Aides Are Awesome

G had an aide attend camp with him the last two days.  It was difficult to get him to accept the change in what he considered his routine – we had to get the aide to be very casual when approaching G and start quizzing him before G would relax.  G’s latest interest is the abbreviations used when texting, so we compiled a small list for the aides to use in engaging G.

The aide’s were very helpful.  Friday’s aide in particular, he was actually G’s ski teacher all winter long so he knew G’s quirks, how to see the warning signs of frustration and how to redirect G.  It was really great to have him.  Plus, he got us some fabulous intel on what was triggering G’s aggression.  One trigger was an obvious problem that we’d already suspected.  The other boy, lets call him Q, tended to stay unengaged with the group and would wander around instead of participating in the activities.  G considered this a violation of the rules and would want to ‘make’ Q pay attention.  G enforcing the rules, or making up his own rules and then enforcing them, is a chronic problem.  We’re trying to teach him that only adults enforce rules.  Before we leave him, we ask him to tell us who is in charge as a way to remind him that he is not.  Any other tips on this issue would be great.

The second situation where G hits is most interesting.  The aide was able to observe both boys.  He noted that Q would wander about without engaging and the counselor didn’t do much to try to engage him.  Then every now and again, Q would walk up to G and stand very close, invading G’s personal space.  Within a minute, G would get agitated and start to push Q away.  The aide was able to intervene each time and get Q to move away before G snapped.  One time Q was standing close behind G when G, who is a toe walker which means he chronically moves around to maintain his balance, stepped backward and bobbled into Q.  Q walked up to the aide and said G pushed him.  Since the aide saw exactly what happened, he let Q know G didn’t purposely push but bumped into him on accident.  The aide also noted that G was the only child Q approached and stood close to in this manner.

That incident has formed our theory of the trigger.  We think Q wants attention but doesn’t know how to constructively seek it out.  However, he knows that if he stands close to G, then G will hit him.  Q has probably learned that getting hit garners attention from adults, perhaps he gets sympathy cuddles and even extra privileges when this happens. 

And we learned that G doesn’t know how to constructively deal with a situation like this.  To test this out, I stood very close to G in our kitchen.  Sure enough, he put out a hand and pushed me away.  I tried it again a few minutes later, and he smacked my arm.  (not hard, but still…)  So we started teaching him how to use his words to say something along the lines of, “Get out of my space!”  Politeness is purposely absent – we find if we’re trying to replace aggression with words then the words need to start out aggressive to feel like an effective alternative to G.  As time goes by, we tweak the words to become more socially acceptable.

So having an aide at camp helped, not just because it stopped G from hitting the other camper with special needs but because it provided G with an advocate.  Unfortunately, we never got to share this information with Q’s parents.  They conspicuously avoided us the rest of the week.  If we see them at another school autism event, there are sometimes parent chats, we may share what we know.  But as it sounds a bit like blaming the victim, I’m not sure we’ll ever go there.  It’s enough that we know that G didn’t maliciously target Q and that we fully support G. 

He’ll have an aide attend his last week of camp in August.  And if we do camp again next summer, we’ll arrange an aide from the start.  Camp is full of headaches and stress for us, the program seems remarkably uninterested in accommodating special needs students.  But as long as G is interested in going to camp I’m determined to make it happen.  The camp is just going to have to deal with us.  😉

ETA – 3 days later after posting, I finally realized I neglected to title this entry!

Published in: on July 26, 2010 at 7:51 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hey, it’s Molly from Hopeful Parents. It sounds like we were at the same conference last week (two weeks ago now?)!!! Crazy stuff. And my son attended camp little tree at BOCES. Let’s talk. 🙂

  2. […] this organization.  They’ve always gone above and beyond for us, even supplying last minute aides for summer camp when G was having […]

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