Saturday, February 28, 2009

Meet Mr. Blue Belt

Today was a big day for us... Henry took his blue belt test at tae kwon do. He has been practicing for a long time, learning the kicks, blocks, punches, and forms necessary to progress to the next level. He did a great job and definitely earned his belt. I was really proud of him and his perseverance. The test is LONG -- almost two and half hours. There were about 14 kids being tested at all levels from white belts up to a red belt. So a lot of the test time is spent sitting still and quietly, while others are being tested (in small groups and individually depending on skill levels), and he sat quietly with the group with much less fidgeting than I have ever seen (not even one reprimand from the instructor, and others were called out for fidgeting, talking, etc. -- and H certainly has been in the past). He never even had to be reminded to pay attention.

Because my DH was leaving on a trip tonight and had a plane to catch, the instructor actually planned to complete Henry's test early (and not make Henry break a board this time) so we could leave before the test was finished . So she tested Henry, quietly told him he had passed and that he could leave the mat, and we got ready to go. Henry then announced he wanted to stay (I stayed with him while my DH and my wonderful mother-in-law (who came for moral support) headed home) and finish the testing -- wow, a chance to leave deliberately not taken! He bowed back in appropriately and took his place again.

When it came time to break boards, his instructor told Henry which kick to do and I think auditory processing got the best of Henry and he did a different practice kick (a hook kick) (they do a couple of soft practice kicks at the board to get aim etc. right then the "real" one at full power (or more than one if needed)). The instructor asked if he was sure he wanted to do the hook kick -- it is more difficult and less powerful than the kick he was supposed to do and she reminded him of this. He assured her that he did, and then, on his second or third try broke the board with a beautiful, spot on kick! The instructor turned to all the parents and told them that they may not realize what a difficult task it was to break the board with that particular kick!!! I was beaming.

Tae kwon do has been great for him. He now takes class several times a week. When he started, he, frankly, stood out -- so fidgety, so uncoordinated, so unable to follow the oral instructions at all (he watched the other kids and tried to imitate). They really made a lot of accommodations for Henry when he started and now really not so much!!! Now, he is SOOOO much better -- even if it is really hard, he tries his best (he used to tell the instructor ALL the time he was too tired or it was too hard (not a hit in tae kwon do, let me tell you!). He actually led the class in warm up recently, instructing the other kids on warm up exercises! He chooses to count in Korean when given the choice of Korean and English. He sometimes chats with his classmates. He memorizes these complicated forms... It is so nice to see the change in him and the instructors have even told us how they cannot believe how far he has come.

Our behavioral optometrist, Melvin Kaplan, recommended this for Henry and we thank him every day for encouraging us to try this with Henry.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Planning For the Future

See this picture – the ostrich with its head in the sand…that was me, but last night I pulled my head out! What happened?

Last night, I went to the NAA-NY Metro Chapter’s February Educational Presentation – three financial advisors from AXA’s special needs family planning unit and a lawyer specializing in this issue presented on special needs trusts and other planning issues for families of special needs children. While I am biased (full disclosure, I am an officer of NAA-NY Metro) and I think all our presentations are terrific – this one was really exceptional. I blogged about the event at the NAA-NY Metro Blog but wanted to share more of my personal feelings too. Please check out my NAA post for more general information about ther presentations but I also wanted to give a "shout out" to Stuart Flaum, Anthony Marchiagiano, and Travis Dauchy – from AXA’s Special Needs Family Planning Group -- and Wendy Sheinberg, a partner in the law firm Davidow, Davidow, Siegel & Stern, LLP, they all deserve kudos for helping our families.

In my NAA blog post, I said that parents of kids on the spectrum hope that, with everything we do for our children, they will recover and not need the protections of a special needs trust – at least that is what I have been telling myself. I have put off dealing with this issue, telling myself I just wasn’t “sure” that we needed to do this. I admit, I had visions of tying up whatever we could scrape together into an irrevocable special needs trust that a perfectly independent Henry was stuck with for the rest of his days, cursing me, his dearly departed mother, for not having faith in his recovery. Honestly. Listening to our fabulous speakers last night, I realized I am being an idiot (sshhhh don’t tell my DH, I would never admit to him that I am less than perfect). Nothing like being whacked over the head with a dose of reality. G*d willing, Henry will recover fully -- but the speakers really made me aware that I need a flexible plan in case he does need some assistance. I learned that there are ways that we can structure things so that, at least when we are alive, we have flexibility in whether a special needs trust needs to be funded and how and when that would occur. That is a huge relief to me. I feel like we can plan and protect Henry but still be able to adapt to Henry’s needs going forward.

I am also interested in the idea of microboards and I am going to explore that as well – they seem like a great complement to other planning tools and a way to help ensure that Henry’s very specific needs are met. There is a great article in Spectrum Magazine about this.

Today’s financial market and job market uncertainties make it more important than ever that we make sure our children have the protections they need growing up and in their adulthood. No one wants to think about this, but I realize we all need to act! I, for one, am pulling my head out of the sand.

Henry blows me away!

Henry asked me a few days ago to set up a playdate next weekend (not this weekend when he knows he has other plans) with a classmate. Tonight, as we were doing homework, I mentioned that I needed to reach out to his friend's mom to set up the playdate. He looked at me and said, "No, forget it, it's ok, I don't need a playdate with 'X'" Hmmmm. I was suspicious. I asked if something had happened with 'X'. He said, "No, 'X' is still my friend, don't worry, I just don't want a playdate." A little while later, I raised the subject again and Henry admitted, "I don't think 'X' likes Bakugan so much anymore." Bakugan are (along with the PowerPuff Girls!) Henry's favorites. Wow, he realized that someone might not be interested in the same thing he is obsessed with. YOWZA!!! We had a talk about what he could do -- how he could ask his friend what he likes, how they could compromise, and Henry really seemed to get it. He later said that they could maybe play a board game together on a playdate. I am just sitting here, just blown away...