Tag Archives | speaking

The most important Autism social network

The dinner table.

What? You were expecting some enlightening links to sites that you finally talk to people that would finally have all the answers you were looking for?

Now, don’t get me wrong.. the advice, support and stories that I do find among the internet’s social networks have been invaluable. I’ve learned so much.

However, the absolute best place to learn, to be entertained and to get real world experience is right at my supper table.

How Dinner Used to Be

For the longest time, Cameron would be a passing visitor to the dinner table. He’d take a bit and then run off to play, or stim, or just be by himself… then he’d return for another bite and be gone again.

Many in our family questioned whether it was wise to allow that, or just generally asked why it was that way… for us, we were just happy that he would eat. If it meant taking a little extra time for him to play, so be it.

As he got a little older, his speech developed and so did his social skills. He was in school, his little brother was talking and wanting someone to play with… soon, Cameron started to enjoy being at the table dinner table.

Dinner Time is Family Time

These days, dinner usually consists of my wife and I telling Cameron to stop repeating the same stories over and over again, or the new song he learned or something of that nature and to just eat… it’s a good problem to have.

We’re often told stories about the new video game they have at school, or a new story they were told, or a new movie he saw, or something funny that one of the other children said… none of it really seems to involve actual involvement with the other kids, just what they did.

But you know what? It’ll come.

It took this long for him to actually sit down and speak to us. We can wait a little longer.

And even if it never comes, even if he never does tell us about all the things he actually does with friends…. that’s ok too.

I learn far more from listening to him than I do from any resources online. I am entertained by him far more than I am from any videos or stories I read online.

I’ll never take these dinners for granted.

One day they will fade away into memory, as my boys get older and want to be elsewhere… and that’s ok also.

That’s the great thing about social networks. They grow, they shrink, they’re always changing.

But they’re always supportive, educational, sharing and most of all, they’re always there for you.

Before you leave, let me share with you what happened during the last social gathering around the dinner table. Enjoy.

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What you say and what they hear may not be the same thing

I’ve noticed for quite some time how my children often repeat what they hear in a movie or television show but what they say isn’t an exactly copy.

For example, in the Cars movie, one character says “What? did I forget to wipe my mud flaps?” to which Cameron immediately parrots “I think I wipe my butt wraps”.

Another instance is in a Mario Brothers game where Mario cries “help’a me!” and Cameron laughs and says “trampoline!”

There are many many examples I could give. This has been a common thing for him all of his speaking life but I never saw much point in blogging about until a mom on Twitter (@Calormom)¬†commented that her son never answered the question “How was school today?”

Unfortunately, I don’t talk to very many parents that get an answer to the school question. Not very many children with Autism ever answer it.

This mom said that she had asked a teacher from the school and the teacher said that it’s likely that her son doesn’t understand her, or the question or just doesn’t want to answer.

This got her thinking and rather sad that her son doesn’t understand her. Understandable… I felt the same when Cameron would never tell me about his day too.

Miscommunication

Did he say what he heard?

Keeping in mind his strange inability to say what he had just heard from the television, I got to wondering what he might be hearing when I am talking to him. If I talk at regular speed about mud flaps… is he hearing “butt wraps” ??

Here is what I did when I realized that he wasn’t properly interpreting what it was that I was saying.

  1. Consciously slow down your talking.
    In the day and age of instant messaging, texting and so forth, we have even begun to talk faster without realizing it. Many of us really aren’t that good at it either. We slur things together, we abbreviate words we shouldn’t and we mumble stuff out more often than we realize.
  2. This brings me to speaking more clearly.
    I’ve had a few family members tell me how “funny” or “strange” I sound sometimes… which is sad because I’m sounding the way that an English speaking person is supposed to sound. However, our language has become so perverted these days, in the words we use and the way we say them, that people look at you strange for speaking properly and clearly.
    So be it, let them laugh… your child will understand you better… that is what is important.
  3. Try rephrasing the question.
    Children only have a limited vocabulary as it is, so don’t expect them to understand every word you say… and certainly combinations of words might throw them off as well even if they know what the words mean individually. If you ask what they did in class, but they only know of the place they go to as school… they might not have an answer for you.
  4. Talking about school, use words/phrases that the school uses.
    My son’s class has story time, but they don’t call it story time. They call it circle time. If I ask him what they did for story time, he will have no idea what I’m talking about. If he’s feeling confident, he may tell me that he didn’t have story time… even though he did have circle time.. but most likely, especially having Autism, that confidence will not be there and he’ll just have no answer for me at all.
  5. Emotions are an easier memory to recall than facts.
    My son has come a long way so now he can recall facts much better than when we first started but consider this… he can tell me every detail about what happened in a story or movie at school, but can’t tell me what the title was or who was in it.
    The reason he can do that is that he’s mostly recalling his emotions… how exciting the story was, how sad it was, how happy he felt… and those emotions have trapped the story within them.
    When Cameron first began talking, I would ask what story his teacher read, or what movie he saw and be met with a blank look.. ¬†he didn’t feel comfortable telling me that he didn’t know. However, if I asked if they had a good story for circle time, he’d answer yes or no. From there, I could prod for more information because I had him talking.
  6. Like all things, start slow.
    “How was your day?” is far too broad and confusing. Start with something like “did you do numbers today?” or “did you eat your lunch?”
    Yes or No questions are a great place to start and as I said, use words/phrases the child already knows. The less confused they are, the more likely they’ll talk. In time they’ll become accustomed to the questions and the type of information that you’re looking for. That’s when your child will start to catch on that “how was your day?” is just another way of asking all of those questions at once… but they have to work their way up to that point.

Don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t understand you… they haven’t understood you for their entire lives, but they’re learning. This is no different. Also, it happens with all children, just maybe not to the same extent as a child with Autism.

You just have to keep all of these things in your mind, remember not to get frustrated when you don’t get an answer and to understand what may be going through your child’s mind.

Your child loves you and does want to tell you… they just need a little help from you.

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Bad Behavior You Say? I Say, Be Thankful!

Recently my son has taken to calling other people names, this type of behaviour is rather normal for all children really. They pick it up from movies, television, other children and really, anyone. Ever called your table stupid after you stubbed your toe on it? Children pick it up quickly.

We’ve tried to keep on top of that with Cameron, explaining to him how it is rude, not nice, hurts people… and so forth. He understands but it’s an emotional response so really, it’s just a matter of getting through it with him. In time, he’ll dial it down, I’m sure… I hope.

We moved a couple of months ago and so he was put onto a new bus, he rides on a special needs bus with a bus driver and another lady who talks to them, tells stories and so forth… a helper. So these were new people to Cameron added on to the fact that he didn’t want to be on a bus that was different from what he had come to accept as part of his regular routine.

As part of that old routine, Cameron used to fall asleep on the bus ride home from school, recharging his batteries for more play time at home, but on this new bus, the helper lady constantly tried to talk to him, interact with him… ultimately, annoy him.

The tension escalated until Cameron began calling her names, such as stupid and dumb… and screaming at her. The bus driver was not happy and told us, the parents, before going to file a report. Three reports and he is removed from the bus.

I can not begin to explain my confusion and frustration. This is a school bus for special needs children and him calling the lady stupid will have him removed?? I understand that it’s not exactly great that he does it but he’s a 4 year old with Autism.

I took a moment with the bus driver and explained myself, Cameron and the situation… it went something like this:

“Look, I’m not happy that he’s calling anyone names or saying hurtful things, but you have to understand that 1.5 years ago, he had yet to say his first word and we were told that he might not say anything for years. On top of that, many Autistic children are outright violent, even if not provoked. So yes, I wish he didn’t say mean things but to be speaking at all, and to be lashing out with words rather than fists… it’s a huge blessing to me! I still need to learn how to help him reel the things he says back in but in all honesty, I’m thankful that he’s capable of expressing himself.

I will work with him on stopping the name calling, but in the meantime, just leave him alone. If you continue to get in his space when all he wants to do is zone out, or sleep, then I can’t really blame him for lashing out like that. Just don’t give him any attention at that time of day unless he asks you and I’m sure you’ll be just fine.”

And sure enough, I haven’t heard a word about it again since. But that doesn’t mean I won’t bring it up again. This is supposed to be an environment that is supportive and understanding.. that little blue wheelchair symbol is on the side of the bus for a reason. I understand that they may not have formal training because they’re just driving a bus but that’s still no excuse.

If my child starts hitting you in the face while you’re trying to drive the bus, then yes… we have a problem. But if you get in his face and he calls you a name, I’m sorry, but I can’t be anything but thankful that he’s at the level he is. Because the alternative is a whole lot scarier.

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