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azurecrayon
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06 Sep 2010, 2:16 am

thought i would share this with you other parents, and perhaps ask if any of you have heard this from your kids.

ive been prepping my kids, especially the 4 yr old autistic, for the return to school this week by talking about it an increasing amount. he still hasnt accepted it yet, but was pretty much the same way every day last year ("i no have school today"). he has great difficulty with verbally expressing emotions and impaired intelligibility, and that combined with the fact that hes only 4 has made it difficult to talk to him about why he doesnt like school and thus figure out ways to help him adjust.

this past weekend we had a little breakthrough. in his own words, school is scary because his teachers and friends (not real friends, the kids are called "friends" instead of classmates or boys & girls) will talk to him. his greatest impairment has always been with social interaction, and while i knew he didnt want to talk to other kids, i never would have described or even considered it to be actual fear. these are teachers and kids he spent an entire year with already. his interaction with the kids is generally limited to telling them when they are doing something wrong, otherwise he'd be quite fine with them not being there, but he does seem to genuinely like his teachers.

so while i am overjoyed to have been able to converse with him and get clear and concise information about how he feels, i am also disheartened to think that he feels fear or anxiety over simply having someone talk to him at school. i am planning to share this info with his teachers this week and discuss with them whether he is ever forced to interact verbally with the other kids. i will also find out if his school district does anything with social skills classes. i had thought they wouldnt come into play this early, but if he is getting anxiety from talking to other kids now, it may be beneficial to start finding ways to work around it now rather than later.

im going to talk further with him and see if i can get more detailed info. while in pre-k not talking to the other kids isnt too much of an issue, but i can see where it may become one as he gets older and is expected to interact with others for group assignments, etc. i do worry that with the degree of social impairment hes always shown, he may never really form a connection with another child outside of his brothers, but i also acknowledge that he may not feel the need for that. time will tell i suppose.

just another loop d' loop i didnt see coming on this roller coaster ride.


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partner to: D - 40 yrs med dx classic autism
mother to 3 sons:
K - 6 yrs med/school dx classic autism
C - 8 yrs NT
N - 15 yrs school dx AS


adora
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06 Sep 2010, 1:05 pm

When i went to HS, we had an autistic kid in our class, I'm not one of the ones he grew up with, and went to school with everyday. I was a sophomore, and he was a freshman, and we went to different middle school districts.
Those of us who had just met him, had a difficult time talking with him, we felt like we were more or less talking at him, but the ones who grew up around him, could keep him talking for hours. I think its more or less the NT kids have to adjust to our kids, instead of the other way around.


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Mama_to_Grace
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06 Sep 2010, 1:26 pm

My daughter (now age 7) has always been fearful and anxious about school. She too, could not verbalize what she was frightened of or what made her feel anxious. I found out last year (grade 1) the teacher was actually bribing her with gummy bears to interact with her and the class. She thought this would promote "normality" in my daughter but really it only intensified her fears and anxiety to have a teacher purposely trying to force her into "Scary" situations.

Unfortunately, I have never found the answer for eliminating the social anxiety. Really, only homeschooling would completely eliminate it, which is impossible for me right now. I now have my daughter in a very small private school with a very small class and a director and teacher who listens to me when I tell them not to force her into interaction.



OddFiction
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06 Sep 2010, 9:00 pm

I have an idea. Might not work, but ask your kid if it will - he might decide it will...

Get him a pocket sized doll or figurine he connects to and tell him that when he talks to other kids, pretend he's talking to (through) the figurine. To act as if it is a 'translator' or 'moderator' (play 'telephone' with him sometime to show the idea if he doesn't know it)
And, of course, the reverse - tell him to use the toy as a 'conduit' or 'screen' through which to hear/talk to 'nervous making' people.

(I've used alot of different words to describe how to think of the toy, so that the broad scope of the idea comes through)

I still do this a bit - I carry a pocketwatch and when I get nervous, I focus my 'minds eye' (I hope i used that term correctly) on it. I usually refer to it as an 'anchor' but it's not quite an anchor so much as that 'shield' or 'non-judging receptor' which I suggested above.

('Anchors' are slightly different things :P)

Of course, this means your child is more likely to not make eye contact, but if he's not scared of interacting, it is a step in the right direction.



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07 Sep 2010, 1:36 pm

That's a hard one... you finally find out what's going on, and it's not something you can easily fix. :( It's great that he was able to communicate it, though.


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07 Sep 2010, 9:56 pm

I wish I had the answer to this too. You are not alone. My 5 yr old will talk to adults and teachers, but when it comes to kids, he just freezes up. I too am concerned that he will not make connections with other kids, but so far he has not expressed fear to me.
Today I took him to the swimming pool after school, and we were pretty much playing alone, but 2 kids (a twin boy and girl) same age as my son came over and wanted to play with us. The 2 kids were very social and wanting to play with me and my son. I thought it was cute, and I was trying to encourage interaction between him and the 2 kids. He really didn't want much to do with them. He was sort of being mean to them by making scary noises at them. I am not sure if he was jealous or not. I asked him when we left if he had a good time playing with those kids and he said yes. But I really don't think he did. It is just so confusing. The kids did seem very nice and non threatening to him, but something made him not want to interact. I wish I knew why he does some of the things he does.

Yep, you are right....a rollercoaster ride is a great way to describe it!! !!



azurecrayon
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07 Sep 2010, 10:50 pm

just wanted to say, he had a good day at school today =) they start slow, he only goes today and only with 4 other kids, then not again until next monday when they will be going full time (mon-thurs, 8am-4pm) and with all the kids, approximately 15-20 of them. we dropped him off with no tears or clinging, he kissed and hugged us and told us goodbye, and didnt even turn around to look at us as we left heh. i did tell his teachers about the conversation so they would be prepared for any anxiety issues.

at the end of the day, they reported no real problems. he had a short visit from the OT he is going to be starting with next week and met her student aide, and he did fine with them. didnt play with the other kids at all of course, and needed a little intervention here and there for mainly noise and attention issues. he says he had fun at school today, phew.

of course, tonight hes telling us that he doesnt have school anymore =P and hes right, at least until next monday. and then it will be just like all last year, him telling us he doesnt have school, and us taking him to school to ask the teachers =) this year i am printing up a calendar just for him with his school days on it.

thank you all for sharing your thoughts! while i hate to hear your kids are feeling the same fears, its good to know that it isnt that unusual.

oddfiction, thank you for your suggestion. i may try it, but he will most likely refuse the idea. at 4, he is very grounded in reality and does not "play" in that sense, with real figures pretending to talk or listen etc, nor does he talk to them. his choice of objects is much more abstract, using household objects or building objects with blocks that look nothing like the item they represent, and almost never representing living creatures. i am constantly told that toys or stuffed animals cant talk =) he doesnt engage in any form of personification. its something to try tho and it may be more effective for him as he gets older and is able to understand the idea of a conduit and ways to relieve his own anxiety. thanks =) (btw, i will share the idea with my SO who could actually put it into practice; he could benefit from it as he has pretty intense social anxiety)


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partner to: D - 40 yrs med dx classic autism
mother to 3 sons:
K - 6 yrs med/school dx classic autism
C - 8 yrs NT
N - 15 yrs school dx AS


OddFiction
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07 Sep 2010, 11:15 pm

Blah

I knew it wouldn't come across right. I haven trouble explaining this all the time.

The toy isn't intended to be thought of as talking or alive. It's intended to be an alternate focus to meeting the scary eyes of other people. Talking AT the toy instead of AT the other kid. Not to the toy, and not replacing the human with the toy.. more of a focusing his mind at the toy ... tunnel visionning on the toy ...tunnel minding on the toy... excluding all other input/output except his thoughts & the other person's voice & the existance of the toy (or marble or in my case pocketwatch).

With something familiar to focus on (the marble) in an unknown and unpredictable place like a classroom, there's a sense of stability (the marble) and predictability (the imperfections in the marble, the movement of GI.Joe's arm) that is reassuring to the mind when facing off with the unfamiliar and unpredictable activity of conversing.

Maybe I got it clearer that time?



azurecrayon
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08 Sep 2010, 7:10 am

no, i understood what you meant the first time =) but my son, being only 4 and very realistic, would see talking AT the toy to be talking AT the toy. and toys dont talk or listen. so he wouldnt do it. he would tell me in that exasperated tone of his that i am being silly and you dont talk to toys because they arent real. he does not talk to his toys, ever. his thinking is really that concrete and black & white. this same child has a mini meltdown if you insist he has a middle name. he was originally taught his first and last name, that is all that exists for him and it cannot change. when he is older, perhaps more flexible, he may be able to accept the idea of a conduit or focal point which is a more abstract idea than he is capable of right now.

i can see it as a really useful tool once he is able to understand it. i think he would need a lot of practice and starting slow tho, as he has that hyperfocus many autistics do, and when he focuses on something, the world around him, including voices and the physical presence of people, simply drop off his radar. but its definitely a good coping tool to teach him.


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partner to: D - 40 yrs med dx classic autism
mother to 3 sons:
K - 6 yrs med/school dx classic autism
C - 8 yrs NT
N - 15 yrs school dx AS


OddFiction
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08 Sep 2010, 3:11 pm

oh well, maybe some other thrill seeking individual will surf this post and grab it for now :P
meanwhile, when the time comes, you're welcome to pass it on as an idea.



Blanketyblank
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10 Sep 2010, 3:49 am

Have you tried using picture cards? My son is 6 and has been diagnosed with ASD since 3. He has been in mainstream school since nursery (from the age of 3).

His teachers and school have been extremely helpful from the beginning, and not forced social interaction but brought it to him gradually. I made him a little set of picture cards with simple signs on that teachers could use while using the verbal instructions, like "no, yes, sit down, toilet, playtime" I find that most of my sons social anxiety comes from misunderstanding a verbal instruction, or simply not registering it in his head until it gets linked to something visual. He was provided with a visual timetable so he could see what part of the day was coming next. A lot of his anxieties can be helped by him simply knowing how his day is structured, so he has the spare focus to concentrate on dealing with talking to children, and ofc his lessons!

Last year he recieved social skills classes which were very helpful, taking the form of simple turntaking games and repeating classmates names during those games.

He has progressed really well, the only card i use now is one that says "stop" and "please listen". I think a lot of problems in general at school evolve from teachers not understanding that many autistics don't need or derive pleasure from social interaction and they want to force it, whereas i am happy if my son can just use social niceities when appropriate and otherwise be left to do his own thing.

He has just started school again after the summer break, and i think it's telling that it took him nearly the whole 6 weeks to unwind from school, it's so stressful for him.

Hope this helps a little :)



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10 Sep 2010, 4:45 pm

OddFiction wrote:
Blah

I knew it wouldn't come across right. I haven trouble explaining this all the time.

The toy isn't intended to be thought of as talking or alive. It's intended to be an alternate focus to meeting the scary eyes of other people. Talking AT the toy instead of AT the other kid. Not to the toy, and not replacing the human with the toy.. more of a focusing his mind at the toy ... tunnel visionning on the toy ...tunnel minding on the toy... excluding all other input/output except his thoughts & the other person's voice & the existance of the toy (or marble or in my case pocketwatch).

With something familiar to focus on (the marble) in an unknown and unpredictable place like a classroom, there's a sense of stability (the marble) and predictability (the imperfections in the marble, the movement of GI.Joe's arm) that is reassuring to the mind when facing off with the unfamiliar and unpredictable activity of conversing.

Maybe I got it clearer that time?

OddFiction, this is getting away from the OP a little but I wanted to say that I am glad you posted this idea. My son does what you have described and while we have always allowed it and his teachers allow it, I have never really understood how it helps him. His item varies but often its a matchbox size toy car or a marble. Sometimes at school when its time to leave for a field trip he will hide under the table and refuse to come out until the teacher remembers to offer him his current favorite item then he will come along happily. The same often happens at home, usually when we are going some place he is unfamiliar with. Your post has given me a little more insight into his thoughts and feelings. Thanks!