Slow and Steady…

July 13, 2017

It is summer, but we keep on learning. Usually from 7PM till 8 PM we spent time learning new things, reviewing past information, and practicing skills Robert has never mastered.  That means speech.  But we take it easy.  Gaining confidence is the main goal of our evening sessions.

  1.  Among old Robert’s books I found A First Atlas by Scholastic Inc.  I bought it yeast ago, when both my children were very young and…. never used it.  It was too simple for my daughter and it seemed too complicated for Robert.  So I put it away.  Now, it seems like easy summer reading for Robert.  However, we are not reading one section each day, to memorize new facts.  That would not be possible without repetitions and additional practice.  We treat each section like a set of postcards sent from different continents. Many photographs help to understand short paragraphs.  The simplified maps, showing mainly landforms, allow to make connections to the places pictured in photographs. I don’t ask any questions during or after the reading although I sometimes comment on what we see.  This is my way of emphasizing some facts and making more probable that Robert notices the same things I do.
  2. Robert has just finished the workbook Cursive Success by Handwriting Without Tears. Most of the tasks he completed by himself.  Usually, he did them  after we had finished working together. The process of rewriting printed texts in cursive, seemed to calm Robert and make him feel independent.
  3. Everyday, we started and finished our learning with practicing speech using Autism and PDD Things I Can Say and Do. Robert kept memorizing some sentences.  A few of them we changed into ones more appropriate for him.  First, he read each sentence and then repeated it while looking at me.  Then he read three sentences and repeated them while they were hidden under my hand.  I pointed to the place where the phrase was written, and Robert looking at me stated it.  We did that two or three times each day.  It got easier.  Robert liked most those phrases we added to the text as they related to his experiences.  For instance, for Things I Can Say at the Beach he remembered best, “Let’s walk along the beach”, “Let’s play with waves”, and “Look at the seagull”.
  4. Each day, Robert completed,with different degrees of independence, one test from Math U See Epsilon section ( operation on fractions).  He was mostly independent and proud of himself while adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing fractions. Although as the problems became more complicated (for instance multiplying three mixed numbers or subtracting two mixed numbers which required both regrouping and finding common denominator), he insisted that I remain seated next to him.  Whenever, I tried to get up, he put his hand on my arm and demanded, “Sit, sit, sit” . I also helped sometimes (not always)  with word problems.  He did very well with mental operations.  He was very pleased with himself when he completed independently most of the calculations by himself.  It was a joy to see his face.
  5. After Robert finished reading selected chapters of The Odyssey that were included in Reading Mastery VI, we read The Odyssey  for children published by Usborne. That endeavor was both easier and more complex.  The fact that there were many pictures did help.  The texts were shorter, but the vocabulary was more challenging.  I could help by developing similar worksheets as those included in Reading Mastery, but I didn’t want to.  I just wanted to read and explain some words during reading.  Again, no asking questions to check Robert’s comprehension  although, I stopped a few times in each chapter to comment on the presented events or pictures.  I also expressed “surprise” about different adventures described in the book or I reminded Robert that there were some elements missing.

We are moving slowly, but we are moving forward. I see progress.  Maybe a little wobbly, maybe slow, but progress. I love noticing how much Robert has learned so far.  But I love even more watching Robert realizing how much he  knows.  That sly smile in his eyes! Priceless.

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Trips and Screams

July 6, 2017

This is just a record of our trip interrupted many times by Robert making all sort of noises of unknown origin. There is nothing to learn about how to address such behavior, only a description of our clumsy attempts to go on while simultaneously addressing the behavior without any previously developed plan.  Almost every trip we take together has some moments like those.  I usually ignore them in my writing but they do happen and they do affect all of us in many ways.  

I am still getting back on track after four-day and 500 mile long vacation.  On Saturday, we went to Pleasure Bay for a walk around the bay.  Calm and peaceful.  Robert was calm.  He just insisted on getting his buttermilk crispy chicken sandwich and fries as he didn’t want to eat anything from the grill.  Specially since he ate four hamburgers the day before.  He said “Fries” hundred times or more. That is all.

On Sunday, we drove to Horseneck Beach.  We went for a walk along the beach, but surprisingly not extremely long walk, as Robert wanted to return to our spot relatively soon.  We played with strong waves for no longer than 10 minutes.  Still, Robert seemed to get some sort of rash from  water.  The water was not very appealing.  It seemed dirty with plenty of brown remains of the ocean plants floating in it.  We left the beach after a little more than an hour, but I got sunburn anyway.  We drove to Newport for the Cliff Walk.  Jan didn’t leave his jacket in the car.  It was very hot, and he got overheated, but Robert didn’t let him take off his jacket anyway.  I saw them from far away.  Jan attempting to carry his jacket and Robert trying to put it back on Jan.  His efforts were accompanied by screams of protests. Jan gave up and put his jacket back on.  I was upset.  Had they been not walking so fast and leaving me far behind I would insist on Jan not wearing a jacket.  Robert cannot dictate everybody what and when to wear .  This has been a problem lately.  It is mostly problem with Jan’s clothes not mine. There is for a reason for that.  For once, Jan forms habits which Robert notices and then he wants his dad to follow them to the fault.  Secondly, Jan  gives up easily, when Robert insists.  I usually present Robert with my passive resistance and that works. I stop in the middle and let Robert know that until he stops “insisting” we don’t go anywhere or don’t do anything.  On the way home,  we stopped in Fieldstone restaurant.  We spent relaxing time there with nice service and food everybody liked. Since I don’t remember Robert screaming, it is possible that he didn’t or if he did that was easy to manage and not loud.

On Monday,  we drove to Weirs Beach in New Hampshire, found a parking spot with some difficulties and went on an hour-long boat ride.  Robert was fine.  No screaming.  Well, there was some screaming before, as we drove this way and that way looking for a parking spot.  It was rather whining than screaming with words, “Boat, boat, boat” placed in between shouts.

In the afternoon,  we arrived at the Days Inn in North Lincoln.  We unpacked and went to Truant Tavern in Woodstock for dinner.   First, we wanted to go to Brewery, as we  had never been there before. , but it was very noisy and the rules for seating were unclear, so I decided to leave,  Robert didn’t mind, although before that he made some disgruntled noises. I think walking through very crowded maze of corridors  with lots of commotions  made him feel lost and confused. He doesn’t like that.  Truant Tavern was perfect.  Calm and empty at that time, a few minutes before 4 PM.  We sat outside.  It was a very pleasant afternoon. No noises.  Robert ate everything from his plate and some from Jan’s (clam strips).  We returned to a hotel.  Jan and Robert went to the pool while I went to the store to buy a few items.

Unfortunately, I bought a bottle of coke hoping to leave it for the following morning for Robert, but Robert drank it that evening  and then he couldn’t fall asleep until 2 AM.  He also had a lot of allergies, as he kept sneezing.  Maybe his stomach also bothered him. He went many times to the bathroom and spent a considerable amount of time there every time. It was clear that he was not feeling well, and he kept pacing the room getting up over and over. But he did it quietly trying not to wake his dad. As for me, when Robert doesn’t sleep, I don’t sleep either.

Robert went with us for breakfast in the hotel.  He ate a half of English muffin but reluctantly.  He made a few sounds of displeasure or confusion.  Hard to tell.  Enough to turn attention of a Chinese woman, who commented on Robert to her family, as all three, the husband and two boys, turned to observe Robert.  I was infuriated.  I stared at the woman with most angry eyes I could force myself to make.  Every time she looked at Robert, I resisted her stare with lightning  after lightning coming from my eyes.  Robert was not screaming any more but he was taking to the trash every item that expired its usefulness for his dining parents – plastic fork, then plastic knife, then one cup, then the other.  He got up at least 7 times walking to the trash and disposing of the garbage.  This way he kept himself occupied. He also must have felt that with every item removed from the table we were closer to leaving.  So there was no more making noises.

We drove to Lincoln Woods for the walk to Franconia Falls.  Robert and Jan went ahead waiting for me to catch up from time to time.  There were muddy places that had to be navigated carefully, but Robert didn’t mind.  He made the first set of noises when we got to the second bridge and weren’t sure which way to go next.  Robert doesn’t like our hesitation. It confuses him and scares him.  Moreover, it breaks the rhythm of things. As soon, however, as his dad chose the direction, he followed him up the narrow, steep, and muddy path to the Falls.  I lingered behind, finally deciding to turn back  and walk slowly down. Too slippery for me.  Robert and Jan passed me on their way back.  I heard Robert screaming again, I fell down.  I didn’t hurt myself and was more concerned with another sharp and loud sound than with my dirty pants.  On the way back, Robert screamed again when he got to the first muddy place and a group of young people blocked the better path around the mud.  Still, he followed dad on the other side.  He stopped before crossing another muddy site.  Two little girls walking in the opposite direction, far away from him, decided to run back to their parents.  As Robert walked down with his dad and pass them by (again on other side of the wide road) he screeched.  Was he angry at the girls that they treated him as if he were dangerous animal?  Did he sensed their contempt and fear?  I am afraid so, as he usually feels much more about people reaction to him than you would give him credit for. No, he was never, NEVER in any way dangerous to strangers, he never approaches others and tries to navigate as far as possible from other hikers. He didn’t make any noises for the rest of the hike. Given the fact that the walk lasted 4 hours (6.4 miles) those episodes that all together didn’t last longer than 20 second should not concern me, but they did.  The Chinese woman’s stare got to me and everything seemed harder to accept.

We went for lunch to the same Truant Tavern we diner the previous day because I wanted to eat outside as I was sweating.  In the restaurant Robert made three times 3 second long noises.  I cannot tell why.  I just told him, that if he continues we have to leave.  That didn’t make him happy.  He responded with the murmur of anger but then  calmed down.,For the remainder of our stay there, he was perfect. It helped that as we waited for food I tried to interest Robert with pictures from our trip and pictures of him riding a horse and playing mini golf.  That seemed to distract him from whatever bothered him.  Although he didn’t want to look for long, he seemed to regain his posture, as he smiled and kept answering my questions about our trips. As usual, he responded either with one word utterances or with repetitions of two-three word long phrases.  Any way, no more inarticulate noises in the restaurant. Just pleasant lunch, with all of us enjoying each other company. I wonder, however, if looking at the pictures of himself, somehow reminded Robert who he was and let him centered himself on that realization. Maybe, he understood that the pictures and the questions were our ways of turning attention back to him and maybe he just wanted that – more personal attention in the very changing environment.

 

While we were driving home, Robert demanded to go to the restroom.  There was none on the way.  Besides, he had already gone to the restroom in the restaurant just 30 minutes before. Moreover, he also kept asking for coke, which he kept drinking.  So I assumed that he really didn’t need to go that badly. Still, he kept whining and demanding restroom and coke for  all the 30 minutes that took  us to come to the Service Area on Route 3.  According to Jan, there was nothing urgent.  Nonetheless, when he went yesterday with Pam, to Applebee’s, he exhibited discomfort in the restaurant bathroom. Something was clearly not right.  So this morning I let him sleep longer and didn’t rush him from the bathroom to get ready for the van.  Jan drove him to his program later.  We hoped that Myralax and  two Metamucil  wafers would do the trick. Also asthma medication might address possible breathing discomfort, if Robert felt any.  I am not sure they did but there was no more screaming.  There was a smiling young man getting ready for his day.

Over all, it was a beautiful weekend interrupted a few times with screaming.  The noises were relatively short and in four-day long stretch not too many.  Still, I didn’t grasp the reasons for their occurrences. Was that asthma, stomach discomfort , maddening allergies, change of routines, confusion?

All of the above?

Possibly yes..