For over a year now R. will occasionally take my finger and use it to point at something. She seems to be asking what the item is, so I tell her. It was random for a long time, she would do it once every couple of weeks.
A couple of months ago she started asking every day who particular muppets were on one of her favorite Sesame Street videos – A Celebration of Me Grover. Most of the muppets were just generic nameless characters. At about the same time she started to open Safari on the ipad and ask for Elmo. If you search for Elmo in Google and select images there are tons of pics of her favorite red monster.
It didn’t take long before she asked me to look up other Sesame Street characters and it became a new activity-her asking me to search for something and then looking at the pictures.
She’s also started watching some different shows-only on the ipad, but I’ll take it. She came to me with each show-– Backyardigans, Wonderpets–– nearly every single kiddie show and wanted me to name each character and look it up in Google. I prompted her to use her own finger and say Who is it. This has become a favorite activity, so she picked it up quickly.
Now she’ll come up to me all the time, point at the picture and say Who is it. And then I have to look the character up in Google. I’ve learned all kind of names. I now know that Caillou’s mother’s name is Doris. How fascinating that she even wondered about that. She was upset that the boy in the cat in the hat has no name. And I’m amazed that she figured that out, I never even noticed.
She has been very into Sid the Science Kid, and one of his phrases is I have a question. R. repeats this, sometimes out of context but often she’ll walk up to me and say either I have a question or just question. And then she will ask a question!
An example of an exchange:
She walks up to me and says Question.
Me: Oh you have a question? What’s your question?
She tugs on my hand and says Come.
I remove my hand from hers (I’m working on trying to remove her touching me from her communication.) and say OK, I’ll come with you. I follow her to the stairs where she has a bunch of stuffed animals lined up.
She points at one and says Who this?
I say That’s a cow.
She walks away, retrieves the ipad, opens up Safari and points at the Google search window and says That’s a cow.
I search for cow pictures for her to look at.
The teacher suggested that I have her type in her search requests, even hand over hand. Sometimes she’s impatient, but after weeks of doing this it seems like she can spell some of her favorite searches on her own, I’m just sort of holding her arm for moral support.
It started with a small hole in his chest that R. couldn’t resist yanking stuffing through. And then she destroyed the arm.But she doesn’t seem to mind that it is missing. She can still make him clap.
I warned her that his eyes would come off permanently if she kept chewing and pulling. But I don’t think she understood, or maybe she didn’t care. She came to me when the eyes finally lost hold and said eyes over and over again for the next few hours. But she didn’t cry or even whine. And now they are forgotten.
I’ve had a back up Elmo on hand for years now. So when she went to school the next day I hid away eyeless Elmo and took out the new one. She greeted him happily at first. But after a few minutes it dawned on her and she screamed and screamed for Elmo.
I realized at that moment I had to make a choice. I could stand my ground and eventually she would stop crying and either become attached to the new Elmo or not. But I just couldn’t do it. There are so many instances where it is a matter of safety or something and I have to stand my ground. It seemed unfair to deprive her of a beloved comfort item because I think it looks bad. So I gave it back.
So it has been a long time since I updated. I’m not usually superstitious but every time I started to write this post I felt like I might jinx something…
But here we more than half way through the school year and Kindergarten is going very well. The class (self contained special day class) has nine students and five aides.
One of my biggest concerns was R.’s escaping behaviors. I was worried she was going to walk out the front door of the school and try to find her way home. She did escape starting on her first day of school. There are classrooms adjacent to the recess yard and she instantly realized there were toys in each classroom and she wanted to see them. The amazing thing was, the teacher and aides did not freak out about it , no meeting was called, no outside behaviorist was called in. The kindergarteners have three recesses a day, and for the second recess the teacher brought some toys outside. Talk about brilliant. Over the next few weeks the aides worked on showing R. all the fun things she could do on the recess yard and now it is not much of a problem at recess. She still does try to go exploring from her classroom, but they seem to be able to handle this.
Her school day is so much more interesting than in preschool. They go to the library, have pull-outs like music and garden. Even the work they are doing in class from the worksheets to the art projects is more advanced than preschool. The SDC class is mixed grades, K-2, but the kindergarteners do the same things that the general ed kindergarteners do and it seems to stay the same as they advance in grades.
R. is going to one of the general ed kindergarten classes for free play each day. I was getting notes that she was “playing” with the other students. I visited one day, hoping to just spy in the window so I would not distract her. I peered in and I did not see her at all–just groups of kids. So I went in the back door, and there was R–hanging out with the large group of kids. From what I saw she was hanging out more than playing anything. But the general ed teacher told me she puts hats on the other kids, takes turns with marble runs and other toys and that the kids really like her.
And that is one amazing thing about this school, it is not just the teachers who seem to like R., the kids do. I never felt like other kids really noticed R, beyond her differences and she only had limited interest in them. So this is really an amazing surprise.
R. is obsessed with clapping and getting people to clap, and she has a tendency to grab people’s hands to get them to do what she wants. I was concerned about how this would be taken by the other kids, especially at recess and discussed it with the teacher. After a few weeks the teacher said that the kids don’t mind at all when R. has them clap, and some girls were taking R. by the hand and running around and laughing. She told me that there were hula hoops on the recess yard and R. put a hoop on the ground, stood in the middle of it and spun her body around. A bunch of other girls watched and then all did the same thing. So I can say that R. inspired her fellow students to spin!
R. can follow directions so much better. I’m able to have her help with cleaning up her toys and similar tasks. I discussed this with the teacher and she set up a recycling job for R. where R. and a student from the general ed kindergarten class take a box of recycling to the recycling bin outside. The children have to carry the box together, and work together to lift it into the bin. Talk about the most amazing way to work on joint attention skills, social skills and probably more. R. is super motivated to do this, the aide said that she hardly had to help them at all, they worked it out between them.
I mentioned that we were walking a lot in the community in my last post. What I didn’t mention is that she does still have some behaviors, they are just a little different. She will tug on our hands to pull in the direction she wants to go. She will point sometimes and look at us with an expression that is demanding. I’ll prompt her to say go this way or something relevant.
She doesn’t like to wait, or stand for a long time while I look at something. I do honor that for the most part, but if I really need to do something she has to wait.
When she gets upset she will throw herself onto the ground (usually to her knees at first) and cry. Sometimes I have no idea what sets her off, but usually it is some change to the way we are doing things or something she perceives as a change. Like parking in a different spot. At one Target entrance there is a separate entrance and exit. She thinks we should always walk out the same door we came in.
I always wished she could tell me what she wanted in the store, well there’s a case of be careful what you wish for. She can remember where the stuffed animals are in any store and find her way there. We were shocked to realize she could find her way to the Disney store (she led us) from any spot in the Serramonte mall. (a large mall shaped like a cross). She had only been there walking around one time before like a month ago.
In the Disney store she is after a plush Kermit. It is tempting to buy her everything she wants but if I do that I am setting up an expensive precedent. So I don’t buy her anything. I tell her we can say hi to Kermit (or whoever) talk to him for a minute and they we have to say good-bye. This works, but it takes a lot of urging.
She is incredibly strong. At this point she is more than half my height. If she pulls or pushes me and I am off balance she could theoretically knock me over. Sometimes I have felt afraid that I could not control her, that she would run into a dangerous situation or…
So I invented a procedure for myself to restrain her. Now that sounds terrible, but sometimes I do have to take control. She’ll flop down in the middle of the street or a busy area where I can’t protect her until she is finished.
When we walk she usually stands on my left, with her right hand in my left hand. If she suddenly flops down to the ground, it is not easy to pull her up by my left hand, and I’m always afraid I’ll hurt her. So first I’ll say Up 1,2,3. Sometimes that works and we proceed.
If that doesn’t work, I will transfer her right hand to my right hand and slip my left arm around her back and put my hand under her arm pit. Then I have enough leverage to lift her up. That often calms her and we can proceed. It is also easy to switch to that two armed position while we are walking if she needs extra direction.
If that doesn’t work, I can slip my left hand further around her so it is in front of her, like a bear hug from the back. It’s tough to move in that position and it is easy for her to kick me, but it does work.
I took R. to the post office to mail a box. I probably should have gone at a time when I could go without her, but I had to pick up something anyway. So I got the stroller out, and put my box in the stroller. R. cried instantly, not sure about the box, the stroller (we haven’t been using it) or what we were doing.
I got her to help me push the stroller, and we made it up the hill to the Post Office with no problem. As I turned to enter the Post Office she started to cry and flopped on the ground. I pushed the stroller so it would not roll down the hill and did my “moves” on R.
A woman came along, and I’m sure to her it looked like I was totally out of control of the situation. She pushed my stroller out of arm’s reach (grrr!) and then got in R.’s face to try to help. Which of course made the situation worse.
I finally said, she has autism, she is upset because this is a new experience, I’ve got it under control, thank you. The woman moved away and I wrestled R. and the stroller into the Post Office.
As soon as we were inside the building, she stopped crying and said I want iphone.
Obviously I haven’t posted in a while. I’ll confess that I’ve been taking a break from autism. Not from R., and I’m not ignoring any challenges or anything. It’s just after a year of all the kindergarten research and visits, and all the meetings and so forth I just needed to think about something else for a while- having fun with my daughter.
Preschool came to an end. I’m not sure she understands that, it was bittersweet to say good-bye to the teacher she has loved for over two years. She had an opportunity to visit her new kindergarten class. (I’ll call it a kindergarten class, but it is technically K-2). We went at the end of the day for their free play and circle time. She wasn’t too thrilled at first, she kept yelling home. I didn’t know she even knew that word. But once she got in the classroom she seemed to feel comfortable sitting in the circle time area – it was set up similarly to her classroom. She actually participated a bit.
She finally moved to a big bed. Yes she has been sleeping in a crib all this time. Every time I went to move it she would get upset. So I made the switch while she was at school and it has been fine. She loves her new bed. And I saved the crib mattress for jumping, so it is a win-win situation.
We have not used the stroller for months now. (Other than the long walk to the zoo). It used to be we could not go anywhere without it or letting her sit in a shopping cart. Now she just loves to walk around the grocery store and even noisy Costco. I swear she is the happiest person in the entire place. She grins from ear to ear, and practically prances through the store. I remember in the baby books they would tell you to take your baby to the grocery store and label everything. Well, here we are at age five spending five minutes admiring and labeling corn. I’m not complaining. I’m actually grateful to get to go through this period with her.
We got her hair cut very short- a pixie cut. She just loves her short hair. She even rubs her head on us now. She never did that before.
R. loves to take pictures with the iPad, and she is one of her own favorite subjects. I wanted to share these for Autism Acceptance Day.
R. is going through her first noisy phase that doesn’t involve crying. Her mouth is forming words just about from the minute she gets up until she falls asleep. I don’t understand a lot of what she is saying, especially when she is playing on her own. But it has the quality of sentences and there are words there.
When she asks for something she will repeat it over and over again. I imagine this might get annoying eventually, but I have to say I enjoy every word. She has been singing for longer than she has been talking, but now she can sing an entire song, both on her own and along with the CD or television.
The same child who was hitting us when we said no just a few months ago is talking back. That’s right, when we say no bubbles she’ll say yes bubbles.
She strung together her first sentence (rather than using a complete phrase she has been taught). She said And now chocolate and pointed to the cookies.
Before Christmas R. caught me with a stuffed Big Bird on my computer screen and ever since she demands to see it again. You know how Amazon makes suggestions based on what you are viewing? Well she figured that out and after she asks to see Big Bird she’ll ask for all the other characters.
She used to do this by just saying the name of the character and pointing if I didn’t do it fast enough. She started saying Look at this Elmo, or Look at this Zoe followed by pointing.
She is saying yuck and ewwww to foods she doesn’t like. She says cold when she is cold and she says smell when she smells something unusual.
I feel like we are seeing the beginning of her asking questions. She takes my finger and points to things that she wants to know what they are. It is usually Sesame Street characters, but it has been other objects too. I think I’m going to have to name the guys in Hoot’s band, she’s not happy I don’t know the real name for each of them.
She’s actually asked why a few times. I’m never sure if that is really what I’m hearing, but it sure seems like it. The last time she was asking for a donut and I told her we did not have any and she said why? I didn’t respond and she tugged on me to make sure I was paying attention to her and she said it again.
We got the kindergarten placement letter over the weekend and we got our number one choice. I’m so relieved.
Now it is time to get back to preparing for the transition IEP meeting. I think it will be next month. I’m going to try to meet with the new teacher before this meeting. That way I can get many of my questions answered, and she doesn’t have to spend a lot of time explaining how things work in her class during the actual meeting.
There also seems to be a precedence for the current teacher to communicate with the new teacher. Being over eager, I gave each of them the other’s contact info.
Hope everyone got what they wanted!
It seemed like holidays, a stomach bug and a cold just wiped out January. So here we are in February.
R.’s hitting has disappeared. She is actually voicing her displeasure. Her most common response is to say thank you and push away with one hand. I’m sure she means no thank you, because occasionally I’ll hear a no. She is also saying wait, stop, all done and now. There is often still crying and screaming involved, but the words are her first response.
She also got an opportunity to spend time in the kindergarten class she has been escaping the cafeteria to get into. Her PreK teacher made arrangements with the kindergarten teacher (all special ed) to have her students go into the kindergarten classroom for 40 minutes once a month so she can meet with the aides. I guess this is common in the elementary grades.
R. just loved the classroom and had a good time. Since her visit, she has not been trying to escape the cafeteria to run there. They are going to do this once a month. And if R. is placed in that kindergarten she will have the opportunity to go into the class regularly.