January 3, 2011
Chef got up yesterday morning, did exercises, dressed (had a bath the night before), used deodorant, brushed his teeth, ate a full brunch, did his chores quickly and appropriately, cleaned up his Christmas stuff that has been in the middle of the living room floor since he opened his gifts, participated in making supper, was very pleasant throughout the entire day and evening, made two school lunches for later in the week and put them into the freezer, put the kettle on for tea, ate supper, did dishes quickly and appropriately, and had a bath.
The only time I provided any sort of prompt was regarding the Christmas stuff and when I told him to have a bath before putting on his pyjamas. Otherwise, Chef's day was completely independent and lovely and enjoyed by all. In the afternoon, we watched some "How Is It Made Videos" and in the evening we watched Wall-E while Chef read his atlas and I painted. What a wonderful day.
There have still been no tantrums throughout the holidays.
We've taken this holiday time to focus on Chef getting dressed every day. Of course, I am all for pyjama days, but Chef has not yet had success in consistent non-pyjama (or alternative-clothing days!) days throughout his life. I'm hoping that we are now seeing a shift.
Here's what we've been doing:
-Chef needs to be washed and appropriately dressed at mealtimes. If he chooses not to do so, he may have a vegetable/fruit/another item that does not require cooking. If he has does this for more than 2 days and if there are leftovers that he wants, he can have one item but only if he participated in preparing it. If he caused stress regarding the preparation of the item that is now leftovers (ie: on Christmas Day when the dishes from 4 days prior were still sitting on the counter and there were cooking items I needed that were still dirty from then), the leftovers are not available to Chef.
-There is no free time til responsibilities are taken care of. It's been a long haul, but Chef is now acknowledging the importance of free time, since it also encompasses things like time for a bath in the evening which makes mornings easier, etc.
-Chef's stuff that is left out for more than one day is either sent directly to the thrift shop or stored away by me after Chef has gone to bed
-There have been many days when Chef spends 5-6 hours per day not doing dishes. Before holidays, he was donating his entire evening to the "no washing dishes" cause. One day there were 14 dishes left to do from the day before. Four hours later they still weren't done. And Chef can be pretty creative when it comes to attempting to get out of doing chores. This has been tricky. What do you do when a child just doesn't do his chores and continues to not show any concern over not having free time and is more than happy to spend time in his mostly-empty-except-for-furniture bedroom? What's now evolved at our house is a routine of chore-breaks; 20 minutes of dishes, followed by an exercise break to get the body/mind going and provide a break from the dishes. Chef shows the length of endorphin-building break he requires by how productive he's been in his chore and the message(s) that he is giving in his behaviour/communication. (Exercise breaks also take place if Chef shows he needs them otherwise by whining or making faces at me or anything else that shows even a hint of "attitude"/inappropriate means of communication of dislike for having to do chores. Those are to take place outside since that type of communication is not welcome/acceptable in my home. This has sometimes been an adventure in and of itself, but average turn-around time is now in the 30 second to 2-3 minutes range, a far cry from the hours of outside whining/complaining/tantrumming/etc in the past.)
-If Chef's outerwear smells due to hygiene issues, it does not come in the house
-If Chef needs to go outside to take a break, there have been times when he will not dress appropriately for the weather then will stand outside and whine about the cold, especially if other folks are nearby. I will now gladly open the door and call out reminders to him about what would have worked better for him. If I see him opening the door to go outside without appropriate footwear, he hears a chorus along the lines of "Outside in winter without socks? Outside in winter without socks?" For whatever reason, this "works better" than reminders along the lines of "You need to put on socks." I figure Chef takes the latter as an unwanted directive from me when he isn't in good space, but the other gets through possible barriers because it's just a question.
So, holidays have been a very very fulltime job with what might be some successful outcomes.
This blog was initially set up as a means of communicating with my son's team. Since then, I've heard from other parents with similar stories. If you are living with challenges or journeying alongside someone who is, you are not alone. There are many of us. I'm a single adoptive Mom (http://richesofsimplicity.blogspot.com/) of a young man who lives with many abilities and many diagnoses. We have journeyed together through many challenges and a few adventures over the years as my son has tried to find space in this world that makes him feel more comfortable, an attempt made especially difficult when living with Attachment Disorder, PDD-NOS (Autism), Developmental Coordination Disorder, ADHD, prenatal substance exposure, etc. Some of the strongest elements used in this journey have been music, visual arts, therapeutic parenting, team-connection, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, communication skills, community-building, continual lifeskills training, and elements of Theraplay. (Click here for some written resources.) On this journey, there is laughter and tears and growth and hope. The greatest of these is hope.