Sunday, March 25, 2007

Weekend Getaway Review: Lake Tahoe

Yes, yes, the picture I took is lovely, but picture aside, there is one word to sum up a weekend getaway at Tahoe: OVERRATED. H and I got a wild hair and decided to be spontaneous and go away for the weekend. Lake Tahoe was our destination, primarily because we've lived in the Bay area almost 2 years and have never been, and we knew it would not be difficult to get to this time of year. So on Friday we booked a room at the Horizon Resort Casino in South Lake Tahoe. We had an okay time - mostly it was just nice to get away and be in a place where all there was to do was spend time with each other. Took us about 3 and a half hours to drive there from San Jose area. When we got there, they tried the infamous "room switch", in which we were offered a room with a "pool view" instead of the lake view I had requested. We walked around the "Village" area, which was overcrowded, then promptly hiked down to the beach and sat and talked. When we got back to the hotel, we did play the penny slots, which was my first time ever operating a slot machine. I do have to admit, they're pretty addicting, but I can't get the $8 we lost off my mind. After that came a nice dinner at Josh's, which is the restaurant on the first floor of our hotel, followed by the "TV Magic Show". This morning, we got up early and took the scenic drive around the lake, which was my favorite part of our stay. Here's a quick review of pros and cons of Tahoe area:


1. Not a horrendous drive from San Francisco or San Jose.
2. Plenty to do if you're a skier, drinker, or gambler.
3. Pretty scenery.
4. The Magic show was decent.
5. At our hotel, we could park and walk to everything - dinner and casino and even a Starbucks was inside the hotel.
6. Tahoe City - nicest area we saw on our drive around the lake.


1. Expensive - our room was especially overpriced for what it was .
2. Built-up, especially around the south side of the lake.
3. Casino inside hotel + lousy insulation = loud at night.
4. If you've lived in a place with lakes and mountains, like I have, it's nothing new.
5. Not much to do that's not horribly expensive if you're not a drinker, skier, or gambler.

Bottom line: If you live in the Bay area and really want a weekend getaway, there are plenty of other places. Look elsewhere.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

What Happened To The Old Standbys?

In my never-ending quest for appropriate therapy materials for my birth-3 population, I have been frequenting Toys R Us and Target way too often lately. This is because therapy with the little ones is not structured, but more play based. You'd be surprised how much language and communication you can get out of a child with the old standbys like a shape sorter, Mr. Potato Head, Play Doh, and building blocks.

I can use the shape sorter for receptive language and requesting by giving the child the box and keeping the shapes. I can either set a few shapes/colors in front of them and have them "put the ____ one in", or I can withhold the shapes and model requesting "I want the ____". With Mr. Potato Head, children can learn body parts, can start to learn singular versus plural nouns, and can also learn requesting and following directions. It's also interesting to see their problem solving skills when they want to put Potato Head's glasses on without having the eyes and the ears in the correct places. Play Doh is great for creating almost anything and encouraging imaginative play. Blocks are great for number concepts and teaching things like "shorter" and "taller" (when you stack them).

The frustrating thing I'm running into lately is that, while I have been able to get my hands on some old standbys, a lot of the toys simply have too many bells and whistles. They help children be entertained rather than educated. What happened to the old Playskool barn that had animals, a farmer, and a tractor? It is now replaced with the "new and improved" barn that makes animal noises and sings songs. This makes it a totally inappropriate toy for my kiddos who are Asperger's or Autistic, as the only thing they're interested in doing is pushing the damn "cluck cluck" button a gazillion times. There are many other toys that have gone through this "evolution". Even reading has taken on a different look with the invention of Leap Pad. I was sitting at one meeting where a teacher actually encouraged a parent to buy a Leap Pad to get her daughter interested in reading. She was explaining that a child could just press the wand to the written word to get the Leap Pad to produce the correct pronunciation. Inwardly, I was shaking my head and thinking "what happened to parents sitting down each night and actually reading with their child?". You don't need a Leap Pad to get kids interested in reading - you need parent involvement.

So, the old standbys have fallen to the wayside because the focus for children is different now. It's really too bad because all the bells and whistles in the world are not a substitute for simple human interaction.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

At A Snail's Pace

Time sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a snail; but man is happiest when he does not even notice whether it passes swiftly or slowly.

Ivan Turgenev - Russian Novelist

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Like usual, I find that issues in my work life mirror those in my own life. Issues I've had for a long time. Last week brought it home for me. Let me preface my story by saying that I wasn't born a patient person - I've had to work hard at it and I willingly admit that I have a "patience bank". Only so much patience can be "withdrawn" before there's a deficiency, then there's no more to go around.

Not much drains my patience (and empathy) more than listening to someone state the same thing over and over again. In the same way my autistic students hate doing tasks over again, I hate hearing things over again when I've already been told. In a parent meeting last week, I had the opportunity to let a parent know some pretty good things about her son. Mostly because, even though he's autistic, he's quite bright. He can read and take visual cues like no one's business, which is wonderful since I can encourage appropriate behavior using that channel. This year has been a difficult one, though, because of the shortage of special education teachers available. As a result, this little guy's class has had a sub with very limited experience, which led to Tommy being mainstreamed less, going on less outings with general ed, and certain lack of variety of subjects covered in class. All of these concerns are valid. I would be disappointed also if Tommy was my son and he was not being challenged enough or didn't have enough opportunities to be with his general ed peers. What I do take issue with is listening to the same complaint five or six times after the new teacher has apologized and explained what has been done to rectify the situation. Here is my breakdown for repetitions of complaints:

First time you say something, I will listen and remember, even if it looks like it hasn't registered.

Second time, I know it's important to you and I'm thinking of solutions to the problem, while getting slightly annoyed.

Third time, I'm annoyed.

Fourth time, I'm rolling my eyes inside my head, and I've quit paying attention to the other things you're saying, even if it's something new and important.

Fifth time, I'm pissed now, have tuned you out completely, and am planning my exit strategy.

Everyone deals with repetitions differently. This woman's husband was dealing with the complaints by being what I like to call a "silent lump", the teacher continued to apologize (which only seemed to feed the woman's complaints), a few team members looked at the clock, stood up, and excused themselves, and the rest of us sat there.

On my way home, I got to thinking about how upset I got about this woman's nagging (I'll call a spade a spade at this point). Then it got me thinking about how many other times that people in my personal life have mentioned things more than once, and I have to admit that my reactions are similar. I think it's because I assume that, if people are telling me things more than once, they think I can't remember or that I didn't get it the first time. Either way, I find it insulting. The one exception is when I have listened to my grandparents retell stories, events, or something they're concerned about.

Since this issue keeps popping up, I obviously need to find a different outlook and ways of dealing with it.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Baby Steps

I've recently made my first transition away from schools and into private practice. I just reduced my school workload to three days per week so that I could catch my breath and save my sanity. After a few weeks of having two extra days off, I decided that I needed to do something to help transition into private practice and to make up for the drop in income. So, after a few interviews with different places, I decided to sign up with a place who hires contractors to provide intervention for the birth-3 population. The nice thing is that I get to say how busy I am, and when I'm full, I'm full. Also, I still have one weekday to myself, which I'm guarding very carefully. As far as helping step into private practice, since I'm an independent contractor, I'm not technically an "employee" of anyone, and this will be a good way to network with parents who will have friends with small children possibly needing services.

This past week was my first week of travelling to homes after trying to buy appropriate toys and activites, cram client information into my head, and remember what it's like to work with the wee ones. It went better than I expected, and I didn't get worn out too much. I'm amazed sometimes at how permissive people are with their homes and their children. My families are across the spectrum as far as their involvement - at one place I'm led to the child's room by the nanny (who I communicate with by using gestures and facial expressions since she speaks no English) and the door is promptly closed behind me. Then I have other families who have me work with their toddler in one room while they are in the next room listening. And then there's the mother who watches every move I make and stays within 10 feet of me and her child. Truly, I prefer the parents who are a bit more involved - it makes carryover so much easier. Also, I feel weird being alone unsupervised with a child, for liability sake. At school, I'm very careful to have a room that is observable by people passing by so that there are witnesses to what is happening. This may seem paranoid, but I have known a few people who've been accused of certain things. The only way they haven't lost their job is because they've had peers who can vouch for them.

I'm learning to take on some different roles than I'm used to. In schools, I don't have as many opportunities as I'd like for parent education, which is very different from my new position. I have to become more educated on things like weaning, use of binkies, picky eaters, oral hygiene and the like, which delves more into feeding and swallowing than what I'm used to. I've had parents ask me questions, and for the first time in several years, I've had to say "I'm really not sure - let me get back to you on that".

Even though there's a learning curve that makes it a bit stressful, the best part is that I get to work with the little guys. Yep, all the kids on my caseload are boys. Some of them are truly delayed, and I have a feeling the others are just "late bloomers" as many boys tend to be. I have the quiet ones who I have to practically stand on my head to get anything out of them, the cuddly ones who like to sit on me, the ones who are happy go lucky one minute and screaming bloody murder the next, and the ones who are quietly oblivious to me unless they want something. Each is a little puzzle.

This new venture of mine is a bit scary, as I'm leaving the "safe, but stressful" environment I've known for so long, but it's the only way to move forward.