Bryce Burkholder: Matchmaker

So my little brother finally brought his “special girl” home to meet the family this week.  Prior to actually meeting her in person we thought she was just an imaginary friend that he photo-shopped into his Facebook pictures.  😉 Continue reading


We used to have passes to Disneyland but when Bryce started going to school full day it just didn’t make sense for us to keep them.  Of course, the incredible rate hikes they’ve hit pass holders with the last two years didn’t help either.  But when Bryce was preschool and Kindergarten aged, we went regularly.  He started asking when we were going to go back to Disneyland about a year ago.  I told him it was probably going to be a few years before we could go again because it was just so expensive.  So he starting saying, “What year can we go to Disneyland?  2nd grade, or 3rd grade?”  We didn’t make any promises, but it helped to know that it was out there somewhere in the future and we would go again.   Continue reading

Lessons from The Princess Bride

This was so good, I just had to reblog it.  Also, I didn’t want to lose it somewhere :)

From Autism Resources

17 Things The Princess Bride Taught Me About Autism Parenting

Never interrupt me while I’m climbing the Cliffs of Insanity

1.  Affection doesn’t have to mean saying I love you

Reading a story to someone who’s sick in bed, saying “as you wish” or playing rhyming games that annoy your boss… there are many more ways to show love than just those three little words.

2.  Optimism can get you through the fire swamp

Just because you haven’t tackled a problem before doesn’t mean there’s no solution, even for POUS’s (Problems of Unusual Size).

3.  Having a target will help you stay focused

You don’t have the energy or resources to tackle every challenge that’s in front of you. Find your six-fingered man – prioritize your goals, work out which of those you can tackle and then pursue them with everything you’ve got.

4.  You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles

Be patient. Change and growth takes time, and there are no corners to be cut here. Every kid is working to their own schedule and developing at their own rate.

5.  Don’t believe the hype

There are people who make a lot of money from making you believe in the Dread Pirate Roberts. Snake oil salesmen bank on the fact that you will be too distracted by fear to focus on things like facts and common sense.

6.  Never start a land war in Asia

Well that’s just good advice.

7.  Success means using the right moves for the terrain

There is no definitive intervention for autism. The choices that other people make may not be the right ones for your family, and vice versa… and that’s okay. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel otherwise.

8.  There’s not a lot of money in revenge

Don’t spend your life feeling bitter, blaming yourself, hating autism or resenting parents of typically developing kids. It’s a fruitless and costly waste of energy that can be directed into more productive things.

9.  Inconceivable doesn’t mean impossible

Your kids will achieve things beyond what you ever expected or imagined. Believe this and they’ll believe it too.

10.  You may already have a wheelbarrow

It’s easy to focus on liabilities, but don’t forget to take stock of your assets too. What skills do your kids already have that they can use to help navigate their challenges?

11.  Who says life is fair? Where is that written?

Let go of the expectation that you have more than your fair share of crap to deal with. There are no shares. You don’t have a big pile of crap, you have life. Go live it.

12.  Sometimes words don’t mean what you think they mean

If your kids are having trouble communicating, look beyond the words that they’re using. Thinking about the way the word is being said or the broader context can help you to recognize echolalia or find clues to the word’s intended meaning.

13.  Wiggling a finger is worth celebrating

Take time to enjoy even the smallest of accomplishments, for they were hard earned and are signs of bigger things to come.

14.  You always come back for the ones you love

Let your kids know that no matter how hard things get or how confusing life may be, you’re someone they can depend on to help them find the answers. After all, true love doesn’t happen every day.

15.  When there’s no time to explain, use a summary

Practice summing up their main challenges and needs so you can recite them quickly when you need to explain or get help in a hurry. “My son is autistic and finds loud noises frightening, is there somewhere quiet we can wait?”

16.  Mostly dead is slightly alive

Even when you’re too tired to breathe and the odds stacked against you seem enormous, you will survive to fight another day.

17.  It’s one hell of a story

Sure there’ll be laughs, adventure, pain and tears… but at the heart of it all, it’s about love.

Have fun storming the castle!

Struggling Along

Bryce has been having a much harder time with second grade than he did with first.  The state standards and curriculum changed a few years ago, and now everything is so WORDY.  The math pages are just sentences full of facts and word problems.  They way they try to teach the kids to solve some things is so complicated.  I know for a fact that the majority of the class is struggling to grasp the concepts, but that doesn’t really help much.  Bryce has a great grasp of the concepts, and if you lay out the problem for him, he can do it in a snap.  And the language and spelling work is a breeze for him.  His aide says that he’s the only one in the class that just sits down and gets his work done.  

But the big area we are struggling with is reading comprehension.  Bryce has been reading since before Kindergarten.  But it’s just words to him still.  He hasn’t learned to focus on what he’s saying and understand what’s being read.  You can ask him a question about the sentence he just read and he’ll look at you blankly.  Or, he will try to look back in the paragraph and find the answer.  That is better than nothing, but the more advanced the subject gets, the more abstract it is. Anything that requires inference goes straight over his head.  I really don’t know what we are going to do with him.  He may need to go back into a special ed class that will be designed for teaching and not so focused on meeting state standards.  He does get accommodations for testing, but he’s getting lost in the shuffle, I’m afraid.  The only thing saving him is his full time aide.  But I don’t know how long we get to keep her around.  Technically she’s only supposed to be for ABA support at the school.  We have just been lucky to use her all day :) 

For now, the plan is to just see where second grade goes, and how well he does this year.  Next year, who knows?  I just don’t want him to hate school.  He’s so bright, and has such potential! And he’s always liked school a lot.  On a brighter note, we qualified for free school lunches this year, so he’s been able to “buy” lunch every day.  It is the absolute highlight of his day.  He loves to punch in his number, and go through and pick out what he wants to eat.  And it’s good, healthy fresh food, too.  Every day he comes home and tells me what he picked out for lunch.  It’s the little things, right? :)
Can’t believe this little cutie is in 2nd grade now!!!

Bryce Burkholder, Cryptographer. Almost.

Grandma and Grandpa were watching the boys for us on Tuesday so we could go out and celebrate our 12th anniversary.  At some point, Bryce brought my mom’s phone to my dad and said, “I found a free game!”  He had gone into the app store, searched for a game by name, found it, and begun the installation process.  All he needed was the password.  He asked, “What’s the password?”  My dad answered that he would do it, and Bryce tried to insist that he could enter it if you told him what the password was.  Thankfully, Grandpa was smart enough to avoid that one!  He took the phone and began to enter the password.  Bryce instructed, “Enter it slowly.”  He was peeking over Grandpa’s shoulder to get a look at the magic code that unlocks an infinite amount of entertainment.  So Grandpa covered up the phone as he entered it in.  Bryce said, “No, don’t cover it up!  Move your hand, and enter it s-l-o-w-l-y.”  Whatever you do, DON’T give Bryce your password!  And don’t let him see even one letter or number!  He WILL spend hours trying over and over again until his cracks the code.  Maybe he has a future with the CIA cryptography department. :)

Bryce in his future office apparel :)

Bryce Makes Me Laugh

Henry, our middle son is 3 years old, and must say 12 adorable things a day.  He just makes me laugh all the time.  Or makes my heart melt with his sweetness.  We are enjoying this stage so much! With Bryce, it’s really just beginning.  We skipped over the cute/adorable stage altogether, because he wasn’t talking at all when he was 3 and 4 years old.  Now that he has a good handle on language, he’s beginning to actually communicate more than just basic needs and wants.  I have caught myself saying “I need to write that down” more and more often.  So here’s an example:

A couple days ago, we were driving along and the song “Alouette” came on.  
     Bryce said, “This song is Spanish!” (You can tell he’s grown up  in Southern California.)  
     I said, “No, it’s French.  It’s another language, like Spanish, but it  sounds different.”  
Later that night, we were about to watch a movie and the language options came up.  
          Jared jokingly asked, “Should we watch it in French?”  
     Bryce quickly replied, “No, Daddy! French is silly words! We need English!”  
Jared was so proud. :)

Last night for dinner, we had “Mexican Hot Dogs”, or hot dogs wrapped in a corn tortilla and baked to make them crispy.  
    Bryce sat down to eat and said, “Hot dogs in tortillas?! How    unexpected!”
Jared and I just cracked up!  If you could only hear his voice inflection as he said it-so funny! 

Um… where did First Grade go?

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and there are only four days of school left this year.  WHAT?!? I did an awful job of blogging Bryce’s first year in a mainstream class!  I blame Facebook.  Most of my “important” updates come in the form of a status.  And I blame Charlie.  I DID give birth to our third boy just days before the school year began, and he’s a handful! (I’m not sure what I’ll be able to blame next year)  Hopefully I’ll get some posting done this summer and get in the habit of recording events in Bryce’s life.

There has been so much improvement in Bryce’s social and emotional abilities this year.  I really believe he has “found his voice.”  There are fewer awkward silences as he tries to think of what to say or how to answer a question.  He’s finally realized that language is for communication.  As I look back over the last few years, I realize that he has stopped most of his obsessive behaviors.  There are still a few (see: socks) but his behavior in general is more typical.

One side effect of having more control of his speech is that he is now less “compliant” about things he doesn’t really want to do.  Normally, I would see this as a discipline issue, but with Bryce, it’s just about him realizing he has a say in his life.  He just needs to learn the proper way to express his displeasure with something.  Autistic kids are often bullied because they don’t know how to stand up for themselves and say what they want or don’t want to do.  I would actually use the word manipulated, more than bullied.  But now, Bryce has figured out he can disagree with others and express his own opinions and desires.

Case in point: At the time, I’m sure this was very troubling for him, and I did feel sorry that he had to go through this, but now, it just cracks me up!!! Every day, the kids in his class write in their journals.  They usually have options of what to write about, but on this day they were learning about writing letters, so the teacher wanted them to write a letter to someone in their journal.  Then came the perfect storm.  1. Mrs. Linda, Bryce’s therapist and full-time aide, told Bryce to work in his phonics workbook first, and then work on the journal. (this was out of the normal order of things)  2.  He was told to write a letter, not to choose a subject to write about. (another deviation from routine)  3.  The date, which is normally written in the top right corner of the journal, had to be written down near the body of the letter, in proper form (three changes=too much!)

Bryce spoke in an angry manner to Mrs. Linda and tried to grab his journal from her.  She then proceeded to tell him that you may NOT act that way or speak that way in class.  Of course, he then began to fall apart.   Since he was having a hard time, she took him out of class so he wouldn’t be embarrassed or become a distraction.  When they got to a private room, he was able to tell her what was bothering him, and she worked with him about speaking his displeasure properly.  When he explained that he needed to do the journal first, she let him do that, but still insisted that he write the date where his teacher told him to.  He settled down and completed his assignment.  Here is what he wrote, without any prompting whatsoever:

                                                                                                                                       March 22, 2012

Dear Henry,
     I am upset about writing a letter.  Mrs. Linda is making me write the date in the wrong spot and it make me cry.

                   Your brother,

I just got the journal yesterday in his school stuff, and when I came across the entry, I laughed out loud! I could just hear the irritation in his voice and the under the breath grumbling!  I know, I know, that isn’t something to normally be proud of, but Bryce isn’t normal! We’ll work on attitude next :)

Christmas with the Cousins

I’m shaking my head as I looked at my blog and saw the last post was in July.  Shame on me! Bryce starts his first year in a mainstream class and I haven’t recorded a moment of it! Suffice it to say, it’s been a rousing success and he’s doing great being surrounded by typical peers and lovingly guided by Mrs. Linda.

This year it was our turn for a Burkholder Christmas, versus the Rench one.  However, since Christmas fell on a Sunday (essentially a work day for us) we were in town Christmas day.  We spent Christmas Eve here at our house with the family and Christmas Day over at Grandma and Grandpa’s (after a wonderful Christmas service at church).  The next day, we headed up north to Gramps and Mem’s house.

At this point, Bryce had already been out of school for a week, and I could see the subtle changes in him already.  He NEEDS structure and familiarity to perform well.  When he’s out of school and away from Mrs. Linda, he’s like a different boy.  Not bad, but there are more “issues”, more frustrations, etc.  I was a little concerned about how things were going to be when we got around all the family and chaos that goes along with a Christmas vacation.

Bryce was excited as we left town, new pillow pet in tow, because he knew we were staying in a hotel (which he pronounces HO-tel). When we got to Gramps and Mem’s house the next day, I was pleasantly surprised to see Bryce greet them by name and give them big hugs.  We also got to spend the holidays with Uncle Lance, Aunt Josie and their three boys, Liam, Kyle and Regan.  Bryce kept calling Lance Uncle Justin, because his family was usually there when we came up for Christmas.  But by the end of the week, he had everyone’s names figured out. :) I also noticed that when we greeted the family, Bryce did an excellent job of answering questions posed to him.  Sometimes you get nothing but silence from him as he either thinks a long time about how to respond or totally zones you out and ignores you.  But he did very well answering questions about his age, what he got for Christmas, etc.  No one else may have noticed it, but I smiled to myself as I watched his initial interactions with the family.

This is not to say there were no issues or meltdowns all week.  One of our biggest mistakes was forgetting to bring our Wii controllers and his favorite game, Wii Sports Resort.  There was a Wii to play, but not his favorite game, and about 5 minutes after realizing that, he started asking if we could go home.  I hate to see him unhappy like that because it just consumes his mind-he was on the verge of tears the whole first night there.  Our saving grace was the fact that they did have Mario Cart and three controllers, so the cousins were able to play together.  It took some referee work to keep everyone happy, but we managed :) Our other major issue was the sock incident.  Bryce NEVER takes his socks off.  Bath time and swimming will be the only time you see his feet.  But one day, he went to the restroom and stepped in a puddle (you know, the kind of puddle you get with 6 little boys using the same restroom).  I didn’t have any extras with us because we were staying at Amie’s house overnights and our luggage was over there.  Her house was only minutes away, but we had to take him over there immediately to get more socks.  The whole trip he kept saying, “I need my socks!!!” We would tell him we were going to get them, and then ten seconds later- “I need my socks!!!”  *Sigh* I’m not sure we’ll ever get him over that particular obsession.  Once they were on again, he returned to  his usual happy self!

The most noteworthy event of the week, at least in my mind, was unnoticed by everyone else.  I told Bryce to turn off the Wii and go play with some toys with his cousins.  He disappeared down the hall to the boys’ room  and I figured he was going to stay back there alone with the toys.  I was shocked to see him return will a toy for each one of the boys and one for himself.  He walked around the room handing out a toy to each cousin saying, “Here, you play with______.” I was so proud of him.  He thought of others individually, and carried out my instructions even better than I hoped he would.  If Henry had done the same thing, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but when you are dealing with an autistic child, those events make your heart sing!

We really did have a very Merry Christmas- now BACK TO SCHOOL!!! :)

Out of the Mouths of Babes…

During Summer School hours (which Bryce did not qualify for since he is so advanced in academics :), Bryce has been still going to the school to work with Mrs. Linda, the world’s greatest ABA therapist.  He gets 5 hours a week according to his IEP, so we spread it out over a few days and it gives him something to do over the summer break.  It also is helping prepare him for the new school year, where he will be attending a regular ed 1st grade class this year.  Mrs. Linda will be with him all day to help keep him on task.  For the summer, Mrs. Linda has been concentrating on social skills and communication instead of more academics.  Yesterday, when I picked him up from school, she told me he had just been chattering away all day and was doing fantastic work on his sentences.  She sees such an improvement in him since the beginning of Kindergarten.  He’s finally starting to grasp some of those abstract concepts that are required to build proper sentences.  On Thursday, when we were at her house swimming (yes, she invited us over to swim and to work with Bryce in the pool-is she not just the biggest blessing ever?!?!?) she told me that he should be caught up to his typical peers in language by 3rd grade.  That is just about the greatest news I’ve ever had.  There’s hope.  Light at the end of the tunnel.  He’ll always struggle socially and communication will be hard for him, but if he can make himself understood without someone always there to help…that’s a huge burden off my shoulders! Anyway, last night, Linda called me because she forgot to tell me something when I picked up Bryce and she knew I would really want to hear this.  She said that she was picking up random flashcards and asking Bryce to give her a sentence using the word shown.  She held up one that said, “made.”  Without hesitation, he said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  She couldn’t believe it! She asked Mrs. Caskey, Bryce’s kinder teacher, if she had heard what Bryce said.  Mrs. Caskey said no, so she asked Bryce to tell her the sentence again.  And again he said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  Mrs. Caskey didn’t see the significance of that, so Linda said, “He’s quoting Scripture!!!” We are so blessed to have a wonderful Christian lady working with Bryce in the public school system!  She’s even offered to use her phone to show him visuals of verses he’s working on (sneaky way of getting the Bible into school without breaking any rules).      I always said I would never put my children in public school, and sometimes I feel guilty for putting my son in an environment that may be difficult for him, but little things like this confirm that we made the right decision and are doing what’s necessary to get Bryce the help and education he needs.  And God is keeping him protected and provided for while he’s there.  What’s next?  I don’t know.  We will just take things one day, one month, one year at a time, and trust God to show us where we need to be! Because, we too, are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by an amazing God!

"My Tooth Fell Out" by Bryce Burkholder

These are the events of last Sunday/Monday according to Bryce: (his therapist had him write a story)

“I was at church and ran and bump Henry.  Then it wigold.  Next my tooth came out.  I put it my envelop undr my peloaw.  I got muney frum 99cents for a new game.”  He then drew a picture of a huge mouth with a missing tooth and an arrow pointing to the hole that says, “My tooth is gon.”

It may have been the fact that he knew he could get a new game for the iPod when he lost his next tooth, but this time around was MUCH less dramatic than the last time :) Yay for progress!