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.
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.
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!