Thursday, August 2, 2012

Finding The Trouble Zones

Disclaimer - First and foremost - I am just a mom trying out ideas on how to best help my child, and sharing what I am learning with others.  What I share should NEVER be taken as any form of medical advice.  Remember that Chase's sensory needs are going to be different from your child's.  What works to calm him down, get him through the day might not be what your child needs.

Once you have figured out your child's daily routine it is so much easier to then look and figure out when will those possible trouble zones occur?   Let's start at the beginning shall we.  
  • He does not like to be woken up.  He likes to wake up on his own.   
  • Getting him to get dressed is a HUGE challenge.  Keeping him dressed is a bigger challenge.
  • What is he going to do with himself from the time the bus picks him up at 8:15 until class starts at nearly 9am? I haven't decided if he will eat school breakfast or not - probably a daily "let's see what is on the menu" type of deal. The principal mentioned needed parent volunteers to read to kids while waiting for class time.  This can either be a winner with him - because he loves to be read to, or a loser - because he will want to be up and around.  Not only that but with so many children in one space he is going to be ALL over the place.
  • Reading, writing time - He has a hard time focusing on things.  He struggles with sitting down.  He will work well with some of the time with someone one on one - however left to his own devices and he will draw trains.  His classroom has 25 children in it already - this should be fun.
  • Good news is he does get pulled out of classes for 150 minutes a week for specially designed instruction plus an hour of OT and an hour of PT.
  • Once a week on Tuesdays he will be pulled out of school early so that I can take him to OT = principal already knows this and we are both aware that I will still be getting a system generated letter knowing that I am interfering with his attendance - but that his OT supersedes the importance of staying in school.
  • I worry that after being in a school environment all day "learning" that when he is home and i want to work with him one on one he will be resistant.  We will TOTALLY play this by ear -
  • Thankfully we have already set up a very regimented bedtime routine that we all enjoy.  Both Chase and Emma call me on it when we don't do our routine - so that is good.  It is just actually staying asleep that will be the problem!!!! 
Okay - good thoughts - what else?  What are some things that I know he struggled with in the past that could be potential hazards in the future?

Chase went to preschool for the past two years.  At Head Start he had an assigned chair.  As long as his name was on the chair he was okay if it got moved.

At the preschool run by our local School District Chase Chase sat down on the elephant at the beginning of the year and the rest of the year he would race to that spot.  He would shed his coat and backpack, push people out of the way to get to that spot, and when his teachers began to either stand on that spot or put other children there he would have a meltdown.  (The teacher's began to do this as a way to help him learn flexibility).

 Each day when I got him off the bus, after riding for less than five minutes on the bus, either a child or the bus driver would inform me that he wasn't keeping his hands to himself.  I don't know how many times the bus driver would say to me "You need to talk to Chase about how important it is to keep his hands to himself."  I would smile, say "okay", and attempt to have the conversation with him.  "But I didn't do anyfing."  Would always be his response.  He thinks very much in the moment, and when talking to him about past transgressions he doesn't quite get it - because it isn't what is happening RIGHT NOW.  Right now he ISN'T doing "anyfing".

If you start a routine with him be prepared to continue it, and have massive meltdowns until he gets used to the new routine.

He doesn't deal well with transitions. 

Chase enjoyed recess.  He liked riding the tricycle, playing on the slides, and towards the end of the year playing with other children.  I'm choosing to be optimistic here!  He will create his own routines on the playground, I am sure.

And as I mentioned in my first introductory post about preparing his sensory diet HE JUST MIGHT SURPRISE US!  Still - being prepared is a good thing - and it helps Momma stay calm - which keeps him calm and EXCITED for Kindergarten.  Which is why we have a calendar posted that he crosses off each day in his excitement for school to start.

In all this preparation the question exists: Is a schedule and a plan going to be the proverbial magical wand?  No!  Will a schedule prevent all future meltdowns?  No!!  Will each day have bumps in the road?  No!!!  Will we continue to use a picture schedule for the next few years?  Probably not, I know myself - I'm too much like my mom.  I get bored easily and we will switch to something else that works down the road.  Change can be good - just as long as I keep in mind that Chase does like to know what is going on, and just because something works one day that it might not work the next.  

And because it might not work the next day it is important to have a bag of tools up our sleeves!  Leading us to our next homework assignment:

Homework Assignment:

  • Make a list of activities that you can do that would work throughout the day.
  • What activities will wake Chase up and put him in a good frame of mind for school?
  • What can we do to help make the bus ride a pleasant ride for all involved and ease some of Mommy and Daddy's anxiety? (with school starting in two weeks this is one of the things my dear husband is worried about the most!)
  • What can Chase do while he is waiting for school to begin?
  • What can be put in place in the classroom to give Chase structure and stability?
  • What sorts of activities can Chase do that doesn't make him stand out when he needs to take care of his sensory needs?
  • What can we do to make lunch time successful in the cafeteria?
  • Will Chase enjoy the chaos of Recess or will he need more structure?
  • What will help Chase when he is not able to focus because he is overstimulated?
  • What will help Chase when he is starts to get sluggish and is no longer alert - which happens when his body starts to unwind and he gets tired or overstimulated.  (interesting how he can become sleepy or wound up by being overstimulated - no just one or the other).
  • What can we do to help with transitions, which he struggles with?
  • Read this great blog posts from a mom who has been there, done that!  Hartley's Life with 3 Boys: Sensory Diet

In this series

Creating A Sensory Diet - Intro
Creating a Daily Schedule
We Have a Schedule, Now What?
Finding The Trouble Zones

We Have A Schedule, Now What?

Today was one of my best days in a while with Chase.  I instituted the picture calendar last night and he LOVED it.  When he woke up this morning, okay when I woke up (mentally, not physically) he looked at me and said, "Mommy, where is our calendar thing?"  I quickly planned the first part of our morning, showed the kids, and they immediately began to do the first item on the list - GET DRESSED. It took us a while - but when he was dressed he asked, "Can I take the picture off?"  What a motivator!  The morning ran smoothly and we got out of the house with time to spare for Emma's 3 year check up.  He needed to be reassured that it was for Emma, but he was fine otherwise - especially with the knowledge of a lollipop afterward.

The kids were hungry, so we went to our local amusement park because we have meal vouchers there.,   As we approached the front gates we had this conversation:

Me: "Chase do you want Pizza or corn dogs for lunch?" 
Me: "Emma, what about you?"
Emma: "Pizza!"
Me: "After we eat we are only going to ride the train, okay?"
Chase: "Can we ride the Ferris Wheel, too?"
Me:  "Okay, the Ferris Wheel too!"  I agreed as the two rides are right next to one another.

We got our vouchers and headed for the pizza joint.  Chase held my hand and I knew we were going to have a great visit.   Once we got there I went to get our food and I looked down and Chase was gone.  I panicked for a second until I looked at his favorite umbrella table.  It is amazing how he goes directly for his table (which is hard when someone else is sitting there).  When we enter the park he always gets a map and pours over it planning his trip (which he knew what this trip would entail).  He was sitting at the table reading his map.

After eating we headed for the Ferris Wheel.  Emma started crying over spilled water, dropping her cup, Chase sitting where she wanted to blah, blah, blah.  It was clearly nap time.  I told Chase we needed to go home for nap time.  Oh, the devastation.

Chase: "But, you said I could ride the train!!!"Said with big fat tears rolling down his ruddy cheeks.
Me"Oh, honey.  You're right, I did promise you the train."  I realized that although Emma was in meltdown mode with a little bit of cuddling she would settle down.  If he didn't get his scheduled train ride we would be in meltdown mode for HOURS.

It is important that our children learn flexibility, and that sometimes the schedule will have to be changed - but whenever possible for their sake and ours it might be good to stick to the schedule.  As soon as I had Emma cuddled on my lap with her head on my shoulder as we waited for the train to arrive she calmed down.

Chase sat waiting so patiently (he had his intense look on his face that often makes me wonder "What are you thinking about.") until he heard the train.  Oh the excitement, the joy, the smiles on peoples faces as they watched him get all giggly!  I'm glad we stuck to the schedule!

Fast forward to bedtime.  We don't really need the picture schedule for the evening, but he requested it.  More so that he could take off the pictures when he was done putting on his PJ's, brushing his teeth, read a book, go to bed!  I tucked him in bed with his sleeping bag, square blanket (he's had since birth), Cars blanket, his fathers Chiefs fan throw blanket, and finally his trains weighted blanket.  I swear that kid is going to sweat to death - but he surprises me.  A few minutes later he comes running out the bedroom door.

Chase: "Mommy, Mommy, we forgot to take the bed time picture off."  He says with near panic in his voice.
Me: "Okay, you know where it is, go take it off."  I say as I am cleaning something off in the sink.
Chase: "I did it, Good night Mommy."  And he runs back into his room and crawls under his mountain of blankets.  Within minutes he is asleep.

I am now alone, revisiting the day and thanking the idea of creating a picture schedule that was suggested to me two years ago by his preschool teacher - wishing I had tried it earlier!

In This Series

Creating A Sensory Diet - Intro
Creating a Daily Schedule
We Have a Schedule, Now What?
Finding The Trouble Zones