Wednesday, July 30, 2008

YMMV: Your Mileage May Vary

Hi Send Chocolate readers! T has bravely trusted me to guest post for her this week while she's off enjoying some waves and tunes up North. When I'm not guest blogging for T, I write for califmom.

One thing that T and I have in common is parenting children on the spectrum. My 11-year old son was diagnosed with Asperger's when he was six. It wasn't a shocking diagnosis, in fact it was a relief to finally have something official to call Bug's mix of unique behaviors.

There's a saying among the Aspie community, "If you've met one kid with Asperger's; you've met one kid with Asperger's." There are many similarities, but each child and person with Asperger Syndrome is utterly unique. It is not a one-size-fits-all world.

With that in mind, I'd like to offer some of the tricks-of-the-trade that have worked for solving various dilemmas in our family. As the title says, your mileage may vary. Heck, my mileage varies on some of these. It never fails that as soon as we think we've got this all figured out, Bug throws us a curve ball.

  • White Noise -- A Godsend for sensory issues. We use a fan in Bug's room. It blocks out the sounds from other family members, and helps him relax at bedtime. In earlier years, we used a sound machine.
  • Shorts Without Pockets -- Bug went through a phase of putting EVERYTHING in his pockets. It was a major compulsion, which included fistfulls of condiment packets from hot-lunch. One laundry load was treated to an exploding packet of soy sauce. That day, I went to Target, bought 5 pairs of shorts without pockets and the problem was solved. Without the pockets, he didn't think to hoard things on his person (just in his backpack, which was much more manageable). Eventually, he outgrew this and is back to pocketed pants.
  • Multiples -- Whether it's a favorite stuffed animal, underwear or book, buy multiples. You will never regret having a back-up.
  • Display Collections -- Bug is a hoarder. He likes to collect things and keep them. Hoarder can make for a cluttered environment, but collecting can look purposeful with just a few tweaks. One way to turn your hoarder into a collector is to group like items and display them. I bought 3 shadow boxes from IKEA, painted them to match Bug's room, mounted them above his desk and filled them with his collection du jour. Right now, that's rocks and Pokemon figures. In the past, it's been Hotwheels and stuffed Neopets.
  • Elastic and Velcro -- Fine motor skills, aside from those associated with LEGO building, elude my son, so elastic waist pants and Velcro fastened shoes have been essential to him being self-sufficient. Keeping his clothing simple allows him to dress himself with less frustration. We like less frustration.
  • Visual Cues -- Bug is on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, but he still benefits from visual cues. When he was younger, this meant charts showing pictures of each step of an activity. Once he started reading, written words still carried more weight for him than the spoken word. So, I send him chat messages when I need him to get off the computer, or email with things I want him to know about. We've had quite a few humorous chats this way, and actually makes Bug more social rather than less. He's willing to interact more often using Chat/IM as a tool. (As an aside, I must mention that we have strong Parental Control software on our family's network. So, Bug's not out chatting with the entire Internet, just our family.)
  • Giant Suitcases -- Sometimes, when you travel with a kid who is very regimented, you need to bring it all with you. We have a giant blue suitcase that is Bug's. When we take a vacation, he can pile all of his stuff in there--his latest LEGO creation, half-folded clothes, Pokemon cards, his special pillow, a herd of Webkinz, and whatever else he's perseverating on at the time. If we're flying, we check the bag. If we're driving, we have a minivan with plenty of room.
  • Headphones -- I quickly tire of hearing that Nintendo DS, and the world can get noisy, so a set of headphones that Bug wears to prevent me from hearing his games, and allow him to tune out the often overwhelming sounds around him help us all keep our sanity. Bug uses his headphones when he needs to hear something that's annoying to others, or when the sounds of others annoy him.
Having been Bug's mother for 11+ years, I could go on with this list, but I'd love to hear comments from some of you about the tricks and solutions you've come up with to help your child. I'm am forever intrigued by the creativity our kids inspire in us.

What makes your child's life a little easier? What keeps you sane?

Zemanta Pixie

6 sent chocolate:

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Good points, all.

Maddy said...

I wonder which of us would have the longest list!

I'd include a box of Sharpies [double ended fine and thick just for versatility] Mine can read now [I'll try not to get distracted by the hyperlexia / losing the ability to read at all, as PECS always help]

however, I wrote warnings on the crazy [American!!!] light switches. One was for the light [a lightbulb icon] and one, the one right next to it, was the air extractor. If they hit the air extractor by accident it was like an air raid siren went off!


redbliss said...

We don't walk out the house unless my son has his MP3 player. He loves music. It has really come in handy when he has a melt down and need a few moments to himself.

Liz Ditz said...

I'm not a mom to a kid on the spectrum, I'm an educational therapist. Some of my clients are on the spectrum. Some clues and hints:
*Always have sharpened pencils on hand, some with edges (like Ticonderoga) and some round.
*Kneaded Rubber Erasers please many, and double as a fidget.
*Lots of different sitting surfaces -- a regular chair, an exercise ball, a wedge thing I got when I broke my tailbone, a slighly inflated disc, a wobble board that's small enough to put on a chair.
*letter and number tiles to use in answering questions--I like to get around the handwriting difficulties so many AS kids experience
*Lots of different kinds of manipulatives to use in math.
*Note to self--I've got to get a 10-key adding machine -- again with getting lots of math experience while skating by the handwriting issues. Calculators can be great, but I want a paper trail of thinking.

TLC said...

Thanks califmom! This is an awesome post! Seriously. Very helpful. Thanks for posting it and holding down the fort while I was out gallavanting with kids half my age.

Anonymous said...

this post is very usefull thx!

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