Monday, March 12, 2012

Scheduling the 6-Year-Old

Have I mentioned before that my daughter is not autistic?  She's not.  I swear.  But by gum, there's hardly a "raising the autistic child" method out there that doesn't seem tailor-made for her.

A neighbor of ours has an autistic boy- he's a teen now, so she's been through it all.  He's pretty high functioning, but we were giggling the other day, and swapping stories.

"There was a year we couldn't go to the park, because she'd scream for an hour and a half when it was time to leave."

"Oh YES, we were house-bound for years!"

She asked me if I'd set up a visual schedule for Ernie yet?  Umm...a what now?  It changed her son's life- they set up a big board with strips of velcro, and laminated pictures of every single activity that would be done during the day, and stuck them up in order.

"OK, but I'm trying to get her to accept spontaneity.  What about that?"

Easy, you say "See this thing?  We're adding it right here- now move all the pictures over and make room."  So he had a visual that everything was just getting shifted.  Nothing was getting skipped or missed, so he didn't have any stress about what was coming (something Ernie REALLY struggles with.)  It gave him a way to visualize the day, without constantly asking about what was coming.  After a time using this system, you start taking things off the board that are just memorized- for example, take down the "brush your teeth" picture, because he just knows that we always do that, and he never forgets.

I sat down with Ernie today and made a list of everything we do during the day, and then drew up a daily schedule, with both of our activities side by side.  (So she could see that from 5:00-6:00 she's on her own, I'm cooking, for example.)  In some ways, this feels like a step backwards- I've been wanting her to be self regulating, and a better listener.  But I can see how this could really help her- she was practically giggling with glee at nap time, saying "Alright Mom!  I'll see you at 2:00!  And then, I'll practice piano!  And at 3:00...we're going to have a snack!"   I won't do pictures, I think, because she does so well internalizing written words.  Hopefully by the end of this week, I'll have a fun project to show you guys- I'll make a run to the craft store and make something nice.