May 18

Up, Down, Sideways…A Huge Step

Posted: under communication, life on the spectrum, parenting, socialization.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,  May 18th, 2010

…also known as the last three months.   It’s been a roller-coaster, a whirligig, and a challenge in every dimension, but here we are facing the next with renewed excitement.

First there’s the college situation.   Our son did in fact have problems typical of autists in both the Transition to College and the Reading classes.   It’s worth examining these to see how his autism affected his understanding of (clear to most people) instructions.   He had been working willingly and consistently, so it wasn’t lack of motivation or laziness causing the difficulties.

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Feb 28

More Progress

Posted: under communication, education, life on the spectrum, socialization.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,  February 28th, 2010

At the end of the first exam period–six full weeks of classes–our son took his first “big” exam, in the pre-algebra class.   Since he had work hours this week on several of the days exams were given,  he had to take the exam on a Saturday (not a usual class day.)     He said he felt prepared enough for it…and though students had an hour and forty minutes for it, he finished in 35 minutes with a score of 89.   If that had been the only triumph of the week, we’d all be delighted…but it wasn’t.

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Feb 19

Week Five

Posted: under communication, education, life on the spectrum, socialization.
Tags: , , , , , ,  February 19th, 2010

So after five weeks of classes, M- is still engaged and enthusiastic.   He’s managing the bus rides alone, using his cellphone to connect with us, and doing his homework both online and on paper.   We’ll find out next week or the one after, when grades are posted, how he did in the first part of the semester.   He started back to part-time work this week, two days, and says he’s keeping up with his homework.

He’s having some problems with the verbal part of one class that requires verbal class participation (he says he can’t tell when it’s his turn to speak and when he should stop–not surprising considering his speech difficulties) and I think his reading comprehension is still lagging.  But immense gains, nonetheless.

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Feb 05

Temple Grandin: the movie

Posted: under communication, disability issues, education, employment, interventions, life on the spectrum, parenting, sensory processing, socialization.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,  February 5th, 2010

You’ve probably heard of this movie.   If not, or if, having heard of it, you had reservations about it (I did), here’s the good news: it’s better than you think.  It’s an incredible, brilliant movie that shows Temple Grandin’s triumph over both the problems autism gave her, and the society that did not have a clue and did not believe autistic people had a future.   And it shows the value of her life’s work, her designs for livestock management.  Because of her, half the livestock facilities in the world–not just here–handle their stock more humanely.  And–(yes, there’s more) it shows how she thinks–because it is a visual medium, a movie can show the pictures she thinks with. Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb 04

College: Third Week & solo

Posted: under communication, life on the spectrum, parenting, socialization.
Tags: , , , , ,  February 4th, 2010

We’d planned to have a parent ride the buses with M- and be available nearby on campus for the first month…but a combination of things (including M- commenting on the way home one night in the second week that he thought it would be more fun when he could go alone)  led to this morning…we dropped him off at the bus station 20 miles closer to the city, where the express bus runs to downtown.  From there he would transfer to a local headed back north and end up at the campus.   He was supposed to call us from campus when he arrived, which should’ve been about 8 am.

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Jan 08


Posted: under education, parenting, socialization.
Tags: , ,  January 8th, 2010

If you can’t drive, and probably won’t ever drive, then learning to use public transportation is a necessity.   We’ve worked on this since our son was quite young, and by the time we faced the “how to get him to his classes in the city” he had been on buses, trains, subways, and airplanes (oh, and ferry boats) so we did not expect much difficulty with this. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mar 15

Rude Words

Posted: under communication, life on the spectrum, parenting, socialization.
Tags: , , ,  March 15th, 2009

When our son was just beginning to be verbal, and able to say words with a consonant on each end,  one of his therapists suggested we introduce him to rhyming words as a way of training his ear and his speech…extending the consonants he could say,  and so on.

This certainly helped, and he began to try out combinations himself (which was good) except for one little problem.   If you start rhyming one-syllable words in English…starting from harmless familiar words like for instance “bit” and “pit” and “sit”….you end up with words that are considered inappropriate for small children to say.   The child may never have heard those words, the ones that rhyme with “sit” and “bird” and so on, and have no idea what they mean…but if your larger-than-average, older-than-average-when-learning-to-talk autistic child says them,  social disapproval rains down all over the scene.   And autistic kids don’t need any more social disapproval than they get already.

So the day came when our bright-eyed little guy very proudly (and it was an accomplishment–he had just managed the /sh/ sound the week before)  went through his “–it” words and added “sh*t.”

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Jan 20

Homeschooling pros and cons

Posted: under interventions, opinion, parenting.
Tags: , , ,  January 20th, 2009

Thirty years ago,  children with disabilities were not guaranteed education in public schools.    My state had residential schools in the state capital for deaf children and for blind children, but nothing for children who had other disabilities.     I remember the mother of a childhood friend fighting with the school board so her daughter–with severe hearing impairment–could attend regular classes.   (Her daughter is now a professor of chemistry.)    If they weren’t institutionalized,  disabled children were home-schooled, usually by tutors, like Helen Keller.

But now that federal law requires schools to educate all children, why would a parent choose homeschooling?  And why are the advantages–and challenges–of doing so?    Here are some things to think about, from someone who did it.

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Dec 29


Posted: under interventions, life on the spectrum.
Tags: ,  December 29th, 2008

Whether someone’s autistic or not, being rigid and inflexible make life difficult for everyone else, and a constant stress for the rigid person…because life just does not cooperate.

Helping a child–or adult–or oneself–cope with inflexibility brings lifelong benefits.    Each individual is different, some more rigid than others, but starting early to build in small variations (not chaos)  into routines is one way to encourage flexibility.    Different methods may work for different people, but the unifying idea is to demonstrate that something new/different/nonroutine can be fun.

“Demonstration” is the operative word, because if children with a tendency to rigidity are around rigid adults–especially if routines and schedules and the One Right Way to Do Things is always around them, where would they learn flexibility?   They need to see other people making choices–choosing to change, to try things, and then enjoying it.   So parents need to check their own behavior.   Are they themselves rigid?    If not, do they talk about and make visible the choice-making process?

Giving choices early on allows an individual some autonomy and requires initiative (to make the choice) even if it’s the same choice.   Try giving three choices: A, B, and “other”.    We found that quite often we’d guessed wrong–our guesses (A and B) did not encompass our son’s first choice and made him seem more rigid than he was.  (Of course, then you have to figure out what “other” might be, and that does take time.  But the goal is worth it.)

As mentioned before, familiar routines are comforting, and also make order out of life’s chaos–there’s nothing wrong with familiar routines.  But to build flexibility, try having regular variation within the routine.  Have two routes to the grocery store, and (even if sure the child can’t understand yet) explain why you choose one over another.   When chores can be done a different way, or in a different order (some obviously can’t)  use the other methods.   Do the colored wash first one day, and the white wash first another day….and don’t just do it that way, point it out.

This may provoke concern–definitely will, with some–but by introducing small variations in routine activities, within the shelter of organizing routines, a little flexibility becomes routine as well…and thus less stressful.

Expanding this requires flexible thinking in the person doing the planning, as well as sensitivity to t he tolerance limits of the rigid person–and that includes trying to expand your own flexibility.    When someone is tired, sick, hungry, thirsty, too hot or too cold–this is not the time to push for more flexibility in other things.

It’s also important not to overvalue flexibility–the person who has no stability in their desires, who is suggestible and can be talked/pushed/lured into anything–or who can’t make decisions–is not really better off than the person who can’t stand it if one sock is not as white as the other.   They will both have problems in life–just different ones.     So while moderate flexibility allows for easier coping with life’s crises and smoother interaction with others,  none of us is required to suit someone else’s wishes and convenience all the time.

More on flexibility another time–this is not being a routine day at our household and I need to fix supper now, not half an hour from now.

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