Tag Archives: special needs

puzzing intrigue

This kid does impress me at times.image showing the number pattern in blue squares being 44,88, 264, 1056, 5280and a red graphic representation of Mac's number grid (numbers 1-9, 0, 00) he uses for row/column scanning with two foot switches

OK, I know i’m somewhat biased and, as his mum, it’s my job to be impressed by him… soooo, at the risk of seeming a little ‘braggy’ i’m going to share a snippet from Mac’s recent school work.

Math(s) is still Mac’s favourite subject, it comes easily to him, he enjoys success with it and it’s easier for output than most literacy/writing based activities… so, what’s not to love?

In class Mac and his and his peers (now in 6th grade) were working on number patterns. Mac was working well and was given the first addition number pattern to complete as a warm up.

8, 16, 32, 64, 128

Mac typed “doubling” as his response to the teacher’s aide, ‘M’, to explain the pattern.

He was then required to provide ‘M’ with a subtracting pattern for her to try and work out, and so he typed:

100, 75, 50, 25

She easily identified it was subtracting by 25 each time.

But it none of this was really challenging Mac so ‘M’ upped the anti and asked him to create a really hard number pattern for her to do.

This is what he typed:

44, 88, 264, 1056, 5280

To quote Ron Burgundy, “well that escalated quickly”.

Seems he followed his brief… it is a tricky pattern.  Mac’s aide, ‘M’, worked on it for quite a while but he had her pretty stumped. None of the other kids in class could get it out – Mac assured them it was a proper pattern, that the numbers were correct.

Mac’s teacher, Mrs M worked it out… eventually… and in the end Mac gave the rest of the class the solution.

But it’s these little snippets and insights that intrigue us about this child.  Mac doesn’t use a calculator, it would be too tedious on this communication device.  When asked about his ‘methods’ for many things he says he “just knows it” and can’t explain his working.  Also, on his device he can only type left to right, unlike many instances in calculations where the rest of use might work right to left. So there’s plenty of times we adults are not quite sure what to do next, while Mac just keeps on doing his things his way, and yes, impressing and intriguing us as he goes.

Oh, and the answer?

Well, really I need to give those who love a good maths puzzle the chance to do it themselves.

But be sure to put your solution in the comments, I’ll pop Mac’s explanation he used for the class in the comments too, but don’t peek. 😉

Oh, and just so we don’t get too carried away as ‘braggy parents’, I do love the comment in his school workbook immediately following this entry which said… “Mac then dozed off in his wheelchair for a brief nap after all his work on number patterns”, seems it’s exhausting this math(s).

Way to go on the snoozing at school Macco!

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Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Inclusion... straight up!, Technology - things that help

water warfare for everyone…

As luck would have it Mac attended a classmates birthday party where the ‘order of the day’ was a water pistol fight.

I knew someday Mac would absolutely NEED a water pistol, truth be told he should have had one years ago… he’s 11 for crying out loud.

It’s not that I haven’t been looking… it’s just finding the perfect combination of battery powered pistol, ease of switch adapting, wheelchair “mountability” and being able to actually buy it when I found it didn’t come together until late last year.

We were traveling overseas and so I did some “retail research” for those few elusive, but sought after, items.

And. There. It. Was.

Courtesy of quick trip into Cerritos Walmart, CA – it looked to be perfect option.

And. It. Is.

Mac gave as good as he got today at the party, he was drenched but delighted.  The kids were stoked with his ‘water pistol weapon of choice’, quite a few of these guys were in his class for the “macifications” two years ago so were also interested in how the gun actually worked and was tweaked.

SO WHAT IS IT… AND WHAT DID WE DO WITH IT?

The Fuze Cyclone Water Blaster from FUZE UK.
Image showing teenage boy riding a bmx bike with water pistol mounted on the handle bars (head & shoulder shot).  Inset pics show close up of the button control unit to press with your thumb to operate the water pistol, mounted next to the hand grip.  Additional closeup of the water pistol firing water.Designed for mounting on your bike handlebars it was a great choice for a wheelchair because:

  • it already had mounting options,
  • it already had the three key operational functions assigned to buttons,
  • it was battery operated.

Mac’s Pa undertook ‘hacking duties’ once again and got it switch adapted it for him.  He used three plugs coming out from the handlebar attachment.  Mac used a head activated switch for the fire option, his left and right options were attached to a joystick but most often maneuvered by his “wheelchair pusher”.

It was a little bit tricky to get the button component apart as it had been glued closed, but, once open and adapted it had the option to screw it back together… a nice surprise.

close up of the button firing unit with the three plugs coming out the side ready for plugging  switches into.  Small grey component with blue directional buttons and an orange fire buttonIt would be great if the Fuze team considered the option to build in some disability access as standard – they really be world leaders if they went down that path. I generally joke that switch access for toys costs three cents at build stage, three dollars if you do it yourself or three hundred dollars if you get a disability organisation involved, sadly, it’s not really a joke.

Interestingly, Fuze have quite a few products that could intersect with the youth wheelchair market.  The fact they don’t cost a fortune is a welcome relief from the usual slamming people with disabilities get around prices of products they need.

One thing to note with this particular product is many kids will find the standard buttons suitable for use without any hacking required.

Check out the FUZE UK range on the above link, there are some cool wheel lights and even a speaker and mount for your phone or media device which just might suit some wheelchairs out there.

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Filed under Access all Areas, friends, The 'mod' squad, things that make me go "glll"

go away…

It was lunch time and Mac, having just finished eating, was heading out to the playground.

“Go away,” they said, as Miss M and Mac approached the group of boys.

For a moment, Miss M was worried – these were Mac’s fellow Grade 6 boys.

“Buuuttt,” she started, about to say ‘It’s Mac’ when they quickly clarified.

“Oh, not Mac, he’s with us, we just don’t need you.”

“Fine,” she said, feigning indignation, but secretly thrilled at their autonomy and independence.  Clearly no adults and certainly no ‘female adults’ are needed in their midst.

I was relieved to hear it.  Mac was a little upset on the second day of sixth grade, thinking he wouldn’t have any friends in his class and what that might mean.  This year is a big change for him –  it’s his first new teacher in three years.

He knew he wasn’t going to get in the same class as one of his best mates. They completely outwit/outplay/outmaneuver the teachers and don’t do any work at all… all the while looking “very busy”.  He was ok with that, he said.  But for some reason he thought all the other kids were allowed to pick a friend and he wasn’t.  I don’t think that was the case, and after actually getting his class placement, he realised he has some great kids in there and he is much happier.

It’s hard to balance the “sticking with who you know” approach in class friendships or embracing the “new kids mean new opportunities”.  Every year I have a moment of a panic – worried that he might not maintain those relationships he formed in the prior year… so far, that has been misdirected worry.

It was great to hear Miss M report back that, on the first morning after being placed in their classes, lots of the kids said: “Right, when do we get to learn how to work with Mac.” Learning about Mac’s technology, working with him is still a revered role.  If he stuck with the same kids all the time, those new kids would miss out and so would he… you just never know what allies are around the corner.

So the first week of Grade Six has been OK, here’s to a wonderful final year of primary school.

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creepy…

looking down from above the skeleton clown head with red flashes of hair, shiny purple and orange satin shirt and one very happy boy with just his head exposed as though the clown is holding his severed head - halloween creeps.We’ve been away.  A visit to the US of A allowed Mac, among a great many other things, to enjoy his first ever Halloween in style.

As our travel itinerary was shaping up with us somewhere between Arizona and California for Halloween… we decided Las Vegas might be the place to go.  They have a street parade on Freemont Street, it seemed like a fun place to be.

Mac and his mates had done some research on possible ideas for a costume before he left (thanks Google & the “Tuesday afternoon costume committee brotherhood”).  The general consensus was that creepy clowns, blood, gore and/or maybe something with a severed head were the preferred options.  Seriously, these kids have got 11yo boy down pat…

I was a little nervous.  Creating a costume that would stack up in the US from the confines of a hotel room – that would meet both Mac’s & his mates’ expectations? Was it possible?

Thankfully, there were plenty of Halloween pop up shops available for our shopping pleasure prior to getting to Vegas.  Shawn found a fab ‘creepy clown’ balcony decoration suitable for hanging above the wheelchair to allow the skeleton clown to appear as though it was holding Mac’s severed head in its boney hands. “Hacky the Clown” (as he came to be known) was the perfect fit.two shots of Mac and Hacky the clown with a beautiful smile on Mac's face in the first image and a totally wild smile in the second.  The skeleton skull of the 'hacky the clown' part of the costume is lighting up with different led colours... totally creepy.Mac was thrilled.
hanging skeleton clown skull costume mounted above Mac's wheelchair handles so that the orange/purple satin top comes down over Mac's body exposing only his "head" so it looks like the skeleton hands are holding a head.  Mac's wearing blue pants and red clown shoes so that his body looks like it belongs to the creepy clown who looks he is the one sitting in the wheelchair, not Mac, afterall, Mac is just the 'severed head'.  Slashed face tatoos finish off Mac's look.
It worked a treat.  He was far from cute!

So many admiring glances and looks of pure joy from everyone he passed – with the occasional double take as his head moved around when they were least expecting it.  You’ve never seen such a delighted severed head.

Oh… and the creepy clown voice audio we put onto Shawn’s phone so we could ‘bluetooth it’ to Mac’s portable speaker if anyone was in earshot – well, that was more for Shawn’s and my enjoyment 😉 .

Mac certainly held his own in the parade and got tonnes of wonderful photos with plenty of other “creeps” on the night.

Mac & Hacky the clown with other creeps, zipper face guy, a horned satanic type character and a team of Hulk Hogans (wrestling legends)
ABOVE: Mac and Hacky with zipper face guy and his fluffy friend, a devilish dude + the Hulk Hogans
BELOW: Mac’s tattoo (to meet the ‘gore’ requirement), a family portrait and Mac, Hacky and Gene Simmons

profile pic of Mac's face with temp tattoo with zombie style slashes, next shot with Mac, Hacky and two goul masked parents (totally unidentifiable) and then Mac, Hacky and a fantastic Gene Simmons look alikeIt a was a fantastic night, so much fun.

The social media platform we chose for Mac to stay in touch with friends back home was firing on all cylinders with everyone loving his costume and many sharing their own creations from their own fun nights.

Thanks Freemont Street and the Las Vegas Halloween Parade… you have set the bar high.

Mac's red plastic oversized clown shoes with spotted socks laying on the crumpled bed after his big night.and there was one tired clown at the end of the night…

 

 

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swim like you’ve never swum before …

School’s in for 2014 which means swimming carnivals are on the agenda across the district.

As per last year, I braved the pool to help Mac with his “Macstroke” races, so he could get some points for his sports house.  Together we swam the 11-year-boys breaststroke, backstroke & freestyle events…

then this happened!

Two of his mates decided they wanted to swim with him in the last race of the day and negotiated with me to resign my position on Team Mac.  With Mac now in 5th grade, I am guessing there’s a very good chance I won’t get a ‘look in’ next year, if today’s success is any indication.

There was also significant desire from Mac’s sports house Captain to include him in the relays, but with a few too many kids making themselves available we opted for the free swim at the end of the day. After all, he’d already competed in every other event possible.

What a wonderful day, what a wonderful sight to watch Mac and his two mates compete as a team.

Who’d want it any other way?

 

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the problem with scare campaigns…

As the month of AAC Awareness (augmentative and alternative communication) draws to a close I was struck by the amount of times the QUIT Victoria ad from 2007 “Voice Within” has been running on TV.

Here’s the link:  http://www.quit.org.au/media/?id=28073

It frustrates me that we are constantly bombarded by the insidious messaging prominent in this ad, that, if you can’t speak you can’t communicate – something AAC acceptance is constantly up against.

And… not withstanding, that once again “walking” is put out as the great ‘hope’ not “communication” (ugh).

I accept this ad is important in the context of “quitting smoking” but concede it is quite damaging to the ongoing awareness and acceptance of AAC – it’s pretty offensive.

This maybe have been something addressed (by AAC users and professionals) when it first aired back in 2007 but the reappearance of it during my TV watching was just a little jarring – particularly so when Mac is often watching when these ads come on.

I discuss with him why people choose to use that type of fear based portrayal and why it is so wrong.  We lump those people, the “fear mongers” into the same basket as the “pity peddlers” and the “disability charity merchants”… there is no place for them in our world.

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the lost boys…

Mac finally had his 10th birthday party – some two months after the actual event.  We haven’t done a formal birthday party since kindergarten, so we figured it was about time and double digits is always call for celebration.

After much debate, the WHO, WHAT & WHEN was settled.

the who…

all the year four boys (28) in total with 20 coming out for the fun

the when…

dates were negotiated with others planning similar festivities around the same time

the what…

activities were discussed, plans hatched and invitations sent

screen grab of party invitation. text says: You're invited to Mac's Birthday party along with all the Grade 4 boys. Weather permitting we will light a “baby bonfire” at 5pm(ish), if grown-ups wish to come and stay for a sausage sandwich at 5pm & help look after your own kids around the fire that would be fantastic. No birthday presents required. If you want to put a gold coin in a treasure chest that we will put out, Mac can use that money towards something he wants/needs. Feel free to bring your bikes & helmets and be sure to wear your oldest clothes as we may head into the bush or go on a treasure hunt. RSVP info adds: As you can probably guess we aren’t so used to those fast moving, walking & talking variety kids, so anyone wishing to hang around & lend a hand is more than welcome. Also, while the kids have confidence in Mac’s ability to pass messages on to us, and it’s great if they let ‘him know’ they are coming, can you please make sure you let us know too ;-) Please let us know of any allergies

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

The party started with a bike ride.  Mac’s bike jogger was attached to Shawn’s bike, and off they went.  All but three of the kids had bikes so those guys took the iPad and filmed the ‘riders’.

shot of all 20 kids in the distance on a country road 17 on bikes and three running behind. Mac in his trailer on the back of the bike. more like bike specs in the distance than clear images.

A treasure hunt was next on the agenda.

We set up the treasure hunt so that Mac’s could have his iPad using Proloquo2Go (P2Go) speak the clue.  When the kids arrived at each location the clue envelope simply pointed them to the next colour clue Mac was required to give them.  What worked particularly well was that it didn’t matter how far ahead some kids got, they needed to wait for Mac and his push-buddies to arrive before they could move on.  We didn’t do teams it was an “all for one and one for all” type of event.

Here’s how it worked with P2Go, the clues and the audio (a bluetooth speaker made it loud enough for all to hear).

CLICK VIDEO TO RUN (FULL SCREEN AVAILABLE)

So, I wonder, would you have found your way?

With some daylight remaining before the bonfire lighting we decided to give the “paint bomb catapult” a go.  We had set up a water balloon catapult with the plan to pelt a 1m x 1m canvas with paint filled water balloons fired from the catapult.  It might have worked… if we had some better shots and some harder timber behind the canvas.  Instead, we reverted to 60ml syringes, paint tubes, cups and 20 kids (channeling Lord of the Flies on occasion) to decorate the canvas.

While Mac can’t do any of this physical stuff (until I build that switch adapted, self loading catapult) what he does get to enjoy is an amazing artwork, made by his mates, which will hang on his wall above his bed.

shot of the splatter artwork done by the kids. Lots of colour and splats of red smaller splats of green, purple, blue. To touch it would be fun there are some parts that sit almost 1 inch off the page.

The weather stayed fine and the wind didn’t pick up too much. So, the bonfire was lit, sparklers were had and bellies were fed.

one night shot of lots of kids with lit sparklers above their head, the other of the bonfire just starting to take off with kids sitting on a grassy knoll

We had an awesome day and were pleased to be able to give Mac a great party, but also thrilled to let all the kids enjoy the same sort of stuff I got to do as a kid growing up here on the farm.

So the next one isn’t needed until 16, right?

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