Saturday, April 21, 2012

Days of Spring

As if to compensate for an unusually dreary grey winter, we have been blessed with the most beautiful Spring

 Riot of color everywhere

How many shades of pink are there?



And these

In the cabin , the newborn forest is a beautiful color that R calls yellow-green

As spring will turn into summer the forest color deepens but now its this color

The lovely thing about the forest foliage is that it changes the color of the light 

I have been so enjoying my walks lately ( though R seems to have developed some separation anxiety once again and I sometimes find him not wanting me to go )

Outside Time 

When I run out of ideas with what to do with R - we just spend some time outside in mother Nature's sensory playground

Picnics are his special thing right now and we are taking this chance to make him pack the picnic basket , decide activities  plan where to go etc

We try to get him to make lists of what he would like to do

We go for lots of walks

We go to the parks

Social Thinking 

Since DH has been to the Michelle Garcia conference, it has really come to focus for how we need to teach R to pay attention to our thoughts

Here is R sulking ..

I think we screwed up his picnic- because DH wanted him to answer some questions

R loves to interact but completely on his own terms 

For instance, if you ask him question he will be silent Then he will try to distract you with a repetitive game like this -

R: Cabin go higher higher 

Then I have to say( complete with hand actions )  : Higher higher up higher higher up and down 
( replace cabin with other things  and go on like this ad nauseum ) 

Plus I knew he wanted Doritos - but because he did not pack them in the bag- I did not remind him

The point is to make him more responsible for himself

R sees the world completely from his own perspective( he is not selfish at all- if anything he is incredibly kind and cannot bear anyone being sad  - just he is not interested in anything that is not interesting to him )

DH has been working on this by simply asking this question

"What is Papa looking at ?"

This is a difficult question for him as he rarely pays attention to what we are paying attention to

Yet I do think he has the ability to think from other's perspective

For instance, he used to always set up furniture to steal candy .. but he would leave it there . Leaving proof of the crime

Now I see that he drags the furniture back :-)

Stretching Interests 

I have been using the Floortime technique of stretching interests ( like if he wants to go to walmart - I get him to pay attention to everything - our navigation system , what we see around us, the row number of where we parked, locking the car, etc ) These R-preferred activities are where he really has an openness of mind .

In these preferred activities - he  will answer questions in a functionally  ( he could not do this a while ago so we are very grateful for this )

But if its not on his agenda he will not answer the simplest question !

And he will sulk if we try to make him

With his therapists, he is much better

They are working with him on word associations and some of his association are really interesting and are giving us a peek of his very interesting thoughts )

Mrs G is even teaching him to play games - for example one of her games is that she will choose two cards - one card is an alphabet, while the other is the task to do. The other day she chose "H" and "Name a means of transportation"
Guess what he came out with

Not helicopter

But "Hang Glider"

He has also started getting interested in other topics like time, Seasons and weather.

( for some reason he belives that DH controls the weather and is very furious and does his angry dervish dance -  when DH does not make the clouds go away )

Autism Awareness

This is the month of autism awareness.

I have mixed feelings about autism awareness .

On the one hand - you cannot deny how wonderful it is when  a bunch of cafegoer defend a family with an autistic child that are in a restaurant and surely that is a result of awareness 

On the other hand, I am very tired of hearing how much autistic children "cost"... the word "burden" that comes up constantly...

While I do not  deny the difficulty that autism brings to life - I  also know that life can be very beautiful with autism in it

I worry that with what is being written about autism in the media - when a parent hears the word "autism" for their child- the imagine a child with a blighted life that will also blight theirs

I wish I could tell them about the amount a love and joy that an autistic child  can give you

I wish I could  remove the images of a child rocking sadly in a corner and replace it with an image like this

I simply cannot find words to describe how much we enjoy his company and how charmed we are  by his sweetness.

The other day I took a walk while he was with his therapist. She left the door open and a little later  he followed me on the path that he and I take on our walks.

When I returned home, I and DH ran out in a panic

I knew what he must have done( tried to follow me ) so I retraced the path of my walk

Sure enough he was walking down the route - he was distracted by the swing on a house and had climbed into it

I shouted at him in fury and he walked back with me tears running down his eyes

Later that night after he had undergone the consequences ( no screen time and no candy ) - I told him at bedtime about how scared I had been and does he know what could happen

He dutifully said "Car will crush . a monster will take"

I told him  "and  mama  will be very sad and keep crying"

R put his sweet arms around my neck and said "R no go to the road.. mama no sad"

With a child like this how could I be?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Social Thinking: Michelle Garcia Conference

My husband went to a conference by  the amazing Michelle Garcia  last week where she talked about Social Thinking

I did a Q& A with him on  this very important topic and thought it you would find it useful too .

 This post has been written for  Hopeful Parents

 What is social thinking?
Social thinking is a term coined by Michelle Garcia Winner an SLP and she defines it as ‘The ability to consider own and others thoughts, emotions, beliefs, intentions, knowledge, etc. to help interpret and respond to the information in your mind and possibly through your social behavioral interactions.’ 

Basically it means to be able to read social cues of others and react appropriately. 

This comes naturally to neurotypical kiddos where shared attention and intention leads to the development of Theory of Mind, which can be put simply as:
I Know
I know I know
I know You Know
I know You Know I know

What did Michelle Garcia’s conference consider to be the biggest challenges for children on the spectrum as they grow up?

MG feels that a number of challenges in the social sphere especially in the older children and adults can be traced back to undeveloped social thinking as a young child.

Older children have trouble with peer interactions, working in a group having fruitful discussions and being able to look at the whole picture. Adults have problems that arise in the workplace and relationship matters like dating etc.

R is a child with many good social relationships with adults but none with peers ?What were the top things that you would use for a child in R’s stage ?

R has strong relationships with us and other adults but it is primarily one sided. He is smart and knows that adults are useful beings that can provide him with the things he wants. He unfortunately hasn’t felt the need to develop a relationship with peers, which should change, as he grows older.

At his stage R needs to develop an interest in our interests – I mean he has now to realize that mama and papa have their own different thought and begin to show interest by observing us. Also at the same time realize that we know what he knows and so he doesn’t have to keep telling us the same information.

Basically at this stage we have to focus on creating joint attention, which is more than simply having eye contact. He has to be taught to see what the other person is seeing and then based on that develop the ability to figure out what the person is thinking. Finally using this to have an appropriate response in a conversation.

As R develops socially what would you want to implement in his home therapy program?

As R grows older I would like to develop increasingly interactive activities, one on one or small group, where he can be trained to look at and understand social cues and nuances (Michelle calls it listening with your eyes and brains) and then interpreting them to exhibit appropriate social behavior.

Other interesting things you would like to share and/or
anything you learned that surprised you ?

I think the most interesting thing was that we should look beyond simply memorizing skills to developing capacity. Just making eye contact should not be the goal but use it to listen to what the other persons eyes are saying.  The focus needs to be on the trunk instead of the leaves of the Social learning tree 

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