Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer Vacation Part 3- Outer Banks

I had an amazing time at the Outer Banks. I cannot mention everything that happened because there was so much. We went to Outer Banks to celebrate my Lolo and Lola’s 50th wedding anniversary. There were about 40 of us vacationing together. They were my mom and aunt’s families and their cousins’ families and my great aunt and uncle. A couple friends came too. We stayed at a property on the beach. It had 3 houses on it. I was meaning to get to know everyone but it is hard when there are so many people. I made the best of it by listening and hanging out. I think my extended family is a lot of good people who are loud and fun. I loved feeling loved by so many people.

Every day we had fun laughing. I learned that laughter teaches people how to relax. We laughed a lot being silly and telling funny stories. I liked listening to family banter. Talking is a form of playing for many people. I didn’t join in talking much but I quietly made myself a part of the group by hanging out. Besides talking my family played lots of games too. They played Texas Hold Em and mahjong.  I backed my parents to win but they didn't. I stayed up really late because everyone was up all night.

I liked going to the beach everyday. The beach was nice. I basked in the sun and water. I loved the sands softness and the water’s cool refreshment. The waves were rougher than in Mexico so I didn’t go in as far. But I still enjoyed it.

I made lots of good memories. I went to the sand dunes and went on a hike. I saw beautiful sunsets. I saw the Wright Brother’s memorial. I learned about the first flight at Kitty Hawk. I learned how Outer Banks used to be a remote sand bar before people built it up for tourism. 

Lolo and Lola had a big party. I was so proud of them. They have been married for 50 years. We had a surprise party where we all wore the same shirts. There was a beautiful cake. People gave toasts. Lolo gave a moving speech. I saw people cry. I think he is right about the importance of being able to get together. We later ate and took pictures.

I loved my trip to outer banks. I will always remember the good times with my family.

Copyright 2017 Philip Reyes.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer Vacation Part 2- Virginia

I enjoyed Virginia a lot. I got to see Virginia Tech. it was a big and beautiful campus. I think Carlos would like going there. He likes physics and math but he doesn’t yet know what he wants to do. At V Tech lots of students major in engineering. Carlos probably will do mechanical engineering. I have liked visiting different schools. I learned that people sometimes mean to go to college to study a particular field, but may change their minds. It is part of life to make changes in what you are interested in.

The next day my family went to a small town called Damascus. We went there to mountain bike. I was scared. I did not know if I could ride a different bike than my own. I thought I might fall off the edge. I almost stopped the trip from happening. In my fear I became paralyzed. This happened while I was in the bathroom where the bike shop was. My parents had to drag me out. I could not move my feet. Then I had to get on the shuttle bus to get to the top of the mountain. My body rebelled. I started lunging at my dad. My dad fought back. Mom told him to get out of the way. Finally the shuttle driver sat with me. She was very kind. She told me that I will have fun. I poured out the rest of my distress by cradling up to mom and crying softly. When I stopped crying I felt better.

We took a long drive to the top of the mountain. I felt a lot better. I started to think I would be ok. When we got to the top, I felt nervous and excited. I loved the view. I could better see the trail and it did not look difficult. I got on my bike. I started down the trail. My dad, sister, and brother went ahead of mom and me but later I lead the way. It felt so exhilarating biking.

I saw streams with fresh water, green forests, flowers, and bridges over valleys and water. The air was refreshing under the cool shade of the forest. Riding down the mountain was not scary. It really was fun.  When we were done, we bought some souvenirs. I got a shirt and sticker. It was my favorite bike ride of my life.

The next day we went to the University of Virginia. It was another beautiful campus. Thomas Jefferson founded and designed the school. It wasn’t what my brother liked. Maybe it was the fact that the Ku Klux Klan was holding a rally at the town park nearby that turned him off. 

Our last stop in Virginia was Smithfield where hogs and hospitality is their specialty. The town looked cute. We went to a restaurant where they had barbeque. I had a very good hot dog. I liked Virginia and hope to visit again.

Stay tuned for the last part of my vacation in the outer banks.

Copyright 2017 Philip Reyes.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Summer Vacation- Part 1

I like vacation because I get to do things with my family. I love spending quality time with my family. It is time to catch up with one another and do more things together.

I went on a two-week trip with my family. The first week we went to different colleges for my brother. I liked going on the tours. Our first stop was Pittsburgh. We saw two schools. The first was Pitt. I liked the tall tower that marked the campus. You could see it from far away. I liked how the rooms in the tower represented different countries. Pitt blended into the city. The students were friendly.

Driving into Pittsburgh

Right next to Pitt was Carnegie Mellon. It is more for students who have a strong passion for what they want to study. My brother does not yet know what he wants to study. I learned Andrew Carnegie, the steel giant of the Industrial Revolution, was the founder of the school. He merged the school with the Mellon Institute. Philanthropy was important to Carnegie. He wanted to give back. Making a university was his way of doing good.

Walking around CMU

Pittsburgh was very hilly. My dad got us lost in the hills looking for a Mexican restaurant. Sometimes there were narrow roads on a steep hill. We finally found a cool hipster taco place. It was fun.

Finally the tacos!

We went to Penn State on the fourth of July. Everything was closed. The campus was big and pretty. It is a big football school. Then we went to Bucknell, Lehigh, and Villanova. They were also closed. We arrived in Philadelphia in time for the fireworks. I liked that we were in the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed. I looked for the place it was signed as we drove in. Philadelphia is one of my favorite cities because of its place in American history.

A quick stroll around Penn State and Lehigh


We went to Penn's landing to see the fireworks. It was crowded. We met a man in a wheelchair. He was cool. I wish I talked to him. My mom introduced us but did not bring my letterboard. My mom learned he was part of ADAPT and protested the health care bill in Washington DC. I listened to his stories. He said to enjoy life everyday because it can be taken anytime.

Making a friend at Penn's Landing while waiting for fireworks

The fireworks came suddenly. I hate the sound because it startles me badly. It is like being shot. Even though I know I am not in danger, I can’t help but freak out and try to escape. This happened again. I had to get further away. I didn’t want my family to miss out on the fireworks so I tried hard to endure the fireworks. I became more used to the sound after awhile. The fireworks dazzled my sight. They were beautiful. When they were done I longed to see more. I was overjoyed to have had the time to celebrate with my family. I think Washington DC might be the place to go for next year.

Watching the fireworks further back on the bridge

The following day we took a tour of Temple University. It is in Philadelphia. Our tour guide Jay was funny. I thought it was a very cool school. Philadelphia is a good place to visit because my friend Tommy lives there too. After visiting Temple we had pizza with Tommy and his family. Then it was time to go to Virginia.

 Touring Temple

Carlos with the Temple Owl

 I will write about Virginia in the next installment of this blog post.

Copyright 2017 Philip Reyes.  All rights reserved.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Middle School: My Transition to Society

Simone writes: Hi Philip, my son is turning 15 now and he will start attending his first regular class next school year.  Can you share your experience and also give us some advice based on your own transition?

Transitioning from my autism school to regular school was a long process. I wanted to learn more interesting things than my autism school had to offer. I looked for more challenges to keep my mind sharp and active.  I wanted a regular education. I wanted to be like my siblings getting interesting things to learn about.  

I am learning to be patient about reaching my goals. Being in a body like mine is difficult. My body is geared as one built for another planet besides Earth. I have a difficult time feeling my body in space. I feel as if I don’t have weight.  I need a lot more sensory input than most people. I get input by moving, tapping, sniffing, and deep pressure to my body. Once I get calm, I need less input. Teachers learned that I needed sensory input throughout the day so I could feel calmer at school. I was allowed to take walks with my weighted vest before my regular classes. I had times I could have a break for listening to music, rocking on a chair, or smelling nice candles. It was a good thing to have sensory breaks.

I have made a lot of progress throughout my time at Heim Middle. When I look back when I first started in the middle of 5th grade, I am amazed I was not kicked out of the school. I talked less than almost all my autistic classmates. I could not use my letterboard well for my teachers. I got so anxious around everyone because I felt like I was a burden and a nuisance. This led to many meltdowns during my first few months at school. I was frustrated because I wanted to show I was smart and belonged there. But my body was like a wild bull not wanting to obey anyone. I would even make my teachers frightened by my aggressive actions that happened when I became overwhelmed with frustration or anxiety. I am fortunate my teachers put up with me while I was adjusting to a new school.

I got better at managing my body eventually. I learned to realize that even though I felt my body's negative sensations due to anxiety or stress, I could talk to myself about letting it pass without as much negative behavior from me. My mom and I started a morning routine of reading Bible verses and a devotion about it. I would write a morning report about it and post it on Facebook. I came to the realization that I could sit still by concentrating on God’s word and what I learned from it. I could calm my worries.

When I was able to relax more, I started to type much better with teachers. I got used to each person’s style of working with me. I wanted to work harder to be able to participate in regular classes. I was not able to go regularly until grade 7 when I started science, social studies, and technology. I learned to advocate for myself by typing my intentions at my IEP meeting. I almost was denied the opportunity but my speaking up in person made the difference.

My body is still lacking control though I have come very far. Taming my body is more than I can handle alone. That is why I needed an aide at all times. An aide keeps me on task and makes sure I do not get too distracted. I could not get through my days without my amazing aides. I learned to be more disciplined with my body but I know I must continue to work hard at this.

Impulsive behaviors sometimes set back my progress. I sometimes get in a phase of impulsivity where I do irrational things like flipping light switches rapidly or slamming doors. I know it annoys others a lot but I feel compelled to keep doing it. I have learned when I get impulsive, I have to stop what I am doing and question myself why I am doing it. I can sometimes make impulses go away faster now.

I have just finished 8th grade. I participated in my graduation ceremony. I walked across the stage by myself to receive my certificate. It was a very proud moment for me. I even went to the dance after. It was fun. I am going to miss Heim very much.

I am both excited and nervous to start high school.  It will be brand new with different teachers and aides. It is going to be another adjustment but maybe I will be more able to adjust better now. I have gained a lot of wisdom these past few years. I want my high school experience to be as good as middle school.  I hope everyone there will believe in me like my teachers in middle school did.


Copyright 2017 Philip Reyes.  All rights reserved.