Friday, February 25, 2011

Parents Blogging

There are so many interesting stories and experiences by other parents of children with autism and aspergers. I find new links every week. I would like to share this week's find with you as well.

I am thankful for the time and efforts these parents have contributed to sharing their families with the rest of the world.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

He hasn't stopped talking since

I was going through my twitter postings by others and came across this link:

What caught my attention to this link and blog? Well its story hit home and it brought back memories. Happy thoughts ran through my head. I can clearly remember when Puppy was 4 years old and just learning to speak. I would point at objects and say their name several times until he let out a whisper of something that sounded similar to my words.

Whenever I’d pick him up from daycare, I’d do a routine of asking him how his day went, what did he eat, and what did he do? He would mostly stare out the window from his car seat view in silence. But then one day he said, “T.V.” and “play”, and I recall a grin on his face. I promise it was as if he knew we were having a conversation. Or…maybe it was the big deal I made because now I was the one repeating his words.

We slowly began to repeat each others words more often. Very much like the blog I added by link above, I would say, “Good morning, Puppy” and he would repeat it back to me. He’d speak my words like, “you want apple?” and point at himself to let me know he wanted an apple. Puppy did this so well that he developed a talent of copying or mimicking.

One day in class, at 5 years old, his teacher told me she was asking a student to stop screaming and finally turned around to find her sitting quietly in her chair. Then she turned to find my son mimicking her scream in the same tone and pitch as the other little girl often did. She was surprised, but then learned that he was doing something he learned off each student in his class, she just hadn’t noticed it before that day.

It didn’t stop there, but in a way I have to be thankful it didn’t. He has learned through repeating and mimicking both words and actions. Puppy is a visual learner and it helps him to do exactly as you need him to do. Except for one problem, the poor behaviors also transmit to him in the same manner. If only I could block the bad behaviors from every reaching him. It is just wishful thinking on my part.
Nonetheless, Puppy is doing wonderfully these days and I can see that the good behaviors are overriding the poor ones. Plus, we are also having many conversations, too. Something my pessimistic self didn’t expect was going to happen.

Note added after blog was posted: Years later, I have learned that some of this verbal repeating has a name: echolalia. And about 85% of children with autism use this as a means to learn verbal communication.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Convenient Store Incident

We are going for a record, although I’m not counting; since we are over three days in a row—that’s a record. Puppy had another full day of good behaviors. Woohoo! We were both excited about the progress. Then as easily as we were cheering and giving high-fives, the mood was taken from us after we made a trip to the convenient store on the way home. What was supposed to be a quick stop of in-and-out became a little stressful for Puppy.

In the last 3 to 4 months, I have been coaching Puppy as we make frequent visits to the convenient store. Mostly our purchases have been a loaf of bread, gallon of milk, soda, gum, etc., a small or single item at a time. I give him money in advance before exiting the truck. He may or may not place it in his wallet (his prized possession). Sometimes if it is an item he wants, he might use his own money earned from doing his chores. I am also approaching the proper time to use a wallet and when it’s the best time to take it out of his pocket.

Sometimes I will go inside the store with him, but he likes to feel like a big boy and does ask me to wait in the truck on occasion. I am teaching him to read the register for the dollars. He is still confused with the different coins. So if the register were to read $3.60, or has anything with numbers on the right side of the dot, then to hand over the number of dollars and one more extra dollar to the clerk.

Yesterday during our stop, I gave him $5.00 and asked him to buy a 12-pak of sodas. I forgot that the price has gone up since I usually buy 3 packs for $12.00; I didn’t do the math in my head before sending him off and single 12-paks are $4.99 plus tax. The cost was $5.40 and since he had a $5 bill, he assumed I wouldn’t give him less than necessary. The clerk then asked him for the 40 cents and he doesn’t understand, but came to ask me for them. I collected the change and handed it to him. He went back into the store and then came out again, empty handed and I saw and anxiety attack coming on. I quickly got off the truck and went inside. Puppy had gone in with the 40 cents, but had kept the $5.00 in his pocket and didn’t know what the clerk was asking. I held out my hand to him and he gave me the $5.00 which I handed to the clerk. Our purchase was made. We returned to the truck together.

He was beginning to apologize. I stopped him and in a soft voice explained he did nothing wrong. But my dear Puppy told me it was his fault because he couldn’t see the register, it was too far. It took the entire ride home to explain and calm him. We got home and high-fives were started up again with hugs and kisses. He was on familiar ground, home; safe and sound.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Broken Record

I wrote in Puppy’s notebook today, and told the teacher that I feel like a broken record. However, this song is one I don’t mind repeating on a daily basis. For those that don’t understand, it’s similar to pressing the repeat button on the MP3 or CD player. My song: Puppy is improving everyday with more positive behaviors.

Anytime that Puppy is displaying any negative behavior, we try to correct it by first telling him what was wrong, but it does not go without giving him the replacement behavior. For example, if he is speaking in a loud tone, I will put my hand up to show him to stop what he is doing. I will tell him he is talking loudly and that I am close to him so he can use a softer voice. Then I will give him the simple example of talking loud like was doing, as well as the softer tones that are more pleasant. We might laugh during the lesson, but that would be only to reinforce that it was not a serious poor behavior and that I am not angry with him. And life goes on. I’ll probably be doing this for several weeks, but Puppy is already showing great progress.

On a side note, I can't do this alone; I have support from family, friends and school staff. It is taking many caring people to raise my child. I'm lucky to have each one in our lives.


It seems that my son is now very much aware of the daily communication between his teacher and myself. We have a small spiral notebook that Puppy keeps in his backpack, and we alternate writing in it every day to keep on top of his behaviors at home and at school.

Our communication began because I wanted to know how he does at school and away from me, since kids will act differently away from parents. But mostly, he was starting middle school with a new teacher at a new campus, and I needed to find a way to monitor what was happening. My worries were real and deep after the multiple and severe restraints that took place the previous two years while he was in 4th and 5th grades.

But as time went by, we began to see that our communication was more than that. It became a part of the ABA therapy process. Although we are not using the ABC Chart (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence and Possible Function), the fact that I write down everything that is important in his behavior during our time together, it is reviewed by the teacher and we can discuss what actions to take so that we don’t confuse Puppy with using different techniques or practices. Keeping on the same page with each other has been instrumental to getting us where we are today. We are coming along just fine.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Autism Defined

I found this explanation as a link that talked about eye tracking in children as a means to diagnose autism. And although the story was interesting, the following words describing the characteristics of a person with ASD was so easy to understand, that I thought I would repeat it in my blog. There is a great need to bring awareness and acceptance of autism.

It came from "Autism Eye Tracking" written by Kristi Runyon, Tuesday, 15 February 2011, and the complete story can be found at

Autism is a disorder characterized by a spectrum of problems affecting communication, behavior and social interaction. Not every child has the same symptoms.

In the area of communication, children with autism may have delayed onset of language or may not speak at all. Others develop normal language skills, and then suddenly stop talking. Some children are unable to grasp the concept of back-and-forth conversation, often monopolizing the time on an unusual subject or repeating words or phrases over and over. They may have difficulty understanding body language, facial gestures, sarcasm or implied speech.

Behavioral problems may occur in response to changes in the environment or routine. Children with autism prefer consistency and sameness and may become upset at the slightest deviation in their daily routine. They may constantly organize objects in an unusual manner (like separating things by color) or place their toys in an exact line. Some children rock, flap their arms or run around in circles.
Problems in social interaction are a key characteristic of autism. Some children don’t want to be held and prefer to be alone as they grow (rather than play with siblings or peers).

The organization, Autism Speaks, reports one in every 110 children in the U.S. has some form of autism. The prevalence is increasing by about 10 to 17 percent annually, though no one knows why. Boys are affected about three to four times more often than girls.

Maybe this post will help more people understand and remind them to have more patience and understanding when dealing with autism spectrum disorders.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Online Advice

Guess what, readers? Puppy and I have been having such great days that there hasn’t been much action to give me something to write about. I tend to usually write about something that is affecting us at home, like the bad behaviors, and foul language, etc.

Because things have been so good lately, I decided to pick and choose a few words of wisdom and advice from other people whom are familiar with the autism spectrum disorder. These were taken straight from twitter account @thecoffeeklatch. If parts of it sound funny, it may be because these are conversations in 140 characters or less at a time. It might take 2 or 3 entries to get a complete thought. I hope you like these and may even be able to use them. Here we go:

Yes, kids and teens are testing the waters - they are testing you but don't assume its all defiance. Identify the triggers.

A very anxious frightened to the point of feeling physically sick child should have an evaluation on an OCD scale to rule it out. If there is in fact OCD or phobias, talk therapy and exposure and response can help tremendously to desensitize the child.

OK so you still can’t figure it out - you are in the third meltdown of the day - now what.... breathe – I’m not kidding – breathe.

I always used to tell myself do not be reactive be proactive even in the thick of it. Let the child calm, find what works for them; let them regulate - it is CRUCIAL that they learn to self calm but need you to teach them. Some use music other doodling or video game. This is not the time to take a hard line - this is the time to use the negative behavior to teach positive outcomes.

For teens cell phones and texting is great - no face to face - communicate and see how they are calming without confrontation. Let them know "I know this is hard for you" "I feel bad you are having such a hard time" "let me know if you need me".

The time to teach calming is when the child is calm not in the midst of a rage. Ask your child what calms you down – listen.

Know these kids can push you over the edge - it is hard to be compassionate when you want to scream but in the end you must set an example of how you deal with frustration, be a role model, be open about when you are stressed let them see you regulate.

The most common cause of rage and outbursts is lack of coping skills not defiance. Teaching skills on how to do things as well as teaching coping skills on how to deal with frustration and disappointment are key. Let the child be a part of the solution.

Being proactive is exhausting but dealing with a raging child is even more so. Avoid triggers, keep outings short, and address any possible learning disability - invisible disability - and fears. Fear is the main cause of most negative behaviors.

I think most importantly as the child grows is for them to know that you will not over react - you will be calm and they can trust you. This is so important as they go into their teens with social pressures and poor decision with drugs - friends and sex.

Well there you have it. A post with not too much effort, but with good information. Many thanks to my imaginary friends on twitter.