Thursday, March 15, 2012

Are you my mother? Are you my therapist?

Dr Boucher is hosting a really interesting topic for her carnival this Spring.

She asks "You know your child best. Does that mean you are the best person to teach your own child?"

She invites readers to share their  teaching success with other parents.

We recently had our 5 year Autism Anniversary .

Over the 5 years , I have had different feelings on what my role as the mother should be!

In the beginning of my autism journey, I read the usual books with their usual message  that said "dedicate all and you shall recover your child "

Though our life centered around R, I always felt that it was not a 100% from me

Life, work ,chores, our own needs etc   kept getting in the way

But always in the back of my  mind, I wondered what would it be like, if we  truly dedicated ourselves relentlessly  to a full Floortime lifestyle -

So for Dr Boucher's Carnival I decided to experiment with one day.

This day we would lead the ideal Floortime life

I would keep  Floortime uppermost in my mind all day - not distracted by chores etc.

I would  reflect on my own thoughts and feelings, as I went through the day

Here is how the day unfolded

In our family, Saturday is the day of no work , no therapy and no chores .

 We are usually at the cabin

So its really an ideal day for this

Saturday dawns beautiful and sunny

DH and I wake up with R bleating that we need to wake up and come downstairs ( what R loves above all else is for all of us to lounge in the bed downstairs watching TV while he plays on the computer! )

So we talk about where he wants me to go and what he wants me to do and can I brush my teeth first and can I wear my dressing gown etc   (if you are wondering about the lack of "why" questions,  he does not understand "why" questions )

I make DH and me our morning hot drinks (hot water and lemon ) and R strolls in to the kitchen

He demands a Sprite cocktail and as he is sitting on the floor and patting the floor .. I pick up a floortime cue and we sing the "Pat pat pat "....(little Einsteins theme song where these 4 remarkable children travel the worlds -and sometimes outer space  to solve unbelivebale problems)

R completes the cue and sings "then raise your hands as high as you can  and say ....Blast off"

This of course is another perfect cue
So we  start making everything else in the vicinty go "higher and higher" (another Little Einstein theme  which we often repeat )-

 I add twists by creating little conversations around whether the  unlit fireplace to fly or  the lit one

Of course he wants both

So we do both
DH  coming to get his drink sees what R is doing and makes R go "Higher and higher" to much squealing and delight
 R demands junk food for breakfast and we floortime to bargain for a compromise.( a healthy muffin and a few Doritos )

We have a little conversation around how he wants his breakfast served ( though I know exactly how he wants it as he is mad for being served on trays )

He demands  a little bit of Wii (many back and forth opportunities - what game does he want , does he want to play alone or with me )

In all this playing , DH's waffles and sausage are overdone.

I offer to redo  but he eats them with good grace while I take my latte upstairs and shower and dress and make beds

We are going to go to the Outlet Mall to buy R's winter wardrobe for next year (Though, when I am there  I get shoe-madness  DH whilst making fun of my boot-obsession - buys himself many shirts as well )

In the car , we talk about what R will get if he is a "good boy "(lunch at the Golden Arches )

In the car we point ot everything we see (and there are some gorgeous sights as Spring is here )

At the mall, we go to the Jockey store

While DH is browsing on the shirts, R and I floortime

R teases me by pretending he is crawling
 He hides inside the clothes racks and I find him - (dont u just love that face?)

He bargains to stop at every Coke and Sprite machine (even though he cannot buy anything till April - a pact between him and me - he can atleast look at the machines )

And he  protests if I get him to move away too fast ( another Floortime opportunity as I can point out the other vending machines that are coming up ).
R and I look behind the vending machine, I know he is wondering about where this endless  and magical stream of coke comes from?
We talk about this but I cannot bear to tell him about the men and women who fill up these machines. I think  it will be like telling the truth about Santa.
R straightens us up ( this is new - he has started making sure we have our jackets and shoes when we leave the house )
We go to Toys R Us and Play with all the toys (endless floortime opprtunities here )
R plays with all the displays
As he has been an angel - we go to Mc Donalds where we oder both Coke and Sprite (one to drink and one to smell )

We play in the play area

We go home and relax a bit

Guys, I am EXHAUSTED already

 I try to energize myself up as  this is only half a day yet - so we go for a walk (i should say go for a "drag" as this is what we have to do for a reluctant R)

But once we are on our way , he points out places he wants to sit and we talk about safe and unsafe places
The Sprite can he is carrying (as a toy) is becoming an encumbrance.

So DH does a little pretend play theme with him putting the Sprite can "to bed" and saying we will come back and "wake it up "

DH sees a plank thrown down the mountain and he really wants it for one of his projects

We argue about its size and so he climbs down the mountain to retrieve it
As I heckle  DH, R sits and watches the sun on his hands

We measure R and the plank and it turns out I was right about its size (that its shorter than R)

(This little episode is nothing to do with Floortime but I just wanted to point out this priceless moment as I am rarely right about any practical thing )  !!
We return back to the Cabin - we  "wake up Sprite" and R constantly bargains to be carried(another set of Floortime exchanges takes place here  )
After we return to  the cabin , R reminds me that I had promised a picnic in the morning

Getting our picnic basket loaded up is a breeze and provides plenty of conversation chances - drinks straws snacks.etc ( while I know EXACTLY what he wants - I still add little twists  by planning the opposite of what he wants - "You want carrots?".. "No.. No ... bunnies eat carrots")

Dh and R practice throwing  stones- DH teaches the "over throw "
but he would rather "underthrow"
Its night ..

 I get  all the ingredients ready for DH to make our omelettes .

DH fixes R's cheapo train

R is entranced
 Then it is time for bathtime, dinner and bed ..

While I continue to Floortime my way through the end  of the day ,  I dont take any pictures

As the day progresses .. so does my exhaustion

I really enjoyed doing the experiment for Dr Boucher's carnival .

But I was also glad that the experiment was over.

Because even in the best situation possible- being in therapist mode all day was EXHAUSTING.

I found myself frequently longing to  just read a book

Or watch a show with DH.

Or do chores

Or do nothing

I kept feeling not guilty for wanting that. In fact feeling sure that it was okay to want that!

 I started the day "trying out" what would it be like if the only thing in my life was being a parent therapist

I ended the day thinking that even if I had that choice,  I prefer what we are doing now

I am glad we have chosen a balanced approach!.

That there is a whole team of professionals who is helping R.

Each professional and therapist bring  their unique gifts to the party, not just because of their skill set - but also because of their experience and perspective

In some part they are valuable, precisely because they are not mum and dad.

And because they allow DH and me to have a fuller life

For R to learn....does not mean that I and DH  have to teach it all

To  answer Dr Boucher's question -  while we may know our child the best, we are happy to not be the only people on R's team !

There is one final advantage to this - ( which DH points out as I was discussing this topic over our date lunch yesterday at PF Changs )

That it allows DH and me to sometimes be just  mum and dad.

Everything that means

And nothing more

There is a gift in that !

This post has been written for the fabulous Dr Boucher's blog carnival and she will host it on the 17th


Deb said...

This is absolutely wonderful. I often struggle with those same worries about not doing enough and your post reminds us balance can be good. I find it to be very freeing! Thank you :)

Bright Side of Life said...

I love this post, but then again, I love all your posts! :) I agree that having a balance is so important and to me, it sounds like you have that balance. x

Lizbeth said...

There was something that you said at the end that struck me---about you being mom and dad. We reached a point where Alex would not listen to me when we were doing therapies because he wanted "mom." I had to back off a bit and realize we were doing too much and just spend time as a family. And truth be told---it was nice being just mom.

Barbara said...

Definitely NOT an all or nothing answer to this question! As predicted, your readers are real winners in this carnival.

Yuji said...

Interesting to read about your day/experiment. My wife and I often feel similarly exhausted at the end of a weekend day... we aren't necessarily consciously trying to do Floortime all day long, but our son requires/enjoys a lot of interaction from us so it naturally happens.

But I absolutely agree that it is important to find balance, as difficult as it can be to do so sometimes. You can't be the best parent, or therapist, if you are exhausted all the time.

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

great post. I've wondered if we ( I mean me) am not doing enough. And should we ( I mean me) just abandon everything else and concentrate on just my little one. Just seems so difficult.

Dr. Boucher said...

"being in therapist mode all day was EXHAUSTING"

I'll sign that!

Rose-Marie said...

Heading here from Barbara's blog carnival...

Thanks for posting about your experimental day. I'm exhausted just reading all you went through! The lack of "you" or "husband and you" time stands out on this day that is so focused on therapy. Life without that balance seems like a quick route to burn-out. That, of course, benefits no one.

But I think your idea of trying a therapy schedule different from the norm is a great idea for us all to try! I'd like to give it a go myself. I might discover natural opportunities for therapy that I've underutilized (ie: I suspect we could do more range-of-motion during dressing than we do) or ones that are overkill (ie: asking confirmation of the obvious just for the purpose of practicing communication? That's actually quite silly, isn't it?). This is all an excellent motivator...thanks!

Mr. Daddy said...

K, my first thought when I read the title was,, O My what a challenge. And as I read your post, your day confirmed my belief that we are not called to be a specific thing other than our child's parents. And that being stated the best judge and advocate for our children and their needs. R is just blessed to have the parents that he has that realize this and continually look and seek the best for him and his well being.

I read a quote the other day by Ludwig Von Mises: "Man can never be omniscient. He can never be absolutely certain that his inquires were not misled, and what he considers certain truth is not error. All that man can do is submit all his theories again and again to the most critical examination."

I believe that as parents and just trying to be a good human being, we must apply this to our thinking and living...

loved the post as usual :)

Þorgerður said...

Your R seems very very happy :)

Dorsey said...

Enjoyed your play by play of R's day. I was starting to get exhausted by the end of the day. LOL

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post! I thought the part about not wanting to tell him about the men and women who fill up the vending machines (like telling the truth about Santa) was *adorable*!! What a little cutie!

Anonymous said...

l loved this, as always! You're right- it's exhausting being therapist all day. I've tried that too.

Stories Untold said...

I totally second that - thank God for therapists. But in my case because I also happen to be one sometimes there are superhuman expectations from me and the only way I have learnt to cope with that is to do some TEACHH intervention for myself - provide structure to my day.

I will gradually put visible tangible signs for G also to see and understand when I am ready for a 'Parent teacher meeting' (where he is the parent and I the teacher) and when I am ready for a 'Parent counseling / anxiety management session) as opposed to when I want to be the parent and just chill no questions asked or when I am the parent who needs counseling and anxiety management.

When it comes to me all at once I completely topple over :-)

Tameika Meadows, BCBA, Blog Author said...

I just found your blog, and I really like it. What a beautifully written post.
I'm a behavior therapist, and I do try and find a balance between impressing upon my clients how important it is to "do therapy" all the time and to pick up where the therapists leave off, BUT also its okay to be mom and dad. I dont try and raise the kids I work with, and I dont expect their parents to try and be a therapist 24 hours a day. For one, I agree it would be exhausting! And for two, I think for the child mom and dad represent a safe haven. They need to be able to relax and crawl into that safe haven from time to time.

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