Q: Did you ever grow up having to hold something or shake something in your
hands? I know many autistic kids have the need to hold and shake something
in their hands. My question is Why? And then ofcourse, should I as a parent
be denying my sons desire to walk around always holding a paint brush,
pencil, or anything in his hand?
When you grew up, looking back, would you have preferred being in the
deneral ed classroom with accomodations, or pulled out to special eduction
resources, for more one on one and small group learning opportunities?
Thank you so much for your thoughts!
A: You get two Aspie answers for the price of... well... free! Two
Panelists wanted to answer your question, so make sure you read the
whole email to get both replies.
I'm glad you found my last email mind-broadening! I'd caution you against
complimenting me on how helpful I've been till you actually try my
suggestions out, though; I'm no professional, and all I can do is put
options on the table :)
Books to recommend... heh! Wouldn't it be great if there were a nice book,
leather-bound with Bible-thin pages, with the title "THE RULES" embossed
onto its cover? Unfortunately, as far as I know there is no such book. But
there are resources that do a darn good job covering these
normally-unwritten rules. The best book I know for this purpose is "How To
Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk," by Adele Faber and
Elaine Mazlish. (It's on Amazon.com
$10.) When I was quite young (ten or so?) I stumbled across a copy of this
book that my parents had bought, and just pored over it. It's rich with
rules for rewarding communication, and manages to work in rules for other
things too -- almost by accident, in the process of illustrating how parents
can communicate to their kids the socially acceptable ways of dealing with
certain situations. If you liked my examples in my last email, there's no
better resource I can recommend, for you or your son.
Not that I won't try. The other source that might be helpful is the webpage
A Survival Guide for People with Asperger's
(That's http://www.asperger-marriage.info/survguide/chapter21.html, if you
have trouble opening the link.) It does a better job explicitly spelling out
the rules in easy-to-digest format than anything else I can think of
offhand. It also leaves a lot of stuff out, as any such source must, but
it's emphatically worth a look!
Now, as to your other questions. Lots and lots of spectrum kids -- and
adults too! -- habitually engage in some kind of sensory self-stimulation
(aka "stimming"). I'm one of them! I've written to parents about this a
couple times before, and I always recommend letting the child continue --
assuming, of course, that his particular choice of stim isn't physically
harmful to himself, which doesn't happen often. Best as I can figure out,
stimming is an important coping mechanism that helps us deal with stress.
Between sensory hypersensitivity, having to learn the social rules, and just
plain being different, being on the spectrum can be very anxiety-provoking.
Stimming gives the nervous energy somewhere to go, and, via creating what
I've called a way to "'turn down the volume' on all that light and sound and
information." I don't know how I'd survive without a way to do this :) Some
therapists think stimming is something that should be treated, but as Wiley
has pointed out, there are enough difficult aspects of being autistic that
the last thing you want to do is destroy an autistic's coping mechanism! You
can, however, explain when rocking, say, might not be socially appropriate.
(Sadly, a lot of neurotypicals get creeped out by rocking.)
Looking back, when I grew up I think I would've *preferred* being in a
classroom with as few people as possible; I never liked interacting with
most of my peers. But I stress the word "preferred." Ultimately, even folks
on the spectrum need to learn how to understand neurotypicals, in order to
live with them and even love them. So while at times I found it very
unpleasant, I think it was valuable to me to share a classroom and a
playground with a larger number of peers; in the end there's nothing like
exposure to something to help one understand it. That said, there are
definitely advantages to a smaller classroom; learning can go at the child's
own pace (be it faster or slower), for one thing, and there is a lot less
bullying. Does your son have an opinion?
Hope this helps! Best of luck once again!
As to the first, there's a reason why they call them executive toys - many
people, including Aspies, enjoy a thingamabob in hand as they work. My dad,
for instance, is a terrible pencil biter (not recommended). I play with my
hair a lot; it's long and curly and fun to tie in knots.
As to the second, I had both, really. I went to a public school which had a
program called ALPHA for gifted kids. Twice a week for 3 hours in
elementary school we got to leave class and do program activities in a
pretty small group. As I recall, one of the projects was making a full
scale model of the space shuttle living quarters (pre-Challenger) out of
duct tape and plastic sheeting. In high school, it was a daily class
period, and I designed my own projects, which included arranged marrianges
around the world, humor, and violence in the movies. Does your school
district have a similar program? Being pulled out is not necessarily a bad
thing, but neither is learning to live with one's peers.