Learning About Friendship by KI.I. Al-Ghani

This book concentrates on children with Asperger Syndrome and High-functioning Autism, and is designed to address many of the difficulties these children experience with friendships.  However, even if your [and my] children have not yet reached this stage of development, the book can still be a useful tool.

The book covers ten different scenarios.  Each chapter starts with an explanation to the adult, parent or carer and raises awareness of some of the common pitfalls.  This is then followed by a social story to illustrate how they can be overcome.  I enjoyed both aspects of these scenarios for several reasons.

Firstly, the explanation told me that the writer knows what she is talking about rather than preaching from on high.

Secondly, it is apparent from the text that her intuitive approach works–she gets the quirks and triggers–in that although you are working on one particular skill, there can be lots of other issues that interfere with the main plan.

Thirdly, she reveals parental errors in a kindly manner.  We know our mistakes, or some of them at least, and she understands why we made them.  To illustrate:- a child has an obsession and the parent literally buys into it.  We end up buying far too many dinosaurs, Thomas paraphernalia and Legos, because as she says, and I quote “a special interest may have been just the key needed to unlock the delay seen in the acquisition of speech and language.”

Fourthly, she used our childrens’ most common obsessions in the social stories – which is a great short cut for us parents as we don’t need to re-write them to fit our children – thank you!

Fifthly, [and this is one of the main reasons I would recommend this book] although as I already said, it’s designed for high functioning and asperger children, many of the social stories are easily adaptable for other children.  Here, you may be doubtful, but I am sure I can convince you by examining one story in particular, the second one- Spit and Chase.  This tackles the issue of children using inappropriate strategies to get attention.  It addresses the underlying behavior which results in spitting.  Here, the children involved are able to speak, but it could just as easily be the case if they were non-verbal.  It’s easier to unscramble the cause of a particular behavior if a child can communicate with words, but it’s not insurmountable if there is no speech.

We may think that some children may not be ready for such material but the underlying tenants described in the social stories are certainly applicable to both of mine, if in a somewhat simplified format and has certainly helped me formulate an approach for the future.

As a final note it would be remiss of me not to mention the illustrations that accompany the stories which are clear cut, black and white line drawings – perfect for my guys who always [used to] had a hard time with photographs of real people and color pictures.  They’re a wonderful and useful addition that complement the stories rather than detract from them.  It wasn’t so long ago that there were whole shelves of books which were off-limits because the pictures triggered all kinds of unpleasantness.

You can see more of K.I. Al-Ghani’s work over here at Kay’s slot at Jacketflap.

And you can buy your own copy from JKP or Amazon as well as her other books.

And lastly, for any of you budding authors out there, you might find it helpful to check out Marni Wandner’s Sneak Attack site which helps people promote their cause be that in the performing arts or other endeavors, such as book promotions, which I came across having read Monica Holloway’s Cowboy and Wills, which I’ll be reviewing shortly, a jolly good read.  And Marni Wandner – she’s a real ‘out of the box’ thinker.


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Tidal Waves

Laundry, laundry everywhere and not such much as a pair of clean undies in sight. It would appear that the world has conspired against me. Soon a blanket ‘no clothes’ policy will be mandatory.

It all starts off well and good, but during the course of the day the full hampers are emptied, although how they managed to dump it all on the Christmas tree I have no idea. The hampers become boats as they sail away down the river or careen down the stairs.

My daughter and friends return from their adventure, stained with oil and mud splatters.

Quite soon I shall have to adopt Nonna’s campaign. Nonna shares her room with an oversized fus ball table. Her closet and hangers are bare. Instead the handles of the game are draped with her clothing, categorized for ease of use:- worn once for a few seconds which therefore does not need washing, worn for an hour, worn for less than half a day, worn for an indeterminate period of time that we can’t quite remember now, but better err on the side of caution. Quite bewildering but since it’s a system that minimizes laundry I’m suddenly all for it.

My sons vie over certain items of clothing that most resemble a Mario costume. As food consumption increases, diets broaden but fine motor skills lag behind, we find that clothing stained and soggy is abandoned after each meal, three times a day or possibly five, if snacks are unduly sloppy.

I blame the chef myself.

I stack the laundry in heaps piled high on the drier, in a weak attempt to foil those who would do me wrong. After less than a single day, it is an unwieldy health hazard that threatens to unravel and bury a victim in an avalanche of clothing. I lay the white cotton shirts on the top, delicately, because I am allergic to ironing, shut the door and set about other equally pressing tasks such as what to cook for ten for dinner and the exact location of the toilet plunger.

Fortune smiles upon me such that I find both the nak.ed brothers and the toilet plunger in the same location, the stairs. I point out that “Daleks” always wear their outer casing for protection, as a toilet plunger is generally considered inadequate when it comes to world domination and the elimination of the human race. I confirm that to the best of my knowledge, “Daleks’” preferred diet definitely includes a large proportion of vegetables.

I leave them to play and stomp back downstairs to hunt down a suitable, but nonetheless handy, hiding place for the most important toilet tool I possess. Is there anyone else on the planet that uses one every day? Who else has to rescue so many foreign objects from an innocent and really quite dull toilet bowl? Why is the sink so much less attractive than a toilet, especially when it is set at a far more convenient height?

What can I cook to go with the vegetables?

As I pass through the dimly lit utility room, I notice something blinky and sparkly high up on the teetering tower of neatly folded laundry. As I reach up to dislodge the fur ball cat from his new warm nest, he decides to abandon ship with full force, sending the mountain cascading down upon me.

Tonight’s menu:-
Vegetables and Fried Feline fritters.


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Social Stories – a potential pet pitfall

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My daughter has returned from a visit to family in Australia. During that time she sent the children a booklet after her experience with family, friends, horses and dogs. It’s a story that they can relate to and thoroughly enjoyed when it arrived through the mail. Some may consider it a shaggy dog story or a morality play, but from my tree hugging, ‘electronic’ hating daughter, it certainly made me giggle.

I’m not sure if the writing is legible but I think the pictures more or less tell the whole story.

[I hope!]


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Baby Steps

We decide to debate the topic.

Are they ready?

Is this doable?

If not, how can we wangle the odds in our favour?

It's time for the school fund raiser, the Walkathon, where the children walk around the field for as many laps as they can manage. Each year we have attended. The first year we just attended and did not participate. The following year we attended and participated, in a manner of speaking. This year, it may be time to step up to the plate and tackle the sponsorship form.

We are already practicing our 'trick or treat' skills through modeling, social stories and kinesthetic learning. This would tie in quite well. Go to someone's house. Avoid being squished by traffic. Use path. Do not walk on grass or flowerbeds. Avoid hedges, think of them as walls not hurdles. Find and ring bell, once. Wait for homeowner. Greet homeowner. Do not run into homeowner's house. Verbalize request. Do not whisper or bellow. Stay on topic no matter how fascinating the door mat or light switches. Remember, frantic movement and speech confuses your listener. Do not talk to the wall, talk to the person. Listen to their answer.

“Maybe we should take them one at a time, that would help?”
“Yes, but there's also safety in numbers and it would muddle the ‘trick or treat’ practice. They're working much better as a team, one fills in the blanks for the other, as it were.”
“So we think we're ready?”
“Definitely.”
“So who will we visit?”
“Just the two houses.” Two tries. Two attempts. “Opposite and to the right only.”
“Deal. You'll phone them first to warn them that we're coming?”
“On the list.”
“How long is this evolution going to take?”
“Ooo 30 minutes?” 50 paces to each house.
“30 minutes for each house?”
“Approximately, we have to allow for the unknown.”
“The unknowable.”
“I don't need to remind you about clipboards and pens do I?”
“Huh! Far too easy, I can take that in my stride.”

New post up on “Alien.”


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ABA and aversions

A few years back junior had a strong aversion to water. This was odd for someone who also had a compulsion to be squeaky clean. I might describe it as an aversion to being wet, but that would not be accurate. If a droplet of water fell on his clothing, he would not be 'wet,' but he would be naked in a nano second. Taking your clothes off regardless of your whereabouts, might be mildly amusing if you are very small, a toddler say. It is less funny, depending upon which continent you are on, when you are bigger, in a public forum and in a cold season.

When we moved to this house, junior had yet to be born. The one thing I wanted in a home was a big kitchen. The one thing I did not want was a swimming pool. At home only millionaires and movie stars have pools. My hormone filled, pregnant brain knew that a pool was a bad idea. How would I clean it? What if it leaked? What if somebody drowned?

Two or three summers ago we discovered that the pool was 'safe' for junior. He wouldn't go near it. This was consistent with his aversion to water. By chance, midway into the season, he discovered that when the water reached 98 degrees, the pool was fun. It was not the water itself, but the temperature that he objected to. This was confirmed when September came and the temperature dipped below the critical 98 degrees. That was it, he reverted to type and nothing would persuade him to put so much as a toe in it. During this time, swimming sessions were combined with a shower to clean off on completion. Dressing thereafter was pretty optional. All my children were extremely clean for several months.
At the end of the first week of September, it occurred to me, that junior hadn't been near a shower or bath for 7 days. He would not use the shower in the house and had forgotten that once upon a time, he enjoyed baths. By the end of the second week I was getting worried. He was getting smelly. I asked spouse to help, that perhaps they could have a shower together, as slippery small people require super human strength. It was not a successful exercise for anyone. After the 'shower' he did have a few damp bits but this merely served to redistribute the dirt and add a considerable quantity of snot to his person as he howled in rage and frustration.
At that time he was only at 'school' for two and a half hours a day, which gave me lots of time to strategize. We adopted a different approach. A very, very slow approach. This might be more accurately described as 'de-sensitization.' He was still 'Thomas' obsessed at the time. We made the unprecedented step of playing with Thomas upstairs, on the landing for 20 minute periods. Gradually we edged closer to the bathroom. Once in the bathroom at the furthest distance from the bath itself, we tip toed closer. When the other's were bathing, we would play with Thomas close by on the carpet, which meant that he observed the 'fun' they were having, and was occasionally splashed. Day after day, week after week.
We played Thomas in the empty bath, touched the taps, rolled the wheels along the side. We had other preferred activities in the bath; snacks, reading and drawing with markers. It took forever. Each progressive step caused meltdowns and genuine angst for everyone. He was so filthy you could have chipped off a crust of dirt with a chisel. By Christmas, we got there, toe by toe, inch by inch.

What did I learn from this experience? That I left it too long to start. I should have recognized the problem immediately, not let things lag for a week or two hoping that it would go away. My lack of action merely made the aversion become truly entrenched. Even now I need to remind myself that even though 'water' is part of the problem, it is coupled with the 'temperature problem.' I know that they do not have a 'will of iron,' instead they have an 'aversion.'

Aversions cannot be tricked, they are real. I also know that whilst we are in steady state as far as bathing is concerned at the moment, that the whole exercise is likely to be repeated, when we next experience change, although hopefully the transition will be swifter. That's why it's really called ABA; from A to B, and then back to A again six months later, or sooner if you're very unlucky or careless like me.

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