Merry Christmas from the Burts family! SB is now a big 3rd grader, and
doing pretty well in school. Appropriate classroom behavior can still be a
challenge for him, but he has improved with the help of his ABA therapists
and teachers working together. We are so thankful that we have an
elementary school and a principal who support this collaboration, because we
know Simon has benefitted dramatically. Although quirky, he seems to be an
accepted member of the class. AB is in first grade and doing great, not
needing very much special education support at all. Both guys are making
friends and getting better at play dates. They are definitely each other’s
best friend, which is awesome, but when they are together they create pretty
strange play activities that only they understand. For that reason, we
decided to separate them this year in before and after school care, hoping
to give them even more opportunities to practice socializing with their
typical peers. AB still goes to the same home daycare, and SB goes to
a before-and-after care program at the school. He loves it, and usually
doesn’t want to leave at the end of the day!
After 2 ½ years of attending a Tae Kwon Do class adapted for kids with
special needs, the boys finally made enough progress to earn their first
belt, the Advanced White Belt. That went well enough that we decided to
transition them to the regular Tae Kwon Do class, which is going pretty
smoothly so far. We will miss the supportive and patient Adapted
instructors, but are happy to moving up. They have also become big video
game junkies. They play Donkey Kong on the Wii and Plants vs. Zombies on
mobile devices for as much time as we will let them! And both have recently
become big fans of the Star Wars movies, much to Charlie’s delight.
Both SB and AB participated in the Christmas musical at our church,
which was no small feat! Last year we pulled SB before the performance
because he just couldn’t get his behaviors under control. (It’s kind of
ironic for the guy with perfect pitch to have to drop out of the musical!)
The fact that both were able to handle the singing and the choreography this
year is pretty amazing, and shows that both are making progress.
I am in my 17th year playing clarinet for the Air Force. Due to
Sequestration and the government shutdown, the Air Force Band didn’t get to
do any traveling this year, and our performance schedule was slower than
normal. We are hoping that performances will pick back up in 2014. When I
retire from the Air Force, I plan to become an elementary school librarian
and have completed 4 classes so far in my Master of Library Science degree.
It took me a while before I got into the groove of being a student again,
but I think I have a handle on it now. I am also still writing in my blog
on occasion, www.placesonthespectrum.com. I have not become the famous
blogger with the magazine columns and book deals that I dreamed about,
but writing is therapeutic, and I enjoy it!
My career collided with Charlie’s for one day this year, when the Air Force
Band performed a concert at Lanier Middle School. I had the honor of
performing a solo with the band, guest conducted by Charlie. We had a
blast! Charlie also had the opportunity this year to be a guest conductor
at a clinic for band students in North Carolina. This summer he returned to
UNCG’s Summer Music Camp staff after being away for 7 years, and had a great
time working at the camp and catching up with old friends.
In September I had the awesome opportunity to attend a professional
conference on autism, with Dr. Temple Grandin as the keynote speaker. If
you don’t already know who that is, Temple Grandin is the first person with
autism to become an accomplished professional, and to become famous because
of it. She has a PhD in animal science and is a professor at Colorado State
University. She is also a bestselling author, autistic activist, and
consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. The conference was
awesome, and I was inspired to hear her speak. During the Q and A, an
audience member asked her what was the one thing her mother did for her that
helped her the most. “She stretched me,” was her reply. Dr. Grandin
repeatedly talked about how her mother pushed her to learn to play
turn-taking games as a child, pushed her to learn manners, and pushed her to
get a job as a teenager to learn job skills. It made me happy to hear her
say this, because sometimes I wonder if I push my kids a little too hard.
How much should I push my children to be like “typical” people, so that they
can learn to live in our society and have a happy, productive, independent
life? And how much should I accept them for who they are, quirks and all,
and expect our society to be understanding of their differences? I worry
about this every single day. Where is the line? I have a very difficult
time finding it sometimes. I enjoyed Dr. Grandin’s take on the subject, and
was also happy to get a picture with her and a signed copy of her latest
May your Christmas be joyous and your 2014 be full of peace and prosperity!
Happy holidays from the Burts!