It is all too easy for an afternoon to waft on by without anything constructive happening. Therefore, I have started to write myself a daily list of activities I can do with Nick. The list keeps me focused and on track.
I always have a plan in mind for each activity.
I decide on my role and also Nick's role.
I set some limits to ensure I don't let the activity drag on (and be more about the task rather than the interaction between us).
I decide on my style of language.
I ensure that distractions are minimal
I usually apply the 'edge plus 1' concept to all that we do.
We have got a bit slack with this whole dishwasher thing. Nick tends to dump his dirty dishes into the sink and walk off. Not so anymore! I sat next to him on the couch and told him that I needed some help with the dishes. He shook his head for "no". I left him there and started clearing the kitchen sink. Nick, of his own accord, came over to join me. I had already decided that my role would be to hand him some objects and his role would be to put them into the dishwasher. When he struggled with placement of an object, I used chanting to help guide him. ("turning, turning, turning"). I knew that Nick would find this activity challenging, therefore I set a limit of using six objects. Nick's 'edge' was stacking the plates on the bottom shelf. His 'plus 1' was figuring out how to stack two other objects on the top shelf.
Walk ~ pacing
I had planned for us to visit the beachfront and go for a walk along the promenade, however, sod's law, it started to rain. We ended up going to the local mall. Nick has got into the habit of racing off ahead of me, although he always checks back to see where I am. My plan was for us to walk together and I would adjust the pace of our walking to ensure that he coordinated his actions with mine. I used soft chanting to help guide him as to what pace I was going to use next. (slowly, slowly or faster, faster). Nick's 'edge' was walking alongside me. For his 'plus 1', I introduced some window shopping!
Make Play Dough
Back at home, I pulled out all the goodies needed to make play dough. I then invited Nick to come and help. All distractions were dealt with, (big brother had gone out and the dogs banished to the back garden). I set up a simple pattern of... Nick holds the measuring spoon, I put the ingredients into the spoon, Nick transfers the contents to the saucepan. Easy peasy. I sensed that Nick was feeling challenged, therefore kept his part in the activity very short, around three minutes.
This was a simple co-regulatory activity. I held the book and read the story, pausing frequently to give Nick time to comment. His role was to turn each page when needed. Simple and enjoyable.
Bath ~ practicing drying
Nick's motor planning issues make drying his body very difficult. Admittedly, I have also been a bit slack with guiding him through the process. Blush. Anyhow, I am now making a concerted effort and it is paying off. I vary my guiding as I don't want Nick to become stuck on a set pattern (i.e. only dry his body if I sing a certain song!).
Night time (bath): My role was to gesture to different areas of my body. Nick's role was to follow my lead and copy me, using his towel.
I silently pat my chest
"Oooh, your arm is wet", rubbing my arm
I use eye gaze (which Nick follows) to my leg
"Up, up, up" I raise my arm and look towards my armpit.
I kept my language simple and gave him time to process my information. Nick's 'edge' was drying all the easy bits. His 'plus 1' was learning how to dry his back. Slowly but surely, he is gaining more independence.
You may note that I didn't follow my list in the order that it was written. The list is a rough guide of activities and I like being flexible, which in turn helps Nick to be flexible! :)
I will be the first to admit that I am rubbish at exposure, therefore Emma's latest info and our assignment has been really helpful. It has been great playing around with natural light and my camera settings. I am stepping out of my 'Autism Mum' shoes for this photography project, however, I still find myself applying some RDI principles when it comes to thinking about my goals.
My planned engagement (with my camera!)
I decide on the image to photograph and how I would like to portray the subject.
I work on manual mode, therefore have to plan my camera settings.
I am mindful of my surroundings and make a plan to remove any distractions (dogs!)
I establish some personal limits. For example; Don't take more than twenty images.
I am mindful of the fact that I will be challenging myself and I must be sure to stop what I am doing should I start to feel too anxious and/or frustrated. Edge plus 1 and all that. :)
Reflections (personal thoughts on my captured images)
I upload my photographs to Lightroom and briefly assess each image. The rejects get dumped immediately. I then start looking at the remaining images and reflect on what I see there.
What did I do well
Is the exposure too dark/too light.
Do I like my chosen aperture.
Is the image sharp.
Am I happy with the composition.
What editing can I do to improve my image.
If at any time I am unhappy with an image it gets dumped. After editing, I then start comparing the images and remove the ones that don't make me think, 'wow' or 'that's good enough'. I aim to save at least three images that grab my eye. I then get very picky, I choose one and delete the others.
With that one final image, I spend some time looking at it carefully and reflect on the positives. I also make a note to myself on what I can do in the future to further improve my skills.
It's all good fun and I can't reiterate enough on how awesome it is to have a hobby for myself. Escapism for sure, but hey ho, why not!
Nick is very keen on milkshakes, however, he does tend to gulp them down too quickly. In fact, he is like this with any type of liquid. I have tried on numerous occasions to slow him down. I have modeled, guided and directed.... to no avail.
Nick also has extremely low muscle tone and this is very evident around his mouth. His bottom lip droops and his lips are always apart. Over the last few months he has been pushing out his bottom jaw and placing his lower teeth over his top teeth. We have spent years of therapy trying to help with his tone, yet it is getting worse.
Well, I had a bit of a *aha* moment today when we went out for lunch. After munching away on a huge plate of Spag Bol, Nick requested a milkshake. It was thick and creamy and needed a good old stir to make it easier to gulp down. As is standard practice, Nick indicated that I should stir the milkshake. Well you know, I was just plain fed up with doing the whole stir stir thing. A fleeting thought made its way through my brain... 'what would I do if this was Nick's big brother?'
I looked at Nick and said, "Nick, you are a big guy now and I am no longer going to stir your milkshake. Also, from now on you are going to have to use a straw!"
Well, can you believe it? He used the straw. It took him an age to get through the milkshake, yet he tried his very best. As for that lip closure ~ WOW. I wonder what Nick's tone is going to be like in six months if he keeps using a straw. Then again, I wonder what his waistline will look like if we make this a regular therapy!
Notes to self:
Take a risk
Don't stress if he makes a fuss
Give reassurance and encouragement
Don't be a helicopter parent
Remember 'edge plus 1'
Hey ho, I have started a free one year online photography course. Emma Davies is running the course and she ends out an email each week. It includes a short lesson and a photography prompt. Emma has also encouraged us to start a photo collection and run with it throughout 2016. I have decided to build my collection around flowers.
My camera is a Nikon D7000. I generally use manual and shoot in raw. At this stage I dabble around in Lightroom and only make the teeniest tiniest adjustments. I am a complete amateur when it comes to any form of photography and have loads to learn, however, am having a blast at creating images.
Firstly, thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate that you have taken the time look at my blog. If you have been following for a while, you will know that I write about my lovely Nick. He is on the more severe end of the Autism Spectrum. I find it cathartic to write about our experiences ~ blogging is cheap therapy and all that!
We have been on this a journey for over sixteen years, and in all honesty, it has been quite a bumpy road. Such is life, hey? Anyhow, we have all lived to tell the tale and life is now cruising along quite nicely (80% of the time!).
For the last few weeks I have been having an internal debate on the merits of continuing with this blog. Is it right to continue sharing our story now that Nick is 6 feet tall, hairy and has a gruff voice? Is anyone actually interested in reading about autistic teenagers? Do people feel comfortable reading about an intellectually disabled young man who will never live independently? The list goes on....
The last couple of years have also brought about a change in myself. I am no longer focused 100% on autism and because of that I have some extra free time. That time is being put to good use and I have also taken up photography as a hobby. Having something that is exclusively for me has been a game changer. I find photography extremely challenging, however, it is really exciting to be experimenting with something new.
Anyhow, I have decided to keep on waffling for an indefinite period, although you may find there are less *autism* posts and more pretty pictures! For the sake of privacy, I will not be sharing any more video footage of Nick. Should you be interested in watching clips of RDI in action, check out Zoe's blog where she engages with an adorable little girl called Lucy.