Monday, December 27, 2010

Humor, insights and stubbornness; life with the Little Man

By Heather
Our two children compliment each other so well, they bring different spices to our family life. Calli brings sunshine to people, Acer brings joy and humor. Calli is almost always happy; Acer is is frequently grumpy, but his reflections on life make you smile, and his joyful grin just invites you to grin along at life with him. Some examples of his views: He will talk about life "when I was Little" or 'When I was Medium sized", he asks questions like 'How do they make Turkey? in a Turkey Maker?'; When asked about something in his ear 'It's ear grime, it's just the way God made me, to have ear grime all the time'. He makes me smile many times a day with his take on life and the world as he knows it.

This year, Acer's total blindness has been of interest to the scientific community. He's in an on going study of sleep habits, he has to do certain things every two weeks, and he earns money towards things that he decides he wants, Toys and Drum accessories mainly. He knows how many weekends it will take to earn the next toy on his list and eagerly counts down until we can get it. This has been a good tool for him to learn fiscal responsibility and I'm proud of how hard he works for these. We also were flown into MIT so they could take an MRI of his brain. Yep, they flew in the whole family, and we spent three days, two nights there and met some great people.

Acer was also the focus of a TV show, even if you only saw him for about 30 seconds. The show Noodle and Doodle on sprout/PBS contacted the MPVI, Michigan parents of Visually impaired children. The notice said that the show needed a blind/VI child about age 3-6. Well, who could be cuter than Acer? We drove out to Holland, MI, and Bill and Acer were filmed and shown at the very end of the episode. The whole episode was about cooking something Yummy for him, and designing a card he could touch and smell. It was pretty funny because 2 of the kids didn't eat any of the dessert, they didn't record any of Acer's voice, and they designed a card for him to smell (using jello powder) but he couldn't let it block his face!

Acer has always been a bit behind on his social skills, how he interacts with peers in particular. He was really only around them in half day pre-school last year in school; His other half days for the past two years have been pretty much one on one with the teacher and an aide. This, combined with having no kids his age on the street, meant he was used to being the center of attention, and being with grownups all the time. Having Calli at home has helped somewhat, he is more used to sharing now, and he is especially sharing with his food and treats. This fall, Acer started Kindergarten and that has helped his social skills, in fact right now, we think that social skills are about the most important thing he can learn in Kindergarten. He's already spent 2 years in school, his academic skills are not a worry, it's the how to get along with others part we're working on. He's definitely making progress there, slow but steady.

Acer is attending a different school this year for the same reason that Calli is, the VI classroom was shut down. The school he is attending is one I have to drive him to, because of a program they didn't want to admit him to. It's a half day Mandarin Immersion Program, all they speak in the classroom is Mandarin. They learn Math and Science in that class (Eastern Class), and the other subjects in the English classroom (Western Class). This is a groundbreaking program, one of very few in the Nation, and they just weren't sure how to teach him. They talked to people all over the country, and even in China to try to figure it out. They really wanted me to pull him from it, but I felt I owed it to Acer to give him a chance to learn this language again. When Acer came home with us, he spoke at least 3 Chinese languages, I wasn't too worried about his ability to pick up Mandarin again. Being a translator is a career field he could go into and do well in, if we can work together to figure out how exactly to teach him, it will continue to head him down the road to a possible job in the future. His Teacher and his Aide are both Chinese Natives, and I know they both care for him a lot, even on days he misbehaves. Acer is totally loving the school, I have heard so many memories of China since he started class. They're memories I never heard before, ones I didn't know he had. He walks around spouting Mandarin words and singing Mandarin songs. He loves to snuggle up with me in bed and ask me to tell him about China.

I think Acer gets bored in school, and then think of something interesting to do, and then, because most of those things are loud and inappropriate at the time, he gets in trouble. Slowly he is learning to make better choices, and his 2 teachers and 2 aides are learning that it's okay for him to have fidget toys in his hands, that he really is listening even as his fingers are moving. I had to be 'That Parent' in the beginning of school, as they were actually holding him and stopping him from playing on the play structure. I wrote an email to the principal, and explained that it scared Acer when they did that, and to let him roam the structure like the other kids do. Acer is slowly making friends, he has a girl who is infatuated with him, and the kids in the school have stopped staring at him as he walks by, and just treat him like a regular kid more and more every day. The art etc teachers are getting used to him too, of course music is the best class as far as he's concerned! The gym teacher has a bit of a problem, doesn't even want to have Acer in the class. We're working on this, as Acer is so active, not including him is just cruel. On the other side of the spectrum, Calli's gym teacher is even writing grants to ask for adapted materials. She has also really done a great job on adapting the games that all the kids play and even plans on teaching the kids how to play goalball. So, you can see how great the contrast between the two is. One again, I was 'That Parent' and wrote an email to the principal, slight improvement, but not a great one.

Acer is still not a reader, I'm sure he has the tools, but that he just prefers others to read for him. We have lots of books, and he gets a lot of stories, but still hasn't made the leap to liking to read. Calli made huge strides in her reading ability this year, Acer, Not so much.

Acer had a great Halloween costume this year, he was Two Patch the Pirate. Yep, two eye patches at once; it was pretty dern cute. We found a pair of Pirate Pj's, added a hat, used foil and a take out cup lid to turn his cane into a sword at there you have it, instant Pirate. He's not the trick or treat maniac like Calli, he's usually only good for a block or so before he is on Bill's shoulders or in the wagon. He likes the idea of it though, when you're little all candy is good.

Acer grows very slowly, barely breaking into size 5 at 6 years old. He's pretty balanced, 42" and 42#, much of it muscle. He's the only little kid I know with well developed calf muscles (all that drumming). He is very charismatic, he has a grin that lights up his whole face and makes you want to smile along with him. He is extremely musical, loving all instruments preferring percussion, but delighted in everything that helps him make music. He started taking Piano lessons this fall, and enjoys them but doesn't enjoy practicing or learning the proper fingering. He learned how to sound out songs on the piano by listening to Calli do it, he will then sound out the songs she's practicing but use funny fingering. He prefers her songs to his because his are too basic, he has to play them tho' to get the fingering down for future playing. Because Calli gets voice lessons, he assumes he gets lessons, and happily sings away at their teacher who gives him gentle suggestions and no real practice. He has the cutest raspy voice, and he is always on key. It's not your standard voice, but you have to grin when you hear it. He's so good at learning the pieces that he tells Calli where she missed. She used to disregard it until I told her that he was usually right. For the Christmas Program at church, Acer refused to go up on stage with the other kids until he knew the song they were singing. The first song he went up for, he approached from a different direction than the other kids, because we were sitting in the pews, and stood up beside them, singing away while facing the opposite way. A funny, sad moment for a parent, but it didn't bother him at all. He was just up there singing and happy.

For his recital, Acer played 'Jolly old St Nicholas' on the piano. He was supposed to play it twice, but once he got up there he informed everyone that he had to play it 4 times! I guess he was thinking about practice, where he supposed to play it 4 times. He decided he was going to sing too, about two weeks before the recital, much to his teacher's and my surprise, After some discussion, it ended up that he played his drums and sang in his own Jazz Fusion version of 'The Little Drummer Boy'. I bet you could have called that one eh?

All in all, Acer is a joy, his NO's are becoming less automatic and he is beginning to be able to do more things because he is more mature and behaving better and better in public so we can stay out longer before his good behavior quota for the day runs out! He still has tons of energy and generally hops and jumps along instead of just walking, but he runs away far less and uses his cane far better.

The good Lord Truly blessed us with him. Of course the Lord has a sense of humor, he blessed us with a Morning Person for a son!


Heather said...

It is pretty funny that he is a morning person and no one else is! He is such a joy to be around! Just love your kids!

Vive...rie...ama said...

I love hearing about the Mandarin school- that sounds so great! And ooooh, please post some videos of the Rainbow Connection when you have a chance!:)