Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘reward


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 Spectrummy Mummy

I remember my parents being much more successful with the whole not-laughing-when-the-child-is-naughty thing. Oh well, practice makes perfect!


 The above was my Facebook status update on Saturday.  Pudding got sneaky again.  Remember this incident  where Pudding rewarded herself for using the bathroom?  It seems she felt inspired to do it again.
A couple of days ago I noticed that Cubby’s treats were not in the usual place.  I found them, and stashed them up high in a different cupboard, and followed up by locking the bathroom door.  I’m sure at the time I chuckled to myself about how I can outsmart my five-year-old.  Then I thought no more about it.
Recently we moved Pudding to her own bedroom.  We’d hoped that sharing a room with her brother would help her sleep.  We were wrong, so after my parents left we changed the spare room into Pudding’s room.  Pudding loves this new room.  The best thing about the room, is that one wall is entirely mirrors.  She can bounce on the bed while watching her reflection- Pudding heaven.  It was also by these mirrors that I was alerted to Pudding’s latest tinkering.
While Spectrummy Daddy was putting her brother down for a nap, we played in her room.  She announced she needed to use the bathroom, and did so leaving the door open.  With the angle of the mirrors, I couldn’t see her on the toilet, but had an excellent view of her afterwards.  I watched her wash and dry her hands (unprompted).  Then I saw her go into the cupboard below the basin and put something she found there in her mouth.
It doesn’t take somebody as smart as Pudding to work out that these were the very treats I’d hidden in her brother’s bathroom.  To get to them, she had to find and use the correct skeleton key to get through the door.  Then she would have pulled a chair from my bedroom, down the hall, through Cubby’s room and into the bathroom, before getting up into the cupboard for the treats.
All this is very impressive in a child with significant fine motor delays and motor-planning difficulties.  But more impressive to me was the fact that she returned the chair to my room, and stashed the treats where she thought I wouldn’t see them.  Aren’t those some excellent theory of mind skills right there?  I’d have been tempted to reward her, had she not in fact just rewarded herself!
Really, all I could do was to laugh.  It was impossible to discipline her.  When Spectrummy Daddy came out of Cubby’s room, I hoped I might call on him to have a stern word.  Of course, he burst out laughing even harder than I did.
In the end, neither of us could quite bring ourselves to tell her off, but I thought I might at least remove the treats- they were supposed to be Cubby’s, after all.  As he was asleep, I didn’t return them to his room, but hid them in my own bedroom.  Later I returned to find nothing but an empty packet.
I know, I know.  I’m going to have to find some way to check her before she moves on to world domination.  Right now, though, life is far too rewarding to change anything.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

February 27, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Piece of Cake

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I promise this last post is going to be the last possible one I eke out of our visit to paediatric* cardiology.

Now, you may have gathered from the last post that I was flying solo at this appointment, but that is not true.  I’d sent Spectrummy Daddy details of our appointment on our shared calendar.  He is so busy at work right now, I wasn’t hopeful, but our hero managed to save the day.  Though we felt certain there wasn’t anything wrong with her heart, the last two years have taught us not to take anything for granted.  I was pleased to have him near.  You never know how much you need to hold a loved one’s hand until you’re in a doctor’s office getting bad news.

He’d had to go back to the car for his insurance card (mine having been squirreled away somewhere by the kids), which was parked some distance away in the only bit if shade we could find from the 99F heat.  When he returned after the concessions had been made, I informed him that he would stay in the waiting room while I went with Pudding.  There was no way we’d get her to be still if Cubby was in the room too.

I’d called ahead to inform them that Pudding has an ASD and ADHD, and the nurse who entered seemed to have been told that message.  She was soft-spoken and gentle, and gave Pudding time to warm up before asking me to remove her dress.  She let Pudding explore all the equipment, and told her exactly what was going to happen at each step.  She solicited Pudding’s help in matching the right colour to the right tab, which is always a good way to get my kid on side.  We had no problems getting the wires placed on her, but she was just as keen to remove them.  I retrieved a lollipop from my bag of tricks to give her fingers something to do.  It was pink, she was happy.

I was surprised at he speedy the whole process was, and the nurse announced moments later that the EKG was finished.  I thanked the nurse for her efforts, and told her I appreciated how smoothly it went.

“Yes, she did great!  It was a piece of…[No, don’t say it lady, please don’t say it!]…cake.”

Oh no.  Could this please, please be one of those times when Pudding is in her own world and not listening to the conversation?  Nope, she is looking, I’m sure she heard the nurse.  At least could there have been a massive leap in her linguistic skills, so that she understands idiom.  Because if my girl takes that literally, I don’t have cake in my bag of tricks.  I don’t even have cake at home.  I’m going to be in trouble here, and nothing in my bag of tricks is going to make up for (what she considers) a reward rescinded.

“Mummy, I want cake!  Where’s the cake?  May I have a pink cupcake, please?”

Drat.  And the ensuing refusal to leave the doctor’s office upon her cake ransom going unmet is they very reason I consented to a trip to American Guilt.  That day was anything but a piece of cake!

* No, spell-check, you’re wrong, I’m right!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

July 15, 2011 at 9:08 am

Sweet Reward (at Hopeful Parents)

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Hopeful Parents

This post was orginally published at  Hopeful Parents.

Pudding’s reward chart had been working wonders, but there were still some activities which required extra motivation on her part. At the end of the week, she had completed 3 out of her 5 goals. Had we overwhelmed her with too many chores?  Or was this her way of testing to see if she would get the prize anyway?  The reward chart is so new that it is impossible to tell, we’re still in beta testing mode.

We decided that she would have a reward, but not the toy she would have acquired had she carried out all of the tasks every day. Our local ice cream shop has a sorbet that is gluten, dairy, and egg-free that we pass off as ice cream to her.  We knew she’d be happy with that sweet treat, as long as it was pink and had sprinkles on it.  Ice cream always has to be pink with sprinkles.

As Cubby took his nap, I suggested she accompany her Daddy (who is in charge of religion and frozen desserts) to get ice cream. She refused. Perhaps I wasn’t clear that she would get some too, so I let her know that she would, as a reward for her tokens. She declined once again. I explained that it was pink, that there would be sprinkles. Still she declined.

Maybe it was because of her separation anxiety monster. After a long stretch without the beast, it has once again taken hold of our girl. It seems that just as it loosened its clutches on her brother to enable him to sleep through the night, the monster returned to attacking her. Now she can’t sleep without me by her side. She flinches if I reach for my coat or shoes, and requires constant reassurance that I’m not going anywhere without her.

I suggested that Daddy could stay home and she could go with me. She rejected this idea too. By now she was upset, frustrated that we couldn’t understand what she was trying to communicate. Could it be that she no longer liked ice cream? I found it hard to believe, so I checked with her. Yes! She likes ice cream and yes, she wanted to go for some! Okay. Spectrummy Daddy and I were at a loss. Finally she let us in on the source of her sorrow.

“Cubby wants to get ice cream.”


Her brother.

She was thinking about her brother.

She was thinking about her brother!

My girl who has for so long lived in her own world, and refused to let her brother be a part of it, was upset that we weren’t including him on this treat. All the times I had tried, and failed, to get her to allow him to be part of her life.  Before he was rejected and ignored, now she wanted to share her enjoyment with him.  She was upset that he wasn’t included.  Here was my reward, and there is nothing sweeter.

We waited until he woke up, then the four of us went to get ice cream. We asked for two spoons for the strawberry sorbet, but it quickly became clear that she wasn’t prepared to let Cubby have any. A second serving was swiftly ordered for her brother, before the magic of the moment was lost.

Sharing each other’s world is enough to ask, they don’t need to share ice cream too.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 19, 2011 at 7:06 am

The Motivator

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I suppose it started a few months ago.  Pudding, being the sharing soul that she is, decided that anything she didn’t want was to be given to Cubby.  It happened whenever I served some food she didn’t like.  Cubby wants to eat it. If we tried to get her to do something she didn’t want: Cubby’s turn. Conversely, of course, we would hear Pudding wants to try that and Pudding’s turn if she wanted to do something.  It kind of evolved into the shorthand of just saying his name to push attention away from her.  He was the scapegoat.

Cubby, though, is no sacrificial victim.  He is coming into his own person.  An interesting blend of sensory issues and precocious language.  He stands up for himself, defiant to his big sister’s wishes- no mean feat given that she is about twice his size.  He tells us he doesn’t like it, doesn’t want to, afraid that I’ll make him eat a second portion of carrots, or whatever drama the women in his life have concocted.

Sometimes, though, he wants whatever is on offer.  The thing so heinous to his sister is just what he desires.  His motor delays are much milder than Pudding’s so many of the tasks we work on are pleasant for him.  We treat them the same though, so if I reward a challenge for Pudding with a candy reinforcer, he gets one too.  At these times he is a very willing accomplice.  I call him The Motivator.

Yesterday the OT assigned Pudding some yoga poses as homework.  They are just basic animal poses for children, but it is really difficult for her.  She lacks the strength, coordination and endurance to make yoga enjoyable.  Of course, these are the very benefits that yoga brings, so we have to keep trying.  She couldn’t be persuaded.  Spectrummy Daddy and I tried to manipulate her body for her, but she would deliberately move as soon as we let go.  Even the promise of a pink Starburst made no impact.  The more we persisted, the more frustrated she became, until she whined Cubby’s turn, Cubby’s turn, Cubby’s turn, over and over.

Cubby dutifully wandered over and announced it was his turn.  I demonstrated the pose, then we helped him to do it.  Immediately we rewarded him with the candy.  Pudding was apoplectic with rage.  We gave away her candy!  I asked if it was her turn, but she continued to sulk, but Cubby piped up to do it again.  He did another pose, and was awarded another treat.  This time it registered with Pudding that there was only one way to get the treats before her brother took them all.

She complied, and actually did a lot better than I thought she would.  Although we still had to help her put some limbs in the correct places, she maintained her body position for the full 20 seconds, even counting herself.  As soon as she was finished, The Motivator was ready and waiting for his turn again.  Inspiring his sister to strengthen her body, and take turns: The Motivator might just be the most useful instrument in our ensemble.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

February 24, 2011 at 7:16 am

Positive Reinforcement

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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

Okay at the Panera cafe

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On Wednesday Spectrummy Daddy came home from work an hour early so he’d have time to pack before going away.  We’d been to Pudding’s occupational therapy session, so we picked him up from the metro station on our way back.  I hadn’t made anything for dinner, so we made a spur of the moment plan to go out for dinner.  Does that last sentence fill you with dread?  Many kids don’t do well with spur of the moment decisions, but as long as it is something she wants to do, Pudding is very amenable.

Yes, she wanted to go out for dinner.  I gave her the option of the two closest places: Panera* or a diner.  She opted for Panera, or as she calls it- Panera cafe. I think it reminds her of when we were living in Europe and enjoying the cafe-culture.  When we first moved back to the US, we would go to Panera about once a week.  Her former OT, Miss M., worked at a pediatric practice housed in the same building, so we’d always have lunch together there afterwards.  She would always get a sandwich with yoghurt, before we knew that Pudding was allergic to wheat and dairy.  As you can imagine, a bakery is not the best option for someone with a gluten intolerance, so we stopped going.  She kept asking to go there, so I emailed them and they replied that the black bean soup was safe for her.  With some explanation that we  could only eat there if she ate that soup and an apple (plus gluten-free bread from home), we have been able to return a couple of times.

We find a table and get settled in.  Spectrummy Daddy and Pudding went to place the order, but he quickly returned with a grim look on his face.  No black bean soup today.  By his delivery and my sharp intake of breath you’d have been forgiven for thinking he’d made a much more grave discovery.  Our girl who likes those spur of the moment decisions when she gets something she wants, really does not like them when something she wants is taken from her.  She also has no qualms about letting the public in on her feelings.  I braced myself to tell her the news.

Me- Honey, they don’t have your soup here today.  We need to leave to go to the diner.

Pudding- Don’t want to go to the diner.  Want to stay at Panera cafe.

Me- I know, but they don’t have soup for you to eat.

Pudding- Want to eat a sandwich.

Me- You can’t eat a sandwich here, Mummy didn’t bring the bread you can eat.  Let’s go to the diner, and you can eat there and have…(I racked my brains for some kind of treat)….a juice.  Is that okay?

I know, juice.  Not exactly inspired.  Offering something she could just as easily have there is not the greatest of incentives.  But I was out of ideas.  My bag was empty of treats to bribe her, and I couldn’t think of anything else on their menu she’d want that she wasn’t allergic to.  So you can imagine my surprise when she replied:

That okay.

And just like that, we left.  With no meltdown, no fuss, no drama, no whining.  We’re making steps here, this wouldn’t have happened six months ago.  We ate at the diner and hugged Daddy before he left, eventually went to sleep, and slept through the night.  How was that?  That okay.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

October 11, 2010 at 7:44 am

Uh-oh, what happened?

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Pudding: Uh-oh, what happened?

Me: …. (I am stunned into silence)

The photo above was the sight that greeted me when I went to get Pudding from the basement to tell her that her dinner was ready.  She had been left alone for 25 minutes, while I prepared dinner.  Not content with getting out every toy she and her brother own, she had also put on a DVD by herself (kudos on that one, she isn’t 4 until December), got into the closet and pulled out all the craft supplies.  The ones that are up high and unreachable.  Hmm.  She knows I get angry when she makes a mess, so she hastened to clean up.  The liquid you can see on the floor is a fusion of glue, and water that she had attempted to clean with.  It is smeared onto her dress, the walls, the table, the light switch, pretty much any place her too-tall body could get to.  The paper towels she had also used in her “clean-up” had turned the floor into a giant puddle of paper-mache.  Spectacular.

This isn’t the worst thing she has done, but it is the most recent.  Last week there was a very similar situation with paint (washable, thank goodness).  I’d love to use some positive reinforcement to fix this problem, but when she isn’t rewarded immediately, it doesn’t seem to work.  She is all about the instant gratification.  This only happens when I’m busy elsewhere, so we looked to punishment instead.  The “naughty chair” didn’t work with the paints, so Spectrummy Daddy and I discussed taking it up a notch.  For the rest of the week, there will be no dresses, no nightgowns, and no mummy putting her to bed.  Given that this resulted in bedtime taking 90 minutes longer than usual, it may be a long week.

So, as she was the orchestrator of the mayhem, why did Pudding ask me what had happened?  The answer will be in my next post about echolalia, which will go up some time after I’ve finished tidying up down there.  Until then, because I need to know we aren’t the only parents this happens to, please leave a comment with even worse escapades- either your own or those of your children.  Tell me: uh-oh, what happened…?

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August 30, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Operation Desensitization

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I want to preface this post by saying that while Pudding has sound sensitivities, or auditory processing dysfunction, it appears to be less of a problem for her than for others on the spectrum. I don’t know why she is only mildly affected, and others have it much worse than she does.  I only know that it can sometimes interfere with our daily life, and that makes it a problem for us.  One more thing, the attached video contains noise that those with sound sensitivity will not appreciate!  Please lower your volume before you play.

The object that I habitually refer to as a “hoover” may be known to you as a vacuum cleaner if you hail from anywhere other than Britain.  In fact, ours is not the brand Hoover, don’t think I’m on commission here!

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 25, 2010 at 8:00 am