A Year of Firsts

We are nearing the end of 2013 and I have been thinking about the last twelve months and the progress that Nick has made during this time. It has been a productive year and Nick has really made some great strides in all areas. The one thing that stands out the most to me is his resilience. He has been exposed to many different situations and places; and he has taken it all in his stride. He is an uncomplicated kid with a very endearing character. He is also a bit of a screen addict, but then again so are a lot of teens these days ~ well, that is our excuse! :)

The following words and pictures have been copied from my personal facebook page and my Bright Side page. The majority of them are *firsts* for Nick.

1 January 2013

Happy 14th Birthday, Nick.

Never in a million years did we think that Nick would ever speak! 
His progress in trying to sound out words has been delightful.

Nick made the big time! Thank you Autism World Magazine!
This is the link for the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ajtU95JcmE

The above picture was the start of our juicing adventure!

Nick hit the big time, AGAIN! 
Here is the link for the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbJHKTSgORM

Dear Readers
Thank you for taking the time to read my posts.
I have really appreciated your support this past year.
This is my final post for 2013
Have a Happy New Year
See you all in 2014

Poster ~ Communication!

I read an interesting post on mindfulness over at Hopeful Parents and thought it was well worth spotlighting.

Two questions is all that it can take to be mindful of any given situation. (I always go for the easiest option!!)

What am I doing?

Why am I doing it?

For sure, the above poster is not exactly what the writer had in mind, however, I feel that the two questions can be used in any way that works for me. Yesterday I chose to put some thought into my style of communication and how I can help my child to THINK for HIMSELF!

Tomorrow I may reflect on my feelings of angst!! :-)

Anyone for lettuce?

It's holiday time and I am loving that we can take life slow (er).

I have been thinking about our days and how we can fill them productively, although also taking into account that there will be a lot of down time. Nick doesn't play or draw or ride bikes, therefore his spare time is spent on the iPad, computer, listening to music and/or flipping through books! It is not possible to be a proactive Super Mum and keep him busy all the time... and that is okay!

I decided that the best thing for me to do would be to work at creating a balance. We could have social time by going out for coffee, walks and/or visiting friends. We could also carry on with our daily activities like shopping for groceries and other general day to day stuff. I could assess each day and incorporate RDI planned engagements where possible. AND, we could also have our chill time!

A friend suggested that I start a vegetable garden with Nick and I thought it was a great idea. Even better I could approach it from an RDI angle. With that in mind, we headed off to the local nursery and purchased some lettuce and flowers. Nick's role was to be in charge of the trolley and also help with the plants.

Life took over and it was a couple of days before we started preparing our trough for the lettuce plants. Again, I set up the activity as an RDI planned engagement. My plan was for us to carry the bag of soil together and then have a regular pattern of using a small spade to take turns moving the soil. I thought Nick would be able to handle that quite easily. My challenge for Nick was for him to think about another way that we could move the soil rather than use the spade (very slow). I wasn't too concerned if he couldn't figure it out, I just wanted to give him the opportunity to think for himself. The video clip below spotlights the process of removing the soil. Unfortunately Nick is facing away from the camera, although you should be able to read his body language. 

I found that Nick was quick to pick up on what was going on and he naturally made his own decision about how to move the soil other than using the spade. When moving the soil I did help to scaffold the activity just a little bit. I say the words, "shake, shake" and I really love that Nick started shaking the bag with me. We were working together so nicely. At one point Nick moves away so I pause the action and then Nick comes back to help again.

This next *very short* clip is another little challenge for Nick. I decide that we don't have enough soil, therefore we need to collect another bag from the garage. I am really thrilled that Nick stayed with me and also help carry the very heavy bag from the garage to the trough.

The following clip shows Nick's next challenge. I spotlight that we need to open the bag and Nick immediately picks up the scissors (this is second nature to him now!). He really battles to operate the scissors and he is unable to cut the bag. I scaffold quite a bit in order to help him out and although he can't manage to cut I am really thrilled with his resilience. What really blew me away was the fact that he decided to make his own plan by putting the scissors down and trying to tear the bag open using his hands.

Throughout our planned engagement I made sure to pause frequently and give Nick time to problem solve. I used declarative language so that Nick could hear my thoughts and make his own plan. We took it slow and there was no pressure to perform. I do admit to talking too fast and being too quick with my movements while Nick is trying to figure out the scissors ~ the beauty of taking video footage means that I can look back and reflect on progress and also bookmark any areas that can be improved upon.

Note to self:  Remember to SLOW down and PAUSE a bit more!

As mentioned above, Nick's resilience shines through and for us this is HUGE!

Since taking the above footage, we have planted our lettuce and have also attempted to water them using a a juice bottle that requires squeezing. This activity provides so many opportunities for planned engagements and introducing further challenges. Who know, maybe Nick will even attempt to taste a lettuce leaf!!

Embracing change!

We all have our own little routines and familiar patterns that we feel uncomfortable deviating from. I have this compulsive need to floss my teeth each night before brushing my teeth. Miss a night and I feel a little uneasy and am forever moving my tongue around my mouth, feeling for bits that may be caught between my teeth. (Sorry, too much info!). This is standard stuff and let's face it if I miss a night it is not the end of the world. I may feel a little antsy, however, I can shrug it off and say "oh well, I will floss tomorrow morning!"

Throw autism into the mix and it is another story. For years my son could not and would not tolerate any changes in his life, whether it be change of routine, type of food or even driving down an unfamiliar road. I was extremely fixated on keeping the peace; and keeping everything the same in order to prevent my boy from becoming terribly distressed. I didn't like to see my son unhappy and totally out of control of his emotions and unable to regulate himself. It was depressing and absolutely heartbreaking. It was terrible to live in this state, continuously tiptoeing on eggshells to avoid drama.

As time moved on, I learned that it was possible to move on from this way of life. I discovered that I could help my child to overcome his high anxiety and his need for sameness. And, I went with it because the alternative was to stay at home with my son and only have two safe places, home and school with nothing in between. That is not a life. I didn't want to become reclusive and I certainly didn't want my son to remain fixed in his patterns and unable to move forward. I wanted our family to have a regular life as much as possible.

I started introducing changes to my son's routine. I am not talking heavy duty changes. I am talking about the little variations that would be a *tiny* challenge for him. I am talking about putting a pen on the edge of a table and saying to him. "I am just going to leave it there for 5 seconds, it will be fine". During those five seconds I would be giving him reassuring smiles, knowing all the time that he wanted to clear that table because NOTHING was allowed on the table. Five seconds. That is all.

More little changes like;

Adding a tiny piece of carrot to his Spaghetti Bolognaise sauce. "Oh wow, I see some carrot" (it took a good six months before he would eat the carrot, however, he was comfortable with it being there!)
Driving down the wrong road, "Oops, silly me, I have driven the wrong way... but it will be fine"
Getting him familiar with going to ONE coffee shop. Then introducing another coffee shop.
Cutting his toast in different ways and spotlighting the change.
Wrapping his school snack in paper one day, tin foil the next ~ and spotlighting the difference.
Moving his chair to a different place. Sitting next to him. Sitting opposite him, so on and so forth.

I could go on and on.....

These days I have a flexible child who adapts to change very easily and the word 'transition' doesn't enter our vocabulary. He no longer needs a visual schedule and is perfectly fine if I change my plans at a whim. This afternoon, my husband arrived home to pick me up as we needed to collect my car that had been in the garage for the day. Nick was playing on the computer, however, when I called to him "let's go, we going out!" he shut down the computer and came to join us. When we arrived at the garage, it wasn't possible for him to stay in his Dad's car so he came into the showroom with us and waited patiently while everything was sorted out. He showed NO signs of stress over the fact that he was in a brand new place and everything was unfamiliar (except for his old Mum and Dad!). He did not ask for "car". He did not ask for computer, iPad or anything else that he uses to escape. He was a regular kid, out doing chores with his folks. Absolutely brilliant stuff.

I know that we have a long way to go. Food issues are still a problem, however, he has made some lovely 'healthy' progress of late. He is also uncomfortable when in the company of a lot of people, although he is happy to go visiting with us and will quickly make himself at home wherever we go. The iPad helps tremendously in situations like this.

Gone are the days that we had to stay at home. Gone are the days when we had to make arrangements to leave him at home while we went out and about. These days he comes with us and we are no longer a family divided. Of course we make accommodations for him, we also do the same for his brother. Our life may not be the same as Mr and Mrs Joe Soap with their regular 2.5 children who live down the road, however, this is our life and we are making the most of it.

Little changes have made our boy more flexible and comfortable with trying new experiences. The little changes are paving the way towards bigger challenges. Slowly and surely, step by little step, we will guide him forward. Watch this space!

Now, where did I put that dental floss?


*This post was written for Hopeful Parents. I generally only share the link to my post over at Hopeful Parents, however, today I thought I would add a little change to my regular pattern and share the whole blog post right here!! :-)