So over the past 2 months a lot of things have changed and I though it might be good to share what has worked well and what hasn’t.
One of the things that has helped Tam at school has been his “Now and Next” board. The one we have at home is a little different as it is screwed to the wall with stickers on showing the now/next parts and we have magnetic symbols that we put on it.
Also a big change from the one he uses at school is that it also has what I am doing now and next. This has helped Tam a lot as he can see what I am up to and he has no surprises (the only surprise Tam likes is tickle surprises).
Along with the now and next we have a mood board. It shows both Tam and me as being either happy or sad. This is something that will grow over time as Tam learns to voice his feelings.
In line with the now and next board we also have a choice board. I put the choices for the day and allow Tam to choose what we are going to do. Without doubt the favourites on this are Starbucks, Cineworld and Pizzahut.
I keep the choices simple and don’t give Tam too many to chose from, but sometimes he goes to find the symbol box and get the choices he wants. He is a cheeky fella.
Now this one might sound strange but I have made some t-shirts for both Tam and me that quite simply say “Home Boys” on them. I use them as an indicator to Tam that we are home for the day.
Has it helped, yes. After less than a week all I have to say is “home boys now” and Tam goes and gets our t-shirts and puts his on. After 5 minutes of him pointing and saying “home boys” he is settled.
Tam has taken his frustration out on too many TV’s. I am not going to say how many but other than too many. We swapped our “Smart TV” for a dumb TV. One that only gets TV channels and can be plugged into a DVD.
What has this achieved I hear you ask. Well, have you ever tried to work out what to watch and ended up taken an hour trying to decide? For example on a TV should you watch terrestial channels, Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Paramount+ or maybe a DVD? The choice itself is frustrating.
Well, Tam now has 2 options, TV or a DVD he chooses. I have limited the amount of DVD’s he has access to and I can change them for him by taking some choices out and replacing them with others.
Now this has been without doubt the best thing I have bought in ages. Tam loves it.
If you have stayed in a hotel and needed ice you will have seen a big version of the ice machine we have. It makes funny, almost cup shaped ice cubes (that does not feel right considering there shape), with a hole in them. It has a little robotic system that makes the ice cubes on stalks and then ejects them into a catch tray. Nine ice cubes every 7 or 8 minutes. Lovely crunchy ice cubes on tap.
Tam has even worked out how to operate it himself. If your kids like ice to crunch then this is a solid recommendation.
No more “soon”
Language is important. It is especially important for Tam. As an example the word “soon” can be a very difficult one for Tam. We all use it many times each day but what does it mean to an autistic child. It may as well be “no”.
How do you not use the word “soon” then I hear you ask. Well, the only answer I have is to be more present and stop and think about what you are about to say. I moment in thought will help you to say words that are more meaningful and easier to understand.
Just for clarity this is the hardest one out of all of the changes I have made. It is 50 plus years of saying “soon” and a whole plethora of other essentially meaningless words I am trying to stop using. It is hard and the cringe I feel when I slip up is horrible, but I then think again, stop and explain to Tam more carefully what I mean and then work with him to understand.
As far as adverse behaviours that occurred before then I could probably say 60% were because of the use of confusing language. So this one is so key to helping Tam.
Another area that Tam needs help is in understanding how he feels and why. This one is going to be tough. So for now I am just working on happy and sad. As we build on understanding them then we will add more.
Again when I look at Tams behaviour there is a correlation between him being frustrated and sad with the negative behaviour I have seen.
For my part, before Tam went into hospital I was on my knees both physically and mentally. While he has been in hospital I have got myself fixed physically and improved my mental health no end. It is essential that I stay this way so I am now working with the support services to ensure that both me and Tam get the support we need to stay healthy both mentally and physically.
Now this one is a post all of it’s own and in the next few weeks I will write a piece about it. If I had to pick one thing from his stay at hospital I think I would pick “seperation anxiety”. This has been a major problem for both of us. Tam being in hospital and being safe has helped me. Tam seeing Daddy disappear and come back and then his return home has defineatly helped him.
Another big one. The support groups around us have helped immensly. They have provided support and training in helping both of us and I think that this one also deserves more time to explain.
I will say that I know support can feel intrusive into your home but if you can get over that and allow the system to help then it will be very worthwhile. It is a state of mind that is difficult when you are dealing with a child that needs constant help but if you surrender yourself then it will all become clear that people are trying to help.
All of the things I have mentioned above are part of a whole. A whole that helps Tam understand his worlld a bit better and not get so frustrated. Hospital has been a major reset for both of us and to see Tam smiling again has proved that the difficult thing we did has been so worthwhile.