Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Can Body Language Be Taught to an Autistic Person?
With RDI therapy, a person progresses through stages that they have missed. Much of it has to do with non-verbal communication. Our son, Alan, does get some body language. If I stare at something, he will look (reference) to see what it is that I am "pointing out."

I am also wondering if some body language can be taught by directing him to observe it in someone else or in a photograph. I have a book called The Body Language Phrase Book: 500 Ways to Read the Signs. I am going to try to introduce some of these to Alan. I'm not at all sure that by showing the gestures and postures to him that he will then know when he is faced with them in another person. I want to try, at least for some of them.

Alan is taking a public speaking class. There are many opportunities for him to observe others more closely than he would otherwise as he is not occupied in any other activity except listening. I go to the class and sit beside him. I need to be within touching range and whispering range still. He has done some loud yawns with stretching, for example. I have been able to cut it off after just one. If I sat at the back of the room, moving toward him would be disruptive to the others and noticed. So, for now, I sit right next to him at the table for the hour and a half of the class. The fact that he is interested throughout the time and can be engaged in what the class is doing is heartening, since he does want to go to college. I am hopeful that he can realize this dream.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Two Problems with Misbehavior
Tonight, I am wrestling with two problems with Alan's poor behavior choices while going to activities outside the home when I am not present. Up until recent months, he never did go anywhere without someone in the family as escort.

On Saturday night, he went to his usual gym for a parks and recs sponsored evening of dinner and activity. The participants were all older teens and some adults with disabilities. He was known to the gym director and also to one of the parks and recreation department workers. At the beginning, Alan did fine, I was told. However, when there were opportunities to use the foam pit and to throw the foam blocks, he repeatedly threw them at people's faces. He did not stop when asked. In the end, when Dad and I arrived to collect him, we could see that he was told to stop but he kept up throwing the blocks. Dad went out on the gym floor and retrieved him. Once home, I had him write lines which stated that he must stop when asked to stop and he must not throw things at people's faces. I also e-mailed the director, requesting that he give Alan push ups or another immediate consequence when he was asked to stop something and he didn't comply, the very first time. He was agreeable to that and e-mailed me back the same evening. He did request that I tell Alan that was going to happen. I did, and I will remind him each time he goes to gym for awhile. I had hoped that that was the end of that.

Today, Alan went to the Teen Center, where he likes to play basketball and pool. When I came back to pick him up, three adults met me and started to explain about having a problem with Alan on the basketball court. He kept throwing a ball at an empty bottle, as I understood it. I am not entirely clear yet on what he did except that he did it repeatedly and would not quit, so was asked to leave the gym. I think the adult men agreed that they will work with Alan to teach him basketball rules while he is at the gym. I also requested that the adult give an immediate consequence if Alan repeated a misbehavior. Now he is writing lines again about having to stop when he is asked to stop. Unfortunately, he does think that something about it all is funny and keeps chortling. He did agree that he is going to have to learn to stop something the first time he is asked.

The first problem, then is getting Alan to behave when under the supervision of other adults. I hope that I have set up a reasonable partnership with these people who will have Alan under their care again. On the one hand, we need to be certain he understands what is being asked. On the other, we have to hold him to the standards we set for anyone else who understands. He gets no by for having autism.

The second problem is in my head. It is really hard for me not to feel as though I have failed somehow. If I had done something differently, somehow, in his up-bringing to this point, would he have acted like this? I know I am a good parent. I have two reasonable successful adult children. All the same, I am fighting the feeling that I need to be doing something more or something better. It is easier for me to tell other parents that they are doing a good job and that their child's own will to act poorly is not a result of some lack in the parent. I need someone to tell me the same.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Recital Tonight

This evening, our son Alan is playing in his drum recital. His piece is "From Me to You" by the Beatles. Last year was his first ever recital. He played "Love, Love Me Do" that night. He was second on the program after the teacher's young son, Max. Max is adorable and has turned six this year so will be playing something more difficult than before. He will outshine Alan. That's ok.

The fact that Alan can get up on a stage, perform in front of a group, and manage to get through it is enough for me. Last year, he did fine. He only forgot to bring his music book down from the stage and had to have it handed to him. I coached him about that today, and will mention it again once we are in the room.

My goal for Alan is simply to get through the experience, and, if possible, enjoy his moment on stage.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Tending Toward Being a Vegetarian
All of my life, I have eaten meat and fish. As I eat these days, however, I am not much for meat. When we go out to eat, I often choose to eat a vegetarian meal. I am fond of quiche and casseroles. I like veggies and fruit a lot. Probably, if I were just cooking for myself, I would rarely cook any meat or even fish. Tonight we had salmon that Don made. He cooked it up nicely. My reaction when we were done was, "That's a lot of fish to leave." He is going away and I won't likely want to eat it while he is gone. Maybe it will go to waste. While I don't like to waste food, I also don't make myself eat something that doesn't appeal to me. I have to say, even the piece I ate, I ate more for the fact that it is supposed to do good things for my heart than for enjoyment of it as being a big part of my meal.
And what sort of recipes do appeal to me now?

I like to look at recipes in magazines and books for inspiration. A recipe in one is for Mango-Veggie salsa. That does look good to me. I am very likely to leave out the serrano chile but the rest of the ingredient list looks good. I am originally from Canada. The food I grew up with was pretty dull by today's standards. Even Canadians nowadays don't eat so blandly as we did then. When I was first married, my husband and I joked about a "hunk o' meat and a couple of veggies make a meal." All these years later, most meals we make have several veggies, either in a salad or in side dishes. The thing is, that is enough for me. As someone with a BMI that is greater than I feel good at, I am going to make that the meal. I think I can safely eat a lot more veggies than I can meat and "white" foods. So, my meal plan is to tend to the colorful and tasty. If the BMI comes down, that will be fantastic. In the meantime, I'll be trying all sorts of new recipes and new ingredients.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I Don't Want a Truck!
Today, Don took my van in for servicing. Then we drove in his car on the freeway to Alan's acting class. I haven't driven on freeways for years and years, not since the late 80s. Prior to the van, I drove a station wagon. I have driven sedans and way back when, a VW van. When Don got the estimate for repairs, he said we needed to talk about whether to keep the van or not.

Once home, he suggested that we buy a truck. Then he would drive the truck back and forth on the freeway, just 8 miles or so, to work during the week. On the weekend, he would drive the car he bought last spring. He proposed that I drive the sedan during the week.

The kicker is, besides the fact that I don't want to drive his new car, that I would have to drive the truck when he had the sedan to drive into L. A. on occasion, or when he had to drive people from work to an offsite meeting.

Wah! I don't want to drive a truck, even with a crew cab. Lest you think I am afraid of driving said truck, I learned to drive on a two ton truck. My Dad had a light trucking business. I drove plenty of standard transmission trucks. Enough to say that I don't want to drive a truck ever now.

I suggested that he can get a truck when he retires if he wants. Then I am less likely to have to drive it. I don't see that there is a big advantage to him to have a truck over the van for hauling stuff in a suburban setting. We'll see what happens. For now, I am keeping my van.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Repeating Oneself

One of the habits of older people is to re-tell the same story or to say the very same words every time that a certain situation arises. I blush to report that there is a point in the teaser to the MythBuster show which my husband and I enjoy watching together, where I say that something is really unsafe. It isn't a bad observation. My husband is really patient and wouldn't point out to me that it is tiresome to say it again and again. I am trying hard to remember never to say this particular sentence again.

Our Alan's autistic brain does this so frequently that it causes us to tell him we can't hear him, or that we have to leave if he says it again. He will have a routine, such as hugging his dog, Pepper. Most times when he does that, afterward, Pepper stretches. Alan will comment "Pepper stretches for the same reason I do." Sometimes Pepper yawns. Alan says, "Pepper yawns because his body is saying, 'I need oxygen, I need oxygen.'" These were once things he said or we said to him. His repetition is often called scripting or verbal stimming or echolalia. Alan heard former President Bush say, "I'm President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli." If anyone mentions the word broccoli, Alan will repeat this sentence.

For me, I can consciously tell myself not to say something in the same way again. I'm not so old that I can't do that successfully.

For Alan, this is a major social wall. He needs to learn to keep these words as internal dialog if he can't refrain from voicing them. I wonder if he will get to the point where he is able to tell himself not to say some pet phrase. Even people he loves will and do want to get away from him when he does this. The reaction of acquaitances will be swifter and he won't be able to keep people interested in having a conversation with him.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Our Hard Freeze

We have lived in an extremely cold winter climate before. We do understand that most people have much colder weather than we do here. Having said that, we are thoroughly acclimated to living here. We feel cold whenever the temperature dips below forty degrees Fahrenheit.

This morning, after a night of record cold, our son exclaimed in wonder that there was ice on the top of the dogs' water dishes. We told him to bring them inside, clean them out, and put in fresh water. "But what about my hands!" Alan exclaimed. We told him we thought he could manage to bring the dishes inside. He balked. He went out to the tool shed and got his leather work gloves. Then he was able to carry each dish inside. He dumped the ice out into the stainless steel sink in the kitchen with a clunk. "Boy, the ice is sure thick!" he told us. You're right. He has no idea. He was too young to remember when he was in Canada and there was ice and snow in March.

My roses need cutting back. Did I do that today? Not on your life. I found that I had letters to write and a kitchen floor to wash. I know they can wait until it warms up, and I know it will.

Alan also noticed that the hibiscus was wilted. Dad told him that was ok, it needs cutting back so the white fly infestation won't flourish. Our first year when we lived in Walnut, we were devastated when the hibicus there froze. We thought we would lose the plants. Not to worry. They came back after being pruned back. I may have lost some of the plants in my hanging baskets. I'll probably have to take a trip to the garden center to get some more bedding plants for them. That can also wait. I'm not about to go out and get my hands cold now. I told you, I'm acclimated to this climate.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Windy Weather and Alan's Birthday

Our son Alan, who has autism, turned fifteen on Saturday. He is now as tall as I am at five feet, six inches. His voice is deep and clear. He has a few zits and a beginning moustache. We took him out to a Mexican restaurant with two other boys and their moms. It went ok. He only talked about picking his nose, he didn't do it. He ordered guacamole for the table but didn't share it. On the other hand, he talked with his guests about movies and sports, along with a few forays into politics, which we got stopped. If you know Alan, you know that once on that topic, he will be relentless. I am glad we let him sit between the two boys with no family member next to him. Like any young man, he needs to learn how to manage to eat out in a restaurant with others.

For weeks now, we have had periods of day and after day when it has been dry and windy. Not just a little wind, but the sere Santa Ana gusty winds. Today, when I came back from Curves, the sky was blue with no sign of fire but we have been under a red flag warning indicating extreme fire danger. I thought I smelled smoke. I looked around and saw none.

Tonight, on my computer, I read the news that several homes in Malibu on the beach had burned and many others had been damaged. The winds are blowing off the land and out to sea, so the fire began in brush above the Pacific Coast Highway and blew over into the homes on the beach. I am always sorry when people lose their homes, no matter who they are. Probably tomorrow we will find out that several were celebrities' homes. Their photos and keepsakes will be lost, just like those of any family's. I pray no lives were lost.