On the first day of December...

I admit it. I am feeling a little frazzled, a little out of sorts, a bit antsy and somewhat stressed.

School breaks up on Wednesday and do you know what that means? Woo hoo, it's holiday time! No more early mornings.... yeah right! Loads of free time to do whatever rocks our boat. We can take life slow and just go with the flow. I can spend quality time with my kids. No pressure to get them to school or Nick to therapy. Long days with no plans.


I pulled out the calendar to check out the length of the holiday. 41 days, people. 41 days! That's a lot of time to fill, especially when one kid just happens to be autistic. Especially when that kid would LOVE to spend every waking minute glued to some sort of screen.

The truth of the matter is that I really relish those mornings when Nick is at school. It gives me the freedom to do what I want to do without any responsibilities. I am going to miss that, big time!

Anyhow, in an effort to look on the bright side, I have been mulling over a few ideas on what to do with Nick. The days will offer up many opportunities to hang out, get out or chill out. We can also put some extra time into working together on planned engagements. I am so tuned into living an RDI lifestyle that Nick will always be a part of what we are doing, whether it be making breakfast together or hunting for the bread and milk at the supermarket.

I found a nice weekly planner and I do intend to use it. It took me three minutes to scribble some ideas onto the first page (see photo below). I may throw out this first sheet and start again, however, just writing down the *to do* list has made me realise that our 41 days are going to fly by.

And if it all gets a bit much and I need some time out, then I will just call on Nick's big brother to Nickysit for a couple of hours. I am sure he will be keen to earn some bucks!

Walking the walk!

It has been quite some time since our last planned engagement. Sadly, Nick has been having a tough time so I have eased off for a few weeks. He is now on the mend and I have just come back from a four day break (no kids!) so we are raring to go!

Now, young Nick is always a bit tricky after having a long break. He finds the couch far too comfortable and would much rather blob there and listen to story CD's than spend some quality time with his Mum. In fact, I do feel that I have been a slave to his whims over the last few weeks!

Today, I kindly made up his fruit and veg juice and then took it to the sofa ~ this was his cue to get up and collect a glass from the cupboard, which he duly did. Now, after he had drunk the juice... and before he could head for the couch again, I quickly started passing him items that needed to be put away. Fruit and veg into the fridge, glasses and such into the sink, rubbish into the bin. I was delighted that he took on his role and just went with the flow. At no time did I tell him what to do ~ he chose to assist! (Although I do admit to being a sneaky Mum and grabbing opportunities when I can!)

Anyhow, his involvement with the clean up prompted me to set up a planned engagement.

I decided to choose a simple activity, something that had been done before and one that we both felt comfortable with. I wrote up a framework sheet for 'walking to the gate'. I decided that our roles would be to walk to the gate, collect a magazine each and then walk back towards the garage. Now this is a very easy activity, therefore I also needed to throw in a little challenge for Nick. For the challenge I decided to involve our dogs and Nick's role would be to throw a ball to them. Thus I would be setting up a regular safe pattern and then introducing a challenge (edge plus one). I wanted the activity to be mostly non verbal and I wanted to play particular attention to slowing down, referencing, pausing, co-regulation and giving Nick opportunities to problem solve. Note: the wash basket was a prop and I wasn't sure if we were going to use it or not!

Please note: my video clips are not of the greatest quality. It was windy and the mic can't pick up the sound of voices from a distance (not that it matters as we were mostly non verbal).

In the following video clip you can see that we decided to use the washing basket and it was a great prop for us to carry together. It slowed us down and whenever Nick pulled on ahead, I just paused the action and waited for him to reconnect. He is very capable of referencing my face and body language for information and he is also aware of his role. At time code 0:50, I pause and then throw the ball to the dog, modeling what I would like Nick to do when he reaches his challenge.

In this next clip you can see that Nick is unsure of what to do and he keeps placing the ball into the basket. We are now at his challenge. Whilst we are standing there, I am thinking of ways in which I can scaffold the situation in order to help Nick. I eventually decide to keep it simple and just hand him the ball. Nick immediately realises what to do and to the delight of the dogs, they get a ball to catch. You will see that Nick goes on ahead without me. I stop and quietly wait for him to decide to come back. We then walk to the gate together.

This last clip shows us walking slowly back towards the camera. Nick sees the ball and decides to pick it up and place it into the basket (old patterns die hard!). I don't say anything to him, however, I do make a little noise to help scaffold the situation. This was enough to remind him that his role was to throw the ball to the dogs. From around time code 0:50 I am just recapping on what we have done and spotlighting the challenge of throwing the ball.

Although our activity was simple and in total we were only there for five minutes, I thought that it went very well. Nick was connected and capable of regulating his actions with mine. He did need a little bit of scaffolding to help him decide what to do with the ball, however, I do need to point out that I didn't tell him what to do. At the end of the day it was his own decision.

I really like that I kept the pace slow and calm. Nick was not under any pressure to perform and he coped so well considering that we have been out of action for some time.

We will continue to do this activity over the next few days and I will be throwing in other variations and little challenges. The dogs are going to love me!! :)

Di's 23 ways on how to communicate with a non verbal / pre-verbal / verbal child

1: Stop talking so much:  Smile

2: If you do talk, stop repeating yourself, say something once and then pause.

3:  Pause (a lot) and give the child time to process the information.

4:  Pause for as long as it takes, at least 45 seconds.

5: No reaction? How close are you to the child? Are you at the child's level?

6: No reaction? Make a small noise, perhaps gently clear your throat or click your tongue.

7: No reaction? Gently touch the child on the arm and wait for the re-connection.

8: Eye contact. Think of it this way - it might not be a case of the child being scared of eye contact, it actually might be because the child doesn't understand the importance of referencing a face for information.

9. Child still not referencing? Make sure that you are at the child's level, make a little noise, wait for the connection. Spotlight the connection with a lovely smiley face.

10: Child still not referencing? Bring in a favorite activity. Blow a few bubbles and then pause.. Wait for the connection and a possible response. Big smiley face and blow again. Push your child on the swing, pause and wait for the connection and possible response. Big smiley face and push again.

11: When the child gets the 'why bother' of referencing a face for information, start bringing in more facial expressions and exclamations. A big smiley face = "That made me so happy". A sad face = "Ouch, I bumped my knee!"

12: Start using your eye gaze to share information. Exaggerate those eyes and look towards a place that you would like the child to look at. Perhaps you are doing a puzzle together.... look towards the piece that you would like the child to pick up. When the child feels competent with eye gazing within a close proximity then extend to other areas of the environment. "I can see the blue car over..... (use your eye gaze)....there!"

13: Bring in that body language along with your facial expressions. Over emphasis your movements. Shrug your shoulders, turn your face, body, arms. Think about your natural movements and then expand on them in order for your child to pick up further communication cues.

14: Don't forget to pause (a lot)

15: Cut back on your use of imperative language. Asking numerous questions does not give the child the opportunity to *think* about their response. "Show me the blue car" doesn't require much thinking on their part!

16: Increase your declarative language. Use your words in such a way to invite a response. Give the child a chance to hear what you have said, process the information and then plan their response. "That blue car looks fun to play with".

17: Don't expect your child to read your mind. Use declarative language to *suggest* what is about to happen. "I need my car keys". "Hmmm, I can't see your shoes".

18: Share your thoughts using declarative language in order to help your child become aware that you may have different thoughts to them. "I really don't like the taste of your yogurt!".  Think aloud.

19: Remember the 80/20 rule (80% delcarative, 20% imperative). Believe me, it works! Oh, and when you become accustomed to using declarative language it actually becomes second nature.

20: For children who battle with transitioning, chanting a few words works a treat. "We are walking, walking, walking". "We are walking to the car, we are walking to the car". If your child is receptive to holding hands, gently sway arms backwards and forwards to the rhythm. A musical sing song voice can also be helpful

21: Slow down. Take your time, there is no rush!

22: Ask yourself the following questions

Am I doing too much for my child?
Am I jumping in too quickly and giving my child the answer?
Am I giving him the chance to listen, process, plan and respond?
Is my child thinking on a conscious level?
Is my child making his own decisions?

23: "Empower your child to be a problem solver rather than direction follower" ~ Linda Murphy

Hopeful Parents ~ I need a drink!

It has been a tough few days, however, I think we are over the worst. Now need to mop up the damage done by the antibiotics!!  My latest blog post for Hopeful Parents can be found RIGHT HERE.