Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Perceptions Log

My spunky kid went away to overnight camp for two weeks!  It's a new one of these special places that could be included in my last post about sparkles.  From the pictures and the few comments he gave, it seems like he had a wonderful time.  Transitioning back home was... bumpy.  He seemed to have lost any interest in being pleasant around others. We couldn't tell if it was just one of those regression zigzags that precede growth or if he actually had forgotten skills.  He almost got kicked out of both chess camp and gymnastics the next week.  He accepted a fellow camper's comment that it was funny to be a troll on an internet forum, and gave it a try himself.  All our previous skills were not working for improving the situation.  We'd have long talks that would seem productive in the moment to all three of us.  Yet, he wasn't remembering them, making us all feel like those hours were wasted.

Finally, we were able to help him unearth two things he had accepted:
being annoying to others is both fun and funny
getting positive attention is harder and full of mistakes

Coupling those discoveries with the new knowledge that long discussions were no longer the awesome tools they had been, we needed to find a new tool to help him.  My brilliant husband came up with the idea of a log and we've refined it into an awesome tool together.  Due to the hyperlexia, my son has always been highly responsive to the written word.  We'd write in the log when our son came across positively and when he came across as annoying.  The positive and negative numbers were measures of how he was coming across to us, data points for him to consider (not evaluations of himself).  There were absolutely no rewards or punishments involved to distract or add anxiety.  He loved it.

He dubbed it his "drama journal" because he got the mostly blank booklet in drama elective at camp.  So... he had a drama journal to record his annoying and pleasant drama throughout the day.  (You couldn't make this stuff up!)  The first day he was going out of his way to do all sorts of helpful things to "make us" write nice things in his book.  Over the last two weeks there have been days where we mostly do our own thing and there are few entries.  There have also been days with no negative entries because he was a pleasant kid to be around... all day!  He was thrilled the first day he accomplished that!  (Of course we're not talking about his feelings, were' talking about the actions he chooses to take.  Feeling cranky, annoyed, angry, or sad at some point, for at least a moment, during each day is normal for everyone.)

At first, he would occasionally try to argue with us about perceptions because he didn't want any negative "points".  We were really clear though that this was just information for him about how he was coming across, intentionally or not.  We also refused to get sucked into a circular discussion in the moment the few times he was upset.  He reads the log to us the next day and we briefly (honestly, really briefly) discuss anything that's still a question, which is rare.  It's been amazing.  He is still going out of his way to be helpful sometimes and is also noticing when something would come across as annoying.

No big surprise, it's not really that fun to be annoying when you love your parents and can succeed with positive attention.  Seeing it in his drama journal has convinced him he can and that it's a lot more fun.  It's been an awesome two weeks for peace in our home.  Tranquility with a kid who finds it fun to be annoying was hard to find... it felt like everything kept getting poisoned.  All our attempts to connect and be close were getting twisted into times of irritation.  So, here's to innovation in parenting.  My general Positive Discipline approach and principles don't change, but there's always a new bend or twist or chasm in the road that I get to figure out.  Here's to reveling in the journey!

We went kayaking as a family today and thoroughly enjoyed each other.  He was thrilled to be dressed all in blue paddle jacket / pants and life vest... posing for a family picture though, not so exciting.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Three Sparkles

I just wanted to note three special-needs programs that have brought extra sparkles to our lives.  After another long day today dealing with my kiddo's sensory seeking challenges, I wanted to write about something that brought smiles and sparkles (not sighs and sadness).

Challenge Air is a program that allows children to actually fly an airplane.  Cameron first did it when he was four years old, but when he was five he really got how special and thrilling an experience it was.  Check out this look of utter glee and excitement and delight:


That's something super precious.  He talked about how he "banked the plane" for years.  I'll admit having your young child holding the controls of a plane when you're way up in the air is a wee bit stressful, but when he looked back at me with this face... the delight and pride and joy he felt was palpable... it lasted, it's priceless.  I use this photo as my phone wallpaper to this day.

Last year, Cameron scuba dove for the first time with this program.  The first thing he told me when getting out of the water was... he was awesome.  He knew how hard it had been to overcome the sensory challenges of using a regulator and he was super proud of himself.  He went again this year and finished off swaggering up the steps and handing me a piece of giant kelp as a present.


Finally, at ten years old, my kiddo didn't know how to ride a bike.  His classmates would zoom by and he'd get that look, but he said he didn't want to learn.  He was willing to attend this day camp  though that focused on helping special-needs kids learn how to ride a bicycle gradually.  We got back last week and he's no longer part of that statistic of 80% of kids with Autism who never learn to ride a bike.  He can head off down the road with his dad, head high.



So, on a rough day, I wanted to celebrate these programs that help add sparkles to the steeper climb of kiddos with additional challenges.  Thank you Challenge Air, Special Kids Scuba, and iCan Bike.



Sunday, June 1, 2014

Symptom Diagnoses

One of the things that I think is fundamentally important to understand about Autism is that it is a symptom diagnosis.  Like hypertension or ADHD, what is defined by such diagnoses is a symptom or set of symptoms.  This is very different from diagnoses like Malaria or Sickle Cell Anemia or Down Syndrome where the diagnosis includes the cause, the reason the particular symptoms are seen.  

Thus, a diagnosis of Autism only says that the person displays a certain set of symptoms, but it says nothing about why that is happening.  As understanding grows, I think it highly likely that we'll discover this grouping includes widely disparate causes that do not belong under the same title because they are fundamentally different (and will respond to widely disparate interventions).

For any symptom diagnosis, probing into potential causes can be highly useful.  That doesn't mean that the actions to directly address symptoms are ignored, but it does mean that the diagnosis is a label with a big question mark at the end... why?  Maybe a kid isn't focussing well because he has food/environmental allergies or GI pain or dyslexia or... there are many potential reasons.  Kids are also often unaware or unable to articulate clearly what they're experiencing.

This isn't an admonition to spend every moment probing potential causes as I could easily spend my life reading Autism resources and miss the joys of parenting (along with many others)!  It's just a note to keep in mind that a symptom diagnosis only gives a surface level description and seeking to understand what is underneath in your or your child's particular case can yield great rewards.

Of course, no diagnosis or label defines a kid... you never know when a kiddo with social deficits might surprise you and plunge joyfully into a kid sandwich like mine did two days ago!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Warm Fuzzies

I'm pro warm fuzzies!  I think most people love the warm fuzzy feeling of receiving heart felt compliments / validations.  But, it's not as common to take the extra time to compliment as it is to complain.  I'm not talking about the big moments.  If you're really impressed, grateful, delighted, it's much easier to think of sharing that strong positive with people who have elicited that response.  The same is true of feeling strongly hurt, misled, or used.

When I say that I'm pro warm fuzzies, I mean that I'm for incorporating them as the normal response to the many smaller times we feel esteem for others.  For years now, I've incorporated the idea of sharing three good things each day with my best bud (a practice mentioned here).  It's on the rough days that it's especially valuable to pick out those positive moments and acknowledge them as important.  It's so much easier to notice the problems, what's not working, and focus on the smaller negatives.  Those things are important too as, of course, ignoring reality isn't good for anyone.  But, I think those small positives are equally important and they often get passed by as something that isn't a squeaky wheel, it just works, not worthy of attention.  I think that's an error in giving more weight to the negatives and missing the joy of the present good.  Again, I'm talking about the small stuff, but that small stuff is most of life and it's worth celebrating.

I recently started a thread on a favorite parenting group about acknowledging the parenting strengths we see in other members.  I spent several hours thinking about the particular awesomeness of the parents (or caregivers) that I had seen nurturing kids.  It was a delightful few hours for me and it spread warm fuzzies for the whole group.  I'm also considering adding to my GTD weekly review a to-do action to check for acknowledgements that I can give (dentist, gardener, librarian, waitress... did someone do something well this week that I could acknowledge and make both their and my world better).  So, this is a short post, but it's a vote for taking the time to focus on warm fuzzies every day.  Whether it's a few minutes over coffee to catch one positive and send an email or a daily three-good-things or something else, focusing on the joy in life makes for greater personal happiness and smooths a consistent flow of warm fuzzies... that's something I find worth practicing! :)


Monday, April 28, 2014

Photo Shoot

Playing “don’t take my picture"



Followed immediately by a prolonged photo shoot with requests for more and more pictures










Happy boys at the park... when my battery was about to die, we had 96 pictures.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Update #5: Autobiographical (Episodic) Memory

I haven't posted about these success boards for almost four years, but I've been printing the pictures and sharing them with my kiddo in binder format all that time.  Recently, we added some new topics so I figured it was time to revisit :)

These are the past posts (most of them, after the first, are brief):
Starting Idea
Board 1
Board 2
Board 3
Board 4

So, I was getting to the point now, with a ten year old, that the overarching topics weren't as exciting to him to contemplate... things like "moving with control" are more taken for granted in fourth grade (although I was able to add pictures of his new interest in gymnastics).  So, I printed a bunch of the latest pictures and we sat down together.  We brainstormed what the pictures showed and came up with three new topics and what they said about him!


Thinking for myself
I’m a person who:
- makes his own choices
properly considers what other people think
- is confident in himself
Choosing his own hat (and other pictures, like how he did his own thing on a recent vacation)


Trying something new
I'm a person who:
- is OK with learning new things
- takes my time
- can handle a challenge


Going in a submarine in Hawaii

Learning programming from his dad (and other pictures like learning how to interact with a friend's infant twins and our new guide dog puppy)


Planning ahead
I'm a person who:
- can think about the future
- can wait and plan for something I want 
- can make choices that keep my big picture in mind


Just unwrapping his computer that he saved for years to purchase with his own money (and other pictures like playing chess and creating his new planner.)
So, I'm as in love with this tool as ever.  By just printing the pictures and providing the documentation, my kiddo can see his own growth and come to powerful self evaluations.  I do a little guiding, but not much, the visual facts presented are powerful.  Kids are often so good at seeing their errors and challenges, but this is a tool that lets them visually see progress and celebrate success and internalize positive self-evaluations!  Win! Win! Win!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

GTD for Kids: Part II

I first wrote about GTD for Kids about three and half years ago and we've done lots of tinkering in that time!  We've had picture schedules / calendars, simple lists, and lots of little tweaks.  The file box is forgotten, for now, but we've gradually honed a weekly list that includes all my son's various actions and... it's now his to manage!  That's the biggest advance now, he manages his own todo list and tweaks it as he finds necessary.  At ten, he's also quite willing to use computer tools to change it into a format that appeals to him.  I was impressed when he used a mind map tool to change his print list into this:



It's got everything from cleaning his room and showering to school work and various activities with Mom and Dad.  He's been using this for about a month successfully.  He loves that he prints it himself each week and makes his choices each night with the time frame of the full week in mind.

We've got two things that we want to implement soon to give him a more complete, effective system- an inbox and a calendar.  My husband is going to set up a calendar for my son so that I can still keep it on my computer, but it will sync to his computer and he can look at that each week when deciding how to budget time.  It's also something he could print independently if he wanted.  While this has been awesome for organizing time, he's pretty messy when it comes to paper.  So... secondly, we're figuring an inbox is a good first step for paper management (and he could add "empty inbox" to his mind map).  He doesn't like missing pieces of paper, but he's not buying into any kind of file system... yet!

So... this process is intriguing!  We're just gradually helping him develop good habits and tools as he finds a need to get things done :)  Cool!