Multi-tasking Teen Chores with technology on the side

Whatever works for task completion: Kindles, Tablet, reading!

multi-tasking teen


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New Year Resolutions–make your own breakfasts

New Year 2013

By the by, in case you’re in need of a light read, one of my short stories has just been published by Kind of a Hurricane Press in an anthology called “In Gilded Frame,” and is available to download or purchase a hard copy from their website.

It references this picture, Danse Macabre by Michael Wolgemut.


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Autism – tip of the day [Head, shoulders, knees and toes]

Here is a quick tip that we still use with the children to help sequence them through those early morning steps in readiness for school.

Quite often, there are not many words available first thing in the morning but there are also a great many tasks that need to be performed in a timely manner. My boys are visual learners but also respond very well to kinesthetic cues, it’s almost as if that first movement kick starts their executive function into action. It’s another layer of scaffolding or support to help them achieve and experience success.

We have four hurdles to overcome:- brush hair, clean teeth, put on shoes and socks.

1. Gain your child’s attention, preferably with body orientation rather than eye contact.
2. Ask that they join in and copy your body movements.
3. Ask them to confirm that they’re going to play along, this need only be a nod or gesture to indicate willingness to participate
4. Exaggerate each gesture but keep the movements simple.
5. Say, ‘look at your body’:- self awareness is often a challenge. It is as if their bodies are separate entities from the self. Sometimes by actually looking at themselves, they will also notice something else amiss, such as back to front T-shirts or trousers. If not, this is an ideal time to draw their attention to the glitch.
6. Place both your hands on your head and say the word hair or head depending upon which word they are familiar with.
7. Then point to your mouth, smile and bare your teeth to say ‘teeth.’
8. Bend down and touch your feet to say ‘shoes’ or ‘shoes and socks.’
9. Repeat all the gestures but this time link the word to a number, 1,2,3 and 4.
10. Ask your child which one he wants to do first, 1,2,3 or 4, or hair/teeth/ shoes or socks. [or a,b,c and d for those alpha fans]
11. The element of choice to these ‘chores,’ gives control back to your child and may help encourage co-operation or at the very least, a willingness to have a go.
12. As they move off to start the first chore, be sure to praise verbally, or with a gesture such as a high five, or whatever physical confirmation they prefer. In our case, one cannot be touched and the other cannot be praised, but we all adapt to our own individual requirements.

Obviously this could be adapted to your particular morning hic-cups, the bits where they get stuck. Although we still use the PECs boards to help sequence, somehow the physical movements are yet another shortcut to smooth those transitions. This is a further step forward than a couple of years ago when they needed individual sequencing charts for each separate chore / task which were broken down into their own sequential steps. These can prove helpful with task completion. E.g. once they have brushed their teeth they move a tooth brush icon from one side of the chart [to do side] to the other side of the chart, [done side] These can be individually tailored to your child’s area of interest such as Pokemon, Thomas or dinosaur icons. Icons are particularly handy for those children who do not like to hold pencils to mark completion or have other fine motor issues.

I’m all for encouraging independence but some children need the scaffolding to remain in place for those difficult moments.

Lastly, a note to anyone struggling with the basics.

If you believe that such simple prompts are well out of your league, I can assure you that I would have felt similarly a few years ago. Back then, we too were struggling with the basics of dressing, toileting and feeding. If I had read a post similar to this, I would have thrown up my hands in horror. However, I wanted to share this to encourage and reassure, that all our children keep growing and changing in tiny huge ways.

We will all get there in the end.

This site “Do2Learn” may help, I hope.


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The Basic principles of parenting

You only need to know one. The one principle that all parents need to know and apply is 'consistency.' It's better for the parent, it's perfect for the child. If the child happens to be autistic, then woe betide the parent that quibbles with the undoubted soundness of this GOLDEN rule. The parent of the autistic child must apply the same consistent rules to that child several thousands of times, preferably in the same manner to avoid confusion. [most probably of the parent] Should you, the parent, be tempted to deviate from this course, then you only have yourself to blame when the whole house of cards comes crashing down upon your head. I know more than a few parents have difficulty with this first and most basic of steps, but it behoves us all to heed these words well. There can be no back sliding, no namby pamby, weak willed spineless parenting styles.

I return home with renewed fortitude to conquer rather than tread water. I have envelops to push, campaigns to promote and the determination to follow through even if it kills me. Oh yes, there is nothing like a 7 minute emergency trip for milk at 7/11 [translation = almost the corner shop] to recharge a parent's batteries.

I step inside just in time to catch the youngest speech delayed one as he scampers out of the bathroom, naked. Yes, naked again due in part to “tactile defensiveness,” which in turn, is part of the “sensory integration” issue, because few things are simple or straight forward any more. This is a task, that we seem to have been working on forever. Apart from the speech delay, and the use of language, for current purposes it is a three part ‘problem’: “sequencing,” [going through the same steps in the right order] “ideation,” [being able to visualise the end result] and of course, my friend and yours, “task completion,” [getting to the end.]

I hold him gently by the forearms, turn his body towards mine, find my cheerleader voice, pause, to ensure that I have his attention and say the same words that I have already said too many times to mention today, “clothes on dear!” He sighs as his body slumps, chin to chest, so that he is better able to gird his bare loins and growl. Suddenly his body snaps to attention, the soles of his feet stomp on the floor as he says, with rigid arms and spiked fingers, “ya know, you need to use dah different words! Dowz words are soooooo boring.” His chest pops out towards my chin, just enough to tip me over backwards onto my bottom. In this position I am better able to watch him depart, squealing, “run, run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread man!”

It’s a shame that we can’t use the American equivalent, but of course it doesn’t rhyme. Nevermind either version is probably a good quote for a neophobic.


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Handy Hint [possibly] no 3

I’d like to give credit where it’s due, but I have a nasty habit of ‘speed reading’ for whatever is the current crisis. So unfortunately I will need to track it down later. Suffice to say, that somewhere or other, I found a new route to try and achieve a couple of moderate goals. [translation = at the time they seemed impossible]

Then, the boys did not ‘play.’ They were also incapable of doing anything without prompting. An example of this would be when Senior was being tested. He was given a school worksheet to complete that was well within his capabilities, but no pencil with which to write. He sat in front of the table looking at the worksheet but did not ask for a pencil. [I don’t know if he could have asked specifically for a pencil back then, but he might have asked for help or intimated that there was a problem, even if that manifested itself in a meltdown.] Similarly, if he ever finished a task he wouldn’t initiate the next step, ‘tell’ you that he was finished, merely remain static, roll off his chair or wander off.

Had I been at home I would have prompted him, but the ‘tester’ had given me strict orders not to interfere. It made me realise, reluctantly, how I constantly intercepted, coached and tried to anticipate and forestall stumbling blocks. Instead of using those opportunities to seduce them into speech, I was making the situation worse. I had chosen the ‘meltdown free’ easy road. I stole their motivation to speak. Why should they bother when they could get what they wanted faster by other means?

In addition, choices, regardless of whether they were preferred or loathed, were a long standing obstacle. Lastly, independence, even for a few minutes was well out of reach.

So many of the recommended therapies, be that RDI, floortime or whatever, had an built in flaw, namely, the one-on-one. One of me, two of them. I did do it, but it was unsatisfactory because somebody was always left to ‘float.’ That was the nub of the difficulty. I was not able to find anything constructive to occupy anyone independently. If I spent 45 minutes with one, rolling a ball back and forth on the floor between us, engaged, with giggles, some words and prompts, I knew that somebody else was busy examining air particles in the family room.

At that time we used PECS. I made a lot of them myself because the standard ones often provoked meltdowns because they had some ‘fault.’ I bought a binder for each of them and put half a dozen stiff pages in each. [They found it difficult to turn ‘thin’ pages] I velcroed two PECS to each page. They could choose between two ‘toys/ activities’ – lacing cards [tough on the fine motor] or magnet play. I made sure that they were on different ‘tasks’ from each other to avoid meltdowns. Each page presented two choices, so I could engineer who was doing what, stagger the difficulty level / hatefulness.

The last page showed that it was snack time. They only need spend a few minutes on each page, but in theory, they would be ‘done’ after 20 minutes to half an hour. A visual timer helped with this so they could see that it wouldn’t be forever.

I can’t remember now how many months it took before we were headed in the right direction, but gradually they managed to at least attempt the tasks. As they progressed, I added little ‘conversation’ bubbles to help prompt them to make comments, both to me – ‘I’m done’ and to each other, ‘great job.’ I know how artificial it sounds, and it was [is] but imposing structure on their chaotic world helped calm them considerably. They knew that once they had done their ‘work’ they would be given time to revert to their preferred perseverances, a trade off.

I would mention in passing, that whilst I complain and moan about the frequent, explosive tantrums that they both have, it is only in the last couple of years that I’ve realized that I was the one who taught them to do this. My reaction to the meltdowns was to placate, offer solutions, fix it and fast. Every time I did this, many times an hour, I reinforced the behaviour that I was trying to eradicate. I didn’t give them options to solve the problem for themselves, such as speaking. But back to where we were.

I would try to do this every day whilst my daughter was at school. She would sometimes join us if I drifted behind schedule later in the day. I imagine that if you have a typically developing child too, that it could be adapted, they would see it as ‘play’ rather than torture. I am uncertain whether a younger child modeling the behaviour you want would be a good thing or detrimental, as family dynamics make it unpredictable, but I think it would be worth a try.

I know it won’t be a good fit for a lot of people, but for me and mine, it was great, especially for me, because I had peace of mind, knowing that we were all together doing something constructive at the same time, rather than paying the heavy, psychological price, of someone spinning their wheels elsewhere.


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Sparks and spikes

First thing most mornings, senior son has his full repetoire of words and more importantly, he is willing to demonstrate their use. This child's speech delay has transformed him from non-verbal for semi verbal, although an expert has yet to confirm this. He can struggle to retrieve the word 'green,' [translation = expressive language, what he can actually say] and yet in the alternative, use the preferred world of 'chartreuse.' [translation = receptive language, the words that he understands as they come in.]

This is in part why it is so difficult to accurately assess language use. I would liken it to being unable to remember the name of a film, an actor, that woman who used to live at the house at the end of the road; it's on the tip of your tongue but you just can't hook it. The frustration this causes, often means that it preferable not to speak at all but it is debatable whether a meltdown in the alternative is better? I need him to practice using words. The meltdowns are a by-product of his effort.


Although breakfast and the morning routine is fraught with stumbling blocks for the unwary, his ability to talk coherently often leaves me breathless with amazement and unadulterated joy. In a home full of rigid narrow rules I gasp at his expertise. Breakfast cereal follows fruit consumption. The fruit is compulsory as this is when they are at their most hungry. The reward, is a choice of about half a dozen types of cereal, some more preferred than others. The choice is limited by cupboard space. Until one box of cereal is empty, when there is room for a replacement, they are denied additional choices.

He skips to the cupboard and clambers up on the counter for a better view as I start my verbal protest. He waves a hand in my general direction saying sotto voce, “now just calm down now, it's gonna be o.k.” He says it to [me], not to himself as he usually does. The cupboard is stuffed to overflowing, “now let me see,” he pauses, his eyes flicking between the cupboard and my face as he calculated. He jumps down with alacrity and heads off to the garage and additional cereal packets, but now before calling over his shoulder to advise me, “I be right back, you just wait there nicely.” Not only at the phrases appropriate and delivered in a fluid flow, but he turned his head towards me whilst running in the opposite direction. Although this increases his chances of an accident, the very act of turning his head to send his message is striking.

When he reappears with a new packet, leaps onto the counter and jams the box between the others, he announces in triumph, “you see! It fits! I was right, you were wrong, but that's o.k. I forgive you.”

He tumbles back onto the floor. He visually checks that I am in the correct position before he turns his body forward again, so that he can gently reverse into my body, so that we curve together like spoons. His hands reach back to hold my thighs before he does a little jig, a backwards cuddle. To you it is disconcerting with sexual undercurrents. To me it is the demonstrative child exhausted by his speech efforts, yet wanting to communicate affection.


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Fictional Police report filed Friday, January 12, 2007

Nobody eats fruit around here!

The Sheriff arrived at 5:15 p.m. minus horse but with very shiny, pointy star badge. Please not that any errors in transcription are due to the indeterminate country of origin of the police personnel.

Quote – I was called to the property in question, responding to an anonymous tipster regarding a noisy disturbance. On entering the premises, I noted three semi clad children leaping about the place in an uncontrollable manner. An adult female identified herself to me as their parent. Fortunately the old crow was not scantily clad, however her wild behaviour indicated that she was in fact the ring leader. Although virtually incoherent, I did manage to piece together a few irrelevant details, as to the cause of the disturbance.

Note evidence 1 – item = the peel of an orange
The parent appears to be irrationally fixated upon the different sub species of orange, insisting that the peel in question, was not that of an orange but indeed, that of a Satsuma. I had to endure a long treatise as the options available, which included, but was not limited to: Clementine's, tangerines and Minolas……….. Their significance or the importance of their distinctive characteristics was lost on me. I took this as an indication that the inhabitants are vegetarians, devoid of the karma afforded to us meat eaters.

It may well be that the parent’s real complaint was of a ‘littering’ nature, although I am given to understand, by the said parent, that citrus peel is ‘bio-degradable.’ I advised the parent that I was familiar the term ‘bio-degradable’ but failed to see it’s relevant in a domestic, interior context?

The parent declared that her eldest son had eaten a Satsuma of his own volition. I tried to determine whether the said food item had been tampered with, adulterated or interfered with in some other manner, such as to provoke fear and consternation throughout the family. Parent denied credibility of my ascertions.

Upon further questioning it became clear to me, that the family was not in fear of an incident of poisoning, as I had at first assumed. I soon determined that 'fear' was not the paramount emotion coursing through the family members, but rather 'elation.' I am still at a loss as to why it should be that a celebration had embraced the family following consumption of an orange by one member.

The member in question addressed me as follows “are you dah cop guy?” I confirmed that his powers of observation were correct.
“You see I dah one who does not eat dah fruit. I don eat the vegetables evver.” Whilst I fail to register the significance of such a statement, the child was obviously happy and I saw no need to detain them any longer. I gave a brief consideration as to whether to file a 'wasting police time' report, but though better of it.


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Action Mum's New Year's Resolutions

Better late than never!

1. Kill anything living in the refridgerator before it goes forth and multiplies.

2. Endeavour to regularly rotate the piles of clean laundry stacked on the sofa.

3. Fully evaluate cost/benefit analysis of moving to Canada.

4. Train cats to appreciate that children are their friends, not the enemy.

5. Train children to appreciate that confining cats in small places means that they'll visit the Humane Society [the cats, that is to say.]

• Curb enthusiasm for tumble drier
• No! The tumble drier is not 'big.'

6. Read paper daily to improve brain capacity

7. Seriously consider advice re
'you deserve it.'
Find some useless, expensive pastime to indulge in. Short list possibilities;

a. Book club [remember that you're teetering on maximum brain capacity!]
b. Tennis [you're clothing would never be white enough and you would also increase pile of laundry on the sofa]
c. Become a 'lady who lunches.' Reconsider post jaw surgery and braces.

8. Commence new beauty routine to ward off advancing decrepitude;
• Cleanse, tone and moisturize twice a day OR
• Wash face with Dial [translation Fairy Liquid!] if you manage to remember.

9. Research self improvement courses;
check availability for 11:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

10. Invent labour saving device to continuously suck all dirt from house. [Consider consequences for self prior to commencement e.g. unemployment]

11. Avoid lawsuit from neighbours; train children to wear at least one garment of clothing [preferably around the nether regions] by Summer. [2007 not 2008] Nakedness is no longer acceptable now that we are all Americans. N.B. hats don’t count for the purpose of clothing categorization.

12. Keep large hall cupboard permanently empty so that all 'mess' can be hurled inside at short notice to achieve instant 'Homes and Gardens' effect.

13. Count on fingers [and toes] blessings.
[Limit this exercise to once only, in any 24 hour period to avoid becoming too much of a fluffy bunny {translation = American}]

Perish the thought!


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The Owl and the Pussycat

At a quarter to seven on a Sunday morning I am woken by a yeowling cat. I am forced to acknowledge that a day of rest is not applicable to this household. Cats! Why don’t people chain up their spoilt felines at the weekend? I realize that they are my spoilt felines howling outside my door. I go to investigate and am immediately deafened by purrs. Have they no consideration for the nearly awake? I stomp downstairs tripping over eight other legs and a couple of tails thrown in for good measure. In the family room they are all awake and play with the Gamecube, oblivious to me and to starving cats. I call loudly “anyone want to earn some money for an extra chore, feeding the cats?” All three of them continue to pogo in front of the screen. I am fairly confident that I wasn't even heard, which is important because it means I can do the deed myself without later being accused of cheating, or denying them the opportunity to earn extra cash. I have discovered that bigger children create ever more complicated negotiations for the parent to navigate when it comes to finances.


Only one of them has taken readily to the motivational force of pocket money. [translation = an allowance] It's probably just an age thing. she's the right age and they're too young. The boys have to be prompted through every reluctant step but their sister has become the allowance Queen, or should that be plague? She pounces on me at inconvenient moment demanding money with menaces, “what can I do? Can I get 50 cents for picking up that piece of paper?” She has acquired previously undetected haggling skills by osmosis. She has an endless list of ‘things to buy.’ Her brother already has every Pokemon that exists on the planet, and I have yet to find a suitable source of eggs for junior. I need fake eggs, but plastic ones. We don’t want to expand his horizons too far in case he gets hooked on the Faberge variety.

“O.k. 40 cents for picking it up? 25? Alright, say 5 cents?” I agree, because it's still early enough to be dark, but does she give up claiming victory? Of course not. She's relentless, energetic and young.
“O.k. how about another 50 cents for putting it in the bin?”
“What? You want 25 cents for picking it up and another 50 cents for putting in the bin?”
“Yup.”
“Forget it.”
“o.k. just 25 cents for picking it up then?”
“What are you going to do with it when you've picked it up? Just carry it around all day?”
“What's it to you? You only said 'pick it up.' That's what I'll do if that's what it takes.” Let me die now, it's the other two that are supposed to be literal.
Once she's in the groove she's all over me like a rash as I bumble around in slippers and a dressing gown trying to restore order.
“Can I fix the table for breakfast for 50 cents?” I look at the table piled with papers, books, food scraps, left over homework and a wide assortment of writing materials. I dither momentarily, weighing up the benefit of her being able to earn the extra money she needs for a preferred toy, versus the benefit of consistency of routine for her brothers in being able to sequence laying their own place setting at the table?
“What! What! What's taking you so long?”
“Er, O.k.” I continue to splosh around at the sink in the kitchen. She's by my side within 30 seconds, “50 cents please.”
“You've finished already?”
“Yup, I'm done. 50 cents please?” I look over. The table is empty. Piles of debris line the edge of the wall.
“I thought you were going to lay the table for breakfast?”
“Nope, you didn't say that, you said 'clear if for breakfast.' It's clear, I need my 50 cents.” I determine to use my words more carefully, to be less cavalier. Her feet tap in the puddle on the floor as I count out five dimes for her, “don't make that mess any worse dear,” I plead.
“Hey I can clear that up for you for 50 cents?” I press the coins into her palm and pass her her piggy bank, slip in a high five.
“No thank you.”
“Hey why not? You just want me to stay poor! You won't let me earn what I need.” I look at the emotional blackmailer with awe. How does she know how to do that already? This is one aspect of her upbringing that has been missing, due entirely to the existence of her brothers. I would never appeal to anyone's conscience, the 'do it for me,' 'do it to make me proud / please me,' as that has always been a waste of breath. So where has she found this talent? Is it innate?

A recall a million failed attempts of appealling to her brothers when we first started RDI [translation = Relationship Development Intervention] which I wasn't very good at;
“Please, just for me, just once?”
“”Once', what it is?”
“One time.”
“Oh, I not do it one time, I do it zero times.”
Or:
“Please, just to make me happy?”
“No, your face is happy now, that is stupid.”

Or, changing face to demonstrate unhappiness:
“Please, just to make me happy?”
“No, your face is a liar.” It's enough to turn a mother prematurely grey. No, all such appeals were set aside together with the RDI book.

I look at my daughter, the expert at personal relationships aged 8.
“You should put it towards your college fund.”
“I have a college fund?” she asks with eyes like saucers. I don’t like to mention that any potential college fund has already been squanders threefold on her brothers’ therapy. I grab a cloth and slip to the floor “because I know that you'll want to charge me more for obtaining a cloth first, another ten cents for disposing of the dirty cloth and object very strongly to wiping the splashes that are outside a three foot radius without additional payment.”


I stand and lob the cloth into the wash, “and besides I can do it myself is far less time than it takes to negotiate with you.” But I suspect that says more about my own shortcomings than hers.


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Seasonal problems

He sniffs and sniffs and sniffs and sniffs. It is all to no avail as his nose trickles. I watch him, my face set. He is seven years old. I don't know which is worse, a nose that runs continuously with it's accompanying sniff with no further ameliorative action, or the occasional ameliorative action, which consists of wiping the offending appendage off on his sleeve, from elbow to cuff, or worse still, on whatever else is near to hand, be that carpet, the sofa or my thigh.

I am well aware that my face reads disdain and disapproval but I am unable to prevent those muscles settling into that well worn groove, as I steel myself for the inevitable, dithering between intervention to prevent the crime or watching the fulfillment of the offence, dishcloth at the ready. Last time he had a cold, a few months back, we wrote out a sequence of steps to deal with runny noses. Since he is a visual learner, we used the equivalent [translation = dumbed down, of “Carol Gray’s Social stories”] Most children need a little guidance in this department, but autistic child need very specific help.

If this was a preferred activity such as playing with a computer game, not much help or assistance would be required, but basic hygeine, bodily functions and self care don’t really make it to their radar screen. It is important to avoid the ‘but why?’ scenario when dealing with these basic functions, because any rational explanation you can come up with, is also ineffective. e.g. ‘because you need to be clean’ -‘but why?’ “Isn’t it uncomfortable having your face all messy like that?”
“Messy? No, it not messy, it fine!’ Take it from me, you’re just not going to be able to come up with a satisfactory reason as to why they should comply, at least not for my lot. We won’t even touch on the ‘do it for me, do it to make me happy/ proud/ pleased’ as that line of reasoning is doomed before the words have even been formed.

Now he's so much bigger, I swear that if it wasn't for the asthma, I'd stuff a couple of tissues [translation = Kleenex] up his nostrils, like people with frequent nosebleeds do.
Sniff, sniff, sniff. I wait and seethe, but he is blissfully unaware of my presence. He looks up from his work as his back arches and shoulders rise to his ears in one supreme effort at stemming the flow, but failing. He slips of his chair muttering, 'is not workin.” He blunders off in the direction of the bathroom. He re-emerges with a fistful of tissues [translation = Kleenex] and honks in a fairly efficient fashion, “das better,” he murmours moving back towards the table, letting the soiled wads fall to the ground. Only one stomp towards the table and he back tracks an additional stomp, “oopsie, I forgot that one.” He scoops the paper from the ground on his third attempt, bimbles back to the bathroom, clanks open the pedal bin and approximates a lob, whereby most of it ends up in situ. He saunters back past me, giving me a casual glance, “your face is broken.”

Shattered more like.

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