Thursday, August 25, 2011


I fell asleep putting my son to sleep tonight, and then woke up a few hours later with my heart beating very fast. It's not unusual for that to happen. But I think because I'm nervous about him starting school very soon, it takes a longer time for me to calm down. I end up with a somewhat disruptive sleep pattern and it's happening quite frequently lately.

Anyway, here I am on my blog. I'm too tired to write a proper post, so I'm posting a few recent photos instead.

I took these photos on 25th July. That's the book he was given to read as weekend homework. It was the 3rd weekend that he was assigned books from Stage 6 of the Oxford Reading Tree series.

Playing football with other kids at his classmate's birthday party.

I absolutely love clear blue skies! Captured this after a session at Desa Park City on Sun, 17th July. I think it was one of the first times that we were there with Milo boy & his mum.
I got him to try on his new uniform, for size, earlier this week. Is he admiring himself in the mirror? LOL

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

His progress update

I've not written about his progress for quite a long time now. So, this post will cover quite a few areas, with just a short description on each area.

While reading what I've written below, please bear in mind that I'm not a kiasu mum. The academic side that I'm working on with him is to gear him towards independence, as is everything that I do with him. I want him to be strong and quick in maths so that he doesnt get cheated in his daily life later. He has to be able to read. He still has to be able to write legibly even though things are more electronic based nowadays. The importance of self care and social skills development are obvious. Learning to swim is part of being safe.

I no longer have time to read with him or have him read aloud, on a daily basis. I know that goes against the advice of reading experts and teachers. But for the past few months, self care skills have taken a higher priority. Thankfully he brings home a book to be read every Friday which forces it to be done at least on a weekly basis.

I'm extremely thankful that he's still quite strong in this area. He's at Stage 6 of the Oxford Reading Tree Reader Series, where there are about 4 lines or 4 sentences per page and about 20 pages in a book. He can read the entire book in one sitting with minimal help from me. Last Friday, he brought home a Poem book about clocks and I think he enjoyed it.

A friend had recently presented him with the Disney Pixar Cars Storybook Collection. It's a very thick book, over 200 pages. It's A4 sized with more than half the page filled with words. He was excited about the gift that he easily read the first page (about 12 lines) aloud, with minimal help from me. He loves Cars, the movie, so that was a big motivating factor.

His writing has definitely improved comparing it in March 2011, and now. His handwriting practice comes in the form of practising his spelling and ejaan (homework) for about 5 days a week. He's motivated to write nicely because he gets rewarded with stickers. Thank goodness stickers still work on him!

But when I check his school BM workbook, his handwriting is horrible! I'm not sure whether it's because he was tired or he's in a hurry to complete it or the height of the school chair and table are unsuitable.

I just bought his Year 1 school books today. I've more work coming up. I've to start teaching him joined writing (cursive). Sigh.

He scored well on the previous test and continued on to the next module at the maths place. I make simple handwritten worksheets for him to practice on. Sometimes I wish the class would stop for a week or so, so that I can have a break. It's not hard for him, but I've to keep going on and on and on.

They've started to introduce the concept of multiplication, through skip counting by 2s. Next week will be skip counting by 5s and 10s. I would like to build a strong foundation for multiplication so I'll build on this slowly over the next few months.

The next few lessons are easy for him so I plan to teach him other concepts that weren't covered or that was presented in a different way in his Year 1 workbooks or that I know he's not strong in. I find it strange that he's not strong with the "before" concept. He can tell me what month comes after say, June, or what day comes after Tuesday. But he cant tell me what comes before.

Taking a shower and towelling dry
I've to keep reminding him to be quick and not play with the water, to be quick in towelling so that he doesnt catch a cold, but he's generally progressing well here. He cant yet reach his back to soap up or to dry off properly.

This area took on a high priority because he will have swimming lessons as part of his PE curriculum in school. It includes reminding him to keep his clothes that he has changed out of (or it might get lost/mixed up amongst all the other kids' clothes and bags). I've not found a suitable container for his shower gel to be used in school, which is leak proof and yet easy enough for him to open. Details, details! It's tiring doing so much thinking.

Putting on his T-shirt, shorts and underwear
After months of teaching him one way to put on his T-shirt, I recently had to teach him another way as he wasn't progressing in the previous way. Some T-shirts are easier for him to remove than others. He's fine with putting on and taking off his shorts and underwear. It gets put back on crooked sometimes, but hey, it's on! He can't tuck in his shirt, so I hope teachers dont give him too much grief about it.

Putting on his socks and shoes
Thankfully, I finally found suitable black leather boys shoes that are of  a design for "office wear", that have velcro, that he can easily get in and out of by himself, and fairly quickly. It took 4 afternoons of going shop to shop in different malls. I'm not even going to get started on finding suitable slippers for wearing to the pool.

He struggles with putting on socks. His fingers arent strong enough to stretch the socks. He struggles with balancing and co-ordinating his body, arms, legs, foot to get the socks on. He yanks them off easily though.

Ah, a major source of stress for both of us. I started this activity with him months ago, using a purpose made vest (thanks Fe!) and big buttons. He was doing fine. But time snuck up on us and I had to quicken his progress. He finally got so frustrated with it last week that he cried (not just whine, but tears rolled out). I had to let this one go...for now. I've thought of alternatives but we'll just have to see how receptive the teachers are when he starts school.

Feeding himself
He's progressed well enough to not starve in school. He has yet to learn to use the fork to avoid making a huge mess. He has to learn to cut up his food (fingers not strong yet). He has to learn to take a break from chewing for the 15 minutes that he's gobbling up the food, and then to continue feeding himself after the break. Otherwise, he doesnt get enough.

He has very recently taken an interest to colouring, which is great. But he uses his bigger arm muscles to colour instead of his finer hand and finger muscles, so it's still very immature. I'm not stressed by it at all as it's low in my priority. I'm just happy he wants to do colour.

So on Sunday, I bought a Disney Pixar Car magic colouring book. Using the special magic colour pens that comes with it, you colour on the fabric book, and when done, you can just wash the entire book and recolour again. To some kids, that might seem a total waste of effort but I sold him the idea that it's special and cool!

He loves to draw lots and lots of trucks. Dump trucks, trucks carrying soil, cement mixers, container trucks... He started off with just plain trucks and over the months evolved to a variety of trucks.

Again, this is not high priority but I do want him to be better at drawing cos it'll be needed in science and other subjects.

Bought a new lacing set in the theme of cute animals. I hadnt done lacing with him for quite a long time, so I was very happy that he has progressed (through other activities), and that he now likes doing it. He still needs help in remembering which way to thread it through, to pull it tight etc, but it's progress nonetheless.

Lego building
I bought some sets from the Lego City series which involve vehicles. I "release" parts of it from the box over a few months. So far we've built a fuel tanker, a repair truck (bucket truck), fire truck with long ladder, and a police buggy. He's doing well in following the assembly booklet but needs help with the fiddly flat pieces or single knob pieces. About 2 weeks ago, he surprised me by being able to fit the legs and body of a policeman by himself, and then his head. I helped with the cap.

We resumed cycling shortly after my surgery but stopped again about 2 weekends ago. He can cycle at a faster speed, and for a longer duration. He can cycle mostly by himself twice round the Desa Parkcity lake. He needs help with getting up the steep bridge, and some slopes. Today, he surprised me by being able to squeeze on the brakes tight enough to control his descent.

Gait training

Fezia, his therapist is doing a great job on this. The aim is to correct his gait (longer strides, heel toe motion, arms down and swinging). Also aiming to strengthen his muscles, and stamina (slight gradient, slightly faster speed etc)
Social skills
He has made a new friend recently (I shall call the boy, Milo boy, for his love of iced Milo!). We shall be meeting up with Milo and his mum, on a more regular basis, at the park or other activities.

Oral motor
I've managed to slot in a few minutes a day, on a regular basis, for him to blow bubbles, and to suck from crazy straws to strengthen the muscles around the lips. After just a week, I've seen improvements - he can drink from a soft straw without biting on it.

It's going to be a long journey, this one. He has difficulty doing both blowing and kicking at the same time. It's also difficult kicking while keeping his knee straight, and keeping his mouth closed underwater. But I'm definitely happy with his progress after 4 lessons in the first two weeks of Aug. He didnt attend last week and wont be this week either due to his cold.

He can now stick his head underwater and blow bubbles. He can "swim" a very very short distance from the instructor to me (teacher pushes him towards me while his whole body is submerged). It's not swimming in the true sense of course, but that's how the teacher boosts his confidence. He's brave in the face of being challenged more ever so slightly each lesson.

He loves being in the company of other kids during the lesson. Group learning has helped him in that he tried to copy what the others are doing. The other kids are competent swimmers. He absolutely loves racing with them, with my help of course.

I'm sure there are other areas of improvement that I've not covered but I'm really tired and it's late. Feeling happy to have got it all written down. My mind feels a bit lighter.

Monday, August 22, 2011

How am I?

I've been very silent on my blog for the past few weeks and not as regular at writing posts the past few months.

After my surgery, I had been very tired. What I had thought was a minor surgery, while not major, was not as minor as I had expected. I still have a slightly infected wound that's taking its time to heal.

So after resting lots in July, there was a backlog of errands to be done in Aug. I've tried to set my own boundaries (by listening to my own body and resting when I need to) so as not to fall sick but when it comes to helping my son progress, I cant seem to slow down much.

I have also been very nervous about my son starting at the new big boy school. I'm not worried about his academic side. I'm concerned about his self care skills. So from a few months ago, after getting through the assessment, my focus had been on improving his self care skills. While some aspects of that has seen improvement which I'm happy about, there are still others that need more practice.

More recently, I had felt rather unsupported and lost.

I wished that I didnt always have to be the one to drive him to music class or maths class or to the park for cycling. It's tiring to always be thinking about my son from thinking of cooking nutritious food that he likes, to whether he's had his vitamins for the day, to how to squeeze in yet another activity, to reprioritising his activities, to managing his time for a shower, for getting to swim class on time, for getting to bed on time, to finding the right pair of school shoes, to whether he's had his antihistamine and aerochamber (yes, he's sick again).... it's endless.

I wished that I too could go off on an overseas vacation all by myself and yet rest assured that all his needs and household matters are taken care of. Well, I can but dream.

One thing's for sure - I am slowly changing. I'm slowly learning to set my limits and take care of myself. I'm slowly learning to let go of things I can't change like my sister's disability. I'm slowly learning that there are consequences to reprimanding my helper in front of my son, and thus learning to deal with her at a later time.

I'm yet again learning to enjoy my son for who he is right now. He is growing up fast. He starts Year 1 in two weeks' time. He has achieved much. I love his smile. I love his determination. I love to "cradle" him in my arms now and tell him how tiny he was as a baby.

He loves me a lot, or in his own words (on different occasions): "I love you soo soo soo soo much, you know that? I love you forever and ever and ever and ever and ever. I love you in the morning and at night. I love you even when I'm angry with you (that's an echo of what I told him). I still love you like that (when he saw my fresh ugly scars with stitches and dried blood still on)." Those keep me going day after day.

Monday, August 1, 2011

His first swimming lesson

Last week, I finally called up and made an appointment for my son's first swimming lesson. Found a teacher whose charges were reasonable for a group lesson and it turns out that he taught my sister how to swim a long long time ago.

Last Sunday morning, we spent almost 4 hours in the mall shopping for swimming goggles, for a present to bring to his friend's birthday party, and had lunch there.

Btw, Carrefour has own brand cheap decent goggles (anti fog, adjustable nose strap, kid sized, UV protection). Jusco carries the Ogival brand which is good and not expensive and fulfils those requirements.

I was a bit worried how his first lesson would go and had prayed about it. The outcome? It went swimmingly well! (Couldnt resist the pun) Thank you God!

We arrived slightly early so as not to get stressed rushing. There were a few kids already in the pool messing around. It was important that he saw kids in the water having fun before he started his lesson.

He was a bit scared before getting in and wanted me to accompany him into the water, which I intended to anyway. Once in, he was fine.

One of the kids was his age and I quickly made friends with him. My son liked him as he was talkative, active and friendly. The other kids were already pretty good swimmers and somewhat older than him (6+ to 12).

In a group lesson, there is very limited time that the teacher can spend with my son. I had been given the heads up, by another mum, that I'd be expected to get into the water with my son in a group lesson. So most of the time, I was the one leading my son from one end of the pool to the other, encouraging him to kick.

Teacher was nice to my son and every so often would take him from me to teach him a little. Then he'd hand my son back to me and I'd try to help my son practice what the teacher tried to teach.

Thanks to Fezia, my son was already introduced to the idea of kicking and of blowing out under water (blowing bubbles, she said). Most importantly, she was someone he trusted and was very gentle in introducing him to the pool, many many months ago. I'd have a much harder time if he had a phobia of the pool. Of course, the other positive pool experience he had a few months ago with my friend's 2 girls helped a great deal too.

Teacher refused to put any time frame when I repeatedly asked how long it'd take for my son to be water safe. He said that each person is different and that my son was fine today. He didnt want to put any pressure on him to avoid the risk of him disliking swimming lessons. I agree with him, especially when it's at the early stage.

Since I was like his shadow aide in the pool, I also saw how the teacher interacted with the other kids, and how he was able to challenge them just a little bit. So I think I've found the right teacher for my son for now. Only thing is that we got stuck in an awful traffic jam coming home (slightly over hour in traffic when it could have been 20mins on a clear day)!

He ate a lot for dinner and is sleeping soundly. Hopefully with swimming lessons, he not only learns to be water safe, but will bring about improved co-ordination, stronger muscles, stronger lungs and deeper breaths.