Sunday, July 22, 2007

Getting Alan Used to New Things

Sometimes it is a surprise and a struggle to get Alan used to something new. Some things he accepts readily, like his braces. Others, he resists.

We have heard quite a lot of verbal stimming lately. Repetitive phrases get on everyone's nerves.

Dana, his elder sister, had the bright idea that getting Alan an iPod would do a couple of positive things for him. It would broaden his interests in music. It would possibly give him some new verbal stims that are more acceptable. And, he would look cool to other teens. I also thought that some calming music would be helpful when he is upset about something. Getting him to relax and regroup is often difficult. Maybe he would listen to soothing music.

So, we got him an iPod. Don began to set it up for Alan today. We tried to prepare him a bit by Kal wearing his iPod and downloading some new songs. He showed Alan that he had his on. Then, Don brought Alan's new one downstairs. Alan expressed that he was afraid that someone would shoot him for it. Apparently, he read a news story in which someone got shot for his iPod. We explained that they are everywhere now and that chances are nobody would shoot him or even try to steal it, especially here where it is very safe. We explained that he has a cell phone and carries it everywhere without worries that it will cause him harm. After what we thought was reassuring talk, Don tried to put it on Alan's arm. Alan definitely did not want it on. I think Dana was most surprised at his refusal to wear it. She promised to do her best to get him used to it while she is still here.

I think it would really be useful when we are taking the car trips we plan in August. We are going to drive down to a conference in San Diego in early August. After a few days at home, we will leave on our vacation. We will have several day trips in a rental car. Having music or a downloaded book in the car could be enjoyable for Alan.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rigidity and Flexibility

I find it really strange to experience Alan's rigidity in some things. Today we had a perfect example. Alan drinks chocolate soy milk. Not just any brand, though. It has to be Silk chocolate soy milk. Dana bought another brand. It has an almost identical container. The colors and printing on the box are quite similar. There is even a similar recipe on the other brand's box. Dana could detect no difference in taste between the two brands. Yes, I do know that some brands taste different, but she is as likely as he is to detect a difference in taste or mouth feel. Alan refused to try the new brand. We agreed to play a round of Apples to Apples with him. Then, we told him we would only play another round if he would agree to a sip of the other brand. He declined. He preferred not to play again if the cost was the coercion of trying it.

As an aside, I am being made to feel like a bad parent for using bribes and coercion. I do try to reason with Alan. I surely love him with all my heart. The book I am reading is called Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn. I have to say I never would have toilet trained Alan if we had not been able to use a treat (operant conditioning as the behaviorists once called it).

On the other hand, his dad and I were concerned that Alan would not accept wearing braces. He said he wanted them, but we feared that he would not do well with the needed dental surgery before the braces. He sailed through that. Then, we worried that he would bolt or suffer a melt-down in the orthodontist's office when he had to submit to having the upper braces applied. He got through that fine with no coercion, no medication or any special reward. We have had a few tune-up visits. Two visits ago, Alan asked when he could have the bottom braces put on! I was flabbergasted. At the last visit, he got his own orthodontist, who agreed that he could have the bottom braces and applied the needed spacers that visit. Up until then, both Dad and I have been at each of the visits. Tomorrow morning, at 8:15, an unhealthy hour from my perspective, I will go alone with Alan to this appointment. The staff know him now. I am as confident as I could be that he won't cause me embarrassment or difficulty. I have paid half the cost in advance, I am so sure he will go through this without grief. Yes, I am touching wood.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


For a long time, we have been attempting R/C/R with Alan. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, the guide is supposed to get a pattern or rhythm going which the child follows. Then the guide changes it somehow. After the change, the two of you, the guide and the person with autism, go back smoothly to doing the original pattern or rhythm. This is called regulate, challenge, regulate.

Sometimes we are successful getting a rhythm or pattern going, especially if we keep the episode short.

More often, though, Alan will do something to disrupt the pattern or rhythm or begin to repeat himself (stem) verbally.

The other day, I began to clap with him after we had finished another activity. I put the objects down and simply began to clap my hands and then raise them for Alan to clap. He began to do the rhythm. However, just as I thought I might be able to challenge him, he began to annoyingly hit my hands repeatedly when they were in the air. I tried to re-establish the rhythm by frowning at him and continuing on. He was persistent, however. The next time my hands were up, he tried again to disrupt the rhythm by hitting my hands repeatedly.

I don't know how to keep him doing a pattern long enough to keep him from being the one to change it. This is becoming a difficult obstacle. Ideas are appreciated.