Monday, June 13, 2011

Screen time and the Autistic child


There is much there has been said about the problems of screen time and autistic children

There have even been studies that claim autism is caused by screen time
( one of my friends calls a famous series of videos – as Baby Autism and not Baby Einstein)

We read that fire together wire together and that the neurons pathways being formed with too much screen time are not the right neural pathways ( this is the downside of neuroplasticity )
I know I myself have worried about this myself

However the stellar Danette's BOB will have some wonderful bloggers post on the whys and hows to  set limits on media

So I will talk about a few other aspects around media in our lives and how DH and I think about it and limit setting
 The first aspect  is about how DH and I approach R's day

Our approach thinking about what we want his day to have – instead of thinking of what we don't want his day to have.

These are two very different approaches So for instance we want each day to have to have the following parts
  • 1 part reading comprehension and conversation
  • 1 part physical activity, sensory , outside time
  • 1 part foundational physical ability ( ST/PT/OT )
  • 1 part Floortime
The rest of the parts to be filled with daily logistics, love fests ( which my little one gets an extraordinary amount of as we are a very demonstrative unit ).
 The above is a very different way of thinking about the child's day, than an eliminiation perspective,( for example , simply thinking in terms of "no more than 2 hours in front of a screen")

Second , we do want him to have portion of downtime – whatever-he-wants-to-do-time ( honestly I feel this is a basic human right that well-meaning loving parents often dont think about this)

Fourth, we give him a reason to want to be in our shared world.

We entice him into the non-screen world.
Screen time IS addictive – but so is play - and social interaction ( yes , even for autistic kids )

And as long as we  have the energy, we find many many ways to keep him in our shared world

The fifth aspect is how we use media as a way to connect with our child. Our Floor time psychologist observed us interacting with our son last month .

She observed that we initiated many interactions that he ignored.Her recommendation was that we need to build up a repertoire of things that get us a "wow" reaction from him .

These wow things are what we need to build interaction around

(One of the strongest findings in neuroplasticity, the science of how the brain change its structure and function in response to input, is that attention and emotion is almost magical in its ability to physically alter the brain and enlarge functional circuits.)

Not surprisingly many of these "wow" factors for R,  are around media

And so I look for ways to use media to get a connection going.

And I find them

So for instance,I and R play with blocks when he watches Little Einsteins( a show )  - enacting the way in which the " little Totem pole" triumphs with the help of the Little Einsteins.

Finally,as I look to the future, I am very glad we live in a digital age.

Not just for me ( though the internet has been a huge boon for me - helping me reach moms, dads, professionals and methods - including Floortime - that I would never have had before )

But also for R .

I can see R connecting with other like minded people  through social media - better than I see him connecting through "play dates".

I can see a career with computers

We are living in a digital age and its more for the better and less for the worse .

This post has been written for Danette's Wonderful Best of Best Bloggers to be published sometime in June  

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What we did in May

I have been absent from the blogosphere for about 3 weeks now . Too much work .And too much life happening. Promise to visit all my dear bloggy friends this week and catch up 
I did take pictures on my phone  this month and so I am writing about it month while I still remember, for the sake of reminiscing  later.

IEP meeting

We had an IEP meeting at school. His overall plan is good

  1. Half regular ed with shared aide and
  2. Half day special ed with two teachers - both of whom we really like
DH and I think this makes sense

The most important  accommodation we are hoping to work out - is that he come to school late to he can do his speech therapy in the morning. We think we will be able to arrange this

Evaluations

This has been VERY painful as he tests HORRIBLY

 His teacher showed us some test results - painful to read

Example he did not answer questions like _6_ .. as in what comes before and after 6  ( he has known numbers since he was 3 !!)

Glad his teacher sees his strengths

She said rightly that there is an intelligent child in there - but that academic success is about how well you present. And not what is in your head

Much as it is painful - she is absolutely and completely right

Reading comprehension

In terms of just reading - R reads at the 2nd grade level - but his comprehension  of sentences and concepts is poor.
 I talked to some of my friends and Reading Comprehension is really one of the biggest problems ( whole post coming up later on Reading comprehension )

We reminded our whole team that R has only understood language for the past one year and so to think of his comprehension issues as a 3 year old and not a 6 year old

Once reminded, they were all amazed at how far he has come. Its amazing how quickly we forget the challenges we have already overcome and get fixated on the challenges yet to come.

Its his ability to travel that we need to demonstrate.

 I think everyone - even educators custom their approach on perceived capacity to learn and that is why we need to always show that his ability is great

Tonsils surgery

DH "spontaneously" decides to get his tonsils out . His doctor has an opening that week and the schedule it right away

I read about tonsil surgery recovery on message boards and hear about how painful and horrible it is .

 I plead and plead  with DH to not have this surgery but DH claims those people are "wimps and pansies" and have "milk running through their veins".

That all I need to do "drop him back home on Friday after surgery and  just go back to the office after that".

However after the surgery - we realise that those people were not wimps and pansies after all and that their describing this surgery as the "worst torture anyone could go through" is actually rather an understatement.

We have a difficult week as DH is in a lot of pain and  I have to do a lot of things that DH does ( like grocery shopping, carrying laundry here and there, getting R ready for school etc )

Though its difficult there are many funny moments too. Like one morning, when I forget to call in the day to check on how he is as I am running from meeting to meeting, I get a voicemail from DH which goes like this "

"if you are done putting the man on the moon, maybe you could  find a few minutes to call to check on your husband".

My big strong DH is not usually prone to self pity( that along with a tendency to martyrdom  is usually my thing)  and this voicemail makes me laugh till I cry

The start of summer vacation

How can I describe the glow on R as soon as school is over?

I think being home with DH is one of the most therapeutic things for R.

DH is one of those people who carry a very calm, soothing and accepting atmosphere.

The thing that worries me is what will happen when school starts - its an even longer day and I just wonder if it will wring out R

Though I love his teacher, school is becoming a great source of anxiety for me .

I wish there was more flexibility - that we could do school for 3 days and a kind of homeschool with therapists for 2

Its difficult to leave home everyday as he watches from the garage door dolefully - can you see him standing on his toes watching me leave sadly ?



Mother's day

One of R's therapists gets him to make a Mother's Day card - she writes down a social story about Mother's day
I adore this card and stick it on the wall and R beams with pleasure



Play and Language

His spontaneous language is coming along great

The other day his PT was stern with him and he told me later when I asked him  mean and mad"

When I asked him how that made him feel , he said  "worried"

This is really great language expression for him

His pretend play skills have increased a lot

He goes around finding spider webs and singing "Little Miss Muffet " to them

He plays out his version of "The wonderpets Save the Dinosaur " by trying to get me to rescue bugs of all sorts who are "trapped " in spider webs . We must sing the wonderpets song and rescue them

One of the "Little  Einsteins" story he loves right now is about a little totem pole that gets "build upon"  and becomes a big totem tale thanks to the shenanigans of the and he replicates this with megablocks
This is his version of the "Tall Totem Tale "


Music

One of the things R loves most is music and song

Earlier it used to be me who would make up songs for him and now its he who is always adapting

His current obsession is "Coke and Sprite" ( no idea why ) 

There are also some super geeky parodies on youtube that R watches regularly ( the guy who put up that video must be wondering at the great increase in views :-) )

He also takes basic songs that he will sing to the different words

For instance if I take the tune of "There was a farmer had a dog , bingo was his name o "

and take it to "there was a green bottle with sprite.. sprite was its name o "

he will quickly make the same song about Coke and Fanta

His music interest is burgeoning as this week he goes to his teacher and play a tune ( Mary had a little lamb ) that she has never taught him but he learned from Nick Jr

The other thing I am pretty impressed ( but I am easily impressed by R ) by is how he notices the patterns of music. He keeps organising songs by tunes.

While a sing to him all the time - I have never noticed this until he points them out ( like the ABC song, Twinkle twinkle little star, Baa baa black sheep - all have the same tune )


Engagement

His general engagement in life is great right now. The other day DH and I are bickering in Walmart ( stupid AT& T has bad coverage and we cannot find each other ) .

R for the first time ever - takes my hand in one hand and DH's in the other and puts our hands together -

He is constantly dragging me everywhere with him ( another reason why I cannot blog ) to do experiments like learn about shadows by looking at the shadows of numbers
( I really love this )

He still expands in breadth and not in length -

like if he has a theme going on - where all the Little einsteins get into the rocket to fly away in a mission - that is where the story ends .

If I introduce an idea - like get a bunch of "umbrellas"  from DH's bar ( very enticing I think- colorful perfect replicas of umbrellas  ) and say that The Little Einsteins have landed on a rainy island and need umbrellas - he will promptly reject my idea

This is the crux of Floortime - to have a long unpredictable exchange.

You start with their interest - but the idea is to take the exchange down unpredictable paths and have the child come along

What I am noticing however is that while he rejects my idea at the time - he will try it on a little later .

So later that afternoon he takes the Little Einsteins with unbrellas .

And this morning he informs me that "rain and umbrellas go together"

I think Autistic children have many ideas and thoughts and its us that are not usually able to see

I think if one has an NT child or has had spend a lot of time thinking of and longing for an NT child - its hard to see the beauty of the special needs child .

Its like the son and the moon.

And how you cannot see the moon when the sun is out bright and shining

But for DH and me who have only known our autistic son .

For us there is no longing for the sun , we revel in the beauty and magic of moon light

I wake up in the morning with my head on DH's shoulder and hear a small doleful voice at my side

"Mama is hug Papa .. papa is hug mama"

The child hates being left out

DH pulls him up between us and he says "mama and papa hug R"

My little family

My circle of love

Floortime Lite Mama

On my life as the mother of an adorable 5 year old with Autism and Apraxia