Friday was yet another day off from school. I don’t think they have had two full weeks in a row of school because of holidays and furlough days. I scheduled a hair cut appointment, because it was well overdue. I probably should not have scheduled it the day after her annual doctor’s appointment. After that experience I was totally dreading it.
This is R.’s third professional hair cut. The stylist’s name is Hanan, and if you are in the area email me and I will share her contact information. She is really amazing. The first time R. screamed and fought the entire time, but she managed to get it done. Hanan sang and remained calm and unflustered. The second time she screamed for about two-thirds of the time.
We arrived right on time, not at all early and Hanan was waiting, her chair empty with a booster seat ready. R. whined a little bit when I put her in the chair. We used a cape to wrap around her waist and tied it to the chair. (We do this every time). Hanan had a portable DVD player set up and playing on her counter. R. refused the cape over her clothes and we let her. A little hair is no big deal.
Usually I hold her hands and E. holds her legs. I held her hand and rubbed it, and she sat there and let Hanan cut her hair. She did not cry or scream at all. I was really just holding her hand, more than forcing her to sit, and her legs did not need holding. She sat there calmly and got a hair cut. By the end she was actually watching one of the other ladies get her hair done.
Of course I am thrilled, but I can’t help but wonder why the hair cut was so much easier than the doctor’s appointment. I find getting a hair cut more pleasant than going to the doctor. Maybe I should not compare the two experiences.
A friend mentioned to me that one of the advantages to having a child with autism who is limited in verbal skills is that we don’t have to listen to endless pleas for princess toys or whatever the fad of the moment is. I have to agree with her.
Sometimes I do wish that R. would tell me a toy that she wants, but it is nice that I can wheel her through the toy department and let her play with a couple of things, and often she will become bored with every one except the cheapest plastic animal. (I do avoid the Sesame Street toys, those she could not resist).
She is getting better about waiting, and rarely screams when we are in a checkout line. It does help that I always bring snacks. But sometimes something will set her off and she will start yelling. It is amazing how much faster that line moves when R. is screaming at the top of her lungs. Every once in a while, I wish I were mean enough to make her scream on purpose. Like when we were in line three people behind the lady who insisted that the cashier un-bag and rescan all of her bags of groceries, I could have wrestled Elmo and Ernie from R.’s hands just to make her yell.
I’ll also confess that I’m really starting to love it when I hear other kids scream in public. Not little babies, that doesn’t do it for me. It is the toddlers, preschoolers even elementary school age kids. I swear lately, I have to really control myself not to grin like an idiot.
I’ve written about how R. needs to see something before she really understands that it is possible. I will admit that I use this to my advantage. I’ve never shown her videos or anything entertaining to her on my laptop, so she seems to think only E’s computer has access to fun. She never has any interest in my purse because she doesn’t think there is anything in there that she wants. I always carry a separate bag for her snacks.
The bus came five minutes early this morning. That was right on time as far as I was concerned. R. seemed just as happy to go as I was. I think she had a good vacation. We had some minor meltdowns, and she’s been a little stimmy, but generally in a good mood.
We had a chance to go to a tot gym that we used to go to regularly. She remembered as soon as we got into the parking lot and held my hand and ran into the place. I think we probably hovered a little too closely, she did not get into much trouble at all. She used to just run around all excited and crash into kids. She did not crash into one person, and I even saw her stop herself so she wouldn’t knock into another child. She spent some time following these two little girls, I’m guessing were close to her age. They were playing with those sticks with horse heads on them, I can’t think of what they are called. She finally worked up the courage to grab one, and as I was about to intercept one of the girls handed her one. They had an extra. Of course she did not know what to do with it. But that scene could have ended with a meltdown and two girls getting bopped on the head.
She also spent quite a while in the bouncy house. A few small boys were in there. One of them kept knocking all the other kids over, R. included. She thought this was hilarious, and let him knock her over many times. She also let a small boy, probably under two crawl all over her. Part of me kind of hates those bouncy houses. I never know what is going to happen, and it’s not easy to go in there after her. She really likes them, and she’s starting to learn to get out of the way so it is easier.
I got my fill of bouncy houses, we also went to a party playhouse which is basically a giant bouncy house with several levels, slides and ball pits. She played for a while, but then wanted a drink and had a meltdown when she could not bring her cup into the play area. She let me put her shoes on and was fine once we got to the car. It was getting really crowded, so I’m sure she was overstimulated.
About a year and a half ago we were at a playground with one of R.’s ABA therapists during EI. There was a library having a story time in one of the rec rooms and R. was fascinated by the singing. She went in and only wanted to run loops around the room. The librarian told me that if she could not sit, we had to leave. I attempted to hold her in my lap and of course she screamed. The librarian told us to leave.
I’ve had this irrational fear of bringing R. to the library ever since. When she started school last March I was able to start going to the library regularly by myself. Over the summer I started by putting her in the stroller and just walking into the library to drop off books and then leaving. I gradually increased the time, and now I can usually take her to the library for 10-20 minutes and actually spend a little time choosing books or DVDs and then check them out.
During Christmas vacation we have been able to actually use the library as an outing. She is happy to be wheeled around the library and then will play with the toys. I’ve had a little problem with her screaming about books, so I’ve been careful to only let her look at one at a time, and if she screams we leave instantly.
One day we showed up at the library and story time was already in progress. She seemed interested and happy in the stroller so we stayed. She sat through the remainder of story time- about half an hour. She did have her fingers in her ears the entire time, but she did not complain at all. The rest of the day she sang Old McDonald, one of the songs they sang.
The main city library was advertising a special Christmas train display in the children’s area. They have a very nice and large children’s area, and we’ve been talking about taking R, so we went. There were three trains on separate tracks, Thomas the Train, the Polar Express train and the Hogwarts train. They were in an enclosed case and there were buttons on the front to control each train. I have to admit I was bored in about two minutes, but E. and R. spent fifteen minutes watching and pushing the buttons. We took her to the children’s area and she actually asked to get out of the stroller. The play area was nearly empty and she played for quite a while. We walked around another floor of the library and R. sang read read read over and over again. That is from the Pirates who love to read song on the Elmo and the Bookaneers DVD.
We got free passes to the Wax Museum at the library this week, so we took R. today. We have taken her to Fisherman’s Wharf before, and as long as she’s in the stroller she seems to like it.
We went early enough it was not crowded, we had the place to ourself for the most part. I’ve been to the Wax Museum before, and if you are visiting San Francisco, I’d say it is not worth the admission price. The statues are not very authentic looking. We went to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in Las Vegas years ago before having a child and those statues were truly life like.
There wasn’t really anything that held R’s interest for long, but she seemed to like looking at the different displays. It is mostly historical, religious and sports figures and entertainers. The Wizard of Oz was the only thing that was child oriented, but she doesn’t know anything about Dorothy or and of that story.
She kept her fingers in her ears the whole time, it was a little loud in there. But she did not cry or complain, and she was in a wonderful mood afterwards (usually a good indication of a successful outing).
This horse was her favorite thing
Well we did it, we survived the class field trip to the pumpkin patch. It went way better than I imagined it would. She walked three blocks to the street car stop, happily holding one of our hands. She started to cry when we stopped to wait for the street car. It was a bit chaotic, there were about 12 other special day class kids and their teachers, aids and parents, and they were older and larger. She wanted me to pick her up, which I managed to avoid with a hug and the new secret weapon.
Elmo has some competition now
The street car was very crowded, and R. started to cry once we were on board. We were surrounded by a lot of people who mostly managed to disappear once they got a good look at all of us. Seats magically appeared and I plopped R. into one. She sat the whole time. It sounds so silly to be so happy about this considering she takes a bus to and from school every day. But on the school bus she has a seat belt.
Then we walked four blocks to the pumpkin patch. That is definitely her world record for walking and hand holding. She was really happy, walking with a little spring in her step and making her giraffe dance. She started to cry and wanted me to pick her up a couple times when we first arrived at the pumpkin patch. But I managed to get out of it with more hugs and rocking her. It was very crowded, there were many school groups. We stood in line for the hay ride, but the teacher wisely decided it wasn’t going to be possible to wait. So we had 45 minutes to wander around a pumpkin patch.
R. was not impressed with the pumpkins. Her teacher tried to get her to pick a pumpkin, but she put back every one she was handed. I wonder if she thought it was just a whole bunch of vegetables. Her teacher also told us that she and another boy in class do not get along. They bother each other on purpose. They are both sensitive to being touched and of course they touch each other. She said that she has to keep them apart during circle time. This little boy was lining pumpkins up at the entrance of a hay bale tunnel and R. came along and put every one back.
I think her favorite part was a wooden horse in a tree. I’m not sure what the point is of having a horse in a tree. I looked around for a headless rider, but did not find one. I found a quiet spot and sat with her and gave her a snack and then it was time to go. The teacher has us go back on a bus which was a shorter walk. It was standing room only so I found a place to stand. R. sat down on a man’s lap! He was a young tough looking guy, but he smiled and gave up his seat. She sat like a bus riding veteran and walked back to the school like it was the easiest thing in the 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.
I keep thinking back to last summer and how different things are now. Even going to the playground is a totally different experience. Last year I had to trail her at least within reaching distance to keep her from stealing toys, squashing sand castles and getting into all sorts of trouble. Now she still wants to go to the playground in the stroller, and she uses is as a kind of home base. Once she’s out of the stroller, she wants to do her own thing, she does not want me to follow her. I get to sit on a bench! She actually pushes me onto the bench to sit. I’ll admit that I can’t help myself and I usually stand, poised and ready to pounce if necessary.
There is a table with two benches under the slides at our usual playground. On several different occasions I’ve caught her sitting on one of the benches across from another child (usually a boy) and they are smiling at each other. And they are really looking at each other, not the boy smiling at R and she’s smiling at the table or something. One time the boy’s Mom came along and asked him if he had found a girlfriend. Funny how that one comment helps blur all the nasty ones.
R. has been wanting to bring her stuffed Elmo and other Sesame Street friends with her everywhere. I insist only two can come with us, and she runs around the playground with whichever two made the cut that day. I think it looks kind of weird actually, but it makes her happy and she is actually playing with them. The odd thing is that it doesn’t seem like the other kids think it is weird, it almost seems to make them respond better. I hope I’m not in for a battle when she goes back to school.
I got E. to take R. to the playground on his own last weekend. He’s been reluctant to do so for quite a while. I’ve been talking up what a different experience it is, and I honestly demanded he take her for at least 20 minutes so I could run the vacuum. They were there over an hour and they both returned in marvelous moods.
We made it to the aquarium for the members hour and it was nice and quiet. We practically had the place to ourselves. Lately R. never wants to get out of her stroller when we go places. She did eagerly get out and started running yelling ishy ishies. I chased her and insisted she had to hold my hand. After a couple of minutes her running changed from gleeful to nearly panicked. She looped around the aquarium at a break neck speed and managed to make her way back to the stroller and said I want to sit. Of course we let her. We walked around for a while and took her to the children’s play room and she was happy to get out of the stroller and play.
We met friends at the playground. R. walked very nicely from the car to the playground holding my hand. When we got inside the playground she wanted to run so I let go. She ran into the playground and then ran back and forth a couple of times, that same panicked run and look and then ran back to the gate. She came to get me and pulled my hand towards the handle to open the gate. I sent her father to get the stroller and a ball. She then sat in her stroller for about twenty minutes, watching my friend’s daughter play on a merry go round. She was quite happy, smiling and talking a little. We got her interested in the ball by giving it to her and chasing after it when she would throw it. After a while I would leave the ball on a play structure in sight and she would get out of the stroller and run after it and then run back to her stroller. We played that game for about half an hour.
I think her fear must have something to do with wide open spaces. I kind of hate to start bringing the stroller to the playground again. It’s not the hairy eyeballs I get from the other parents. It is more that I feel like we are making some progress on hand holding and walking in public. But on the other hand I hate to take away something that makes her feel comfortable. She will sit and calmly watch the other kids from her stroller and I think there is some value in that. I also think it will be easier to find ways to coax her out of the stroller than to find non-stroller ways to calm her enough to stay.
We’re lucky that R. likes to go out places. As long as she is in her stroller or in a shopping cart and we don’t dawdle too long she is usually content. We used to go to the farmer’s market often last summer and fall, we got out of the habit this winter. We went again a few weeks ago and as soon as we pulled into the parking lot R. started to cry. It was really just yelling, she had no tears. She even said “I want to go!” I really needed some vegetables for the week so we forged on. She used to like to go to the farmer’s market. There’s tasty samples and several bakeries. I bought her a soft pretzel that she usually loves. She ate it but continued to scream. I quickly bought my vegetables and we left. We tried again a couple weeks later and she was still unhappy.
This weekend I suggested we try a different farmer’s market. As soon as we pulled up and she saw the white tents (same as the other farmer’s market) she started to cry. I can live without going to the farmer’s market. I just would like to understand what it is that she doesn’t like. It it not overly crowded or loud. She is so happy in the grocery store that I don’t think it is the sight of vegetables.