If you’re happy and you know it

R. has been very into clapping and getting people to clap since Early Intervention. These days when she tells me to clap your hands, she means that she wants applause, and of course I oblige. Lately after I applaud, she says raise your hands, and then wants me to say yay.

I wonder if this is her way of saying, Mom, you’ve got an awfully flat effect. If you’d just throw yourself into things, you could enjoy this world so much more.

Maybe I do need to try to get more excited about the little pleasures in life. So I’ve been working on this. At the smell and taste of that first cup of coffee, I threw up my hands and said yay coffee. R. thought it was hilarious and encouraged me to say it again. I felt a little silly, and since I had to work at it, I can’t say that I’m experiencing the same joy as she is. But I did enjoy that coffee more than ever after cheering for it.

While there are many things that make her unhappy, R. is a happy person. It sounds almost trite to say that. Because what I really mean is that she can be so happy, it is like she knows secrets that I can’t even imagine.

Julia Bascom wrote a post, The Obsessive Joy of Autism, that I think should be attached to every single autism diagnosis. What if instead of being asked about R.’s special/restrictive interests by professionals, I was asked what brings her Obsessive Joy?

 

 

 

 

She can play anywhere

Playing in a bathtub at Home Depot.

Playing in a bathtub at Home Depot.

Last summer we got rid of the stroller, and we’ve been able to do most errands and shopping as long as we are quick. We have been working on spending more time out in the community.

It can be difficult, but we’ll encourage her to touch appropriate things, choose her own items at the store and even play. We only let her play for a few minutes, and we’ll give her warnings and that seems to avert meltdowns, though she’ll often want to return to a favorite spot in a store.

 

Loving the purple curtains at Sears.

Loving the purple curtains at Sears.

We’re getting a lot of entertainment out of curtain departments lately. I am careful that she doesn’t make a nuisance of herself and we don’t stay long.

Dancing in the strobe lights at Spencer Gifts

Dancing in the strobe lights at Spencer Gifts

We went back to the same mall two weeks in a row and spent quite a bit of time in this store. Luckily it was empty and the same nice girl was working both times and she had no problem letting R. dance in the lights.

App review- My Play Chef

My Play Chef for the iPad is a fun cooking app.   You can cook pancakes,  pasta and cupcakes and you can make sandwiches.   Each food item has its own set of interactive ingredients.


You tap the egg and it cracks, swipe the butter and it slices, you can tilt or swipe the measuring cup of flour or other items and it pours.   When all the ingredients are in the bowl you stir them and then the batter gets poured into a cupcake pan and put in the oven.  After they are cooked you can decorate them to your hearts content.  There’s plenty of colors of frosting and decorations.  R. is partial to purple.


The pancakes have similar ingredients, but a frying pan shows up instead of an oven and you get to flip the pancake.   When it is cooked, you can add toppings.


You get to select what type of pasta you want to cook.  R. always chooses spaghetti.  The water in the pan “boils” and you “dump” it into a colander.   Like the others, you can add toppings after it is cooked.


R. likes to assemble the sandwiches, she will slice the bread, add all the meats and cheeses, and pull off a lettuce leaf, slice tomato and onion and then she’ll add all the condiments.


You can save your creations for later in the app or in your photo album, or you can “eat” them.   When you select the eat option, each time you tap on the food a bite is taken out.  R. likes this.  I find it kind of ironic, because she will not eat a sandwich or pancakes, she acts like cooked pasta is a pile of eels.  She will only lick frosting off a cupcake.

I did purchase the paid version of this app.  The only difference I can see is that the free version has ads.   R. ended up on the National Guard website, so I figured I better upgrade it.   At $1.99, it is cheaper than any real play food we have.

There are limited options in this app, you can turn off the music and that is it.   For instructions there is a question mark in the upper right corner.  Pressing that will give written instructions.  I think it would be good to have an option that spoke the directions out loud.

It took about a week before R. could do all the steps herself.  You do have to do things in a certain order during the “cooking” process.   Once she had the ability and confidence to do that, the entire program was fun, not just the decorating.    I think this app is great because it is fun, and it also works on motor planning, fine motor skills and even pretend play.

A Behavior plan for the ipad

R. is still requesting the ipad, by saying ipad when it is out of sight.  This skill seems to be generalizing, because she is starting to tell me what she wants for other things when she grabs my hand, as opposed to waiting to say it until she leads me to it.

We’re running into some behavior issues regarding the ipad.  I know we need to be consistent so we don’t create a monster.

Issue 1:   She wants all ipad all the time

She is getting kind of obsessed with it, she demands it as soon as she gets up and throughout the day.  I know that she gets this way, fixated on something new and then the novelty wears off.  So I am humoring her a bit, and letting her use it a bit more than I would like.

Set limits for use – times of day and length of use session
I don’t want to go so far as to set a schedule, but I think having specific times of day that we use the ipad, will help with setting limits.   I also make sure she doesn’t spend hours at a time using it.

Give warning with a specific cue for end of ipad time. Offer transitioning help – music on ipad, new activity.
I’ve been giving her warnings, telling her when whatever she is doing is finished we are all done with ipad.   She usually protests, so I will turn on Pandora and tell her only music on the ipad, and I’ll put it out of reach.  It really is best if I have another activity planned and ready, even just coloring or going out.

Be consistent and firm and acknowledge but do not react to her emotional outbursts.
When I’ve decided it is a “no ipad time” I have to make sure not to give in to her pleading. She has never verbally begged like this before, and it is so hard to say no.   She will cry sometimes and get very angry.   At first I was not sure how to react, and she totally picks up on this.  She’ll scream louder once she senses my indecision.  If I am firm and consistent, she gets over it a lot quicker.

Issue 2:   She wants to pick her own apps and they are usually a video or an app she gets stimmy with.

She is not allowed total control of the ipad.  She should say all done when finished with an activity.
We have to totally take charge of the ipad the majority of the time.  We select which apps she plays with, and insist she do at least a part of the activity.   She’ll press the button to exit the app, I’ll stop her until she completes the activity, and then I’ll get her to say All done before going on to something else.

Use preferred activities as a reward.  Tell her first this and then that.
It is usually obvious what she would like to select, so I’ll tell her first do a puzzle and then you can play with the fish pond.   When she spends a long time doing “educational apps”, I’ll let her play around and do what ever she wants for a little while, even it seems stimmy.

Don’t treat the ipad like a drilling machine.  Explore all the different possibilities.
I do try to find things to do that match her mood.  After a day at school and then therapy, she doesn’t always want to write letters in iwrite or anything like that.  But I can usually find something that requires some engagement and interaction on her part, even looking at her photo album, and having me name her classmates and other people in the pics.

Allow her some free time.
We let her do what she likes with the ipad for a little while before dinner.

Issue 3: She wants to use my finger instead of her own to operate the ipad. She has a short attention span at times.

I think these two issues are related, because the more successful she is with an activity, the longer she wants to do it.

Use the easiest apps.
Some apps require less precision than others.  The puzzle pieces go into place if you are in the general vicinity, even iwrite is somewhat forgiving about the lines.   We need to use the easiest apps when prompting her to use her own finger.

Start by letting her use the method she is comfortable with and then physically prompt her to use her own finger.
It seems to go easiest if I allow her to use my finger a couple of times and then say R. do and I’ll physically take her finger and make her do it.   Sometimes she argues and wrestles her hand away, but if I’m insistent she will comply.  I usually have to hold her finger a couple of times, and then I can back off to just putting my hand on her arm.  With some apps she’ll usually go on for a while on her own, but with others she’ll do it on her own for a few times and then I have to go back to letting her use my finger and start over again.  When she can do an activity all on her own she gets so excited and pleased with herself, and she wants to continue doing it.

Have her ask for use of someone’s finger.
I’m going to prompt her to say help, each time she wants to use my finger.  I hope that will eventually help her realize that use of someone else’s finger is not automatic.

Elmo has a new home

R.’s birthday is on Monday, and my Mom has been wanting to get R. a dollhouse for a while now.    We put it together and gave it to her yesterday so she would be able to play with it this weekend.

She noticed it the second she came in the house.  She was all smiles and saying oh yay while she investigated the entire house.  The house came with a Mom, Dad and twin baby dolls.  She loves the Dad doll, she brought him to dinner (a space usually reserved for only Elmo and Ernie)

The dollhouse is the Fisher Price Loving Family Dollhouse.  My Mom and I spent a few months researching the dollhouses and this seemed like the best one.  I do kind of wish it wasn’t pink, but I think R. likes that it is. She likes pink.  The house was easy to put together, and it is very sturdy.  She has been trying to sit on the side rooms.  I guess they do kind of look like a seat.

The house has no electronics, which is fine with me.  All the furniture seems to light up or make sounds.  I do think it would have been nice to have a working doorbell, even an old school no battery one.

Happy New Year

I’ve been thinking back on the past year.  2010 was long and eventful.  It’s funny how things seem so different and yet also the same.  I was looking through pictures and I found two that really illustrate this for me.

Jumping at Home - Jan. 2010

Jumping at School - Oct. 2010

Another Christmas gone by

We made it through Christmas 2010.    R. doesn’t really understand the concept of wrapped presents.   I ended up opening most of them, she kept going back to the toys she already opened.  But she definitely enjoyed getting a stash of new toys, she was giggling and saying yay a lot.   She also collected everything on the dining room table, like she needed to take inventory and guard it from being taken.

She really loves these Caring Corners furniture sets.   I see a doll house in our future.   I’m really impressed with these sets, one came with a doll (Mom I guess), a bed with an attached blanket, a nightstand with a working lamp (she loves this) a cat, a stool and a book.  The doll can hold the book if it is sitting, and once I did this, R must have asked me to do it 100 more times over the last day.  The other set has a doll (the daughter), present, pinata and a table with a birthday cake on one side and you can flip it over and there’s pizza on the other side.  Each side has two little triangular pieces of cake or pizza that can snap onto the plates on the table or into the pizza or cake itself.  R. was kind of frustrated at first that these pieces did not come off completely.  But now she is used to it and seems to like to fit the slices in like a puzzle.

Ernie tries the new cake table

She also likes the Fisher Price Flip Flop Egg Drop toy.  I have to thank Shannon De Rosa for the suggestion.    R. hasn’t figured it all out yet, but she is captivated.  It is a little tricky.  You have to line the egg up with the hole for each egg, and there are three levels one has a wheel, one a push and pull lever and one turns.  You can flip it over and do it again.   At the top there is a chicken (or a duck?) that comes out when you turn a wheel.  I think this will be around our house for years.  It is good for fine motor skills, problem solving and it is kind of stimmy watching and listening to those eggs.

This wasn’t exactly a Christmas present, but I bought a small plastic cabinet with three drawers.   R. has been really into opening drawers lately, and she has a growing assortment of play food and dishes.  So I filled the drawers with the food related items and she just loves it.

I’m Stylish?

Kathleen at Kicking Kittens gave me this award.  It’s hard to imagine being stylish, so I’ll have to assume it is referring to the font I chose.  Thank you Kathleen, this is my blog’s first award.

I’m supposed to list seven things about myself, so here goes.

I like to watch Science Fiction shows and movies.  I still like to read, but I don’t as much as I used to.  I miss Battlestar Galactica and Lost.   I’ll even watch those disaster movies on SyFy.  You know the ones where the main character is a scientist who discovers the impending disaster and then manages to lose his child on the other size of a giant chasm or lava flow.  I usually start talking to the main character about half way through and telling him he better not solve everything with a nuclear bomb.  Most of the time he does and I’m kind of annoyed about it.  I do wish they would make a movie of the story When Sys Admins Ruled the Earth.

Years ago, before getting married and having a child, I played bass in a metal band.  Back in the 80’s I had big hair and clothes that don’t need describing.  But most of my band years were in a thrash metal band.  I don’t miss dealing with band members or any of that, but lately I miss playing.

I’m really bothered by one line in If You are Happy if You Know It.  It is the one – If you are happy and you know it stomp your feet.  Who stomps their feet when they are happy?  It seemed like every therapist during EI sang this song.  Now maybe it is just me, but I spend a lot of time telling my daughter things like when you are angry you can…  And this song is just confusing the issue.   Where do I write to complain?

We have a cat who is 19 and senile.   As soon as R goes to school in the morning or to bed at night, the cat is right there looking for attention.  I’m not sure the cat really understands that R. is a person.   Although this week I caught the cat meowing at R. for the first time.  R. said Hi to her, which was more pleasing to me than the cat.

I really hate weeding.  Here the weeds grow all year long.  So over the last couple of years we’ve been changing all the plants to succulents and putting in rocks.   It is really helping with the weed situation, and we hardly have to water at all.  My favorite succulent is the Aeonium.  They are so pretty and interesting to watch grow.

I started volunteering at our local Support for SN families office.  I’m just answering the phones and doing whatever admin work they throw my way.  I’m also training to become one of their Parent Mentors.    The classes are really amazing – it is a combination of special ed law and all of the individual experiences of the parents involved.   I’ve learned so much already.

I think I’m the only person on the planet who doesn’t like wine.  It tastes like rotten juice to me, and I don’t like juice either.

I get to choose three blogs to pass this award on to.  It is hard to decide, kind of like picking three chocolates out of a box.

Anybody Want a Peanut

Professor Mother Blog

Wildeman’s Words

What a mess

It is weird, R. has been playing more appropriately,but she has also been  taking all her toys out and making what looks to me like a big mess.

Building Mount Stuffie

I don’t mind the stuffed animals tossed around, or piled up, but her throwing everything else into a big pile makes me crazy.   I don’t know why. I find myself either following her around compulsively cleaning up after her or totally ignoring it until the ABA therapists show up or the end of the day.

She's not distressed by the mess

Seeing the books thrown around bothers me the most, so I did the most incredible (and obvious) thing.  I told her to stop throwing the books.  And you know what?  She DID!  She tried again a couple of minutes later, and when I told her not to throw the books, she listened.   So I sat there and every couple of minutes I had to tell her not to throw the books, but I did not have to physically prompt her or force her to do anything.  I sat on my butt and talked, and she listened and followed a direction.   Of course as soon as I left the room she hurled the rest of the books and laughed.

I realize that the answer is to just keep a few books out and rotate them.  I’ll work on that when she is at school.

Reading Time

Maybe it is Elmo’s world

Elmo goes to the zoo

R. has been bringing her plush Elmo everywhere, lately he is usually accompanied by The Count, but sometimes she brings only Elmo.   It is somewhat of a security item, but she is playing with it, she treats them like dolls.  Elmo gets drinks, food, his fur brushed,the occasional dress or hair bow and he gets to try on R.’s shoes.   He dances, gets talked to, shown things and put places.

A little girl approached R at the playground, admiring Elmo and wanting to hold it.  She reached for Elmo and R yelled No and pushed her hand away.   I was so surprised that I just stood there for a minute and fought the urge to jump up and down yelling Woo hoo she said no to a peer.  Then I realized that the little girl’s father was watching me so I made a lame attempt at suggesting R give the girl a turn with Elmo.  Lucky for me the girl went on to other pursuits.

It occurred to me that I really did not know the proper way to handle a situation like that.  I guess I’ve always thought that anything we brought to the playground was meant to be shared, but they are R.’s toys and Elmo is a security item, should she have to share her security item?

This came up again when we went to the zoo with another autism family who also had a child with security items.   It was kind of nice to share our glee that our kids were fighting.  We decided that the security items could only be touched by the non-owning child with permission, but the owner had to let the non-owner look at the items.  We also decided between us to let them duke it out a bit and only intervene if real kicking or crying was involved.   I only had to remove R once because she was kicking and starting to get really upset.  She settled quickly and they seemed to come to terms with each other and the temptation.

I’m trying to talk to her more about what will happen when she brings Elmo places – kids are going to look at him, want to hold him.  Maybe that will have an impact in time.