Sunday, September 15, 2013

Maybe I'm Amazed

Pervasive Parenting

By Kodey Toney

Maybe I’m Amazed

I had a long discussion with Konner this weekend. While I have many long discussions with him they usually are about Thomas trains, track dimension, Minecraft issues, zombies, or something else that interests him, but I have no idea what they really are all about. I wish I could tell you that this conversation was different, but it really just ended up with the same subjects.

However, I was reading an article on Facebook about people on the spectrum and how their brains work differently than neurotypical people. Since Konner was sitting next to me I decided to ask him what he thought about the situation.

I said, “Have you ever heard of Autism?” I knew he had because we have discussed it before.

He replied, “Yes daddy.”
I said, “Do we know anyone who has autism?”

He said, “I don’t know.”

So I explain to him, though I’ve explained several times, that he does and that it causes his brain to work differently than others.

I then asked, “Does it take you a little while to think about questions when I ask them?”

He said yes and so I tried to explain why.  I went on to ask him other autism related questions just to see what he thought.

I asked, “Do you play with people at school or stay to yourself?” He said he stays to himself, but sometimes plays with others.

I then asked, “Do you want other kids to play with you or do you want to be left alone?”

He said, “I want other kids to play with me most of the time, but sometimes I just want to be left alone.”

I figure this stands to reason. I just want to be left alone sometimes too, and if he is overstimulated he probably doesn’t want anyone to bother him.

It was at this point that the conversation fell off on his end. I would ask him if the other kids made fun of him or if they were nice to him.

He said, “They are nice to me…did you know that Thomas and Percy are medium gauge engines…”

So I tried to steer the conversation back on track and said, “Do the kids make fun of you or are they nice to you?”

He said, “They don’t make fun of me…did you know that on Misty Island Rescue…”

He, like many children on the spectrum only want to talk about things that they are interested in, and when they are interested in them. He will go days without saying anything to anyone unless he is asked a question, and then spend an hour talking about a certain train or part of a movie that he watched. He will keep talking even if you have a conversation with someone else.

He tends to repeat the same conversations over and over again. This is part of the echolalia.

Part of the thought process issue is the fact that, according to an article on the Autism Discussion Page on Facebook, and other articles I’ve read in the past, “The brain wiring for people on the spectrum (ASD) makes it difficult to look past the detail for the overall picture. It is more focused on reading the concrete details (facts). What your see and hear, is what you get. They stay more true to the details, and analyze the facts to piece together the overall picture. Hence their thought processes can be less biased (although not entirely unbiased), and more true to the facts.”

His mind amazes me in the things it can do when he wants to, but when he doesn’t you might as well forget getting anything out of him.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

My Baby Wrote Me A Letter

Pervasive Parenting
By Kodey & Jennifer Toney
My Baby Wrote Me A Letter
I often have parents ask me what they can do to help their teachers understand their children more. They say, “I don’t feel like they really know my child.” We all know that we have exceptional children with great traits, but that seems to get lost sometimes when people focus on their disability. This is why doing a letter to your teacher is important.
Sometimes called a one-pager, a letter to your child’s teachers, aides, and staff members is one of the greatest ways to let them know all about your child. This gives you an opportunity to tell all the good things about your child and show them off a little. It also lets the teacher know some of the things that your child likes so that they have something to talk to them about. You can also include things that may set your child off and cause irritation.
I’m going to include the letter that Jen wrote (with help from Konner) to give to his teachers last week. I hope that you can use this as a template, and I hope that you get to know Konner a little better because of this.
Hi, my name is Konner and I am in your class this year. I want you to know a little about me. I’m nervous to be in your class because it’s new and I don’t know what to expect. I need some time to adjust and then I will feel comfortable. Please don’t judge me on my first few weeks. As the time goes by, you will be amazed by the skills you never thought I possessed. I sometimes look like I don’t understand. That’s just because I don’t have the same expressions and reactions as other people. I might not look at you when you talk but that doesn’t mean I didn’t hear you. I did. In fact I usually hear more than most people. As I become familiar with your classroom I will begin to shine. A great way to speed up this process is letting me know what to expect. Written or picture schedules for the day reduce my anxiety. A five minute warning before a change of activity can help me greatly too. You are my teacher and I look up to you. I want to succeed this year but I can’t do it without your help and most importantly, your belief in me that I can do it!
1. What is my general disposition?
I go from happy to frustrated in mere seconds, so please be patient with me and in time you will be able to read me well enough to help me keep my frustrations to a minimum.
2. What am I really, really good at?
I have a really good memory and I can mimic any sound with perfect pitch. I am really good with technology.
3. What do I absolutely LOVE doing?
I love to draw on my marker board and play on my iPad.
4. What do I absolutely HATE doing?
I hate to miss recess and lunch and MERP.
5. What academics are my strong areas?
Math, Reading, and Spelling
6. What academics do I need a lot of extra help with?
Sometimes I have trouble understanding language and I need things to be said in a different way so that I know what I am expected to do.
7. Which skills would my parents really like me to work on this year?
Social skills and inappropriate behavior
8. How do you know when I’m getting frustrated?
When I am frustrated I sometimes scream, jerk, repeat the same phrase over and over, fall in the floor, slam or throw things.
9. What can you do to calm me down before the storm hits?
Ask me if I need to take a break or go to my safe area in the classroom, take a walk, redirect me to a different task, weighted vest.
10. Too late! The storm hit! What can you do to calm me down?
Take me to an isolated area away from others and try to apply pressure by hugging tightly and wrapping in a blanket. Do not talk to me until I am calm enough to focus. When I am having a meltdown I do not understand what is going on around me or what I am doing.
11. What strategies work really well to get me to do something I don’t want to do?
Reward Board, Nerds, iPad time, marker board time
12. What typically makes me laugh?
Loud noises
13. What consequences back-fire and don’t give the desired results?
Yelling at me, corporal punishment
14. I don’t like consequences, but which consequences work well for me?
Taking away my stars from my reward board, sometimes timeout from recess works
15. I would also like you to know…
I love to build things on Minecraft and I want to be a computer programmer or an engineer when I grow up. I love Thomas the Train and I talk about the different engines constantly.
This was a template that Jen found online by Jene Aviram, of Natural Learning Concepts. There is a second part to this that I will try to include next week that has an article explaining children on the spectrum to teachers. I think it goes well with the letter.
There is way more to our children than a label. They are not a tag that says, “I have a disability.” They are children like others for the most part. They just have some different attributes.