Speed Reading Quandary

reading_ahead[1]Awhile ago, we showed NHL the first two Harry Potter movies.  After he was hooked, we made a deal that we would need to read the books before he saw any more of the movies.  I began reading the books to him starting with the first.  This was a treat for me as well as him as I had never read the books before (though I had seen all of the movies).

Slowly, we made our way through the first three books.  Then, as we read the fourth, NHL balked at watching the third film thinking he would be afraid of the werewolf.  Finally, he watched it and enjoyed it.

When we hit the fifth book, we faltered.  NHL didn’t seem to be enjoying them anymore.  He was having some problems with his teachers and, though they never tortured him the way Dolores Umbridge tortured Harry, I think the subject of a mean teacher hit too close to home.  We eventually picked it back up, though, and finished it.  He really enjoyed that movie as well.

Now, we are on the sixth book, but NHL is again slowing down.  I think part of the problem is that the books take their time in the beginning.  They set a lot of situations and characters up while the movies rush through these – or leave them out entirely.  Arguably, this makes the book better, but to NHL is means the book is a huge project to wade through while the movie can be over and done in an hour and a half.

To me, though, books hook me in.  I’m a bit of a speed reader, especially when it’s a book I like.  I was really liking Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.  This was odd considering that this movie was my least favorite of the films.  The film made it look at though Harry didn’t really do anything.  He just kind of meandered his way through the film.  In the book, though, Harry is determined and focused.  Perhaps not always on what he should be focused on, but focused nonetheless.

I couldn’t take the slow pace so I forged ahead.  A couple of nights ago, I finished the book – having read about 490 pages in around four days.  I would have finished sooner, but I only had about an hour per day to read.

Now comes the quandary.  I would love to proceed on to the last book in the series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but I want NHL to catch up with me.  If I go ahead, I’ll get hooked on the last book and won’t want to stop until I’m done.  Without me pressuring NHL to keep on, he might just drop the series.

One of the problems is that NHL was spoiled.  He was told about a certain major character’s death and he thinks this has ruined the book.  I reminded him, though, that there’s still much he doesn’t know.  He doesn’t know HOW the character dies.  He confidently told me that he figured that out and gave me his explanation – which was completely off.  Now that there’s some mystery left, he might want to read on.  I might even drop some non-spoiler hints about exciting story events to spur him on.  (e.g. "You’ll never believe it when SPOILER fixes the SPOILER and the SPOILER comes out to SPOILER SPOILER and SPOILER SPOILER!")

How quickly do you read when you really like a book?

Elementary School Student No More

Fifth_Grade_First_Day Almost 6 years ago, NHL began a new chapter in his life.  He was going to elementary school for the first time.  Today, he closes that chapter in his life.  Today, NHL is graduating the fifth grade.  Next year, he will begin Middle School.

It seems like only yesterday that I was easily holding baby NHL in one arm.  I still have vivid memories of dropping him off at daycare for the first time.  He’d pull at my suit jacket and scream, not wanting to leave me.  I felt like the World’s Worst Dad even when the teachers assured me that he was perfectly happy once I was gone.  Eventually, that stopped but an even worse behavior began: He’d go off to play and wouldn’t care about kissing dad goodbye.

NHL got bigger and went to kindergarten.  He learned about math and science and excelled at it.  He learned to read and began tearing through books.  The more he learned the more he loved learning.  I was (and continue to be) so proud of him.

And now he’s leaving elementary school.

I can’t help but look into the future and see middle school, Bar Mitzvah, high school, college, and more.  I’ve got to cherish every moment with NHL now because he’s growing up so quickly.

To close out this post, I figured I’d make a quick video showing NHL changing throughout the years:

Letting Your Child Shine (Or Fail)

super-nhlWhen you have a child, the instinct to protect your kid from all pain and sorrow is powerful.  It gets even stronger if your child has special needs.

I know that NHL’s Asperger’s and anxiety creates barriers for him that other children don’t have.  Depending on the activity, NHL might be more likely to fail than a neurotypical child. And when he fails, it is more likely to be a horrible mess rather than a near miss.  Adding to this are the many horrible messes I’ve encountered in my life.  There are the things I’ve tried and failed at and the things/people who hurt me.

This has led me to instinctively try to protect NHL.  When he tries to do something, my mind immediately lists all of the ways that it could go horribly wrong.  Where NHL sees enthusiastic fun, I see horrible crash and burn.  I wind up holding him back.

This was the case the other day when we were seeing an improv group for his school.  He kept trying to raise his hand and I, sitting right behind him, kept gently pushing his hand down.  Towards the end, they began to ask for more volunteers.  NHL, as always, raised his hand.  I decided to let him, knowing that it was close to the end and seeing all of the other hands raised.  There’s no way he’ll be picked, I thought.

He was picked.

As he walked up, my mind immediately listed all of the awful things that was sure to happen.  He would say something inappropriate.  He would do something inappropriate.  He would horribly embarrass himself and come back to me with everyone laughing at him.  His classmates would make fun of him over this debacle for months to come.

I was powerless to stop him and could only hope that the crash and burn wasn’t too bad.  NHL was told to act like a pigeon when his turn came up as part of the ad lib.  Then, NHL did something surprising.  He waited his turn and put on a perfect pigeon imitation.  Whereas other kids just stood in one spot and made one or two motions to ad lib, NHL bounced around, flapped his arms, and pecked just like a pigeon would.  He couldn’t have been more pigeon-like without growing feathers.

He returned back, giving me and his teacher a high-five.  He proved me wrong and made me realize something.  When he says he can’t do something, my advice to him is invariably that he can.  However, by trying to keep him from failing, I was implying that he couldn’t do some things.  I need to take my own advice and let him try.  I can still look out for him by providing my advice, but in the end he needs to try these things out for himself.  Will he fail?  Sure.  But he will also rise higher than either of us thought was possible.

NOTE: The image above is a combination of a photo of NHL and “super hero flying silhouette” by laubc which is available from OpenClipArt.org.

Happy Birthday To NHL

NHL-Turns-TenTomorrow, NHL turns ten.  I can’t believe that my little guy is actually leaving single-digit years.  He’s getting so big so fast.  Over the past year, NHL has grown so much and this year has been filled with many highs and lows.

At school, he began the year incredibly smoothly.  Since we had a diagnosis, we no longer needed to make wild stabs at ways of helping NHL reach his potential.  We now knew what would work and what wouldn’t.  In addition, he had a substitute who knew just how to work with a child with Asperger’s Syndrome.  This helped cut NHL’s outbursts from half hour long affairs to a mere three minutes – most of which was spent with NHL moved to an area for him to decompress and calm down.

The diagnosis also helped NHL learn how to become an advocate for himself.  Over the past year, he has made huge strides in making sure that people know just WHAT he is taking issue with an WHY.  He has a long way to go still, of course, but his progress has been amazing.  He even joined us at a recent rally to show his opposition to the ridiculous regimen of testing that he and his peers were being subjected to.

NHL also continued playing for band last year.  He has demonstrated an amazing proficiency for music.  Not only can he memorize songs, but he has shown the ability to play songs that he learned for one instrument on another one.

On the geeky side, NHL has grown by leaps and bounds.  While we made little progress with Harry Potter, I’ve introduced NHL to both Back to the Future, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  More recently, I showed him Doctor Who and he quickly became a Whovian.  He can now be heard saying “Exterminate!” or “Are you my mummy?”  We’ve also gone to quite a few museums to see the exhibits and have fun while learning about science.

I introduced NHL to the world of card-based gaming with Nuclear War, but NHL’s real love is computer/tablet gaming.  His recent favorites include Wonder Zoo, Turbo Racing League, and My Muppets Show.

Recently, NHL got braces on his top teeth.  We were wary about how he’d handle them, but he’s been great about it.  He immediately learned what foods he could eat and what foods he couldn’t.  He is very strict about this.  (Though it can get annoying when he tries to ask every waiter/waitress at every restaurant we go to whether the chicken is too crispy for him, at least it means that he’s trying to be a self-advocate.)

He’s come so far and I’m so proud of him every day.  Happy birthday, NHL, I can’t wait to see how you grow in the next year.  (Just don’t grow too quickly, please!)

Bowling Lessons Learned

bowling_lessonsEarlier in the week, we took NHL and JSL out bowling.  NHL tends to get very competitive while bowling and can get upset because I bowl better than he does.  Then again, I DO have a few more years of practice.

When, after the first few frames, he was in the lead, he began to exclaim about how he was beating me.  I told him that it wasn’t nice to gloat about doing better than someone else because you never know when you will start doing worse.  I was only a few pins behind him and I figured that he’d blow a frame or two or my bowling would pick back up to my usual levels and I’d go ahead of him again soon.

I was so confident that I tweeted a lesson to be learned.


Then, in the eighth frame, with NHL only ahead by 3, all the pins went tumbling down on the first roll.  Yes, there was a strike.  Only I didn’t get it.  NHL did.


Suddenly, the pressure was on.  My lesson about not gloating was at stake.  I focused and got a strike as well.  But then NHL did something amazing.  Something I never expected him to be able to do.  He got another strike on his next throw.  That’s right, he got a double!  I couldn’t replicate it and fell hopelessly behind.  I wound up with 101 to NHL’s 119.



I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later.  NHL surpassed me in bowling.  I told him how proud I was of him.  Not for beating me, mind you, but for getting such a great score, his personal best.

The next game, NHL began by knocking 8 pins down.  He was feeling good and looked primed for another gloating session until I got a strike on my first throw.  And then a spare.  And then a nine and a spare and a strike.  He wound up with 88 to my 124.


So I guess the lesson pulled through in the end.  Don’t gloat because you never know when your luck will run out and someone will do better than you.  I just didn’t expect it to apply to both NHL and myself.

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