Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Structure, Structure, And Structure Some More

As I've said on my previous post, I have decided to keep Dayton home for the rest of the school year (don't be saying "oh my God!"  We're pretty much at the end of the school year, it's really not that big of a deal.) I've decided to keep Dayton home because of the lack of structure at the end of the school year all schools go through, not just the school Dayton attends.

The last two weeks of school are usually the toughest for kids on the autism spectrum.  Well meaning teachers, principals and school divisions look at the last week or two of the school year as a time for celebrating the end of the year by treating the kids to a break so to speak.  Lots of free play time, movie time, entertainment, etc...  Everyone in the building, adults and children alike, are excited about the coming of summer break, and focus is not high on the priority list.  Unfortunately, for children on the autism spectrum, or kids with ADHD, ADD, ODD, OCD, etc.., this time of excitement is even more crucial for them to have their aid persistently present, their day structured ever more diligently, and their teachers on the ball at all times as they can sense everyone's excitement.  Like other children, they too want to celebrate, the problem is that when their routine get broken, they may not know what to do with themselves.  Dayton does not read social cues well, and his speech is delayed.  Communicating his 'feelings' is a struggle for him.  When he can't communicate what it is that he wants, doesn't recognize social cues or facial expressions, it's as though his primal brain takes over and he can not control his impulses.  Having structure in Dayton's day is crucial. 

Ever hear of the saying:  "Too much good can be a bad thing?"  Very much true in Dayton's case.  While he enjoys free play as much as any other kid, the free play itself needs to be structured and designed in a way he can handle.  I can't just take this little guy out to the park and set him loose.  That would be sheer heaven!  When he plays outside, I must schedule things with him and have his input.

"So we're going to go to the swings first, right momma?"
"Yes babe, always the swings first.  What would you like to do next?"
"Down the slide."
"OK, we'll use the slide after the swings, sounds good buddy.  And then what would you like to do?"
"Feed the birds."
"OK, so we're gonna hit the swings, hit the slide, then go see the birds.  What's after that?"
"Mamma, we don't hit the swings, we swing on them, and we don't hit the slide, we slide down them.  And I don't want to see the birds, I want to FEED the birds!!!"
Damn it!  I used an euphemism.  Well done mom.  "I'm sorry Dayton, you're right."  I just don't have the heart to try to teach him another euphemism today as he gets so frustrated when trying to make it make sense for himself.  A lesson for another day.

Free play at our home's playground with his buddies needs to be supervised and structured.  I love the bayblades!  There are rules to follow, spinning objects, and a way to behave during the game (Pull the cord, wait and watch.  No hands allowed to stop the spinning tops, and most kids with autism love spinning objects).

Another game with rules that Dayton loves is croquet.  This is a game that I can play with him and his friends, the more the merrier and his friends and foes love it when I break out the croquet (which Dayton is not able to pronounce correctly...  He calls it cocaine.  I just pray he doesn't go to school and tell them all he played cocaine with his mamma).  Croquet is so much fun!  Huge hammers with big balls and a track to conquer.  We also enjoy a good game of bean bag toss (haven't got a clue what it's really called, it's the game with two wooden planks with three holes in it, each team throws the bean bags into the holes to score and win the game).  Bocci Ball is another favorite of mine, not so much of Dayton's, but he will play it.  Again, rules to follow this game too.  Pick a color of ball you want to represent you, then try to throw your balls to the little white ball.  Closest to the white ball or the one who hits the white ball wins!

Not only are these games fun, but Dayton is now forced to interact with other children, giving him more opportunity to practice his social skills.  He must wait his turn, and when playing the bean bag toss, Dayton has to play as part of a 'team.'  Huge benefits for both of us!  Games with structure and rules provide Dayton with the opportunity to have a little fun and knowing the rules and expectations of the game keeps him nice and calm.  Until, that is, someone breaks the rules...  Which is why big mamma is always present, at arm's (or croquet hammer, I'm no dummy) length or less away. 

Consider yourselves hugged!!!


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