Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My Little Trailblazer

Gosh, there has been so much going on around here over the past week or so that I almost forgot to post about our wonderful hiking adventure last Sunday. One thing about the place where we live is that there are many, many good hiking opportunities within just a short drive from our house. Our favorite hike is one that starts off with a hill that is just littered with large stones. To get to the trailhead you must first hike uphill about a quarter of a mile, making your way by scrambling from stone to stone. It requires a good deal of concentration to pick your way up the hill, deciding as you go which stone to step to next. At the top you again begin a gradual decent towards the stream and once you reach the water you then have to step from stone to stone along the trail that takes you down the middle of the stream. This is pretty challenging but lasts for just a short distance and when you reach the proper trail again, it runs alongside the water where you can then stop and refresh yourself at the most beautiful and serene swimming hole you can imagine. During the peak of the summer the strong of heart can take a plunge in the chest deep, icy cold water. It is a heavenly place. We go to this place several times a year for a bit of respite and a bit of swimming when the weather allows. In the past our hikes have been kind of slow going -- one of us carrying Sammy and the other helping Oliver along and sometimes carrying him as well -- especially when we reach the stream. But this time Oliver managed the whole hike by himself and I was simply glowing with pride. There are not a lot of situations in which Oliver is completey competent on his own, but on Sunday I saw him master that trail. It was wonderful.

On the way up the first part of the trail I hiked parallel to him. At times it was difficult to determine where exactly the trail was going as you have to be able to look forward and see the next opening in the trees while also managing to figure out where to place your next step. On hikes similar to this that I took pre-children I often mused to myself how incredible the brain body connection is. In order to keep your gait kind of steady your eyes must scout the next step and in a split second that information is communicated to your body and without even really "thinking" about it your foot is suddenly there. It is a pretty amazing system really. I thought of this again as I watched Oliver do just that: scan, decide, step, scan, decide, step -- all the while keeping a pretty steady pace.

Then later when we reached the stream I went a step ahead of Oliver and kept hold of his hand when needed so he didn't lose his balance and fall in the water (but each of us did end up with wet feet at one point!). This part was particularly gratifying to me because it demonstrated that we really do have referencing mastered. I say that because we weren't doing an RDI activity. I didn't set out to make this into a referencing exercise. But it ended up that way because when Oliver needed my help he always looked to me for information and it was natural for me not to say anything but rather to look where I thought he should step next. And sometimes he would look at me, I would look at a particular rock he would appraise my directions and choose a different rock instead. This is true dynamic thinking and the ultimate goal of RDI. I have never been more proud of any accomplishment of Oliver's as I was when we reached the end of that part of the trail.

I had been thinking lately of writing a post about how, knock on wood, our bad days seem to be behind us. Taking Oliver just about anywhere has become easy. He rarely has what I would call a melt-down and when he does they aren't of a magnitude anywhere near where they were a year ago. Oliver is mostly just an easy child. He is learning and growing and I really only have positive thoughts about our life these days. Anyway, I thought about this again when we were nearing the end of the trail on Sunday. But then when we got into the car and started to drive away I offered both kids an apple. Sam chose first and apparently that was a big mistake because Oliver proceeded to have an enormous melt-down. I'm not sure if it was because he wanted the red apple, not the green one, or if he just didn't want Sam to have an apple. But it was ugly and every time he calmed himself down a bit he stole a glance at Sam and got all worked up again. You'd think I would know how to handle these situations but I don't do a very good job. So I'm glad I never did write that post about saying good-bye to the bad days but they certainly are much less frequent than they once were. It is a sign of progress in us all.

The other bit of good news that we got last week -- the day after the pre-IEP -- is that Oliver is apparently ready for Stage Three of RDI (in the old system). Stage three is coordinating actions: either doing the same thing at the same time or complementary actions to accomplish one goal. I'm still getting a handle on how to approach this with Oliver. The first couple of activities that we tried were dismal failures!! But still, I am amazed at how much progress we have made in just 16 weeks. We celebrated again with cake, candles, a round of "for he's a jolly good fellow" and sparkling cider in the fancy glasses.


  1. CONGRATS on reaching stage 3!!!

    What a nice hike you had. It sounds beautiful there. Maybe next time you can bring the camera so we can see just how beautiful.

    And as far as the tantrum in the car goes, even the NT kids have those.

    I am happy to say (knock on wood) that our mostly bad days seem to be behind us as well. Here's to looking forward to some happy times!

  2. Wonderful post, Christine. The mostly bad days seem to be behind us too, despite the fact that I have been known to post about one or two here and there. The truth is, two years ago—maybe even one year ago—the bad days outnumbered the good. The balance has shifted in our house too and yes, it's a big cause for celebration.

    The hike sounds beautiful—take the camera next time...

  3. I love the way you describe the hike and the trail. What a wonderful experience for all of you.

    In our family, the little brother seems to set Henry off the most often. (Sometimes on purpose, sometimes not). I think we would have quite a long string of good days if not for the sibling thing. But it is helping both boys learn to adapt to difficult personalities- an important lesson.

  4. I was fascinated by your account of the hike and how it enabled Oliver to master an important accomplishment, practice motor planning, and work on RDI in such a natural manner. Maybe that's a sign that a therapy program is a good fit for you - it just starts happening seamlessly in your life.

    I had to smile about your being ready to post about the melt-downs being behind you - just before a tantrum. Of course this doesn't take away from all the progress your family has achieved. As Mamaroo said, even NT kids have tantrums. My girl (with Asperger's and other issues) stopped having public meltdowns about a year ago. A brief reprieve before the storm of adolescence hit! The universe has a warped sense of humor. ;-)

    I am fascinated with your progress with RDI. I have been re-reading my RDI book and trying to wrap my brain around how I might implement some of it in my house (even now - when my kids are older). So far, I can't manage to figure it out and I can't afford consultants - or even the $150 video. *LOL* Maybe I'll post about it soon. Sometimes writing my way through my confusion helps.

    BTW - I live near you (I'm in the Queen City - just south of you, I think. *LOL*) I've been wanting to do more hiking with the family. Could you pass along the locations of some of your favorite hiking trails? Thanks!

    Steph (who is trying to set the LONG comment record this evening)

  5. The hike sounds so fun, and congratulations on stage 3!!! I think all kids have tantrums period, but it is really good to hear that Oliver's have become far and few.... email me and I can give you some tips that have worked for us in stage 3.My new email is aburgess@mac.com. Plus, I had a question for you, but I don't have your email anymore:)


  6. oops! abugess2@mac.com

  7. Happy Happy Mother's Day! I always like your posts about hikes as so much more is said than might meet the eye. I think of Charlie always having the tendency for a meltdown and that is all right; the difference is that I don't see these as end of the world catastrophes, but as moments the ebb and flow. Enjoy your day!