Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
Both my sons on the Autism Spectrum have been home two weeks for the holiday break. There is one week remaining for Nicholas, my high functioning child that will be ten in three months. Matthew, the younger son is eight and goes back next week for half days during the month of January, known as intersession for year round schools.
Next he has two weeks off in February before returning to school full time. During this period there are no therapeutic services through the School District, unless it was written into the IEP. Since he is at a new school this was not something I realized would happen and will be addressed at the annual IEP meeting later this year.
Matthew is the non-verbal child who finds ways to communicate his wants and needs to both me and his older brother. There are times when I have to step in and explain what Matthew wants to Nicholas, which is understandable since he too is on the spectrum with his own set of issues.
Last year I kept the fake Christmas tree up until President's Day since Matthew enjoyed the lights so much. This year it was taken down today because Matthew moved the trampoline back into the living room beside the tree since the tree was in the spot that the trampoline rests.
Later while watching CNN he entered the bedroom with the large empty Christmas tree box. He did not move and blocked my view of the television. Matthew jumped up and down with glee while I dismantled the tree, moving my bags and boxes around.
When I entered the computer room he had all the contents from the large box lined up. Yesterday I removed all the snow globes and little trinkets from a table near his video cabinets. Prior to the holidays this table stored all borrowed library books. At the front door is a shoe compartment storage with space on top that housed my current reading books.
Since I had moved my reading books to another location to keep the library books closest to the door, I placed the videos that Matthew chooses from the library to place on the table along with chapter books from the library.
For some reason Matthew prefers to line up the videos on the couch making it impossible to sit down and watch the television or read. He could not decide whether the videos and books were lined up or stacked on the table and moved it around several times.
Once I finished with the cleaning of the living room from the tree I threw out the recycled paper products that I store in a Trader Joe's paperbag along with the contents from the vacuum in a garbage bag.
A few minutes after placing the paperbag back in the recycling area of the kitchen I found Matthew had moved the bag to the living room while standing there with his stack of videos.
This meant that Matthew was now ready to return videos and get a new batch at the library. It was a challenge to explain to him that the library is closed and we cannot do this. He does not point, but uses his whole hand at an angle to reach or indicate he wants to open the door, cabinet, etc.
Videos can be borrowed for two days at the library, so every other day we are there with a new stack. Each library cardholder can check out three videos, so this usually means I get three, Nicholas and Matthew have three, but they are all for Matthew.
Matthew usually picks the same series in videos and I grab a few that he might like and check out beforehand so he does not take them away from me. We go to the library with a Trader Joe's paper bag filled with books and videos.
There are days that Matthew will check out six Dragon Tale's videos, or Barney, Jay Jay the Jet Plane or Rugrats. The librarian did not like when he organized their National Geographic videos one day since they were to stay in separate areas.
Earlier in the week I had cleaned all the fans from the bedroom. This is done by rinsing them off in the tub. The last time I cleaned the fans I mopped the bathroom floor with the Mr. Clean Magic Reach Starter Kit. Matthew stood in the doorway helping me move rugs into the kitchen and placed them all back on the floor before it was dry.
The other day when I came back into the kitchen I noticed the dish pan I use in the bathroom for handwashing, but was currently underneath a hole in the ceiling from the rainstorm, was placed on the kitchen table.
This led me immediately into the bathroom to see Matthew moving the rugs and trying to get them out of the bathroom. He associated the cleaning of the fans with the mopping and we had to move them all back.
There are times that I am able to go to the library before picking up Matthew from school. While standing on the sidewalk I can see his class with aides and teacher coming up the walkway before making their way up the stairs for the rest of the class to ride the bus home.
Helping Matthew transition from school to the car and pick up Nicholas before heading home is having the new batch of videos I borrowed in the bag with me on the sidewalk. There are only three videos instead of 6-9, but it keeps him from becoming agitated in the car as he is opening and looking at the videos.
I soon learned to bring a video every day after seeing the disappointment when his eyes looked at my hands with nothing for him. I even read from some of the other parents and grandparents in a behavior group I am in that many bring goodies or a toy when they pick up their child from school. This makes the ride home go smoother for the driver.
One of the presents I picked out for Nicholas was a punching bag that Matthew liked as well. Since I did not want to keep this hanging from the doorway in the kitchen all the time I moved it to the bedroom and draped it over a doorway for easy access.
Matthew can reach the punching bag and brings it to Nicholas to indicate he wants him to punch so Matthew can stand and watch. I have to coax Nicholas to entertain Matthew and hang it up for them each time it falls off.
Matthew now wants Nicholas to go to sleep at the same time, which poses a problem since Matthew is on medication and doses off quickly on the living room couch, but the minute you move him he comes back to grab Nicholas by the hand to bring him in the room too.
When a new movie is purchased that Nicholas wants it is hard for him to get to watch it since Matthew wants it for lining up, stacking or opening and closing it a few times and then placing it on his shelf.
When I open a cabinet for a book Matthew is right there with his hand outreached wanting one of my home made videos. I have many tapes that say SOAPS and he can tell which ones they are and only wants those. He really likes the theme song to General Hospital, while Nicholas is trying to learn the difference between fake and real. He was very upset one day when he thought Carly was really going under the knife. He watches a lot of Animal Planet and on that show they really do show Vets doing surgery.
There are many times that Matthew does not want me around, so he grabs my arm and takes me to the computer and pulls out the chair for me to sit and practically pushes me into it. This is usually when I am trying to engage him in some drawing or game playing in the bedroom.
A few years ago when I had a nursing agency providing Respite Care I would do errands and leave the boys home. We had in a two month period about six different workers. Each time I arrived home Matthew would grab the purse of the worker and hand it to her while pushing her via her behind toward the front door. This was quite a scene and they never got a chance to tell me much because he was so insistent that they leave.
Matthew sees that I have a few of my video tapes on top of the refrigerator, so now he opens the freezer and manages to get my items and line them up on the kitchen table. When I refused to let him do this and placed the videos back up there he went for his brother, grabbing his arm bringing him into the kitchen.
Nicholas was oblivious to what Matthew wanted so I let him know. At bedtime I have to repeatedly remind Nicholas to use the bathroom and get his drink of water beforehand, otherwise Matthew stands outside the bathroom door waiting since he thinks when he sees Nicholas leaving the living room that he is off to bed.
Before the holiday break I picked up some items at Target, one being a new dish drainer. This one has a hole and is snapped onto the bottom piece. I moved this closer to the sink at the edge of the counter space. Each time I enter the kitchen the drainer is moved with water all over because the other one was in that place. Most of the time the changes I make around the house are not disruptive to his existence, but he does make it known when he wants things to be the same.
The hardest adjustment for Matthew to endure was in September of last year when we had to purchase another TV/VCR combo for the bedroom. For several years I have been getting the Sylvania 19" inch combos, but Kmart was closing down and had nothing in stock so we had to settle for a 13" Daewood from Target.
Over the holiday break Matthew spotted the other television set that I have stored, this one is only a television and he tried to pull it out of the closet. Then I found the Daewood on the edge of the table it sits on. Prior to that I stopped him from picking up a fan in the living room. He was trying to get that table to put the other television on. It seems he is not very happy viewing a 13" set and wants to return to a 19" set.
I have learned to decipher what Matthew wants and needs through the years with Nicholas catching on most of the time. I can tell by looking at his facial expressions, his posture and his disposition what is bothering him.
Now if only the screeching, stomping and whining would cease.
Previously published on Epinions January 1, 2005
Today being January 1, 2006 some things have changed. We took down the tree days ago when Matthew was sleeping. Santa brought Matthew Refrigerator Phonics from Leap Frog to keep him occupied while hanging around the refrigerator. There is now a 19" television in the bedroom for Matthew to view, with Food Network and Rachel Ray one of his favorite channels to watch.
The library books are now stored underneath the television in the livingroom. Matthew prefers to shake magazines, books and newspaper all around the house. Many times he does this in front of Nicholas trying to get his attention.
There is one week left of school vacation for both boys with Matthew only on half days for four weeks. Then Matthew will have four days off until he goes back full days the second week in February. The issues surrounding the IEP and services that are not fulfilled during intersession time were not addressed at the Triennial IEP, seems I forgot about that! I really thought Matthew would be attending a new school come this New Year, but that never materialized.
The special education center is too restrictive an environment for Matthew and would be a step backwards for his educational needs. We still have the assessment process to finish for FloorTime, so at least those services will be in place soon along with his Feeding Therapy.
The screams have continued along with some other noises coming from Matthew. The other day while standing at the register at Border's he almost tore off my shirt. It seems we waited too long in line and had just come from the kids club at 24 Hour Fitness where they waited while I relieved some tension on the machines.
One or two stops during a trip is all Matthew can handle, although sometimes we can get muster another stop. His latest interest is standing at the doorway to all stores that have electronic doors. He likes to make the door open with his foot and irritates most of the armed security officers in the process.
Our next search will be for someone to help with the Behaviors so Matthew can find another outlet instead of hitting, scratching, bruising and tearing off clothing to let us know he is not happy and/or agitated at one thing or another.
Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.
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