Mom, Don’t Let the Doorknob Hit You on the Way Out

Back of My Head

So, a big day of independence practice:  first time to a new, noisy, chaotic church camp.

Day 2, four hours of activity.

John had missed Day 1.

So everyone pretty much knew what to do but him.

John is quite blessed that many of the kids know him, and some helped him find a group to join.

Love those kids.

At this first drop-off, John did not look back.

Same for the next day.

Nothing for Mom but the back of his head.

The greatest thing I could have dreamed of.

The loving goodbye wasn’t going to happen anyway, and I was OK with that loss.

Things much bigger were at stake.

Grit.

Desire.

Want.

Courage.

So, we continue to stretch for everything coming at our kids.

We do all we can for intrinsic motivation.

Then shut up, drop back, and pray it all kicks in.

May we have many times to love the backs of their heads.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

One of You is Going Outside

Or Maybe Both

Growing up in a family of five kids on our farm in Illinois,

I remember many times my parents would say:

“If you are going to wrassel, go do it outside”, and then throw us out of the house.

Circle of Life interventions, I think.

Sometimes John is too rough with Spike, our beagle.

I have sometimes put Spike outside, when it really isn’t his fault at all.

Or sometimes John has earned a time out in the bathroom.

Anyway, I got a new idea this last time when John made a poor decision to rough-house with Spike a bit too much.

I put John outside.

In the dark.

Out the back door.

And I told him he could come back inside when he was ready to make a good choice.

We have been working on vocabulary and nuance with John a long time on how to “make a good choice”.

I have modeled (demonstrated) and described (words) what a good choice could be, in a variety of circumstances.

I am trying to build a broad range of understanding (we call it “far transfer”).

Not just a list of specifics, but a deep and wide application of understanding.

Anyway, back to the little boy on the other side of the back door.

(Please keep in mind we have been working for years on his being a boomerang, with an ever-lengthening tether.

And there are many benefits of being outside:

playground (glorified swing set) in the backyard, lots of mid-line crossover and gross motor activities.)

Anyway, it took just two trips outside to make a dent.

Several days ago.

And, of course, he tested the boundary again.

I only had to offer that consequence, and John made a good choice immediately.

So, effective learning with some long-term memory involved.

(We have been working on the backward-chaining of this intervention for a long time.)

I wish I could tell you one day and done.

However, the next day, again John was too loud and not willing to sit down and work on his list.

Seeing if Mom will love him enough to hold the boundary.

John and the dog earned “out the door and come back when you can make a good choice”.

We tried variations of unlocked and locked back door.

John even made a run around the house, and knocked on the front door.

So, creative problem solving and practicing executive function, right?

So maybe this can help in your house, and be sure to hold those boundaries!

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

Are We Sparring?

Impulse Control Self-Monitoring

Impulse control is a daily challenge for my child, with two different arenas of performance.

Public.  Private.

Sounds familiar?

In public, at taekwondo, John is sensory-averse.

He is very hesitant to strike (“tag”) another child during sparring or in the self-defense hands-on practice.

However, at home, he can become sensory-seeking, usually as a consequence of frustration.

Now we have opportunity for teachable moments.

(I say) “If you want to spar, you have to tell me”.

We then go through the purposeful ceremony to begin official sparring.

We practice the hand and foot movements, always seeking faster, faster, faster.

On the other hand, sometimes he is just frustrated.

And now we are working on his own use of re-directs for impulse control.

Can he know the difference, and can he also use his skills?

We keep the boundaries of “no hitting”.  Zero tolerance for that (link).

I say, “It’s OK to be angry.  You get to do that in the bathroom, so give yourself a time out.” (link)

And he knows (because we have practiced it over and over), that he can come out when (and only then) he chooses to be ready.

Sometimes we go in and out of the bathroom for a while.

That happens.

But he knows there is no point in trying to renegotiate.

Sometimes my teenager is in the room, and has actually said (more than once), “do you think the answer is going to change, John?”

We talk about why his self-regulation and his self-control is so very vital for his future.

May this help in your house.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

“I Don’t Know, You Pick”

An Invitation to Steer My Kid's Choices

Putting new foods in his own mouth,

overcoming oral defensiveness and thus sensory acceptance,

is a big deal,

a major achievement.

Mom wanted Mexican food, but he didn’t want anything on the kid’s menu.

I asked several ways, even asked him to circle what he wanted.

He kept saying he wanted me to choose.

So I did.

Tortilla soup:  Veggies and chicken.

It’s what I eat.

And so did he.

I couldn’t believe it.

I thanked the angels.

We were sitting in the loud chaotic bar area, eating vegetable soup.

For the first time.

And, as a bonus, when we were back home and I told him it had to be a “new” movie,

He told me to choose.

So I picked Mary Poppins.

Before that, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Great old movies for kids and families.

So, if your child asks you to help him/her with a stretch,

give them a real stretch, the stretch of your dreams.

May this work at your house.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

 

 

“Stand Like a Leader”

An X-Rays Strategy

John had to get some x-rays today.

Many of them.

Lots of “standing still”, “put your hands here”, “put your chin here”, “don’t breathe”, and “don’t move!”

Memories of your last mammogram experience?

Anyway, he decided to translate it all into the taekwondo playbook:

“Stand like a leader”

His face got all puckered up.  He stood at rigid attention.

Utter concentration.

It is glorious how dearly John treasures his time being ordered around by black-belts.

He did just great with the x-rays, generalizing the taekwondo mindset into the doctor world.

We also use piano concepts in taekwondo.

In fact, we cross-pollinate at every possible opportunity.

Maybe this can help in your world?

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

“Go Back And Get It”

Retrieving Left Behind Stuff

It is a simple thing to say:  make your child go back and get what they left behind,

but what if that was a risky journey?

John left a journal behind.

To retrieve it would include an elevator ride and a different floor in a big hospital.

I said I would wait for him.

He didn’t need much persuasion, as we have been practicing solo elevator rides and other-floor-journeys for some time.

We also practice shopping cart returns across busy parking lots.

We play “find Mom in the grocery store” games, in spite of Stranger Danger and fears of getting lost.

So, it turned out dandy.  John was proud of his accomplishment.

Loss of 5 minutes.

No big deal there,

given the trade-up in self-esteem and willingness to try the unknown.

Risk tolerance—practice it with our kids.

Failure or success:  both teach something.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

Hanging Out in the Waiting Room

An Hour on His Own

Mom had a doctor appointment and no babysitter.

So John got an opportunity.

An hour or so cooling his heels in the doctor’s waiting room.

I set the WiFi on his iPad and waved goodbye.

I didn’t hear anything.

I didn’t ask.

I didn’t worry.

I tried not to think about it.

At the end of the hour, no one had died or screamed.

One of the massively awesome components of ever-greater expectations combined with relentless interventions and held boundaries

is that it works.

I swear to God with my hand on the Bible, it works.

Try this with your kids.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

Wet…..The Power of Unintended Consequences

No Matter Where You Encounter Them

We were (trying to) eat breakfast at the local diner.

With Math Tiles and several books.

John didn’t want academics.  He wanted to play with my phone.

So he was pretty close to being mad.

The large cup of water had no lid.

And John whacked it, not paying attention.

And, unintended natural consequences, most everything on our table was no longer dry.

I didn’t say a thing, keeping my mom mouth shut.

He already knew everything I would have said.

He immediately calmed down, said, “it got all wet”.

He got to carry it out all by himself.

A big, soppy pile.

He got to carry it all back inside the house, flatten it out and do his best to dry the Math Tile cards.

I hope he remembers consequences.

Maybe this can help at your home.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

 

 

 

Old Stuff Purged

We Can't Keep Comfort Zones

Sometimes we parents don’t notice that our child is making progress.

We get wrapped up in schedules and hurry.

We miss small things.

Until we trip over them.

So, the other day I found a box of old junk from my previous car.

You know, when you have to clean out the old vehicle to trade it in?

I had thrown everything from the trunk into a box, and forgot about it.

So, spring cleaning the garage, I unexpectedly found it.

It was filled with memories that brought me to my knees.

……stuff I used to carry around when we didn’t have #2’s going into the right place and

toys that I had hoped might (finally) make him curious

like other kids are curious.

I have since also passed on to others his collection of early childhood videos,

including the beloved Blues Clues.

Videos we watched over and over, somewhere between a stim and a prayer for learning.

It’s a necessary purge, to remove familiar/old/preferred videos (in this example),

to force John to progress on to new things.

Always pushing for age-appropriate.

He may wonder where they went.  Sometimes he asks for them.

I say, “good question!”, and re-direct him to something (anything) else.

Out with the old.

On to the new, we always hope.

He will get over the loss of the familiar.

Already he is paying new attention to new things.

This can work in your home:  Whatever it takes to scootch our kids into new neural pathways.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

Chores – Because I Choose To

Self Esteem Can Be Intrinsically Motivated

Some days you get to see a miracle when you least expect it.

It was a rough getting-ready-for-school morning.

With no tampering from Mom, in the spark of a moment of intrinsic decision making,

John scampered over to the partially-opened dishwasher and started doing his chores.

The clean silverware matched into the cutlery drawer.

(That drawer is a mess of plastic and metal, and we do our best to keep it organized.

John has been trained to “match” stuff, to put the spoons with the spoons, etc.)

I knew enough to keep my big fat mom mouth shut.  I just stood there watching.

John very soon looked up at me with the biggest grin on his face.

He was proud of his actions, proud he had thought of it.

NOT because Mom had nagged or prompted.

This is the magic, secret sauce of what we seek for our young people,

that they make the best decisions they can because they choose to.

So please, dear fellow parents, keep giving them boundaries.

And you MUST hold those boundaries, without war.

I smile, zip it, and turn my attention somewhere (anywhere) else when he attempts re-negotiation.

Absolutely sure this can work in your home.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

Power Struggles

So I Tried Tickling

Lately, John has been testing my boundaries.

Big surprise there, huh?

I have tried a river of maneuvers to get him moving forward once he’s decided he doesn’t want to.

Specifically, this morning, he decided it was far more fun to stay in bed than get up.

What could I try that didn’t involve mad, sad, or brute strength?

So I tickled him!

He said to stop it.  I said to get up.

It went in circles for a moment or so.

And it worked.

It is not an intrinsic motivator.

It is extrinsic, coming from the outside.

From a mom up against the clock who couldn’t find a better tool in the moment.

So when time is running out

(seems to be every school morning as we try to get out of the house),

maybe this can help in your home.

It is not a tool for forever.

But it did work.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

(Thank you, PowerPoint Library, for the clip art)

 

Piano Games

Balancing Quarters and Duct Tape Floor Staff

Try piano with your child?

We have Music-On-The-Go come to the house.

30 minutes every week.

We use a pretend piano.

It’s a full-size 88-key Casio portable keyboard with weighted keys and pedals, on a stand.

So, less expensive and smaller than a regular piano.

John’s first public recital is this Saturday.

Our teacher, Ms. Melanie, has him playing these games:

Quarter Game – Balance a quarter on each hand as he plays.

Floor Games – Make a 5-line staff with duct tape on the floor.

Middle C is on a smaller line (shown here with black electrical tape).

Then use little kid feet, flash cards and other objects to practice moving up and down the scales and the staff.

You can put down a card for “treble” or “base”,

A, B, C, way of looking at music,

and the 5-lines, 4-spaces prospective, working on memorization.

She is teaching John how the notes relate going up and going down,

in different settings.

On the floor, on the keyboard and alphabetically.

It’s called multi-modal learning, using a variety of tools and prospective.

I can see John’s practice with piano positively affecting other areas of

his learning, and vice-versa.

Perhaps piano could work for your family’s learning?

Please try music and reading music.

Your kid will like having the community of band.

The pleasure of creating music is an added bonus.

We also use a metronome which helps build self-control, self-regulation and restraint.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

Bubble Riding, Gum Chewing & Zip Lines

Courage: Expanding Sensory Acceptance By Trying

Our kids can amaze us when they want to.

They have courage and capabilities we routinely underestimate.

We fear for them in all ways, and this causes low expectations.

John has decided he loves zip lines and running around in a bubble.

He’s not so sure he loves chewing gum yet (you can barely see it in his mouth here).

Every day there are opportunities to stretch his capabilities:  Ways he can show bravery.

So, every day, am I the limiting factor?

Are you?

Let them try it.  Whatever they want to try.

Ask, “Do you want to try this?”

And if it takes two hours for a “NO!” to slowly slide into a tentative

“…..yes, I think so…..”,

well then,

that’s what courage looks like for your child.

Celebrate that they are making their lives.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

Paintball Sensory Overload

Patience Pays Off Because He Wants To

It hurts to get hit.

The helmet is hot, heavy and stinky.

The body pads, ditto.

And yet he wanted to because his friends were.

It took almost two hours of standing on the sidelines, trying to decide.

But eventually, he gave it a try.

And as soon as he got smacked,

he was out of there, off the field and out of his gear.  Fast.

And that was good enough.

His face said it was all worth it.

So, yet again, sensory deficits can step forward into the fray,

but it takes time and intrinsic motivation.

Try this waiting patience with baited hook on your young warriors-to-be at home?

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

 

Late!

Some Ideas to Get Out of the House Faster

Time is our greatest scarcity.   Never enough time to do all we want to do.

And we seem to still be trying to get our morning schedule back on track.

(Due to spring break, daylight savings time, and getting over being sick.)

And we often cope with slow-poke executive functioning.

So, here are some very recent re-direct tricks that may work as well for you.

  • “First one to buckle their seat belt wins!”
  • “Do you want to brush your teeth in the car or in the bathroom?”
  • “Do you want to eat your food at the table or in the car?”
  • “Bye!   Meet you in the car.”

I have given up on trying to make John eat.

I now ask, “Are you hungry?”, and leave it at that.

I will also say, “When you are done eating, put your bowl in the fridge.”

And I try to remember the “please”.

It has always seemed urgent and  important to me as a bio-med mom that he gets his nutritional supplements down the hatch each day.

For those of us who do this, it can be an exhausting daily game of  cajoling him to eat or drink it all.

Another trick that is working well now when John lollygags on eating, and we need to leave the house:

I ask him if he wants “to eat at the table or in the car?”

In fact, I further ask him if he wants to brush his teeth in the bathroom or in the car?

He usually does NOT want to eat in the car.

He does take action based on his decision (which is far more useful in his learning self-regulation than Mom nagging).

Many a school morning, I give up on re-directing him or getting him to move faster.

Instead, I say, “Meet you in the car!”

Either he or I have piled his stuff by the front door, and I just walk out.

Please understand we have back-ward chained the skills to process those decisions.

I have shared previously that I actually back the car down the driveway.

I have even driven around the cul-de-sac, as if I were driving away without him.

Most mornings I try to catch him (back) at the front door, so we can practice the key in the lock.

He wants to celebrate winning, but I remind him whoever buckles the seat belt first wins.

The photo of John grinning here was one morning when he “won”.

And I don’t always “let” him win.

I do my best to make it an honest, funny, laughing competition.

Maybe some of these ideas will help your mornings.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

Cursive (Want To Try It?)

Winging It

I don’t think John has ever practiced cursive writing.

Oh dear God, we struggle enough with printing.

Until one day, John just decided to try this (instead of printing), with no prompting by Mom.

He said, “It says John’s List”.

Oh, you should have seen his face!

Surely many days of (monotonous) practice are ahead of us.

But for today, John has chosen to try cursive, heading up his loved/hated “list” we make daily.

Also (second photo), it doesn’t look like much, but here is something John lostCursive

(by making poor choices in school and at piano lessons).

By the time he got to “DropBox”, he smiled a huge one and said, “Box is in cursive”.

Because he wanted to.

What do our kids all want to do?

I suggest we use that desire shamelessly!

We may start out with extrinsic motivation.

(Extrinsic = coming from someone else.  Intrinsic = coming from inside the child.)Cursive1

Whatever you do with your child, let them take the lead.

And always look for the ways to make it their idea.

Before you know it, you both could  be up to your neck in intrinsic motivation and self-directed learning.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

Paying Attention to Boundaries

Stretching to Reach Their Goal(s)

It took John’s friend Hunter to show us what this little finger-hold was for.

It has been in that door molding for more than one year.

Without his paying attention to it.

Now he uses it all the time.

Because by using that tool, he can close the door independently.

Without that finger-hold, he can’t.

And now let’s try to use that idea toward boundaries in self-directed learning.

No telling what it could be in your world, but for us, it was math homework.

And it started out so self-directed.

Joyous, in fact.

Then about halfway, he decided Mom wasn’t really going to hold her boundaries, and he went to the dark side.

In the blink of an eye, he was testing boundaries in every way possible.

And loudly.

We eventually ended up in the bathroom, with the vent fan on and the door shut.

We were visiting at my sister’s house some time ago, and I was mortified.

John lost his favorite thing (Mom’s phone), and lost it for the entire day.

I held my ground and re-directed him or ignored him every time he tried to re-negotiate.

He was fully aware.

He could tell me why he lost my phone.

Holding your parent boundaries may test you to the point of nearly “losing it”.

But it doesn’t mean holding those boundaries isn’t working.

As one of my mom friends says, “I love you too much to argue with you.”

So I didn’t.

Set your boundaries in a time of calm.  Make sure they understand.

Then, when the testing comes (and we know that it will), hold your ground.

Pay attention to the necessity of boundaries.

So your child can learn independently.

Learn self-awareness and self-regulation.

Try this with your kiddos?

Peace be with us,

Gayle

Training For School Bus Independence By Backward Chaining

With A Backward Glance (Maybe)

Next year is 5th grade at a new (bigger, faster-paced) intermediate school.

So, we are building into our ARD (Admission, Review, Dismissal)

that he is riding the big kid bus.

We are practicing now, and here are some photos of how that looks.

It’s called Backward Chaining by occupational therapists, and Backward Design by educators.

You start with the last step and practice until your child masters it.

And then you add the previous step and include it to the process.

Keep this up, each time adding the previous step to the entire flow.

Soon, you will be at the beginning step and your child can do it all.

So, back to the bus independence:  Mom does less and less.  John does more and more.

Some days, when John is lollygagging, I have laid his stuff on the ground and walked away.

Toward school.  With neighbors and friends watching me.

I smile and wait out of sight.

Until John catches up.

I fade my prompt at every opportunity.

Once he gets ahead of me, I stay out of eye-sight as he rides on to school.

As our days of training have progressed,

sometimes he looks back,

sometimes not.

Twice now he has caught me peeking after him.

He was laughing and so was I at Mom busted.

Once he is at school, I do follow the sidewalk to the end, and wave at the crossing guard.

Don’t want the school thinking I am irresponsible : )

He eventually went by himself:  from the car, through the crossing guard, into school.

So try backward chaining (where we start with mastery of the last thing,

working our way backward toward mastery of the first thing),

fade from helping at each step after getting out the front door.

Also, I have been told to get John an assigned seat on the bus in the front row(s).

As he is able to master the sensory environment,

the new everything of the school,

and learn what to absorb (and what to NOT absorb) of the bus behaviors of peers,

then we can move toward a longer tether.

For now, one step at a time.

Backward chaining toward independence

and handling natural consequences of life.

Maybe this will be useful in your child’s life forward.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

Buttons and Zippers

Building Independence in Self Care

Up to now, we have always taken the easy way out on pants, shorts, shirts and shoes.

Elastic waist pants & shorts.  Over-the-head shirts.  Velcro shoes.

Avoiding buttons, zippers, snaps and tying.

Not any more.

Here is a way that Alma, one of John’s occupational therapists, told me to help him practice big-boy waistlines.

Using an old pair of pants (or shorts), pull back all the excess fabric (actually cut it off if necessary) around a flexible box.

And I got “upgraded” pants and shirts for him.

So now John gets to practice daily the button at the top (more challenging than shirt buttons) and zipper (harder than a backpack zipper).

And John “gets” to wear a button-down-the-front shirt every day now.

He protests, and tries to negotiate “no buttons today”.

Mom isn’t listening.

These pants you see have adjustable elastic tabs & buttons on the inside waistband.

So they don’t slide down, and we can delay on the belt (the next thing to add).

Also, John is getting more agile with his backpack zipping.

He is actually using the backpack now, as if he is curious about what is in it.

This is a new thing.

We have “practiced” backpack stuff, but never before did John show any interest or self-determination about what was in it (or not).

It seems that now he cares.

We are also working on the shoe tying, a story for another time.

So, dear parents, keep raising the bar on self care.

And allow more time for them to do it themselves, right?

Peace be with us,

Gayle

Lunchbox, Backpack, Grocery Store

When He Chooses to Start Taking More Responsibility

John is using this sentence more and more:    (Thank you, dear angels)

“That’s my job, Mom.”

In many little and important ways each day.

We continue to work on John’s chores.

These tasks have recently fallen off Mom’s list and gone to his:

Packing his school snacks.

Buying special purchases at the grocery store with his debit card (special account, small amount).

Packing / unpacking and zipping / unzipping his backpack.

Seriously—John is now constantly puttering with the backpack, putting stuff in and taking it out.

For the first time in his life!

Meanwhile, I stay vigilant to anything I should quit doing for him.

The timing is important:  We can train for independence.

So when he (finally) voluntarily chooses to do anything,

Mom has to let go fast!

Motor Planning

Wish I Had More Hands, But At Least My Ticket's In My Pocket!

Zipping and unzipping suitcases and backpacks.

Stuffing things into suitcases and backpacks.

Holding awkwardly shaped things.

All are challenges that need practice to improve.

It is called motor planning.

Often comes with facial expressions of concentration.

Oh, how to use those fingers and hands as he wrestles with what he wants to do!

Mom shouldn’t help, other than show patience and offer some prompts

(starting with hand-over-hand and always moving toward less).

Here is motor planning practice in his beloved and highly-motivating world of taekwondo.

And you never know when another tool will pop up:

John has recently started talking about his ticket from school.

By now, a well-worn little chunk of paper.

First time ever he has talked about any reward system from school.

So, I ask his teacher what the story is.

It’s a school-wide reward system, recognizing students who demonstrate various aspects of character.

And John earned one.

It goes in and out of his zipper pocket, a treasured possession.

And even that is improving motor planning, right?

So, keep your eyes open for any and all efforts your child makes on doing things with his hands and fingers.

It’s all free therapy.,

Peace be with us,

Gayle

The Need For Speed

Aware Of The Joy Of Winning

Ever hear of the Pinewood Derby?   It’s famous in the world of Scouts.

Each child gets a chunk of wood, four wheels and some goofy little axle pins.

Not too many rules:  just a maximum racing weight limit.

Other than that, Scouts can do pretty much anything they want in design.

This year, John has been paying more attention.

He decorated his car with a marker.

His name and a smiley face.

Apparently enough to win “Unique Design”.

Everyone wins something, right?

And his car came in #2, overall, among about 20 Scouts.

This caused great clamor among his peers, lots of cheering and lots of heats (times they run the cars).

You can see here an elaborate track.

When they announced his name as overall #2 winner, John let out a whoop and ran toward the announcer.

Quite joyous.  Quite aware.

Self-aware of his buddies happy and shouting for him.

Self-aware that his little car had done well.

Aware.  Alive.  In this world with us.

What we parents urgently seek:  our kids being aware.

So, keep putting your child in situations where self-awareness can grow.

And it may.  Don’t give up.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

Get A Grip

Thumb is One, Says Piano Teacher

How to get him to hold a pencil the right way?

John’s extensive team is still trying to help him learn this oh-so-elusive skill.

So, as John would say, “How about this?”

Thus, we have blended piano fingering with occupational therapy with academic skills.

So, to standardize:

Thumb is 1.

Index Finger is 2.

Middle Finger is 3.

Ring Finger is 4.

Pinky is 5.

With the very faintest of prompts, I am to help John put 1 in the 1 hole.

The rest he has to figure out.

And no one says anything.

Eventually, the written number 1 will be purged from the grip.

And John finally grips a pencil in a 3-finger tripod grip.

Like the other kids.

And you know the secret, right?

Practice.  Practice.  Practice.

Try this with your kids?

Peace be with us,

And thanks, Alma Liotta!

Gayle

 

 

And Then He Was Gone.

Mom Outsmarts Herself

On Christmas day,  I let John have a very long leash:  Walking the dog.

But I forgot something hugely important.

I forgot my words.

And so, I ended up seeking help from a 911 dispatcher (she was very kind) and seven (7) deputies in a local search.

It started when Mom handed John the leash with a dog attached, and said to take Spike for a walk.

It was a beautiful day, and he needed a brain re-boot from too much holiday TV.

I watched them meander down the street and turn right, out of sight.

I then realized I hadn’t actually said out-loud to come back at the stop sign.

(Also John didn’t say, “Mom, there is a secret path I know of, and I am coming home that way.”)

John has become an excellent boomerang, and so I waited a few moments.

Still nothing back in sight.

So I tried to catch up with them.

In my pajamas and bare feet.

And failed.

In a very visible-to-the-neighborhood way.

About ten minutes later, I decided I needed professional help.

My bellowing, my questioning of everyone I met, my searching up and down the streets hadn’t found them.

I came back to the house to use the toilet and check in with my teenager.

Still with the dispatcher on the phone.

I opened the door, and found John and Spike back safely at home.

John was playing on the Nintendo, like any other day.

So what did I learn?   That there was a secret path in the neighborhood I didn’t know about.

And now I do.

My teenager had taught John how to make a lap with Spike and how to come back home that way.

And that is what he had done.

Like a big boy.

Like a neuro-typical approach to a chore.

Seems I was was the only one who didn’t know of the secret path.

We thanked all the professionals for their rapid response.

Then we walked the same circuit together, with John and Spike as leaders.

Again, what did I learn?

Say things out loud.  Get a plan for meeting up, if we are going to allow for an independent journey.

(I do this when we part for public bathrooms or shopping in the store.  I just forgot that day with the dog.)

The sheriff who stopped by the house suggested a wristwatch tracking device or sending a cell phone with him.

All good ideas to check into.

And we shall continue to practice with this walking-the-dog-independence, with all the risks it brings.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

Jumping Drills, Jumping Jacks, Jumping Anything

Ways To Build A Critically Important Two-Footed Launch

Call it cognitive overload.

Call it dendrite building.

The drill is to jump as far as you can, like a kangaroo.

Then do it again.

Until you get to the end.

Turn around and do it back.

jumping1

Ah yes, jumping.

Here is John trying to be a kangaroo, in a taekwondo warmup exercise.

Jumping jacks or high-knees running in place are equally challenging (and entertaining to watch).

A good 2-footed launch.

Like a 2-year old has.

Except John was easily 6 before he could get both feet off the ground together.

And back then we had to practice a long time, jumping on a large white exercise ball, to gain the underlying skills.

We also embedded social engagement, expressive speech, and shameless use of a preferred stim.

This is how Rosemary taught me, and how you can do it at home with your child:

Wedge with your knee a big exercise ball into a corner.

Like a small domed wobbly trampoline.

Tell your child to climb up on top, only supported (barely) by your two index fingers

(stick out only your index finger on each hand and let him hold on).

Make him count 20 good jumps, launching from both feet simultaneously.

At the same time, he counts each jump out loud, while you look each other in the eyes.

2-footed-jump

After 20, he gets to do one thing he loves (like open a cabinet door).

After another 20, he gets to close that door.

Eventually your child will build the muscles, the dendrites and the confidence to take both feet off the ground at the same time.

Because now they know where their body is and where the floor is.

Jumping, in all its forms, builds many forms of body confidence.

It also naturally shifts the child forward into fine motor and oral motor skills.

So, try this at home with your kids?

You will be helping them move forward in their learning.

At a very reasonable cost.

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

Body Back, Body Front. Body Down, Body Up.

Helping a Child To Swing and Steer a Nintendo

Alma, John’s occupational therapist, explained it this way:

John’s ability to pump himself while swinging needs some help.

So use new words about the body, not just the feet kicking.

Forget “Pump your feet, John!”    Didn’t work.

Instead, try, “Body Back” (to go forward), “Body Front” (to go backward).

or “Body Down” (to go forward), “Body Up” (to go backward).

Whole-body, physical-moving leaning and learning, using new words to overcome inertia.

Try this with your child who keeps asking you to push them on the swing.

Also, I have noticed John is now leaning his body to keep Mario and Luigi on the road.

Steering to the left

Turning Left

John has figured out how to use our old Nintendo DS (the original handheld).

Not the Sports Wii while standing up.

Instead, when he is sitting.

This skill has been a long time in coming.

And I have not been able to help him, because I don’t understand the machine controls.

Besides, it is best that he (with peer modeling) figured it out by himself, right?

John is now full body into the road maneuvering, with those glazed-over eyeballs.

I don’t mind that he’s super-absorbed into the game, because that’s what other kids do, right?

That is the major litmus test I use.

If other (neuro-typical) kids do it, he gets to do it.

Most of the time.

And I am surely going to count all this physical movement as therapy.

Steering to the right

Turning Right

So, see if these ideas help your child?

Peace be with us,

Gayle

 

“What Are You Doing?!”

Extrinsic Incentives

incentive4 incentive3Sometimes removing something beloved works wonders for John.

This type of motivation is extrinsic, from the outside.

Not as stellar as intrinsic (motivation from within—even when no one is looking).incentive1

So, sadly, when all else fails, when my kind, repeated, verbal requests are ignored,

I pick up the Wii remote and click it.

Off.

Done with requests, threats, words.

When the protests rise:  “What are you doing?!” (said by John with either a smirk or fake indignation),

he then hears, “you can earn it back.  Next time.”

(Something short like that.)

He knows he is manipulating me, and won’t respect me or my words if I fail to give him what he expects.

He now expects me to keep my word.

I have heard moms say, “I love you too much to argue with you.”incentive

Same concept here.

Another top beloved thing John can lose:  the taped-on taekwondo stripes on his belt.

Like the one you see here in the photo that used to be such a stripe.

His instructor, Ms. Coleman, awesome black belt mom that she is, has said if it becomes necessary, then rip it off the belt.

No words of  bargaining or re-negotiation.

Off.

Done.

Gone.

Then, a quick re-direct back to business, whatever that is.

Try this with your kids?   It is utterly golden at our home.

Peace be with us,

Gayle