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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Man I love this picture.  All three of them are looking at the camera and SO HAPPY.  Plus, they have their arms around each other!

There was no question what the boys would be for Halloween and it’s perfect for twins, no?  My wife has made ALL of their previous Halloween costumes (she’s awesome) so we decided we’d be ok buying them for once.

My wife found the Luigi costume on clearance a few weeks back and interestingly enough, Twin B didn’t complain or cry that we didn’t have his Mario costume.  He’s the one that this would usually be a huge problem for.  The boys and I have been trying to find Mario and finally did, but it was OVER $40 at the local party store.  WOW!   We went online and found it for a little more than half that!

Kids in Mario and Luigi for Halloween

A 50’s Girl with her Twin Mario Brothers

It’s a good thing we ordered it early because our church trunk or treat was this past weekend and fortunately, Mario came in the day before the activity. . . . I was sweating it there for a bit.

The boys LOVED their costume.  My wife and mother in law made my daughter’s skirt for a 50’s themed party and she LOVES it so we really haven’t broken the tradition of my wife making their outfits.  🙂

The boys did so well at the trunk or treat.  They even sat on the car with me and handed out candy with comments like “you are a cute ghost” ~ “hey, you are a funny monster.”  Fun night.  I love this picture.

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I’m going to push back my recap of our Moab Trip because we had an experience this week that I though would give you a good example of a weekly tip we implemented and how it’s working for us.  However, here’s a picture from the trip!  We got some great ones!  Such a beautiful and scenic area.

Such a beautiful part of the country

I remember the first time our boys played Mario Kart Wii . . . . . . they were tied for last place both going backwards on the course.  I remember thinking, “I wonder if this is too much for them?”  Well, I”ll be honest ~ Twin A consistently beats me now and as long as Twin B doesn’t have one bad round, he’ll beat me as well!  Proud to see how well they’ve gotten at it.

However, we’ve run into problems managing expectations of when we play Mario Kart.  The boys have come off the school bus and the first thing they do is throw their bags down and start heading downstairs.  I don’t mind them playing while we make dinner so say, 30-45 minutes a day after school.   However, if they start as soon as they get home, there’s almost TWO HOURS until dinner.  Not good!

I was at a parent training and this one tip hit me like a ton of bricks.  The trainer mentioned that  with most issues, we can’t simply say, “well, our kid needs to change his expectations” because more than likely, THERE IS SOMETHING IN OUR OWN ACTIONS THAT HAVE SET THOSE EXPECTATIONS!  Now, we aren’t perfect and we go can be inconsistent with our actions but with autistic kids, they crave that consistency and when we deviate from what we’ve done previously, that can cause problems.

I realized that I’ve done things that have set the expectation that it’s ok to come home and go straight to the Wii.  I  then realized that because I’ve done that, I can’t simply say, “well let’s change it.”  It’ll take more than that . . . . especially since this is a ‘big’ part of their lives right now.  So, we decided to try a visual picture schedule to help set proper expectations.

Boys Afterschool Chart

I think most specialists will say that the schedule shouldn’t be longer than 3-4 sequences but we thought we’d try this.  Now, the boys will get off the bus and go step by step through the schedule.   The bottom pictures are examples of ‘activities’ the boys can do for their activity time.

It’s a pretty simple schedule but it has worked well over the last week.  In fact, even when we came home from church or on a day with no school, the boys were talking about what they needed to do to play Mario Kart and they were laughing because “we had no lunchbox today!  What?!?!?!?!?!?”  It was pretty funny.

I’ll talk more about the systematic approach our social workers use in working with tantrums in school but a quick thought that has stuck with me is that they always start at the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid.  Are the kids getting their basic needs met?  Basically – are they hungry and do they feel secure?

Last year, I’d always take a snack to the bus stop so the boys had something to eat.  This year, the bus brings them straight home so they probably get off the bus famished.  I started setting out a decent treat for them.  Instead of say a small bag of goldfish or fruit, I set out a pretty good bowl of something . . . usually a combo of fruit, a protein (cheese or nuts), and a ‘snack’ food.  The snack is an important part of our schedule and I think that has also helped to alleviate the frustration they have.  The activity is usually something they can do for 15 minutes.  We’ve been picking up pennies from the floor, playing the Angry Bird game, painting, etc.  It’s worked and we’ve been successful at pushing back Mario Time for up to an hour!

I’ll let you know how this week goes but so far, the chart has been a lifesaver!

 

Everybody needs a friend.  . . . . no one can get through this life alone.  Well, I guess you can but you’ll miss out on so much!  I think the thing I struggle and stress about the most is how my boys will ‘get along’ with and make connections with other people.  The social connections are where most autistic individuals struggle and as a parent, I HOPE AND PRAY that they will have great individuals around them who will be supportive of them.

The kiddos were out of school for a few days this past week and we went with grandma and some friends to Moab, UT.  Here’s a picture of da boys with their 11 yr old pal, A.

What an awesome picture

The ENTIRE trip A road in our car, the BOY car.  He would walk with the boys, hold their hands as they walked through the streets, sit next to them at dinner, buckle them in, play their games with them, and wait for them on the hikes.  A’s mom bought him a hat one morning and when we went souvenir shopping later that night, the ONLY thing da boys wanted was a hat like A.  Look at Twin A in the picture – arm on A’s shoulder with the happiest and biggest smile imaginable.

To A ~ thank you for being a great pal for the boys and for making this trip memorable for all of us.  I appreciate your friendship with the boys and hope and pray there are more people like you out there.  Your friendship to them means so much, this picture proves it.  Mahalo!

Wow it’s amazing how busy ‘life’ can be.  I’ve seriously gotten a TON of information from this workshop and our mandatory parent workshops after school.  So, some info from Carol Gray:

The main goal with a social story isn’t to change behavior!  It’s a two-step discord – to provide understanding of the audience in relationship to a situation or skill and/or to identify specific topics and the focus of the story.  A big “AHA” for me was that because an autistic individual ‘sees’ the world differently, it isn’t right to give directions and say, ‘this is how it will be.’  Same as teaching a man to fish versus giving them a fish.  The important idea is to help the individual see a different way of looking at things and helping them understand in a way that best suits them.

There were  a few books that she recommended as ‘good reads’ and here they are:

OK honestly, when I first heard about social stories, I thought, “that’s easy and such a simple concept.”  The concept is very simple yet it is very powerful since autistic individuals think ‘in pictures.’  However, as I listened to the thought process behind every picture in a social story, I realized that there’s so much that you have to consider when writing a story.  Thus, and I can see the logic behind this, it is important to get your social stories from trusted and correct sources – look for a trademark symbol!

A few things to remember: A social story is:

1) in the first or third person – NO SECOND PERSON STATEMENTS

2) Positive and Patient

3) Past, present, or future tense – whichever is most relevant

4) Literally accurate and

5) has an accurate meaning

My wife and I have written short stories for our boys and here are some of the general guidelines that I took from the session.  I’ll be honest, I think I can put together a decent social story for my boys with 80% accuracy.  However, the thought behind the final 20% and the attention to details is where I’d miss things.  Here’s an example.

Example #1: “Directions help students work, learn, and play together.  Directions help to keep students safe too!”

Example #2: “A student may want to do something else.  That student may not follow the directions.  Instead, that student will do what he or she wants to do.  I do that a lot”

In the situation above, the second example is too lengthy and also, has self-depreciating statements.  Most autistic individuals already struggle with self esteem issues so you need to avoid these at all times.

Example #1: There are times when you should listen to adults and follow their directions

Example #2: Sometimes, teachers, or other school staff, tell students what to do.  They give students directions

The first statement assumes that the individual understands what ‘giving directions’ means.  It also gives the individual an ‘out’ with directions by saying that a student ‘should’ follow directions.  You are walking a fine line here because you want the individual to understand the importance of following directions but what happens when it’s an adult that is not a trustworthy source?  A stranger?  AN AUTISTIC INDIVIDUAL WILL TAKE THE DIRECTION LITERALLY.

These are the subtle nuances that I know I would miss!  Thus, I really intend this post as an overview to help with social stories, to recognize good versus mediocre stories, and a push for you to support Carol because I really feel she knows what she is talking about.

So, continuing on with the lesson:

Example #1: There are two parts to a direction.  The first is giving the direction.  Teachers often do that.  The second is following the direction.  That’s a students’ job.

Example #2: I am going to listen to my teacher.  I will follow her directions.  I will do what the school staff tell me to do, too.  It’s my job.

Again, example #2 borders on socially unsafe.  What if the staff member is unsafe?  Or a person posing as a staff member?  Man, there’s so much to think about!

Now, she combined it all to form a social story

“Learning About Directions at School”

Sometimes, students are given directions at school.  A teacher, or other school staff, tell the students what to do.  Directions help students work, learn, and play together.  Directions help keep students safe, too.  There are two parts to a direction.  The first is giving the direction.  Teachers often do that.  The second is following the direction.  That’s the student’s job.  I am learning about directions at school.

This story is a better social story.  The story gives some flexibility about following all directions since some may be unsafe or incorrect.  It also helps the student understand their part in this and what they can do to better ‘own’ this skill.

I’ll do another post on something I really think will help my boys, Comic Strip Conversations.  That’ll be the next post but I hope this gives you a VERY BASIC overview as to the thought process and patterns for a social story.  Let’s be honest, I put an entire day of training into a 800 word post so please realize that there’s more to it than this but I hope this gives you a brief overview of things to think about when creating a social story of your own, or what you need to look for in a ‘proper’ social story.  Again, look for Carol Gray and Trademark Material when looking at things online.

Enjoy the picture ~ preview of some future posts.  🙂

Goblin Valley

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