As our experience in autism land is growing I have stopped thinking of R's challenges in terms of Autism.
I think of these challenges in their component parts.
R has several challenges . But the two that are the most critical are
1. Apraxia ( the mouth muscles not moving right )
2. Sensory Modulation ( not being able to stay in a sensory stable zone, showing this by Stimming )
Sensory modulation is the one I am thinking about today
Last week, R has been somewhat stimmy and I have been baffled by his preference of electronics to people for play .
I have been worrying about it - but that is no help at all
As always its critical to press the reset button and start at the beginning
So yesterday on my way to work I have re-listened to Dr Greenspan web radio show on "How to handle Stimming "( free download from itunes ) . Its a stellar lecture!
Here is what I learned
Why does a child stim ?
Self stimulatory behavior which is R's case is withdrawing into himself through some kind of repetitive activity( repeatedly watching the same scene over and over again on TV ) - have two reasons:
1. is that there is too much stress in life due to which the child withdrawing OR ( in the way we may mindlessly watch TV in order to tune out a stressful day )
2. there is not much going on and so the child is bored ( in the way we may click our pen or shake our leg at a boring meeting )
Is stimming good or bad
Stimming can be good or bad. We all stim by twirling our hair, clicking our ballpoint pens etc.
1. The child uses the stimmy activity to organise themselves . The activity is calming and good-( example if we take a walk around the park and feel calmer afterwards )
2. The child's stimmy activity disorders and disorganises them further and turns adddictive ( bad ! - in the way sometimes when we are watching TV we know we are tired and bored but are unable to switch the TV off, in the way the internet can sometimes get addictive )
Third, what should a parent do to help a stimmy child?
1. Reduce the stress ( to a parent who calls in with a question on stimming , he suggests, having the child take a mental health day, cutting down the school day to a half - day )
2. Satisfy the need for stimming by REPLACING the stim . ( He quotes his college professor "dont take something away - replace it with something better ") For example, if your child is craving visual sensation - play flashlight games
3. Most Importantly. go back to the basics of floortime - joyful engagement, shared attention, back and forth interaction
In our case the answers are:
He is stimming because he is stressed and slightly bored
His stimming is addictive
We need to woo him back into a shared world and provide some loving structure !
So I shut off the computer after returning from work and also I use very high affect -
When I see him in the evening. I tell him how thrilled I am to see him and whirl him around and around ( dont try this if you have a sensory avoider - R is a sensory seeker )
After some energetic rolling around on a matress
We run to the trampoline ( he suggests it ) . And even through its gross outside ( our part of the world is all dreary grey and rain this year )
And have a really great Floortime session - we play games he loved as a baby - 1...2.....3... Tickle
I have not seen him laugh so much in a week and it feels really great !
In the evening we go to Target - we need to buy a kitchen gadget becasue its Dhanteras ( which precedes Diwali the festival of lights - kind of like a Hindu Christmas ) and even there he seems more engaged -
DH has done all the grocery shopping in the day and has been very firm about him not wandering off
Its funny that he seems more tuned in with the strict structure-And suddenly I realize that structure begets security !
I am writing down the rules so I remember in the next stimmy period
Rule 1 Find out why R is stimmy and eliminate the stress or satisfy the sensory need
Rule 2 Dont be afraid to provide the strict structure and turn off the screens
Rule 3 Go back to Floortime Basics
PS Just wanted to add a great article that Niksmom showed me last time about setting limits Thanks Niksmom