Avoid Surprises, Plan Things Ahead

IMG_2524Friend of mine reached out to me few days back. He told me how challenging it was for him and his wife during this difficult time with their child with autism. I was very happy to listen and try to help. Actually, it was this very reason for building this website; for me it’s about helping others who are going through the same challenges.

Part of the advice that stuck out was preparing a child for the next day. Children with autism are very dependent on a fixed schedule and variations to that routine can sometimes have a dramatic effect. Actually, if not carefully managed it can be a traumatic situation; they will not coupe very well to the changes and might have an emotional outburst. To avoid these type of circumstances we must do our part as parents and teachers to prepare our children everyday. Here are my tips, I call them Sunday’s 5 Steps:

  • Role Play – sitting down with a child and pretend to be them can be very effective. Use this method to explain things and let him “see” themselves through your eyes.
  • Good & Bad Behavior – identify what is good and bad behavior; with the idea that adjusting to situations is part of having a good day.
  • Sunday’s Game Plan – sitting down with your child and walk him/her through the events of the week or the next day is critical. It does not have to be Sunday but I choose it because it’s the start of the week for us.
  • Rewards – acknowledge when they do good and talk about the rewards that come with good work and behavior.
  • Putting it All Together  – by combining these techniques you should see significant progress over time. Adding it as your weekly routine is important.
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My Son’s Plans for the Future

Children diagnosed with the autism syndrome see the world differently; think most of us know this. It is a “lens” unfamiliar for most of us. We just don’t understand things sometimes but getting a chance to see through their eyes is a beautiful experience. Let me take you through a glimpse into our son’s mind with something that occurred over the summer.

One day my son was in the back seat of the car as my wife drove with him to the grocery store after school. Here’s a conversation that took place between them:

(Driving home after a grocery run)
Diego: Mami, you see those apartments right there?
Me: Yes.

Diego: They have a pet park.
Me: How do you know?

Diego: There’s a sign.
Me: Is that a place you’d like to live one day because it has a pet park?

Diego: Yes, after college, I’m gonna live here. But only for 5 yrs.
(Mentally celebrating because he’s planning to go to college.)
Me: Why only 5 years?

Diego: I’m going to live in 4 different states for 5 years each: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, and Oregon.
Me: Why only 5 years?

Diego: Because I have to experience new things. I can’t learn new things if I’m stuck in one place. I have to move on, keep my life moving forward.
Me: Ok. What’s your plan?

Diego: What I said before.
Me: Ok. What are you planning to do… (he interrupts my question)

Diego: You know, Mami, my past lives in my heart. I can pull out memories when I need them because I’ve saved all of them in my heart. The present lives in my brain cause I’m still thinking about things. I haven’t figured everything out yet. My future lives in my eyes. It’s what I see in front of me that I haven’t gotten to yet. I can see it. One day I’ll get there, but not yet.
Me: I love you, D!

What else could I say or ask after such profound thoughts?

He was 10 years old when he said that. Love every moment with your child because their minds will amaze you!

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