Having four kiddos on the Autism Spectrum can make life challenging. However with the supports in place in our home, my kiddos are truly learning balance and how to have FUN! When I am taking the kids out and about, my oldest tunes into the pop music station and seemingly every 20 minutes we are hearing this Summer’s hit song “Despacito.” Everyone starts singing and boogying in the car. At that time I am truly grateful for three things:
1) My kiddos have no idea of the translation of the lyrics to the song.
2) We are ALL tone deaf! Yikes… No judgement here… 🙂
3) I am witnessing this spectacular event!
Additionally, we also have “Dance Parties” at home where we jam to songs like the current summer hit, “Despacito”; having some small intermittent moments of fun and pure hilarity! This has been quite the evolution…
Some things I keep in mind when supporting my kiddos:
- Individuality: They are each on different parts of the spectrum. Happiness is defined differently for each. So there is no comparison made. I encourage each child to be themselves and find comfort and contentment in their individuality. To love who they are!
- Tolerance: Sometimes a child may be having a bad day. So he then expects the world to stop and everyone else in the family to be droopy and in the doldrums. It’s difficult and a tall task helping the other kiddos keep their sibling’s feelings in perspective. Have empathy for their sibling while remaining focused on their goals, tasks and state of mind for the day. Not perseverate and become so drawn into that situation that the feelings permeate. We work hard as a family with Autism not to allow the crossover behaviors.
- Happiness: Sometimes kiddos with Autism and ADHD are rigid and do not transition well. So an impromptu “dance party” may not sit well with them. I constantly weave fun into various aspects of their day or planned activities.
A Creative Mind… And an opportunity to reinforce skills.
My seven year old with ASD keeps reinventing his world! He recently took all his shoes out of the closet and decided to place them in his golf cart and another bin in his bedroom; boldly declaring: “This is where I will keep all my shoes from now on!” I looked at his adorable face and gave him props for his creativity and celebrated his ingenuity. I took pictures of him with his new golf-cart-shoes-bin and left him playing with it for the remainder of the afternoon.
Then, when it was time to clean up his bedroom before supper, I asked him to put all his shoes back in the closet, gently responding to every mild protest he was giving.
Why did I do that? I am always mindful of habits forming for all four of my children on the spectrum. Sometimes, habits are created out of boredom. Other times my kiddos want to be in control and begin a behavior to self-soothe or assuage anxiety. Whatever the reason, one thing is for certain… Kiddos with an ASD diagnosis can form and latch on to a new habit in a heartbeat. That comes naturally to them and it feels right. Then another symptom of Autism presents itself… Rigidity. When rigidity sets in, it is oftentimes partnered with combativeness and tantrum behavior. By that time, it becomes very difficult and sometimes almost impossible to make them change that habit or behavior. Behavior Intervention strategies have to be implemented to help revert the habit or situation. Since my twenty years of experience make me all too aware of how quickly new habits are formed, when I see it in the making, I immediately and reflexively stop and ask myself: Where will this habit lead us in two weeks, one month, one year?
In the case of the “Golf Cart Shoe Bin” I imagined a day when we were running late for school because we could not find a shoe. Then the situation escalating into a full blown tantrum, when I insisted that he wore another non-preferred pair. Ultimately, not only would my son be late, but so would everyone else; which would result in feelings of resentment, long faces, with that knowing glare through the rear-view mirror conveying hurt feelings all the way around.
Having four children with ASD upset in a car ride on the way to school is not a pleasant experience! When I weighed that scenario versus talking him out of the golf-cart-shoe-bin, it was an easy choice. However, there is more to the matter… It was teaching my son how to transition back and forth with more ease. It was also teaching him that some things must remain the way they are for functionality. He was being taught that he can be creative and have some fun in his bedroom. Some things can remain the way he created them, others must return to their place, to the order they were in. Finally, those neural pathways were busy at work adjusting and changing to help him acquire and maintain new skills. It may have been a tad inconvenient addressing that matter at the end of a long day and having my son return his shoes to the closet. When considering all the possible outcomes… it was worth doing to prevent him forming a new habit or behavior that ultimately would not work.
Here’s a note from a Mom whose son is receiving Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for adults…
I am so grateful for Adult ABA. My son is now in his 20’s living with a diagnosis of Autism. When he was younger it was not offered to us. I had to wait until he was in High School to receive ABA. At times I am envious of other families who receive ABA when their children are toddlers, wish we were that lucky. My mind wonders how much more advanced my son would be if he had received the services at such a young age. My son is what they used to refer to as “Asperger’s” or “High Functioning.” Looking at his picture, you cannot not tell that he has a disability, it’s a hidden disability. He struggles with food/textures, time management, social interactions/developing relationships and the big time waster he loves gaming.
Applied Behavior Analysis for Adults has been a godsend for my son; it has been a game changer. ABA does not cure autism but it teaches him skills, as result of Adult ABA he is building a foundation; a building block to independence. He is learning how to navigate this complex world we live in. My greatest fear is that if something happens to me, what will happen to my son? Who will care for my son? So I fight, I push him to keep going forward, he wants to gain skills but at times he becomes complacent. I advocate for the appropriate services that ensure my son receives the skills so he can become the best version of himself. It can be challenging because he is a young adult, but he still has not developed the age appropriate skills. He needs to be taught these skills.
My son holds a steady part-time job and is now in College pursuing an education for the career he loves. I know that there are many families out there that have young adult children that did not receive ABA when they were minors and now the family is facing many challenges, I strongly encourage you to utilize the therapeutic intervention of Adult ABA. It’s never too late for our young adults!
We love to hear these stories about how our young adults can benefit from Applied Behavior Analysis. Learn more about ABA here.
Why Social Stories Work…
Why do they work? Here are a couple reasons: Children on the spectrum are visual learners; so a Social Story with vibrant supporting pictures immediately resonates. Just as important is the choice of words used in the story. Also, all children retain information when it is repeated to them. So, when a Social Story is read repeatedly, it gives children an opportunity to process the positive messages. This allow for a shift in perspective. Then, it becomes easier to take those messages and make them applicable to real life situations.
Please preview sample pages of our books at the attached link:
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.
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:
- Create your “Wand of Silence”.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!