Saturday, September 28, 2013

Question of the week

This past week I received an email from Ali's school... Basically, Ali had said "If the music teacher doesn't follow my directions, she's going to die."  The email stated that he was told that he should not be saying that several times and "it seemed like he couldn't focus on what he was told."  Long story short, he was taken to the principal's office, and the issue was reported to the behavioral therapist, special needs director, etc. etc.
After reading the email I did what a robotic, trained mother of an autistic child would do:  Sat him down.  Spoke with him and tried to figure out why he would say such a thing... He said he got angry at her, so I took out a piece of paper and practiced writing 3 good "choices" to do when we are angry, and last, wrote an email and apologized to the teacher and told her I'm handling it on this side.  Pressed send.  And regretted it almost right away.  So I sent a second email and asked for a meeting....

What does it mean when an autistic 8 year old child (who is socially at age 5) mentions dying or even killing someone?  Does that make him a murderer? A future criminal?  Or does it mean he is translating a level of anger or frustration in words?  Should we keep telling him what he's saying is wrong?  Or should we teach him how to manage his feelings and use better language?
How do kids this age process the concept of death anyway?  I have heard Ali making comments like "The bad guys always die."  It's true.  Bad guys die in Batman, Superman, and even in The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast...

There is no doubt that making a statement like that is inappropriate.  No doubt!  And no doubt the parent should be notified.  But I wonder if we have become a bit too over analytical.  I guess that's my question of the week.  I know that I would naturally take the bias road, so I'm leaving this one up for discussion and maybe even taking it to therapy with me!

By the way, I did have the meeting and it went very well.  Everyone involved was happy and receptive.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Art of Manipulation

I don't know about you, but I was taught growing up that manipulation is bad.  And now, I practice it daily with my son and treat it like a gift.
If you are a parent or caregiver of an autistic child, you can sympathize with the fact that every little daily task is a fight.  Waking them up.  Getting them dressed.  Brushing teeth.  Eating.  Bathing.  Going out the door.  And these are the easy parts of the day.  Try saying no to something or introducing something new.  That's WWII.  Now, having to go through all of the above every single day will force you to grow some skills.  One of which is manipulation:

My son is very visual.  He has difficulty understanding language when spoken to, but I came to realize early on, that if I translate things into pictures and simple words and instructions, it will sink in better.  That would be consistent with autism.  Everything concrete is understandable.  He also loves telling time and checking the clock and timing things.  If I ask him to brush, or take a shower, or eat his dinner, etc. forget it!  I'm not sure why, but I think it may be partly because he wants to have control over his schedule.  So... I created a daily schedule with 4 choices in each hour (choices basically repeat every hour) to manipulate him into thinking he controls his schedule.  There are times (4:10-5:10 for example) and he circles what he wants to do that hour.  I have a digital clock and timer... all of which he likes.  It was my way of getting him to get tasks done... all along thinking he's free doing what he wants!  And it worked.

He loves the timer.  It has a globe on top of it and it changes colors... final color (red) indicating time's almost up.  It's work, but beats the struggles I had before which only resulted in frustrations for both of us.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saturday morning thought

This morning, as I was trying to figure out what to make for breakfast (gluten-free pancakes were voted for), another thought passed through my head:
Is it me, or has there been a major shift in the world?  I don't really remember a gluten-free section in the grocery store growing up... or even an organic selection.  I don't remember anyone autistic, or autism being an issue anywhere.  And yes, many argue that it has always been around, but went undiagnosed.  And that may be true, but I'm almost certain not to this extend!!  So, why don't we question why?  What has caused so many people to become gluten intolerant?  Why should the "better selection" be called natural or organic?  Shouldn't that be a given?  Why not call the rest artificial or processed?
The point is... if we question these things, we see them in a different perspective.  Companies don't inform us about how differently they are processing or producing food.  All we see, is that all of a sudden, there are far more diseases around us.  And new isles have been added to the grocery stores.  And that may largely be due to the fact that making money is a higher priority to the food industry than our health....
I know... Quite heavy for a Saturday morning, but it is what it is.  The thought passed through and I had to share.
Happy Saturday.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The sense of belonging

OK... so there has been a gap between my introduction and first actual post.  Here's why:
I am an acting single mother of two.  Life sometimes takes over and I have to naturally prioritize.

This was the first week of school.  It went relatively well, except for a few episodes of Ali taking off and disappearing.  I met with his mainstream teacher and went over the do's and don'ts... and in the process of explaining things, I realized that the conversation was derailed.  Kind of like therapy: As you're talking to the therapist, you find your answers.

One of the most important parenting tools is presence.  Not just physically.  Mentally.  Emotionally.  All of you has to be present.  Watch and observe your child and they will tell you everything you need to know.  Most of us (myself included) get so wrapped up and tangled in life that we forget watch and sometimes enjoy the little things.  We just want to get through the motions of the day, get them to school safely, feed them, bathe them, put them to sleep... so we miss everything in the middle.  Like truly observing their behavior, or looking for the underlying reason Why he actually walked out of the classroom or disappeared form the cafeteria...

It's partially about relating to his environment... As an autistic child, Ali has no social relationship with his classmates.  He didn't walk into the class, approach another kid (or visa versa), and make a friend.  He doesn't completely understand all the instructions and everything that goes on in the class.  He has no friend in the cafeteria to sit next to.... you get the picture.  There is no anchor.  He doesn't have the sense of belonging, so he takes off.  The conversation with the teacher suddenly pivoted... from "how to instruct him to sit and follow rules" to "facilitating social interactions and creating an environment he can relate to".  That realization made all the difference in the world for me.  And then another thought followed:
Don't we, as non-autistic individuals, seek the same thing?  Who wants to be in an environment where they don't relate to or understand?
Happy Friday everyone!