Nicole at 8

I’m constantly amazed by this girl and how much she grows and changes every year.  Last year I wrote about her first year with an autism diagnosis.

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Nicole is a deep thinker with an inquisitive mind.  She comes up with the most off the wall questions and makes me laugh all the time. She makes life so much more interesting.  I regularly share the funny things she says on facebook and several of my friends have told me that she is the most amusing part of their fb feed.  She is curious about everything and her enthusiasm for things draws everyone in.  

Last Summer she decided that she really liked ants.  She would carry them around and giggle when they crawled all over her.  She even gave them rides on the swing and commented on how much fun she thought they were having.  Several times during the winter she’d say she couldn’t wait for Spring because she missed the ants.  For the last month, she has spent every day turning over rocks and collecting bugs.  I checked out a bug book at the library for her and she has poured over the pages.  Sometimes she runs in the house to open the book and find a picture of the bug she has just collected.  She loves gathering handfuls of roly poly bugs and putting them into her homemade habitat.

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I found a grub while digging in the garden about a month ago.  It looked like an ugly green caterpiller, but Nicole absolutely loved it.  She put it in her habitat with some dirt and named it Grubby.  Every day she dug Grubby up to pet him and carry him around, until one day when she dug him up and he was dead.  Her first instinct was to find something that wanted to eat Grubby, like a cat.   Then she thought maybe he could be a toy, but she was a little sad that he was less beautiful when he’s dead. Finally she tried to figure out how to make his carcass colorful, perhaps with paint.  She said: “Some bugs are easy to make beautiful when they’re dead, but grubs are hard.”

One day last week she came home with an earwig in her hand.  I asked her if she brought it all the way home in carpool to which she replied yes.  When I asked her about finding the bug, she told me she was sitting in the bathroom when she saw it.  She held it all through school and all the way home.

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Nicole loves nature.  She has been noticing all the birds and asking what kind they are.  Last Saturday she said she really wanted to “make a friend with a bird.”  She tried talking to the birds and throwing bird seed around, but none of them were brave enough to befriend her.  After looking at pictures of birds in a book the other day, she said that she thinks vultures are really cute.  She also says “ahhhhh” every time she sees an animal.  She picked this habit up from her animal loving sisters.

Nicole likes joke books, but she doesn’t get the jokes at all.  She has a very literal mind. Often after reading a joke or hearing a joke she’ll ask “Is that true, mom?” We got Nicole a set of “Idiom of the Week” posters which she loves.  When she first got the set, she asked if she really had to wait a whole week for the next one.  Now she has memorized most of them and will laugh if she hears someone use an idiom she knows.

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The biggest change this year for Nicole came about a month after she started the second grade.  We got a call offering her a spot at a charter school for children with autism.  We took the leap and pulled her out of the neighborhood school and started driving her to and from the new school which is located in a different town about 15 minutes away.

Nicole has done amazingly well at her new school.  She’s now reading chapter books and performing at or above grade level in every subject.  She continues to do very well in math and has made great strides in writing and spelling.  She is scoring 90% or above on spelling tests which have increased in complexity.  She understands the important elements of a story and has gained greater independence in her writing.  I used to have to write out entire sentences that she had composed in her brain so that she could copy them, but now she just asks me how to spell a word or two and writes the rest of the sentence on her own.  Right now she’s learning to take notes on nonfiction subjects and then write a paragraph based on the notes she took.

She is very diligent about her homework.  She always does her homework right away without complaint.  The other day she told me that sometimes she asks for extra homework because she wants to get extra homework points.

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Nicole loves books.  She will read on the way to and from school, before bed, and after school.  I can always tell when she’s reading because she reads everything aloud.  One time I offered her a snack while she was reading and she looked at me funny.  She didn’t think reading and eating were compatible ideas because you need your voice to read.

Socially she is doing better as well.  She has made several friends at school and even claims to have fallen in love with the boy she sits next to in homeroom.  She says sometimes she follows him around and he asks her why she’s following him.  She made him a heart-shaped note with cranberries taped all over it.  She said he was disappointed that she hadn’t taped chocolate to it.  I kinda love that she can be totally weird at her school and it’s ok.

She has been playing with her sisters more and Charlotte told me the other day that “Nicole is actually pretty fun to play with.”

Nicole is excited to get baptized next month.  In our faith, children must be 8 or older to be baptized so that they are old enough to choose whether they want to be baptized.  Her dad has been teaching her about the promises we make when we are baptized.  Nicole likes to read the scriptures and loves to sing the songs in church.  During sacrament meeting she sings from the Hymn book.

Nicole loves things that are beautiful.  She loves sparkles and purple. She likes to do art and play computer.  She likes to ride her bike and go on walks.  She will actually wear jeans sometimes.  She is almost always happy.

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Nicole is very loving.  Lately she has been regularly telling me how much she loves me and giving me hugs.  I feel incredibly lucky to be her mom.

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