Sunday, August 26, 2012

Close as Pages of a Book

Facebook can be a great resource for a parent of an autistic child. There are many pages with advice, support groups, organizations, and humor. If you know what you’re looking for it can be truly helpful.

I found a new page this week that I thought was interesting. The Autism Sparks page has little tid-bits that can help you understand things a little clearer. The page’s motto is: “Helping you find the Sparks to connect with your child with autism.” I’m going to share a couple of these things that I found worthy of note.

The first one is this: “Today’s world is busy, busy, busy, but sometimes quicker is not better and may turn out to be much, much slower. Imagine, someone shakes a bottle of coke and gives it to you. Do you take the lid off quickly and deal with the resulting mess, or do you give the bottle of coke all the time it needs so that you can accomplish your goal without the mess? Are you the same way with your child?”

I have this problem often. When Konner gets over-stimulated to the point of meltdown, or close, the first thing I want to do is to calm him down. We all know that once a child is in meltdown mode the worst thing you can do is try to calm with restraint or words. It’s best to just let them get it out as long as they don’t injure themselves or others. As a parent though, instinct says to do what you can to pacify their actions. I felt this was a great way of looking at it though. We would just stand back with a shaken can of soda, so we should probably do the same with a child who is melting down.

The next is this: “Children with autism may like what's familiar, but that doesn't mean you have to just let them do the same things over and over. A new activity that you introduce may turn out to be something they love once it’s familiar. If your child shows no interest in a new activity at first, don’t give up straightaway, try a few more times. It may not be the activity that is rejected, but the novelty.”

Don’t forget that few people like change. This is especially true in children on the spectrum. You can’t expect them to pick up a certain activity, schedule, or game immediately. You have to give it some time. It may be that they just need that time to adjust. Think of it this way. Every year at this time we start back to school. I just get it into my head, or psych myself up, to expect the first two weeks to be bad. This is what we’ve had happen in the past, so we just anticipate the same. He’s coming off the summer schedule, or lack thereof, and is trying to get acclimated to a new classroom, teacher, classmates, structure, etc. After a couple of weeks he is back to a semi-normal routine and the behavior issues lessen. I’m glad to say that so far this semester he has been pretty good.

Another is: “When trying to understand a difficult behavior – don’t just think about where and when it’s most likely to occur, think also about where and when it’s least likely to occur. The contrast between the two may help you to get a better idea about the nature of the problem.”

This is something that was really interesting to me. As a parent of a child who could explode at any moment I’m always looking to the near-future. Let me give you an example. If I’m at a restaurant I’m looking at what scenarios could play out. If he drops his fork are we going to have a meltdown? Should I just ask for a spare ahead of time to make sure I have that covered? How close is the bathroom in case we have to take a quick trip? How close is the door in case we need to escape quickly? Is that older couple in the corner going to say anything if Konner decides to have a sudden yelling spell? If so, what am I going to do? Am I going to do anything?

I honestly go through these scenes in my head to the point that I’m on pins and needles and can’t truly enjoy my dinner sometimes. This is probably part of the reason we don’t go out much. I just constantly look at the bad things that could possibly happen. However, I should look at the good. What things cause him to be calm? Can I do this if he starts to seem agitated? Think good as well as bad.

The last one I’ll touch on is this: “Sometimes children get stuck in a thought and will ask for something over and over again – even though you’ve told them they can’t have it, or can’t have it yet. One way that sometimes works to shift their attention to something else is to offer a closed choice between 2 other options (at least one of which should appeal to them, e.g. “computer or book?”), rather than respond directly to the request again (you’ve already told them “no” remember).”

This happens often here. It’s as if he doesn’t hear you when you say no. He will continue to ask over and over. I think Konner could be a great interrogator. He wouldn’t let up on someone until they told him what he wanted to hear. Instead I should offer some other choices. I often forget to make the counter proposition.

I highly recommend checking out this a page. It is full of great advice.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column


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