Saturday, April 16, 2011

What Are These Birds?


Here is the latest video.  I shot it with my pocket camera.  They are the funniest looking things.  I am absolutely in love with some of them who have earned names.  "Tallulah, Irma, Renee" for starters.
I think I need help with names.  Today was one of those days that nothing went as planned.  I made no progress on "Fort Chicken."  Hoping tomorrow will bring the end.  My friend Charlie is coming to help.
Bob doesn't know it, but I'm snagging him in the morning to help put the horse fence on the two small sides.
"Myster E"

Click on the link below for the video.

The large blonde who comes the closest is "Tallulah" (the real Tallulah, you know who you are :-)
"Irma" is the prettiest of the black Cochins.  "Renee" is the first Dominique to really feather out in a barred pattern.  One moment they look like prehistoric dinosaurs, and the next emus with long out stretched necks.  The feathers are so tiny.  And Myster E the "surprise" bird looks nothing like a chicken. He looks like a house sparrow.  Sort of the "Ugly Duckling" of the chickens.  When I open the cage, Tallulah flies into my lap, and Irma follows.  They get that "the Mama"  look in their eyes when they see me.  The Brahmas look as if they have leather flying goggles on.  I have to get a picture before their feathers come in.
"Yeah, we can make!"

Thanks for reading.
Each day is a gift. Open now.

Chicken Fitness Program

Buddy sits where the gate will be. He will be given the task of guarding Ft. Chicken.

I can happily say "Ft. Chicken" is coming along!  The entire roof is sewn together at every seam. All walls of chicken wire are up.  The ENTIRE bottom floor has been sewn to the the walls.  I have to attach the bottom of one short wall and sew it.  But it's the smallest side of the whole run. Bob put in the threshold of the gate.  I have used every muscle, every tendon more than any trip to a gym.  I was out in the fresh air (wind) for 6 hours.  I can hardly move.  But for some reason I feel great!  Perhaps I can make a video of the "Chicken Fitness Program" that shows all the positions, muscles used, and before and after photos.  For $19.95 you can see how a chicken run and coop are built, AND get fit at the same time.  Only if you get up from the TV.   25mph winds are forecasted for this afternoon.  Here I go!

What is left?
1. Attach bottom of last wall.
2.  Put wire in "transom" areas.
3. Horse fence attached on 2 short walls.
4.  Sew horse fence (my friend Charlie is coming to do this Sunday) to chicken wire for coyote proofing.
5.  Gate.

Galvanized steel wire sewed all corners and edges together.

Oh this blogger's acting up again.  Someone with more experience write to me with help.

Thanks for reading.
Each day is a gift. Open now.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Perseveration, You Can Say That Again !! And Again.

copyright 1994 s.weese

perseverate |pərˈsevəˌrāt|verb [ intrans. Psychologyrepeat or prolong an action, thought, or utterance after the stimulus that prompted it has ceased.DERIVATIVESperseveration |pərˌsevəˈrā sh ən| |pərˈsɛvəˈreɪʃən| nounORIGIN early 20th cent.from Latin perseverat- ‘strictly abided by,’from the verb perseverare (see persevere ).
I know that reaching my son through his subjects of interest was the key to reaching him.  Thank goodness for me he had many perserverations.  Trains, Construction Trucks, Fire Trucks, Leggos, Playmobile, Infinity, Vacuums, Chickens, Crime Scene Tape, Submarines, Inventors, Space, Rock Climbing, Bicycles, Banjo and Bluegrass Picking, Aliens, Computers, Painting, LED lights, Clay, Sprinklers, Dirigibles,  Magic, and now Cars...ones that go fast.At a young age there was nothing that made him happier than playing with our Electrolux canister vacuum. He'd take on and off the attachments on the living room floor.  When I tried to put the vacuum away, he'd have a tantrum at 2.  The people who came to my house  thought I vacuumed all the time. :-)  When he got his first red shiny fire truck.  He slept with it for a week. I'd go to get him from his crib and he'd have ladder prints on his cheek from sleeping ON the truck.  When he learned to talk, there was one subject he brought up instantly when he came to someone's home.  "Do you mind if I look at your vacuum?"  He knew everyone's vacuum.  Usually calling the owner by the name of their vacuum instead of their name.  When his Godfather bought a house with an in house wall vacuum, I thought he would burst with joy.  And some of you know today he works in a vacuum shop. Back to perseverations.  At school they tried to interest him in their subjects.  But few held his attention.There was no way of getting him off course when he was heading down the tracks of a perseveration.  The good teachers used his "obsession du jour" to teach him science, english, history.  The  less than good ones, just wrung their hands and shook their heads in frustration.  In first grade (the year he was  diagnosed) he was not getting numbers.  Having characters, be they letters or numbers  meant nothing to my very visual learner.  Special Ed even tried plastic cubes.  At 7 he was a handful.  His eyes would glaze over, and I knew he wasn't even present, let alone getting what adding 2 orange blocks and 2 blue blocks meant.At that age he was sooooooo obsessed with his chickens.  Sometimes he'd crow or cluck when someone spoke to him.  Kids in his class thought he was really weird. One day it dawned on me as I was laminating something for his classroom Aide. I will photocopy a bunch of different chicken breeds he likes, and laminate them.  We'll do "chicken math."  And we did.  Adding 3 buff Cochins to 3 Barred Rocks...that was something he could get his head around.  I can't remember the transition from Chicken Math to regular math.  It wasn't long before he was doing regular math.   I learned something too.  Stop trying to force this octagonal peg into a round hole.  Look for the octagonal hole.  Ahhhhhhhhh.

He held the keys.

Many years later, part of his high school work program was to work in a vacuum store.  The man who owned that store was an angel.  Mr. Duffy.  He is an angel, as he's passed to another life.  But I hear my son quote him often when a vacuum "situation" arises.  I will never forget driving him to work and watching him put his key in the front door of the store one Saturday morning.  It was like a truck ran me over seeing him open a shop and knowing he'd been responsible and trustworthy enough to be given a shop key.  I sat in my truck watching him through the window turn on lights, put the open sign in the window, and arranging vacuums.  I cried, and I'm crying now typing this. That moment, I knew it had all been worth it.  He was going to be a productive member of our society. The sword of Damocles called "residential placement" was lifted from above my head.Today he works at a different store, and is quite the employee.  I am boasting, but I can't help myself. He not only has the key, but beat all sales records, and they send him to Las Vegas every year to the Vacuum and Sewing Machine Dealer Convention.  Yes, they send him.  All expenses paid. At 23, most "normal" kids haven't been on a "paid by the company" trip.  I know why he's broken all sales records.  He has a particle meter he brings out when demonstrating the different vacuums. When he looks up, he has watery eyes (something he's had since childhood when he feels emotional).   He shows the customer how much dust is or isn't being blown back into the air.  He's pretty passionate about it. Who could say no to that?There is a world vacuum collector meeting every year. One year I am going to send him to it.  He collects vacuums, that's for sure.  We have many in our attic. He has some of his favorites hanging on bike hooks in his apartment. He loves vintage vacuums.  Buying them at Goodwill, or thrift shops and fixing them up to resell (sometimes keep) is a "hobby."  When someone has a really old vacuum and he is able to fix it, he gets tears in his eyes.  He loved the kids video "The Brave Little Toaster."  If you have a young child on the Autsim spectrum...I highly recommend it. He's taken many a dust sucker or rug shampooer and put his own "after market" features on it. It sounds like everyday is wonderful.  Mostly they are.  His love of  cars, has caused him many a heart ache. He can't leave any car he has alone.  When one tinkers with vacuums, they don't have to drive them to work.  But cars are a different matter.  He just got a new car (used) and he's promised his fiance it will be his transportation, and he won't soup it up.  She had to drive him to work for 6 weeks when his last car's transmission died.  When he was young I had to hide every screwdriver. If he had one, he would unscrew light switch plates, the phone, appliances, anything to turn that screw.  I was constantly turning on lights and having the switch plate crash on the floor.  He found out dimes work as well as most flat head screw drivers, and I seriously considered doing away with dimes all together. Today his new car works, and really, that is his responsibility.  It would be much easier to just keep buying him new cars. But what will he learn from that?  He'd learn that he can do whatever he would like to his car, and Mommy will buy him a new one.  Not my idea of good parenting. He was single handedly supporting the red light camera program in our town.  But he learned.  Driving has been my biggest worry.  Little impulse control, perseverating on something else while driving, and being a 23 year old male are not what makes my heart sing.  If I think about it much, I can really work myself into a lather.  There ARE other people's lives at stake here. If I've told him to "drive safe" once, I've said it a million times.  It's my way of asserting some facade of I really have none.  Thanks for reading.Each Day is a Gift. Open now.xo,SuzPlease forgive the crazy breaks in lines. I can't get it to be fixed. :-(

Fort Chicken

I haven't blogged, as I am busy outside building "Fort Chicken."  I have 3 out of 4 walls done.  I sew each seam, so that takes some doing.  I will take photos at the end of today.  The babies spent the night outside for the first time (in the nursery).  I also built a temporary playpen for them to peck the ground and grass.
They are about 1/2 feathered.  3 weeks old today.  They will be right next to the crow above. So I'll be gardening, and chickening (is that a word?) all in the same spot.

Thanks for reading!
Each day is a gift. Open now.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sensory Smarts

"Finding the Key."

Managing sensory issues is my 3rd golden rule. My friend Lindsey Biel in NYC wrote a book and has a website "Sensory Smarts":    If you are in NYC, that is where her practice is.  This book really lays it all out.  I met Lindsey through another venue, and of course we clicked the moment we said the "A" word. She just gets it.  I didn't know her until my son was grown.  How I could have used her input.

Learning what my son's sensory issues were was another key to helping him navigate through life.  From the time he was a baby, I look back and see the places he would tantrum with what seemed like no provocation.  He hated crowded loud restaurants, mall jewelry stores, riding top down in my convertible, and as a baby only ate 2-3 foods.   When he was an infant and started to fuss, the best way to soothe him was to put him in his crib.  As an infant I had no idea he had Autism. I just thought he was unusual. :-)

"Sensory integration" and processing disorders usually accompany Autism.  Someone once gave me a great visualization for what was going on in my child's brain.  If each of his senses was a car driving down it's own road into a bottleneck where the 5 roads turn into one road for all 5 cars to go through.  His senses were in a traffic jam most of the time.  I know how frustrated I get in traffic jams.  I can't imagine being in this state all the time.  No wonder he was miserable so often.

At school the flourescent lights and noisy hallways drove him nuts. Lunchrooms, and gymnasiums, and playgrounds were all overwhelming. The noise of a pencil on that splintery 1st grade paper made writing a miserable task.  He preferred the quiet of a rollerball.   He could hear the silent alarms in mall jewelry stores. We'd push him in the stroller into a jewelry store, or stop in front and he'd start shrieking.  I just thought he hated jewelry. He was a large baby.  I bought most of his clothes at a lovely local 2nd hand shop.  By the time he was 2, he wore a size 4.  All those clothes had been washed and were soft.  When I dressed him in new clothes, he'd take them off.   Now they print the labels on t-shirts.  I used to have to cut them all off and make sure there was no stub poking him.  People touching him randomly in public really set him off.  He has red hair, and little old ladies would comment and touch his head.  He would be sitting in the grocery cart seat and growl.  Oh, grocery stores.  Florescent lights, lots of noise, lots of people, it was exhausting.

Food.  Some kids with Autism eat everything and anything including their own poop.  Some are so picky that they eat little or nothing.  My son was of the second variety.   As a baby he wanted oatmeal and applesauce.  The pediatrician said he'd outgrow it.  Ha!  He couldn't stand anything with a lump, bump, that needed chewing.  I would put the spoon in his mouth, and out the new food would go. I pictured him going to college with a box of oatmeal and a jar of applesauce.  He liked orange juice if it had no pulp.  I had to "strain the orange juice."  His biological Father even tried shoving food into his mouth, making him stay at the table until he finished whatever we were eating. Of course none of this helped at all.  I was learning to pick my battles with my son.  Food was not one I was going to fight.

Eventually, by about 4 he ate 6 foods: pasta with butter and cheese, cheese pizza, cereal, orange juice, vanilla yogurt, and goldfish.  I was thrilled he liked crunchy goldfish.  When I asked our pediatrician what to do at 4.  She said to only offer him what we were eating.  "When he's hungry enough, he'll eat." So for 3 days, he ate nothing but water.  He ended up in the emergency room dehydrated...twice.  I was done with that fight.  6 foods it was.  He went to a camp for children with Autism.  When I contacted the camp I asked about his limited diet.  They said they could handle it.  The first week he was there they called me because he was in the ER there with dehydration.  I think he'd learned to eat white bread with smooth peanut butter while he was there.  So that's what he ate most of the time.

I know many people with autism who are adults.  One man told me he ate canned peas and yogurt every day for 6 years.  Another man told me he ate white bread without the crusts and apple juice for 10.  Both these men are now adults, and eating pretty normally.  Of course food touching other food on a plate is still a no no for them and my son.  He eats many more than 6 foods now.  He's learning to cook and barbeque.  He's still very picky about brands, restaurants, and types of food.  I am happy to say that not fighting that battle was wise.  He just looks like a "foodie."

A quick true story about food.  When he was about 8 he had learned that one could dial 911 and get a police car to arrive.  I didn't know that he had dialed 911 and told them "my mother is torturing me."  The police arrived at our farm in 2 cars, to my surprise.  They told me he had called.  He was overstimulated with all the commotion.  So he was not talking immediately.  The police took him in one room and started questioning him, me in another.  Finally he told them that I was lying to him, and trying to trick him.  They were trying to get details.  After 15 minutes of nothing he said: "she doesn't strain the orange juice, and tries to trick me into drinking it."  That was his beef.  The cops looked at each other, him, me and shrugged their shoulders.  As they left one cop told me: "you've got your hands full Maam."  Oh, really?  I didn't know. :-)

There are so many sensory issues in young kids with Autism.  I can't possibly go into all of them.  That's why my Sensory Smarts is here!   When we moved from the city to our farm my son was 5.  He spoke, but it was garbled.  I had no idea that the quiet of the country was just what he needed.  Every evening in the last hour of daylight, he and I would explore the property.  I love that time of day when the light is golden.  He did too.  During our exploring time, he began to say words and eventually sentences quite clearly.  It was like magic.  He had not been diagnosed yet.  Later, I would find out it was just what his senses needed.

"The Diagnosis"

Thanks for reading.
Each day is a gift. Open now.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Angle Wings

A Langashan and a knock kneed Brahma 

The chicks are starting to get their back feathers.  When they first come out, they look like small angel wings.  Specially the buff Cochins.  They are growing like toddlers do.  They are taller every day, but about the same width. Their legs are very long for their bodies.  The one Brahma looks like she has knock knees!  Today the winds have died down, and I plan to make them a playpen in the yard as they are ready for some scratchin' and diggin'.
Nap time.

When they fall asleep their eyes start to close and heads droop, and then legs fold.  Beaks down in the litter.  You can see one above on it's way, and two beak down.

Black Cochin: look at those leg feathers!
I have put in  a new feeder. It's actually a rabbit feeder.  They do well with this one in a cage.  Now they have 2 feeders in the nursery.  
New feeder

Myster E is sooo much smaller than the others, but holds his own.
The "Boss" of the hens.
A pecking order is forming.  The buff Cochin standard size hens are the "Cappos!"  :-)  Then the Langshans because I think they are all roosters. :-(   Myster E is the the boss of the bantys.  He has 3 banty buff Cochin hens and 2 buff Silkies that he is clearly the leader.  
She absolutely is the friendliest of them all.
Myster E looks more like a baby bird, than chicken. 
Myster E levels the playing coop. :-)
I started putting pieces of wood in different thicknesses, as well as a small lightweight ball in the nursery.  Chicks are very curious and need stimulation.  They will peck at the ball, and hop on it, and move it all around the nursery. The different height steps give them "perching power" and they fly on and off them.  Sort of a chicken playground.  

Off I go. Mothers Day orders from my Polkadot Magpie Shop.  I am finally at the tail end of the bronchitis.  
Thanks for reading.
Each day is a gift. Open now.
As usual Blogger is formating this in the way it wants.....Grrrr..

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tornado Boy Behind The Wheel

"Tornado Boy" copyright 1994 s.weese

As promised I will continue with my golden rules.  From my original blog earlier this month:

2. Families are the bottom line. So don't expect the school district to fix it.
Yesterday our son came over to show us his latest ride.  At 23 he's had at least 6 cars since he started driving at 18.
He wasn't ready at 16 to drive. His hand/eye coordination was not quite there.  I would take him out in my jeep to practice.  I have to say, of all the trials and ordeals we had been through, this was my most difficult.  He got behind the wheel careening for other cars, signs, trees, you name it.  I felt as if I had just completed an intense aerobics class. My heart rate had been way up, my muscles tensed, and my legs exhausted from pushing my imaginary brake petals on the floor.  This took about 9 months. Until I felt he was ready for driving school.

 When we signed him up at the local driving school I admit great relief.  He took the road part of the class twice.
When he got his license at 18 in Santa Fe, I don't think he had to take the road test.  They just give you a license if you can pass the written part.  He had saved money for a truck.  And what a truck it was.  An '83 Dodge: the manly man's truck.  We could hear him coming 3 blocks away.  I was so proud that this kid had earned his own money through his job at the vacuum store, and as a school district IT installer.  I didn't care that it was loud, rusty, and got 4 miles to the gallon.  Every time he left in it, my heart went into my throat with fear. But pride pulled it out again.  And my son, being my son took it apart and put it back together MANY times. 

So back to #2.  The school district can only do so much.  Now there are programs for Autism.  When my son was in school only non verbal, low IQ Autistic kids had a home.  They were in what I call a "warehouse program." These programs just keep kids for the 6 hours a day required.  Few gave any stimulation, and were a mix of Special Ed categories.  Our district offered:  "Inclusion" or residential placement.  Not great options.   So I chose inclusion and forced our school district to give my son a 1:1 aide.  She was the first in our district.  The aide was not trained, and I was called almost daily about one incident or another.  At this point I realized that the school was only going to give him part of what he needed.  It was up to me to provide the rest.  His biological father was in total denial and we got divorced.  He eventually lost all visitation rights, and that started a marked improvement in my son's behavior.  But that's another story.

The physical therapist at school had offered to teach him how to ride a bike.  We bought him a bike with training wheels.  He learned to ride that.  The PT got off the bus there.  On my son's 8th birthday his biological father insisted that he could learn to ride the bike without training wheels. Off they came, and what I believe as abuse started. He pleaded, yelled, threatened. Then physically grabbed him by the back of the neck with one hand on the bicycle seat and pushed him down the driveway. He let go, my son fell, and ran into the house crying.  This happened a few more times.  Then I called a halt to the whole thing.  I couldn't bear to watch this anymore.   I suggested a 3 wheeled bike so that my son could ride independently with us on bike trips.  "Three wheeled bikes are for retards and old people,"  my ex said.   I felt being able to join others riding bikes was more important than the number of wheels it had.  Soon after this I filed for a divorce, with an order of protection.  

The day after my former husband was "extracted" from our house there was a used 3 wheeled bike for sale in the paper.  It was owned by an IBM maintenance engineer to ride with his tools from building to building.  It had a huge metal tool box on the back.  The tires were solid, and that was perfect for our farm gravel, long driveway.  When my son saw it he was beside himself with joy.  He loved "packing a bag."  So he filled it with all his computer parts, tools, tape, and oddities he loved so.  He rode that bike for years up and down the driveway.  Steering, stopping, and judging distance were the first steps for him to learn riding a bike.   Later when he was a bit more coordinated I bought him a green (favorite color) road bike that was a size smaller than the bike shop said he needed.  He could easily put his feet down if he lost his balance.  And within 48 hours he was riding that bike everywhere (new problems arose with that milestone!). He rode his bike to school for 3 years.   My point in telling  you this story is that I taught him, not the school district to ride his bike.  Next, it would be a car!

I knew that he needed socialization, and that was my priority.  Grades 1-3 were a disaster with inclusion in a regular Ed class.  By 4th grade they sent a 1:1 teacher to our home and I designed the program.  We taught to his perseverations (obsessions).   He worked in a TV repair shop, a nursing home running the Bingo games,  went to the rock climbing gym,  and various other off site places he could socialize.  "Chicken Math" was implemented.  After school I had him horseback riding, art therapy class, and various other activities matching his perseverations.  By about 7th grade he was ready to enter the classroom again, with an aide.  We switched school districts and he went to a Magnet school my daughter had attended for 8 years.  His first aide there was this hot babe who was a young Israeli woman. On their first day together she brought a picture of herself with an Uzi strapped to her back when she was in the Army.  The message: don't give me any shit kid, I can take you down.  He got it, and treated her with total respect.  The other 7th and 8th grade boys thought he was the luckiest kid in school to have this beautiful woman with him all day.  

I continued to battle with the district about behavior modification.  They just didn't get it.  And trying to have everyone who came in contact with my son be consistent is an unrealistic expectation.  When they gave him a time out for bad behavior...they were actually giving him exactly what he wanted.  He wanted to be alone, in a quiet place and do something he liked.  He figured out very quickly how to get to that time out place in a busy grade school.  In 2nd grade at the end of the school year he started acting out at about 11am each day.  The teachers, and psychologists, and aide all had these theories as to why.  My son does not like to be hot.  The principal's office and waiting room were the only air conditioned rooms.  One day he told me that "Mr. Cunningham's office is the only "woom" with air conditioning in my whole school."  The light bulb went on.   I called the Principal and told him my idea.  The next day like clockwork, as soon as the building heated up, bam, outburst, off to the Principal. This time the Principal asked my son: "do you know why you are here?"  My son said: "Yes, cause you get all the perks, and have an air conditioner."   The staff began to give my son lots more respect, than they had before! 
In their minds he had been some psychotic kid, and now he was just hot.  :-)

If you wonder why I do not have a photo of my son, or mention his real name-there is a reason.  He does not want his picture anywhere on the internet, and he wants his privacy.  He also doesn't want his biological father finding him or me.  These excerpts are from "Tornado Boy" a book written and based on my daily sketchbook when he was growing up.  I hope one day he will give me permission to publish it.  In the mean time, I respect his wishes and he remains anonymous.  The  drawing above : "Which road to take" is from this book.  (Copyrighted, and may not be used without my permission.)

Thanks for reading.
Each day is a gift. Open now.