Sunday, January 18, 2009

Autism: Kindergarten Playdate

Friday was a professional development day at school which means, no school. Without exception from any other day, my son asked "what are we going to do today, mom?" It seems like it would be a reasonable question, but when my son inquires, it basically means: Give me a play by play of everything we will do. Many times, my day has not been completely scheduled and I must think quickly about the tasks, errands, or play that we can do. There will be no room for spontaneity as my son will create a checklist to mark off (throughout the day) as soon as I answer his question.

I try to keep the kids busy so on the checklist, we had to go to take my daughter to a class at the Y, go to BJ's, and promised each could invite a friend over. Having only done this once before with my son's pre-school classmates, I felt he might be ready to give it another try and called a very nice boy from Ry's class whom I have seen take to him. Upon opening up the door, Ryan ran into the other room. I greeted his friend and promptly began to facilitate play in hopes of making both boys comfortable and bringing Ryan into the play. "Let's play on the smart cycle. You can both race against eachother", I suggested. Though the game was a big hit with the friend, my son hung out in the background (sometimes even up the stairs) trying to get his bearings. I understood, but I wondered if the little boy who was over understood.

It was a long playdate. I made cookie cutouts of each letter from everyone's name (girls included). My son loves to spell his name and I thought his friend may have the same affinity. This was a strategic move as I knew this would take up time as an activity, everyone would have a snack, it would be fun for all, AND Ryan could participate on his own terms (though he would never eat the cookie), in his own space. I hoped the friend would also feel better because, up until now, he had two little 3 year old girls trying to grab his attention....something, I'm sure, he didn't expect when accepting the invite. Poor guy.

In hindsight, I'm glad Ryan had his playdate. Though you would think he may not have liked the discomfort, I can guarantee that Ryan will talk to his class about having his friend over on Tuesday. I think the friend is a keeper and I will do it again, and again, and again. Even at such young ages, a core character is already developed. Each one of these boys could certainly teach the other.

For me: I will not lie, it was exhausting. But: I am so happy that Ryan will have this event to "play up" for school and feel great about, maybe even typically social. Well worth it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Autism and the Tooth Fairy

Last week, my son lost his first tooth. This is a pretty momentous occasion as it symbolizes that your "baby" is even growing older. After the new year, I had a feeling that Ry would begin this stage of the tooth fairy and began preparing him for a dental appointment. With all of Ryan's oral motor sensitivities, we weigh each battle and decided to hold off on oral hygiene ( just the dentist) because we had "bigger fish to fry". He finally opened his mouth wide enough that I thought a visit to the dentist might be do-able, so I began telling him about it.

Well, I guess my feeling was right because he lost his first tooth last week during school. Losing a tooth is a somewhat abstract concept. With most things, Ryan learns concepts by experiencing them. He doesn't understand most things by just talking about what will happen. This was true of losing a tooth and the tooth fairy.

In losing the tooth during snack, his paraprofessional realized his tooth was missing, found the tooth and proceeded to show my son. Ryan was not impressed and excalimed, "Don't put it back in"! This is how he thinks. His understanding goes as far as his experience will let him. Today, there is a space in his mouth and there is nothing we can do to explain to him that a grown up tooth will grow there. We have to wait until it happens. We were just relieved that he didn't freak out about losing the truth. On the contrary, he lost it and didn't even let anyone know. I brushed his teeth in the morning and didn't even realize it was loose .

Fast forward to the evening when the tooth fairy is coming. Again, Ryan does not enjoy the mystique of such an event. He asks me to sleep with him. I didn't see that coming. In trying to minimize his anxiety, I offered to call the tooth fairy and tell her that we will send the tooth through the mail. She could send the "payment" after she receives the tooth. In some respects, he understands normality and didn't want me to do anything different. Still, he didn't know what to expect and that can make him crazy.

I was pleasantly surprised that everyone slept through and woke to find that the tooth fairy did slip in, take his tooth, and leave money for his bank. His next tooth will be less stressful for him because now he understands through his experience.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Autism Is individual

Happy New Year!

Welcome to my new blog and new year's resolution to separate my business from personal blog.

In creating the settings for this blog, I wanted to make sure you could find me so I knew the word autism had to be in the blog title. Yet, I don't want my readers to immediately get the opinion that autism is what I am all about. In searching for a name a reader would be drawn to (in a snazzy kind of magnetic way), I brought up the thesauraus to see if there were any other words I could use in lew of autism. In a very symbolic message to myself, I found no matches.

Autism is individual because each child, adult, and family afflicted manage each day by love, hope, fear, and plain survival. I claim to hold no answers but hope that this blog will either teach or help in commisserating the joys and the struggles I am experiencing in mothering autism.