A Mother's Blog of Autism PearlsHere's the personal stuff about living with and surviving raising children with autism.
It's 2009 and E is 11. It's been a rough year. He started 6th grade. His first year without having an aide in the beginning to help with the transition. He handled it great, but was put in classes where he had no established friends. He struggles with adolescent self-abusive talk. Everything that is a little wrong or a small mistake is distorted to be huge. It's as if he can't recognize degrees of mistakes. It's interesting that our focus has shifted so far away from behavioral psychology techniques now to more appropriate cognitive psychology techniques.
I had a breakthrough this last 7 days. E has complained about his lack of friends (This means over-exaggerating that he "has no friends, will never have friends, everybody hates me, girls run away from me when I talk to them..."). Sound familiar anyone? Well, I am now employed full time, and even had I the time, there are no autism social skills groups locally. And really, how do you sit in a group and learn how to converse? The idea itself is so boring that I can't imagine torturing him with it. So I came up with an idea. It was a lightbulb moment worthy of a go. Here it is:
I tell E every morning as I drive him to school that he is to try to think kind thoughts about every one in his school. Then, rather than worrying about what to say or do, just try to act on the kind thoughts. That's it. My hope was that if he can be seen as a kind person, kids would be kind to him. I also hoped that he would start thinking about the other kids and what they might see as kind, rather than to concentrate on what he should say or do himself. It has worked. Today he came home and for the first time in the whole year, told me that he made two friends. Girls who sit next to him in class. A+ for you today, E!!! XOXO. Hope this tip helps someone else.
January 4, 2010
It's been an interesting month. E has started counseling at my insistence. I want to do all I can to help him have a happy life. Among the necessary prerequisites for happiness is a realistic v pessimistic outlook. I've been sort of cataloguing the cognitive distortions that I hear from him and they are impressive in their pervasiveness and depth. Yesterday a loss at the arbitrary card game War led to an assumption that the winner was a better person than he was. Sigh. I also noticed recently a decided unwillingness to be instructed. For me, joy comes from actively learning. For E, learning is an affirmation that he doesn't know so much. Thus he prefers to avoid instruction and do his own thing. This is pervasive in dance class, ice skating and likely church. Not sure about school. I don't want him to miss out on the joy of developing his talents due to these insecurities. He has such wonderful potential.
Today is another threshold for him. Dance begins again. We started off the morning with a pep talk. I reminded him of the miracles that can happen when you think about something in a new way. I reminded him of the friends he developed overnight when he put kind thoughts in his head about his classmates before school. I asked him to try to put in his head before dance class, the thought that it is exciting to learn something new. If the teacher goes too fast, stop and ask her to explain. To find joy in learning just one new thing. Be excited that you are in the process of learning. Beg your teacher to show you how to do something and don't be afraid if you can't do it at first. Find the joy in the process. He seemed encouraged and positive and excited to give it a try. I so long to stop being the active encourager to the passive boy. Even our conversations are mostly one sided. How pleased I will be when he comes and shares a story of joyful learning that he sought out on his own. I feel like Geppeto, wanting to transform my puppet into a real boy.