Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘ABA

Q is for Quiet

with 7 comments

And you thought I’d struggle with a ‘Q’ post!  Quiet is not a word I often associate with my children.  They both seem to make more noise than your average little one.  I tend to think of quietness or loudness being a personality trait.  In many ways it seems fixed, but as with all things to do with personality- nothing is set in stone.

I was a very quiet and shy child.  I’m still very much an introvert who likes being at home, and can find busy social events somewhat tiring.  But I’m far less shy and quiet than I once was.  Perhaps some people meeting me now wouldn’t consider me that way at all.  Maybe the social demands on me have required a stronger presence.  Maybe character is really something that shifts depending on the situation.

Spectrummy Daddy and our children don’t tend to be quiet very often.  Cubby talks incessantly around his family and friends, but becomes quieter when he is nervous.  When he first started school, his teacher wasn’t sure he was verbal.  His current teacher wonders if he can ever stop talking.

While peace and quiet is a state I relish, when it comes to Pudding, it can mean something is very wrong.  If she is very upset or overwhelmed, she retreats into herself.  It is agony for a mother to see her child hurting without knowing the cause.  Believe me when I say I prefer her meltdowns to be of the explosive kind.  That way we are at least immediately aware of how she feels, and we can do our best to get her needs met.

Quiet Time

So, partly because it seems unnatural for my family to be quiet, and partly because withdrawal is far worse, we don’t make many demands on the children to be quiet.  Little children are seen and heard, expressing themselves and engaging with us.

But there are times when quiet is necessary, and I’ve realized lately that at those times, Pudding appears to be incapable of being quiet.  Recently at a gathering at the Consulate, Pudding was fine until speeches were being made and I asked her to be quiet.  From that point on, she became disruptive and demanding.  Our community is very supportive, but as they were the only children there, I couldn’t help but feel the focus of unwanted attention.

I tried distracting her with snacks.  She would loudly refuse them, or demand others.  I tired distracting her with books, “I’M READING…PUDDING’S READING…I’M READING A BOOK!” and drawing, “PUDDING’S DRAWING A PICTURE, I’M DRAWING A PICTURE, MUMMY DRAW A PICTURE!.”  The more embarrassed I became, the more she acted up.  Eventually I removed her from the situation, and she immediately calmed down.

I knew I was doing something wrong, but I was too close to the problem to figure out a solution.  Yesterday I raised the issue in a meeting with Pudding’s therapeutic team, who immediately saw where I’d gone wrong, and offered alternative approaches.

They suggested looking at the ability to keep quiet, a real struggle for a child with autism and ADHD, as a skill that she needs to learn.  The best time to learn a skill is not in socially demanding situations, but when everyone is calm and comfortable (including me).  Oh I know, so obvious once somebody else points it out!

Pudding is not in an ABA program, but because the intended result (being quiet) is so inherently unrewarding for her, this was a good occasion to use a positive reinforcement approach.  So yesterday we made a game of it with Pudding and Cubby.  We played “Quiet Time” using a one minute countdown on my phone.  If they managed to keep quiet for the whole minute, they earned a pink smartie (imagine a european M&M, American readers).  Pudding managed it twice, but Cubby was the real winner at this game.  I probably need to reduce the length of time to 30 seconds next time we play, and then increase it from there.

It is too early yet to tell if this approach will work, or if Pudding will be able to generalize it to more demanding situations.  But I like to think that this is a skill she can learn, rather than a fixed character trait.  After all, if I can learn to become more forward and resolute in advocating for my children, that surely means that we can nurture the traits in ourselves that are most useful to us at any given time.

So Q is for Quiet.  A handy skill at times, but not always the most essential tool.  The art of knowing when to keep quiet and when to speak out is a skill most of us keep developing throughout our lives.  I’m certain my children will be no exception.

This post is part of my A-Z series.  You can read the rest by clicking >here<.

Advertisements

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

July 12, 2012 at 10:40 am

Book Review: The Parents’ Guide to Teaching Kids with Asperger Syndrome and Similar ASDs Real-Life Skills for Independence

with one comment

In The Parents’ Guide to Teaching Kids with Asperger Syndrome and Similar ASDs Real-Life Skills for Independence, Patricia Romanowski Bashe guides us through teaching life skills to kids with ASDs with average or above average cognitive skills who are seldom taught the basics of how to get along independently.  It is often assumed that our kids are smart enough to just pick up these skills, but the author describes how various aspects of Asperger Syndrome and other co-occurring conditions make it difficult for our kids to learn.

What’s more, the author knows how difficult it can be to teach proficiency in these areas.  We don’t remember learning these skills ourselves, and our efforts soon end in disaster when we get overwhelmed with emotion.  This book gives us everything we need to overcome these hurdles, and provides a systematic approach to developing the tools our children need for self-reliance.

Patricia Romanowski Bashe is the coauthor of The Oasis Guide to Asperger Syndrome, one of the first books I devoured following Pudding’s diagnosis two years ago.  When her publishers contacted me to see if I’d review a copy of her new book, I jumped at the chance, even though I felt like Pudding’s self-help skills were pretty okay.  I thought this book would be a great one to have on my shelf as Pudding gets older and we have to start working on ways she can be more independent.

I couldn’t have been more wrong- this is not a book that stayed on my shelf!  I was implementing changes before I’d even finished reading.  As a parent of a child on the spectrum, the author knows how much easier it is to just do things ourselves.  When you’re in a hurry (and when aren’t we in a hurry?) you don’t have time to teach these skills.  As a behavior analyst, she knows the implications of not allowing our kids to develop their independence.

Now, as I mentioned, I didn’t particularly feel that Pudding is a particularly dependent child; but by helping her in the wrong way, I’d been unintentionally encouraging her to be more dependent on me.  I often talk Pudding through a series of actions, like getting dressed, or cleaning her room.  It gets the job done, but it doesn’t teach Pudding to do it herself.  If I (or somebody else) were not there to keep giving the directions, she would not be able to complete the activity.  And the worst thing about my talking her through it?  It makes it even more difficult for her to concentrate on what she needs to do:

Remember that kids with AS are attracted to language; when words start flowing in, their attention to most other stimuli goes out the window.” p.148

The more I read, the sooner I wanted to alter my techniques.  Like many parents, I have some reservations about the use of an ABA approach.  While I think it is an excellent tool for teaching skills, and perhaps “real-life” skills most of all, I’ve always been put off by the idea of collecting and monitoring data.  Every single objection I had is addressed in the book, and explained in a way that makes sense to me- we are evaluating the usefulness of the teaching method, rather than the performance of the child.

I was ready to jump in.

The book comes complete with all you need to get started, including a chart showing at which age most children have acquired certain skills.  Pudding has just turned 5, so I looked for a task we’d never tried before to get started: making her own bed (not perfectly).  This was a good place to start.  It is easy for me to remain calm and objective (and not interfere) while observing Pudding making a bed.  There was no safety issue at stake, and as we are on Christmas break, no real hurry or time pressure.  The conditions were perfect.  I found a suitable reinforcer, and using the techniques detailed in the book, Pudding is now independently making her own bed in the mornings.  No nagging, no prompting, just another skill that she will use throughout her life.

There are plenty more to get working on.  Learning and developing the skills our kids need to live independently is going to take time and effort, it is never too early to start.  As Bashe writes:

“Ultimately, it’s all about choice.  And when we limit the skills needed to exercise choices, we limit choice.”

I couldn’t recommend this book enough.  It has everything you need to begin teaching or shaping the skills our kids need for when we’re not around.  It might be the best gift we ever give our children.

The Parents’ Guide to Teaching Kids with Asperger Syndrome and Similar ASDs Real-Life Skills for Independence is available now.  You can find more information about Patty Bashe at her web site >here< and purchase the book from Amazon >here<.


Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 29, 2011 at 7:22 am

Positive Reinforcement

with 8 comments

Pudding attends a preschool autism class which is based on a modified ABA approach to learning.  Positive reinforcement is very motivating to her at this point in her development.  In fact, any and all other discipline methods we have tried have been spectacular failures.  She has a tendency to withdraw and shut down at the merest hint of disapproval or punishment, which is the very opposite of what we want.  Nonetheless, positive reinforcement can be really difficult to apply at home.  I prefer to use it for certain behaviors that interfere with her daily life.  Some things I just allow to be, the kid has a hard enough time keeping herself together outside of the home, this should be her sanctuary.

When we do it, it works.  Remember how easily she came around to vacuum cleaners?  I do.  Recently we went out to a restaurant.  Atypically for an atypical kid, Pudding LOVES going to restaurants.  For many parents of kids on the spectrum, going to a restaurant is so awful they just stop doing it.  When we find a restaurant that can deal with all the allergy stuff, it usually goes great.  Usually.  Just lately Pudding and Cubby have both been going through a rough spell with sleeping.  This particular day, we were all exhausted.  After a heavy night, and a trying day, the last thing I felt like doing was cooking dinner for the family, so we went out.

Almost as soon as we walked in, I realized it was a mistake.  When she is overtired, Pudding is soon overloaded.  We pulled out the iPad and tortilla chips to keep her going.  When her food arrived, she angrily pushed it away and demanded more chips.  Had it not been for the fact that she hadn’t eaten much that day, I’d have probably conceded and given her the whole bag, but she really needed to eat something more nutritious.  I gave her a chip, and put a small amount of chicken and vegetables on her plate.  She again pushed it away.  I took all the food away, apart from one bite-sized piece of chicken.  She asked for another chip, and I pointed at the plate.  She ate the chicken.  I lavished her with praise, and gave her the chip.  Next I added a little more chicken and vegetables to the plate.  She again asked for a chip, and I pointed at the plate.  She ate everything on the plate, so I gave her a couple of chips, and refilled the plate.  We repeated the process until she finished her meal.  Everybody got what they wanted, and we left the restaurant as quickly as possible- it wasn’t an evening to dawdle!

When it works, it works.  Break it up into a manageable task, reward each step.  Simple.  Positive reinforcement is a great tool when a behavior needs to be changed.  The thing is, if you try it and it doesn’t work, there is more going on than a behavioral issue.  That is what I found out the next time I tried it.  I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm