June 24, 2012

When I Speak His Language

"We'll go to the dounut shop, and then to the movies to see Brave! We'll have an adventure day with Daddy!" I excitedly told Caleb this morning.

"Can we make a map?" he asked. I smiled.

"Of course we can. That's a very good idea, Caleb."

Autism at work. In a good way. My son's need for structure and routine has become increasingly apparent over the last few weeks. He doesn't handle surprise or change or uncertainty real well. He likes to know what's going on, what to expect. I think he gets that from me.

So before leaving the house this morning, we mapped out our day. If you look closely, you can see where we've been:

I never was very good at drawing. I cheated at the end and used stickers. Artistic inabilities aside, though, Caleb loved his map and he kept us on schedule all day. After each "stop", he asked us to put a check mark above the picture to show we had completed that part.

I am just beginning to realize how much my son craves this kind of visual information: to know what's going on, what we've already done, and what is left to do. He can't read yet, and doesn't retain a whole lot audibly. But by golly, stick a picture schedule in front of him, and he's on board. Taking mental notes, I am. 

Here we are at "Brave" this morning for an early matinee. We had no meltdowns in the theater (praise God!) and we left with Caleb happily calling it "the best movie ever!"

He calls just about every movie "the best movie ever!" But we still think it's adorable.

Check mark for "Brave" (and my crude drawing of Merida).

Double marks for the map idea. We're gonna use that one again.

A few weeks ago, Caleb found out our sofa has a bed inside it. He'd never heard of such a thing. A bed inside the couch? Where had such a contraption been all his life?

Well, guess who had a new favorite toy?

One Friday night, which is Jason's game night/guy night, we found ourselves with an evening together and nothing much planned.

"Hey bud, wanna have a Mommy-Caleb movie night?"

His eyes lit up.

"Would you like to pull the sofa bed out?"

"Yeah! Yippee! Yippee! I'm rich I'm rich!" he yelled.

So out came the sofa bed. But I told him pajamas first. Get bear and kitty (his comfort stuffies). Don't forget a blanket and pillow.

Well. He brought out two blankets from his bedroom.

"One for you, Mommy!"

Such a sweet boy!

I even closed the blinds in the livingroom and the dining room. Caleb smiled real big when he saw me do that. He has a thing for dark rooms and from the look on his face I could just tell...

... I was speaking his language.

We snuggled right down with our blankets and put in "Despicable Me." Before long, he was lying across me, using my stomach for a pillow.

Precious moments with my little boy. When everything aligns just right. No problems, no tantrums. Just him and me, on the same page, loving life together.

I treasure such moments. They've been rare lately.

We started homeschooling three days after his regular preschool got out. This was not our plan. I figured this summer would go much the way last summer did, with long lazy days, beach trips, and play dates with friends. What I didn't expect was how much he would miss the rythym and routine of school. How dramatically the loss of it would affect him.

After three days of meltdowns, messes, and Caleb asking "We have school today?", I knew we were in trouble. His need for structure and a consistent routine was greater than I thought. So after having a meltdown of my own in front of my husband on the third evening, he and I brainstormed.

"You probably don't want to hear this," Jay said. "But maybe you should start homeschooling him now."

I didn't want to hear it, but he was right. Caleb needed something and providing that structure now would only help us in the fall when we actually start school.

We worked up a simple schedule. An hour a day, in the afternoon, when he was already accustomed to being at school. The work is simple. Reading books together, doing some practice sheets from a kintergarden workbook, playing games. Nothing serious. Just something for him to do and look forward to each day. At the end of his "school work", he gets to choose a computer game to play or a special toy from a box.

And wouldn't you know it, it's working. Our afternoons are running much smoother since we implemented Operation: Homeschool. We eat lunch, take a little quiet time for ourselves, do school work, then play. And usually, when all is said and done, it's time for me to make dinner and Daddy's nearly home. Simple. And effective.

It's all about learning his language. I am not fluent yet, but I'm working on it.

Oh, and this? Mr. Sneaky Boy took this with my camera when I was, obviously, out of the room. I found it on my camera card when I downloaded pictures tonight. Just thought I'd share it with y'all. He's such a goofball!

Night all!


Mama Sue said...

Yes! Language is important. Glad to hear structure is working. Kudos, me-me. You did well with it as well.
Love, Mom

Lindsay said...

Did I ever tell you stories about my roommate from Minnesota? She has Aspergers and the start of a new quarter at school was no fun. The first couple of weeks as she would adjust to a new schedule were rough, as she did not adjust to the change well. Good for you learning his language! It's not something that's easy to deal with, and you are doing an amazing job. Love you!