Autism and Circle Time Success

Autism: “self + -ism”  (from the Greek prefix, auto = self)

1. a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors (oxforddictionaries.com, autismspeaks.org)
2. a tendency to view life in terms of one’s own needs and desires. (dictionary.com)  Isn’t this everyone?

My (working) definition: exhaustion (sprinkled with anxiety and a dash of humor)

Recently, my posts have had a dark-humored tone, giving my friends “expecting” bone-chilling nightmares.  Today’s post is a bit more upbeat and a blissful reminder that perseverance, intuitiveness, and a deep respect for a child’s emotions can earn you a fast-track ticket on the Mommy Success Express.

A little over a year ago, when Big C first attempted preschool-style classes, it was disastrous.  Music class led to tantrums and instruments used as weapons.  Attempts at soccer led to chases around the gymnasium with zero interest in the children around him, let alone the ball.  Gymnastics became a free-for-all with circle time treated as a detour through Hell.  He was kicked out of a daycare, more or less kicked out of a preschool, and at the advent of his new daycare in January after the nanny quit, circle time was still a looming obstacle to conquer.

Given this back story, you’ll better understand why today was such a turning point, not only for Big C, but for me as his mother.

For those of you following my blog know, Big C is receiving in-home ABA therapy.  To supplement that, I have been taking him to a social skills class as well as organizing and participating in a variety of play dates to get him practice socializing with other kids (that, and to get me out of the house because I crave adult interaction).

Today, I decided a trip to our local library story hour would be great practice for Big C, not only with socializing with other kids, but following directions by another adult.  I was apprehensive, especially since the preparations to get him out the door were a little rough this morning, but I was meeting with friends and knew the snippets of conversation I could snag from them would recharge me for the day.  Plus, there was a part of me almost morbidly curious to see if Big C could even do it.  There was also another part of me that was terrified as I would also have my 15-month old son (Little C) in tow.  Two against one is never good odds, but I have great friends who I knew would help at any sign of disaster.

We arrived a little early, which is both a blessing and curse.   Yes, it’s impressive not to miss the festivities (those with kids know how hard it is to get them out the door), but arriving early also means unstructured “down” time which always freaks me out because it freaks Big C out.

But it was okay.  In fact, it was just fine.   Big C greeted one of my friend’s children with a smile, most definitely invading his personal space, even patting him on the head, but being “overly friendly” with a greeting is at the bottom of my list of social skills to work on with Big C.  I’m just pleased Big C acknowledged him at all and didn’t growl at him (as he may have in his younger days).

Once the story hour got rolling, Big C enjoyed singing the “Welcome” song while Little C clapped at the end, all smiles.  Big C was the first to raise his hand and share an idea about what to feed the dog puppet the librarian had: “Dog food!” Duh.  Whenever Big C got remotely off track, I whipped out my “to-go” set of visual cards to remind him when to “sit” and be “quiet.”

Then, about twenty minutes in, he said, “I’m tired.  I want to go home.”

I said, “Are you sure?”  He said, “Yes, I’m very tired.  I want to go home.”  I said, “Okay, thank you for using your words to tell me how you feel.  Let’s go home.”

And we did.  And that was it.  That was it.  

Anti-climatic?  Sorry.  I couldn’t be more happy about that.  For me, this was a moment of triumph.

For some parents, they may think I gave in by leaving; others might scoff that a near four-year old couldn’t last the entire hour. Frankly, I don’t care.  In my mind, he had the wherewithal to recognize he was tired, and the trust that he could tell me, knowing I would respect his feelings.

Wow.  Feels good to be riding that train today.

Taking a ride on the Mommy Success Express.
Taking a ride on the Mommy Success Express.

 


~Chaos Contemplated (for now)

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2 thoughts on “Autism and Circle Time Success

  1. Congratulations! And this parent thinks that by leaving early you’re showing him that you listen to him, so he’ll be more likely to participate in circle time in the way every one wants in the future, because he knows he has a Get Out Of Jail card if he needs it. And with practice, he’ll build up his stamina. Excellent parenting. Hope you got a few snippets of conversation too.

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