Visit to the Fish Market

Raiyan came along to the Jerudong wet market this morning (and Alisha too! hehe nothing like menyakaikan drg awal2!) and not only was Raiyan really good for getting over his fear of walking on wet surfaces, he thoroughly enjoyed himself going round the stalls and identifying the types of fishes he recognises from his animal books!

Of course I couldn't help being conscious of his labeling being only in English and the people manning the stores are telling him what they are called in Malay (Raiyan: "Tangeeree?") but at the same time maybe I was more conscious of myself as I was clueless of what half of the fishes are called anyway!

Apparently, these long fishes in the basket are "pikes"...

The most pweshes part was Raiyan singing out loudly to himself (while we were waiting for our fishes to be cleaned),

"1,2,3,4,5.. once I caught a fish alive..
6,7,8,9,10 then I let him go again..
why did you let him go.. because he bit my finger so..
which finger did it bite.. the little finger on the right!

We just couldn't help giggling listening to him and couldn't help but notice others were smiling too! So Cute!!:-D


This is really, really tricky for Raiyan to say the least. His progress in this past year had us appreciate any answer he would give us, regardless if it is correct or not, because this means that he can actually respond back to us and this could hopefully be the early seeds of conversation for him to have with others.

But along the way, just getting answers from him has made him just be comfortable to give us that. NOW, we are trying to reason with him as to WHY he is giving the answer … and it has been short of a nightmare trying to get this out of him!

I really do feel for Raiyan though. There must be so many things going on his head, especially after all he has computed this past year and I am sure he thinks that the fact that he’s answering the question right is good enough already so why do we have to insist he explain why he came up with the answer? Well this is important for social situations when he has to understand what’s going on around him purely from just looking and observing and then it will be help him when he has to explain and describe the situation he’s observed.

To illustrate, we would show a picture of a girl washing the dishes and we would ask him “what is she doing”. Of course Raiyan can easily answer “she washing the dishes.” The toughie is when we go on and ask him “how can you tell that she’s washing the dishes?” See, I KNOW he KNOWS that she’s washing the dishes but I just want him to tell us HOW he knows by describing the fact that she’s at a sink, and there are soap and water and she’s scrubbing the dishes.

But what Raiyan comes up with instead:

“She washing dishes because they dirty”
“She tired from washing dishes”
“when you finish eating the dishes are dirty”

This is clearly a case where he sees the forest and not the tree because even though all of the things he is saying is true and sort of relates to what I am asking, but simply put, it is NOT directly giving me the simple answer that I am looking for.

As well this morning, I tried to do this exercise with him just through talking (no pictures) and I was telling him how baby Addin wee-wee on the bed last night. He adorably said “Uh-Oh!” (which shows that he understands it’s a “whoopsie” situation so the fact that he recognizes the context of the situation is very good!).

And then I asked him “HOW can we tell if Addin wee-wee in the bed?” Simple answer would be” Because the bed and Addin’s pants were wet” right?

But this is Raiyan:
“When Addin wee-wee, auntie nor take him out of bed and change his pants”

What do I do?!! Uwaaaaa… It’s so hard for me too because of course I appreciate the answer he is still giving… but sigh….. I guess this is something we really need to work on…

I briefly whined to Jo who quickly brushed it off and said to not worry about it and that he WILL get there. And then I remember all of the times before when I would really worry about something Raiyan can’t do and Alhamdulillah, sooner or later he DOES get it! Here’s hoping he can start reasoning sooner rather than later!

Out of the Box

A known trait of autism is the relative lack of imagination and this rang true with Raiyan, as everything he knows and thereupon communicates are derived only from things he himself has seen, observed and learnt and not from what he has thought of himself. The rigidity trait would often worsen this lack of imagination as even if we try to "teach" him to imagine and free himself from what he is only familiar with, his resistance to change would always get in the way of him even attempting to think of a different picture, let alone an "imaginary" one.

Raiyan is also a very visual person which is why flash cards have worked wonders for him and his language but once you take away the flash cards, then it becomes a whole new battle altogether!

But slowly over the last year, we have seen Raiyan beginning to overcome the need to stick to things "as they are" and also we've seen his imagination starting to flourish, such as:

- During our Singapore trip and right after visiting the zoo, he himself changed the lyrics to "Old MacDonald" to go "Raiyan went to Singapore Zoo, e-i-e-i-o. And on that zoo, he saw an elephant, e-i-e-io. With a trunk trunk here and a trunk trunk there, here trunk, there trunk, everywhere trunk trunk... etc";

-Instead of just thinking and articulating just one verb connected to one noun, such as kick the ball, sit on chair, he can now easily say other verbs such as, bounce/throw the ball and move/sleep on chair. This is also in line with my earlier post on how we gave him a small item and he has to think of different ways to interpret it;

-He's correcting us less when we steer away from the usual course of a familiar story whereas before he would just NOT be able to accept it and he would insist we tell the story as how he's used to hearing it;

-We've been going through flash cards with simple pictures and a "speech bubble" on it and he is supposed to think of what is being said. For example, there is a picture of a barber and a girl with really long hair and Raiyan is supposed to "imagine" what is being said. His visual and literal mind would immediately just say "the barber says "I'm going to cut your hair" and the girl says "Please cut my hair." (zzzz boring right?). But NOW, (and because he just finished reading Rapunzel) he actually said with a giggle "the barber says "Hey! You look like Rapunzel!"

-Instead of just piling up building blocks on top of another, he has started to actually make them into functional shapes, such as a rowboat, a helicopter, an airplane, a car- and all of these independently too! Look at him proudly showing them off!

I accept the possibiliy of some parents reading this and wondering what's the big deal with all the instances I have described but trust me, it means a whole LOT to us. We really feel that it is important for Raiyan in this early stage to train himself to start thinking outside the box (as they say!) and hopefully open himself up to new and endless possibilities!

Which is why I'm feeling exhilarated with what happened this morning. See, we were doing this colouring activity last night and even with this one below, he kept asking me in the beginning, what colour is a diplodocus and what colour a torosaurus was etc. He even wanted to look for a dinasour book for reference! But I told him that it's okay, there is no right and wrong colour- just use your imagination and colour them with whatever colour you want! Which he did! How cute is the pink and green ankylosaurus btw?!

So I left him to finish that off last night along with more activities at the back of the page (for him to get 2 golden points!). But this morning in the car and on the way to school, I saw that he didn't do the last part:

Of course Raiyan just said "I don't know how to do it!". Clearly, being the visual person that he is, this was something that I needed to coach him on. At first even I wasn't so sure if he was able to do this. But I tried and asked him to close his eyes and imagine all the scenarios above and tell me what colours he sees. And he answered:

a rain storm: Grey

a beautiful sunset: Pink

a flower garden: Green for the grass and multicoloured for the flowers

a forest fire: Orange

your favourite ice cream sundae: chocolate brown

your favourite holiday: multicoloured. (I wanted him to be more specific and asked him what is his favourite holiday which of course is the ZOO so of course there are many colours in the zoo!)

a walk in the woods in the autumn: Orange

a farm: at this point, he was being more descriptive than just "multicoloured" and he answered red for barn, black and white for cow, pink for pig, green for grass and white for sheep!

a jungle: brown for trees, green for leaves and green for grass

a parade: red, blue and yellow just like in a circus!

Here's hoping for more progress in the future! Amin!

Let It Flow

This was Raiyan last Sunday at Muara Beach Playground making friends with this boy who he just met and who I'm pretty sure did not speak English very well and yet, they played together and clearly enjoyed each other's company for at least half an hour- and also despite Raiyan's ultra bossiness too!

Picture: Raiyan: "You better hurry! Come here! I'm over here! Climb this, climb that!" Boy: "Okay!Okay!"

And of course Raiyan was just shouting away with his standard volume and there I was at a corner fighting the urge to tell him "Raiyan, lower your voice. Raiyan, don't be so bossy. Raiyan this Raiyan that.." but remembered what I had decided in my last post and just let him socialise naturally. The new friend didn't seem bothered with Raiyan's loudness and bossiness so why should I right?

Being Social

As some of my followers would know by now, one of my biggest worries is the idea of Raiyan not mixing in well in class or when being around other kids in general. This concern was especially heightened when he had such a rocky start to the school year with there being complaints of his loud voice and his resistance to turn taking and sharing.

So it is no surprise that ever since then, we have been going on overdrive trying to instill in him one social skill rule after another. Every time he does something that I would perceive as rude or socially unacceptable, I would drill it in him to not do that again and if he doesn’t do something that he should be doing, like not responding to others’ questions, I would incessantly remind him to look at the person and then answer the question.

All of us around him, including Kerri and Jo gets kinda edgy over this that you can practically see the nerves on our faces every time somebody new asks Raiyan a question as we are just waiting with utter anxiousness for his response! Which is why I still laugh at one moment during our Hari Raya open house when Jeff’s boss was asking Raiyan his name, and there was Kerri and Jo on the other side of the room stopping cold in the middle of eating, anticipating Raiyan’s response and as soon as he said “Raiyan” they BOTH just exclaimed “good boy!” LOL!

However, I was recently reading up on social skills in the “Work in Progress” book and learnt that the best way for these children to pick up natural social language and incidentally social “rules” is through mixing in with their peers and not so much learning it from adults. It’s because children do have this innate desire to please their friends much more than their parents or teachers. Furthermore, the “natural” social language amongst kids are clearly so different from the “natural” social language of adults.

And then it hit me that it may not be such a good idea for me to go TOO overdrive with teaching him social language and rote teaching social rules because at the end of the day, being social is a spontaneous and natural thing and as soon as it looks planned, it ends up looking contrived and NOBODY likes fake people right?

And in terms of his language, the systematic way that he is taught inevitably leads him to sound very “prim and proper” when he talks which is completely fine with me as I am just content to have him talk. But the thing is sometimes he does end up sounding like a middle aged English professor! So lately, instead of forever correcting his broken English and making him speak in longer sentences, I’ve also taken a step back in that because I realize that I personally do not know any 5 year old who speak in a grammatically accurate 6-7 word sentence anyway!

Raiyan is at a point now where his personality is shining through and though I do accept that his language is not completely there and he still tends to talk on and on about his interests without really attuning to his audience, I have to accept that he’s still a kid, he will eventually learn all these so called rules slowly but through experiencing them and not just by being told about them but most of all, I have to be confident that despite all the shortcomings that I only see because I’m so stressed out over them, other children are also children, who are not cynical and who will be able to just see Raiyan for the sweet and delightful boy that he is. InsyaAllah he will get through this and at least for now, I’ve taught myself to not be so worried about it anymore. :D

Golden Points

Jo first told me about the token system she's been doing with Raiyan and she also asked Dr. Lee during the seminar if it’s an acceptable thing to do. We were glad to hear that he did think that it is useful as a positive reinforcer for desirable behavior that we would seek from Raiyan.

Last Sunday at the bookstore, Raiyan really wanted to buy this amazing Little Einsteins Activity book, equipped with more than 1000 animal fact files and little “microfilm” pictures. Of course I was reluctant to do so since I’ve already bought him a bunch of stuff from my Singapore trip. Usually, Raiyan is actually fine with putting the book back on the shelf (this was once an actual “routine”!) but in this case he was resistant and he said “but somebody else might buy it!”. So just to be safe, we asked the cashier if there are many in stock and unfortunately the one on display is the only one left. Empathizing with Raiyan’s fear, we decided to just buy it for now but he can only have it once he has earned 50 Golden Points (similar to the token system Jo has been doing). Naturally, just hearing us planning to buy it was good enough for Raiyan so he seamlessly agreed to the plan.

So it’s been 3 days and 11 points into the plan and it’s quite good actually! Of course I didn’t hesitate to use it to entice him to finish his meals faster AND staying put at the dining table(which he did!) and I actually had it in my mind to do that at every mealtime. Raiyan thought so too until Babah stepped in and said that it’ll be too easy if we were to give it at every mealtime and there’s the risk of it becoming a routine too. Unfortunately Raiyan only found out about this change of plans AFTER he finished his dinner so when he ran to me and exclaimed “I finished my dinner! Can I get my 3 points now?” I had to break the sad fact to him and he let out a teeny sob “Aaawww..” together with a long face. I felt so sorry for him and nearly gave in but felt I didn’t want to overstep Babah so instead I asked him if he wants a banana instead and Raiyan immediately perked up and said YES and forgot all about the points he didn’t get! (We really forget how easy it is to make these kids happy sometimes!).

I keep track of his golden points by drawing stars on the whiteboard and keeping count of them with the BIG 50 at the bottom of the board. Raiyan gets so excited whenever we count how many stars he’s got, which at the moment stands at 11. But then he would ALWAYS say thereafter, “But mama, I think 50 is too much!” Heehee..

Also, apart from wanting desirable behavior, I’m also trying to use the points system to help avoid undesirable ones though I do try to keep it a minimum as I don’t like to “punish” him too much. The only thing I’m stressing on now is his articulation of “excuse me” which I know he can say but lately he has been lazy and saying “ku me” instead. I’ve been drilling this in him for the last 2 weeks now and he IS getting much better at it but just to instill it more, I warned him that if I catch him saying “ku me” I will take one point away. Oh you should have seen how sad he was when I did do that just the one time. I brought him to the whiteboard and canceled out one star and he just sat down in front of the board and cried out softly “nooo..”.. I felt so EVIL but the good thing is not only has he NOT said “ku me” ever since but he was even MORE motivated to get his points thereafter! Bless him!

Non Compliance

Having our child not following what we say or do what we tell them is indeed one of the biggest challenges us parents face in raising our children. Usually we would tend to just blame the child for being stubborn, lazy, annoying and basically non-compliant.

However with Raiyan, especially in the early years, the issue of non-compliance never cropped up simply because we never expected him to comply seeing how he wasn’t able to understand what we instructed him to do anyway. And even when he DID seem to understand what it is we wanted, the tantrums that erupted thereafter were just too scary that we would just give in and let him do whatever he wants!

But upon starting ABA with me also learning to how best to communicate our needs and not just for Raiyan to communicate his needs, I discovered that maybe its not necessarily a case of “non-compliance” but more because children generally either do not understand the instruction OR the instruction is just too BIG to follow.

For example, we always like to tell the kids to put away their toys and we get upset when they don’t do it. Then we complain about how lazy they are and we threaten them with punishment if we don’t see them clean up their toys within the next five minutes etc. But what I’ve discovered I can do instead is to tell Raiyan to just put one or two toys in the basket and see if he’s willing to do that. He usually does because it’s a simple, small and straightforward thing to do and after he has done that I load up on the praises and the verbal reinforcements (good job Raiyan! You’re SUCH a good boy for putting your toys away!!) and after that I try to push it further and ask if he wants to put away more toys by asking or rather challenging him by saying “do you think you can put away three more toys in the basket?” and after having so positively reinforced the first time, he would still be motivated to do a bit more simply because he’s already on a roll with it and also since the next task just seems so achievable anyway.

Therefore, whenever you think your child is not “complying” with what you’re telling him or her to do, try giving them the benefit of the doubt that either they don’t actually understand the instruction or if the instruction is just too big and alien-like for them. Break the task down to something they are confident they can achieve and with every little achievement we compliment them and make them feel good about themselves and pretty soon after a series of little broken down tasks, the whole instruction would have been complied with before you know it!
PURPOSE:Hoping for more understanding and less judgment from all.

 To show the importances of early intervention and an evidence based treatment to help reach the full potential of the child.

 Offering other parents hope to have faith in the positive progress of their child.

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