Posts Tagged ‘Drawing’
One of the great things about international schools (and the reason I push so hard for them to admit Pudding), is that every kid there knows what it is like to be different. Sometimes we have had excellent teachers who worked hard to include Pudding. Sometimes, the kids themselves have stepped up. The last year here has been challenging in a number of ways, but one thing I never had to worry about was other students not accepting Pudding.
We don’t have any explicit social skills teaching here, for better or for worse, but Pudding does have an excellent aide to help her navigate the social world at school. Though her methods for interacting are sometimes perceived as unusual, Pudding has always been socially motivated. And where she has a will, she will always find a way.
Soon she had a close set of girls in her class who became friends. In class they would sit around her. At concerts, sports days, and assemblies they would support her, in a non-intrusive and accepting away. They found her level and they met her there. Her friend Ana* was a natural at this, perhaps having observed her mother, an occupational therapist who had previously worked with children on the autism spectrum.
Last year Pudding wasn’t allowed to participate in Spanish classes, which was a great source of frustration for us all. When I would collect her after lunch, she was often visibly (and audibly) distressed at having to leave her friends. One day her friend Sofia* drew her a picture of the two of them to let her know she was missed too. And so began a correspondence between the two, that continues to this day.
On days that Pudding had a hard time leaving, she now began sending notes to the kids going to Spanish lessons. And here is where things get really special- they sent them back. Concrete reminders that she was accepted and missed. She belonged. I would often find caring notes and pictures from kids in her grade I had never met before. Her ability to connect with children even beyond her close set of classmates.
Sometimes the acceptance took a while longer, but resistance is futile. Pudding took a shine to Cho*, a boy in her class last year, and he was pretty intimidated by the strength of her not-so-subtle affections. Over the course of the year, he went from avoiding her to becoming a good friend.
One of the bad things about international schools, is that most children who attend them do so on a temporary basis, like us. So recently we had to say goodbye to Ana and Cho. It feels no exaggeration to write that Pudding was heartbroken. Pudding worked through her feelings by sending notes.
In the meantime, Pudding’s friendship with Sofia continued. The two progressed from sending notes and pictures to small gifts and tokens. At least once a week, Pudding would come home from school with a gift bag from Sofia, and she would find or make items for Sofia in return. In time we have managed a successful play date, and both Sofia and Pudding are looking forward to the next one.
But she still misses her friends who have moved on. When I mentioned that another mother was going to visit Ana and her family her native country, Pudding knew exactly what to do- she would send gifts to go with her. She carefully selected items, wrapped them in paper she decorated herself, and sent them to Ana. I just heard today that Ana was delighted to receive her present. She was sad that her friends in Argentina had forgotten her, and Pudding’s gift was a concrete reminder that she is loved and missed.
The school has allowed her to attend Spanish lessons now, and she keeps finding other ways to connect with new friends. Her ways aren’t always conventional, but her sentiment is sincere and unmistakeable. Every effort is a gift.
*Not their real names. Neither is Pudding, in case you didn’t know!
There is something pretty sinister about disappearing from my blog for a week, only to emerge with a post entitled “The End.” Anyway, we’d been in the Drakensberg mountains for a week. For some kids on the spectrum, a change in routine can be hard for them to handle, but Pudding was spectacular for the entire week, which of course meant that her brother had to be the one acting out. A week without internet access was quite isolating for me, but obviously something about the area suited her well.
In fact, she was doing so well throughout the week, that I began to get concerned about how she might react to returning home. I had a couple of talks with her about the fact that her holidays were coming to an end, but she didn’t seem too perturbed. Finally we got to Saturday: the day we were driving home. I’d already packed her toys away, so Pudding was busying herself by drawing pictures in the condensation on the windows.
Before long, she became frustrated. What she sees in her mind’s eye never translates well enough to paper, or glass in this case. She so loves art and drawing, that her fine motor difficulties are at odds with her perfectionist tendencies. Several times she drew something on the window, only to rub it away moments later.
Pudding: Mummy, help me!
Normally I love that she will actually ask for help instead of getting angry about something that is challenging. Normally. But not when it comes to drawing. If she finds it hard to translate an image, it is even harder for me to decipher. I’m neither an artist nor a visual thinker, so my efforts rarely turn out the way she wants. A week earlier she’d been trying to draw a shower, or a series of showers for different people (Hello Kitty’s shower, Cubby’s shower, Jimmy’s shower) and it had taken a while to produce something satisfactory. n the end I’d drawn a very similar shower with different colours to denote the ownership. I was glad that I got there in the end, but it took repeated efforts.
On the morning of our departure, I didn’t have sufficient time to devote to the craft. I hoped against hope that she would ask for something simple that I could easily reproduce.
Me: Okay, quickly- what would you like for me to draw?
Pudding: The End.
I racked my brains. Was she referring to the end of her vacation, in which case some suitcases and a car might depict her commission. Or, picking up on her inflection, does she really mean for me to draw The End? And what in the universe would that look like? Why is my five-year-old an existentialist?
After a few seconds of looking like a goldfish, I thought of a solution. This wasn’t so different from Hello Kitty’s shower.
Me: Okay, but you have to tell me- what colour is The End?
Her turn to be the goldfish. What was I doing talking about colours when we were drawing with our fingers? In fact, she still hasn’t answered me, and she let me go about my business of getting our things together. I’m not fool enough to think this is over yet, but I do have a reprieve. At least until she comes up with a colour for me.
This was going to be a very different kind of post. Very early yesterday morning I started to write through a very bad mood, and in the process of doing so, had a revelation, and ultimately came to a resolution. Now, the working through of the problem is worth a post in itself, but that will simply have to wait for another day, dear Reader, as I’m far too excited about the results of my solution. I know that I’m being cryptic, but just bear with me. I become far less coherent when I’m giddy, as anyone who has ever had a drink with me will tell you.
So my resolution was that I had to be more positive. That my negativity was causing havoc on the rest of the house, and creating a vicious cycle of anxiety. It isn’t that I didn’t have justifiable reasons for feeling negative, and I do have every right to go a day or two without being Ms. Perky Perfect, but as I was the only one capable of breaking the cycle, I needed to do so, or face the fact that things would only continue to spiral downwards.
I resolved to do so with all the gusto of someone who had been awake since 4 am with a two day-long headache, and really needed it to end. Pudding needed to do calming activities that she liked and were rewarding. Two of these activities had been incorporated into her reward chart, so it was time to get working on them. Pudding does a listening program that was prescribed by her first OT. She listens to modulated classical music through special headphones. We’ve noticed an improvement with her anxiety when we do it, but she resists the activity, and I hadn’t felt like fighting her.
With the promise of a token, I coerced her into doing her music. We went downstairs to draw on her easel, and I helped her put on her weighted vest. Usually we draw together: she likes drawing people, and I get the more difficult requests, like “Easter” or “aquarium.” This time I drew a cat, and asked her to write it. She’d only ever written her name freehand before, I was expecting and instant refusal, but she wrote each letter as she sounded it out C-A-T. Her first written word! Only last week in her evaluation I’d said that she couldn’t do it, and here she was amazing me. That was enough of a result to keep me happy, and reward the positive approach, because, you know, Pudding isn’t the only one who needs positive reinforcement!
She told me she was going to draw me. Nothing new there, she likes to draw people. But after she finished she wrote as she sounded out M-U-M! I knew she was able to spell cat from an app on her iPad, but Mum was something else entirely! Afraid it was just a fluke, I asked her to do it again. She both drew and wrote it again. She didn’t write Dad when I asked, but she did a very good try at her brother’s name.
And then I ran for my camera, because I wanted to keep this memory, and if negativity overwhelms me again, I can click on this page to chase it away again. It took some working through to get to my solution, but I think you’ll agree that the results are worth it.