Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Signs of Life

Hi all! I am, indeed, still alive. I've been terribly busy and just haven't had the time or the motivation to write lately.

Way back on the 11th, Meem, GR, PC & I had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Dr. Jed Baker on Social Skills and Frustration Management in Children on the Spectrum, most specificially Asperger's. I was hoping to have been the good little student and have translated and shared all of my notes with you by now. Well, I didn't. Oops. However, I must say that, as a result, we've taken a couple of Dr. Baker's ideas and made them work for us. We now use our dry erase board to help our Not-So-Smallboy keep track of the STARS that he earns. He can earn stars by helping us out with a chore, by doing a chore, by avoiding a meltdown, by remembering all of the necessary materials for his homework, by finding a solution to a problem he's having, by getting ready for school on time, etc.... Each star is worth 5 minutes of computer or video game time (see how I killed two birds with one stone?)

So, on the board we have his stars, we let him draw and erase them. We also keep a "bank log" so that he sees #Stars = x, Time = y, so that he can easily determine how much he has available. The challenges that we've found with this system really involve his accountability once he gets ON the games: "So, SmallBoy, how long have you been playing Star Wars?"

"10 minutes."

This is when LargeBoy or Girl interject with, "Um, I don't think so. It's been more like 1/2 an hour."

Our solution was to have SmallBoy "log in" on the dry erase board when he began using his stars. Ideally, that would give HIM the visual when he argued how long he had been online or playing games on the Xbox. We would be able to say,

"SmallBoy, you logged in at 4:40. It's now 5:10. You've been playing for 30minutes. That's 6 stars."

" only felt like 2 stars!"

Then we can show him the clock. He doesn't like that the time flies so quickly, but he understands better when he sees the visual. Then he reluctantly erases his stars. The BEST part, though, is that he has a constant goal. He ALWAYS wants more time, so, more often than not, he's willing to do something to earn stars. I have found that this is an extremely helpful tool when trying to get him to pull out of a meltdown...or to avoid one.

Girl made her confirmation this past Saturday. If you're familiar with the Catholic church, you know that this is one of THE LONGEST services...regular mass, but with all of the confirmands (in this case I believe there were about 60 or so) receiving the sacrament after the homily. Then everyone still has to go up for Communion. Realistically, this is about a 2hour mass. Currently, our gorgeous church is undergoing some major renovations. The confirmands were graced with the Holy Scaffolding around the altar for decorations and, in the true Catholic tradition of patience, penitence, & guilt, we were sitting on metal folding chairs because all fo the pews were being replaced. You can imagine what kinds of ASD triggers these are going to be....long mass, more-uncomfortable-than-normal seating, crowded church so no one can see, big ugly scaffolding, and a LOT of stuff going on.

So, we prepped our Not-So-SmallBoy. He didn't want to go - and anyone can understand. I mean, church, to children, is boring as a rule and he knew he was going to be sitting through a long one. So, we put the carrot in front of the proverbial horse and dangled the Stars! I offered him stars for making it through the mass (he wasn't sitting with me as I was a sponsor for S, Girl's best friend), and then we offered him stars for making it through the dinner afterwards (with Ex, New Wife, GR, Meem, Poppy, S's family in a VERY crowded and VERY LOUD restaurant - he was amazing), and then because he did SO well, PC tacked on another bonus star.

See where I'm going with this? We've found something that works for us. We also found a new trick. You know how when our darling ASD-ers get so frustrated that they "yell" back at us in response to something we say? Dr. Baker used the example of saying, "Are you yelling at me?" or "Are you raising your voice at me?" Yes, the kids are frustrated, but this helps them check HOW they're using their voices. I've only remembered to use it with SmallBoy a couple of times, but it's proven effective, as he realizes that he is, in fact, talking to us in a manner that he doesn't like and that it's because he's frustrated. That, then, helped him to realize what the problem was and voice it appropriately.

There were so many wonderful aspects of this day with Dr. Baker and I promise I will, ultimately, get all of the notes translated for you. In the meantime, I hope that my two big "breakthroughs" can be of use to YOU! I'll post some pics from Girl's confirmation soon (she looked so beautiful - and she took my Grandmother's name as her confirmation name).


Roni said...

Congrats to your girl!

And congrats on finding a method that works. Some days I use that with Ella. I guess it would work better if I were better at it.

gretchen said...

Thanks so much for sharing this! It would really work with Henry- he is ALWAYS wanting to get on the computer, and I kind of arbitrarily (spell??) decide "10 more minutes"... And it's hard to come up with a motivation to get him to do, well, anything. Please do tell us more when you get the chance.

Laura said...

Something that has worked quite well for us is a clock we got at the Autism store. You set it for a specific amount of time, and while it is a traditional clock counting down the minutes, it also shows a red pie-chart that gradually closes to eliminate all the red as it counts down. It makes an excellent visual for G to really understand how much time she is spending on things.

Kristina Chew said...

She is lovely! And NSSM too.........several stars worth.