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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 😉
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Coping with Overstimulation

One of the more commonly defined links to autism is the many differences in sensitivity to stimuli. There are some of us who experience extreme sensitivity to many things where other’s may experience varying levels of sensitivity to certain things like light, sound, temperature, textures, smells, movement and the like.

There are those who have heightened awareness of their surroundings, not notably uncomfortable for some, but may be over stimulating and even painful for others. I imagine for the NT brain the receiving of information is much less noticeable with little to no thought or even recognition of the process. But for those who are on the spectrum it is quite different. Information flows into the brain and is systematically compartmentalized into varying categories and subcategories. This can be felt. It’s like having a bunch of feelers with sensors shooting out from your body and the sensors are touching, feeling and absorbing information from everything, event the particles in the air. This is a constant sensation and can be quite distracting. It makes it difficult to focus, sleep or even be still.

Image what it feels like to receive input from everything around you at all times. Some of the input can come across as light and benign or disturbing, disruptive and even jagged like broken glass.

Humming or some other form of stemming behavior helps with the effects of overstimulation. It counteracts the discomforts of being overstimulated lending itself as a way to control informational flow. That way we are able to receive the flow of information and still be able to focus on an object, task or the sorting and purging of thoughts at the same time. When this happens it is as if the flow splits into conscious and unconscious. The unconscious flow is the constant and the conscious flow is merged into the constant, so one can put more focus on whatever one is consciously doing or experiencing with less distraction from the unconscious informational flow.

No matter what our cognitive ability or what level of functioning we are labled, our minds and bodies are always receiving information.

There are some of us who need physical help to calm from over stimulation like pressure applied to different areas of the body such as the arms, back, shoulders, base of neck and head. There are assistive technologies that can help with this such as weighted blankets, vests and bands. Bands are versatile because they can be placed on different body parts such as ankles, wrists or even worn as a headband. Some autistics may respond well to massage or brushing of the body or limbs. It all depends on the individuals need and what is most comfortable for them. Physical activity is another possible way to help like walking, stretching, jumping, running or carrying heavy items for short periods of time. All of these thing help to calm and center.

Lighting is also very important. It is crucial for me to be able to control lighting in my home because my sensitivity to light varies. I have also given this option to my son so he is able to control the lighting and light source in his room. He changes the lighting in his room several times a day depending on his need. He may start the day with curtains open. Natural light seem to help him be more alert. When he is settling into stemming mode he like a lessor light which he gets from a clip-on desk lamp. The lamp has an adjustable neck so he can angle it in any direction to get the desired amount of light. When we return from outings or when guests leave, my son likes to use either of his lava lamps which gives his room a worm amber or deep pink glow.

Sound is also something that can be soothing or excruciating. If silence does not seem to be calming and too many noises over stimulating you may want to experiment with other sounds such as a low snowy sound (like the sound made by old analog TVs when the station goes off) or perhaps the sound of slow flowing water. Music may be a little soothing. For some the sound of instrument and voice may be a bit much, so you may want to separate the two and try either all instrumental (one or more instruments) or a calm soft A Capella (one or more people singing).

I cannot speak for all of us. Each person is different and their experience is their own. I am one small voice on the spectrum.

I Wish…

I wish I could handle working outside of routines better. I’d like to be less rigid and more relaxed in my days. Some days, depending, I can manage to do pretty well, but the bottom line is that I need to maintain a rigid morning routine. That is what works best for me. One simple variation can throw my entire day off. The phone could ring or I may decide to start the laundry before eating breakfast. Those very acts could cause to forget eating until mid-afternoon. I would have also forgotten vitamins and you can cancel my keeping a schedule for the rest of the day. My thought patterns become choppy. I start in a direction with a clear picture in my head and then the picture’s gone. What do I do now? I end up walking around trying to get the picture back, piddling all the while, but accomplishing very little. It’s just too hard sometimes.

In order for me to function at my optimum best, I must have a strict routine in the mornings…let the dog out, morning constitutional, vitamins, breakfast, put water on for coffee, go to my desk, work out today’s todo’s, drink coffee (I like to my coffee after eating), check email and then I can manage the rest of my day. If these things occur in order I have no problems with daily schedule and I seem to have more energy too. Otherwise, I am exhausted by late afternoon from spinning my wheels and getting nowhere.

I wish I could write better and faster. It would be great to sit down and crank out a few blog posts in a couple hours or write a few paragraphs for a book I’ve started. It would be nice to write those few paragraphs in less than half a day, but I can’t. It’s already taken me more than a couple hours to write this. What time will it be when I finish…if I finish. Will I get this posted today?

I constantly stress over the words I chose, spelling, grammar, humor, flow, continuity; I stress over everything. It’s a good thing I can’t wear out the “save” icon as I click it after every correction. Wait…typo…correct…click…saved. Okay…moving forward. It would be wonderful to write my thoughts as they sound when I speak them. People often tell me that I have a wonderful way with verbal story-telling, but you’d never know it by the way I write.

I wish I could plan meals a week at a time. Instead I ask myself the same question every afternoon, “what’s for dinner?” Frequent trips to the grocery store, multiple shelves of cook books and I still can’t seem to get a dinner plan going. I’ve solicited the help of my 13 year old who always knows what kind of protein he wants, but does not really care about the rest. That helps some, but now I have to figure out what to add to it. We certainly can’t live off protein alone. So…I stand in front of the refrigerator and then I stand in front of the deep freezer. I peruse each shelf in the pantry and then I open all the cabinets. Sometimes I turn to cooking shows or look up recipes online. I’ve even called friends to ask what they’re having for dinner…they don’t know either. Looks like take it will be out.

I wish I could leave the house like normal people, not having to deal with the anxiety associated with going out and facing others.

I wish I could be different. I don’t feel this way often, but today I do. I don’t like to admit that I feel this way, because it hurts to know I feel this way. It hurts when I hear others say they feel this way too. I want so much for people to love who they are and their differences, even though I struggle to love myself.

I wish I could relax without feeling depressed. I wish I could casually do nothing for a whole day and not have guilt associate with it. I wish I had more energy. I wish it were a weekday. Oh well, tomorrow’s Monday and I’ll feel much better.  Weekends are a bit of a challenge as I tend to abandon my routines. It’s really simple…I’m rebelling against the need for them. The outcome is always the same, but I keep trying to break the mold.

I wish I could accept that this is how I am.

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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