the 30-day placement meeting where the aide, director and teacher reported how Reid had taken to this place like a fish to water. The most pleasant surprise was that he had done a page of division problems after being shown and invited to practice. (Another distinction since the previous placement had removed him from the diploma track and all but tabled academics in favor of teaching compliance.)

As we left that meeting my husband elbowed me in the ribs, "ok now I wanna hug the guy!" (I resisted the irony of yapping back, "hands at your side; personal space.")