Yearly Archives: 2015

Josh’s Boredom Box

Winter School Break has begun…  I’d decided to spend the holidays at home relaxing, for a much needed r&r with my family. That’s before I realized that we have 3 weeks vacation!  Yikes!!!  Naturally, the dreaded “B” word was spoken in hour two – 9:00 AM – of day one of our stay-ca… Josh, my Tweener declared,  “Mom, I’m boooooored!!”   Next was the incessant, “Can I watch TV?”… and the invariable tantrum, taunting his siblings, whining, you name it!

Thank goodness Abby, Case Manager extraordinaire from ACES paid us a visit that afternoon.  After listening to me vent about the situation, she said – “Let’s help him make a Boredom Box before I leave.”

So… that we did!  We pulled many items, ranging from his many Lego pieces, to a Chess game. When an item was too large, he wrote the name on a sheet of paper. He also wrote the words “Use My Imagination” on a blank page and placed everything inside a box. He named the box his “B Box” and was placed in charge of decorating it.  With her experience and expertise, Abby coached Josh through pulling items from his bedroom to place in his box as well as writing a note for reference during times of boredom.  She used great imagery with perspective shaping, painting a picture of Mom’s “bubble” of thoughts and feelings when he was nagging because of boredom.  She made him feel excited about navigating his world independently.  She was encouraging and supportive.  Josh was fully on board!
Joshua wrote:  “My “B” Box.  I will occupy myself without asking Mom for TV.  I will use my “B” Box when I have finished all my normal tasks and feel bored.  I won’t bug Mom and ask for TV.

P.S. I have the most amazing imagination in the universe… So I will use it with my “B” Box!”

Today was day one of Josh using his “B” Box. I checked in on him a couple times; served his meals.  Josh totally self-manged today.  He did not nag me once!  So far.. so good!

So…  Here’s to the “The “B” Box!  … And Abby!

PS…If you have not heard of it before, or need a refresher on the idea, google “Boredom Box” and you will find loads of images and ideas.

The Wand of Silence!

A Way To Experience Moments Of Peace And Quiet…

There are moments in your day or week or month when life gets overwhelming and you simply need time to yourself!  In those moments, an effective tool I’d like to suggest you utilize to achieve that goal, is the “Wand of Silence”.  Visual tools are very effective for kiddos on the spectrum.  You can create something similar for your home and call it whatever you like.

Here is how it works:

  1. Create your “Wand of Silence”.
  2. Have a Family Meeting show them the “Wand ” and explain to your kiddos that there are times when you need a break and you will ask for their support.
  3.  Explain to everyone… From Teenager to Toddler – and even Dad, if you must – exactly what will happen.  That you will hand them the “Wand” and that means total silence and quiet movements in their own space – bedroom or play area – until you come and take it back from them.  You may even want to write a Social Story to reinforce this idea to the kiddos.
  4. You may also need to explain to some kids who are literal in thinking, that they can come to you in an emergency and explain what that is in your home.
  5. Finally, after your five, ten, or thirty minutes of “silence” retrieve the “Wand”.  Remember to take a minute to praise heavily and show some appreciation to your children for their consideration.

For the best results, I’d recommend that you begin with very small increments of time, then build upon that.  I’d also recommend that you begin with no more than one break a week.  Remember, this should be used at times when you are in high stress.  It is not to be used for daily breaks or it will lose its effectiveness.  

Happy “Silence” & Peace!

The Potty Party Bag!

Time Proven Tool in Behavior Modification!

Potty Bag Picture

Potty Party Bag

Today, it’s called “The Potty Party Bag!”  Sixteen years ago, it was called “The Telephone Prize Basket!”  My daughter is now twenty years old… when she was four I was Sales Director for a direct sales company.  When my Clients would call, I needed her to settle…  It was impossible for her to sit still for a nanosecond and when I was talking on the phone, she wisely knew she could get my attention by climbing onto the kitchen countertop.  We developed a system around it.  It started with a Social Story whereby we simply stated the need for her to play quietly when Mommy was talking on the phone and also the dangers of climbing on the counter top.  Then when Mommy got off the phone, she could pick any prize she wanted from the “Prize Basket!”   The Telephone Prize Basket, was heavily adorned with ribbons and festive decorations and was placed on top of the refrigerator.

Today, my five year old son is being potty trained… So Theresa, his ABA Supervisor made this “Potty Party Prize Bag.”  Each time he goes potty on the toilet,a tremendous celebration ensues and then he gets to select a prize from “The Potty Party Bag!” Guess who mastered “The Potty” in a week?


“Empathy, Enabling or Empowering?”

Here’s what I know… I understand without any doubt or confusion that when my ten year old son is tantruming wildly, even sometimes ferociously; or when my daughter misplaces her homework yet again; or when my five year old son reverts to biting, just when I thought we had nipped that behavior in the bud…  I am very aware and accepting of the fact that these are symptoms of Autism or ADHD.

I have empathy for my kids!  I know when I am experiencing feelings of frustration and fatigue; being totally worn out from trying to be a supportive parent it pales in comparison to what my kids are feeling.  They sometimes feel a tremendous burden living with their symptoms. Seemingly never being able to get it right! Constantly and sometimes harshly being corrected by adults and often being ridiculed by peers. When well-meaning professionals supporting them have such low expectations; they are afraid to voice their innermost dreams.  Even though I do not have Autism or ADHD (ahem!) I can relate to their pain.

What I urge you to watch for and gauge, is having that empathy translate to accepting maladaptive behavior or allowing our children – any age on the spectrum –  to develop bad and sometimes harmful habits; because we are just so tired.  Enabling our children does not serve them well in any way and it is detrimental on many levels.  The results can also be devastating. Teaching our children coping strategies is a gift of a lifetime.

Knowledge is power!  Information is liberating and elevating…Education is the premise of progress*  So how do we empower our kids?  We empower ourselves!   I recently took a course facilitated by Dr. John Erratt of OUSD about perspective and perception of kids of the spectrum.  It was one of the best hour I have invested in myself in a long time.  The next time that course is offered, I will pass on the information to you.

Here’s what I recommend…  Sit with your children and spouse and discuss the challenges you are individually facing coping with any aspect of the diagnosis in your home.  Make a commitment to find the source of support for your family.  I urge you to partner with Agencies that provide any type of Behavior Support so your family can learn coping strategies. Help is only a telephone call or email away!
*Kofi Annan

When They Soar!

This is such a beautiful story… One of courage and determination!  When kids on the spectrum succeed, it gives us a collective feeling of pride and hope.  

I urge all parents to forge ahead in battle for your child!  My sincere wish is that we continue to have the courage and determination to seek out the best resources for our kiddos.  To never allow anyone to force us through the path of minimal achievement.  To remind everyone on our child’s team that the road less travelled by is simply a road.  And… because “that is the way it has always been done” does not mean it will apply to our son or daughter.

I see a world for our kiddos where they are fully integrated in society.  Where IEP’s and 504 Plans become the useful tools they ought to be.  Where society has a broader understanding and acceptance due to the resonance of our collective voices. Where all parents are informed and can become consensus builders and chief collaborative problem solvers on behalf of our kiddos.  Where all our kiddos can soar!  May be all experience that feeling!  

Happy Mother’s Day!

My sweet Sam, who is nineteen, was working on a College project due last week. She has two more weeks before this Semester is over and is working hard and maintaining a B in this particular class. So she was busy highlighting decadent aspects of the food item, getting a slammin’ photo and outlining the nutrition contents to put on the brochure she was creating. We were on a time crunch and when her ride arrived; got her off in the nick of time. Those of you with kids on the Spectrum will appreciate the fact that we were completing the project the day it was due. Nonetheless, during the entire time putting her project together, she was doing her best – quite successfully – to remain poised, and not have a tantrum outburst from frustration. Even though she had many challenges, she’d drawn on the skills being taught to her by her support Team, and remained relatively calm and focused on the task at hand. Her anxiety was clear to me, only because I am Mom. I was supremely proud of her… Her ability to self-manage! Moments after she left, I opened the refrigerator door and saw that she had placed the “Clorox Wipes” in the juice section and left her V-8 Juice container on the kitchen counter. A tangible evidence of her anxiety. It touched my heart…

I am frequently told that I am a great Mom. (Sigh/Gratitude) What fortitude I have to raise children with Special Needs… To be driven to educate others along the way! More often than not, I do not respond to the compliment because I do not know what to say. During those moments my thoughts are with many Moms whom I meet, seeking answers for their children with special behaviors and challenges. Who are leaving no stones un-turned trying to find solutions and oftentimes some semblance of peace for their family, at that moment. More importantly, Moms who realize that they are the glue that hold their family together… The core… And the rock. The only person who can effectively spearhead the effort necessary to make a difference in the life of their child/children. I meet these Moms and I am so appreciative of their efforts. So on this Mother’s Day, I pay tribute to them! To all Moms who care for and love their children unconditionally. Who walk the extra mile and do the “and then some” to help their kiddos with Special Needs, because that seem to be standard to attain effective outcomes. We are in an extraordinary club. YOU are are to be applauded!

On a personal note, I could not be more blessed, humbly favored, overwhelmingly grateful and tremendously proud, to be Mom to my children. The honor truly is mine.

And today my thoughts are with Gina Tidwell Jacoy… who lost her son Jerritt Van Es so unexpectedly on August 10, 2014. Words are inconsolable on a day like today. While our hearts weep for her in sorrow, I can only be grateful that she raised a beautiful son who showed kindness to mine. Jerritt left an indelible mark on my Zach!  We will always remember him.

Autism – A trick to curbing Rigidity

The ‘trick’ is anticipating!  Knowing what will come of new habits formulating.  Then, consistency in implementing a few steps.  Additionally, simply having a firm hand with an empathetic heart.  When my 10 year old tantrums – and I do believe the universe conferred with him when they were creating the definition of the word – the entire family feels defeated.  So I work at identifying his triggers… the antecedents to his tantrums or disruptive behavior… and helping him do the same.  Reducing and/or eliminating the episodes is our goal.

He got the latest version of a video game he really wanted for a Christmas present.  Here’s what I knew was going to happen:

1. He was going to be very excited!  And he was!

2. He was going to ask to play with it immediately.  And he did…. for 6 straight hours!  He skipped lunch.

3. This would be his “go-to” and only preferred activity for the foreseeable future.   And it was…

We have a system whereby all “electronics” must be checked into my bedroom on a table I have named “The Docking Station.”  That way, no one succumbs to the urge to play at midnight.  So every morning the gadgets are checked out of my bedroom.  I decided to see how long this new obsession would go on and also give him an opportunity to enjoy his new toy.  Finally, on day eight day when he came to me bright an early in the morning to check our his video game, I told my son I was very busy and would get to his video when I had a minute.  I sat at my computer and worked.

He interrupted me a few times and I finally asked him not to come back… I suggested that he self-manage for a while and I will get to him when I had a free minute. My son sat for three hours and stimmed… shaking his head from side to side to alleviate his anxiety and in anticipation of receiving his video game to play.   He did not touch another item in his room.  What was I seeing?  A new rigid pattern was developing… a ‘tantrum in the making.”    I eventually gave him the toy but before he started to play, I told him we needed to chat in about one hour.  He committed to our meeting.

I started the chat by saying… “Hey, I noticed that you are playing your new video game eight hours or more every day and not using any of your other toys, art collection or writing manuals…What’s up?”  We proceeded to engage in conversation and negotiated a new strategy for him using his new video game in addition to his other activities daily.  That was done with some Collaborative Problem Solving communication strategy.  I also utilized the ABA strategies I’ve used for years with my children, including writing a Social Story.  The matter was dealt with before there was a chance of escalation.

As with much of what we do, it is a process… I have great empathy for my son.  There are some beautiful aspects of his Asperger’s Syndrome that makes him unique and amazing.  I am so proud  him.  I also understand his impulses.  His rigidity and need for routine.   In addition, I also am just as aware of the world we inhabit and understand the importance of helping him find ways integrate.   This will be vital to his socialization later in life.

So the ‘trick?”  Observe!  Anticipate!  Adjust!  Get ahead if the potential problem…  It works!