Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Do It With Style

I  have bursts of illumination when I'm doing the ironing.
I don't know if it's the combination of electricity and steam jolting my brain into (temporary) lucidity, or if my thoughts are lulled into a hypnotic (...oh, OK, bored then) trance-like state, allowing Deep Thoughts to rise to the surface.
Luckily, I don't iron often.  My brain might melt.

Anyway, the Deep Thought I had was that I finally feel comfortable with the way I am helping Bob along his path.
We have the luxury of being almost 3 years post-diagnosis, so I am well past the gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes stage.  These days Autism is such an integral part of our lives that we don't even notice that sometimes it's Really Really Hard...it's just the way it is.

So Bob was in the bath, while I was ironing on the landing beside him.  We were "chatting" and I was getting him to pour the water from a jug to a cup, partly to stop him drinking it (no need for laxatives in our house) and partly because our OT said it was a good way to develop fine motor precision.

And I thought "Wow! OT and ST have become such an ingrained part of our lives that we just do it informally all the time".
This was a really big light-bulb moment for me.

Three years ago I was almost demented trying to find a space in my house to transform into a sensory/education room where information would be magically absorbed by osmosis into Bob's brain.
Well, it would have to be magic, because I realized that even if I did have all the coolest equipment and the best education programme, that I didn't have the skills to actually teach my son.
Oh, and I wasn't a Speech Therapist, or an OT or a psychologist either.
Silly me.

And even if I did have all the cool stuff,  that I would need to staple gun my child to a desk to get him to sit for any longer than 15 seconds.  (I never did find that damn staple gun...I think my Social Worker recognized the crazed look in my eye and hid it).

At the time, I was desperately trawling the net for something, anything, that would help me help my child.  My head was a swirling mess of floortime, ABA, Teacch, diets and all the other stuff we cram into our consciousness in those first awful months.  I was paralyzed by the belief that everyone else seemed to have strict teaching schedules and nifty educational programmes.  I was convinced that I was failing my son because everyone else was doing important stuff, while I was doing the funky headless chicken dance.

As the months and years moved on, and Bob progressed from preschool to Outreach, I was being drip-fed the skills I needed in a way that I could use them.
One week the ST might say "hold the biscuit up to your nose so that he has to look at your face" , and I would do that so often that it became normal.
Then the teacher might write in Bob's journal that he works really well when his reinforcer is clearly visible, as he understands that he can't have it until his work is done.  So we do that without even thinking now, and it works like a charm.
The OT might mention that working on his upper body strength is a vital part of developing writing skills, so while we're playing I'm aware that it's helping his penmanship.

I'm not a quick thinker, and it takes a long time for understanding to crystallize in my head.  I'm not being critical of myself, it's just how I'm wired up.
Now I finally understand that I can tackle Autism Bob-Style, and that there is no right or wrong way to teach our children.  I don't need to beat myself up anymore.

My style is informal, slow and fun. Sometimes it means a little desk work, but mostly it's making him hand me a PECS strip to ask for  peanut butter on toast, or coaxing him to say "ready, steady....GO!" before pushing him on the swing.
If my Autie style was a person, it would be Samuel L. Jackson.

It took me a long time to reach this point, but I invite you to consider what your Autie Style is, and above all to remember that your style is your own, and you and your child and your personal set of circumstances have created it.
Gucci may suit you, but Prada might be my thing.  Ain't we looking good on it???


  1. A wonderful blog Jean. I'm doing that funky headless chicken dance at the moment. We have no idea what way to turn until we get our assessments on D. A lot of helpful pointers in this blog for us so thanks a mill. XXX

  2. loved this one jeanie
    it really is each to their own, what work for me might not for you but at least were doing something and not nothing
    god my style, slap bang thank you mam jackie chan today as i was in battle, but tomorrow i could be someone else intirely lol

  3. So true Jean isn't it amazing that things that were previously alien to us become second nature to us (i didn't know what OT meant) I know we are all so immersed in teaching our special kids their skills we don't notice the odd stares we get from people who never have to resort to these tactics Great blog as usual Kathy

  4. Good for you. You are the expert on your sweet boy. Enjoying following your blog!

  5. We learn to get into our child's head, to reach them at their level and somehow adjust our way of thinking before adapting a new way of speech and communication.

    As always, a wonderful post.

    CJ xx

  6. Elaine, try not to do it all at once...I wish I was a bit more relaxed 3 years ago and I might have been more effective!
    coolkid, of COURSE you're Jackie Chan lol.
    Kathy I think it's a good place to be when you just do your funky thang without thinking about it.
    Thanks Eithne for checking in.
    CJ getting on the same page as our kids is what it's all about
    Thanks for all your comments gals XXX

  7. Ahhh, I am at the drip feeding stage. The one thing I have resisted is reading books about autism for fear that I will overload and overthink things. Basically, I do what the Tutor tells me to do, end of. Catching myself saying 'Thats great doing the washing up, husband' is regular and not worrying anymore:) Lot to think over in this one, a chewy post again, one that I will have to return to a few times to absorb your wisdom:) Thank YOU. Jen.

  8. Its amazing how "teaching" becomes second nature and an integral part of your life. We don't spend all day at a desk, learning ABCs and tacting items, but muddle through with ABA as our lifestyle. I laughed today as the two tutors overlapped and we were all in the same room, Munchkin banged her head as she was getting something from under the stairs, and we all said as she was crying at the same time "what happened" (knowing well what did) "use your words, what hurts" etc... its become second nature to use EVERY opportunity as it arises to get appropriate language. You prompt without realising and like you, one day get a lightbulb moment that you are no longer doing the crazed headless chicken dance :) Its just how it is. Even this evening as I whooshed the dog inside as he was barking, I mentally jotted down that I had just reinforced that behaviour lol xxx

  9. My fashion advice is to never let a style wear you. My Home program advice is the same. If it doesn't suit you, it won't work. And tha analysis part of ABA should always take into account environment- you, your home and your routines.
    So it sounds like you've found your lycra jumpsuit Jeannie- power rangers helmet is in the post.


  10. great blog jean, and it def takes a while to find our feet, i remember i hadnt a clue at the start, i googled autism til i was blue in the face, then when i got the dx i stopped reading about it and focused my attention on my butterfly, i stil havnt found my theme but im getting there like a tortoise...slow and steady ;-)
    loved reading this xx

  11. This is one of these "Yes, me too!" blogs -especially because we arrived here via different road. We missed the ABA, tutors and basically anything that could have given us some pointers, and that made the chicken dance even worse. But where the system let us down, an informal network caught us - rollercoaster mums, bloggers, teachers with special needs experience, eventually therapists. Tips were shared, abbreviations explained, books suggested. I still have these panic "am I doing enough" moments, and the suspicion that other people DO indeed have the teaching schedules, but even knowing we all have this fear diminishes it a bit.

  12. Thank you for a really helpful blog. When my son was two and a half and had no speech I stuck my head in the sand and hoped the little voice in my head whispering autism would go away. We went down the Assessment of Needs route with my head still firmly stuck in the sand but then when we were refferred to CAMHS last November for a six week assessment in an ASD diagnostic preschool my head finally came out of the sand and I found myself suddenly doing that funky headless chicken dance. We got our diagnosis of autism in December and since then I'm like a rabbit stunned by the headlights of a car - I don't know which way to run. So I just want to thank you again for your really helpful blog - I hope you know how wonderful it is to read about other mothers who are a bit further along this autism road.

  13. jen, i wish i was as wise at your stage...are you sure you haven't done this before...pml re hubby lol???
    petunia, Munchkin must have rolled her eyes to the heavens at you lot!
    hammie, lycra jumpsuit lookin' good...can't wait for my helmet (glittery pink I hope)
    autimom, we sure get ourselves in a tailspin! Glad you're in a steady phase now.
    truf, RC and fb saved my sanity too!!!
    Eadaoin, it's paralysing, isn't it? This horrible phase will pass, but do yourself a big favour and relax about it all. You really can't do everything straight away.
    I really appreciate all the responses girlies. thanks a mil xxx

  14. .. and I thought I had the headless chicken dance all to myself, I honestly thought I was the only one till I met you lot ! Now I have Buster saying "eye contact Mom" when I am too busy on FB to look at him when he speaks to me.. cracks me up every time ! Thanks for another great blog Jean, there is a book in there somewehere !

  15. I'm afraid that I just lurch from crisis to crisis, cos when things are going well, it's hard to remember that he's an aspie - you just say yes and no at the appropriate moments when he's talking at you, and everything else seems to be fine. Then the bad times come round again and you buy more books, start posting on rc and fb and reading up on stuff online to try and find a way of dealing with the latest crisis. And so it goes on....

  16. Brill post my dear!

    We all certainly have our own styles and one size definitely does not fit all. Sometimes the styles are forced on us depending on the "styles" available , which in turn, depends on your location. But we all adapt the styles we are given to fit us and our children. Over time they develop into our own unique style!

    3 years on, eh?? You are now the road ahead for others ....in your own unique and wonderful Prada-like style ;-)

    Well done...fab post! xx Jazzy

  17. Great post Jean, I love the idea of you as Samuel L Jackson! You are amazing inspiration that you can multi-task so effortlessly. The other thing to remember is that you are getting results so if aint broke why try and fix it? Keep your style and your Samuel groove!

  18. Reading every book I could find was a way to cope with the reality of autism in our house at the time of diagnosis. i also felt it was really important to me that I could have an informed discussion witha ll the professionals we have to deal with for our sons. one year later I did the same read the entire library on aspergers for son number two, this helped me, but some people told me not to do it as it would upset me. i needed to obsess for a while and now we are back to normal (whatever that is) I dont do any teaching at home well formal teaching but everything i have ever done with both of the boys has been a learning experience for them, as mothers we naturally teach our kids, it just happens xxxx

  19. Excellent! You are so inventive and creative Jean, that is impressive indeed! It is great to find your own style of teaching and what works for the child, I guess we all do that to a certain extent because no one thing works all by itself....at least this has been my experience. That is what Griffin responds to the most...is the custom made teaching method and that is why his teacher has failed him because she has not come up with a plan for him or goals. Good thing that we are finally getting an IEP!