I have moved over to WhittereronAutism.com. Please follow the link to find me there. Hope to see you after the jump! :)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Social compass:- how we fail our children

Sometimes my head hurts as I try to keep ahead of the wide variety of scenarios in every day situations. I believe that this is why autism is exhausting, not physically, but the mental gymnastics of holding together a wide collection of possibilities, weighing, comparing and analyzing the likelihood of any particular outcome.

One of the reasons that some parents are extremely inefficient is because they fail to adopt an adequate decision making matrix. To paraphrase "Quality Tools":-
A decision matrix evaluates and prioritizes a list of options. The team first establishes a list of weighted criteria and then evaluates each option against those criteria. This is a variation of the L-shaped matrix.

This is a simple approach for parents to absorb, strategically and systematically. Once this "system" is in place apply logic:-
The a list of options must be narrowed to one choice.
The decision must be made on the basis of several criteria.
The list of options has been reduced to a manageable number by list reduction.

Just like that we regain control so as to more forward on a consistent platform. If only more parents would follow this logical path, then all sorts of social situations would become a breeze:-

We wait for my daughter to return from school after a field trip that runs late. My older son climbs the play structure with all the other waiting siblings. Mother’s huddle in groups chatting. I sit on the bench with my youngest son curled up horizontally in my lap, as he endures the torture of ‘wait.’

One of the siblings comes in the form of a small four year old or large three year old. He play punches my son as he climbs. It’s good humoured on both parts. My son gets the chance to play the cool, tolerant older kid. I concentrate on the child that meows, furled tightly on my thighs. I stroke and massage his shoulders to keep him calmer, if not really calm.

A mother approaches Mr. Punch as his enthusiasm grows, “hey, stop beatin up the big kids,” she calls playfully, because we all see the joke, huge nine year old and a little enthusiastic tot.

The children disperse into different groups and activities. The small boy follows my son, or possibly the other way around, as he always gravitates to little kids, given the opportunity. I watch as the play punches get harder and more frequent.
I wave an arm and call his name, but he blows me off, “it’s o.k. mom, I like it.” I know that he does, the attention, the physical contact and anyway, it’s fun. What would a typical nearly 10 year old do in this situation? I have no idea.

I dither as I watch at wait. He seems to be holding his own. Another little boy joins them. They both throw punches, encouraged by my son:- ‘bring it on.’ He laughs and jokes with them. Two against one isn’t fair, but it’s not two against one, it’s two eights against one, and they’re not really against. He play acts pain, an exaggerated cariacature with a huge grin on his face, which encourages more blows, if you can call them blows, which you probably can’t. The weight on my lap shifts as he turns his attention to his brother, “he is play wiv his friends?”
“Hmm, yes he is.”
“I play too!” he announces as he zips off to join the other three, stiff legged and armed, Mario style. I remain on the bench uncertain. I look at my two large boys who almost match each other in height after a brief growing spurt. They currently enjoy the number of enquiries, “are you guys twins?” the attention, the joke, the trick, no matter how often, as repeats are welcome.

The little boys’ focus remains on him, as my younger son stands on the periphery, the sidelines outside of an invisible field of shared attention, a exclusive boundary.

Now my focus changes. Not on my son, who is happy to bask in their attention, but to the possibilies from my other son. He has been known to defend his brother from what he perceives as attacks. Commendable mis-fires. There is the chance that he will join in and either punch his brother, or worse still, punch one of the little boys. It’s just the kind of thing that we hear about in the media:- ‘autistic child caught in unprovoked and mindless attack on innocent toddler.’ There’s never a back story. Sometimes the back story comes later, but it’s the headline that sticks in the mind of the public. It’s not dislodged, erased or superceded. As a result the public is left with a random collection of negative assumptions to apply to the autistic population, a general shorthand. Each additional headline loads another brick in the wall of segregation, isolation and mis-information.

My son would be copying and joining in. He would be adopting the apparent cultural norms. He would be unlikely to hit them hard but he is double their age and size. Alternatively, one of the little boys might hit him. If this should happen, he who cannot be touched by anyone, would be likely to scream the place down, which would be fine if a little disconcerting for some, but he might hit back, which would not be fine.

If I step in I am both a kill joy and over-protective. If I remain un-engaged I risk serious fall-out. If I step in, I need to decide how? If I don’t hurry up the decision may be taken away from me. I glance at the mums who chat with an eye on the road for the awaited bus. Until I saw her look, I had completely forgotten about the bus. And look, there is the bus! I blink back at my son who is on the ground doubled up. No sign of the tots as they scamper off to the bus. His brother crouches by his shoulder with his arms over his head, as he rocks in commiseration. “It was an accident!” he yells, “that lil guy didn’t mean it.”

I’m sure he’s right but my decision making matrix is wrong.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Na, na, na, na, na

Slurping Life

Get the code:-
Cut and paste
from this little
boxy thing below

At bedtime my children exchange squawlks from their different rooms. My daughter prances back into their room dressed from head to foot in blue, for no apparent reason. Her youngest brother ignores everything as he reads his Garfield comic books, as the other two set to.
“Why you are blue now?”
“No reason. Night shortie.”
“Why you are call me shortie?”
“Coz you’re short, shorter than me.”
“Oright, night tallie.”
“You like tallie?”
“Sure. You’re gonna have to try a lot harder in the insult department shortie.”
“Oright. Night bluey.”
“You like bluey?”
“Sure. Why wouldn’t I?’
“Oright then. Night butt head!”
He, who has not been listening, erupts from his bed, casts Garfield aside and launches into siren mode, “alert, alert, alert, inappropriate speech pattern, inappropriate speech pattern, inappropriate speech pattern!”

No doubt, another restful and blissful night awaits.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Perspective taking, anxiety and stress

I listen to a fascinating interview with "Robyn Stewart" on "Woman’s Hour" about the stresses and strains of living as an autistic adult in the UK. How the provision of services is dire. How small incidents of no apparent import can have a paralyzing effect on an autistic individual throughout adulthood.

The newly weds retire for the night. I prompt my children to say goodnight at 7:30 in the evening.
“Geez you are night night time already?”
My youngest daughter blushes as she hugs her big sister.
“Dat’s it.”
“What’s it.”
“Dat is dah baddest fing I have ever bin hearded.”
“Heard dear, heard.” I see the signs. Fast speech, tense body, wringing hands, angry tone as he begins to fizz.
“I’m never gonna be a married.”
“How come?”
“I don like dat rule.”
“Which rule?”
“Dah sleeping for marrieds at 7:30.”
“Ah……well that’s because…….he Brazilian, nothing to do with being married. Dad and I are married and we’re wide awake.” Once he has latched onto an idea it can be difficult to resolve, distract or deflect.
“Er…..you are American marrieds or English marrieds?”
“What time is English marrieds are sleeping?”
“What time is American marrieds are sleeping?”
“Oh American’s go to bed very early indeed. Most of them go at nine o’clock because they get up so early, just like you do come to think of it.” His hands clench the material on his trouser legs as he hones in.
“What time is Chinese marrieds are sleeping?”
“Well they’re 15 hours ahead of us in Beijing so it’s the middle of the afternoon for them.”
“What time is Australian marrieds are sleeping?” His increasing agitation continues to spiral.
“Well Australia is very big too, so it depends which bit of Australia you’re in.”
“Aghhhh! Where I am to be a married who is not ever be sleeping.”
“The land of the midnight sun dear. It would be perfect for you…..apart from the snow and ice of course.”
“Aghh dis is impossible.” It’s easy to identify the spark once he’s on fire. It is far more difficult to dampen down after ignition.
“Well you’re not likely to be getting married any time soon, so you don’t need to worry about it right now.”
“What about my childs?”
“What about your children? You don’t have any children yet either.”
“My childs will be like me?”
“Er……perhaps. You never can tell.”
“How are you not know any of deez fings?”
“Well………there are just so many mysteries…….we can’t know everything and we can’t predict the future.” Platitudes are rarely effective. I watch him begin to pogo on the spot with clenched fists and bared teeth because I lack logic, amongst other things.
“Tell you what though!”
“Wot!” he bellows on his last centimeter of string.
“When you marry you’ll be an adult and adults can follow any rules they like.” He exhales as he flops onto the floorboards in a heap, spent. Maybe, just maybe that’s enough. I wait as his eye lids flutter.
“Yes dear?”
“How long until I am an adult?”
“About ten years, give or take.”
“Ten years! Dat is unbelievable!”
We begin the next spiral.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The difference between Sarcasm and Irony, a demonstration

“Geez Mom! I’m sure gonna be the most popular student on the bus if I wear that thing.”
“Oh I don’t know. It will keep you warm and dry through. It’s going to be a beastly day tomorrow.”
“Yeah you are gonna be my most popularist golden sunshine dresser.”
She gives him the pre-teen death glare, “I was being sarcastic!”
“You will be being……dah same sunshine golden colour as dah bus.”
“Exactly. Did you hear that Mom, even he gets it.”
“I am love dah golden sunshine dressing.”
“Well if you like it so much why don’t you wear it on your own field trip then, lil ole Sunny Jim.”
“I can be wearing your big girl jacket?”
“Actually it’s really unisex dear. It’s fine for girls or boys.”
“Dat is great for me coz I am being part girl cat and part boy dog.”
“Not the dog cat thing still. Listen to me, you’re a brother and a boy.”
“No…….on my field trip I’m gonna be a Chameleon.”
“Huh, what about the dog cat thing?”
“On my field trip I’m gonna be ……….invisible,” he adds with a voice of mystery and tantalizing fingers.
“Great! An invisible neon blob that can be seen from fifty miles away. You’ll be luminous not invisible. You couldn’t pay me enough to wear that thing in public.”
“I…….wear dah Chameleon coat so I am blend in wiv dah bus……..and……I am wear it for free.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Atlas - nearly wordless

5 Minutes for Special Needs

I hang from the door jam after a long and wearisome day for a few moments, as I wait for the play date victim to be collected, late.

My son and his victim stumble past me, a very obvious obstacle. The passage on either side is obvious to most people but they both bumble into me nonetheless. This is not because they are clumsy, but both lack a certain degree of spatial awareness.

His friend pauses and turns back to observe me, from head to toe and then back up again.
My son gives him a little shove, “iz o.k. Mom’s jus holdin up the house a bit.” It's the kind of intimate nudge between pals, a little over enthusiastic, but perfectly socially acceptable.

The xylophone snaps of spinal relief are very welcome.
“I fink………..yur mom is broke!”

Can I help it if I have monkey arms!

If you enjoy caption competitions and photographs, you may wish to nip along to"DJ Kirkby" over at "Chez Aspie" and test your brain power.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Get Organized

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

Try This Tuesday

Try This Tuesday

I don't know about you, but around here we have far too many clothes between us. More importantly, we have many clothes that none of us ever wear. Hence this week's tackle is to try and wither down the surplus.

The surplus is easily minimized with a critical eye.

Firstly huck out all the clothes with broken zips, lost buttons and snaps or items that are otherwise unwearable in their present condition. There's no point in cluttering up the closet with those, so heap them up into a basket and then one day soon with there's a full moon and an R in the month we can tackle the contents of the new mending basket. Hope it's not a trunkful?

Next remove all items that are too small for your children because they have grown, hopefully. This is particularly tricky for us because all our clothes have had the irritating labels removed. This means that your negotiating skills are to become finely honed. Although you know that the T-shirt is really for a three year old, you may have a hard time convincing your 9 year old that it is far more than skin tight.

In your own closet it might be a good time to remove all suits if you are a stay at home parent. There's no point in keeping them as when you do return to work I can assure you that you won't be seen dead in 80's shoulder pads. Smart working clothes in good condition can be donated to local groups that support women returning to work who are financially strapped.

Lastly, if you haven't worn it in the last year then it's time to donate it to charity where someone else might actually use it.

Another idea is to invite your pals around with their unused clothes and simply swap different items. Do I mean trade? Does it matter if no-one has anything that you'd like yourself in exchange? Not really, you're still gaining closet space.

Watch this space as next week we'll be tackling 'how to make a label for your trunk full of mending?' So much easier than actually tackling the mending itself.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally

A variation to this mnemonic is when a child makes there own version which personally reinforces the order for tackling the order of operation. Mine came up with two versions but either way it’s certainly embedded my skill set which certainly should help with homework.

And just in case you need a reminder it's:-

Hosted by "Tracy" at "Mother May I," but the photo-picture below will whizz you right there with one click.

Just call me snap happy.

red BSM Button


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Community Service for autistic people

Warning :- spoiler.

Happenstance is always just waiting to happen. I am thunderstruck when my son tells me that he would like to share his new book, “Surprise,” with other children. Moreover, he is keen to draw a picture to put in the back of the book to share with another children. Any book that provokes that kind of response certainly has my vote 100%.

However, I’m at a loss as to how to make this happen in real life. The most obvious choice is to give a copy of the book to the school library but I’m also keen to support our local library. Although I believe I am single handedly funding the local library through my own copious fines, it would be good to do something extra.

I grit my teeth and high tail it off to the library in search of the head of children’s library services. I need to execute his ideation. I run a script through my head, a diplomat one. His need to present the book personally, to a human being. His frequent inability to express himself verbally, as he should like to do, especially in a large echoy building with lots of busyness and people. Our need for this to be a positive experience for him.

Of course the head librarian is unavailable, and unlikely to be available in the near future due to the imminent arrival of her first born.

Typical! I blink at my friendly informant as I dither.

So near and yet so far.

Yet another brilliant idea dies in the dust as I acted on impulse, failed to think through my plan of action and have no back-up plan.

I take her to one side to see if there is any chance that I can make myself understood in private. I start to explain. As soon as I start to explain I also begin to ramble, talk too fast and stare at her toes as I feel a fire of tears well up as my words dry to close with ‘because he’s autistic.’ How can you explain an occurrence of such a precious rarity? I look into her face because I am probably talking Swahili. Fortunately, it turns out that we speak the same local dialect, the mother tongue.

She tells me about a librarian at the nearby branch, who runs a reading programme for children. I’m encouraged to contact her, afterall she beams, “she has an autistic son too.” Not only am I dumbfounded, again, but also completely gobsmacked.

Appointments are made.

Arrangements are finalized.

I explain to him that his plan will take place. He squeals with delight which induces speedy back pedaling on my part. There is nothing like having high and very specific expectations to ensure doom.

Every night at bedtime after reading, I remind him of our impending visit and run through the many pitfalls of public.

When the great day arrives, we arrive early, all the better to acclimate. It puts me in mind of his earlier years when we tried and tried to attend those reading programmes. We tried and tried until I finally gave up torturing my son. My son could not sit still, or sit come to think of it. He was unable to tolerate people reading familiar texts in the wrong way. The other children were too close. The fluorescent lights were the kiss of death.

He takes up position at the back of the room, which I deem to be an admirable coping strategy on his part. However, I am delighted to learn that his purpose is to avoid being too closely associated with all the little kids because he recognizes himself as ‘older,’ which is even more remarkable to his dim witted mother.

Whilst all the little children attend to stories, sing songs, follow along with hand gestures, my son lolls on the back bench. Anyone observing him would assume that he is oblivious, however, this couldn’t be more wrong. He reads half a dozen books during the early part of the programme but as soon as the librarian announces his book, he lies on his back to stare at the ceiling and march, horizontally and quite quietly. On completion, the librarian asks the children to thank him for his gift, which they do so readily and with a surprising amount of enthusiasm. He whips himself up into a sitting position and speaks for the first time since we left the house, 55 minutes later, the monastic silence is "broken, and you can hear him here."

I don't know where that came from?

Please visit Karen Andrews over at her blog called “Miscellaneous Mum” and check out the book “Surprise,” over “here.”

Friday, February 20, 2009

Joined at the hip

Slurping Life

Get the code:-
Cut and paste
from this little
boxy thing below

We bimble home from school with our pal, a mutual pal of both my boys. This is one of the great advantages of combined grades of some special education classes, the overlap of friendships and oodles of common ground amongst different age groups and abilities. They all grow older, better able to articulate their preferences, which run the gamut. A combination of sweet innocence and advanced sophistication.

My sons sit either side of their pal, three in a line. They both mimic their pal’s distinctive voice, intonation, emphasis and terminology, with perfection. The phrase ‘oh my god’ has recently slipped into his vocabulary, as it does with so many children. Whilst we also had this for a while too, careful actions by school and home alike, has caused extinction. I would prefer it not to return. They paw over the book and discuss favourites, their first favourite, their second favourite ad infinitum. Amused, delighted and engaged during the journey. My daughter points out the snow on the mountains. My daughter points out the child with a bunny ear head band. My daughter points out the skate boarder pulled by a dog. There is no end to the list of entertainment outside the car but the boys concentrate upon their indoor choice, as three pairs of feet kick to the same rhythm.
“Oh my god. That Coral snake bit off her finger.”
“Oh my goodness!” I squawk from the driver’s seat.
“Oh my god. That Asian cobra bit his arm.”
“Oh my goodness!” I repeat in the hope of penetration as my driving concentration dwindles. With each remark my boys howl with laughter.
“Look over there guys! D’ya see that kid has a heart balloon,” offers my daughter in a loud and enthusiastic tone.
No-one else looks. I give her a quick beam.
“Oh my god! That Fierce snake bit his finger.”
“Oh my goodness!” I need to think of another strategy. This is pointless but at least the car remains in the correct lane.
“Hey guys! Look over there! It’s an aeroplane with a message banner.” She’s relentless in her attempts to distract whilst I concentrate on the road.
“Maybe you could be a teacher or a therapist when you’re older dear?”
“No way mom! I’m gonna be a dog walker.”
“I spose we can’t make em stop kickin either,” she adds wanely.
“At least they’re all happy as clams.”
“Oh my god! That Reticulated Python bit his face.”
“Oh my goodness!”
“I can’t quite make it out…….it’s too far away…..can you drive a bit faster mom so I can try and read it?”
“Oh my god! That Massassauga snake bit his horse.”
“Oh my goodness! Too much traffic dear and I think it’s going the wrong way.”
“Oh my god! That Asian Pit viper bit her wrist.”
“Oh my goodness! You certainly know your body parts young man.”
“Hey guys. Look over there. That guy’s sellin roses. Hundred of em.”
“Oh my god. That Bushmaster bit that girl.”
“Oh my goodness! How can you tell it’s a girl?”
“Coz…………. of the sexy legs.”
My daughter and I lock eye balls before she splutters, “he sure told you!”

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Autocue - spoonfeeding

Sometimes it seems as if we have been going to occupational therapy forever, certainly more than five years. Together, the boys had 13 hours of different therapies a week up until the time that I had jaw surgery.

At that time we dropped everything except for the two double therapy sessions on a Wednesday afternoon, double occupational therapy and double speech therapy because Wednesdays are a half day at school. Their "father" took them during my period of recouperation. It gave him a far deeper "understanding" and greater "involvement" such that when I had recovered and was ready to take up the reins again, he decided that he’d prefer to keep taking them himself.

These days I take them occasionally when his schedule doesn’t allow him to go, like when he is abroad on business. Hence when Wednesday looms, I am secretly dying to see how their session will pan out with their father away. I’m uncertain what kind of routine they have developed, independent of my input.

In the past it was a great struggle because it was a transition and because therapy was hard work for them. On arrival, they used to enter the waiting room and then I would prompt them to tell their therapists that they’d arrived using the intercom. This meant pressing the button and speaking clearly into the audio box simultaneously. They used to have to use the step to reach the box on the wall, but they are considerably taller now. Each step took a great deal of prompting. On completion I would prompt them to remove their shoes and socks and stack them on the shelf. This also took a great deal of prompting, times two.

These days, they have had many years of practice, many years of prompting. I am keen to see how they will fare.

On arrival at the waiting room, one runs to the window to take a peek into the studio and the other flops onto the sofa. I wait. I observe. There is no further movement from either of them, nor any words. I wait. I observe. I sit on my hands and then put my elbows on my knees with my hands over my mouth. I wait. I observe. It soon occurs to me that I will wait for ever and that there is nothing to see. No action is likely to be forthcoming. I feel suddenly quite saddened for no apparent reason. There are lots of reasons that could cause sadness, but none of them are present, but still, the inertia drags me down. Just like other children they dawdle and are easily distracted. Just like some other children we have the ever present hurdles of inertia, ideation, sequencing and a serious lack of executive function regardless of the label.

I feel a tiny tickle at the back of my brain, deep in the depths from my years of speed reading to track down useful clues and tips. I became a butterfly reader immediately following their diagnoses, hopping from topic to topic, the brief overview and the summaries, gleaning the finer points but missing the big picture in crisis management. There are many tomes just on this one topic:- introduce the new behaviour, positively reinforce the new behaviour and then ever so gradually fade the supportive reward system. It is the fading of both the reward and the prompt that engenders independence. Without that final step they become reliant upon the prompt.

There again, there’s always the possibility that it’s nothing to do with autism, merely tired kids.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A right dog’s breakfast

I decide that I can no longer cope. It’s not so much overwhelmed as underwhelmed. Each and every individual has their own personal agenda, none of which appear to have any overlap. My adult daughter accosts me in the utility room.
“So…… I’m going over the hill after all……a different party.”
“Oh good. It will be nice for you to have a chance to pl…..be with your friends.”
“But it’s a pot luck…….any ideas?”
“Garlic bread, always goes down a storm with starving students.”
I leave her free reign of the kitchen and gambol off to my other responsibilities.
My other responsibilities appear to have lost their marbles completely. “What on earth do you think you are doing? I already told you, leave your duvet upstairs, no nests downstairs.”
“But, but, but……?”
“No ifs no buts no coconuts, we had a deal my fine friend!”
“But……dah nest is for my fine friend.”
“Which fine friend?”
“Oh no, is that smelly dog in there with you too?” I haul six foot of damp duvet off the pair and drag it into the utility room, where I bump into the next deviant. “Good grief! Whatever are you doing in there!”
“I like it.”
“Come out of the laundry chute before you break your neck. I know it makes a great hidey hole but you might fall out. I don’t have time to go to the emergency room today.” His sister knocks us for six as she comes bowling in from the garage, trousers wet from knee to ankle. “Good grief! Where have you been? What have you been doing?”
“Nothin……jus kickin a ball around.”
“In the rain! You’ll catch your death.”
“Hardly Mom, this is only lil ole California sprinkles, isnthat whatcha always say?”

“Yes dear?” I keep the ‘what is it now tone’ out of my voice, not because I am good but because she will notice.
“What happens if you put 4 cups of water in the bread mix rather than 1 and a half cups?” We peer into the bread maker, “looks a little like bread soup.”
“No worries I’ll feed it to the dog and start again.”
“What happens to a puppy if you feed him 4 pounds of raw bread dough do you suppose? Tell you what, take Thatcher to the party over the Santa Cruz Mountains. See if he still suffers from car sickness and report back.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

When is an Umbrella not an Umbrella?

5 Minutes for Special Needs
Ingenius tool use from the back seat!

If you enjoy caption competitions and photographs, you may wish to nip along to"DJ Kirkby" over at "Chez Aspie" and test your brain power.

p.s. if anyone recognises the style of this artist [unsigned] I should be very grateful?

Cheers dears

Monday, February 16, 2009

Laundry Try Tackling it Tuesday

Tackle It Tuesday Meme
Try This Tuesday

In a household of "7" filthy people, there tends to be a lot of laundry, my sole responsibility. Each step of the laundry process, and we all know that it is a many step process, is just fine with me, except the last step, the ‘putting away’ step. It is not uncommon to find all seven of my laundry hampers full to busting at the top of the stairs. For some unknown reason, probably mere inefficiency on my part, this is my perennial stumbling block. The very best thing to do with stumbling blocks is to blast them into outer space.

Personally, I’m sorely tempted to convert the garage into a holding pen, fill it full of racks and shelves, and house everyone’s clothing in one spot, right next to the washer and drier. This would streamline matters considerably. Since the average American already uses the garage for storage purposes, with cars parked out on the hard drive, we would just be that little bit ahead of the curve and start a whole new trend.

I think it would also foil burglars who would break and enter through the weakest safety point in the average house, the garage, and would then be distracted from the task at hand by a tempting display of clothing. It’s a trick used by most store keepers, put the most attractive items near the entrance to lure in the punters. By the time the burglars have picked out just the right size, style and colour, the police will have arrived and the game will be up.

But I digress.

Here is where the art of delegation comes into play. What is the point of having children that create work if you can’t tap into their ability to contribute towards the smooth running of the family unit? Call it child labour if you will, but if we ever hope to develop independence in our children, it’s a step that’s hard to resist.

Here I must confess my main objection to teaching my children independence, namely, that they do not meet my exacting standards when it comes to putting away the laundry. This is why a few little visual pointers can help them navigate the way and keep them on the right washing line. Labels my friends, labels. If your children can read, then all well and good. If not, then little icons or PEC’s help smooth out the bumps and indirectly save on ironing. Folding is well beyond our current skill set but hangers work well.

I’d like to don my environmental hat and cut down the laundry, wear clothes more than once or dab off stains like my mother used to do whilst the occupant is still inside. I’d like to curb the three or four changes of clothes whilst they attempt to approximate the costume of their favourite characters, but at the same time, I am also dumbstruck by this extension of pretend play. Suddenly they’re happy to attempt dressing. They’re motivated enough to overcome some of those fine and gross motor challenges. Do I really want to choke off and stifle such tender new growth?

Sadly, although we started this new campaign over 18 months ago, what with one thing and another, I have let matters slide. However, that’s no good reason why we shouldn’t start again, renew the campaign and continue to tackle our own particular mountain, or failing that, "regroup" and take "cover."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Be mine

Hosted by "Tracy" at "Mother May I," but the photo-picture below will whizz you right there with one click.

Just call me snap happy.

red BSM Button


A little late, but isn't everything these days?

Now that my friends is a labour of love. The marathon is over until next year.....when is St. Patrick's Day again?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dog’s for autistic children – a preliminary report

The primary purpose of dog adoption is to assist relationship development for many people, often referred to as RDI. So I thought it would be interesting to share what we have experienced to date.

Prior to Thatcher’s arrival, we spent six months visiting the dog park on a regular basis as my youngest son had a great fear of dogs. This was a more intensive version of the general desensitization programme for the previous two years.

So far we’ve experienced several significant developments. Firstly, both the boys have learned to pronounce ‘th’ in six weeks of daily practice. Secondly, my older son, who has a tendency to speak inaudibly, now manages to speak more loudly on occasions. All of the children have learned that if they do not tidy their toys, the toys are likely to be chewed or eaten, which is a great and fairly natural incentive.

My youngest son’s first response is always to run away from whatever it is that upsets him. He knows that by running, in the dog’s eyes, he turns himself into a plaything or prey. This has helped him to learn to hold his ground and use his naturally commanding voice. Also, that hand flapping and waving is interpreted as a gesture of alarm or play and that he can communicate more effectively by slowing it down.

By pure luck we find that we choose a sweet natured and intelligent hound. He is easy to train and all the children are keen to learn. Interestingly, on a traffic safety note, whilst they both often dive willy nilly into the road, if they are attached to the end of a leash they are both very careful to ensure that Thatcher doesn’t do likewise. Because they are already fond of him they are keen to treat him well. Whilst it might seem a good idea to steal your own favourite chocolate pudding from the fridge and feed it to the dog, once he sees the dog vomit he has a direct visual reminder that kindness comes in many forms.

Although Thatcher is a Labradoodle, he does shed his hair. So far the boys’ asthma has remained the same. Their eczema and allergies have not worsened nor flared. I think we all benefit as a family from regular walks. I know that the children benefit from freely talking to all the many people that we meet along the way. It has given them a new and interesting subject to talk about. It seems that both adults and children are far more easy going and forgiving if the discussion is about dogs. They have both adopted several conversation openers such as ‘what’s your dog’s name?’ This is especially endearing as the question is centred on the other person. They both recognize and enjoy this expansion.

So those would be the main facts to date.

On a practical note it is good to remember that pets are initially expensive to buy.[adopt] Thereafter, especially if you are in America, there are a number of fixed costs apart from food and equipment. Many people out here opt for pet medical insurance and many veterinarian establishments offer payment programmes to cover the pet’s initial and on-going immunizations and medical treatments. If your pet is not already neutered or spayed this is another huge payment. Puppy training is a must unless you already have experience, and even then, to be frank the puppy training is as much a benefit to the junior owners as it is to the dog. Puppy training for autistic children, in a group setting may be a challenge. However, if the focus remains on the dog and the teacher models the behaviour expected, there is a good chance that those children may have one of their first positive experiences in a crowd.

So basically everyone is happy and hunky dory, except me and the carpet cleaner and the accidents!

As an aside, I also note how logic dictates the rules.

It is our habit as a family, to say goodnight to the children when they are in bed. My youngest and more vocal son, has a strict pecking order when it comes to love. Women, girls and cats, even if they are male cats, can be loved. All other creatures, humans or otherwise are ‘liked.’ His father accepts the status quo, even if he might prefer things to be otherwise. One morning he finds his son fawning on the puppy, hugs and licks and “I love you Thatcher.”
“Great! You love the dog! The dog’s a boy, remember?”
“But you don’t love boys and men, remember?”
“Er……I like mens and boyzes…….but I love wimmins and cats and pets, even if dey are dirty old smelly dogs.”
“I’m not that old!”
“Er…….it’s o.k. dad……..you don’t smell as bad as Thatcher.”

I could write more but I’m a bit pushed for time as “Nonna” needs me.

I you have the time “other people” also need a dog for autistic children as you can see over here at “Michelle’s” blog.

Lastly, if you think I’m exaggerating about the ‘th’ pronunciation you can check out the "video" and hear for "yourself."

Friday, February 13, 2009

What an expression? The damned fine teaching profession.

Slurping Life

Get the code:-
Cut and paste
from this little
boxy thing below

“Hey Mom!”
“Yes dear?”
“My teacher says I’m doin real good in math.”
“Er…….my teacher……say…..you’re great, awesome job!”
“Mom! My teacher says…….she am being entertaining…….. wiv my new adorable face much more……dan my angry face.”
“Dya wanna see my cute face?”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How your body works? A knee jerk reaction!

I react to unusual yelps of pain. I find her in the family room, beating herself with a hair brush, with a silent audience, her brothers.
“What on earth are you doing to yourself?”
“I can’t make it work!”
“Make what work?”
“The knee jerk thing.”
“Oh……I see. Well you don’t have to be so violent about it. It’s really easy. Let me show you. Pull up your trouser leg. Cross your legs. Now feel your knee cap and tap firmly just underneath.”
“Wow! It works!”
“Be more gentle. It only takes a tap.”
“Geez, that is so cool!”
“You can do it to anyone, especially if they have bare legs. All you have to do is look carefully and tap. It makes for a great joke. You could try it at school.”
“Come on you guys. Whydontcha have a go too?” The boys examine their own knee caps, with care and a good degree of contemplation.
“Not joke.”
“It’s not a joke? Don’t you think it’s funny dear?”
“Er…….not if you ain’t got no legs.”
Rats to the "theory of mind!"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The sleeping life

We are nocturnal, again. I trundle through days and nights with attrition, neither asleep nor awake, merely treading water as I wait for the phase to pass. I adopt my own coping mechanism, a constant stream of espresso interspersed with pots of tea, as there’s nothing like a full bladder to keep you on your mark. Bloated but vertical, will just have to do.

As I wait outside the classroom with my youngest son for the others to join us, I am reminded of the steady stenographer. She would sit in the courtroom with her neatly crossed ankles below her tidy legs, encased in a pencil skirt, nursing a soft little pot belly of womanhood on her lap. Still as a statue, palms down. The only movement came from her curved fingers as the tips followed the words of all the parties present. Her neutral face was calm, open and expressionless.

I pay my son no heed as he is huge and eight and discretely inappropriate and waiting is always tough. He nestles into my body, not so much from the cold but for protection from other more ethereal attacks. His moans are sotto voce, the suppression expression of the frustration of waiting, whilst his fingers tap my tummy.
“It doesn’t hurt to me!” he bellows at 50 decibels as volume control is work in progress. All around the school yard, faces turn towards us with one accord on cue. Maybe a hundred pairs of black bee sunglasses stare blankly through the watery piercing sunlight, in the chill of the afternoon.
“Oh good. It doesn’t hurt me either dear.”
“Mom?” he continues.
“Yes dear?”
“Are yah fat or pregnant?”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Unexpected fall out

5 Minutes for Special Needs

This is what you can expect if you ever happen to finish your laundry.

An once in a lifetime empty laundry shute provides new opportunities.

If you enjoy caption competitions and photographs, you may wish to nip along to"DJ Kirkby" over at "Chez Aspie" and test your brain power.

Monday, February 09, 2009

How to make your own duvet/comforter cover

First a quick translation to avoid confusion:-

Around here, we use European duvet covers which are the same as American comforter covers except that Europeans omit the second flat sheet. Instead, the duvet cover goes next to your skin, or maybe your pyjamas. This means that Europeans change their duvet covers far more frequently that most Americans change their comforter covers, which are used more like Europeans use eiderdowns.

This is why American sheet sets are packed as follows:- one fitted sheet, one flat sheet and one or maybe two pillow cases. If the pillow cases are fancy, they are sometimes called shams. This is intensely confusing to foreigners such as myself.

Hence if you find yourself with a surfeit of single [twin] flat sheets, it’s very easy to make them into a duvet cover [comforter cover].

First practice with a couple of old tea towels which will provide you with a handy reference map when you’re buried in two six foot sheets. Once you’ve grasped the basic principles it will be very easy to make the real thing.

Since sheets are already hemmed you don’t need to bother with French seams or have any fear of the fabric fraying.

Put the wrong sides of the fabric together.

Fold over the top of each one over in the opposite direction of each other and put a nappy pin at the edge, through all four layers to simulate a seam.

Turn the whole thing inside out and you will see that you’ve formed a double pocket at one end, which will keep the duvet from escaping.

With the big real version, sew the three outer seams first with the right sides of the fabric together. When you turn it right side out you can add an extra layer of stitches at each side at the top flap to make it easier to insert the duvet and strengthen the edges.

Some people add tags to the inside corners or buttons to help keep the duvet in place.

On completion add two to four snap fasteners to the inside edge to help keep the flap from gaping. I avoid Velcro as a quick fix because it often becomes undone, is scratchy and makes for added tactile complications with restless and active sleepers, as with hook and eye closures. Some people use ties but these tend to fray after only a few uses. Buttons are also a tactile issue and the button holes are difficult to fashion quickly unless you have a sophisticated sewing machine.

It is not uncommon to get through three sets of bedding on a bad night around here. If both of them hit a nocturnal phase at the same time, then we may encounter 8 sets of bedding by morning, especially if we parents lose the plot along the way. I find it hard to connect the dots during the night. They are wide awake and fully functioning, but without the day time prompts, accidents are inevitable. As bedding and duvet covers are extremely expensive, we’ve found this an invaluable way of increasing our linen stock without breaking the bank.

Now if anyone has any tips for making your own indestructible, heavy usage washing machine, I’d be extremely grateful.

Try This Tuesday

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Magic Marker Monday

Hosted by "Tracy" at "Mother May I," but the photo-picture below will whizz you right there with one click.

Just call me snap happy.

red BSM Button


Saturday, February 07, 2009

International translations

I field questions all day, correct diction, repeat back the preferred form and generally exhaust everyone with my efforts. During a brief lull my youngest pipes up, “lookie, lookie, lookie!”
We look, all of us, out of the window and follow the pointy finger.
“What are we looking at dear?”
“Er…..dat car’s butt is dirty,” he chortles, with quite the filthiest undertone of a brothel creeper.
“Ah…..someone’s written in the muck……anyway….it’s a car boot.”
“Yes, car boot, not car butt.”
“Yes, boot as in shoe.”
“Actually” she adds with a hint of smarm, “it’s car trunk mom, trunk as in back.”
“Er…” percolates the little one, “trunk……. as in elephant,” shortly before he dissolves into cackle on the floor.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Sick as a Dog

Slurping Life

Get the code:-
Cut and paste
from this little
boxy thing below

Thatcher, the most miserable dog in the world!

Which is why I am happy to be female, with all my withered bits and bobs in their original places, human, without a cone on my head and ever so slightly humane. If that's not a reason or two to be happy, then I don't know what is?

AddThis Social Bookmark Button