Parent Presentation

I’ve realized that I’m uncomfortable bragging and tend to blog when I need to vent the hard stuff.  The good news is that I only seem to blog every couple of weeks, so the majority of life is good.  Actually, this year is pretty darn great.  G’s made huge strides academically and socially.  There is literally nothing factual we can explain to him that he can’t understand.  He’s often better at figuring out mechanical stuff than we are.  For example, G’s been interested in the election so I took him to our early voting location after school so he could watch me vote.  I sat there for a minute trying to figure out how to work the machine before G stepped in to show me what I needed to do to select my candidates. 

Here’s another great thing, that really makes me feel like a braggart.  I’ve mentioned that our school has been designated by our state as a model autism site, meaning we have both consultants and coaches that come by a couple of times each month to observe and make suggestions to improve our kids programs.  They’ve all been really impressed by how well G is doing and have praised us as parents, which I sort of blew off because that’s my way and because I thought they were saying that to everybody.  Turns out, they’re not saying that to everybody.  DH and I have been asked to consider giving a presentation to the other autism parents in the elementary school to explain what we do every day to support  G.

Part of me is uberexcited to do this, because I love to talk about G.  (The other part of me is worried that we’ll be seen as arrogant.  But I’m working to squash that part and to enjoy the moment.)  Dh and I are working on our list of what we do daily to support G, which is longer than I first thought it would be.  Some things include:

A solid routine – many would say rigid, we would say comfortable.  Lights out at the same time almost every night, even during the summer, and we wake G up at the same time.  We’re fortunate that he’s a great sleeper and all we need to do is ensure he has enough time to get the appropriate amount of rest.  I recently blogged about how we wrote out the specific routine for my MIL to follow while we were away.  She chafed under the restrictions but I know for certain that it helped G deal with our absence.

A school day breakfast menu of about 10 choices.  Asking him what he wants with no guidance is the quickest way to a pre-dawn meltdown and can set a bad tone for the entire day.  Too few choices had him refusing everything.  G loves restaurants, so the menu was a great way to address breakfast.

A printed schedule for the school day.  This is written into his IEP and is something we insist on.  We know it can be cumbersome for the school to implement so we’ve taken this task upon ourselves.  His teacher gives us the master schedule and we’ve typed each day into an excel spreadsheet.  Each morning, we print off the appropriate schedule and G looks it over while he eats breakfast.  The teacher notifies us of changes to the schedule/special events/substitute teachers via email by 7am so we can make the appropriate adjustments or they handwrite the changes on G’s schedule as soon as he walks into the classroom.  This has done wonders for decreasing his anxiety. 

We have a mini-trampoline he bounces on before school.  We’ve read that 30 minutes of intense exercise can work to decrease anxiety in children and we’ve found this to be true.  He doesn’t get 30 minutes in all at once, he does short bursts of jumping, but I’d estimate he gets in that 30 minutes throughout the morning.

We have a family room off the kitchen that we’ve converted into G’s playroom, which is where the mini-trampoline lives.  I use the formal living room for my grown-up space, which is kind of cool because we use our whole house instead of having that one room that looks great but sits empty.  In G’s playroom, we’ve installed an occupational therapy platform swing.  I know this is unusual – I swear this is as extreme as we get.  But it really is calming when he’s feeling edgy or overwhelmed.

We have a small 3×3 inch laminated checklist attached to his backpack.  One side has his morning tasks upon arriving at his classroom, like hang up backpack, hang up snow clothes, take out the daily folder and schedule, etc.  The opposite side has his afternoon tasks which are basically the reverse of the morning.  He has definite organizational challenges and when he knows he’s supposed to do something but can’t remember what, he gets intensely frustrated.

DH or I drive him to and from school.  I have issues regarding my own bad bus experiences and refuse to ever put G on a bus without chaperones.

We provide 2-4 snacks to get him through the day and have snacks written into his IEP.  Most teachers really don’t have a problem with this, but I wanted it documented just in case.

We maintain high academic expectations and make him do homework.  I understand that as he gets older, we may have to have an accommodation where he just has to show proficiency.  But I feel he needs to get used to doing the 30-45 minutes of daily work they’re sending home now.  G is the type of kid where once he gets used to something, it’s set in stone.  I think I’ll be able to increase the work load expectations somewhat over time, but if he got used to having allowances made now he wouldn’t have a chance at doing high school level work.

We use timers and first/then statements to help with homework struggles.  For example, “First you do 5 minutes of work, then you bounce for 2 minutes, then you do 5 more minutes of work.”  I stop the timer when he gets distracted so the 5 minutes is solid work time.  Or I’ll time how long it takes him to finish a certain problem, as he loves to compete and beat his records.  The timer is great because it’s an impartial judge, he doesn’t argue that his time should or should not be up yet when I use the timer.

I’m always thinking years down the road to see what he’ll need to do later so I can think of how to break it into small steps that I can start now. 

What do you think?  Is this common sense stuff that everyone already knows?  Would you find it useful to hear another parent explain what they do to support their child?  We’re also thinking of talking a bit on how we work with the school team, as our experiences seem to be more positive than some of the other families.  Would you find this helpful or irritating?

Published in: on October 26, 2010 at 8:35 pm  Comments (4)  

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  1. This all sounds good. What do you guys do to problem solve situations at home that come up at school? I have a really hard time getting anywhere on that. We usually try talking and then role playing but it is really hard. Also, we have been trying to have a more consistent calm-down plan so that what he does at home to calm down is the same thing that he does at school to calm down. It hasn’t been super successful yet but I am hoping. Do you do something like that?

    I don’t think that many people understand the type of structure that can be helpful. Or maybe they get it but can’t quite implement it. But I am reminded how important it is for my child every time we have a vacation/change in schedule. Usually the result is a whole lot more crying/fighting with siblings. When I add the structure back it, the meltdowns are more manageable again.

    The other thing that I often need help with (from my professionals) is figuring out why something is hard for my son. I have gotten better at it over the years but I am continually surprised how I will miss patterns. For instance, it was just pointed out to me that whenever there is a new activity my son often will get really excited (he likes new things) and then will miss directions/cues or say something to be funny at the totally wrong time and get himself in trouble which results in a huge meltdown.

    Great post! I enjoy your blog so it is no surprise to me that you were asked to present!

  2. “What do you guys do to problem solve situations at home that come up at school?”

    Thanks for your input, it really helps! With G, we gather information from the school regarding the issue so that we can ask the right questions during a time when G is calm and receptive so we can try to figure out the root of the problem. This is good for when there is an external problem setting him off that can be easily changed.

    We struggle with G hitting, poking with pencils, pushing, etc when he gets frustrated. The problem here is that the source of frustration varies so we have to address the reaction rather than the provocation. Roleplaying has never been super successful with G so we used simple slogans like, “don’t hit, just sit” to try to help him remember to go to his calm place in the hall when he feels frustrated.

    The ultimate goal is for G to use his words to express his frustration. Our halfway step is to let him use really ugly words so it feels as satisfying as lashing out physically. We let him, and even praise him, for calling us stupid poopheads (he’s 7) wishing us dead – things that cause other parents to gape at us in shock. As soon as he has a habit of using words and not hands, then we’ll work on acceptable language. This is trickier with the school staff but we’re figuring it out.

    But ultimately, it takes a lot of patience and consistency. Over time G grows and matures too, so whatever we’re trying to teach starts to really sink in.

  3. I have only just found your blog and want to thank you for the post I just read here which was extremely helpful! . Our little boy is just 2 and in the process of being diagnosed – we are getting second opinions etc but there is something going there in the ASD department I know it. I am at the stage where I am sucking up all the information I can find about the subject trying to implement regimes at home to help etc etc. Anyway. I started a blog and went public with it 2 days ago and now i am feeling abit intimidated by it all and wonder if it is such a good idea…will you come and check it out if you have minute? i’d love some feedback from someone who’s been where i am. Hattie

  4. Yes, I find this helpful. G sounds very similar in some ways to my son. We are using some of the same ideas, but it is good to hear what’s working for others, because there are some things we haven’t thought of or haven’t tried that work for G, and might work for GL (my son) too. It also helps remind me what’s worked in the past. For example, we have an indoor swing, too, but in a doorway, so I had taken it down for the summer. After reading this post, I put it back up.

    BTW, what I found inspirational about your earlier post was that you were able to move from frustration to advocacy, and your sister thought of reaching out to the girl with Downs. I needed the reminder that even when I’m frustrated, I can still do some good.

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