Why I Love That The Boy Plays Video Games

This past weekend, The Man and I took The Boy to Myrtle Beach for a mini vacation. Overnight, to be exact. We hadn’t been in a long while, and there’s just something about it that we adore. Grammy and Poppy had already made plans to go down for a long weekend, so we hopped in the car on Saturday morning and were on our way.

As The Boy has grown, he has developed a deep and abiding love for Myrtle Beach because of the overabundance of arcades. He has found his favorite games in several arcades, and indeed, we spent a good portion of our time Saturday following  him around and playing a little ourselves.

One of his absolute favorites is Galaga, a throwback to the 80s. And I love watching him play. You may think it a bit odd, that one of the things he does that makes me proudest is play an old video game, but here’s why: he wins.

He does well, he has developed his own insanely smart strategies that I’ve never seen anybody use in that game or elsewhere, and he often gets his name on the high score board as a result. And if he doesn’t, he’s completely ok with it, and has no real sense of failure.

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What can we take from this? Predictability helps him learn and develop strategies. The norms of video games (that you learn by doing, over and over again) allow him to learn and develop at his own pace. And by giving him just those two pieces, he has a high level of success.

One of the most-shared autism memes goes something like, “I wouldn’t change you for the world, but I would change the world for you.” We get a lot of resistance sometimes when we ask for modifications and accommodations. But two simple structures in place in that game are all it took for The Boy to become an expert, devising complex strategies and showing actual results. This is why we fight to get what he needs.

New Member of The Boy’s Tribe

The Boy adores his new summer day camp. They go swimming at the community pool three times a week, he has friends from school who attend, and they play Wii bowling – what’s not to love?

He also has a new member of his tribe. The camp director is a high school special education teacher from another school in the community, and she is amazing. Wanna know how I know? The Boy gets a huge smile on his face when I mention her, and he doesn’t do that for everyone.

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As I mentioned yesterday, he’s having some anxiety over absences again, exacerbated by one of his close friends being ambivalent about camp and intermittent with his attendance. Not only did the camp director figure out a way to entice his friend to come to camp (allowing him to do a few magic shows at camp), she has figured out a strategy to alleviate some of The Boy’s anxiety. She reasoned that his anxiety stems from not having control over whether or not others are absent, so why not allow him a little control over something else?

She said he is always letting her know when supplies are low (which is great because the staff does not), so she could have him do a daily inventory of supplies (and even campers!) with a clipboard. By allowing him input in tracking, it may alleviate some of his anxiety.

This, THIS, is the sign of a great teacher. One who actively thinks about her students and their needs, even outside of school (or camp) hours, and devises needs-based strategies to help them with their daily functioning and emotional state.

So, welcome to the tribe, Camp Director! The Boy can spot the good ones a mile away. Now we just have to get you to come over to our high school ūüėČ

Updates and Upcoming

SPRING IS MY FAVORITE SEASONIt’s almost the end of February, which means it’s almost spring, which means, it’s almost IEP season. And at our next IEP meeting, I have to let the school know what we’ve decided about The Boy’s future – college or no. I’ve since found that isn’t technically accurate, but it may as well be, with all of the extra work The Boy would have to do just to get into college.

Before that time I would like to meet with the high school band director. I sat with The Boy on Tuesday night as his band warmed up for a pre-contest performance, and listened to him play. And that boy can play. I would absolutely hate for him to have to give it up. I also absolutely hate that this district has decided that they can dictate a child’s program and undermine this little thing called an Individualized Education Program

A friend and I have long wanted to meet with the director of special education, and I also think it’s high time we do that, to discuss how high school works here, and how it violates children’s rights. I may also mention a certain band director who has thankfully moved on from my child’s life, but is still negatively affecting those of other kiddos on the spectrum – another friend of mine had to pull her son out of his class because he was being yelled at, as in verbally abused. That’s four kids that I personally know on the spectrum who have been bullied by this guy, that he has attempted to force out of the program, and someone at the district level needs to know.

Before I do all of that, I will have to respond to The Boy’s current educators and see if I can help them connect the dots to try to make it through this school year. I intend to do this without calling another IEP meeting, but via email and a simple suggestion to contact the autism specialist if they are struggling with implementing strategies, and understanding how to help him meet IEP goals.

I sometimes wish I didn’t have to work so that I could have the time to properly manage all of this. And then I think, if I didn’t have to work, I would probably homeschool at this point, and wouldn’t have to!

I Can’t Fix This

“He must have neglected to turn it in.”

This is what The Boy’s language arts special education teacher told me when I let her know I had sent in the reading log for last week. She also said she doesn’t like to go into his backpack because it would be invading his privacy.

While I understand the sentiment, it smacks of ineptitude. That would be like a physical therapist ignoring your issue with your elbow because they didn’t want to ask you to expose it.

She went on to say that he is not completing work in class, which is an IEP goal, because he is spending too much time drawing. His TA (yes, his TA) came up with an incentive program for this, but the teacher claims that because the TA isn’t in her room for her classes, The Boy does not want to participate. And it’s hard because she’s got all the other kids in there.

Well, I’m sorry. Darn it, life is hard, and sometimes you just have to do your job. You can hope and wish and pray that your student with autism will suddenly find his missing executive functioning skills under a desk in the corner, but most people work on them instead. Because that’s what they get paid to do, and that’s what they’re in it for.

Could I call another IEP meeting? Sure. Would it do any good? I think you can cure this as much as you can cure autism itself. I think this is a response email, possibly cc’d to the TA who is the only freaking one at the school with a clue, and maybe we can muddle through the rest of 8th grade.

I hate that my son’s education has come to this. But there are only so many times you can bang your head against a wall. This particular issue is the teacher’s and not The Boy’s. And it’s not my job to fix it.

BANG HEAD HERE

Behavior Analysis for Dummies

I opened yesterday’s post with a series of oft-asked questions of parents of kiddos on the spectrum, the biggest of which I suspect is “Why in the hell is he doing that?”

There’s a lot of guilt one feels as a parent to a kiddo on the spectrum. ¬†After the meltdown, or public incident, or whatever the negative behavior that just occurred was, we often think, “Was that my fault? ¬†Did I do something wrong that caused that?” While feelings of guilt are rarely productive (although feelings are feelings and we can’t control them, really), this questions is a good starting point for a little behavior analysis.

You see, most autism parents already do this naturally, but may not know it had a name.

observation.jpgWhen your kiddo starts to have a problem at school, the IEP team may suggest a functional behavior assessment. ¬†This is where someone (probably with a lot of credentials) will come in to observe your child over several days, and collect data about his/her schedule and routines, and more specifically, exactly what happens before the negative behavior occurs. ¬†The reason they do this is to figure out the “trigger” for the negative behavior, so that we can better understand what the child is attempting to communicate through the negative behavior, and then plan strategies to avoid or minimize the trigger so that the negative behavior decreases, or plan strategies for how the kiddo can cope with a trigger that cannot be reduced or avoided.

Let’s say I get a phone call that The Boy is repeatedly attempting to escape from science class (yep, this happened in real life). ¬†A functional behavior assessment would serve to identify if this is occurring at a consistent time, and what the cause might be – is it another child with lots of body spray sitting next to him? Is it the brightness or noise of the projector that is turned on next to his seat at the beginning of class each day? ¬†Does he have to pee? ¬†Does he have anxiety about being late to his next class? ¬†Does he feel like he is missing something important elsewhere in the building? Is he frustrated because he doesn’t understand the material? Is there too much handwriting so he is falling behind? ¬†Through observation, they can determine what the constant variable is whenever he escapes, and then come up with a plan (move the projector, move his seat, allow him to use a study buddy or word processor to take notes, have a talk with the teacher of his next class about being welcoming and not marking him late, or allow him to use the restroom when he needs to, rather than at passing time). ¬†Strategies often include the use of motivators and rewards, as well, to give your kiddo positive reinforcement to keep up the good work.¬†For instance, if The Boy uses the strategy put in place, and stopped escaping from science, he could earn some extra iPad time in social skills class.

You see, we autism parents often do the same thing at home. ¬†It’s how I know to expect some hyperactivity after we have Goldfish, especially the multicolored kind – I discovered that through careful observation of my own. The¬†triggers for negative behavior I mentioned yesterday came from careful observation of my own, as well.

So if you are ever ready to throw your hands up and scream “WHY??”, take a deep breath, grab a notebook, and start observing. ¬†You already do this fancy thing called Behavior Analysis, and no one knows your kid better than you. You are no “dummy”. ¬†It may take days, weeks, or months, but you’ll get to the bottom of it. You got this. ūüėČ

EC Planner: editorial calendar

Recently I sat down to figure out how I could back in the swing of things here at Simple. I Just Do.  I re-read some resources I had, and began planning (my favorite thing!), and realized I needed a space for an editorial calendar.  Then I realized I already had the perfect space, and it was under-utilized Рthe month-at-a-glance portion of my EC planner!

I had seen posts of others using the daily portion, but it didn’t really work for me. ¬†So I sat down, did some brainstorming, analyzed some analytics, and came up with a whole slew of post topics, and even made up a little code for types of post. ¬†I broke out the post-it notes (my second favorite thing!) and began “scheduling” these posts, making sure to plan a variety of types of posts, as well as topics. ¬†Whatever posts that were not scheduled were put off to the side for revision and use in the future. ¬†And if I get an idea for a post, now I just jot it on one of these small post-its, stick it in there, and it’ll be ready for next month’s planning session. ¬†They are also really easy to move around – I had a different post planned for today, but it wasn’t ready, so I moved this one up a few weeks. ¬†Easy peasy.

I’m also able to schedule my social media posts and interaction, linky parties, etc.

It may not be the most beautiful or elegant thing ever, but for me, the most important thing is it WORKS! ¬†And I can make it beautiful later, when I get some time (yeah, right). ¬†This is not an earth-shattering idea, but it’s always good to take a moment to reflect on what has worked in the past, think about what resources you have, and try to marry the two. ¬†No sense in re-creating the wheel when you don’t have to. In fact that’s something good to do in just about every area of your life. ¬†Sounds like a topic for another blog post‚Ķ now where are my post-its?