Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Balance (Really?)

Is balance really possible? For most adults, finding balance is the journey between work and home, kids and self, or the discovery of true meaning in ones life. I believe the shift of balance changes daily. What is important one day, is put on the back burner the next. I suppose it is by design that we spread the weight of responsibilities and, with some effort, find balance.

Here's the thing, there is one area of my life that is never put on the back burner. For me, my autistic sons struggle to integrate with his peers, his academic potential, and what he can ultimately do in his life is foremost in my mind. As I clean my house, go grocery shopping, volunteer at school, even during my sleeping hours, the weight of trying to balance out my son's life is too important to make most other things matter.

What do I do to try to get some balance in this area of my life? I advocate (at least try), I question, I have play dates, and I worry if I am doing enough. Will I ever feel like I have done enough? The dreaded realization is occurring. As I talk with the school about my son's progress and the need to see a more defined measurement (with progress monitoring and graphing models), the teacher gingerly walks a line trying to instruct me to be proud of what he can do, not what he can't. The message was clear and was this, "your son is a gentle and kind person. Love him for those qualities. Your son's quality of life depends upon you coming to terms with his abilities. Measuring progress won't help him when he simply can't do the same things his peers can". I understand what her words of wisdom were suggesting. I appreciate that she is walking the rope with me and trying to direct me while I am feeling so lost. What do I do with this information? How do I find the balance for my child so that he can work up to his potential, but not expect him to do, be or learn something that is just too difficult for him? Where is the balance for my son?

So, I struggle with these questions today. As my eye twitches from the stress, I do not believe that my son needs to settle. That I need to settle. I will still expect accountability from the school in progress monitoring. Additionally, I can tell you this: What is in the best interest of my son is to realize his limited capabilities, but expect him to be able to adapt and overcome them. I believe there is a way to get him from A to Z. It may not be the same course as other parents take with their children, but there is a way.

For now, balance isn't really an option. How about you? Do you believe balance is possible?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Winter Break

Thank God winter break is close to over. It has not been the best run of my life. The stress of creating successful play dates through a morning of bowling, a "double play" (date) the next afternoon , and tunes blaring from the television (repeatedly), as the kids practice their moves through the Wii game, "Just Dance 2", was just the beginning. Wii was in high demand and constant refereeing created a huge amount of family disharmony. The bait and switch technique was deployed to no avail. No matter what plans were made, there always seemed to be a problem and "mom!" was squealed throughout the house.

"Let's go to the library and Friendly's for a vacation lunch," I suggested. That should help keep me sane and the kids happy, I thought. It did. Until each child received a different color balloon. Sure enough, my typical child was unhappy with her color selection. It wasn't a "girl" color. I was beginning to feel myself getting a bit crazed. Didn't we just go to Friendly's? These kids should be happier than ever. As a parent, most of us know the ingenious saying, "you get what you get, and you don't get upset," which was exactly what I told her. Not buying the philosophy completely, she decided that she was going to paint her balloon. I like to give my children creative freedom, so painting the balloon, it is. Have you ever painted a balloon with tempura paint?

As the kids painted, the balloon lost it "lift". The paint weighed it down and the helium couldn't do its job. Aside from the dilemma of the paint drying, my son (with PDD-NOS) believed he had washed his hands after the project. I was still trying to figure out the drying spot so that my whole house wouldn't get paint all over it and I see my son jumping and leaning on our couch pillow....red painted hand prints decorated the complete throw pillow. The next morning, I find the balloons on the ground only to notice that all the paint had chipped completely off and was, now lying on my hard wood and rugs.

After feeling guilty for my inappropriately yelling at my son for the pillow (as he didn't knowingly ruin my pillow and, in his mind, felt his hands were washed) and other moments this past week, I knew I was sure to be dropped from the running for mother of the year award. Then I read this posting from MOM- Not Otherwise Specified (click here to go to post). It provided me with a little validation. Here is an excerpt from the post:
"you are a reasonable person who has been living with unreasonable demands without reasonable support for an unreasonable length of time".

That about sums it up.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Autism - Learning Style is Important

Autism - Learning Styles and Life/Educational Skills Attainment


Louise Page


Autism - Learning Styles and Life/Educational Skills Attainment

When ascertaining what may be the best ways to help your child with autism to learn various educational, social, behavioural and emotional (etc.) skills; gaining accurate knowledge of what may be your child’s learning style will greatly enhance and promote a higher success or achievement in your child’s learning of such skills.

Understanding their particular learning style/s is imperative too in respecting the unique individual that they are.

Imagine if someone was trying to teach you a skill in a language you didn’t understand and they expected you to get it? This would place an unnecessary stress on you in trying to understand what you were being asked to ‘get’; you would feel frustrated; possibly even feel inadequate or saddened that you can’t understand the method/s or message and misunderstood as an individual.

Also, the ‘deliverer’ of the skills ‘training’ may become frustrated or perhaps believe that the child may not be capable of being able to learn effectively, in other words the child may be perceived as being ‘low functioning’ when in fact they are not and haven’t been provided with the opportunity to learn a skill according to their particular learning style and needs. 

Yet, if the ‘deliverer’ of the skills training understood the particular learning style of the autistic child, they will then tailor the learning method of the skill to be acquired to suit that child, and thus give the greatest potential of a successful outcome.

Some individuals, for example, truly believe that pictorial methods (such as social stories for learning social skills) are the only way to go with autistic children. But some autistic children have difficulty in understanding a visual concept. Some people believe that the only way to deliver skills training is by utilizing words, when perhaps for that child a repertoire of pictures may produce the best results.

What are the predominant learning styles?

Physical (kinesthetic/tactile) – learning by touch, hands, body, movement etc.,

Aural (auditory) – learning with sounds and/or music (rhythm?),

Visual (spatial) – learning via pictures, symbols and spatial awareness,

Verbal (linguistic) – learning by the use of words, written and oral,

Social – learning via group efforts or with another,

Solitary (by self) – learning by doing things alone, by self, for self,

Logical - learning through reasoning, using systems, logic (a mathematical style)

So, depending on an individual’s, or child’s, learning style/s (which could be a combination of two or more), their receptiveness and abilities to process the information being provided in the skills ‘teaching’ or ‘training’ will depend on, e.g. the mode of the information delivery. Retention of the information will depend on many things, such as; quality of the information, appropriate skill level of the information, the teacher/deliverer of the info., the disposition of the child (e.g. health, intellectual abilities, present emotional state, environmental distractions etc.), etc..

Another dynamic which will impact on the autistic child’s learning of various skills, will be their innate temperament. Their temperament will also dictate how they will react to what they are being taught or how they interact with another; and have an effect on how they will respond to others and skill acquisition.

Their temperament will also possibly help determine how receptive they will be to learning a new skill. If, on the day of being offered a new skill, the autistic child is feeling upset by something or someone, they may not be very receptive to listening or ‘joining’ with the person trying to ‘teach’ them a new skill.

So when it comes to helping our autistic children to enjoy learning, (and achieve such successfully), about the world they live in; lessons at school or any other educational, social (etc.) situation, we need to understand how our autistic children ‘tick’, what helps them learn and what works for them.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for autistic children. Each child is uniquely individual and many different dynamics inherent or acquired, regarding their being, will determine what are the best ways to respectfully help them to acquire or fine tune many life and educational skills and achieve such successfully.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/disabilities-articles/autism-learning-styles-and-lifeeducational-skills-attainment-1150688.html

About the Author

Louise Page
My career involves Professional Counselling (Diploma, A.I.P.C.), majored in Child Development and Effective Parenting, Youth and Career counselling. I am also professionally trained Autism Therapist , author, Integration Aide, Literacy Tutor, children\'s story writer and professional illustrator.
The Heart and Soul of Autism www.heartandsoulofautism.blogspot.com/

Monday, August 23, 2010

Amazed by Silly Bandz

Are you familiar with the Silly Bandz craze?

In our home, the obsession has diminished, but I have a feeling the fad will begin again after school starts up. Even though I think they are ridiculous, I am jealous of the person who thought up these things. What do I know?

I admit, it is hard to even imagine where the connection to Autism and Silly Bandz could possibly be. I assure you, I was just as confused until my son came walking in the door last year with a couple of rubber banded animals around his wrist. They were given to him by a little girl admirer from his class. It was really sweet. The thing is, my son is autistic and has a rigidity about textures. His clothes are always examined for any tags, threads, or scratchy feeling. The fact that he will adorn 20 rubber bands in multiple shapes and colors, travelling up his wrist and arm is short of miraculous!

I am perplexed by, not only his tolerance for the Silly Bandz around his wrist, but his extreme interest in buying more and more and more of them. I am learning that my son is acutely aware of what his typical peers are interested in. Additionally, it is this awareness that seems to be a motivator in trumping his natural behaviors. In this case, resistance to certain textures. He wants to be part of the group and do what everyone is doing. I'm thrilled that he can have such focus when he wants or needs to. Though this is not an actual research study, in which there are two groups of children receiving either a trial intervention method or a placebo, it confirms the benefit of mainstream classrooms and the effects of socializing with typical peers. At least for me it does.

Aside from the acknowledgment that he is trying to conform to the group, I will go one step further and venture a thought that the Silly Bandz are helping my son's sensory system. While the teachers limit the bracelets from the class because of distraction, for my son, the bracelets become an item to "play or fidgit" with during rug or work time. This provides the input he needs to concentrate. Who would have thought? Not me. I don't know much about pressure points, but I think the wrist is one area that can help calm a person. I wonder, could the Silly Bandz provide such a benefit?

I must applaud the Silly Bandz company for taking a random thought, manufacturing the product, and building a following of elementary children. Merchandising the product at the checkout lines are a complete thorn in every parents side, still I must thank them for giving my child an outlet to be like his typical peers. For me, you are as good as therapy.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Research on Autism

A new study found that some traits of autism (specifically eye movements) may be found in family members, suggesting a genetic link. Read more here:


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Welcome "the" Wii

Yippee Kai, Wii!

A couple of weeks ago, my mother came to visit during winter break. Upon "Grammy's" arrival, two wrapped gifts were given to each of the kids to open simultaneously. My son had no idea what was in store for him. As he ripped off the paper, he screeched with excitement:

"The wii!!!...Mom-look, the wii!!!"

A little history: After we came home from Christmas vacation where my son (with autism) played "the" wii, he was hooked. Not only was my son hooked on playing the game, but the entire family was enamored with watching him either play or cheer for others. It is one of the most amusing forms of entertainment. The excitement level he exudes for every player and the amusement he receives from watching the mii (in wii terms, the character you use to participate in all the games), go through triumphs-of passing giant cannon balls and trials-of being bumped off the tight rope and falling to its demise, is like no other experience. It may even sound a little depressing but I can assure you that my son's level of cheering and shear devotion to the mii player is infectious. The family was sucked into his level of happiness.

My son went back to school and shared the story of how he played "the" wii (a term my son invented). In adding "the" as the preface to wii , it is now an endearing term where visuals of my son rootin, tootin, screechin and preachin are attached. Naturally, I would have loved to give him such a gift, but "the" wii is much too luxurious of an item for us. We are on a buy what you need budget and "the" wii is definitely NOT in the budget. I proceeded to seek out sweepstakes in hopes of even the slightest possibility of winning "the" wii for my precious child. Little did I expect that what Grammy came through with is more than an extremely generous gift for us. It is the opportunity for my son to feel pride in his typical peer group.

Scheduling several play dates for my son has been a bit excruciating for me. Even though I know boys are different than girls in interests and nature of play, two hours of entertaining boys is a daunting task for typical boys. Add to that, one boy who will run away at the bat of an eye or highlight other unique behaviors (like screeching or stimming) and it can make me unravel. Their attention span lasts for about 5 minutes. By the time I set something up for the boys to play with, they are on to the next thing. Forget baking or doing projects like sweet, little girls. No way Jose! There has to be physical play, building, knocking down, and throwing involved. Then there was the little problem that my son and his friend never seemed to be playing the same thing. I was quickly wondering what these play dates were actually accomplishing.

I questioned my son's team of professionals, in hopes of learning or discovering something I was missing. I found out that I was missing video games in the repertoire of activities. I was instructed that boys interests revolve heavily around video games and that they often play separate. Knowing this tidbit of information, you can only imagine my excitement (and relief) when my mother gave us a video game! My prayers were answered. "The" wii will be my sons tool to use while working on his social weaknesses. It is perfect! During the next play date, the friend walks in the door and is greeted by my anxious son, announcing that he has "the" wii. The little boy says:

"oh, my mother doesn't let me play wii!"
Ugh!..with a smile.

Side note: The little boy did end up playing. It is still not easy but, with my son's whimsical wii attitude, I am still smiling.

***Wii tip: If you have kids who like to impersonate you (and use your mii), like my guy does, it might be good to attach a password. Currently, my son enjoys using his step grandfather's mii. He is bald, with glasses and it looks ridiculous. I have to admit, it is one of the joys of watching my son and "the" wii. By the way, my son also set up a mii and named him GOD. He likes to be GOD as well.

Thank you Grammy! Thank you, "the" wii!