Monday, June 29, 2009

A great quote from Autism Vox blog

From Autism Vox:

"What’s the smartest thing anyone ever said to you about your autistic child?

Said one respondent whose 3-year-old daughter was diagnosed two years ago, 'She is progressing well and although she still shows signs of autism on a daily basis, my wife and I sometimes question the early diagnoses. With that said, someone once told us that whether it is autism or not, she still has some developmental issues which need to be addressed. Concentrate on those things as opposed to getting all hung up on the bigger autism diagnoses.' This comment helped us do just that and feel as though it provided a bit more focus on her treatment moving forward.”

(forgive the punctuation issues -- I wanted to keep the spirit of the post without rewriting it)

I ordered Jenny McCarthy's "Mother Warriors" book today. I refuse to buy it new, but figured I could live with myself if I bought it used, so I did. If you're interested in a review, here's a great one.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Getting logical

This week we've been working on closing circles of communication, cooperation, and logical thinking.

Closing circles is actually pretty easy -- when Jack changes the subject abruptly, we remind him what we were talking about, and encourage him to finish one thought before moving on to another.

To foster cooperation we've been unabashedly bribing Jack. I'll offer him a cookie as a reward if he can get himself at the door for school by 1on the dot, or a chocolate chip for picking up train tracks. The idea here is that completing activities and conscientious behavior increase self esteem. Gradually rewards are eased away and good behavior is its own reward. By implementing rewards we've seen his cooperation improve dramatically.

Jack is smart and can use his words to further his agenda -- I'm happy he has a good imagination, but logical thinking is particularly important to communicate with his peers. A few days ago we asked him to put his bike in the garage and he said no -- that there was a magical door and Veruca Salt (or one of his girls; I can't keep them all straight) was parking her bike in the driveway, so he was leaving his there as well. We don't want to tell him his imagination is wrong, but we do need to move him to true expressions and honest opinions. So we try to start with his (illogical) comments and move them toward reality. "You don't want Veruca to lose her bike do you? Why don't you open the magic door and you and Veruca can park together in the garage." (Of course this little bridge between illogical and logical came much later; at the time we just stood there mumbling, magic door... Veruca Salt... what the fudge?) Another response could have been," Jack, do you not want to put your bike away?" This redirecting takes practice and it's clear we'll be working on it for a while!

Jack got a few nice little self-esteem boosts this week. He's been burning up the sidewalks on his new bike: he can ride quite far and so far he absolutely does not complain or whine while riding. When he's tired he asks us to carry the bike until he's ready to ride again. We're loving that! Jack went on a hike with a girl who just started preschool, and although he was nervous, he enjoyed it, and she seemed to like him. And we got a fun surprise at the post office a few days ago. We had to wait for quite a bit, and Jack was very patient. One of the wonderful post office ladies gave him a lollipop to reward his good behaviour and he has not stopped talking about it!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Keeping busy and positive

I'm learning so much from Floortime therapy, including the importance of my attitude. When I'm tired/crabby/sick it is incredibly hard to engage and make positive connections with Jack. So I'm making a list of therapies that work and inventing new ones to keep us from getting bored. If I do start to feel low, shifting gears seems to help.

Stuff that works:
1. any kind of pretend/make believe that Jack comes up with
2. bubbles -- chasing, popping, and blowing them
3. hide and find
4. beads -- dumping, filling, stringing
5. coin sorting and feeding into piggy bank
6. simon says
7. playdough manipulation, also hiding small items in playdough for him to find
8. wash away -- I write stuff in chalk outside and he washes the chalk off with the hose

Stuff to try:
1. small item sensory, like beads in beans
2. crossing midline games? I wish I could think of some
3. what is it: blindfold, touching feathers, leaves, etc.
4. multi-sensory games -- with a blindfold on, feeling different food items, smelling them, then eating them
5. tell me how (sequencing) -- have Jack tell me how to achieve different physical goals
6. treasure hunt hike -- find items on a hike, then bring them home and make rubbings with crayons
7. obstacle course -- will have to do outside

Overall, Jack is doing great. He has spontaneously played with kids at the playground a few times, engages at his weekly therapy playgroup, and at home creates imaginative make believe scenarios constantly (we made fox-shaped candies in Mr. Willie Wonka's factory after lunch today).

His behavior at birthday parties has become a benchmark for his growth. Previously he would literally lay around at a party, seemingly tired (in truth disconnected), wait impatiently for cake, and then demand to go home. This past weekend at a birthday party he made eye contact with kids, interacted with them, and was quite physically active. When were we getting the kids corralled for cake he asked me if we were leaving after the cake. I said I didn't know; did he want to leave? His answer was no! We almost had to drag him out. Progress!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A two-veggie snack

At Jack's preschool each child's parents are charged to bring snack about once a month. The requirements are simple: enough vegetable, fruit, complex carbs, and protein for 20 kids, 2 parents, and 2 teachers. Protein and carbs are easy -- challah, whole wheat bagels, whole grain biscuits, etc (but never nuts and since some kids are vegetarians, it's best to skip meat). Fruit is hard to screw up, since the kids love anything sweet -- strawberries and blueberries are always popular. The veggies are tough though. Baby carrots (which must be steamed) are successfull, as is dried seaweed. Seaweed has quite a bit of vitamin A, but also loads of sodium. I've tried red pepper strips and jicama tossed with lime juice with no luck at all.

Because I love to bake, my solution is often zucchini muffins supplemented by plain yogurt and fruit. This past week I watched a Good Eats episode dedicated to sneaking parsnips into kids' foods. A recipe for parsnip muffins was presented, but I was dubious about parsnips carrying that recipe. But how about parsnip and zucchini bread? Parsnips aren't exactly a nutritional powerhouse, but they do have a fair amount of vitamin C and fiber, as well as some iron and calcium. Zucchini supplies a wonderful dose of vitamin C, plus vitamin A, calcium, and iron. This bread is healthy and tastes really good. The recipe works as as muffins or a loaf, and is easily doubled.

Parsnip and zucchini bread
(adapted from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook)
2 cups (8 ounces) white whole wheat flour
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) bread flour
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (6 ounces) milk
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) canola oil
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces from about 2 medium zucchini) shredded zucchini
2 cups (about 6 ounces from 2 small parsnips) peeled and shredded parsnip (don't use the tough cores)
1 teaspoon lemon zest

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9x5 loaf pan.
2) In a large bowl whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Combine the eggs, milk, and oil in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until just barely combined -- do not overmix. Add the zucchini and parsnip. Stir until veggies are combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
3) Test the center with a toothpick or wood skewer -- it should emerge cleanly when done. Remove to a cooling rack and let sit for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Let cool completely before cutting.

(Note: to make muffins instead of a loaf, raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake about 20 minutes)

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Some "numbery" activities can make Jack a little too wacky. We had a small problem with map reading last week and the bottom line is, we won't be doing that again for awhile. Dot-to-dot puzzles however seem to be purely positive. They improve his motor skills, he loves them, and completes them calmly. I especially appreciate that calm focus when Jack sits with a dot-to-dot book for 15 minutes while I cook dinner. Bliss!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The super bag

Yesterday Jack said he was a super boy. I agreed. Then he asked how could he be a super super super super super boy. Lightbulb.

"Hey Jack," I said, "how about we make a bag with your name on it and every time you do an awesome thing, we but a piece of paper with super written on it in the bag. But, I have to warn you, every time you do a naughty or not so awesome thing, I'm going to take a super out." It seems we hit the jackpot with this. All morning when he was on the verge of dawdling or yelling in frustration, I said, "Jack -- super bag." Immediate compliance. He got supers for putting on his underpants and pants by himself without dawdling, peeing and washing his hands independently, hurrying when it was time to leave for preschool, and wiping up a milk spill. No supers had to be removed.

Jack's pretty into pretending to be a mommy these days, so we made super bags for his pretend babies: baby Joy, Zeke, and Violet Beauregarde (I know, Violet's not a baby -- you tell him that). Jack is in charge of those bags, and he rewarded baby Joy and Zeke for peeing in the potty. Jack also brought up how Violet was kind of naughty for eating the gum when Willy Wonka told her not to.

Even if the super bag works for just one day, hey, this has been one great day.