Find Out What Jen Finds

My journey on the spectrum of life … and the lessons I learn along the way …
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about Communication: sharing the diagnosis with your child

  • August 31, 2012 4:42 pm

I went by the library to pickup a few books I had on hold. One for The Younger: How to Talk to an Autistic Kid, and this one for The Elder: The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents).

I thumbed through it and was really excited about it. The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders Then I had the worry…What if he doesn’t want to read it? I mean, I think this is something that he would want, and I think this is something he would need. But he has never asked me anything about autism. And if I approached him he responded with the annoyed tone of a teenager. My best strategies so far have been to set something up and just do it. Find videos, make him watch it. Find books, make him read them. Find games, make him play them. He does that with no issues. But have a conversation about this? Forget about it. How do you communicate about a communication disorder??

This book seems different than the books I’ve seen in the past. It is a survival guide geared for ages 8-13. It’s more like a textbook with real-life stories for examples, instead of social stories of how to act in certain situations – but it also includes solutions such as these. The first 7 chapters cover “What is ASD?” in a very kid-friendly presentation. A whole chapter is dedicated to Sensory issues. If I was THe Elder, I would think it was really cool, thus the reason I checked it out!

After School Convo:
M: Hey E, I wanna show you the book I got for you at the library today.
E: Hold on! (impatient tone – making me nervous) OK, I’m coming (happy bouncy tone – nervousness gone)
M: (Showing him the cover and just letting him read the title) I got this for us to read together.
E: (no response)
M: (Flipping through the pages so he can see all the pretty colors and pictures)  I think it will help answer a lot of the questions you might have about autism (assuming he had them, of course)
E: (no response)
M: (wondering if this was a bust and glad I got it from the library before purchasing) I thought maybe we could go through one chapter at a time.
E: (he gets up quietly and walks back down the hallway as he responds) Well, I have run out of books to read at night.
(Note to self: pick up more chapter books from the library)
M: (yelling after him down the hall) And if you like it and think you can use it for the rest of your life, we can get your very own copy!
E: Sure.

Yes!! My foot is in the door! Now I just need to get to Chapter 6 “Think About it, Talk About it” which clearly states “Ask Questions.” Because you know if it is a rule in the Survival Guide, then he must follow the rules! I think he will thank me for it…

More later as we begin the journey…

How do you communicate with your child about his/her diagnosis?

about Fun: fun trumps hard work

  • June 19, 2012 10:34 am

So yesterday I was informed by The Brothers that last year, Summer Homeschool was more fun than this year. Bummer.

Every summer, me and the boys do a little homeschooling in the mornings for 2 hours a few days a week. It keeps them structured, and it helps me work on skills they struggled with during the school year while reinforcing their other skills to reduce regression when the school year begins. This is particularly helpful because the transition is such a stressful time (for all of us) that their energy is freed up to only wig out about the socialization, instead of wigging out about that AND academic skills.

When we first started, these “academic” skills were more like OT – cutting/drawing on the line, gluing things together without a freak-out, yoga and calming-strategies, etc. But last summer, we actually worked on writing and reading and math, etc.

Sounds real fun doesn’t it? I like to think I made it fun since I’m pretty fun and all…

This past school year, their teachers had no suggestions on skills they needed to be working on. Not even social skills or anger management! #proudmama

So I thought I would make Summer Homeschool more “fun” this year (obviously only by my definition). We still write and read and do flashcards, but I added a Character Building unit. I got tools from various places and people, but have based it on the Fruit of the Spirit in Galations 5:22-23. The thing is that they have loved everything about the unit. The worksheets, the Bible study, the videos, the “crafts” (its just coloring and cutting – The Younger should teach the crafts portion. He has more artsy genes than all of us put together!), and especially the music! So I was really scratching my head on this one. We haven’t been as hard core on the writing and math this summer. As a matter of fact, I felt like I was too diligent last summer on academics and resolved to be a little more laid back this time around.

So what did I do differently last summer that was sooooo fun?

I found out that it wasn’t what we did during school hours that captivated them. It was what we did after we dismissed. We had a Cooking Class (that was code for “lunch”). They helped me make lunch and they would write down the recipes. Nothing fancy. Sandwiches, spaghetti, “good meat” and rice (will post that recipe another day). Some days, I would give them a “test” and they would have to make the rice all by themselves (rice + water + rice cooker).

I learned that it didn’t matter how much I drilled them last summer or how hard they worked to try to figure out that analog clock nonsense. What they remembered, and ultimately labeled the entire program, was the fun they had making a mess in the kitchen together. Therefore, this morning I announced that we would start school with Cooking Class today and they got to vote for what they wanted to learn to make.

The verdict…Breakfast Casserole…

This made me a little nervous because I “hide” good-for-you stuff in this recipe and secretly put onions in it even though they swear up and down they hate onions. But it worked out!  We had a nice brunch (with leftovers) and now we are off to the pool!

And so “fun” has been reinstated into the curriculum!  Maybe now I can pull out those flashcards without feeling like a math nazi.

how we made our Breakfast Casserole

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Allow me to translate…

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1. Fry 2-3 strips of turkey bacon and set aside.  (Since we use uncured turkey bacon, we have to add a little coconut oil to get it to brown and look like bacon and produce bacon grease.)

2, 3, 4. Finely chopped 1/2 an onion and saute in the bacon grease until translucent.

5. Add 2-3 cups hash brown potatoes and brown.

6. Cut the 3-4 bread slices to fit the bottom of a casserole dish. Ours is from Pamela’s gluten-free bread mix.
(The Elder added Step #7 in his notes: Eat Extra Bread).

8-12. In a bowl, beat 4-5 eggs with about 1/4 cup milk (we used unsweetened coconut milk), salt, garlic powder, and any dehydrated/powdered veggies you want to hide (today it was “spinach” – code for anything green).

13. Crumble bacon (we cut into strips with shears)

14. Layer the potato/onion mix on top of the bread.

15. Layer more veggies you want to hide.

16. Layer the crumbled bacon.

17. Pour the egg mix evenly over the entire dish.

18. Top with freshly ground pepper.

19. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven for 20 minutes.

20. Yeah, I was the only one washing dishes here…Oh but The Younger did wipe up spilled eggs off the kickstool!

21-22. Layer cheddar cheese on top and bake an additional 5 minutes. (we used Daiya Foods Cheddar Shreds)

23. Enjoy!


Me: Do you think you’ll know how to make this on your own now?

The Elder: Yeah, now that I have the list of ingredients and the steps.

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about Eye Contact: what I learned from my almost 7-year-old

  • June 12, 2012 2:51 pm

The Younger discovered an innovative way to get The Elder to make eye contact with him today.

Eye Contact

Standing about a foot away from him (and at the top of his lungs I might add), Y was calling his E’s name over and over (and over and over) to get his attention to show him his favorite part of the skit at VBS (Visual Basic Script). When E continued to appear to give the Lego Minifigure more attention than to Y, Y sighed heavily, regrouped, and then persuasively (imagine him dangling a carrot chocolate chip cookie in E’s face) said,

“It has pictures…”

That did it! The Younger had The Elder’s undivided attention after that! Of course, there were no pictures, just a visual component to the communication.

All I know is that I get exhausted saying his name over and over again trying to get his attention (Thank goodness his name is only 2 syllables!). I know he’s listening even if he’s not looking, or even if he’s in a different room or level of the house. I understand that he actually can hear me better if he doesn’t make eye contact. And sometimes he will even respond by saying “I’m listening” before I get to the 10th iteration of his name. An improvement. But who likes sharing something with someone who has his attention split? No matter how skilled he is at processing multiple streams of data with no eye contact, my neurotypical brain has a hard time adjusting to that fact and still needs to see his eyes to feel like I was heard. Whether I’m sharing a heart-warming story or if I’m asking a question or if I’m announcing what day it is. It’s a validation. Some days I forego it. Other days I remind myself that I’m not the only one who needs a little validation – he will encounter many who will appreciate his eye contact. I’m actually impressed at the level of patience The Younger exhibited (a rarity) to come up with such a creative strategy (creativity comes very naturally to him).

carrot

That leads me to some points to ponder about The Elder’s perspective. So just saying you’re trying to “show him something” doesn’t work – maybe too general or vague?? Perhaps “It has pictures” with the corresponding persuasive come-and-get-it intonation (maybe… then again, maybe not. I bet monotone would get his attention faster) generates enough interest and curiosity for him to actually look to see. Any other thoughts? How do you handle lack of eye contact? Better yet, if you struggle with eye contact, what other insights can you offer?

Well, I’m totally stealing The Younger’s strategy. Thank you, Son!