Aloha Friends ~
What a week. . . .and the weekend went by way too quickly. Highlight of the week had to be the opportunity for my wife to be interviewed by Fox News in Utah on parenting and autism. The final story hasn’t aired yet but we’re watching for it and will post links as soon as the interview is on the web.
We also had our evaluations done with each of the boys’ teachers and we were happy to see their progression and growth in the program. I cannot begin to express the growth I’ve seen in them and how appreciative I am for those individuals that give so much to my boys. . . thank you!
Accomplishments: In retrospect, more than the opportunity to be interviewed, I think the opportunity to bring our daughter to our boys’ school for a few hours was a highlight in and of itself. She’s a very inquisitive and curious kid – we were impressed that within a few minutes of being at the school, she had already picked up on the boy / girl ratio in the classrooms and started asking a number of insightful questions. She had the opportunity to interact with probably 20 kids on different levels of the spectrum and she interacted very well with them.
Our boys are classified as ‘higher functioning’ so our daughter got to see more of the spectrum than she normally does. While playing, she asked a lot of questions about eye contact, personal space, and other behaviors she noticed. The biggest “I’m a proud dad” moment came when she started talking to us about a way to test for certain types of autistic behavior and then verbally expressed that she wants to “figure out and understand” autism. Proud of her for spending the morning in classes with us and while many of us (parents of autistic children) deeply feel that autism isn’t something to be ‘cured’ or ‘figured out,’ I took her innocent expression of curiosity and determination as a positive sign of acceptance and support. I know in many cases, kids really struggle with their autistic siblings and I’m appreciative that our daughter is now, more interested in her brothers and has always been a loving sibling.
Tip of the Week: Ok – it is time to break our boys of their thumb sucking. We thought about this when, in both of their conferences, both teachers expressed that both boys have stopped during school time – yet we’ve not seen any decline at home. We all concluded that thumb sucking is probably more a way of “letting down” after the stresses of their day (similar to my eating candy – hah hah).
In one of the classes, they use a very simple reward system with red, yellow, green cards and a motivator (a few pieces of Skittles). For bad behavior, a child will move to a yellow and then to a red, which would mean they lose one Skittle. The children have the opportunity to earn the motivator back through expressing good behavior throughout the day. This type of motivator is obviously typical in any preschool class but we decided to use this at home and target specifically the thumb sucking.
My wife took the time to sit down with the boys and explain what we were doing and get their ‘buy in’ to participating. It’s important to note that the kids need to understand the reward system for this to be successful. We knew it was when we caught one of our twins sucking his thumb and temporarily moved him to a ‘yellow’ card and boy was he distraught – tears and everything.
We told the boys that if they suck their thumb, we’ll move to a yellow and eventually a red. For each red they land on, they lose one of the motivators (for us – it’s three Skittles or three Smarties). In the class, if a child moves to a red they can move back to a green with good behavior. . . . not sure how to implement moving ‘back’ to a green with thumbsucking so we haven’t initiated a way for them to re-earn a move down.
What was great was when the thumb sucker was caught, the other twin encouraged and tried to help his brother – he even started tearing up as he was offering encouragement. That was especially neat to see. The two boys really have a special bond and it’s neat to see these signs of empathy and emotion between them.
Tonight, I wanted to see what they’d do if they caught someone in the act so I pretended to be sucking my thumb and boy, you should’ve seen their reaction, “Daddy – NO THUMB!” which was quickly followed by a “Daddy – you need to go to the yellow and then red and NO CANDY.” So I then asked if getting a red card is a good thing and I got a, “No daddy – that’s a very bad idea.” Hey, so they get it! Next, I’ll do it again and test if they’ll give me one of their candies if I lose all of mine. . . . I know the answer already.
OK – so here’s hoping that this breaks them of their thumbs! I’ve liked being home with the boys on their weekends. The other day, I could hear one of them waking up and then could hear him ask his brother “hey – are you up?” When he got the “yes” reply, he said, “c’mon we go potty and go downstairs so we can watch Disney Jr.” Then. . . . the morning started. They are conversing so much between each other – something we were really worried would never really happen. I am grateful for my wife and the great teachers that are working with the boys – they truly are making a huge difference in these two boys’ lives.