Cheerfully hopping along....

Let's face it, even though my life is pretty good... every now and then I feel a little bit sad. That's real life, right? 

Anyhow, I took some time this evening to catch up on some of the blogs that I follow. With perfect timing I happened upon one that is written by a friend, Looking for Blue Sky. Her latest post is part of a blog hop. Huh, you may ask.... what is a blog hop? To be honest, I am a bit of a novice at this, therefore I am just going to follow my friend and hope for the best! 

Thanks go to 'Looking for Blue Sky' for putting a smile on my face and for encouraging me to focus on...............


#1  A large part of my life involves caring for my child/teenager who has special needs. Because of Nick, I have a wide circle of friends who walk the same path as me. We are there for each other and *get* the highs, lows and in-betweens that we experience with our children. Today, two friends brightened my day. We (as in.. me, the hub's and our two boys) spent the morning with one of them and her family, chatting over cappuccinos and home-made Banana Bread. The other friend dropped in unexpectedly to say "hi" and to bring a gift of the most luscious looking chocolate and caramel muffins. (My thighs are not happy!).

#2  I am so thankful for my friends who don't live with the issues that I experience on a daily basis. They may not realise what my day to day life is like, however, they are always thoughtful, kind and very supportive. They pull me (figuratively speaking) back out into the regular world and remind me that life doesn't have to be all about special needs. I feel extremely cheered after attending such a fun party last night. Tired but happy!

#3  My third reason puts a big smile on my face. It is Monday tomorrow.... and do you know what that means? The kids go to SCHOOL and I get to have four glorious hours all to myself, to do what I want to do without being harassed by my children! (Bad mum!!).

Have a great week! 

RDI ~ framework orange!

My hub's loves his daily glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Nick also used to drink it, although for some strange reason, now refuses to have even a tiny sip! Bit of a shame really, considering that Nick has had a bad head cold this week and he would have benefited from the extra vitamin C. Anyhow, such is life!

We have been a bit slack this week. Let's face it, who wants to put in the extra effort of *doing stuff* when feeling awful! It is now the weekend and we are nearly ready to get back on track with our latest RDI assignment. For the next couple of days I just want to spend time easing Nick back into some nice co-regulatory activities and throw him a little curve ball here and there for that extra challenge.

Reminder: Two years ago he would refuse to interact with me in any way at all, unless it was to do something that he wanted me to do!

Back to the oranges!

I have had a small bag of oranges sitting on the kitchen counter for the last few days. Bit of an experiment really..... as in, who would put them away!! In the end I could take it no more and decided to take advantage of the opportunity and write up a framework plan using the oranges as an activity for a planned engagement.

As in all interactions with Nick, I ensure that we both have a role to play. There are a variety of role actions to choose from and I decided on a contingency pattern ~ this is where I take a turn and then Nick takes a different turn. Therefore, for this particular framework, I would take an orange out of the bag and then hand it to Nick. He would then put the orange into the fridge.

My goal was to add some variations to this established co-regulatory pattern. Firstly, I would pass him a few oranges, one by one. Then I would throw him a few oranges, one by one (throw the oranges towards him and then add variations by throwing up, right and left). I also planned to give him the empty bag and observe to see what he would do with it. The challenge for Nick was to adjust to the changes in variation. 

Reminder: Two years ago, it was extremely difficult for Nick to participate in any set up activity that also involved me. He would get very stressed if he felt that any demand was being placed on him. (Note: when we first started with planned engagements, each activity lasted for only a few seconds). Nowadays, time is not such a big issue, although I am very aware of how far I can challenge him, taking into account the *edge plus one* concept.

Another important factor to consider is making sure that there are no distractions. This means turning off all electronics and/or removing interests that do not involve other people. In this case, it means turning off the stereo, sending the dogs outside and asking Thomas to give us some space.

When writing up the framework, I also put thought into establishing some activity limits. When would I end the engagement? If Nick became stressed, what would I do? Should he indicate that he had had enough, how would I react? Would I just push him that one little extra step so that the activity was finished on my terms, not his? In this case I felt confident that Nick would cope with the activity, even with the extra challenges. Therefore, I decided to end the activity after the bag had been disposed of. I also decided that should Nick show signs of going beyond his level of competence, I would smile my way through any protesting and move on for a couple more *seconds* and then end the activity.

In all of my interactions with Nick, I am mindful about my communication methods and giving him the opportunity to think for himself. When writing up a framework I always establish what style of language I want to use. Do I want it to be a non verbal activity where Nick will need to read my facial expression and body language for information? What declarative phrases can I use to suggest to Nick what may happen/what can be done? What can I say to spotlight a successful moment? With any style of communication that I use, the emphasis is on guiding Nick to hear and/or see what is happening, process the information and then make his own decisions.

One of the most important points that I need to remember, is that the activity is only a prop. My ultimate goal is engagement with my son. The framework is all about what I need to do in order to guide Nick. If it doesn't work out as planned, then I will reflect on what we have done, learn from the experience and then write up a new plan. If all goes well, then I will think about our next step. It's a great habit to get into: Take Nick to his edge of competence and then one more step. And then again... always moving forward.

In order to remain focused it is helpful to choose a mantra for each framework. My mantra for this particular framework is;  Remember to pause, remember to pause.....

RDI ~ Practicing my parenting!

I have been having an internal debate with myself, as well as tossing a few words backwards and forwards with our consultant.....

I realise that the way in which I guide my child is paramount to the success of RDI. In order for me to be effective, I need to know why I am learning to guide Nick, how I am going to guide him and what I plan to do with him in order to practice what I have learned. I also need to be comfortable with self evaluation and use each experience to reassess and plan for the next step. 

Now, I am a bit of a *go with the flow* kind of chick and I also like to take advantage of unplanned moments. Therefore, I feel that living an RDI lifestyle is important and that spontaneous interaction is a good thing! However, the powers that be, feel that *planned engagements* are far more important in order to learn, grow and move forward. For sure, I agree..... but what about all those opportunities that can be taken advantage of even though they haven't been planned down to the last spotlight? 

Funnily enough, an incident happened this week to highlight to me that actually, in reality, *planned engagements* are HUGE! The following are my reflections on a *planned engagement* that didn't go according to plan. I made a fundamental mistake and had to fly by the seat of my pants! 


The challenge for my planned engagement was to offer Nick the choice of two activities and make note of the fact... did he choose the more challenging activity rather than the activity he was more comfortable with. This also ties in with our latest objective, where I am spotlighting to Nick that what we are doing is easy or hard.

I have to be honest and say that the activities didn't really go as planned, however, I thought it would be a good opportunity to post the video footage and reflect on our interaction. I offered Nick the choice of stacking the dishwasher or cleaning a window. I was so sure that Nick would choose *cleaning a window* ...that I didn't write up a planned engagement for *dishwasher*!!! (big mistake!).  When he chose the dishwasher, I had to quickly rethink of a familiar pattern that we had used in the past. This is where the supposedly planned engagement turned into an unplanned interaction. Due to the fact that I hadn't written up a framework, I didn't have a goal in mind, so I just had to wing it as I went along. However, what I do like about our interaction is that Nick is *with me* and in the mode. 
  • What did you observe in terms of the challenge? Nick was very quick to choose an activity before I had given him the options. The video footage doesn't show it but I ignored his first attempt and then made a comment about the different activities. I was kind of hoping that he would change his mind and choose the activity that I had written a framework for. I really thought he would have chosen to clean the windows first, due to the fact that we had done the same activity yesterday and that he had found it easy. I am assuming that he chose the dishwasher because it was very familiar to him and he felt comfortable with it. Therefore, he actually did not choose the more challenging activity! *Note to self ~ never assume!!
  • Did anything surprise you? Yes, as mentioned above... he didn't choose the activity that I thought he would!
  • Site some time codes that you feel are important.
  • 0.44: Nick has picked up the cup from the bottom rack and is placing it into the top rack. He goes to place it upside down and I make the comment "turning". Nick immediately turns the cup. This is extremely important to note, because it really shows how Nick's processing as sped up. It took a split second for him to react to my word "turning" and make the adjustment. Very happy mum!
  • 1.03: I make a comment about the plate not fitting on the top. Nick immediately removes the place. He is listening and referencing for information. We are working *together*.
  • 1.15: Nick is rushing ahead so I hold onto the plates and say that I am not ready. This is where Nick gets a little stressed BUT he is fine. I stand my ground.
  • 1.39: Nick is *waiting* for what I am going to do next.. and when I pause for too long he quickly comes to me and nods his head for *yes*... too funny.. Great that he is knows communication is a two way thing.
  • 1.55. Nick doesn't put any thought into how he puts the plate into the dishwasher. I see this and quickly put my hand over my mouth and then reference the plate. Nick observes my reactions and quickly understands what needs to be done and makes adjustments to the plate. Again, I am being mindful of how I communicate and Nick is referencing me for info.
  • 2.45: Nick is rushing and the plate hasn't been put in correctly. I make a comment about the plate being up the wrong way so Nick then opens the door again and moves the plate. What I like about this is I am pushing Nick just one step further and he is going with the challenge. However, I am careful to move him along only one step... and no further.
  • What did you do well in this frame? I like that I didn't let Nick take control and rush through the activity.  Although I set limits by holding onto the plates and not letting Nick have them, I made sure to keep a reassuring smile on my face and let him know that I wasn't ready yet. This really stopped him in his track.....  he got a little stressed at times (although, hardly). However, he coped really well and very cleverly brought in some non verbal nodding for yes and no... I laughed at this. For an unplanned interaction, I am actually very happy with the way it turned out. I also think that this particular interaction really was all about the connection between the two of us and that *doing the activity* came second.
  • Is there anything you would change: I would certainly be more prepared! A lesson to me to *not * assume what Nick is going to choose to do! Next time I will insure that I have written up a framework plan for both activities!  


CONCLUSION: Due to the fact that I wasn't prepared for our planned engagement, I can now see the benefit of writing up a framework sheet for each activity. To get the most out of each interaction I have with Nick, I need to know what my goal is and how I am going to go about obtaining it. I need to be fully aware of Nick's level of competence and what I need to do to take him one step further. 

I can see from the above reflections and the video footage, that I forgot to highlight the easy/hard aspect of the interaction. What we were doing together was a hastily, put together plan that did not have a goal. I hadn't put any thought into adding a challenge. However, I am not going to beat myself up over it and will just chalk this one up to experience. We had a really nice connection... and that to me, was worthwhile.

I still think that spontaneous interactions and living an RDI lifestyle is important, however, the focus is on being mindful about what I have been learning and put it into practice. For the real learning to take place I need to plan and write up a framework for each engagement in order to move forward.

Does this sound a bit *over complicated* and am I *over thinking* my relationship with Nick? To put it into perspective.... we have just been invited out for lunch with friends ~ at a restaurant ~ with noise, kids and lots of mayhem! We are taking Nick!!! I would have turned down the invitation 18 months/1 year ago because Nick would not have been able to cope. In fact, I would have felt extremely stressed worrying about Nick's stress. This may sound corny, however, it is thanks to RDI that our life has taken a turn for the better!


Reconnecting after time apart...

Nick is always a little standoffish after I have been away from him for a few days. I don't think it is a punishment of sorts because he is not a manipulative child (to be honest, he has no understanding of this concept). I feel that his initial aloofness is caused by his *out of sight, out of mind* way of thinking.  Whenever I return home after being absent for a while, he needs time to re-adjust to having me around. Thankfully I have gotten over my feelings of hurt at the lack of acknowledgement from my boy. 

For the last couple of days we have been hanging out in the same space. We have been going about our same old regular routine without any expectations from me. Every now and then I will go and sit with him, or perhaps walk past him and ruffle his hair. I make the odd little declarative comment and wait for him to react. I notice that his processing time has slowed down so I remind myself to be mindful and wait just a little bit longer for his response. At one point I get irritated with both my children and send them outside to pick up the dog toys that lie scattered around the garden. I tell myself that I am a regular mother and I am allowed to get cross and be imperative in my manner (on occasion!).

Nick is thawing...

Two days of no pressure from me and my relationship with Nick is back to where it was before I left him. Nick is engaged and interactive. Our connection is strong. 

The easiest way to test that we were back on track was to take a trip to the supermarket. The following is a quick summary of a few things that stood out for me;

We get out of the car at the supermarket: Nick doesn't close his door properly (I go to tell him, however, I pull back and decide to wait). Nick realises his mistake and goes back to close the door. 

I say, "we need a trolley". Nick looks towards the trolleys, looks at me.. and then indicates that we must walk together to collect the trolley. He chooses the trolley and takes on the role of pusher! 

We walk together into the supermarket: Generally, Nick will go ahead and do his own thing for a while... although he never moves out of my sight and he always references me to check what I am up to. Today, he stayed with me and coordinated his actions with mine. If I slowed down, he slowed down. If I turned into an isle, he turned into an isle. I have to say that I had a huge smile on my face when I realised that he wanted to be with me and that he was very aware of what was happening.

We get to the fruit and vegetable section: I am hunting high and low for oranges. Nick follows my erratic movements. We communicate using non verbal facial expressions. He is relaxed and completely comfortable with the chaos of the moment.

Eventually, we reach the pet section: I am talking away to myself about finding a nice toy for the dog. Nick stops me at one of the shelves and points out the picture of a dog... it is our breed of dog!! I spotlight that it looks like our dog. I then see a litter bag with the picture of a cat on it. I point to the cat without saying a word. Nick picks up the bag so I have to tell him that we don't need it. I indicate the cat again.... Nick says "c"..."a"...."t". WOW, I didn't expect that! I was actually expecting him to make the *sign* for 'cat'.

Nick points out the picture of a man who is pulling a face and makes the sign for "cross".
We are wandering down an isle and I mention that I would love to take a photo of Nick: You know those little kids that put on a huge cheesy grin when it is photo time? Yep, that was my boy (this is new!). After I took each photo I showed Nick how it turned out and I made comments. i.e "oops this one is blurry", "oh no, you moved". Nick looked at each one intently and with purpose.

(very scary looking photo!!)

We get to the checkout: Nick automatically takes on the role of removing the items from the trolley and puts them onto the conveyor belt. His passive days are but a long ago memory! He looks to me often and I also make little declarative comments. i.e "wow, that one is heavy". "this is so easy". Nick notices a can of deodorant on the belt, he looks at me, he touches the can and then makes the sign for smelly! Oh my hat, all this experience sharing from Nick is amazing. HUGE! I quickly double check that I have understood him by saying "you are right, the deodorant is smelly", to which he nods his head for "yes". 

Who would have thought it ~ that my boy would one day be an equal partner... engaged, coordinated, co-regulated and capable of expressing his thoughts. My severe boy who used to be so stuck in his rigid little patterns and who used to cry when we drove into the car park of this particular supermarket. For many years, I actually stopped taking him anywhere because his distress was too much to bear. Who would have thought that he would be so relaxed and happy with all that was happening around him.

We are more than back on track, we are actually gathering speed........


I threw my boy a little curve ball and sent in a blueberry muffin for snack time. Without any fuss he picked out the blueberries and ate the muffin. The last time he ate a muffin was five years ago!!