Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Very Portland 4th

Wow, this is the longest I've ever gone without a new blog post. I have lots of photos and news about kindergarten to share, so I'll try to catch up over the next few weeks. For now, here's s look at how we spent the 4th this year.


We started out with a bike ride to the neighborhood parade.  We got a bit of a late start as usual, so we only caught the tail end. 
"Hey, wait up!" 

 But that was okay by Anthony, because the parade ended up at the playground.


There are lots of neighborhood parades like this around town. Kids decorate bikes and wagons and usually a fire truck, popsicles and hot dogs can be found. Very small-town fun! 



 Later we had the neighbors over for a BBQ and some backyard shenanigans.



Then it was time for [legal, enjoyed from a safe distance] fireworks.






 As I looked over the photos, I noticed Anthony had 4 wardrobe changes throughout the day. That's how you know you've had a good time! We hope your holiday was a good one too.


Friday, March 21, 2014

3-21

Today is 3-21, and that means it's World Down Syndrome Day! What will we do to celebrate? Probably nothing special or out of the ordinary. But today, just like every day, we'll celebrate how lucky we are to have our amazing little guy, with 3 copies of his 21st chromosome.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Five Years Old!

Happy 5th birthday to our sweet boy.
We love you so much and we're so proud of you!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Melted Crayon Hearts

Impress the other preschool moms by borrowing your neighbor's Valentine craft idea!

Last year I vowed I'd make Anthony help with his school Valentines, so his job was to break the crayons. 

He was very good at this part, but once that was done, he lost interest and left Mom to finish the job.

Put the broken crayons in the pan.

Melt the crayons in the oven at 250 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Let them cool for at least 20 minutes and they should pop right out of the pan.

Cut out squares from red card stock (or red paper plates left over from Christmas). 

Write a message to your Valentines on each one. For example:
Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Here is a crayon 
From me to you.
(This way the kids know what they are and don't try to eat them!)

Finally, tape a heart crayon to each red square. 

Give a Valentine to each of your friends at preschool, and have a very Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Snow Day, the PDX Way!

We finally joined the rest of North American and got some snow. Yesterday we had a total of 3.5 inches. You East Coasters and Midwesterners are scoffing, but by Portland standards this is a blizzard. Schools closed, roads are impassable, and there's round the clock news coverage of the "Winter Blast." 

It's snowing!



Portland's credibility as a bicycling mecca suffered a blow when the "Worst Day of the Year" ride was canceled due to bad weather.

The snow was too dry and fluffy to make a full-size snowman, but we managed this little guy. (That's a baby carrot.)

As long as you have the right headgear, you'll be ready for anything.

Lucky for us we live on a hill, and our neighbors whose kids are grown loaned us the use of their sled. 

The 74th Avenue two-man bobsled team going for the gold!

Everyone took a turn.



Someone really enjoyed his first sledding adventure!

Well, it's coming down again out there, so we're off for more snow fun!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kindergarten Roundup Round One: Equity

"Equity means that all people have full participation and access to the benefits and institutions of society – including quality health care and education, safe and affordable neighborhoods, viable employment, the right to vote – and are free from discrimination, hate and harassment."  (This definition, found at www.whatsrace.org, refers to racial equity, but I think it applies more broadly too.)

Let us in.
We attended our first Kindergarten Roundup at our neighborhood school last week. To start the evening, all the parents and kids gathered in the library while the principal and assistant principal gave a little overview of the school using an overhead projector. Anthony looked around at everyone sitting at the long table and signed "birthday cake". He had a good point- cake would have made the evening more festive.

We met the kindergarten teachers. There are four of them; three of the four teach Spanish immersion classes and one is the non-immersion, or what they call the "neighborhood" kindergarten teacher. If we do go with this school, we probably will not have Anthony in the Spanish immersion program. It would be cool to have him learn another language, but we just think it would complicate things too much.

Ms. K, the neighborhood kindergarten teacher, offered to show us her classroom. It was wonderful and so was she.  The room was bright and cheerful, with construction paper shapes hanging from the ceiling-- what I imagine a happy kindergarten class to be like. 

Ms. K. showed us the class photos of the little ones in her class, posted above her door. I've never seen a more diverse group of kids. They were Mexican, Somalian, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, African American, red-haired and freckled. Ms. K. told us, "We talk about differences. We're all different."

Then it was time to walk across the hall to Teacher Dawn's room.

He looks so tiny. My baby!

Teacher Dawn is the special education teacher in charge of the self-contained classroom. She was also wonderful, and obviously loves what she does.There are about 18 kids in her class; kids from first grade up to 5th grade are all together in the same room.  We talked with her about how we want inclusion for Anthony, and feel that a segregated setting would not be right for him. We wanted to hear what she would say in response. She was honest; she said she thinks Anthony would benefit from the extra attention she could give him in her classroom.

Even though "we're all different"and that's okay, only Anthony is so different that it was suggested he would be better off in a segregated classroom. A friend of mine worries that Anthony will feel different if he is put in a class with kids who are all talking, and that being in the special ed classroom will show him he's not that different. Let's consider that. 

Is 5-year-old Anthony more like a 5th grader with cerebral palsy than a kindergartner with no diagnosis, simply because they both have a disability? Why is the child from Vietnam who speaks no English not considered more like the non-verbal kids in Teacher Dawn's class than the English-speaking kids in Ms. K's class? No one suggests the English language learner should be separated from the other kids and put in a class of all Vietnamese speakers so that he won't feel different. And it would be absurd to think that would be the best way for him to learn English. But that is what is suggested for Anthony. He's not talking, so have him spend his days around other kids who aren't talking. We wouldn't want him to feel "different" after all, would we?

If he went to Teacher Dawn's class, he wouldn't really be a part of the school. And right across the hall would be the "normal" kindergarten kids. He wouldn't be a part of that class. He won't get invited to play dates at their houses or to their birthday parties because they won't know him. And they'll be deprived of the opportunity to know him. As the kids grew, they would move on to other classrooms and other parts of the building. But Anthony would stay in the same room, next to the kindergarten classes, until 5th grade when he graduated. This would be done to "help" him.

So we're pretty sure that if we do go with this school, he will be in Ms. K. general education class. She seems great, and if he was in her class, he would probably have a great kindergarten experience.  But right across the hall will be the specter of Teacher Dawn's class. I worry that the first time something goes wrong-- and inevitably there will be some bumps at first -- the first time Anthony doesn't line up for recess or knocks the crayons on the floor or whatever, someone will suggest that it might be "better" if he was in Teacher Dawn's class, where he can get the extra help he needs. And what message is the self-contained classroom sending to the other kids in the school? How can they not view those kids as different- much more different than their classmates, because those kids can't even be in the same class with them. 

Already sucking up to the principal.
The visit confirmed our fears that our neighborhood school might not be the best place for Anthony if we want him included with his typical peers. We're still just starting out in our decision-making process, though. 

As for Anthony, he was not at all intimidated by the school. He acted like he was going to own those halls, and he kept signing "me" and "big school". That's right, kid. You're going to the Big School!  Onward!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Talking Words

Speech can be very slow to develop in kids with Down syndrome. Anthony's a great communicator with his signs and other non-verbal ways, but spoken words are still tough for him.

A couple of months ago, his Early Intervention teacher, Emily, gave us a tip that I think has done more for getting him to use words than years of speech therapy. To encourage him to speak, Emily suggested that we point to our mouth as we say a word to give him a visual prompt as he hears it.  Such a simple thing, but it's worked amazingly well. He'll pretty much try to say any word now when you point to your mouth and say it. He's also using words on his own more and more. It's cute because he puts his own finger by his mouth as he says a word.

Emily came to visit Anthony at school yesterday and sent us this video in which she encourages him to say "Pour in" at the bean bucket. As she puts it she's "working with him on two-word requests." (And you thought they were just pouring beans into a bucket) Notice she first says the words out loud as she points to her mouth, and then she points to her mouth but doesn't say anything, to encourage him to say the word on his own. Small steps, but we know he'll get there!

video