Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Some Things are Harder to Elicit Than You Would Imagine

We have been working on gestures and facial expressions for months now. Sometimes, I feel like I can't be vocal at all. Our RDI assignment, though, is not only to use our bodies and faces to converse with Alan, but to somehow get him to gesture and use facial expressions to communicate. This latter part is not going well. Don and I have increased our non-verbal communication with Alan a lot. Alan does understand us, but it is similar to the experience his Spanish teacher is having.

The teacher will say something en espanol, and instead of answering en espanol, Alan, known in Spanish class as Fernando, answers in English. Patiently, she asks him, say it in Spanish. He does. The very next time, he answers again in English. He doesn't get how important it is to answer in Spanish in Spanish class.

What is happening is, we gesture and change our expressions. Alan answers us with his voice. I never, ever thought I would want our son not to speak. Getting him to speak was such a long, long process. However, he must learn to use the other important parts of communication which come from body posture, facial expressions and gestures. I think I am going to resort to telling him we are having a period without words so he has to mime to get what he wants. We'll see how that goes.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Increasing Flexible Thinking
Lately, we have seen some evidence of Alan's increasingly flexible thinking. Not only is he demonstrating it, he can talk about it, and a bit about feelings.

At lunch time today, he made a rice mixture. He has been trying out different ones, mainly pilafs from different companies. Yesterday, he tried one he said he would not be buying again. Today he tried another and it seemed to be fine for him. After that, he was looking in the cupboard. He said, "I need something more to eat." We looked at what was there. My heart sank. While there were plenty of choices, they weren't the typical ones he chooses to eat. So, I said, "There's apple sauce, peanut butter you could make a sandwich with, and chicken noodle soup. Chicken noodle soup is good for getting rid of colds." Sold! I was astonished. He decided to heat up the chicken noodle soup. He even said, "Maybe this will start me eating soups." He has never eaten any soup. He was still hungry. He decided on his own to make a smoothie. He has made a few of those recently, buying some different frozen fruits to mix in. Today, he had peach slices and frozen strawberries. He added water to them in the blender, whirled them up, and drank it all. This has increased his fruit intake a lot, especially since he can't manage hard fruits with his braces. He is a growing boy, you know! His hunger is my friend.

Then, in the car on the way to the park, he talked again about how he likes to be rigid. I told him that having routines can be useful. His dad, for example, gets up at the same time every day and cheerfully goes off to work early. What I told Alan, though, on the flip side, is that sometimes his routines hurt others. For example, when he went upstairs and got onto doing his "autodidact" which is what we call his self-assigned homework, Dana and Kal felt bad that he would not even come down to say good night to them. He agreed that sometimes his routines make others feel sad. I remarked that when he is faced with the choice of doing something he plans or something someone else suggests, maybe he can make his mind up to "Do Plan B" by making the other person's choice his own plan B. I introduced the concept of Plans A, B, C years ago with the help of the Cat in the Hat to help Alan get over not always being able to do what he had in mind and to accept another sequence of events without having a meltdown, and, as a bonus, seeming to be more flexible to others. Although Alan doesn't feel comfortable to talk about feelings often, today, in the car, with both of us facing forward (isn't it often this way with any male, by the way?) he was able to talk about how he feels and how others feel when he wants to dictate choices. He could hear that others have their own point of view and that he could get along by choosing to do what the other person wants. He is a long, long way from going along to get along. He is, though, starting to think about how his actions make others feel.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Alan Shows Flexibility and References Me Well

Today was one of Alan's good days. From the beginning, he showed flexibility. When he had already begun his Algebra at the kitchen table, two workmen showed up to inspect the bay windows in the area where he was working. They entered his space, explained the window operation to me, and he noticed them, but continued working, without any frustration.

Lately, he has been taking a long time to eat. Today, we were supposed to be going to CVH Park Day at 1:30. At 12:40 he wanted to get on the treadmill but he was still finishing up his lunch. It became too late to do both the treadmill and go to the park. We decided together, without much discussion, that we would not go to the park today. Alan continued to get ready to go on the treadmill because although he likes to do it around 3:30 p. m., he knew I thought that was too close to his gym time on Tuesdays and also that I would not guarantee we would be home then. He did his treadmill.

Afterward, I asked him to go to the post office with me to help me with the parcels. Recently, before Christmas, he did help me a few times, but was also happy a few times when he was allowed to stay at home alone while I did that errand. Not only was he helpful today, putting things into the trash for me and into the mail slot, he waited patiently and only remarked one time that there was a long line. It wasn't that long, and we got out soon.

I forgot to mention that this morning, he did not have any of his preferred waffles for breakfast. In the past, I have told him that when he starts the last box, he needs to write it on the list, or it may not get bought. He accepted that he had not told me and decided to have toast with jam instead with no angry words. So, after the post office, I told him I would take him to Whole Foods Market to pick up some waffles for tomorrow. While we were there, he not only got a couple of boxes of the plain waffles he prefers, he picked up some apple cinnamon ones he had previously rejected firmly and remarked, "Apples and cinnamon taste good together." As we proceeded down the frozen food aisle, I asked him if he wanted ice cream. He went over and picked up his soy ice cream, selecting a new flavor. He asked me, "What does Dulce de Leche taste like?" I told him as far as I knew, it was caramel and cinnamon and milk. I didn't really know. He kept the carton in the cart while we got coffee beans for me and then went to the check out. I was very surprised as his flexible choices.

Later on, after we got home, he brought his dog in for a cuddle and then decided he needed to feed the two dogs. I suggested that he would not have time to do that and eat at the same time. In the past, eating at six p. m. was a firm must for him. I told him we needed to leave at 6:30 p. m. for gym and he replied, "I'll eat some rice when I get home." Not, "I'll have my corn, chicken and rice (his personally chosen menu)."
He declared when he turned sixteen on Sunday that he was going to take his shower at 8:14 p. m. which is 16 minutes to half past the hour. That time went by, and now at 8:58 p. m. I hear the shower. All these are examples of his new flexibility.

The other new behavior I want to remark on is his referencing me this afternoon. He seemed especially engaged all day. However, when he was referencing me the most happened in the car. The new car has a connection so that he can play his iPod so that we can both listen to it. He got into the front seat (formerly he always sat in the back), connected the cord to play the iPod and then kept looking at me and smiling a little to see if I was listening and enjoying the music. Actually, I was, because the music he has on his iPod is from his Dad's computer and our time. Alan told me that he changed his beginning track to a CCR (Credence Clearwater Revival) one and then, a big surprise: the rest of them are shufflled! He has refused prior to this ever since he got the iPod in July to have the pieces scrambled at all, even though Dad keeps suggesting he add to the selections and also that Alan might want to shuffle them. I truly enjoyed the music but most of all the fact that he kept referencing me to see if I was enjoying the music with him.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Holidays and Alan's Birthday
We have had a very busy holiday period. Alan weathered it all very well. He went with us to San Mateo, where our family gathered for our Christmas celebration. Cate is in her last month of pregnancy so we went to them. Her husband, Jim, was working hard to bank some time at the end of January, so he made a couple of cameo appearances. Don's brother, Steven, and his significant other, Catherine, joined us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Dana and Kal arrived the Saturday evening before Christmas, like we did. We stayed in a suite at the Marriott Residence Inn. The living room area was small. We managed to squeeze in at two tables we borrowed from Cate. It was hectic, but fun. Even my friend Rosy, who had just returned from several years in France, joined us for dinner. Don, Alan and I returned home on the 27th. We had a couple of days before Dana and Kal drove down on Sunday. They stayed until Saturday morning. We had fun together. On New Year's Eve, Don's other brother Doug, his partner, Pam and Doug's daughter Heather, with her husband, Leaf, came for dinner. On New Year's Day, when Doug was 58, we went over to Heather and Leaf's and then Doug and Pam joined us for a walk at the Sepulveda Dam recreation area. Alan enjoyed all the company and had conversations with everyone.

Today, Alan turned sixteen. He had asked for many things for Christmas and his birthday. They were all small things. There were lots of family members glad for his list, complete with the Web sites where the items could be ordered. What other sixteen year old would be glad to have his list rounded out by his parents with a One Touch Jar Opener, as seen on T. V. and a mold making set from MOMA? He got a DDR for his Wii on Friday night, which was not on his list, and which he has shown no interest in. I gave him a set of portable speakers for his iPod. He gave them back to me. He asked me, "Why would I want the music to play in my room?" "I like to hear it play in my ears." Don gave me my own iPod for Christmas, so I will gladly use these speakers in my study. So much for giving him something I think he would like that is not on his list. I do hope to interest him in dancing with the DDR and Wii. He has been enjoying the car racing and the bowling on his Wii, which he got last year. I played several bowling games with Kal. He beat me every time, but I found that I enjoyed playing on the Wii. Now I can challenge Alan to a game and he can have his one friend, Wade, over to play.