It would seem to stand to reason that when we find something that works well with Janey, we'd use it over and over---that we would remember it. But that's one of the tough things about autism in reality versus autism in theory. In the middle of tantrums, screaming, lashing out, hours of crying, we tend to forget what has worked in the past, or if we remember, are just too burnt out to break old ways of doing things and insert the new ways. As a way of reminding myself, and to see if anyone else finds these useful, here's four phrases that have worked well lately.....
Praise in general has almost been a breakthrough lately. I don't think I ever realized how much Janey needs praise, and I would have said I praised her plenty. But lately, I have just been laying the praise on extremely thickly, and it is amazingly motivating to her! I'll find the smallest thing to praise, and will lavishly tell her what a great job she's done, give her high fives, thumbs up, A-Okay, the whole bit. From putting her clothes in the hamper to not freaking out when we say no to asking nicely to take a ride---we can usually find something to praise. I think Janey is partly just happy when we are happy, and if we are praising her, we use a happy and upbeat voice. I've always heard you should praise kids at least 10 times more often than you criticize them, and with Janey, the 10 almost needs to be multiplied by 10---100 praises a day!
"Here's the plan for today"
This is something I really need to say every single morning. I forget often that Janey wakes up unsure what the day will bring. School is sometimes five days a week, sometimes four, sometimes not at all. Daddy is home sometimes, not home sometimes, and William and Freddy are the same. We might be going in the car a lot some days, and not at all other days. When you really don't understand the patterns, I'm sure it's scary. This morning, Janey woke up much earlier than she has been. Usually, she's been waking up just a little before the bus comes for summer school, but today, there was a lot of spare morning time, and I could see her getting more and more nervous. Finally, I remembered, and said "Here's the plan for today. It's a school day. The bus will come and take you to school. Then you will come home, and then Daddy and William and Freddy will come home. Daddy will take you for a ride in the car." Almost instantly, Janey relaxed. For some kids, visual calendars work, but for Janey, who I am realizing is a very good listener, just running down the day like that works best.
"Let me know when you decide"
There are times it feels like I spend half my life giving Janey choices. She'll say "Want to watch Angelina!" and she always, always has a specific show in mind, but never is able to quite tell me which one. I'll go through all the episodes, she'll not give me much of a hint what she wants, I'll put on the wrong one, she'll scream---it's not fun. Or she'll open the fridge, wanting something to eat, and not finding it, and I'll go through everything I can think of to offer her. What has worked lately, though, is to just say something like "I know you are hungry, but you're not telling me what you want. Let me know when you decide" and then walking away. Sometimes, that works in that Janey comes over and finds a way to tell me what she wants, but other times, it just works to break the cycle---Janey picks something on her own, or changes her mind and asks for something else more specific. It seems like she likes having the ball in her court, and it's certainly more relaxing for me.
"I'll be so proud when you calm down!"
This is the phrase that's blown my mind lately a few times with effectiveness! Janey has been screaming, lashing out, having a fit, and I have stepped back and said "I'll be so proud when you calm down!" It's the kind of thing that if someone had suggested it to me, I'd have said (mentally) "Yeah, right. THAT will work" But it does, a lot of times. I think it gives Janey a moment to back down and a simple goal to work on. The SECOND she shows signs of calming, I give her a huge hug and tell her how proud I am. Sometimes, she stays calm, and sometimes, I have to do it a few times, but even if it only works partially, I think it's a good exercise, because ultimately, the only way to really help Janey not lash out and scream is to have her figure out how to calm herself, on her own. This way, I'm not telling her how to calm down, I'm just giving her a chance to do so.
Now, of course, lots of times none of these work. And Janey has been in a good mood for a few weeks, so they might not work at all when her mood changes. But while I am feeling like there are a few things that actually do work, I wanted to get them down on paper (or on computer, actually). And here's a picture of Janey this morning, just after me being proud she calmed down!