Book Club Discussion: The Reason I Jump, “Never-Ending Summer” Part II

I’m continuing the discussion here today because The Reason I Jump is an important book.  Naoki Hagashida, at age 13, answered questions about autism from his viewpoint, and while his experiences are not the same as probably anyone else’s on the spectrum, hireasons thoughts provide insight, and provoke thought, neither of which can be bad for those of us who desperately want a glimpse into the minds of our children.

Question 32 asks about what those with autism see first when they look at something.  Naoki reinforces what I have heard in many places, that those on the spectrum see the trees first, and then the forest; the details before the whole.  He also says they tend to “drown” in the particularly striking characteristics of those parts, and it tends to be harder to see anything else. If someone you love is on the spectrum, you will have, no doubt, experienced the attention to detail.  The Boy is always drawing my attention to some small part that I never would have noticed without his help.

Question 33 asks about appropriate clothing, and why this can be a struggle for those in the spectrum.  Naoki says they know and understand why we wear the things we wear, but that they “forget” what is appropriate, and how to make themselves more comfortable. He also explains that those who choose to wear the same thing each day (we have had our battles with this, for sure!) feel like their clothes are an “extension of our bodies,” and a guard against changing situations.

Question 34 asks about perception of time. Naoki says, “the fact that we can’t actually feel it makes us nervous,” and this makes perfect sense to me.  Timers help many on the spectrum have a sense of passing time, especially those that are visual in nature. And because the future is uncertain, it is a cause for a great deal of anxiety.  This is one of those answers in this book that just “clicked” for me, a true “A-ha!” moment.

Again, this book is a source of inspiration and wonder for me, and may be the closest I’ll ever get to reading The Boy’s own mind.  Not every person on the spectrum is the same, but these answers are food for a great deal of thought, and foster greater understanding and patience between me and my son.  I highly recommend this book.

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Mornings Suck in Autism Households

That is my theory based on the anecdotal evidence I have encountered.  Maybe not for everyone, but for a lot of people I know that have loved ones on the spectrum.

One morning this week, everything was running along splendidly until I suggested to The Boy that it might be a jacket day as it was below 50 degrees.  No problem!  Yes, he agreed.  A jacket was a good idea.

And then we got to the couch, the time to put on socks and shoes, and wait for the bus.  And the bus was early, and The Boy couldn’t find his hat.  And there was NO WAY he was going to school without his hat…

Add in the stray kitten who had hung outside of the house since the previous evening, meowing away – he was trying to get in while I was marching out to the bus in my robe and slippers to plead for a few more minutes, and Raphael was anxious to get out because he always is, and because he was very curious about this kitten.  Add all of that to The (intransigent) Boy stuffing his feet, face, and hands into the couch cushions to ensure he couldn’t go to school without his hat.

Finally, he’s out the door, but not without a stream of under-the-breath curses about hats and school and buses.  I climb back into bed, and The Man says, “Maybe you should set that stuff out the night before.”

(Can you imagine the dark look?)

Yep.  Mornings suck.

 

PS – Guess where the hat was?  Right next to his bed.  *facepalm*

Autism and Attachment to Stuff

Google searchGoogle “Autism and Clothing” and what comes up are links upon links to articles, studies, and blog posts about sensory issues with clothing, and how clothing can be a source of anxiety and struggle for those on the spectrum.

But there was only one link about being emotionally attached to articles of clothing.  And it was a forum post from the experts – adults with autism.  From my quick perusal of the “research”, it doesn’t seem that anyone has studied this, but based on what I read on this wrongplanet forum post, there seems to be a correlation between a spectrum diagnosis and the sense that objects have “feelings”.  Unused, or un-purchased toys may feel “lonely” or “discarded” and therefore need to be saved.  Lego towers and models mustn’t be taken apart because that would be “like an execution”.  Clothing that has become too small must not be thrown out or donated, it must be kept forever, because it would be too sad, too unbearable to part with it.

Ring any bells?

Sometimes I fall into the trap, believing my child is rational because he usually has such a logical and straightforward outlook.  This attachment to things is miles from rational, yet it seems to be so prevalent in those with ASD…

Why has no one studied this?  Why has no one examined this and come up with strategies to deal with these anxieties about the feelings of objects?  Several of these adults with autism on the forum have even contemplated purchasing extra storage space so they could keep all of these “saved” items!  Yikes!

Clothing is one of our meltdown triggers, and I finally came to the realization that The Boy had this irrational attachment when we had a big meltdown the other morning.  He reacted to some “missing” (read: donated) size 8 pants (he wears 14-16 now) extremely emotionally, almost as if a pet had died.  That’s when I began my Google search.

Today, I floated an idea by him.  In the car, I mentioned to him that we could take pictures of the clothes that are too small before we donate them.  Sorta like my T-shirt project.  That way, he could “keep them” as long as he wished, and could look back on those clothes and the attached memories as many times as he liked, and the clothes themselves could go on to other families and be used by smaller kids.  He kinda liked the idea.  Which means it just might work…

I’ll keep you posted.

What’s Working

I talk about a lot of stuff that I’m going to do, but I don’t always get back to you and let you know what’s working, so…

  • The cold oatmeal in a jar?  That’s been working!  Like clockwork.  Except just in the last week or so, I’ve been getting a little sick of it, so I’m going to switch up some flavors.
  • The 6-Shelf Sweater Sorter!  The Boy actually filled it himself this past weekend and was proud of himself for doing so.  And the best part is that he is wearing every pair of his pants now, not the same pair every day.  Success!  It also keeps me on track with making sure the laundry gets done so it can be filled.
  • It’s early days yet, but the Magnetic Menu Planner is working SO well!  It helps with making the grocery list, and reminding me what’s planned (and what needs to be defrosted, etc.).  I have been cooking like a fiend, and loving it.  I’m even freezing leftovers and reducing waste.

Another success I’ve had recently is with chores.  I have written about allowance, and not basing it on chores before, but saw this post about how to make a visual chart for kids, and allowing them to have input.  I implemented only the chart of what gets done each day, and The Boy is actually doing chores (like wiping the kitchen counter, and picking up his things)!  The best part?  We haven’t even talked about allowance – he’s doing it because I need him to help out (and I need to teach him basic living skills).  You can’t get any better than that.

Build upon success

Take a minute and think about what’s working for you lately.  Let us know how it’s going in the comments below.

We’re Trying an Old Idea for a Slightly New Reason

This is not a new idea.  Parents of NT (neuro-typical) kids have used these for eons to get their kids to be organized and to help them get ready more efficiently in the morning.  But I’m using it for slightly different reasons…

“What is it, already??” you are asking… It is the 6 Shelf Sweater Sorter:

kinda hard to see, I know - bad lighting in The Boy's room

kinda hard to see, I know – bad lighting in The Boy’s room

Ta-Da!

Yes, yes.  Organization, check.  Efficient Use of Time, check.  Not wearing the same clothes everyday, wha..??

My child has a signature outfit – he wears it every opportunity he can (which is sometimes several days in a row).  He has a thing with clothes.  The summer between splitting up and the official divorce, The Boy wore the same lime green T-shirt every single day.  Lots of tiny little loads of wash for me.

How does he get away with wearing the same thing several days in a row?  He wears a different hoodie, zips it all the way up, and waits to appear until we have to walk out the door.  And there are times when I do not fight it, even when I should.  To help me enforce the social code of not-wearing-the-same-outfit-every-single-day, I enlisted the help of the 6 Shelf Sweater Sorter.  Each shelf is a place for an outfit for each day of the week, except for Sunday, because we often spend one entire day of the weekend in our jammies anyway.  Tonight, we placed an entire week’s worth of outfits (including socks, underwear, and hoodies) into the sorter, and I’m hoping that The Boy will follow the implied and implicit rules of the Sorter, that he will wear what is in the space for that designated day, and he will not change his mind and scrounge things off the floor to wear.

If this fails, I will have to go to Old Navy and buy 6 more of every piece in his signature outfit.

I really hope this works…

Purging

I have a new thing on my to-do list every weekend: purging.  That is, getting rid of stuff that will not make the move with us.  While we are technically moving to a bigger house, we still have to get rid of the unnecessary stuff that we have collected over the three years we have lived here (and some of it much, much longer).

I don’t want to leave all of it for late spring – it would be too monumental a task.  I make it sound like I am a hoarder, which I’m not (although The Man thinks I am).  We just have a basement with stuff in every closet, and The Boy has way too many toys (thanks to all of the many people who love and spoil him).  We’ll be having a garage sale in the spring, but I will also donate whatever I can.  It just needs to be gone.

Moving boxes

I’m leaving the toys for last, because as you may have experienced, kids with autism tend to not want to give up their things, even if they haven’t used or played with them in six years.  One has to be a bit sneaky at times, and even then it can come back to bite you (“Mom!!!  I can’t find that green egg-shaped timer I had when I was four!  Where IS it???”).

Today, I will turn to my own closets, which I do about every three months or so.  But this time will be more critical, and I am in the right mood to rid myself of stuff that I will not wear again.

I think I’ll save the basement closets for next weekend…

Crisis Averted: How I Turned a Crisis into a Game

Blue sock

We decided to go to the grocery store at 12:30. “That’s 23 minutes, from now, OK?” I remind The Boy.  A few minutes later, I get up to make the grocery list, and I hear the beginnings of a meltdown.  I hear the frustration in his voice, and the elevated volume saying, “I can’t FIND it!”  It turned out to be a sock, a very particular grey and blue sock, for which he could not find the mate.  He had actually looked in the laundry basket of socks first, which is huge.  Usually, he will visually scan a room and if it doesn’t jump up and say, “HERE I am!!” it is lost.  Forever.  Somebody took it.  So we looked all over his room.  We looked in the clean clothes basket.  We looked in the basement.  I told him it would turn up sooner or later, and sat down because it was obvious we would not be going to the store today.  I was making a mental inventory of our groceries and trying to determine how not getting groceries today would affect our Monday… The Boy began to get very angry and started throwing things.  After he tossed a blanket across the room (thankfully only a blanket), I walked over to him on the couch, and said “STOP IT.”

From here it could have gone two ways: I could have started shouting, making things worse, or I could have gone the other route to try to get him to calm down.  Today (because I don’t always make the right choice), I made a split-second decision to get him to calm down.  I got him down on the couch, and lay down on top of him, using my body weight to give him some sensory input.  He was still yelling about not going to school tomorrow, me calling the police on him, him calling the police on me, and ended with, “Get off of me or I’m going to be bleeding!”  But he was calmer.  We sat up, and I pulled him into my lap.  We talked about better ways to communicate his frustration, and I laid out the options for him: We could clean up his room together, and if we didn’t find it, I would buy him a new pair, or we could hope it turned up, and choose a different pair.  He chose to clean up his room, and look in the basement again, which we did.

As we cleaned up his room, we threw every sock we found on his bed.  When we were finished tidying up, I said, “OK, Now we’re going to play a game.  We will each make as many sock matches as we can, and whoever has the most will get a candy bar when we go grocery shopping today.”  We sorted socks, I taught him how to fold pairs together, and we each snatched socks from the pile.  In the space of about 20 minutes, we had gone from potential meltdown to smiles and laughter as we played a game together.  And he lost, and it was OK.  He found a different pair of socks to wear (because we still didn’t find that darn sock that started all this), and it was OK.

If it had been 7am on a school day, when these types of things usually occur, I’m not sure I would have made the better choice.  But I did today, and we are both better off for it.

Lock Laces: The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

The Boy is 10, soon to be 11, and he cannot tie his shoes.  We have tried over the years to show him how, but he’s just not interested.  And when he’s not interested, he’s not going to learn much.  … Continue reading