Saturday, September 18, 2010

Progress Update

It's been three weeks since Doodle started Kindergarten. I'm so pleased with her progress so far! My biggest fear in sending her off to the big world of elementary school was that she would not be able to keep up in a regular classroom. You see, she has spent the last 2 years in a Special Ed classroom with 2 days integrated with a regular pre-school. She's had so much individual attention, I was a little afraid that she would get lost in Kindergarten and fall through the cracks.

I'm happy to report that Doodle is thriving in Kindergarten. Last week Doodle started learning to read "Star" words - basically words you should know by site. She picked these up easily and can read them in a book at home. She is so serious when she sings the songs she associated with these words. It's so cute to watch her!  I'm hoping she has the same success when the class starts to work on Math. We'll get an official progress report soon, but the teacher sends home notes each week declaring how hard she works in class. I'm so happy to hear this!

Doodle has limited intervention this year. Her Individual Education Plan (IEP) was reduced to just 2 services this year: Physical Therapy and a Social Interaction Group. She spends 2 days a week with her PT and has made great progress over the summer. She can now kick a ball quite far (something she couldn't do a year ago) and continues to build her muscle strength. Her coordination has also improved. She is throwing a ball better and is able to catch a ball.

In addition to her school work, Doodle has made tremendous strides in the swimming pool. Just a few months ago, I thought Doodle would never catch on how to float. One of her swimming instructors once commented "Doodle tends to sink." She really does - she's like a rock in the pool! But, she loves to swim. So, I have kept her in swimming lessons for the past 3 years, even though she repeats the same class over and over again. I feared she would never move up to the next class.

We had a breakthrough 2 weeks ago, where Doodle finally figured out how to do a back and front float! She was even able to hold it for more than 30 seconds! I was so very proud of her...I know how truly hard she has worked at accomplishing this seemingly simple task. A friend of mine taught me a technique to help teach her how to float on her back. I slowly lowered her onto her back with my fist in her lower back to help her form an arch. I then instructed her to make a big X with her arms and legs. Over time, I slowly removed my fist from her back and she was able to stay afloat for 1-2 seconds. Gradually she improved to 5 seconds and seemed to stay there for the longest time. I also took her swimming nearly every weekend, so that we could practice. As I said, 2 weeks ago we had an amazing breakthrough! She got it! She spent the majority of our time in the pool floating on her back and even swimming a little bit on her back! My heart swelled with pride and I gave her a generous amount of praise. How awesome it felt to see her succeeding!

Swimming is a great skill for autistic children to learn. It helps develop hand/eye coordination, gives them confidence in the water, and improves muscle tone. I encourage you to enroll your child in lessons, if you haven't already. It doesn't matter if they don't advance to a new level, the most important part is teaching them to try and to be comfortable in the water. I promise you won't regret it!

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