Social Skills — 5 Minutes for Special Needs

Social Skills



                               

Sorry I disappeared for a couple of posts there. We were traveling on the days that I was supposed to post, and although I had great intentions of writing something ahead of time…well, you understand.

We took care of my mother-in-law for a couple of weeks. It was easier in some ways, and harder in others. I see her declining ever so slightly. The good news is she is too confused to fight with us as much as she used to. The bad news is, she is very confused. First she was visiting at our house and she kept thinking that her things were missing because her brain was spending some portion of time telling her she was at her house. One suitcase full of clothes was not satisfying her idea of how much stuff she should have. Then when we took her back home and spent several days there she kept making reference to our house and “When were we taking her home?” I am grateful for the (more) pleasant time we had with her. I want my children to have good memories of her. These care-giving weeks just deplete my energy that much further.

Summer is hard anyway. The child is reverting to some very tough behaviors and I keep slipping in my attempts to address them, which doesn’t help. She is tired of being with her siblings, and in general missing the structure that school provides and I can’t. School is only a month away which seems both close and oh, so, far away.

The one highlight so far is that our family went to Legoland for a bit of a respite during our visit with Grandma. It was our first trip to a major theme park, and I admit I was nervous. I was particularly concerned that our boy might wander off and get lost. We practiced three skills related to that before we left. Every time we were out in public I had the kids practice “staying together” which was perhaps the most important thing. We also practiced standing still and calling to our family using our last name (‘cuz there are lots of mommies at Legoland). Lastly I had them practice asking for help from a safe person – an employee or mommy. The actual visit went really well. No one got lost, though there was plenty of opportunity, so I was glad for our skill practice. There were only a couple of long waits and only one of those was what I would call frustrating. I liked the fact that most of the rides there require the rider to actively participate – pedaling, pulling ropes, turning knobs, pumping, steering, etc. Most exciting was that one of the longer waiting areas had a Lego play area in the middle where the kids could go build things while someone stood in line to hold their place. The child was initially hesitant to go in, but when she did she actually “made friends” with a couple of the girls that were in there. They worked together to build a huge tower of Legos, and then knock it down. The girls she met were a little younger than she is, but I was so encouraged that her social skills were up to connecting with strangers and playing cooperatively. Those are the moments that really keep me going.

I hope your Summer is filling up with good memories. What’s your favorite memory so far?

a Lego model of the Millenium Falcon

The Millenium Falcon in Legos…and now I suppose I must introduce my children to Star Wars. They had no idea what this was all about.



                               

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Fixing the Unfixable

Apparently I have given the child the impression that this is what I am capable of. It was quite false of me to give her the impression that I can fix everything, and I am paying for it big time.

After lots and lots of temper-driven exchanges (and we both have hot tempers…sigh.) I stepped back and recognized the trend. Something will happen that I can’t fix:

  • She can’t go to the birthday party because she was sick the day before.
  • Her siblings are invited to something and she is not.
  • Plans are unexpectedly changed in a way that I have no control over.
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As They Grow…

I am the first to admit that March 7, 2007, was one of the toughest days of my life. I sat, holding the baby that only a week prior was declared “mine” in a court of law, while a neurologist told me my son had a diagnosis that changed his life forever.

I felt numb. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt alone.

I bought chocolate. I bought wine.

I had to tell my mom…my best friend…my daughter.

All those years ago, I was sure that getting over the grief and desperation, and finding the point where I felt that I was educated enough to be an advocate was a huge achievement.

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Magical Moment

We were hanging out at the school playground after school the other day. This seems to be the best way to get some social interaction going for the child, so when it is sunny (frequently lately) and we don’t have something more pressing to do, we stay and play for an extra 30 minutes or so after school. This means my four-year-old twins are running around the school playground with other younger siblings through 5th graders, and I always marvel a bit at how easily they negotiate it all.

I was sitting in the shade chatting with another mom when I noticed another parent talking to the twins and a little girl similar to their age, plus an older boy.

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On Our Tweens and (Not) Letting Them Flounder

“You must be so busy, with four kids!” People say when I introduce my family. And I look at them, thinking, “Well, no, not really.” (Minus the doctor and specialist appointments).

You see, until this year, there haven’t been extracurricular activities. It was enough to take two older girls to the park 3 days a week and not have them throw a rock at another child or eat wood chips. It’s not that we didn’t get out in the community, it’s just that I decided pretty much right away that it wasn’t going to work for our family. Mostly because I couldn’t handle the stress of my own expectations for the experience.

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The Social Pendulum

There was a time when I feared my daughter would not even catch it when someone was being mean to her. Because of her receptive, expressive, and pragmatic language delays she is ripe for the type of bullying where the true bully convinces an intermediary to do their dirty work for them. She doesn’t catch the facial expressions and tone of voice that go with teasing. It would be pretty easy to imagine a scenario where she’s getting picked on and doesn’t even quite realize it, or at least doesn’t understand it enough to know how to handle it. The latter is recipe for disaster since when she doesn’t know how to handle things she pretty much explodes.

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The (Not So) Fine Art of Negotiating With My Tween’s Bipolar

We’re getting ready to go to the beach. It’s New Year’s Day. (Yes, I know I’m lucky. Truly grateful!) While I’m packing, my daughter with anxiety disorder and Bipolar is escalating. She follows me around the house as I collect towels, bathing suits, beach shoes.

“You threw out my old swim suit?!” She accuses, screaming at me.

“Last time you wore it, I told you the suit was finished. It had holes.” I reply.

“It was FINE. And you KNOW it! You want me to look ugly and all my friends are going to laugh!” She yells.

(None of her friends are coming, but you and I know that’s not really the point.)

“I’ll talk to you when you’re calm and respectful, honey.” I remind.

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Santa Visit

Sepia tone head shot of Santa.

He knows if you've been bad or good...Portrait by Vanessa Pike-Russell via flickr

The child is almost eight and still pretty firmly believes in Santa. She is asking lots of questions, but that is just her mode of conversation, not any sort of investigative process. Having a child with developmental delays sort of skews your sense of what happens when. I’ve written about this before. I have no idea whether she should be figuring this out or not. I know some of her peers have because I was in her class on a day when her teacher read a book with Santa in it, and one of the little boys almost blurted out…until half the class shushed him.

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Giving and Receiving

“This is your Christmas present from me, Mama, I’m going to put it under the tree.”

The child has been busy making presents for people and putting them under our Christmas tree. Every single one of them is going to be a surprise on Christmas morning. I have no idea what little goodies she has wrapped up for us. She is quite determined, it seems, to do it all herself. She has no money to speak of (it runs in the family) so she is either making or finding these things around the house. She scavenges wrapping paper, does her own wrapping and labeling (perhaps a little help with spelling a soon-to-be-visiting cousin’s name) and places her little secrets under the tree.

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Treading Two Paths

I was so hoping this year to focus on building social scaffolding for the child at school. I’m dreaming of setting up a circle of friends who will know, understand, and advocate on her behalf as her differences become more apparent to her peers. I am just beginning the process of working out what that might look like, but there’s a distraction looming.

It’s becoming more clear that in addition to her oral language challenges, my daughter also struggles to express her thoughts in written form. In second grade the writing assignments have ramped up, both in school and out. She often cannot complete the same amount of work as her peers, and there are some pretty clear signs of dysgraphia.

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