Sunday at the Sunset Zoo

Last Sunday, Anwar, Savion, Taj and I went to the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, KS.   Savion had been lobbying for weeks to go to the Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina.

“First I go to school, then we go to Rolling Hills Zoo,” Savion told Victor .

“We can go to grandma’s and then we go to Rolling Hills Zoo,” Savion informed me.

“After speech therapy, we go to Rolling Hills Zoo,” he whispered to my mom.

Notice that Savion never asked, if, we could go to the Zoo.   Savion has adopted the “first, then” format I use to simplify directions.  For example, instead of saying: “Get your shoes, and we’ll go for a drive.”  I say: “First shoes, then car.”  I might reinforce the statement with sign for Anwar(shoes and car) and also type it in Anwar’s speaking device.

So we went to the closest zoo.  It’s about a 30 minute drive to Manhattan,KS.  Once parked, I started with my safety narration.

“Mommy unbuckle, then Anwar and Savion unbuckle.  Anwar and Savion get out of car with Mommy.  Anwar, Savion and Mommy go other side of car, unbuckle Taj.  Anwar, Savion, Taj, walk with Mommy to zoo.”  Anwar held my left hand, Savion held my right hand and Taj was holding onto Savion.  As we approached the entrance, two women approached us.

“Excuse me, can you take our picture?”

“Sorry, I can’t my children might run away.” The boys had made it from the car to the zoo without eloping; I didn’t want to mess that up.  Because  the last time Savion was at the zoo, Victor had prevented Savion from chasing the roaming peacocks and kept him from racing down hills.  Last Sunday the boys and I walked together.  They didn’t try to chase the peacocks, bang on the enclosures or run away at a full sprint.  It has taken a lot of patience, practicing walking together on paths, to get to this point.

I had my key ring of picture cards to reinforce my words as we walked.   Stop.  Walk with Me. Wait.  Those were the cards I used the most.  Savion said his favorite part was “Hilarious” the Hyena.  Taj liked the gibbons, Gabriel and Glenda.  Anwar enjoyed being outside and feeling the scattered raindrops on his face.

Before leaving, there was a small playground the boys played in.  Taj was delighted that the flamingo exhibit was on one side and down below gibbons were chattering.  The boys were able to sit still for a picture!  It was a great day.

Giving Thanks While Running Late

I rarely use an alarm clock.  But this morning, I wish I had.  I woke up; it was light outside, the first indicator I was late.  Second, I hadn’t been greeted with a “Wake up, mommy, Wake up!”  Were the boys sick?  Asked my husband what time it was…6:36 am.  The boys’ bus was coming at 6:45am.

l fumbled for my glasses.  Had I knocked them off the bedside table, or washed my face last night and left them on the bathroom counter?  Squinting I inspected the floor, and found them, one step further and they would have been bent.  I exhaled my relief.  Time to count my blessings.  Gratitude in the morning revs me up, listing what I’m missing or did wrong slows me down.  And I needed to be quick this morning.  Bring it on.

“Hi, Mommy!” Savion and Taj greeted me.  Anwar curled up beneath his blanket as I entered the living/bedroom.  Our house is small; we have the dining table and boys’ beds in one room.  Also a kitchen, laundry room, our bedroom and another room for storage.  We stopped getting sofas, the boys damaged those so quickly.

A quick assessment of this morning’s blessings were needed.   The boys’ clothes were organized; backpacks were ready; Anwar’s IPAD was charged for class; their shoes were in the house; I had the house and car keys; the boys weren’t sick and they’d have breakfast at school; also they were following a routine despite not having their checklists.

Every  morning each child gets a laminated check list, there is one for school days and one for off days.  A provider that works with Taj helped us with these.  There are 8 steps, getting up is the first step, eating, folding blankets, brushing hair, etc.. Getting on the bus is the last step, and we got extra time because it came at 6:50 am.

Our only hiccup: Taj running to the back of the house when the bus came, and me having to carry him to the bus while he protested.  Maybe he was upset because we didn’t have the checklist.   Or maybe that I didn’t sing, “Good morning, good morning, we slept the whole night through good morning, good morning, to you,” after he greeted me.  But he stopped at the bottom of the bus steps and walked up by himself, and for that I am thankful.

Rushed mornings can upset a full morning at school, but the boys were following directions as they boarded the bus, and that was encouraging.  I had walked  outside with a coat flung over my pajamas and my feet stuffed into boots.  I got dressed for the day after I saw them off to school.

As Victor was getting ready for work he said ,”Wow! Honey, I didn’t think you’d be able to get them ready in time.  That’s awesome!”  It did feel pretty good.  Tomorrow though, I’m setting an alarm.

A Team for Anwar

“Bas-eht-all.”  That’s how Anwar pronounces basketball, and when he says it he’s grinning and giggling.   He’s on the Junction City Special Olympics Team named the “Pace Setters.”  I love that name.   Each athlete performs to the best of their ability, setting their own pace.   He started this year.

The first time we went to practice, Anwar was awed at the Junction City Middle School Gym.  He could do his echolalia(repeating noises like “Ahh,” and “Nyeeh,”) and hear it reverberate.  The pull out floor to ceiling benches just begged to be jumped on(which I couldn’t allow).  As Anwar has learned basketball skills, we have learned how to practice with Anwar.

No sitting on the sidelines when Anwar’s at practice.  Victor and I alternate weekly who takes him; suiting up for a workout when it’s time to go.   The team is organized with athletes rotating stations: dribbling skills, rebounding,  passing, scrimmaging, etc..   We have to be vigilant for Anwar’s safety as he does the programs.

Anwar got hit in the head once.   He had wandered under a basket and even though someone shouted, “Heads up,” he didn’t look to see the ball rebounding off the backboard.   When the team jogs laps, we’re beside him, ensuring he doesn’t suddenly stop and examine the floor(he likes to lie down and press his face to the court, I don’t know if he likes the temperature, or is enjoying the different point of view), he could possibly trip someone or have them fall on him while they are running.  Usually he focuses on the ceiling during stretches, so I help position his limbs.   For passing I put the ball at eye level for him and say, “Anwar, look ” and tap the ball so I can get his focus.  I back away, slowly increasing the distance of the bounce and then chest pass.  Sometimes he has looked everywhere except at me.   I’ll walk up close to him again until I get his focus.  His independence has increased with every practice.

“Basket. Ball in basket Anwar.”  That’s how I first explained shooting baskets, pointing to the net while facing him.   He likes to walk up under the basket and throw it from the bottom of the net up.  Staying on a spot has been challenging; he has gotten huge cheers from everyone when able to focus and shoot.  Other goals included:  hitting the ball in a square on the wall, passing to teammates around the key, and dribbling from point A to point B( he uses two hands to dribble to help with control of the ball, eventually we’ll get to one hand).

Anwar’s team shirt is tye-died bright blue with his name and number in bright yellow colors.  It suits him perfectly as he loves bright colors.  He will ask for basketball throughout the week, getting his shoes and pants.   To an outsider during practice, they might say he’s not engaged, that he’s just staring off into space.  I would have to disagree.  When he has gotten a shot close to the basket, he’s jumped up and down laughing.

To practice skills, after school I had him shoot from different points around our backyard basketball hoop.  For everytime he would shoot the ball from a marked place, he got a small piece of Luna Bar, it helped to keep him engaged.

His first state competition was in Hays, Kansas  March 17-18th, 2016.  He was excited when the team walked across the Fort Hays State University gym floor for the Opening Ceremonies.  Even Taj and Savion got in on the action, waving to families in the crowd.  Anwar competed in team skills: passing; and individual skills: shooting, dribbling, and throwing the ball at a correct spot on the wall.   He was a proud recipient of a medal and ribbon.

I’m thankful that Anwar has the chance to be a part of a group, and that our family has 11227862_1037551472950634_7454967911378679210_n  the opportunity to cheer him on.  Attending to directions, focusing on the content and processing information are skills taken for granted in sporting events.  Following a game plan would be difficult for Anwar, at this time.  With Special Olympics, the sports are broken down into specific skills(if needed) for athletes that need more structure or supports and the degrees of competition varies, whether that’s playing a full game or participating in one event.  It’s great that Anwar has a weekend activity all his own.  Our next sport with the Special Olympics?  Track and Field.