It is mentioned over and over again that one of the amazing characteristics of ASD children (and adults) is their true nature to latch onto a topic or hobby and emerge themselves in it becoming a subject matter expert. Sometimes they even mature into self taught masters of a skill or talent. Everyone needs to start somewhere. We, as parents, can choose to simply admire their capabilities or engage them in them. Personally, there has been a time with each child that I find it hard to relate to them on a personal and most basic level. I admit, I still have this issue with Diva. With Bug, he is a boy, and it was harder for me to relate to him based on gender and the ASD. With Diva, it is the ASD and just her. I struggle every day to figure out a way to connect with her. So I took a step back and looked at what I did to forge a bond, that I felt should have been natural, but was forced with Bug.
I remember watching him one day. I wanted to sit next to him so bad and play what he was playing. I wanted to talk to him about dragons and ninjas and simply have a conversation with him. However, ever time I walked near him and his playing field, he would yell at me and tell me to go away. He wanted nothing to do with me; I didn’t interest him. And due to the ASD, I never would. But I love him. I wanted to be accepted into his world. So I sat and thought. Until I realized I needed to interest him. I didn’t need him to need me, I needed him to want me. I think as parents we all want that feeling of being wanted. You need air to survive, but you want the things that make you happiest in life. I needed my son to want me. So, I found a way into his world.
Last week, Diva came into our den and sat next to me staring at my hands as I did some cross stitching and then some hand embroidery work. She sat and sat, watching my hands move the needle and floss in and out. Eventually, she ran off. A little while later she came back to show me something. She had found the crayons and paper and drew, what to her, was a copy of the project I was working on. So then I knew a way into her world.
Like her mama, she loves arts and crafts. She draws dozens of pictures every day, staples stickers to every flat surface she can find (thank you Goo Gone!) and will literally fall apart if she sees one of her masterpieces fall into the trash. The next day I went to Wal-Mart and walked into the joke of a craft section. Picked up supplies and brought them home. Super Bowl Sunday we sat down on the couch in the den together and worked on her first cross stitch. It wasn’t easy, but she did a few stitches. As soon as I saw her getting frustrated, I told her to go watch TV for a minute. So off and on we worked on a few stitches at a time. At this rate I think we might finish the one simple heart in a year. However, everyday since she has asked to work on it; if only for a few minutes and stitches at a time.
Within the next few weeks Bug will go back to school to start kindergarten testing. I am buying school supplies, stocking up on new clothes and plan on taking him shopping for a new lunch box of his choosing later this week. Having already completed Jr. kindergarten last year; I do expect this year to be easy for him. But instead of focusing on his grades and report cards; I’ve decided to focus on his goals. Bug is a smart little guy. His vocabulary seems to be building every day. But like him; last year was a learning experience for us all.
I came across this article a while back which taught me a new lesson about being a ASD parent. Its not the grades that matter at this point; its the goals. Lisa Quinones-Fontanez writes about how we should not put to much worth into report cards for our special needs children, but put stock in the environment and progress they are making.
My once mellow meek little boy was coming home on “yellows” and “reds” in his daily reports. Messages from the teacher always consisted of the words “rolling”, “floor”, and “lack of focus”. Well, that pretty much sums up most children with ASD. Short term attention spans, constantly moving bodies and a lack of focus. What I didn’t understand was why she kept making negative comments about it. He is diagnosed ASD and with that diagnosis is the understanding that he probably has some sort of attention deficient disorder (he will soon be tested to confirm). So instead of complaining about his behavior, why didn’t she help fix it?
It was only around spring break last year when I learned she was not following his IEP. Furthermore, his behavior was so bad it was effecting his grades and effecting his goals. “R” for regression started to show up on his progress reports and by the last day of school I was looking at a child that had made no noticeable progress in his academics the entire year. At his last IEP meeting we made the unanimous decision he needed to repeat kindergarten.
I think of kindergarten (and Jr. kindergarten) as a learning ground, not for math and science; but for learning how life works. You learn to wait your turn in line, how to share, how to take turns, and even how to ask for help. Progress shouldn’t be measured in A’s, B’s and C’s; it should be measured in “Mastered”, “Emerging” and “Progress”.
My son texted the last line. Hubs told him what to write and Bug did it. Why did it make my heart swell? Bug has been having some hard times in school. Due to his behavior he has missed some learning building blocks including reading and has regressed some on letter recognition and letter sounds. Hubs ask Bug to read back what he wrote and he did. Hubs said he was so proud.
Bug is learning all about Earth at school. Everyday he tells me interesting facts he learns, points to oceans and countries. He brings home art work and tells me about how bees like flowers. He even showed me his amazing paper he wrote. It had a drawing of the Earth and written under his drawing he wrote “my wish is for people to stop littering so the Earth is beautiful”. I love it and can’t wait to put it in his memory box.
Bug got green that day at school and was rewarded with a sucker. So imagine my shock when after he finished eating it on the walk home, he threw it on the ground AFTER he asked me what to do with it! Gah! Did this boy not learn anything?!
So, the rest of the way home I made him pick up every single price of trash he found. Lesson learned? Probably not this time.