When you have a child with special needs, sometimes these everyday parental tasks become overwhelming. To the point where you want to go into the other room, shut the door, and cry it out. Like when you are trying to explain to you 9-yead-old that "no, the little girl from down the street cannot have a sleep-over because girls and boys do not have sleepovers until they are much, much older" and he cannot wrap his head around it because he does not see gender lines. All he sees is that the little girl down the street is one of his best friends, and it should be perfectly ok to have a sleepover with one of your best friends. He also cannot understand that the little girl down the street is much more patient and understanding with him than all of his other classmates, but that does not mean she considers him one of her best friends.
Little Man's world is so black and white sometimes. He sees "friend" or "not friend" and cannot see the social subtleties of "friend who is a girl", "friend who is a boy", "acquaintance who is friendly", "causal friend", and "BFF". These gray lines do not exist for him.
But that is just one of the struggles we have with him. Another one is getting him to make proper choices or follow everyday routines (that in my mind, he should have down pat because, well, we do them EVERY DAY).
I think I have touched on this before, but visual schedules have become a life-saver around our house. Specifically, visual schedules with pictures. The first time I tried a visual schedule for Little Man, I wrote everything down in words and sentences. Because after all, his was reading Harry Potter in 2nd Grade, and is on a reading level 2-3 grades ahead. Makes sense, right?
His little brain is wired differently that one would expect. He is also terrible at spelling, by the way. Almost on a daily basis I have to step back, look at the situation, and re-assess how I need to present things to him in a way that he can understand. I have not quite mastered this on my own, and the Special Education In-Home Parent Trainer has been a tremendous resource for us this past year. She is the one who helped me understand that Little Man could not make sense of the words on the schedules, and was overwhelmed by them. She help me to come with with the visual schedules that we use.
The first that we implemented was a clipboard that we keep at the kitchen table where Little Man does his homework. He comes in the door from the bus, checks his schedule, and then moves over each activity when he is done with it. This gets him involved and he likes that, and he can see what is coming so that there are no surprises (and can see when he gets to quit doing the things he doesn't like and start doing the things he does like). This worked so well for us, that his teacher made him one for his daily activities at school.
We then moved to a chart in the bathroom. (A lot of children with Autism have trouble with personal hygiene routines, for various reasons. Little Man's problem seemed to be that he just did not understand how important personal hygiene is. Once we made his chart for the bathroom and has several conversations about the importance, this has seemed to get much easier.)
Finally, and this is the best one yet, we made a choice board for the hallway. How many other parents hear on a regular basis, "Mom, I'm bored! What can I do?" It gets annoying quickly, right? Well with Little Man, this was worse because he could not even come up with possibilities to keep him busy and kept asking to do things that were inappropriate for the situation he was in (i.e. wanted to go shoot his bow and arrow alone when his Project Sunshine Buddy was visiting). So, the in-home trainer came up with the idea to give him a choice board for activities that he can do alone and activities that he can do with other people. Now, when he asks what he can do, we tell him to go pick an activity off the board, and specify which side he needs to chose from.
The beauty of this system is that the pictures that we use are all the same size and are interchangeable between all of the boards. I can use the homework pictures on the choice board, and vice versa. I love it!
I do apologize is this is a repetitive post, but these schedules have become so useful to us that I wanted to be sure and share them with everyone.