Fruit Loop

Fruit Loop

Yesterday, Caleb grabbed a store flyer as we left the drugstore. When we got to the truck he very clearly asked for Fruit Loops, “little ones.” Today we went to the grocery store to buy him some because he’s been very persistent. He has also been a very reluctant eater in the mornings so when he agreed to eat them for “breffest,” it seemed like a good idea.

At the store he lead me away from where Eric was looking at produce toward the middle of the store. I thought he might be able to find the cereal aisle though this wasn’t our normal grocery store…the layouts are all pretty similar…and he did a great job! He started only 1 aisle over and quickly found what he was looking for. I thought he would want one of those single serving bowls of Fruit Loops and they were on sale 10 for $10, cool! But my little Monkey had other ideas…he went old school..he went for a variety pack of the single boxes.

He carried the cereal until we checked out and he only asked me to open it eighty billion times…you know, just your average perseveration. I thought he would tear right into the box as soon as it was unwrapped but, to my surprise, he just wanted to hold one. After a few minutes he realized that there was a second box of Fruit Loops in the variety pack and he pulled that one out, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Sweetheart, here you go.” Awww! This is exactly why I will buy him anything he wants!

Anyway, we drove home and he chatted happily to me the entire way. We talked about Toucan Sam, “izza burdy!” We talked about the fact the it was not going to snow enough for the “snowbowler.” We talked about “chilren’s hopspital.” And we talked a little more about “breffest” he assured me he was “so hongry.” Any time Eric dared to attempt to distract me he would lean forward, tap me politely on the shoulder and call me either Sweetheart or Honey. Anyone want to guess who won the battle there? If only he weren’t so dang cute, Eric might have stood a chance.

When we got home I found myself juggling my stuff and Caleb’s stuff while E loaded himself down with groceries. Monkey very helpfully carried one of the boxes of Fruit Loops upstairs. Such a good helper. I made a tactical error here by asking him if he could help me, he chose no and marched off…note to self, don’t ask…tell! By the time we staggered up the stairs Caleb’s shoes were in the closet, his jacket was in the hall and everything he’d been wearing had disappeared. He sat down at his computer with his little box of Fruit Loops and turned on You Tube.

I had been expecting a battle over the cereal, it was nearly dinner time so he was not going to be allowed to snack, but it was a non-issue. He just sat and watched videos while periodically adjusting the box’s location. He joined us for dinner with no problems and ate his standard single noodle before announcing he was, “all done.” Nowwwww, I thought, here comes the fight! He didn’t eat his dinner, he was not going to be allowed to snack. But, again, it was a non-issue. After begging us for Fruit Loops for 24 hours he was content to just hold them. Sometimes he’s a little odd.

You might be wondering why there is a picture of Apple Jacks here since I’ve been going on and on and on about Fruit Loops. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation…Caleb took the Fruit Loops to bed with him and tucked them in right next to CEO and the pink penguin…he tucked the Apple Jacks in my bed.

Did I say he’s a little odd? That was, perhaps, an understatement…

For the parents of typical kids.

For the parents of typical kids.

I want to talk a bit about inclusion or integration. A lot of people throw those words around and, based on conversations I and other friends have had,

I think a lot of it is a generational thing. When I was younger, this concept simply did not exist. If you needed extra help you were pulled out of the regular classroom, if you were functioning high enough to be in there in the first place, or you were kept apart from your peers, unless you were fortunate enough to be allowed to share lunch, recess, gym, art or library with them. We had had it drilled into our heads that you do NOT stare or point or ask uncomfortable questions, right? Though some surely did miss those lessons, most of the kids I knew had the basic manners. The result of this is that kids with special needs became “other.” They were not in our space, we weren’t given the time together needed to understand them or befriend them and we weren’t allowed to ask about them, it wasn’t polite.

When you aren’t allowed to know who or why…when all you see is this alien being who is so very different from you (hey, come on, how could we KNOW they weren’t? No one ever told us!)…it’s easy to be uncomfortable or scared and you know what fear breeds? Disrespect and bullying. At best these kids were ignored, at worst…well…if you think about it hard enough you can remember what the worst was for them.

If these are your memories of kids with special needs then it’s not surprising to me that you are scared or fearful or angry about integrated classrooms. If these are your memories of kids with special needs then I can understand why you might think that our kids…my kid…doesn’t belong in the classroom with your child. If these are your memories of kids with special needs, as they were mine not so long ago, I can understand why you grumble about the dollars going into special education.

I understand it but I also know better now. I have learned that if that is what you think, you’re wrong. I’m a pretty tolerant person, I can usually see both sides of an argument. I have friends who run the gamut from gay marriage loving liberal hippies to nut job doomsday preppers1 But this “argument” isn’t an argument. If you don’t believe that kids with disabilities belong in our classrooms then you are wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Clear? You are wrong.

I’m even willing to explain to you why you are wrong, I’m that much of a giver.

My child belongs in class with yours. My child needs more help, true, but he still belongs. My child has much to learn from yours and your child has much more to learn from mine.

The things my child will learn in that classroom will set him up to be a member of our community when he’s older. He has learned social skills, sharing, perseverance. He has learned how to sit at a desk and work. He has learned how to tell jokes. He has learned to eat with a fork. Jeeze, he was practically potty trained by preschool friends. These are all SO valuable to him, they mean the difference between a life “apart from community” and a life “as part of a community.”

The things that your child will learn in that classroom will not only further his or her education but will make your child a better person. They will have a chance to be both a student and a teacher. They will learn how to break down tasks and help others understand them. They will learn to be a true friend to someone. They will have a chance to learn that different isn’t bad, that different can be pretty freaking fun, actually. They will have a chance to learn that others struggle, sometimes way more than they do. They will have a chance to learn that if something is hard you keep working at it…maybe even for years. They will learn that if you don’t quit, you will achieve your goals. Oh, yeah, they’ll also learn all the other things they would learn even if they weren’t in an integrated class…they still learn the exact same curriculum!

In short, they will learn to be awesome.

Don’t believe me? Let me give an example…Caleb has been ever so slightly obsessed with the Chicken Man the last couple of weeks. Do you know the Chicken Man? He just loves the Chicken Man! SO…he’s been going to school and talking to his friends about the Chicken Man. A lot.

You might think this would be distracting to the other kids, that it might annoy them. You would be wrong. Because they spend so much time with Caleb, he isn’t distracting he’s just Caleb. He’s a funny kid who makes them laugh. He’s just another kid. He’s not alien or weird to them. He’s not distracting…not any more than any of the other typical 8 year old kids in the class at least!

So, great…he’s not taking away from their educational experience but still…what does he add? How about love and compassion and friendship? How about a chance to practice kindness, share a joke or do something nice for someone else? That’s not nothing. In fact, I would guess he’s giving your kids lessons that will make you proud to be their parent. For instance, this kid…he’s part of Caleb’s core group of friends. He’s just your typical 8 year old boy. During art class Caleb was talking to Nate about Chicken Man so Nate did this…

He drew Caleb a Chicken Man. He was in art, he needed to draw and he took the opportunity to make a kid…MY kid…smile. Tell me that wouldn’t make you glow to hear about your own child?

So what did Caleb get out of it? Why wasn’t sitting there watching Nate draw, rather than draw something of his own, not a waste of his time? Contrary to how it might be sounding, I do not send Caleb to school simply to make friends. I just happen to know that the ability to make friends will play a major roll in determining how happy he will be for the rest of his life. I do expect Caleb to learn skills he needs to graduate from high school, go to college and get a job. So what was it, beyond kindness that he got? This child who can barely write his own name, and would rather not do even that if he can escape it, did this…on his own, unprompted…just copying his friend…

He wrote Chicken Man…no, it’s not perfect…but it’s pretty freaking awesome….and something to build on.

  1. OK, this is a joke peeps…they aren’t all nut jobs I have learned. I even LIKE a bunch of them. Amaze! []
Harlem Shake It.

Harlem Shake It.

This morning as we were walking out the door to go to school, Caleb grabbed a green beach ball to bring with him. He will often grab a toy (or a bucket of toys) on his way out the door…he’s the king of picking his own transition items! Normally he will take whatever item(s) he has picked to the truck and then forget about them. This morning didn’t seem to be much different, he threw the ball into the truck, settled himself in his seat, belted himself in and we were off.

Mommy got engrossed with something1 on Facebook (Oh, nos! Call CPS, Mommy ignored her precious baby (and husband) this morning for 30 straight minutes!)23 on the drive over and, despite it being a Monday, Caleb was not displaying any unusual anxiety. That’s what I call a good Monday!

When we arrived at school I heard Eric tell Caleb to “step over,” he had to go over the ball (and my lunch) on his way out of the truck. Instead of stepping over, he grabbed the beach ball and took off for class…no, seriously, took off! See?!


He ran to class, only pausing briefly on the stairs because Money had fallen behind while taking a million photos of the whole event. When he walked through the door ALL ON HIS OWN…SEE?!

His teacher said excitedly, “Oh, for me? We needed a St. Patrick’s Day ball!”

I then told her that the ball was one of the props from the Harlem Shake video we had done. After a moment of silence she said, “You did a…”

“Yep, when we were in D.C. we did a Harlem Shake video during training.”

After asking me to send her a link she said, looking at the assistant, “That might explain it.” and they both cracked up.

Apparently Caleb’s general education teacher demonstrated the Harlem Shake (and is a very good dancer) to the class and Caleb, who normally falls to the floor when they do something so crazy, IMITATED HER MOVES. And…since he was so into it…they have been playing the song in the smaller classroom and he’s been DANCING. Yes, they have video…they’re putting “something” together. OMG, I’m so excited to see my kid dance! I will totally share it as soon as I see it…in the meantime…if you haven’t seen the NFXF Harlem Shake as performed by the AWESOME FX advocates in DC…you gotta check this out…

  1. Reminder to self, this is blog worthy…not the bit about me being on FB but the “something” I was engrossed in. []
  2. Reminder to self, this is also blog worthy if I ever get so fucking bored with my own life that I decide I’m going to enter the Mommy Wars and spend my time judging how other people parent, as if I could get that lucky. []
  3. Woah, is this an opinion coming on? Looks like it! Fuck the Mommy Wars, just parent your own kids. End of opinion. []

My kid is kind of a big deal.

I mentioned that we took part in a video wayyyy back in 2011, the final version is now up and published on the web page for Boston Children’s Hospital’s Fragile X Syndrome Program but I neglected to share it! I’m so proud of how well Caleb did, he’s going to share this with his classmates soon. I wonder if they’ll be as impressed as they were by his dishwasher loading skills…