Posted by Pweshes Mama on August 28, 2009
Finally, Raiyan is starting to be able to tell us what he does in the school day. All this time, it was soooo difficult to elicit any type of response whenever I asked him simply "what did you do in school today Raiyan?". I soon realised that my question was too big, too vague and Raiyan just did not know how to answer it and not so much he did not know what the answer was. This was similar to us always asking him who he played with in school. At first, we just could not understand what was so hard for him to give us the names of the children he played with because we know for a fact (from Jo who sits in with him in school) that he does play with other children. What we discovered we had to do was to specifically ask something and to do it on a step by step basis.
So first we ask: Did you play with friends today? [Yes]
Next: How many friends did you play with? [Stuck - because he still thinks this is too big and it will take time for him to count all the friends he had played with]
Try again: Did you play with friends during breaktime today? [Yes]
Next try: How many friends did you play with during breaktime? 
Next and finally ask: Who are the friends you played with during breaktime? [ "him" and "him"!]
We can then also further ask if he played with other friends in the classroom or during any other time during the day and he would answer different friend. All of these just goes to show how important it is to ask "leading questions" whenever necessary to get him to what we expect him to answer and then once he's in that place, it's then easier to ask him other related questions!
So when it comes to what he did in school, we are using this similar pattern of questioning too by starting with something simple like asking the "subjects" he had sat in which he can do as they are more or less the same subjects he sat in Year 1 so he is already familiar with them. So I would ask him my favourite question of the day and he would just list the class timetable of the day in the order he sat through them - literacy, snacktime, numeracy, ICT, music and swimming. After that, I could be more specific and ask him what he did in ICT and he'd say he clicked on the computer to open a folder and he did some colouring etc But now he can even volunteer to say more like just now, he told me how he clicked his folder and then it was empty and Mr. Want was telling him something he didn't understand!
We are also really happy to hear that Mrs R, his class teacher has been nothing less than great. She seems to be really interested to know and learn the ways to communicate with Raiyan and to get him to follow her instructions. I've also witnessed myself her communicating something with Raiyan in a systematic way just on the second day of school! When Raiyan was checking with her if there is ICT today, I saw her tell Raiyan "Yes, but we have assembly, then numeracy and then snacktime and then library and then we have ICT" :D
Looking forward to hearing more about Raiyan's days in schools from now on!
Raiyan has begun to notice the roadkills we often see on the road and is getting especially worried about having to see quite a few in just one week. So yesterday, he turned around and asked me,"Is there no traffic lights for animals? Like for people to cross the streets?" Of course I said, unfortunately there isn't any for animals and traffic lights are around only for cars and for people. Then he asks "but why not? otherwise the cars will knock them when they cross the street!" I didn't know what else to say but "I guess no one has thought about building traffic lights for animals!' to which Raiyan then said "well, when I'm bigger and have more money, I will build traffic lights for animals too!"
Posted by Pweshes Mama on August 21, 2009
Over the holidays, we have been trying to widen Raiyan's interests beyond just his obsessions with dinasours and animals, as we kept telling him that not everyone are into those things as much as he does and if he wants to keep a conversation with other children, he needs to be able to talk about other things too. We have tried to make him watch "Ben 10" (which I believe would be the "in" thing with boys nowadays?) and I have to commend him for trying but somehow after a couple of tries, he still couldn't get into it.
But the one "cool" thing that my sister did manage to sustain his interest in was "Transformers" and she actually made him sit down with him through the whole DVD playing of the movie. Admittedly, he was a slightly hesitant in the beginning but after a while, and especially since there was some form of correlation with dinasours with them transforming into something that looks like them, he really did seem to enjoy the whole movie and he even acquainted himself with some of the characters' names. However, between that time and this week when he started school, it still wasn't something that we saw he reeeaalllyy liked as once he got home, he still got back to his dinos and animals stuffs.
But Jo told us that on the first day of school this week, Raiyan was striking a conversation with the boy sitting next to him and I guess he figured that dinosaurs was not a common interest so instead, he actually started using the talking points on transformers that my sister shared with him while they were watching the movie! And then, there they were, actually having a "real" conversation about transformers! :-)
It was so funny cause Jo was just listening in the corner thinking "oh my, these are all lies! lies! hahaha!" Well of course they are not "completely" lies but we do know that he doesn't love transformers as much as he sounded! We can't help but be so proud of him as he really did work hard during all the social skills sessions Kerri organised over the holidays. And we're so grateful that he is able to recognise it when another child is bored or disinterested in what he is saying and not only is he okay with that but he actually is beginning to handle the situation better by adjusting his actions - something we hardly imagined he can do! It seems so contradictory in nature for Raiyan to have autism and at the same time have this innate need to please people (which is not at all surprising with both his parents having that same nature!) but I think it could act as a double edge sword. On one hand, it is helping his social skills at a faster rate than we expected and we are truly surprised that he has reached a point of knowing to be "fake" to please the person he is talking to, which is undeniably a basic and common difficulty for individuals with autism. But at the same time, I do get worried since I know how difficult it is for him to do this, that he might get too guilty for not being able to please everyone. I already see this happening when he gets really upset if I tell him off for something or when a friend ignores him. I think I really need to be conscious to not make him feel like he needs to please people all the time - which I'm sure is an alien thing with him since ALL he has been doing for the past 20 months is pleasing us with all his achievements! I guess this is another chapter in our journey of balancing autism and the world that we have to be aware of.
In the meantime, can anyone suggest what other "cool" topics Raiyan can talk to his friends and be "fake" about? heehee...
Raiyan is starting Year 2 (!!) in a few days time and similar to what we did last year, with it being a whole new classroom and a new teacher, we brought him round to school about a week earlier to do an advanced going around to familiarise himself with his new surroundings.
As some of you may remember, Raiyan's start to Year 1 last year did not run smoothly. Though the change in environment he already accepted because we had already done the early rounds, he was still disturbed by the change in timetable, change in classmates and most of all the change in "rules". For example, in Reception (the year before Year 1), he had to take his shoes off outside the class and also when he's about to go into the sandpit but somehow for Year 1, he didn't have to! There were also different rules about going to the toilet along with so many others that you can't help but just put down to some of the teachers' individual preferences. So to put a long story short, the rocky start to Raiyan's Year 1 really struck a chord with all of us caregivers and therapists that we are trying very hard to not let it happen again.
So we've brought him round to school twice already. the first time was just to know where his new class was, to take a look around the inside of his new class and also to meet his lovely new teacher for Year 2. We are especially grateful to the school for allowing Raiyan to do this and especially to Mrs R, the teacher for taking the time out of a very busy schedule I'm sure, to spend some time with Raiyan in the class. The second time, Kerri advised we take him in wearing his school uniform complete with his school bag and snack bag and this time, we even sat down to have a snack (which incidentally IS different as in Year 1, they had their snacks outside the class but now in Year 2, they eat inside!).
We are so happy to report that Raiyan was fantastic with all the change. He has really come to a point now that as long as we warn him earlier of what is coming, he really takes in changes and new environments in stride. Of course it is admittedly an added effort on our part to every time have a long drawn talk with him before we leave the house to say EXACTLY where we are going to go (and also repeating it again and again every time he asks along the way in the car! WHICH, if he sees us using a different route than he's used to, he will INCESSANTLY do until he's really convinced we are going to the same place!).
Mrs R has been really excellent so far as well and already we can see how well she is able to converse with him and she is quickly catching on stuff we have to constantly work on with Raiyan which is, keeping his voice low, not interrupting people when they are talking, looking in the eye of the person he is talking to and sharing his toys. Because we have been consistently encouraging all of this at home, it's really vital that it be the same in school too.
So school starts this Wednesday and we are taking him to school one more time on Tuesday like how we did this week. All of us are still awfully nervous though we are feeling slightly more positive after the good early runs so far...
Wish Raiyan lots and lots of luck! Will keep you all posted!!
I've been whisked away to the other side of the world for work purposes, yet again, for the past five weeks and naturally have not been closely following Raiyan's ABA programme, which I feel so very guilty about. As guilty as I am about having neglected this blog for more than a month. So this post is indeed long overdue and yet again, here I am promising more frequent updates from now as hopefully I will be staying put for at least 2 months!
Of course, I'm not going to kid myself and write a long post about Raiyan's development for the last 5 weeks because apart from the mini notes courtesy of Jo, I really have no idea. I do know however from his ABA file the areas that Raiyan has been working on (some of them are actually those carried over from the last session I had sat on which I'm happy to see as at least I'm familiar with them). As I might have mentioned in a previous post, Raiyan's basic language is in place, so the focus now is to expand his descriptive language, his vocabulary and his imagination and in turn his understanding and general knowledge of things around him. His current programme consists of the following:
- Comprehending and verbalising visual clues - We still have many copies of this activity to go through where we ask Raiyan various questions about a picture and make him explain his answer. Eg. if there is a picture of a girl picking flowers, we can ask Raiyan "Have the girls picked the flowers?" (which of course Raiyan would simply say "yes" to), then we ask "How do you know?" which hopefully Raiyan will answer "because the flowers are in her hands". It may be simple to you and me but this was very tricky for Raiyan in the beginning. Alhamdulillah, he has improved on this so much and he is applying this more in a natural scenario too;
- Phonics - Using the Jolly Phonics book, Raiyan has managed to learn all the actions and exact sounds to make according to all the phonics. As we know, Raiyan was an early reader with him reading up to level 6 of the Peter and Jane books at 3 years old. But he did this through his extraordinary memory rather than knowing to the exact pronounication of the words or letters he sees. That is why when it came to writing independently, he would often ask us how to spell the words he hasn't managed to memorise yet and would not even attempt to spell it using the sounds the words make. So hopefully once he knows what letters and combination of letters make what sounds, he will be more confident to spell words independently;
- Time - so far, he can tell time on the hour and on the half hour. Now we are working on 1/4 past the hour and 1/4 to the hour;
- General knowledge - now he is learning what things are made of and this has extended to things around him and more than those that are listed in the activity sheets;
- Story writing - we brainstorm short stories together and then eventually, Raiyan will write them down. After that, we can match the writings up with pictures and decorations and make it look like a proper book. Actually, Raiyan already did something like this over the Easter holidays but with a lot of support from Jo. I will try to post pictures of that book very soon!