I am a mathematician. I went to Polytechnic University after I graduated from high school. By the end of my freshman year, I had taken every undergraduate mathematic course the university offered and earned an “A” in each one. I do not know if I was born that way or was taught to see life that way. Regardless, that is how I think.
I grew up less than five miles from Belmont Raceway. Each summer my grandfather would take me to Saratoga to play the ponies. You legally had to be eighteen, but back then, nobody really cared.
Each time I went to the raceway, I was given a twenty dollar bill. Nine races, minimum bet of two dollars a race. I understood probabilities without ever being told. I was six when I learned to read the racing form. I would wander around the park and stop and listen to the men talking about their favorite horses and discuss distances, track conditions, records and jockeys. A couple of minutes before each race I would go to the teller and place my bet.
I never lost all twenty dollars and frequently did well. All day, we automatically kept track of how we were doing. After the ninth race, I would settle up. If I hadn’t made money, I gave what ever I had left of the twenty I started with. I did not have to do that often. If I had made money, I gave the twenty my father or grandfather fronted my back to them and kept my winnings.
I have an aunt. She is a widow with a lot of money and can now live to please herself. She loves BINGO in a big way. When she is not traveling, she plays several times a week. She spends anywhere from five hundred to a thousand dollars a week. She takes BINGO seriously. Every couple of months she calls me to tell me about her great night. She wins thousands of dollars in one good night. I always congratulate her. I always ask her how much it cost her to win the money. She knows how much she spent that night and is thrilled with her “profit”. Numerous times I tried to explain that in order to know how much is profit, you have to keep track of how much you have spent on BINGO since the last time you won. She would ask why she would want to do that. It has been a while since I stopped trying to explain.
All of this to share how my mind works. I am not a pessimist. I am a realist. I can not claim “victory” without simultaneously knowing in every cell of my body what that “victory” has cost. Some days, I envy my aunt.
GB had hippo-therapy years ago. She absolutely loved it. I wasn’t sure how much benefit GB was getting out of it, but the joy on her face kept me schlepping the hour and a half round trip every week. Then my mom got sick, and there was no time any more. A love of horses had been planted.
GB found the television show “The Saddle Club” about girls in Australia who loved to ride and hung out at a stable. It was on PBS and she saw every episode dozens of times. This year her reading advanced enough that she started reading the books. We were looking for outside the home activities that would engage her. She asked to go back to horseback riding. Hippo-therapy was not as good a match. GB adapts much better to new ideas than she did back then and after watching “The Saddle Club”, that is the experience she wanted. She had also ridden a horse on the beaches of Grand Turk when she was six (by herself, but with difficulty) and taken trail rides at a resort when she was eight (easily).
With much angst, we decided to let her try to fit into the world she wanted so badly. We signed her up for an assessment at the local stable. The instructor sent her into the stable to tell the girls she needed “Sally”. The girls took her to Sally, who was a chestnut horse. They showed her two different kinds of grooming brushes, how to use them, and helped her groom the horse. The girls showed GB where Sally’s pad, saddle, and tack were kept and how to put them on. GB led Sally back to the ring and her trial lesson began. She listened carefully to what the instructor did. She remembered lot of what she had learned when she was younger and beamed the whole lesson.
GB will be a riding student at the local stable- just one of the girls. I am praying it works out… she wants it so much.
Last weekend, The Dad and I took the kids to visit my friend and her family in Pennsylvania. Despite three special needs kids, we had family fun, a Trauma Mama EFT conference call,
an IEP a meeting with a limited bureaucrat that lasted three hours longer than his knowledge, an adoption seminar, swimming, and even took everybody to Friendly*s. The kids had no meltdowns, lots of fun, and the adults had ADULT CONVERSATION. Sure, the kids required constant monitoring and frequent intervention… but there were four adults to do it. At other times we have gone to the zoo, horseback riding at a resort, and swimming mixed into everything. The kids love to swim.
The Power? Besides adult conversation, of course. Our kids are not “special needs” when our families are together. The structure, the rules are just what they are. They are not compared to what other children can do. Pull-ups at night, medication, quiet times… they just are. Some how, this gives our kids the gift of just being kids. Enjoying the normal activities that go with childhood. They are friends that share a growing stash of memories and look forward to what comes next.
The connection is a normal connection between families that are friends. The more the connections, the better. For our kids. For us.
Hope went on her first play date today. It wasn’t that she has made enough progress to try it, but rather that GB had made a friend during Challengers softball. Her friend has a younger brother who is eight and developmentally delayed and their house is set up so it is easy to provide constant supervision. GB and her friend, Jordan, did crafts while Hope and Tyler played with the doll house, swung on the indoor swing, and watched Scoobie Doo. There were the expected rough spots, but with two adults there to intervene, nothing got out of hand. Hope had a great time and didn’t want to leave. Hope’s first social success! I am hoping to give her another opportunity soon.
We had a CSE for Hope this morning. It was the first one for Hope without Mrs. V.S. Chairperson. Everybody was prepared with the materials needed. The speech therapist went over the speech eval done on Hope over the summer. She provided detailed information and well formulated goals for Hope’s IEP. Hope teacher discussed where Hope was in the process of learning to read and said right now, Hope requires her one on one involvement to read. Nobody at the meeting seemed aware of district standards to be promoted to first grade. Mrs. Director will find out before we meet again.
I have 6 week programs reviews scheduled for both girls, back to back. I can’t believe how smoothly this year is progressing. Not at all the black sinkhole of energy it was last year. Thank you, God! I really appreciate it!
Hope did very well sitting on her mat yesterday afternoon. She did so well, I let her join the kids swimming. After twenty minutes it was time to get out and dry off for dinner. Hope took my hand and said “We are still stuck like glue”. We stayed stuck like glue until bedtime. When I kissed her goodnight, she SMILED at me and said “I like when we are stuck like glue”. I let the girls use the good dream spray and they slept like a charm. They are still sleeping now and I am savoring the best night we’ve had in weeks.
Last year, GB was in a regular, first grade class. She was bullied, lonely, unhappy and hated school. This year GB is in a self-contained class with 7 autistic boys, ranging for one to four years older then her. This year, GB is learning, happy, and included.
I had assumed that choosing a self-contained class was giving up on inclusion. I was wrong.
Last night, GB’s school had their annual talent show. GB was so excited and insisted on going. “All my friends are in it”, she insisted over and over. So her Dad took her. GB came home glowing. Her Dad came home amazed. Children of all ages smiled and said hello, stopped to talk to her, and sat near her. During the show, GB was able to tell him what the next act was, who was in it and how she knew them.
My GB is part of her school.
Tonight, The Dad and I took the girls out to dinner. We met a friend, who is a preschool special ed teacher, and her family, including her 2 girls the same ages as mine. My friend had also arranged for another adoptive mother to join us. Her and her husband have adopted 10 children from foster care. The oldest is currently 25 and the youngest is 2. All of her kids have special needs, from mild to intense, and as she still does foster care, how many she will bring is always a guess.
Tonight, she had 5 with her, and another friend, with her 7 year old granddaughter, brought our group up to 16, 10 of them children, 3 of whom were NT. GB was not the most involved child, which was nice for a change. I have a lot in common with these people and it is the first time since we started with family #2 that I have had this, at least IRL. Her 7 year old and GB took an instant dislike to one another, which was not a surprise, since GB does not take well to large groups of kids, or for that matter, new kids. She chose to sit next to her Dad and by the time dessert was served, GB was willing to sit with the other kids. It didn’t work out all that great, but it wasn’t just GB. There were five of them that were toast, and one was NT.
It may sound crazy, but we are planning on doing it again. The adults, including me, enjoyed the time with other adults who *got it*, and none of the kids, including Hope, had to be removed. In my world, this is success.
There was a birthday party today for one of the neuro-typical girls in GB’s gymnastics class. She was invited! The kind mother also specifically said Hope was welcome, too. The Dad wanted to give Hope a chance, so the four of us went. It was at a roller rink. GB has never successfully skated, but she was excited to be invited.
When we arrived at the roller rink, we found out the party was one of 14 parties being hosted this afternoon. We were among the first arrivals, hoping to get them settled in before there were a lot of people and noise. That worked out well for GB. She got on her skates and headed right out to the rink. The first time around, she didn’t let go of the rail. Even so, she fell several times. She got right up and resumed skating. By the end of the party, she was skating by herself, away from the wall completely. You could see the pride on her face. She handled the music, noise, and people.
As we were leaving, I asked her what the best part of the party was. Without hesitation, she told me it was the prizes she picked for the 150 tickets she won in the game room.
Hope struggled, but also experienced some success. For the first time, Hope made a whole event without having to be taken to the car! I wish we could just stay home for the rest of the week and bask in our success.