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Autism’s Love: Making Connections

I am feeling very proud of myself right now. I’ve been working on my new facebook page Autism’s Love: Making Connections and launched it 4 days ago. My dream is to connect with special needs individuals and communities from around the world. I hope my page will be a fun and informative place to visit and share resources. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get caught up in my own little world, always focusing on the tasks at hand. It’s good to take out time to see what is going on in other parts of the world and to see how others are dealing with their individual special needs. I love learning about different kinds of resources. Diversity is key for me. I’ve always loved learning about people and their cultures and now I’ve created an avenue personally connection to me to do so.

Welcome to my new obsession. 🙂 I hope my new page enlightens and inspires you.

Autism’s Love: Making Connections

Good Mama Karma

Does anyone have trouble teaching their spectrum child how to throw away empty containers when they are done?

About two weeks ago when planning for a shopping trip I neglected to get my son’s goldfish shacks. Well…I could take this as a bad mommy moment, but I am not responsible for my son’s snack cabinet…that is HIS responsibility.

I have tried on several occasions to teach my son to throw away the empties. I’ve even taken measure to walk him through our recycling process so he would know how to properly dispose of empty boxes and such. Of course that was all for not, because he had not yet processed that he should discard the empties to begin with. As it were, my “Good Mama Karma” (my newest catch fraise) offered up the perfect teaching opportunity. Sooo, as any good mama would do…I left the empty right where it stood. Days had gone by and I noticed little signs of mild disharmony. A little red snack bowl left on the kitchen counter…alone and empty. Hmmm, has the child been perusing the kitchen for his favored snack? I checked the cabinet and the empty was still there…just a little shifted. I leave it… A few more days pass and it is time for another trip to the grocery store. This time I ask my son if there is anything he can think of that he wants from the store. We go…he indicates nothing…okaaaaay. Later that night I hear my son growling in the kitchen. He’s had enough…(giggle giggle). Wait…let me translate my son’s growls for you, “What measure of mutiny has befallen me that I am STILL not able to find a reasonable snack to my liking IN…THIS…HOUSE!!!” Well…that’s what it sounded like to me. Opportunity has knocked…loudly. I seized the moment and took great delight in explaining to my son the practicality of disposing of empties once again and even took him through the recycling process in order to paint a complete picture. I think he’s got it this time… I’m gearing up for another shopping trip soon and guess what I found…a properly disposed of empty goldfish container. Bravo kiddo…job well done…

Thank you, Good Mama Karma 😉

Song and Sniffles pt. 2 (Repost)

We are back and I am eager to share what happened in Voices today.

We were just a few minutes late. Hunt runs into the class. The floor is wet, so I tip toed behind him hoping not to slip. The children are already signing the greeting song.  I take a seat not too far from Hunt. He likes me to be near but still far enough away that he has his own space or so it seems. I wait and I hope that Hunt will sing a little today.

The mood in the room is different. Oh, I see the founder of the group is here. That may change things a bit. Hunt is not accustomed to seeing her during meeting times. Even though he knows her, he’s still not used to her being here. The other therapist must have an appointment or is out sick.  That’s okay we’ll just have to adjust.

I look around the room and notice the chalk board where the lyrics are written. The lyrics…they’re different this week. Oh no, they changed from the chorus to other lyrics today. Hunt worked so hard to sing the chorus and now they’re going to go over lyrics he’s not familiar with. Here we go…The piano sounds and the therapist begins to sing. She sings one line and then the children sing. Hunter does not open his mouth. She sings another line and again the children sing. Hunt still does not open his mouth. I can tell by the way he turns his head that he recognizes the music, but he wont attempt to sing. I know it’s difficult for him to process new tasks, but I hope that may give it a try. I leaned forward and touched him on the shoulder hoping the prompt would encourage him…sing boo-boo. Instead he begins to wipe his eyes. He turns to me and I can see that his eyelashes are a little wet. My heart breaks. How sad this is, to see Hunt take the initiative to work so hard practicing the chorus only to be the caught completely off guard.

My heart sank lower and my head dropped. I felt myself wanting to be angry as I hold back the tears and I tell myself there’s nothing to be angry about. There is no fault here. I look at Hunt and I wonder if he feels bad that his friends know the song better than he does. I shake my head and try not to impose my thoughts upon him. It is enough to know he is sad. I am silenced. So I put on a smile and continue clapping and encouraging all of the children to sing. My son turns to look at me again and I smile at him. I know he can see the sadness in my eyes. I’ve got to get it together and be strong. This is not the end of the world.

A few minutes go by and I see Hunt starting to perk up. He’s talking a little, responding to the questions. This is good…very good. Another song begins…but wait…Hunt’s mouth is moving…he’s singing. Yes!! I hear his beautiful voice among the masses. Sing boo-boo…sing. Pride and joy erases all sadness. What a relief to see him smile and to hear him singing. All is not lost. Hunt’s hard work is not in vein. He sang today. For the first time ever, my son sang with other children. Today has been a very good day.  

Song and Sniffles pt. 1 (Repost)

Today I’m seeing another leap in my son. He’s becoming so mature. It’s a little hard for me facing the fact that he’s growing up so fast, but at the same time I celebrate his accomplishments, his growing desire to learn more, try harder and achieve. This is monumental…

Hunt enjoys being in a music/speech therapy group called Voices Together. He seems to enjoy the group activity and is making friends, but reluctant to participate in the actual singing. Hunt loves every aspect of music and even shows an interest in learning to play a few instruments…drums, piano and guitar for now. He’s the oldest in the group by a year or so and his general demeanor depicts a measure of boredom as I guess it would be with any teenager who’s not totally committed to the cause. Whatever the case, he seems to enjoy himself, so I press on.

Each semester the children learn a new song. This semester’s song is very long and a popular hit. Fortunately we are to learn the chorus, only. I bring the words home and find the song on YouTube. We listen and then I sing… My son shows little interest as he usually does when embarking upon something new. It takes more than one exposure to something new before he reacts to it. Well, unless it’s a food item he does not like. That is when I can expect the tale-tale wiggling of the fingers accompanied by a very clear and stern “no” or “do not.”

I played the song several times, always encouraging Hunt to sing along if only a single world. He refuses, but does so with a sheepish grin. That tells me he’s receptive to my proposed notion, but will comply in his own time. There’s more school work to be done, so we’ll try the song again on another day.

Time for group again and as usual Hunt is eager to go. He runs into the classroom and greets everyone and takes a seat. The therapist “K” plays her keyboard and begins to sing. Hunt sits and listens to everyone singing and he grins. Song recognition is wonderful, but I do so want him to sing a little. “K” encourages Hunt to sing, but he only points and requests to play the piano. I clap and cheer at the end of the song and tell all, job well done. Hunt grins again and begins to clap. I am happy that he gets so much enjoyment out of this group. Perhaps one day he will sing along with the rest of his peers.

Today after finishing school work Hunt pointed to the YouTube icon and grabbed the clipboard having the words to the song we’ve been practicing. He waited with anticipation for the song to start and was particularly interested in the icons I clicked. As soon as the song began to play, he grabbed a pen, started rocking and pointed to the words of the chorus that were in front of him. At the appropriate time he began to sing the chorus. Oh my goodness, he’s signing the song!! I stared for a moment and then left him on his own to process the song in his own way. He must have played that song 20 times. I think he sang for about 30 or so minutes. He worked so hard to sing as much of that song as he could. And he did exceptionally well I might add. He sang and sang and I shed a joyful tear. He sang until he was satisfied and then announced that he was done. We have another group meeting tonight. I don’t know if he’s going to sing or not, but I know for sure that he’s learning this song. I guess I’ll have to wait and see. I’m so excited. Okay, time to get dressed.

I’ll be sure to let you all know what happened when we get back…

Coping With The Holidays

Looking at your child’s life in the long term; wouldn’t it be better for them to know how to cope with change, rather than having to endure countless meltdowns?

Our children need to be able to find an emotionally comfortable place in a world that is not going to cater to them or their unique needs all the time. Starting to work with your child, as early as possible, on flex routines will make transitioning into holiday and other special events much easier over time. Don’t let your precious ones diffuse holiday spirits. Give them the skills they need to enjoy and even anticipate joyful occurrences in their routines. Our children have the ability to anticipate the good things in life. Let’s make it a little easier for them. All they need from us is our patience, lots of repetition and a little ingenuity to smooth out the rough spots.

As you are setting goals for your child, anticipate needs as they grow older and how they will have to navigate themselves in the world, as it presents itself to them.

I am grateful for the medical staff that took such good care of my child during his early years. Even though, admittedly I’ve taken their advice with a grain of salt. There are those occasions when you voice a concern and in return you are offered a textbook remedy that just won’t work in the long term. What appears to be just right for the moment ends up causing other developments later, leaving you in a lurch. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to listen to the advice of your child’s medical staff and therapists, but add your own knowledge of your child and a dash of common since into the equation.

It troubles me to see children having difficulties adjusting during the holidays, but who can blame them.

After all, lights are twinkling, music’s playing; people running in and out of the house; pretty things you can’t touch; loads of sugary goodies to munch and then…Santa Clause falls into your house.

My family celebrates the Christmas holiday a little different. Our efforts are not so much to give and receive gifts, but being a gift to others as Jesus is certainly the greatest gift to us. And then, there are some that like to celebrate Christmas focusing more on family traditions, whatever those traditions may be. In any case, there are ways to help our children cope with changes in their routine during the holiday season.

As a general rule, we have routines that are what I call, “flex routines.”

A flex routine is pretty simple. Have your routines in place, but make changes starting off with 1 or 2 small things and slowly increasing frequency and variety of changes over a period of time. Whatever is comfortable for your child. This will help them develop the skills to find comfort in their structure set while anticipating possible change and adjusting to change more readily.

Allow your child to have a sense of involvement in your day to day and special plans.

My son and I enjoy going out with friends and family; this was something he was accustomed to. But, when it came to having guests over for dinner or just to hangout for awhile; my son was much less receptive. We rarely had company unless it was therapists, friends for play dates or something having to do with my son’s needs. Sometimes friends would stop by unexpectedly for a visit; they were often greeted with a barrage of grunts and little things done to draw all attention to my son. This would sometimes make me and my guests feel uncomfortable. You don’t want to find yourself trapped in a world without social outlets for yourself as well as your child.

I honestly did not consider how my son would feel about my having unexpected guests, knowing that he was used to being center of attention. I had to come up with a way to flex our social routine. How did I do that? Well, I started by making a simple story board that had a picture of our home and pictures of some of the rooms in our home. We cut out pictures of people that we knew and people in general; together we placed the pictures on the story board. It was like a game at first, which was great, it kept him engaged. We would then make up stories about people coming to visit us, with and without children and things that we’d like to do. This practice made the difference in his transition to our new flex routine, enjoying guests in our home; even his ability to share our guest’s attention with me became easier.

Also, with a few simple tweaks, you can modify this practice to include events planning, such as parties or outings. Simply place pictures of people in general, yourselves or your guests, if available, on a wall calendar. Create a dialog about the event and when it will happen. Your child will be able to relate to the visuals which make the event more tangible for them. Now, there are no more surprises. Your child will know what to expect and may look forward to planning future events with you; especially for this up and coming holiday season.

You now have a creative tool to make transitioning from regular routines to the planning of events and the inevitable unplanned events, go a little more smoothly for both you and your child.

Take your time, be creative, enjoy your child and allow your child to enjoy you.

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