Monday, June 25, 2012

Concrete Thinking

Anyone who knows someone on the spectrum recognizes one of the hallmarks is concrete thinking.  Sometimes it is kind of funny.  On vacation at the beach last week Alex wanted to leave the beach house and go to the beach.  I said he had to find his aunt who was already there so an adult would know he was down there.  I said "If you can't find Aunt Lucy come back and wait for me to take you."  He said "OK!" and went running down the steps, only to turn around and say "What do I do if I find her?" 

I am thinking the average 4-5 year old would not need an explanation of what to do if he found his aunt.  However, at almost 9 Alex needed to ask.  There is a definite deficit with abstract thinking and inferencing.  We do inferencing activities at home which he does pretty well on for the most part, but using those skills in real life is sometimes a challenge.  Sometimes it makes for a chuckle!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Start of Summer

Summer has begun and now that I have a job I have to find childcare for the first time.  It is a real challenge!  I have been busy for weeks trying to cobble together childcare for my two youngest and I only work part-time!  They will be doing some camps and I have some babysitters and help from my mom. 

I have been pretty diligent about keeping Alex engaged and not letting him just go off by himself a lot.  He played soccer again this spring and had twice weekly playdates with a boy in his class.  I try to take him with me when I run errands as much as he will tolerate and engage him in the tasks of grocery shopping, going to the library, taking the cat to the vet, etc.  I try to use the conversation techniques we learned in RDI.  For example, rather than asking him yes/no questions, I make statements for him to respond to or ask open ended questions.  This "forces" him to make natural conversation and use his language skills.  He is doing much better with this.  He still struggles with "echoing" what he said and eye contact.  Eye contact does not come naturally to him and he has to think about it each time he talks to someone.  He does not like it when people get too close.  When his friend runs up to him at the bus stop as boys do, Alex shrinks away from him and often wants to wait in the house for the bus.  Too much commotion at the bus stop.  Interestingly, he is fine with "wrestling" and rough-housing type games so it is not the contact he doesn't like.  He just doesn't seem to like when people "come at him".  I have noticed this in him since he was very small. 

He has new interests now that he is getting older.  He loves Star Wars, basketball, sharks, and chess.  I try to explore anything he is interested in in any way I can and from those interests, try to introduce him to others.  My goal is to keep him engaged, communicating and asking questions.  It is so easy for him to slink off and spend the whole day by himself on the trampoline or rolling around on an exercise ball.  He is very much able to stay engaged and play and communicate nearly as well as other 8 year olds.  It just does not come as naturally to him.  And he does need breaks from activities and people.  This is when I find him rolling around on his exercise ball.  He will tell me "I need to be away."  I am glad he can communicate this need to me.  There was a time when he could not. 

He is officially done with the early elementary school years as he begins 3rd grade in 10 short weeks.  I have been somewhat sad to watch all my kids grow up out of the little kid stage.  I am finding it all that much harder with Alex.  We have been through so much together through his early childhood years!  Yet I see him pulling away and yearning for independence.  It makes me so happy and so sad at the same time.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Annual Physical

It's been a long time since I have posted!  Mostly just because I have been very busy.  I have been substituting for our school district both as a teacher's aide in special ed and in the clinic for the school nurses.  And I have been job hunting and taking an RN Return to Practice class at our local community college.  And last week I got a job!  I will be going back to work outside the home for the first time in 12 years.  I have very mixed feelings.  Excited to get back to work and back to nursing.  Excited to learn some new skills.  But sad to leave my stay-at-home mom days behind.  I am so grateful to have had the luxury of the choice to stay home with my kids.  Especially Alex.  I think about all those preschool days and years of therapy.  I'm not sure how I would have managed if I had had to work, especially since my husband's job requires some travel.  And I have said over and over "I don't know how those working moms do it."  I still don't know but I guess I will find out!

As for Alex, second grade is coming to a close and I have to say it has been a pretty successful year overall.  A couple interesting tidbits.  One of Alex's issues is his tendency to sometimes get obsessed with things.  Well this year I kept hearing over and over about this boy in his class, K.  I mean it was "K, this" and "K, that".  Naturally, I assumed this child must be the uber-popular type all kids seem to gravitate towards.  Well as I found out from my substituting, this boy is obviously autistic.  Alex thinks he walks on water.  He is a cute interesting little boy, just not what I expected.  How's that for me stereotyping and making assumptions?  I learn something new from Alex all the time!

Alex has really been doing well over all.  Like most kids, and especially kids on the spectrum, he does really well when there is structure and he knows what to expect.  He does well and communicates well with kids and adults he is familiar with.  Today I was reminded of his "spectrummy side" when we went for his annual physical.  First off I pulled him out of school which didn't upset him but nonetheless disrupted his routine.  We went to the doctor and I reminded him that when she asked him questions, he needed to look at her and answer her.  His way of dealing with an unfamiliar and therefore uncomfortable situation was to get extremely silly.  He answered her questions but made up fake answers.  He told he he doesn't brush his teeth, he doesn't go to the dentist, he doesn't wear a helmet when he rides his bike and he doesn't go to sleep at night.  He was goofy and ridiculous throughout the whole appointment.  I have to admit I was angry and annoyed even as I recognized this was his way of dealing with the unfamiliar.  He is just not capable of dealing with situations where he feels uncomfortable like typical kids can.  He often acts ridiculous.  I think this is an area I will work on with him.  Learning to deal with unfamiliar circumstances and people.  Many kids struggle with this but for kids on the spectrum it is a hallmark of their behavior.  Alex does not have meltdowns but often acts out of control, goofy and silly when he is uncomfortable.  It can be almost as bad as an all-out autistic meltdown.  By the end of the appointment he was running uncontrollably around the waiting room like a 2 year old while I "tried" to talk to the doctor.  By the time we got back to school and he was in his element again, he was calm and in control of himself again.  Clearly in his comfort zone.