30 Days with Autism, Day 9



April 9th: Autism has taught me the importance of distraction techniques in crisis aversion.

Who knew that song could mean so much to a 4 year old? Or this one (which at the age of 5, she could sing perfectly in time to the karaoke instrumental):

And what mom wouldn’t want their child to have this as a life motto (which was written in response to a critic, Taylor Swift gave an interview saying “there’s constructive criticism, there’s professional criticism, and then there’s just being mean. And there’s a line that you cross when you just start to attack everything about a person.”):

Believe it or not, I’ve used this several times with much success:

“What’s that?” doesn’t work so well with autistic kids. They don’t understand the looking where someone is pointing thing. But sometimes, “Hey, that’s pretty”, works even better!

Music has become a great distraction. I’ve learned that K responds quite well to music and it helps to soothe her, particularly if it’s a song she knows the lyrics too (like mother, like daughter). It quiets her mind and gives her senses something else to focus on. It’s easier for her to regain control of herself and allows the negative stimuli to be forgotten.
Another great distraction we’ve discovered is PT. Physical Training, as it’s known in the Army, has become a great distraction for our kids. When K gets too much going on inside of her, she tends to become very active. She flails more often, becomes louder and more disruptive to the people around us. This nearly always happens when we are talking with a store employee or are trying to check out. My personal belief is that standing still for so long causes other stimuli to get through. Things she wouldn’t hear, see, smell, touch if we were moving around the store become stationary and she goes into overload. She enjoys being active and loves to be a “superhero” like daddy, so PT becomes fun. People laugh and smile as she does jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, toe touches, you name it, in the middle of the store. Letting her be active in a controlled way often times helps to combat the coming hyperactivity and allows us to get out of the store with minimal negative interference from other people.

If my child is going to have a tantrum, I’m going to go into crisis management mode. I’m convinced life experience should count for degree credit in this area. Who needs hostage negotiators when you’ve got moms of children with autism? Our battle armor is half-done, smearing mascara and our sword is a great distraction. We will slay the fiercest “dragon”, in the middle of a crowded mall, surrounded by useless people who think “dragon” slaying is a spectators sport. (Hey there’s a thought, charge people to give rude comments and stare. At least then we could afford Occupational Therapy AND groceries, right?) It’s not easy when you know it’s coming. The signs are there, that little finger flick getting more prominent, scratching the head a little more often, hands are covering the ears for longer periods of time, whatever the signs for your child, you can see the signs long before the meltdown actually takes place and with proper distractions, you may be able to successfully navigate the next 30 minutes without a major fiasco.

What distractions do you use to avoid fits and keep things running smoothly?


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