Friday, January 30, 2009

"I'm telling God on you!"

I went to a nursing home today to see one of my patients for an eye infection. I really do not like going to the nursing home. Today, I liked it even less than usual.

As I came in the room, the nurse had just moved this patient out of bed and into a wheelchair to go to physical therapy. She did not want to go to PT. The patient kept asking me to tell the nurses she needed to be in bed to for me to examine her, and she was in a lot of pain in the wheelchair. I kept trying to tell her by the time the nurses came and moved her, I would be done checking her eyes. This was not what she wanted to hear.

At one point, she told me she was going to be sick and I should bring over her plastic tub (the mauve hospital ones we are all too familiar with...). She grabbed it and started banging it on the foot-board of her bed. Shortly after that, I saw a note taped to her bed-table that said "Please use the call button to ask for the nurse, do not bang things to get our attention..." Ooops.

It didn't take me more than 5 minutes to do the whole exam (including checking vision--me: Have you noticed any changes in your vision? her: Well, I can't see sh**. OK then.). Unfortunately, it took me about 10 minutes to write out my exam note and orders for her chart. I pushed the call button for the nurse to come take her to therapy before I even started writing. The whole time she is asking me to take my time and to tell the nurses I need her back in bed. At first, she alternated between pleading with me and banging that stupid tub against the bed. But pretty quickly her tone changed and she started getting mean. The last thing she said before the nurses aide wheeled her away--I swear it was an eternity if it was 10 minutes--was "When I die, I'm telling God on you!"

Aides & Potty Talk

Evan is between aides at school again. The aide I had posted about last week (who has 8 years experience as an interpreter) did not end up taking the job. Evan has a "substitute" aide at the moment--she doesn't know ASL, but from what we have heard from the teachers, she is very good about keeping Evan involved with what the rest of the class is doing. Hopefully we will find a new aide who does know sign soon.

Next month Evan is also going to start Total Communication classes back up with Kat, his teacher of the Deaf from Hearing and Speech in Yakima. Jeremy and I both feel this is the best use of Evan's 20 therapy visits our insurance pays each year. Kat has also offered to come observe at Evan's preschool. We are excited to get back with her!

Potty training has been going better than I would have expected. I made a progress chart to post in the bathroom, next to Evan's potty chair. Every time he goes in the potty (or at least partly in the potty), he gets a star on his chart. In the past week, he has earned 9 stars! I don't know if he's made the connection yet, but he does like to touch the stars (and try to pick them off the chart). One day Evan appeared to be trying to tell Jeremy (by body language) he needed to go. Jeremy was changing him, and he wouldn't let him put the new diaper on. Jeremy took him to the potty, he went right away, and then put the diaper on no problem. I've also noticed diapers are staying dry between most changings during the day. Both of those things are signs of potty training readiness, so it's got to be a good sign.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yakima Valley School

In the special-needs community, schools like this one can be very polarizing. Many disability-rights advocates oppose placement in "institutions." But for some families, this really is the best option for a special-needs child once they reach adulthood. It's an option I don't think should be taken away from families. I hope the Governor reconsiders her stance on this one--there are surely other areas where spending could be trimmed and save the school.

State Democrats trying to keep Yakima Valley School open
by Mark Morey
Yakima Herald-Republic – 1/25/2009

Gov. Chris Gregoire's own party is telling her she's got a bad idea when it comes to the Yakima Valley School.
The state Democratic Party's Central Committee, which oversees the organization's state-level business and legislative priorities, unanimously passed a resolution Saturday opposing closure of the Selah-based institution for the developmentally disabled.
Gregoire last month suggested the cut as one of many across state government to balance the state budget. Washington's deficit could reach an estimated
$6 billion over the next three years.
Although the resolution is symbolic, it sends a signal to the governor's office that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans would look kindly on closure of the school, which serves 88 of the state's most profoundly disabled residents.
The state GOP's central committee, which also met this weekend, did not consider a similar resolution, but Central Washington's all-Republican delegation has already voiced strong opposition to the proposal.
Mary Stephenson, chairwoman for the Yakima County Democrats, said it was rare for the central committee to consider such a resolution on a budget issue.
Stephenson, who announced the resolution's passage on Sunday, said she hopes the Legislature will listen to the pleas from leaders of both parties.
"We're just trying to use all the political power we can to keep (the school) in the budget," Stephenson said.
A Gregoire spokesman did not return a phone message seeking reaction to the resolution.
Freshman Rep. Norm Johnson, R-Yakima, serves on his chamber's Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee, which is expected to be involved in budget talks that would consider the fate of the Yakima Valley School.
"Oh, great," he said when told Sunday about the Democratic resolution.
Gregoire's proposal for the school would move the residents into community settings such as group homes or apartments by 2011.
Her figures suggest the move would save the state nearly $18 million a year.
A community bed costs about $126,000, according to a recent report to the Legislature, while care per patient totals nearly $173,000 at the school.
But critics of the possible closure say the residents need the intense care provided at the school. They say the projected savings would be marginal, especially once the state subsidizes relocation.
Community-living advocates counter that they can provide quality care for less money, in part because of lower wages for their employees.

* Mark Morey can be reached at 577-7671 or

State Democratic Party denounces proposed closure of Yakima Valley School

Yakima Herald-Republic – 1/26/2009

The state Democratic Party's central commitee has come out in opposition of the proposed closure of the Yakima Valley School, the Selah-based state care facility for the developmentally disabled.
The resolution, one of only five considered at the annual meeting Saturday in Olympia, passed unanimously after being drafted by the state committee's disabilities issues caucus, said Mary Stephenson, chairwoman of the Yakima County Democratic Party.
Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed closing the 61-year-old school by 2011 to help balance the state budget.
Central Washington's lawmakers, all Republicans, declared their opposition to the move in a news conference at the school last month.
Gregoire's proposal would move the school's 88 residents into home-based care facilities in the community, which she says would save money because employees are paid less.
Critics say the savings would be minimal and that the severity of the patients' needs requires the intense support available at the specialized school.
Stephenson said she expects the county central committee to consider a similar resolution opposing closure when the panel meets Monday evening.
The state-level resolution passed Saturday is symbolic -- legislators and the governor have final say on the budget -- but Stephenson said she hopes that it will send a signal to Olympia to keep the school open.
Democrats hold the majority in both the state House and Senate.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Well, what do we have here?

Two of my favorite things...

Daddy and a light!

Reading daddy's mind: please don't let go now, please don't let go now...

Wintry Shots

I took these pictures last weekend at the rest-stop on Selah ridge. I was impressed by the size of the ice crystals. We've had a couple relatively warmer days this past week, so they are probably gone now.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Potty Chair Three-peat

Yesterday afternoon, I watched Evan maneuver his closed potty-chair over to the bathroom sink, then climb up on top of it so he could turn the faucet on and off to play in the water. I thought to myself, "If he can understand the sequencing of individual events needed to play in the sink, he should be able to understand the concept of what the potty-chair is really for"--it isn't rocket science!

So I pushed the potty to it's regular place, flipped up the lid, and stripped him from the waist down. His diaper was not dry, so I didn't have high hopes but we stood in front of the potty and I signed "potty" like crazy. He kept trying to put a foot up on the seat to climb and I kept putting it back down and signing "potty". After a minute or so of standing there, he managed to squeeze out a couple of drops and one landed in the potty. I signed "potty, yes" and the sign for clapping--Evan smiled. I went and put on a pair of his training underwear and we played in the bedroom for about 10 minutes. When I saw him start to go, I stripped him again and we ran to the potty. This time some more made it into the potty (although most of it did not :). More "potty-yeah!". I put him back in a diaper and pants and let him go about his business of playing.

Last night, I wanted to he if the afternoon sucess was just a fluke. So we took off his diaper and stood in front of the potty chair. More signing "potty", more Evan trying to climb up on top of it. After a minute or two, he went again in the potty! Three times in one day!

Granted, he is not initiating any of this. Evan gives no indication before, during, or after he has wet or dirtied a diaper. But this does give me some hope that we may be able to habit train him (for peeing at least) during the day time. Maybe if he got used to the feeling of dry, he might be more annoyed by the feeling of wet and would start to let us know. We are in for a LONG journey with this, I know. But as my father recently brought to our attention, diapers are expensive (guess we're just so used to it that we don't think twice about dropping $40 for a box at Costco).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Great Day at Pre-School & Communication Update

Thought I would share that according to his teachers, Evan had a fantastic day at pre-school on Friday!

Tuesday was Evan's first day with his new aide, Di. He missed Wednesday because Jeremy's truck died on the way into town (this is a whole other story--thankfully our neigbor Michelle was able to come to the rescue!). I guess Thursday was just a regular day. But Friday--Friday Evan had tons of eye contact, he gave a couple teachers hugs, and he made a very purposeful, finger-tips together "more" sign when Di signed if he wanted to keep riding in the wagon. Evan has seemed to understand the concept of "more" for awhile now, but he makes pretty much the same sign for "want" and "more"--a cross between hand flapping and clapping. I guess for a 3 year old, the shades of meaning are not that different. But this time, the sign actually looked like a real "more". Progress!

We have noticed at home Evan is making more of an effort to communicate with us. A lot of his communication is still pre-symbolic--most of it is pulling us towards what he wants, pushing our hand up against a doorknob or latch, putting a toy in our hand. I'm having second thoughts about getting him started with "floor spinning," because of how he asks for it--he will pull you to the kitchen, lay down, and then pull your hand between his legs (this is because I use his leg as a "handle" to get him going around, but I don't want him doing this with someone other than Jeremy or I!). I keep signing "round-and-round" when we do it, but so far no luck.

The eye contact is a constant--if he wants something (including attention), he will look right at us. We love this--it honestly seemed like forever that we were craning our heads around to get in his face so he would look at us. He also likes giving hugs and his version of a kiss: he will put his forhead up on your chin and shake his head back and forth (it's so cute!). He is very aware that daddy has a hairy chin and mommy does not.

Evan has for sure mastered the concept of "No"--he doesn't make the ASL sign yet, but if you sign something to him he's not wanting to do, he will shake his head back and forth. Do you want a bath Evan? (head shaking) Time to get dressed Evan? (more head shaking) Daddy is all finished walking? (lots of head shaking and some feet stomping)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Evan's New Aide

Jeremy got to meet Evan's new signing aide this morning. Her name is Di, and she hasn't been officially hired yet but the school went ahead and had her start working with Evan. Di is fluent in ASL and has been an interpreter for 8 years. She has taught parents of Deaf children ASL and even offered to teach a private class for us and any other interested parents in the area. Jeremy and I feel incredibly blessed that in our small community, in less than 6 months, not just one--but two--very qualified people have answered the posting for this part-time, modest-pay job. After one class with Evan, Di told Jeremy she was hooked (but honestly, how could she not be?).

Monday, January 12, 2009


Sorry that as of late this blog has been more about our cat than Evan! :)

So we learned a little bit more about Bosley's history... We took Bosley to our vet last Tuesday to get vaccinated and neutered--or at least half-neutered. Bosley only had one testicle also (I'm starting to there something in the water around here???).

On Friday, we found out the "Bosley" is actually "Tiger" and belongs to our neighbors across the street. He had been an "inside" cat, which explained why we hadn't seen him before. The neighbors had been gone a lot, and they had a friend come and check on the cat--the friend let him out. Our neighbor had been asking around if anyone had seen her cat. I took Bosley back to her house, and explained what we had done (it is a pretty humbling experience to say "By the way, we altered your cat..."). She told me that she would rather the cat live with a nice family, and said we could have him.

So I brought him back home, but the next day Jeremy thought that we really should return "Tiger"--he felt badly we were taking the neighbor's cat. So Jeremy loaded "Tiger" up in our cat carrier and tried two times to take him back, but our neighbor didn't answer the door (she works odd hours and might have been sleeping). Tonight, he succeeded in catching the neighbor at home. He explained that we didn't want to take him from her, and that we didn't want her to worry about the vet bill. She took the cat, and we thought that was that.

About an hour later, she came and knocked on the door with (you guessed it) "Tiger/Bosley." Evidently, Bosley got used to his new digs and wasn't so happy about going back. He cried the whole time he was back home, and so the neighbor decided we should keep him.

So he's back...for good this time. Tiger Bosley (T-Boz for short). I hope he knows how many people want him.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Language popularity: It's a sign

There was a great write-up about ASL classes at two high schools in Yakima (about 40 miles from us). I'm thinking of contacting these two teachers to see if they know of any recent graduates who might be interested in being Evan's Aide...

Language popularity: It's a sign
Signing classes prove popular as foreign language requirement

Yakima Herald-Republic

Silent yet boisterous.

Nonverbal but expressive.

American Sign Language classes at Eisenhower and Davis high schools are filling up so quickly these days that students can't sign up fast enough.

"It's exploded," says Bruce Mortimer, who directs technical and career education for Yakima schools.

The Eisenhower program started with nine students five years ago. Now, nearly 200 students crowd into six classes, beginning with a third-year group that meets at 6:30 a.m.

Even with that, there's no more room, so not everyone who wants to can take the sign-language classes.

"We have so much fun," reports Lori England, the Eisenhower teacher.

Similarly, Colleen Woodcock, who's been teaching at Davis for a year and a half, is building the program there, complete with already-bulging classes. Since more than 100 students have enrolled in her four classes, she'll be adding a fifth one next year.

"It's very visual," says Woodcock, noting that sign language classes appeal to a full spectrum of students, from the quiet to the dramatic and artistic.

Technically called Sign Interpretation class, it's offered in the career and technical department, designed to ready students for jobs as interpreters.

And there are plenty of jobs, according to Mortimer. "There's a pretty severe shortage both around the state and nationally of sign language interpreters," he explains.

That coincides with findings by a program supervisor who oversees ASL teachers and programs throughout Washington for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Citing information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mary Nagel says the need for interpreters and translators is projected to increase 24 percent by 2016.

It isn't just the promise of jobs that lures students to the two sign language interpreter classes in Yakima. The program is also popular because it fulfills a foreign language or a technical credit, says Mortimer. But mostly it's because "we have two dynamite, phenomenal instructors."

Several other schools around the Valley offer instruction in ASL, either at the high school or middle school level.

Davis and Eisenhower emphasize learning the skill to use in the workplace.

One day a week in Woodcock's class, everyone wears earplugs, so the communication is entirely in sign.

"She's a really good teacher," says Kiabeth Ornelas, a freshman who describes class as "interactive and really, really fun." Ornelas is also spreading the wealth, having taught her 2-year-old nephew how to sign for "milk" and "please."

Bilingual in Spanish and English, Ornelas hopes to become a nurse and use sign to communicate with patients.

Describing herself as loud and unorthodox, England's exuberance often spreads out of the Eisenhower classroom and down the hall.

Using multiple resources, she admits she's not much of a by-the-book teacher and often gets inspiration on the spur of the moment. "I'll get a revelation in the shower and think, 'Oh my goodness, we're SO going to do that today.'"

Both teachers are largely self-taught. Always interested as a youngster in sign language ("I'd take a book in the library and sit there and practice signs, feeling kind of silly"), Woodcock honed her skills when her roommate left her alone with a friend who was deaf.

"Out of sheer necessity, we had to find a way to communicate, and I found that I had a knack for interpretation."

When England was 11, she was intrigued by learning to talk with a friend's sister who was deaf. Soon she was meeting more deaf people and their friends. After a young deaf woman became her mentor, her vocabulary exponentially multiplied.

Mortimer says that students who intend to become interpreters have "a great opportunity as an occupation." Some employers pay a higher salary to people who can sign, while agencies who deal with large numbers of the general public are particularly in need of sign language interpreters, he says.

Indeed, adds Woodcock, freelance interpreters earn between $25-$60 per hour.

Skills can be used right away -- two Eisenhower graduates were hired as interpreters by the school district -- or further developed in college.

Davis senior Jacob Ivy-Bailey thinks he'd like to do just that, so he's planning to attend Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., to become a court interpreter. While primarily a school for hearing-impaired students, it also has interpretation classes for people with hearing.

Or, in the case of Alaura Stiltner, she hopes to dovetail the skill with a profession. She wants to take the Eisenhower class for three years -- "The teacher is amazing" -- then use the skills in physical therapy or sports medicine.

Just about as much goes on outside both classrooms as in. One Friday night a month, students receive extra credit if they attend Deaf Chat Coffee time, organized by members of the deaf community, at the Starbucks on 56th Avenue.

"The first time the kids go, they're scared to death, but they have such a good time," says Woodcock. "It's a friendly bunch of people in the deaf community, and they're very supportive."

Sunshine Cano, a community advocate for the South Eastern Washington Service Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing on North Fourth Street in Yakima, welcomes student participation in Deaf Chat Coffee.

"It's good for anyone learning ASL to come," she says, noting that there are about 50 active members in the local deaf community.

Some members of England's class interpret for deaf athletes in Eisenhower's after-school sports, and several help interpret at musical performances in the school's Little Theatre and during assemblies and graduation ceremonies.

Students from both schools recently helped deaf pupils at Whitney Elementary School build gingerbread houses, practicing their signing at same time, and they will also be working one-on-one with deaf youngsters there each week for the rest of the school year.

Because no deaf students attend Davis, Woodcock brings people from the deaf community into the classroom. For instance, one of her deaf friends frequently visits to play games with students.

England, too, believes in the importance of exposure not only to deaf people but also to any group that may not be mainstream.

Underscoring the equal value of all students, England engages in what she calls diversity acceptance education. Once a week, special education students come to the signing classroom where England's students teach them sign.

"Every population here is part of the family," England emphasizes.

Woodcock agrees. "What we're doing is teaching the kids not to be afraid of someone who is different."

English also extends her philosophy to sharing pearls of wisdom she thinks all students need, such as developing manners.

"I'm glad to have students say that I taught them sign, but even better is if they say I taught them some fabulous life lessons," England notes.

Both teachers are gratified by the enthusiastic response to their classes.

"Students are so tired and so distracted and have so much on their plates, but it's extremely rewarding when the light bulb goes on, and they're eager to learn what's next," says English.

Monday, January 5, 2009

And my new signing aide at school is...

Drum roll please...daddy! My wonderful aide, Jess, graduated at the end of last quarter. The school has been looking for a new aide to sign to me, but so far no luck. There is a substitute aide lined up for next week, but no one for this week. Evan is "needy" enough that the preschool supposedly can't take him without a one-on-one aide (I know--I don't think that sounds quite right either, but this is second-hand information. I didn't actually talk to anyone at the school). Jeremy is going to fill in this week so Evan won't miss any schoo. Keep your fingers crossed that we find a permanent aide soon.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Meet Bosley

We were adopted by a new kitty today. He had been hanging around a neighbor's house, and they came by with the cat to see if he belonged to us. If the cat was a stray, they were going to take it to the shelter. I had to do a double take--this cat looks very similar to Kitt Kat (our cat that disappeared last September). The cat is very friendly, and came right in the house. Once I petted him and he started purring, it was all over. So we have a second cat again. His name is Bosley (while I was talking Jeremy into letting me keep the cat, a commercial for the Bosley Hair Regrowth System came on TV--it seemed like a good name!).

Bosley really likes Evan--he followed Evan around most of this evening. Evan is fairly oblivious to the cat (he doesn't pay much attention to Snickers either). Snickers seems less than thrilled to be a "big brother." He has only growled and hissed so far, but until we get Bosley fixed, we're going to keep them separated.

These are two pictures of Bosley--he was more interested in sniffing the camera, than holding still so these were the best I could do.

This is a picture of Kitt Kat--Don't they look a lot alike?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Favorite Thing

Now that the holidays are over, Evan has been getting down to some serious playing. And his favorite of his new Christmas toys, maybe? Sadly, no. Evan recently decided he loves VHS tapes. And not to watch, either. He just likes carrying them around, looking at them (especially the bottom side--he giggles at the two big white "dots"), lining one up in a particular way on the shelf (standing on end, with the previously mentioned dots facing out). He will empty our cabinet of VHS tapes all over the floor, and then pick one to play with. Earlier today, I caught him carrying daddy's Crusty Demons of Dirt motorcycle video around. He also likes my gas-permeable contact lens fitting videos. Evan, we have Blue's Clues and tons of Elmo tapes (not to mention Signing Time DVDs)--why can't you pick one of those???