Saturday, March 31, 2012

Routine, Routine, Routine

Autism, as rigid as it is, doesn't have such a firm hold on our lives that we can never be flexible. However, we do have to plan for routine changes if we want them to go smoothly.

This week Tate had a substitute teacher and para, both in the same day. It was planned and he was prepared for it. A couple of years ago this would have been very stressful for him, planned or not. He has come so far. On Wednesday he commented to me several times that he would have substitutes at school on Thursday, but he didn't stim, tear up, or pace the floor, as is his habit when he is stressed. On Thursday morning he talked about it a lot but did not seem stressed at all. Thursday evening he reminded me a couple of times that he would have his para and teacher back the next day and Friday morning he was very happy to report to me that things would be back to normal.

Routine is Tate's friend and unscheduled events are not. Sometimes the routine is one that we adults don't even know has been established. He makes up rules and doesn't understand why we don't follow them. He doesn't know that we cannot read his mind. This "theory of mind" is something that typically developing children learn naturally but kids with autism have to be taught. Example: After school on Friday Tate complained to me because they did not get to watch Ghostwriter in school. They "ALWAYS" watch Ghostwriter on Fridays, according to him. As he got out of the car Friday morning he told me "We are going to see Ghostwriter today because it is Friday." His routine is Ghostwriter and movies are a preferred activity so once he had seen Ghostwriter a couple of times on a Friday, it was in "permanent ink" in his schedule. Sometimes a practice is set in Tate's mind after just one small event and we do not even know the precedent has been set for him. Watching Ghostwriter two Fridays in a row to him meant that Ghostwriter would be watched every Friday for the rest of his school year. Don't mess with his schedule. HA

Autism or not, Tate has to learn to deal with the occasional wrinkle in his world and he finally seems to be dealing with some of them without a lot of anxieties. Having said this, just when I think I can predict how he will behave in a situation, he surprises me; sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad.

It was suggested to Tate that we invite a friend to see a movie with us this weekend. He seemed fine with it at first but got pretty anxious about it last night and gave me a lot of excuses about why he couldn't bring a friend to a movie. Tate does not have a lot of real friendships but there is a boy that has been especially friendly and helpful to him this year at school and Tate seems to enjoy his company. Tate likes to keep things very compartmentalized. School is school and he doesn't like to mix school with home. I can only imagine what Tate is thinking but I believe he has issues with mixing school persons with family time. Who really knows? Tate sure cannot tell me what he is thinking.

Also this week, we began an organized effort to teach some figurative language. Example…Tate noticed a moth in the house and was obsessing about it. Shawn (Dad) got him a flyswatter and said “Here keep this handy.” Me: “Tate, do you know what it means to keep something handy?” Tate: “Kill that moth.” Me: “To keep something handy means to keep it close by so you can... grab it. What if I said that I need to blow my nose and the Kleenex were handy?” Tate: “You can’t kill a moth with a Kleenex.” Me: “Tate, don’t think about the moth. We’re talking about the word HANDY. It means to keep something close by so you can use it.” (I inserted two more examples of ‘handy’ in a sentence.) Tate: “Will you kill that moth?”

On the plus side, after using "handy" a few more times, he does seem to understand it now when I use it in a sentence and ask him what I meant. One lesson down.... thousands to go. Time flies is the next lesson. You can read about that lesson here: time flies and books from heaven.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Getting started... My story

I live a dream. I am married to the most wonderful guy. He loves me and always puts my wants and needs above his own. We have seven children. They are all good kids. Our oldest is married now. Two are in college. We have one in high school and one in junior high. They would not appreciate me sharing anything about them or their lives and I will not be doing that. I will mainly be blogging about my two youngest children and the joy and challenges they bring.

Tate is ten years old. He has autism. The doctors call it "high-functioning" autism. He is verbal and has a lot of strengths. However, autism is autism. It means he thinks with a concrete mind and has few social skills and a lot of trouble processing information. Too much language that comes at him too fast keeps him from learning much in a group setting. Most of what he knows, he has learned one-on-one. He has trouble remembering that others have feelings, wants, needs, or thoughts. This keeps him from making and maintaining friendships. Autism also means that Tate wrestles with some obsessions and behaviors that are stereotypic of autism. My world revolves around Tate. He holds my heart in his hands.

Sydney is eight. She is our only adopted child. She was born in Russia. Sydney has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, ADHD, and an anxiety disorder. Medications have helped tremendously. Sydney is in first grade for the second time this year and is doing so much better the second time. She makes me proud and she keeps me laughing, as almost everything that comes out of her mouth is funny.