Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Structure and Limits

     Kyle was asleep by 6:30 last night.  This is very unusual and when this happens one needs to be prepared to be up with him at some horrific hour in the middle of the night when he wakes up and can't go back to sleep.  To our amazement he didn't wake up until this morning when he was woken up to get ready for school.  I don't recall him ever sleeping twelve hours in a row before.  So, what led up to Kyle falling asleep so early?  Well, the events that led up to that were frustrating. 
     All children (adults too), especially those on the spectrum, need structure and clear set limits.  They function better.  Without structure and rules there would be chaos.  Chaos contributes to sensory overload and meltdowns.  I try to maintain the structure and set appropriate limitis in Kyle's world, and for the most part it works.  Yesterday was one of those exceptions.
     Monday through Friday Kyle goes to school.  My husband drops him off in the morning on the way to work and I pick him up when he gets out at three.  He does his reading homework in the car on the way home, that helps him focus.  When we get home I send the two little ones to their room to play and Kyle and I stay in the living room area.  Kyle sits at the kitchen table and does his homework.  I monitor him to make sure he is doing his homework and help him if he has any questions.  Ninety-nine percent of this time is spent by me helping to keep him on task.  When he is focused it takes him less than three minutes to do his math homework.  He also knows the rules, no playing until homework is done.  He has come a long way being able to come home and being able to transition right away to homework.  Yesterday, not so much.
     His class is doing a unit on Native Americans.  He has to do a project on the Wampanoag.  I knew that he would need a lot of hand holding, and I was prepared for that, but I will not do it for him, and as stubborn as he is I am much more.  He has had this project for quite some time, it is due tomorrow.  I helped him by breaking the project down in smaller pieces.  I picked up a few books from the library.  I even took him to a presentation at the library on Native Americans and there is also one tonight that I am taking him to.  These presentations are geared towards children and are a lot of fun.  I even bought him the book that the author presented at the library and she signed it for him.  His project is almost done.  He only has to write a couple more sentences and then paste everything on his poster board.  He could have finished it yesterday in five minutes, but he absolutely refused.
     The first forty-five minutes after we got home from school was spent trying to get Kyle to do his homework.  He refused.  There isn't anyway I can force him to do it, but I can make sure that he was sorry he didn't.  Knowing that we still had Tuesday after school to finish it, I allowed him to go in his room.  This was under the condition of no TV, video games etcetera.  He had to be in his bed.  He rathered this than doing his homework. 
     I called for the little ones.  I told them they could come back out and play in the living room.  They had the TV on as well.  A couple minutes later Kyle comes out and tells me he is ready to do his homework.  This is great!!  I thought we were getting somewhere.  I explained to him that we could work on his homework, but that I wasn't going to send the little ones out of the room.  He had his chance, and it isn't fair to the little ones.  He kept telling them they needed to leave, refused to work on his homework and ended up back in his room.  He came out again.  He wouldn't focus, he wanted to come out so he could watch TV.  I tried helping him stay on task, and he got very frustrated with me.  I told him that he was going to get three strikes.  At the third strike he would lose his XBox 360.  He reached the third strike and I sent him to his room to retrieve his XBox 360.  He cried and had a meltdown.  He kept saying things to me like, "Now I get to take something of yours" and other stuff that I just blocked out.  Ignoring this behavior makes it stop because the child isn't getting a reaction.  Sometimes you get further by staying calm.  Reacting to this sort of stuff doesn't do anything but escalate the situation which isn't positive for anyone.  Back to his room again he was sent. 
     During this time I picked up his iPad and searched the app store.  I found a great tool, it is a bean jar.  You set up the jar, how many beans until a reward is given (I set it up for 10) and the reward.  After Kyle calmed down for awhile I called him out and explained to him this new approach.  He really liked the animated bean jar.  For his first reward he wanted to earn his XBox 360 back.  Fair enough.  We also have a rule that we do not take beans away.  This is just for positive behavior reinforcement, not for punishment.  Thinking this would work I found a new energy to push forward.  This didn't work.  He went back to his room and was asleep before I knew it. 
     The bean jar proved to work this morning with my husband.  He gave him a bean because he got up and ready for school this morning without any hassle!  He even had time to play on his iPad.  When it was time to leave my husband said to him, "Give me your iPad for a minute before we leave."  He opened up the bean jar app and gave him a bean explaining to him how great he was that morning.  Kyle was excited!  He earned his first bean!
     Although yesterday was one of those testing your limits and tolerance days, one can not expect everyday to go smooth.  Everyone is entitled to their days.  I wish I knew of some way that I could have made yesterday positive, but I also need to realize that sometimes things just don't work out the way that you would like.  Here is to a new day.

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