Getting the Song out of my Head

Jaylen’s Autism makes him extremely literal, but I am starting to realize how literal most young kids are.  I taught PreK, Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade before having Jaylen, and guess by those ages most kids get sarcasm, and understand what to take literally.

This post on Mommy To Two Boys is about how Jaylen processes the term “private school.”  His literal thinking is one of those things I enjoy, crack up over, and love about him.

We recently moved and every time I mentioned our “old house” Jaylen asked when it was going to fall apart.  When I told him a new family was moving in he was surprised they would live in a house that was old.  When in actuality our “new house” is in worse condition than our “old house.”  In Jaylen’s mind, for some reason, all things die or fall apart when they turn 100 years old, so he assumed the old house is close to 100 and will crumble to dust any minute.

At my grandmother’s 89th birthday party he basically told her she had 11 years left till the reaper came for her.

I could go on and on with stories like this when it comes to Jaylen, but recently Xavi made me laugh hysterically over the same thing.  He was singing a Lady Gaga song which I started singing too.  After a few minutes I told him he got the song stuck in my head.  He pulled my head down and started pushing my hair all around searching for something.  When I asked what he was doing, he said he was looking for the song stuck in my head.

I guess taking things literally isn’t only for kids with Autism, neurotypical kids do it too (even though Jaylen does it a LOT more).  Oh, the things I’m learning by being a mom to both…

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Freedom From Autism

No. My son has not been “cured” of Autism.  But for one night, for one single solitary night I felt free from the constantly overwhelming disorder.

 

It was Autism Family Night at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic CT.  We got into the Aquarium for free (thank you Pfizer and Mystic) and got to see two shows specially prepared with less sensory stimulation.
Almost instantly, I got chills and a huge smile came across my face as Jaylen:
ran off,
started banging on glass tanks,
groaning,
and yelling repeated phrases of other kids
 
I did NOT have to stop him. 
 
He was free,
I was free,
There would be no yelling,
No arguing,
No threats,
No apologies to other people,
And no embarrassment tonight.
 
And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is freedom. 
No where else, at no other time, is it acceptable for my guy to be who he is.  It was the most amazing, liberating, and happy feeling. 
Both my boys ran, yelled, and acted silly.  And no one batted an eye.
I didn’t have to feel bad or sorry.  I didn’t have to apologize to anyone because of their noise or running.
I didn’t have to explain to other parents why my son was doing what he was doing.  He got in other kids faces, a recent issue we’ve been having, and no one cared.  In fact, many other kids were doing it too.  I didn’t have to explain why he repeated things other kids said or yelled when they yelled or apologize for it.  Everyone understood.
It was also such an eye opener to see so many kids and adults all over the spectrum.  Everyone is affected in different ways.  But generally speaking, they all have issues that set them apart from the “norms” of society.
At one point my sister turned to me and said, “It’s just crazy to me that everyone else here, all these other parents, are dealing with the same things you are.  You are all going through this daily.  They are all going through what you do every day.”

And for some reason, that makes me cry.  Each time I replay that thought, I cry.

Introducing Sign Language Focusing on Autism

I am very excited to introduce a guest post for today.  When Jaylen was non verbal at the age of a year we started using some simple signs.  As he got older, yet still couldn’t communicate verbally, we had to use signing as our only means of communication.  Using signs helped reduce the number of massive tantrums he was having several times a day due to his inability to process what we were saying and verbalize his wants and needs.  Whether you are new to signing with children, or you have done some in the past, you will find Misty’s post informative and convincing.

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One of the most frustrating things about autism is the difficulties around communication. The complexities of spoken language can be problematic for children with autism, leading to frustration for both child and parent. Sign language acts as a bridge for communication that strengthens the development of speech and language. Learning sign language at any age provides lots of benefits for children with autism.

Development Of Speech And Language
While spoken language is still developing, all babies and young children find gestures and symbols easier to understand than speech. Pictures and gestures switch on areas of the brain that are inactive without spoken language. Gestures create ‘visual associations’, which are easier for children with autism to learn and understand. In this way, sign language doesn’t replace speech, but acts as a pathway to its development.

Tantrums And Anxiety
Children with autism sometimes display negative behaviors such as tantrums, anxiety and aggression. In all children, these behaviors are much worse when a child can’t communicate what he needs. Sign language gives children a tool for communication, reducing the frustration that children with autism feel if they can’t express themselves. Sign language reduces frustration-based behavior by removing some of the frustration.

Social Interaction And Sign Language
One of the great things about sign language is that it provides a communication tool for children with autism. This is great for the child but it is also wonderful for the parent. Communication is a two way process, so signing also gives parents a useful tool. Communication is a positive spiral – when a child communicates successfully and feels understood he has the confidence to try again. Confidence in the ability to communicate is essential for good social interactions.

Teaching Sign Language To Children With Autism
Sign language is a wonderful tool for children with autism, and for their families and teachers. There are difficulties, however. Let’s look at some of these and how they can be overcome…

Focus  And Attention
Because sign language is primarily a visual type of communication it requires the ability to focus intensely for significant periods. In some cases, children with autism have attention deficits which can prevent sign language from being taught successfully. Even in these situations, sign language can be used as part of a package of communication skills, providing the emphasis is on understanding being signed to, not necessarily signing back.

Isolation
Depending on where in the world you live, sign language may or may not be a well-known form of communication. In some parts of the world, although sign language is beneficial to a child with autism it could isolate him from those who do not know sign language. It’s best to encourage all of those who have regular contact with your child to learn a few important signs, including family, friends and teachers.

Unique Benefits
We know that autism affects each child in a unique way. There is no one right way to proceed when improving communication. The benefits of sign language will be unique to each child. In a few severe cases sign language may not be as helpful as it is to others. It has, however, proved helpful to many families, and must be worth a try.

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This guest post is brought to you by Baby Sign Language. We are here to help answer all your Baby Signing questions. Be sure to also check out the FREE Baby Sign Language Flash Cards.

Brain Rotting Fun?

When Jaylen was a year old, he had a tendency to become addicted to certain things.  We didn’t know it was Autism yet, but knew him not connecting with us, retreating into his own world, and filling and dumping buckets for hours was strange.  I can still hear his first home therapist’s nervous and appalled laughter as she told me not to let him fill and dump or play with dirt for more than a half hour.  Who knew?  I thought he was just really independent.

One of his “things” was TV.  He loved certain shows and could watch Noggin (now Nick Jr.) for hours on end.  I always judged those parents who let the TV babysit their kids before I had kids of my own.  For us, the only alternative to tantrums, self injurious behavior, the constant filling and dumping, or spinning in circles was TV.  So we let him watch.

Fast forward 4 years and Jaylen is really not into TV much at all.  He will request an episode of SpongeBob most days.  According to him, “I don’t watch little kid shows anymore, just big kid ones.”  Which is crap because as soon as Xavi is watching a “little kid” show his eyes are glued to the screen.

In the winter, we watch more TV out of cabin fever and boredom.  Now the weather is nice, we are out most of the day, and when we come in the TV just stays off.  As long as they are not asking for it, why use it?  Every once in a while they will be hyper or fighting and TV is a good way to calm them down.  Sometimes I need to get work done and the TV does babysit for a half hour.  Overall, it does feel good to find other things to do besides TV.

The boys in 2009
The boys in 2010

Am I one of those people that thinks TV rots kids’ brains?  No.
Do I think it may affect their attention span?  Yes.
Can we find other things for our kids to do to get exercise, interact socially, and learn actively?  Easily.
But do I love when I get a minute to myself as Chuggington is blaring from the playroom?  Absolutely.

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