Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Person of Interest: Erin Clemens

Erin Clemens is a remarkable young woman whom I've gotten to know a little bit through an Autism support network as well as her blog.

Erin found out she had Asperger's in her teenage years. According to her writing, she would have much preferred  to find out even younger. She had many of struggles growing up, but determination, learning to listen to her own body signals and feelings, and a supportive family have helped her find much success as well.

In her writings, and I'm sure in person as well, she is frank and open about how becoming familiar with her Asperger's has contributed to her struggles and her triumphs.

Erin is certainly a unique individual, but she is one of many who is leading a successful, fulfilling, though not quite challenge-free life as an adult on the Autism Spectrum. But then, do any of us really have a challenge-free life? 

One of her biggest passions is to help educate others about Autism, and supporting those on the spectrum. One of the ways she did so recently was by participating in a TEDx event:

I have appreciated getting to know Erin a bit through her blog especially. And I hope you enjoyed metting her as well!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Play Therapy Part 2

Welcome back for a few more tidbits about Play Therapy!

I love good ideas, and some of the best sources for good ideas come from other family's trial and errors. I can't even count how many inspirations I've gotten from reading blogs by other moms, from experiences of friends, and many other nifty suggestions from different ones. Often we tweak these and tailor them specifically to our own family's needs. Sometimes they work awesome, sometimes only so so, others not so well, or we put it on our maybe later list.

Below is an idea I got from another mom, whose daughter is autistic, from her post about using our kids stims to help them learn new skills. Kitty Bitty loves things that spin so I loved this idea as soon as I saw it. I liked the simplicity of this set, and figured it might be a good way to encourage her to let the big kids help, and eventually she might enjoy it more independently.

She has fun telling me which gears to add, though she adamantly refuses to use certain ones, still haven't figured out why.

But mostly she likes fitting the base squares together. Which is fine, especially if it keeps her content and occupied for a little while. She still needs help with putting them in the right direction at times, but she is only two and the age guide is for 3+ so I don't expect her to play with it fully independently yet.

Puzzles! These are great tools for making her interact with me. I keep the pieces as she removes them and she has to look at me and ask for them back. She has the tendency to remain absorbed in her activity and just hold out a hand point to what she wants. Now that her speech is well on it's way, she does use verbal requests, but she still doesn't tend to look at us as much unless it's something she really wants. So this is good practice to remind her to look in our direction when she wants our attention. I encourage eye contact and reward it with great enthusiasm, but that is not a requirement to get what she is requesting. When she is having a good day and is well organized in her body and brain, she makes lots of eye contact. If she's having a rough day, forcing eye contact only causes her more discomfort and further disrupts her process of trying to communicate. This is not a big deal for me, as even I am often overwhelmed by extensive or intense eye contact, so I have no desire to force it with her, especially if she clearly shows that she is otherwise communicating and engaging.  

Kitty fits perfectly in the basket, just like puzzle pieces together! And he seems to like it too!

The train set combines several aspects from above. It's pieces fit together in puzzle like ways, but are not in any set way, so she has plenty of freedom to experiment and lessens frustration. The trains motivate her by their linear movements along the track as well as their spinning wheels, but it has the added perk of helping reinforce the real life lesson that trains drive forward and back on tracks. This understanding helps her translate to other toys with less specific guides like toy cars, that they also can be used to "drive" like real cars, instead of just being lined up or sorted.

And sometimes she just likes to make the train go back and forth under the bridge over an over and over!

For a long time she was only interested in throwing sand, so I made up an hide and seek game with a little Dora character that had broken off the handle of Grace's umbrella. I would bury Dora in the sand while Kit watched, then I would ask, "Where's Dora?" The first several attempts at this game she just stood there looking at the spot that I had buried Dora, or at me like I was crazy. After a few seconds, I would move the sand off of Dora and pull her out, "here she is!" After a few such demonstrations, Kit would point at the spot where Dora was buried. Then with some more encouragement she would sweep some of the sand away. It wasn't very long before this was one of her favorite games, and in fact the only thing she would do in the sandbox, but I had to be right there, and I had to do it with her.

Gradually though, she started to bury Dora herself, ask "where's Dora?" and then dig her out, "there she is!" It is adorable! Now she even uses the shovels to did and bury Dora, and to dig her out, which has led to her using the shovels to fill the buckets and containers, carry sand to the water bucket to make "soup", and to carry water to the sandbox to watch the sand suck it up. Of course, she still loves to throw sand, and she has also discovered that the shovels make light work out of pouring sand all over one's own head. Oh joy.

Hiding surprises in her putty is a great sensory activity, sharpens fine motor skills, and is just plain fun as well! This batch held a couple of plastic bugs, a spinning top, and...CANDY!!

There are so many more activities the list could go on and on. I'll try to keep snapping pictures and will periodically try to post new activities that we have tried. I hope that they can maybe provide some ideas and insights for other families out there. The great thing about all of these also, is that they do great things for all kids, and most of us can always use a few more suggestions to keep our kiddos busy and happy!

Happy Playing!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Wheels on the Bus!

Thanks to a sweet sweet friend who gave a little girl a big ride! She was so excited to bump along on the big kid bus! ((Big Hugs))

Beep! Beep! Beep!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Autism Awareness Month: Building "I Can" Networks

Here is how to turn a child's perspective from I can't to I can!

While children and adults on the Autism Spectrum certainly need solid and as wide as possible "I can" networks, it's important to remember that every child and even adults need to be encouraged, sometimes even nudged a bit toward a spirit of capability.

Never underestimate the value that your skills, wisdom, or talents can bring to another person's journey or experience. And yes, you have something to offer. It's usually the simple things that are the most memorable and often make the biggest difference. And our time and attention are two of the most precious gifts we can ever give another person. 

Can you become another thread in someone else's support web? Can you play a few games with a child to help them practice taking turns and see someone modeling good sportsmanship? Do you know how to cook or bake? Sew? Oil a bike chain? Enjoy animals? Hiking? Changing a flat tire or one's own oil? A love of historical fiction? Botany? Carpentry? Gardening? Web design? Photography? Art? Music? Fishing?

You can!

There is really no skill so small that it is insignificant, because for someone who hasn't yet learned it, it is one more stepping stone on their journey to independence, confidence, or connecting with others. And the ultimate goal isn't really to make them masters at your interest or skill anyway. The most important lessons these one's can learn will be things like patience,  teamwork, and friendship.

Here is four examples of kids who many people probably would have though "can't", but did, because somewhere along the line there were people in the backgrounds of their lives who had told them you can. And when they found themselves in situations that would typically overwhelm a person with Autism, they found themselves doing the impossible. Meet KyleMaddoxLachlan, and Karson

This distance between two points really boils down to two words. Which two will you choose?