Thursday, September 1, 2011

tuning in....

Have you ever been waiting for that big game (insert favorite team here), or needed to see that sitcom. Or maybe you needed to know who won American Idol or Survivor? OK, so you turn on your TV, get it to your station....its the right time, and damn! the reception is bad. Really, bad reception? Isn't this the digital age? Things should work. You catch glimpses of your teams offensive plays, then the screen freezes in digital cubes, raining on the image distorting the play. Did they make the touchdown? I could go on and on here, but you get the picture....right? (no pun intended)

This is what it is like somedays trying to get my sons attention. I'll find myself asking him over and over"do you want to eat beans or quiche?"
When he was younger my Mom would say "don't repeat yourself. People always say things twice when they speak to kids. Just say it once". I understand this approach. It is to teach kids to listen.

Auditory processing malfunctions in some kids. The words get jumbled up in their head...words coming in, and words intended on coming out. Some kids with autism never speak, but actually have a lot to say. Many non-speaking kids are using Ipads to communicate and are able to go to school. Were lucky, our kid speaks.....a lot. But listening is a real challenge.

In Animals in Translation, author Temple Grandin (an amazing woman living with autism) describes it beautifully for us. Since our brain; our species is capable of higher functioning such as reasoning that we have to sacrifice ancient survivor skills that we don't need since we have evolved from caveman. For example, any given time during our day we are not paying attention to the changes in lighting, or the drone of traffic, or hearing all the appliances humming.

Sit there if you will and listen to all that ambient noise. Now feel the clothes on your body and the breeze on your skin. What about that cookie you just tasted or the headache you're having. Imagine the lady next to you having on too much perfume.
If you were inundated with all this stimulus and could never turn it off you would go mad. Our brains have to filter this stuff out so that we can focus on higher levels of thought.

So I try to go easy on my kid, knowing all this. Still in order to function in this society, or to simply be able to listen in school, I have to teach him listening skills. It's hard. I'm ignored a lot. It's frustrating. For years he didn't respond to his name very well and he didn't speak until 3. It's all about tuning in. One day I bursted out crying when I was able to play with a child and he was tuned into me. Conversing had a real flow to it. It wasn't strained. It was so easy! We'll get there one day. It'll just take a bit more work.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes supporting the verbal question with another sensory clue might help. I get what your Mom is saying about asking only once it seems important. So what if, for example, you were showing him a bowl of beans in one hand and a plate with a slice of quiche in the other and you indicate the beans by holding that choice out when you ask "Beans?..." then you hold out the quiche and ask "...or quiche?" Maybe even use use slightly differing tones, like a higher voice for beans and a lower voice for quiche. That way, you still asked the question once, but maybe he will be more tuned in.

mountainorbit said...

That is ideal and creative and yes it would definately work since he is much more visual than auditory. But can you imagine how many cards I would be using, say in just 15 minutes? You know for someone who doesn't talk as much as me it could be practical, but with all my questions and choices I offer, I would just have too many cards. Though, I could just have a stockpile that I use when speaking. I also try to pick only the very necessary questions so I'm not always spewing a million words at him. This can be hard for me since I can be a chatterbox. When I was little my folks nicknamed me "motor mouth".