Sunday, November 28, 2010

It is that time of the year.

Freezing cold and constant snot, my house is tiny and the furniture old and worn to shreds I read the Ikea brochure to bits and dream of a brand new world. The darkness already overwhelms me.
It is bright around ten and dusk falls as soon as four, it will get darker still.
We just decorate our old stuff with new and festive lights, the more the better.

I found out to my utter horror that I had neglected or forgotten to teach Sturla anything about christmas. I was not shocked about the religious stuff, not really my cup of tea.
Rather, he did not know any of the names of our 13 Christmas lads. We do not have a Santa Claus. He of course does not know their mothers name the Troll Grýla her hubby Leppalúði and her black cat that eats kids who do not get new clothes before christmas. And that good kids get sweets into their shoes and if you are bad you get a potato.
Such a sea of information that every kid knows and he does not.
I wanted to cry when I realized this.
I made a program and began the drilling.
How many are the christmas lads. 13
What is their mothers name. Gryla
Where do they live. In the mountains.
Are they good yes
Is their mother good. No
What does she do. Eat kids... we have not gotten that far yet.

And he answers obligingly. I do not know, as I just taught him and he runs and asks his father when i tell him to go and ask even though he can only remember part of the question.
My wonderful sweet boy.

I can not cover it all.
He has to learn how to learn.
And I want him to have it all.
I want it for him. I want him to have the self awareness to want it for himself. And when he knows how will he feel?
I am raging ahead into the future.
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.

Winter is eating me
Like I want that whole Ikea furnishing.
Like I want better weather.
More sunshine

Winter is eating me and I have a hard time spraying it all with glitter and decorating with festive lights.

Just a few more lights and the dark places will be gone.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It is a computer game.

Sturla does not script much. He does not talk much either compared to normal kids. He tends to use the same phrases rather rigidly and I wonder if that is scripting or just something else. What do I know, I do not know many kids with autism.
We played a game to day. He has been exercising some sort of a free will tendency and I wanted to exercise some behavioral control.
So we played in the stairs go up, no go down and every time he obeyed I changed my mind. He loves such silliness so much that he squeeled it is a computer game as nothing compares to that long love affair with computers. Perhaps light switches , that one pops up regularly.
Anyway, what better way to get a kid to obey when they actually want to.

We have been sick with snot and cold and fever and coughs hopefully he will be well enough to go to playschool tomorrow as I desperately need to organize his papers and programs and to read upon how to do whatever we are trying to do. I also need to boost up the pace and the hours after all this sickness and snotness.

Our staring contest has been going well. We stare at each other until he yells booo and I pretend to be flabbergeisted.( is that a word) I had planned to do the boo thing but he caught on to fast.

We finished naming from categories.
We finished learning where a bunch of animals live.

We are having fun with learning to ask where a thing is. I give a desired item to someone in the room ( we usually work in the living room and as this family is a herd there is always someone here with us) then i tell him to close his eyes and that pre mentioned someone hides the item. When Sturla opens his eyes I ask him where the item is he states I do not know as he indeed does not and then I tell him to ask the someone, He asks and the someone tells him the location and we practise on top of beside and all that pre learnt stuff and then he goes and gets his prize.
I is computer game, it is so much fun

Monday, November 22, 2010


I teach. I teach Icelandic to grown up immigrants and I teach Icelandic to my autistic son.
And honestly it is not that different. My adult students need reinforcement just as much as my son and they need praise and a smile when they do well it reinforces their efforts.
They need generalization as well. So we do weekly trips to stores and museums and everywhere to places where they can use their Icelandic. We cook at the end of the week to teach verbs in actual surroundings and to create a friendly atmosphere, connection and to talk over food. In an amazing way it works. People start talking when they feel secure.
The things my students find hard in Icelandic are similar to those my son finds hard. Words that sound alike. Making a sentence with the correct word order and using the language in the right circumstances. Autism, adults, children. We learn the same way.
Repeat and repeat.
Break down the components og language into digestible bits.
Connect and create a friendly enviroment.
Repeat again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A new interest.

I recently bought a few books that I remembered from my childhood. I bought them both for nostalgic reasons and also because of the sentence structure. The sentences are repeated again and again with slight variations. The books have the same theme... someone wants something and asks for help, various characters refuse again and again until at last someone will comply. The wording is perfect short sentences with good vocabulary. They are also perfect for asking why questions.
Now ten days later a find out that he has memorized them. It was interesting to watch him retell the storys. I never have the opportunity to listen to his voice for such a long while. It was wonderful... it also gave me the opportunity to listen better for the sounds he has trouble with. There still are a few. He has no idea how to use words like, in, at, for and so on. Those words change the meaning of the verbs and he just puts them randomly into the sentences. Something to chew on and figure out how to teach.
When he started to retell the same book for the second time I stopped him and suggested that the main character who is a little green hat was indeed a purple sock, he laughed as i expected and said no... then he got a better idea he started to tell the story again but every time the little green hat was mentioned he became a sock and Sturla laughed and he laughed.
The thing is.. he has found a new way to entertain himself and now he tries to take the books away from me and do it all by himself...
Not what I have in mind.
I plan to have our book reading a bit more interactive. He also tries occasionally to switch the books in the middle of the story an make me start on new ones.
Not according to my plans either.
We have ourselves a little battle of the wills.

What can I say, I am bigger than you, son.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nothing unspecified just ordinay autism whatever that is.

Sturla is diagnosed with typical autism, nothing unspecified about it. He scored zero on language when he was three years old. I disagreed, I heard words but they the diagnosers did not and when I told them that he used his words appropriatly I got the pity look. He spoke this beautiful gibberish that sounded like language but hidden inside were those gems, words and meaning.
So this is what he got on his third birthday, because that was the day of his diagnosis, we spent it at the clinic, ordinary autism no language and mild mental retardation. And have a nice day.
I think I lost my mind that day.
I wanted to believe that he could and would be able to do anything. I still want to believe that.
Two years, two playschools and so many tears and work hours later this is where we are.
We still have mountains of work ahead in language and in social interaction and that work may very well never be over.
Interacting with peers is the hard part, as for all our kids. He follows the routines like the others and he adjusted very quickly to his new play school. The routine is very cut and square, so it works out perfectly for him.
Not much room for insecurity when you are on a tight schedule.
He has trouble in crowded noisy areas where everyone is getting dressed at the same time, but still the staff manages somehow to structure the environment very tightly. They do this, not for him it is just the policy of the school.
I am happy that he adjusting well. :) I am just very very greedy as well. Always on the lookout for deficits, as depressing as that is. Looking for flaws is what drives the program it is hard to fix things one does not see or acknowledge.
Staying happy and critical at the same time is my challenge but it is nothing compared to the challenges that face my child.
I watch his peers and how they chatter and interact and Sturla sits in line, yes but he is quiet and just waiting. This is mostly when they are going out and dressing in their warm winter clothing. In other situations he is more animated and lively and he is funny.
When he starts exchanging comments, just one or two with his peers my happiness level will rise considerably. that is what I want to happen very much sooner than later.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Relax and let it go.

My advice to myself.
One day for me is like a week an hour can be endless. So many thoughts can be crammed into an hour that there is just no end to the worrys and grumbling that can take place.
The sane logical part of my mind knew from the start that the new play school needs time to adjust and that they do not have a therapist for him until after christmas. The have everything in place a team of therapists working together and supporting each other. they are really nice and I believe and hope this is the right placement finally.
It still makes no difference for the my other half, my crazy mind, I already feel things should be like this or that and that people can do more and sooner. I bite my tongue hard and smile and wait because there is nothing else to do.
Still I should be happy that he is following the routine of the other kids without support following verbal commands and doing the same as typical peers. Still that is just the surface. He is an easy child and I know he needs to be prompted to do more and truly participate I want him to do more and for that he needs an aide that works on specific goals. The next meeting will be 19 of november.
It is not long, still it seems like ages.
There are just so many thoughts to think until then.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


The first five ideas for reinforcement are simply copy paste ripped off from the lovaas institute blog site. I shamelessly post it here I intend to try them out the next few days.

Aladdin's Magic Carpet! Put the child on a towel or blanket and pull them across the floor.

Jump! Sing, "Jump" by Van Halen and jump when the song tells you to.

I'm Shocked! Fall completely over with surprise and shock that the child answered the question correctly.

Car Ride! Line your chairs up next to each other and go for a car ride. Put seat belts on. Check left and right for traffic, beep the horn, etc.

Monster Palm! Draw a monster on your palm. Use the other hand to hold the wrist of monster palm so it can't get you. However, we all know a monster palm is stronger. Elicit the child's help to get rid of monster palm.

Sturla loves beeing asked if his name is toothbrush or other silly stuff.
He loves silly statements.

He loves opening little boxes and see what they contain, sometimes it is nothing at all.

Sometimes I wrap up old toys and things just so that he can open them. To build up curiosity and excitement.

He loves when I pretend to whine and cry.

He loves being thrown around in our big bed.

He likes short game sequences.

Roller blades and his bicycle.

He loves sweets.

Pez figures and icecream.

He likes stupid glasses and hats.

He loves it when I sing two songs at once and switch between the rally fast. A hard thing to do for someone with very limited musical abilities. Perhaps that is why he likes it.

He likes gluing paper and stuff together that make little figures.

He likes tickles and old games that I cannot translate into english but probably exist there as well.

He likes to get off on a break when I am too greedy to see sense
but most off all he loves it when his mother is happy and full of energy.
Tomorrow I will try out an eye contact game. The purpose will be to increase the time he looks at my eyes. I will make it one or two seconds at first and slowly increase the time until we have ourselves a nice staring competition. The closure and reinforcement will be some silliness and stupid noises or facial expressions on my behalf that hopefully will make him laugh.

The right reinforcement can make all the difference and I am endlessly looking and searching for new ideas. It is so easy to get stuck with the same old. I know for myself I absolutely do no do anything for just anything. My carrots have to be both sweet and crunchy. And that you are my sweet boy.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sense on some nonsense.

I will have to accept the fact that the new play school needs time to start up their work. Things are complicated as the therapist that will be working with him will not be back until after christmas until then everything is a bit of mix and match. He will be getting 4 and half hour with an aide every day so they will deliver a littler over 20 hours a week. He needs time to adjust, they need time to adjust and I have to be patient. I still worry that the next two months will be without very specific goals.
See ...this is a trust thing...
Trust is something that builds in positive experience and my experinece with playschools has not been very positive. The ladys at the new playschool have on the other hand not given me any cause to think that they will not do a good job. Still I fret and worry.
Breathe in and breathe out.

I am in the process of structuring his home program and in a very optimistic manner believe that I can deliver about 20 hours a week. I plan to work on about six programs.
Naming from categories.
WH questions.
General knowledge
Asking questions.
anecdotal memory
Social interactions and play skills.
I might have to cut out one or two programs though if it proves to much.
See I am trying to see sense.

I have been reading the book Sense and nonsense in behavioral treatment of autism. Sensibly they point out that this is not a competition of how many program we finish, it is more important to pin point the skills that might open up other new areas and at the moment I would say anecdotal memory. Sharing experience. There is so much I want him to grasp and to get. But there it is on the top of the list, a glorious goal.
I want to be able to ask what did you do? And was it fun?
It is of course hanging together with basic conversational skills that still are very much lagging.
I have seen that he learns preacademic skills rather quickly and we can allow ourselves to dawdle, there are more important things to learn.
He can memorize quickly but that is also not so important in comparison with sharing experience and playing with others.
I really need to set our priorities straight. Working on the right things is so important.

Another thing is the hours. I just read that those famous forty hours are average hours. Actually the children in the Lovaas study got forty hours on average meaning some got as little as 20 while others got 50. It still does not tell me what my child needs. Psychology is not a very exact science. So until someone can tell me I go by more and overdo do it in the most superfluous way I can. Less is bore. More is better. And if that does not make sense so be it.