Friday, April 9, 2010

The Big Apple Experience Part I

"I was wondering when you were gonna give me your ticket". Jeff hands the man at the toll booth his ticket. Apparently, he didn't extend his arm far enough the first time. The man takes it. "That will be $.860" Jeff is getting money ready. "That's $8.60 sir. That will be $8.60" Jeff fumbles through his wallet and hands the man a $20 bill. The man gives him his change and we take off... only a few yards and try to merge into the tunnel. We made it to New York!

We wanted to go to the Manhattan temple first. Jeff was already dressed in his suit and I in a skirt. We had a GPS and followed it until we landed ourselves in Manhattan. We drove around and found Columbus St. "Well the temple must be around here somewhere... oh, look! There it is!" It was rather small looking. It had one small steeple and big gold letters that named it as the temple. Now if only we could find parking. We were excited about this being our first stop. Sadly, it didn't work out. We drove around for an hour and a half looking for parking. There was none to be had. At one point, we got so close to a parking spot, but the van in front of us got to it first (of course he would, it was a one way, one lane side street). Finally, we gave up and decided to go to our hotel. That didn't take long at all... we were staying in Queens just outside of Manhattan. We called beforehand and found out that there was limited street parking in front of the hotel and that there were parking lots close by. As we neared our hotel and saw the parking lots, we feared for our car. We were definitely in the ghetto of New York. We drove around for about a half an hour looking for parking. There were only three parking spots in front of the hotel- all three were taken. On our fifth trip around the block, we saw that a couple was getting into their. "Look, I think they're leaving," I said, "maybe we can park there". So we drove around again. They were still there. We drove around, made a bigger loop and decided that we would park in some spot a block from the hotel. Jeff ran to the hotel to see if we could park there. When he came back, he let me know that we could check in early and that we could park right in front of the hotel. The car had left! Perfect. We could leave our car there for the the entirety of our stay. And, we did.

When we were checking in, we asked about AAA and realized that we could get a 10% discount for having AAA. Score! We got all of our things inside, checked out a map of the subway system, found out that the closest subway station was just a block away and then headed out! It was time to venture into Manhattan (without having to worry about a car). The first place we decided to go was Times Square. We wanted to find the discount ticket booth to get tickets for a Broadway show.

When we stepped out of the subway, we were amazed! The buildings, they were so tall! And screens everywhere! It was incredible and awesome. We found the ticket booth and decided on seeing West Side Story. We were able to get both tickets at half off. Score again! We had a couple of hours to kill before the show started, so we decided to walk around and go find something to eat. We went to a resturaunt called Juniors. I had a cheeseburger with grilled onions and Jeff had a chicken sandwhich and fries. Jeff really enjoyed his sandwhich. Mine, well, let's just say it wasn't the best. After dinner, we walked around a bit more. We went into some stores and then went to Toys R' us. What a cool store! I love toys anyway (I know, I'm a big kid). It was pretty fun. Anyway, after that, we headed to go find ice cream. I asked someone, "Do you know where we can get ice-cream?" "There's a place called Cold Stone Creamery (as if I'd never heard of such a thing) on 42nd and 7th"

Coldstone was bigger than I'd ever seen one. There were so many people inside, all different shades, and speaking all different languages, just like all of New York. I don't think I'd been around so many different people with so many differnt ethnic and cultural backgrounds in my life. It was awesome.

We got our ice cream and headed towards the playhouse. As we walked the streets, people kept trying to hand us fliers for manicures, comedy shows, men suits warehouses, theatre shows, psychic readings, etc. "No thank you. No thanks" I felt like I said that over and over again.

The playhouse was a beautiful, old building. Our seats were in the balcony and it was neat to be able to see the alcoves where part of the orchestra was. The woodwork was so ornate. I loved it. I would have taken pictures, however I left the camera. Or at least I thought I did. It wasn't until later that I realizd that it was in my purse the whole time. Gah! All of those pictures I missed out on.

The musical was awesome! The choreography was amazing! There was some suggestive material, however, which I didn't really appreciate it. One scene in particular was kind of wretched and I couldn't believe that parents were their with their children. I was kind of embarrassed and a little mortified for them. That being said,the choreography really was great. And the music, of course, was awesome.

After the musical, we walked outside and was amazed at how bright it was. It did not seem like it was nearly 11 pm. It was so lit up, it almost seemed like day time. As we were walking, we saw that someone (well two someones, a Chinese man and woman) was drawing a person, they stopped us, ask if we wanted ours done and almost insisted. Well, how could we resist? So we sat down and the lady started drawing us. After she had been drawing for about 10 minutes, she switched with the man and he started all over. When he was done, he showed it to us and tried to sell us a "frame". The picture of the two of us was $15. The frame was also $15. It wasn't worth it to me so we turned it down. They said that it would smeer without the frame. We let them know that we'd manage. The brought the price down to $25 total. I said, "Tai gue le" (Forgive me, I can't remember how to spell), meaning "too expensive". The woman was surprised that I could say that. She said, "okay I give you for $5 dollars. $20 for both." We agreed and gave them a $20 bill and went on our merry way to the subway. It was time to get back to the hotel.

On the way back to the hotel, Jeff mentioned several times, as he would throughout the trip, "I hope the car's okay". Of course it was, and it continued to be fine the whole time it was there.

Well that was our first day in New York. It was quite the experience and so amazing!

I'd like to continue sharing our trip to New York, but there will have to be a part II tomorrow. It's late and all week we've been going to bed late and getting up early. Tomorrow will be no different, so I'd better get to bed. Ta ta for now!

Friday, April 2, 2010

In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, I thought I'd share a few things that I have learned over the past couple of years from working with these beautiful souls.

1.) I always hear, "It takes a special kind of person to do what you do" when I tell someone where I work. Only just recently did I realize that maybe they were right. It does take a special kind of person. And maybe I do have a special something that allows me to work with them and enjoy it, but they truly are special souls. They are beautiful, smart, adaptable, sweet, and wonderful. I love my students and the other kids that I have worked with. I love them and I say that with all sincerity. They've taught me a lot about myself. So let's continue.

2.) Why is it that I have such a difficult time with being flexible, having my schedule change, having people switch things up on me and I expect my students to handle all of that just fine. We expect a lot of our students sometimes, sometimes even things that are hard for us to handle. How do we get through those situations, well, we turn something on (or off) internally, or we vent to a friend, but our students, my little buddies, they don't even have that switch and they don't vent to a friend. So how do they deal with it, either they just do, it's a part of their life, or sometimes they tantrum. They do what I at times feel on the inside.

3.) Patience. Now, it has been said of me before, "you have the patience of Job"... even when I was working with typically developing children. I admit it, I do have great patience when I am working with my students, but if I am working with my sisters, forget about it. I don't have much patience then. Our students work with so many different people throughout the day and are expected to handle each situation the same, be compliant, do they're work, get through things. However, put me in different situations and I sometimes have a difficult time being patient. If I am supposed to go somewhere and I have to wait on someone else, I just might lose my patience.

4.) Sometimes when I don't understand what is expected of me, I get frustrated. I hold it in, maybe show some signs, but try to get help and get someone to explain to me what I am to do. I have so many different ways to understand. However, some of my students don't have very good picture discrimination skills, or have a hard time attending, or maybe thier receptive language skills still need developing, and so it's really hard for them to always understand what is expected of them. This is one reason why routines are good.... and one reason why I need to refocus sometimes.

5.) Organization and choice-making. Our students work best when they have a routine, when things are organized and when they are allowed to make choices. I can learn a lot from that. Sure sometimes we'll need to be flexible with our routines, but it's good to have one at times... and it's certainly good to be organized. When we're organized, the world seems to go round a little easier. Lastly, I like making choices, but do I need to make all of them? No, of course not. If I like making choices, then certainly my students do as well. Give them choices. Allow others to make choices in my life. I don't always have to be in control.

6.) The way you say things really does matter. People with Autism usually take things very literally. Even in my life, sometimes, I take things quite literally. I've been told all my life that I am gullible. I just believe what people tell me. This also makes me think about how much we should not be sarcastic. Sarcasm really is a tool of the devil anyway.

7.) Be yourself. My students don't care if you think that spinning paper in circles over your head is wierd or that twirling beads on a spoon is odd. They don't care that watching the same part of a movie clip is boring to you or that they like to see the world through spread fingers and that that might seem socially awkward. They don't care about any of that. They see things through a different lense than most of us do most of the time. And they do it anyway... even if it is wierd, odd, boring or socially awkward. They do it because, sometimes they are just in their own world. And sometimes, that can be a good thing.

8.) Reinforcement is important. I work. I am reinforced by my paycheck.... I want a paycheck, so I work. I am also reinforced by chocolate, sometimes tv on a weekend or a good movie. I am reinforced when someone does something nice for me. Our kids are reinforced by beads, tickles, skittles, movies (usually just clips), spins, swings, playgrounds, trampolines, slinkys, trains, music, big exercise balls, etc. They don't really ask for much. But the reinforcers need to be powerful. Sometimes they want the same thing over and over again for a really long time and that's okay. But sometimes they want something different and that's okay too. Again, people need choices and we're allowed to change our minds.

9.) You can show love in lots of different ways; sometimes, with a "love tap", or with a smile, sometimes by asking to be picked up, sometimes just sitting in your lap, sometimes by asking for tickles or asking to spin, sometimes by sharing a favorite toy or snack, sometimes by simply following directions or asking for help, sometimes by wiping the dirt off of you when you fall down, or by pulling you to someplace, or by giving a hug. Sometimes love can be shown by letting you into their world. What does this show? That indeed, actions can speak louder than words (especially when there are no words).

10.) Sometimes you just gotta scream.