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bubble_and_squeak
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23 Jan 2011, 2:20 pm

My son is 3.5 years old, and we are currently in the process of having him assessed by a child psychologist. We are currently also embarking on a period of intervention, during which a child behavioural therapist is doing sessions with us and our son in our home. We have not gotten a solid diagnosis for him yet, but both the psyc and the therapist tell us it's most likely autism spectrum disorder.

We don't know much about asd, but are learning and absorbing as much as we can from any and all professionals or experienced people we speak to.

My prime reason for posting right now is simply that I have completely run out of ideas to engage/connect with/entertain/stimulate my son. I parent him full time while my husband works (my husband is hugely supportive but is in the process of finishing his PhD and has to devote a huge percentage of time to it). I told my husband frankly tonight that lately, the days with our son are absolutely hellish.

My son will not play with toys, firstly. He tires of them very quickly and always seems very, very bored. He prefers to carry around certain toys and books as "talismen" rather than actually play with them. He can't do imaginative play, or at least not in any way we can recognize. He requests cartoons often, but usually once the cartoon is on for a little while he stands up and starts to pace. He loves quiet story time before bed, when he is snuggled right down between my husband and me, and he also loves bathtime, but only at night.

He enjoys Montessori, and goes twice a week for a couple of hours, though he won't play with the other kids (he seems completely unable to engage with other children and goes nuts -- literally racing around, frantically throwing toys about, pinching me, etc. -- if I take him to another child's home). Playdates are right now a no-go. I occasionally take him to the city on the train (we have no car) but that is a very draining, complicated trip and I don't do it more than once every couple of weeks.

He is most happy when I take him out to a nearby field and just turn him loose. There are many days lately when this just isn't possible, as the weather is wretched, the mud is up to our ankles and it's freezing and I am burnt out. I really make an effort to do as much physical activities with him as I can, but sometimes it just isn't possible, and on those days I just can't keep him occupied at home...His energy is so completely overwhelming for both him and me. He is like a little ball of chaos.

I should also mention that my son has the language skills of around a 1 or 1 and a half year old! This is a pretty enormous stumbling block for us. He also can't/won't answer questions about preference for activity (i.e. what he would like to do at any given time).

I realize these things are typical of the disorder he most certainly has -- so can anyone offer me some tips on activities we can do together, or ways I can encourage him to play or entertain himself, at home, so his little eyes don't go square and I don't lose my mind?

I realize this email sounds self-pitying and probably ignorant, but we are just figuring this all out right now and need help from anyone who's willing!



claudia
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23 Jan 2011, 2:55 pm

Hello bubble,
it seems like my son. they also have nearly the same age.
He has been diagnosed with an "other autistic spectrum disorder" and as "autistic disorder" (2 diagnosis in 2 different hospitals) but it matters only for disability contribution (if your country has it).
I asked the same question on WP 3 months ago, because I was confused and I was searching for a therapy. It is difficult to entertain our children because they have not enough attention.
Behaviour therapy will help your boy with attention, play and language. My son started ABA 3 months ago and it was a good choice. Begin it as soon as you can!
Feel free to contact me if you need infomations!



foobabe
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23 Jan 2011, 4:49 pm

Hi Bubble
I notice you live in Ireland - North or South?
Foobabe



bubble_and_squeak
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23 Jan 2011, 4:55 pm

We live in the republic, what about you?

Claudia, yes, that rings true -- we have been encouraged to get a diagnosis for mostly disability compensation purposes. I feel more strongly about our child behavioural therapist than I do about the diagnosis -- because she's going to give us actual practical tools, and that is what we need more than anything!



momsparky
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23 Jan 2011, 9:04 pm

Swimming? (IIRC, when I was last in Ireland, this wasn't so available, I hope things have changed.) This has worked with my son from the time he was your son's age. Find a program where they are going to be aware of kids with sensory issues, and won't push him to put his face in before he is ready.

Nothing wears a kid out as thoroughly as swimming; it engages so many different muscle groups.

Another thing I used to do when my son was this age was put on loud music and we'd have a "dance party." He was so stir-crazy one winter (I was mostly housebound without a car that year) that we did this between every transition for the day; it greatly reduced the transition-based meltdowns. Teach him a few dance moves.

We also bought him a "hippity-hop," one of those big inflatable balls with a handle that you sit and bounce across the room on. That one worked until he slugged me with it (we had, even then, a rule that if he hit someone with a toy, the toy went away.)



annotated_alice
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23 Jan 2011, 9:30 pm

I found that this book has tonnes of great activity suggestions:

The Out-of-Sync Child has Fun: Activities for Kids with Sensory Integration Dysfunction by Carol Stock Kranowitz

Also do you have a routine that you stick to at home? This may make him feel a little more reassured and less like he doesn't know what to do.



misstippy
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23 Jan 2011, 10:39 pm

I second the suggestion to look at "out of sync child has fun" book. Your son sounds a lot like mine at 3.5. My boy is only a year older, but you wouldn't believe the difference a year has made! He was SO hyper that I had to pretty much have him out all day to stay sane. Being at home felt impossible... especially when he didn't really play with toys. See if you can go to a family gym like the YMCA and take him swimming, or let him run around the gymnasium. Or if you can find some gymnastics classes, that helped us a lot in the winter.

When you have trouble with playdates, is this when it's only one other child, or are these group playdates? I ask because my son had a very hard time with group playdates and I learned at some point that he could handle one on one. once I figured that out, my life changed. I went from leaving all playdates crying (me crying because I felt so isolated) to actually watching him have fun. My son had trouble going to other people's houses for a long time too. So, sometimes we had to meet out and about at familiar places that were appropriate for play..... playgrounds that weren't crowded (he had a hard time when there were lots of kids.. though, now it's not a problem at all), the mall during the morning hours when there were fewer people or some other neutral ground.

I did find that if we went to other people's houses, letting him cling to me for a long while before pushing him to play was good... or getting them to put on one of his favorite videos when we arrived. Some parents don't like to have videos at playdates, but sometimes it's what I have found WE need with my boy to get him comfortable at first. Starting the playdate with a snack usually helped too.

Good luck to you!! It WILL get better! 3.5 is a rough age to parent when you're stuck at home with the weather no matter what!!



azurecrayon
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23 Jan 2011, 11:49 pm

bubble_and_squeak wrote:
he won't play with the other kids (he seems completely unable to engage with other children and goes nuts -- literally racing around, frantically throwing toys about, pinching me, etc. -- if I take him to another child's home). Playdates are right now a no-go.


your son sounds a lot like my youngest in many ways, most importantly this one. he was also delayed in his communication at 3.5 when he started a pre-school program. K will be 5 in just a couple more weeks, and his language has come a long way since then, and while he will parallel play at school beside children during activities, he still has never interactively played with another child aside from his brothers.

with the gains in his communication skills, ive tried very hard to learn more about how he feels and thinks by talking with him. he has a severe impairment in his ability to initiate and sustain conversation, so this has been a slow and limited process. one thing i have learned directly from my son is that being around other children scares him. he is afraid they will want to talk to him. at school, there is a particular girl he doesnt like, and it is because she is very young and disabled herself, and often does things against the rules. my son feels obligated to correct her when she does (this is the only form of conversation he engages in with children), and this drives his dislike of her; not because she does things wrong, but because she does things wrong and he has to talk to her to tell her, and talking to her upsets him.

you may want to really consider your sons reactions to these playdates. i know that if i put my son in the position of being one on one with another child and expected to play, he would be unable to cope. heaven forbid the other child actually talk to him, that would be a recipe for disaster. the amount of stress and anxiety he would be under would be tremendous, and i would undoubtedly see a meltdown or at least severe behavior. my SO is also autistic, and he and our youngest are like two peas in a pod, including in their social interaction. my SO does not "play" with others, ever, if he has a choice in the matter. as a child he didnt play with others, did not even make friends until jr high or high school. as an adult, he interacts with others as little as possible, and its out of anxiety about talking to people. if i put him in the "playdate" situation, his reaction would be the same as our sons, with a little less crying and a lot more cranky. my SO was never diagnosed as a child, and so never had the benefit of therapies to help him develop skills that are lacking due to his autism.

there are simply some autistics who dont enjoy playing with others, and forcing or even just expecting them to do so causes them a great deal of anxiety and fear. i never realized how much my son was scared of other children until he was verbal enough to give voice to those fears. his outward affect does not really show that fear, but its there inside him causing him a lot of discomfort. i am hoping with learning better social skills, especially conversational skills, he will be able to overcome that anxiety and not still live with it 35 years later like his father does.

for the preference for activities, ive found asking open ended questions does not work well at all with my youngest. he cant formulate a list of choices on his own and then pick one. instead, i give him a choice and he can usually narrow it down from there. for instance, i never ask him what he wants to eat for lunch, i ask if he wants chicken nuggets or a sandwich. if he doesnt choose one of those two, i will give him two more options. then two more if needed. he just cant seem to make the choice without being given options, and even then, too many options are harder than just choosing between two.

as indoor activities, my son just got a mini trampoline with a handrail for christmas, and its been getting quite a workout. he also plays video games, and legos. thats about it for toys, as he isnt much into them either. it makes shopping for christmas and bday presents challenging!


_________________
Neurotypically confused.
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


CockneyRebel
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24 Jan 2011, 4:51 am

Don't believe all the lies that Autism Speaks loves to spread. Acceptance is the best cure. The thing that goes through minds of most autistics is this: "I do as I do because I am what I am. To change me would be a rejection, to me."


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azurecrayon
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24 Jan 2011, 7:48 am

oh, and if he has that severe of communication impairment, look into sign language or PECS (picture exchange communication system). you can get PECS stuff online for free as well, so it doesnt have to cost anything, and it gives him a simple way to communicate through pictures. a computer, printer, and paper is all it takes. that way, you can show him cards of activities, and he could pick from the cards.


_________________
Neurotypically confused.
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


foobabe
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24 Jan 2011, 2:46 pm

Hi Bubble
We're up North
The reason I asked was to suggest contacting PEAT, http://www.peatni.org,or even CEAT, http://www.ceatni.net/page/1/home/ both are ABA charities. They offer home programmes for parents to do (PEAT) or more intensive programmes one to one with a therapist (CEAT). I would have more experience with PEAT but have heard great things about CEAT. But I did notice that they have a link to http://www.sensationalkids.ie/ that might be of interest to you. Wish we have an equivalent up here.

Take Care :D