Monday, July 27, 2009

Joining In

Asperger's, autism, crowds, school, social skills, summer, playThere was a slip-n-slide. Today was one of those hot, muggy days when the air feels like oatmeal in your lungs. The floors felt like they were coated with dew. Yuck! Gus came home from school completely exhausted, played on the computer for a while during the first rain storm of the day, and then watched his favorite show. In the interim, MM noticed that a couple of her friends were playing with the slip-n-slide across the street. I let her go over - Gus doesn't usually want to get involved.

I asked him after a little while if he was interested in coming out, but predictably, he said no. I told him that if he changed his mind, he could put on a swimsuit and come on out. I didn't really expect him to, but I wanted him to know he was welcome.

Imagine my surprise when I turned around and there he was!

That in itself wasn't the biggest deal, but as the crowd of kids grew to proportions that are typically unmanageable for him, I started to notice something quite interesting. The kids had started arguing about turns. Gus had been taking a turn behind one particular girl. No matter how many of the kids cut the line, no matter where he ran off to, no matter how many times his turn got skipped, he always got back in line behind the same girl and waited without complaint to go down the slide. The kid with Asperger's behaved better than almost all the others out there. There is just no end to life's ironies.

I'm quite proud of him today. He might not be able to stand in line per se, but he's gotten the concept of taking turns nicely. Well done, Gus!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thankfulness

Asperger's, autism, birthday, cycling, nice kids, outings, Pokemon, silliness, social events, summer, thankfulness

I never tend to count Sundays as the start of a week, but rather as the end. So before my week is done, here is what I am thankful for:

  • Gus had a good time at our friend's son's birthday party up in Albany. He didn't make any lifelong friends, but this was another pretty accepting environment. Gus played video games for much of the afternoon, but there were a couple of teenage relatives who tried to play with him. He also played with the younger kids on and off. There was a medium sized dog, which Gus says he petted (although I did not actually see it happen). It was a pretty pleasant afternoon all things considered.
  • I am thankful that we actually made it home from the previously mentioned party! Holy cow, what an odyssey! First we missed an exit and ended up driving into the next state. Then, once we were about 45 minutes from home, the kids were going bonkers so we thought we'd stop for dinner. Understand what I mean by bonkers – very loud Pok√©mon speak, kicking seats…someone was about to get dinged in the head with a Pokedex…It got so bad that DH and I were laughing. Not the 'HAHA they're so cute' laugh; the 'OMG I've just fallen off a cliff and am about to be a pancake' hysterical laugh. The exit had one of those blue signs that said we could find food and gas. We followed the arrow toward the food and gas. And followed. And followed. And followed…There was NOTHING! (I'm feeling another hysterical giggle coming on.) We drove for a good half hour to find…the next exit that would have been right where Gus's school is. So we finally found a Chinese take-out place figuring it would be fast. HA! Forty-five minutes before we got out food. With this whole ordeal, we could have drive home and back! Needless to say, I am very, very glad to be out of the car and back home.
  • I am thankful for finishing a 24 mile bike ride safely yesterday. I rode a trail that spans 3 counties and did my farthest distance yet. I think I might meet my goal of doing a 50 mile ride this year. I'll have to start a new blog…

Incidentally, I'm typing on my new net book (which I am also thankful for) – yay! As nice as it was, I'm glad this weekend is done – I'm beat! What are you thankful for this week?


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Solo Outings

Asperger's, autism, beach, doctors, meltdowns, mistakes, outings, parenting, preparation, summer
I generally avoid taking both kids out by myself (or letting anyone else do so) because it can be difficult to keep them from jetting off in different directions. Sometimes though it can't really be avoided. My husband had to be away for the day, and the kids had doctor appointments. Then it turned out to be a glorious day - how could I keep them cooped up? So after the appointments were done, we went to the beach. Here's how we managed:

Despite Gus's Asperger's syndrome, I've found that many basic parenting tricks work just fine with him.

  • On the way to the doctor's office, I gave the kids a brief overview of what we were doing for the day. If they were good at the doctor's, we could go to the beach if the weather was nice. I was very specific about the possibility that we might not go to the beach under certain circumstances in order to preempt a tantrum if we couldn't go.
  • At the doctor's office, I gave them specific expectations for behavior - no climbing around the exam room like maniacs, basically. They did just fine.
  • When it came time for vaccinations, instead of having them both in the room for the shots, I took Gus out and let MM get hers first. They tend to amp each other up, but by separating them, MM had no one to perform for, and Gus didn't get extra freaked out by her antics. He was a little anxious, but after getting the shot said, "That didn't hurt." Surprise!
  • On the way home, we revisited the plan, then went home for lunch. After giving them the option not to go, we packed everything up, changed into swimsuits and headed to the beach. In the car, I went over the beach rules and let them know that if they broke the rules, we'd go home immediately. One reason my kids behave pretty well for me instead of taking advantage of the double-team is that they know there are swift consequences for breaking rules. I'm pretty consistent with this, and I think that's made it possible for us to hang out together now.
  • Since I only had limited hands to carry stuff, I left the beach toys home in order to make sure I could carry plenty of healthy snacks. I didn't go overboard, but sun and water make kids want to eat. And there are usually a million toys at the beach - no need to carry more in all honesty. In the past, I've left the door open for many a meltdown by not having ample snackage. Neither of them has ever had a fit over not having a shovel. I try not to make those mistakes at this stage of our lives.
  • We got to the beach, which is small and usually not very crowded, early in the day, around 12:30. For obvious reasons, we avoid the really busy times, although today, it never got as packed as I've seen in the past.

The results? We spent an extremely pleasant 4 hours at the beach; the kids played with some other children (yes, even Gus came across a little girl who was persistent and patient); I got to relax for an afternoon with my kids! For the win!!

What strategies do you use to maintain order when taking multiple kids out? Have a great weekend!



Image by Kratanuva on Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thankfulness Thursday...On Thursday Even!

ADHD, allergies, aspie, Asperger's, autism, camping, summer, thankfulness
Usually giving myself permission to not do something makes it a little easier to get it done. So it's Thursday and here we are. What am I thankful for this week?

  • I am thankful that Gus is not allergic to bee stings. We just learned this because he got stung by a bee yesterday at school. He seems perfectly calm about the whole thing - gotta love that aspie rationale ("it happens") and the ADHD lack of focus (really helps one to move on) sometimes!
  • I am thankful that our camping trip last weekend went well, despite some overnight rain drama (everyone stayed dry - that's the important thing). We were at a new site and Gus got to wander into the woods a little further than normal to climb on an old rock wall that provided a whole weekend worth of entertainment. He respected the boundaries for the most part and gained a little freedom - go Gus!
  • I am thankful that my neighbors didn't lodge complaints against my kids when they were complaining about other kids in the neighborhood, even though MM is sometimes out there playing with the rest of them. Some people seem to be of the opinion that children should not be allowed to play in their own back yards because, you know, noise. It's summertime, people! Lighten up! These kids are almost all (with the exception of 2 older siblings) aged 8 and under - they can't be kept indoors all summer, and why should they? They have as much right to utilize the space as grownups do. They aren't damaging property or causing any trouble - just playing ball with soft, rubber balls (the big ones you get in the supermarket for $2). Seriously? Many adults in this country need to get over themselves and need to learn a little tolerance. This was one time that Gus's challenges worked in his favor - he doesn't play ball or even play with the other kids and everyone knows this. So he can't be dragged into situations like this. MM plays outside, but rarely plays ball - she's usually on someone's deck or picking flowers or riding her bike. I'm still glad to have avoided the hassle, especially since one of the plaintiffs lives right next door to me. That would have been a drama I don't need!

What are you thankful for this week? There has to be something - it's summertime and the sun is shining (well, if it's not shining for you right this moment, it's shining somewhere). Leave a comment and spread the gratitude! Have a great day!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thankfulness...Day

Asperger's, autism, birthday, camping, friends, family, insect repellent, lyme, mean kids, parenting, preparation, summer, thankfulness
Instead of making excuses every week for why I keep missing Thursdays, let's just agree that I'll post a thankfulness list at some point every week. Really, I don't want to keep boring you with my memory issues.

This week:

  • I am thankful that although my husband contracted Lyme disease, he caught it very early and was being treated even before his blood work was back. It's nice when medical professionals are on the ball. In a similar vein, I am thankful that my friend J's doctors are also on the ball right now and hope that she gets a speedy resolution to the problems she's currently suffering. Here's to hoping they both feel much better very soon.
  • I am thankful that my marriage will get to see its 10th anniversary tomorrow and that I'll get to see my *** birthday on Sunday! You didn't really think I'd be silly enough to post my age? Anyway, we're going camping (and packing LOTS of bug spray) this weekend to celebrate, so I'll be extra thankful if the sky decides not to spit on us.
  • I am thankful that I have learned to exercise restraint, especially when people are picking on Gus. Snotty neighborhood kid felt the need to go out of his way to antagonize Gus, who was minding his business and riding his bike in a friend's parking lot while MM and a few other kids were playing with sidewalk chalk. Snotty rode up with another little boy (who never says anything to start trouble) and called something to Gus that I didn't hear. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was trying to get Gus to ride with them. Of course, Gus didn't respond in any typical way, and rode between then saying in a mock scared voice, "Aaah! Don't crash into me!" He was trying to play with them. Getting no response, he rode away. Now, Snotty could have just left it at that and gone on with his business. He could have even shook his head (it's not the first time Gus has exhibited confusing behavior) and kept his mouth shut. But no, instead he turns to the other kid and says, loudly enough for me & Gus to both hear, "What's wrong with Gus??" You know the tone. This, by the way, is the same kid who once asked Gus why he was crazy. He has absolutely no interest in being Gus's friend, and I know this because most of the time he acts like Gus isn't even there, just like all the other boys his age in the area.

    So, I didn't hurl a bike at the kid like some incredible She-Hulk. I walked over to him calmly and said, "Snotty,* you know I like you, but I heard what you said and if I hear you say something like that again about Gus, I'm going to tell your dad, because it's not nice." Not the strongest statement in the world, but he's only 8 -- I couldn't be but so harsh. And we both knew his dad would not be pleased to hear about that behavior. He knew he was wrong and honestly wasn't being completely respectful to me when I was speaking, but I didn't get all crazy about it. Hopefully, he'll heed the warning and just stay clear of my son. The dad would attempt to discipline, but the mom would just counter whatever dad does and further reinforce Snotty's behavior. I'd rather not have to spend the summer feuding with neighbors. We'll see what happens.

So that's our story this week. What are you thankful for? Have a great weekend, be safe and be healthy!



*Snotty's name has been changed to protect his identity, but also because I think it's a more appropriate name than his real one.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Getting a Cavity Filled

Asperger's, autism, dentist, planning, preparation, summer, tips
If you recall about a month ago, I posted about Gus's trip to a new dentist. I was less than thrilled, but I decided to keep his appointment to get his 3 cavities taken care of. Instead of worrying about the dentist's behavior, I decided to focus on him and preparing him for today's visit. I'll also focus this post of that aspect to spare you a venomous tirade about the dental industry.

I knew a couple of things going in: that they'd probably use nitrous, and that he'd likely be very grabby with the instruments once she started working on him. I wasn't so sure the nitrous would even work - he had a difficult time having anything over his nose when he had his ear tubes put in years ago. At least I had a starting point.

MM had been given one of the 'piggy noses' or nose masks that the nitrous is delivered through. So I made sure we practiced having the nose on and breathing with it. That way Gus wouldn't be too freaked out by it. He was only a little freaked out by it and eventually relaxed - there were other more pressing things to freak out about anyway.

Last night, we also had a talk about grabbing the dentists instruments and how it is dangerous to do that. So we discussed options if he needed her to stop for any reason. I gave him a hand signal, which he modified to his own taste, and we also discussed how he could use his words or sounds if he couldn't speak. This worked well for him despite the dentist telling him not to yell. It was either that or let him grab her hands, so I let him yell. There was a wedge in his mouth to keep it open, so it wasn't like he could move his jaw much.

He was in a rare belligerent mood and wasn't being all that polite to Dr. P. at a few points, but all things considered, he did rather well. I knew the vibration from the drill would be a problem for him and I explained that to her. She respected his wishes for breaks, to her credit, and once the drilling was finished he calmed down considerably. He didn't appreciate the taste of the amalgam, but once he learned that it was "Pokemon paint" he was mollified. Of course he had to demand that it was Sceptile Pokemon paint, but no one really felt the need to contradict him.

All in all, it could have been a million times worse than it was. I will probably still look for another dentist, but at least I know that Gus will be able to handle it.



*image of MM's practice bubble-gum-flavored "piggy nose."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Small Groups

Asperger's, autism, crowds, family, friends, nice kids, outings, social events, summer, holidays, July 4th, small groups
Eons ago, in another life when I taught high-school aged kids, I learned that children with certain learning styles (kinesthetic and tactile) tended to do much better in small group activities (groups of 2 or 3). I notice that this holds true for Gus. In large groups of peers, as when we are hanging out in the neighborhood, he gravitates away from the large number of kids, and it ends up being a situation where we are corralling him more than anything else. Not enjoyable for us or for him.

Yesterday, we skipped the neighborhood scene (at the last minute we were invited to a beach party with the neighbors - probably at least 8-11 kids) and went to my cousin's as planned. There were about 5 other children playing together and wow! what a difference in Gus. He still needed some redirection at times, but it was one of the most enjoyable Independence Days that I can remember with him. He played with his friends. He and MM were having such a good time we were able to stay until well past their bedtime; usually we leave right after dinner before they start getting overwhelmed. We got home around 9:30 - heck, that's almost past my bedtime!

The company clearly made a difference as well. There was a level of relaxation and acceptance that is almost non-existent when all the neighborhood kids are together. It's as if Gus doesn't exist. Who wants to do all the work of engaging this kid who always talks to himself when there are so many other, less strange, playmates around? I'm grateful that they aren't outwardly mean to him, at least most of them aren't most of the time - there are comments now and again. But unless there are small numbers, he is rarely, if ever, part of the crowd.

Gus separated himself from the kids yesterday at times, too, but it was more like he just needed breaks. When he rejoined them, he was accepted with no problem. It was just a lovely, laid back, enjoyable day.

How was your 4th?



*image by Katori Suigo via WikiTravel.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Thursday Thankfulness: Having Trouble Telling Time

Asperger's, autism, camping, days off, growing, nature, summer, thankfulness, tick removal, ticks
Our summer schedule, or rather lack of schedule, makes it very hard for me to keep track of days. Add in an early week camping trip instead of a weekend trip along with a holiday weekend - I'm all jumbled. I actually forgot that yesterday was Thursday!

My thanks:

  • I am thankful that I finally got the tick head from behind Gus's ear without having to drag him to the doctor. It's all healed up and he was even okay when I had to remove a few deer ticks from him during our camping trip. I swear the tick population is ridiculous right now! Which leads to my next point...
  • I am thankful I finally know the right way to remove ticks and that I learned it before our trip. Between all of us, we found eight of them - all deer ticks. But we found them before they could get too attached, so it was all good.
  • I am thankful that neither of the kids got lost or hurt during our trip although Gus kept wandering down into the woods without us and both kids started learning to chop small branches of wood with hatchets (under full adult supervision). They're really maturing, and I'm starting to see signs of an emerging 'tween in Gus. He's not there yet, but there's the tiniest hint of defiance and independence lurking below the surface. It's making me a little nervous!
  • I am thankful that we got two glorious days for our trip despite warnings of thunderstorms. We got a nasty downpour our last night, but it was after we had already cooked dinner, and it was relatively short-lived. My father-in-law made an amazing fire that totally withstood the deluge, and our tent held up in its first test against bad weather. The best part: around 8:00 the rain stopped (I wish the kids had been awake) and we saw a magnificent rainbow. Its colors were brilliant against the steely gray backdrop, and the full arc was clearly visible instead of just a portion of it. "Miraculous" would be an appropriate description. That band of color in the sky was the perfect ending to our day.

Hopefully, I will get my act together as we move into a better routine. In the meanwhile, what are you thankful for this week?