After Louie’s diagnosis of ASD I heard nothing for around 4 – 5 months. There wasn’t any contact from outside agencies or any other help. His pre-school were amazing and held a meeting to set targets inviting various professionals. Nobody came. To say I was upset was putting it mildly. I was struggling with Louie’s behaviour at home especially with a new-born baby. It felt as though everyone thought I would know what to do because of my teaching background. However raising a child and teaching a child were two completely different worlds. Simple tasks such as getting Louie dressed were taking me around an hour each morning and would be on par with a wrestling match. Louie’s language was developing but still not enough at this point to convey what he wanted or how he was feeling. And so I did what most parents do when they feel their child is not receiving what they need and are entitled to. I kicked up a storm!
Before long Louie was receiving one to one at school and we were receiving weekly home visits focusing on behaviour techniques. The educational psychologist, Jo, was amazing and Louie loved her. We both looked forward to her weekly visits. She taught me a lot over her visits and is still a great source of help. Here are 5 strategies that were so simple yet so affective:
Due to Louie’s meltdowns each time he needed dressing, Jo told me I was to pick two different jumpers and ask “Louie which one would you like to wear; the shark jumper or the dinosaur jumper?” I sighed inwardly, this woman didn’t have a clue. There was no chance it would work. The next morning it was time to get dressed and so I said the above. Louie looked at me confused by this change of tact. He then pointed at the shark jumper and let me dress him without any meltdown! Now I realise I had given him some control and let him make his own choice. This is what he wanted all along. I now apply this method whenever I feel Louie is struggling with decision making or things are getting out of control. For example at the ice cream parlour on holiday there were around 50 different flavours on show, I recognised the signs of a meltdown brewing and quickly stepped in with a choice, “Louie would you like chocolate or strawberry?” and there it was simple as that, sat with a strawberry ice cream living the dream!
Amazingly Louie had actually been implementing this for a while of his own accord. For Christmas he had received a Buzz Light Year back pack. Quickly this became like a comfort blanket and was constantly attached to his back full of toy trains. I had read about weighted vests that help autistic children feel calmer and more focused. Louie had simply created his own modified one. The weight across the shoulders creates a deep pressure sensory input that can then help with sensory difficulties.
As the backpack idea seemed to be working so well, I started looking at weighted blankets. Louie’s sleep was always a challenge so I welcomed any help in this area. I discussed the blankets with Jo next time she came. She said before I went ordering one to try something more simple. Carry out my usual bedtime routine; bath, milk, story, bed, but this time tuck Louie in tight with the duvet. I didn’t know how Louie would react to this. I made it a funny situation for him by singing a silly rhyme “snug as a bug, snug as a bug” He smiled and seemed happy and content. I sat on the stairs waiting for the inevitable footsteps out of bed. Nothing. I spied at him around the door after around 20 minutes…he was sleeping! Louie settles for bed pretty well now, thanks to Elvis Presley. However when he is feeling maybe a little anxious he asks me to do “the snug as a bug.”
First and Then
As part of Jo’s visits we played lots of games with Louie. This was to encourage turn taking, sharing, patience, as well as many other things. Each time Jo used the terms “First” and “Then” with a visual picture board to show the order of he games. She encouraged me to use the language in day to day routines. By giving Louie an idea of what was coming next he was able to process and prepare himself. This made him a lot calmer especially when leaving the house. Eventually I had a visual board developed and a visual timetable and this has worked wonders.
Louie has been toilet trained since he was around 20 months and was a quick learner. However when we moved home he was anxious to use the new toilet. We thought this would pass but it got progressively worse. He would stand to pee but had never sat to do his numbers twos. Eventually I had to take him to see the doctor because there was now an impaction and he was in a terrible state. I spoke to Jo and she explained that Louie may need something under his feet to make him feel secure and grounded. After some prescribed laxatives and persuasion, Louie sat on the toilet with an up turned crate to rest his feet on. Relief all around, literally in Louie’s case!
These 5 simple strategies have helped me greatly. I recommend anybody with similar scenarios as Louie’s to give them a try. Of course all children are different and some of the suggestions Jo gave just didn’t suit Louie and so we went back to the drawing board and tried another. I would be interested in any techniques other parents use and the impact they have had on your lives.