Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Concert - Winnie's Big Girl Self Help

Winnie is off to school this morning - that in itself is a feat that was so incredibly difficult last year and this year has had some minor hiccups - but today, its her Christmas Concert. She's all dolled up in a very pretty dress, with her plain, but pretty and noiseless shoes in her backpack (no velcro, clips or hard soles to make unnecessary noise when she moves). Her hair is out of her face and her face is clean. She knows her song and will do her very best to make her classmates proud by doing her part - singing loudly, in a pretty (not silly) tone and remembering all the words.

For a child without ASD - she'd be ready! However, Winnie needs a bit of extra planning, and she knows this - so as we wait for the bus, with my hands over her ears because the sound of the distant (and passing by) cars and trucks seem to set her on edge in the mornings, we go over her "sensory plan".

I remind her calmly that today is her concert, and she laughs at me because, duh.. she already knows that! Check that off the list. Then I remind her that there will be lots of people and it may be very loud. Ah. There's that small look of panic that crosses her features. Getting down low and holding her close to me with my hands still over hear ears, I remind her:
"But that's okay. You can do this. Remember what you can do if you get upset.. what can you do Winnie?" and then she begins her own personal checklist of things that can help her when she gets overwhelmed.

Hopefully this little game of remembering will help her in that crutial panic moment later on in the morning. This is what she thought of, all things that help her, and were rehearsed this morning, standing on the side of the road as we waited for the bus.

1) Breathing deeply. This helps calm her heartrate and gives her something else to focus on for a moment instead of the overwhelming sounds, crowds or lights. We've taught her to focus on feeling (or seeing depending on the weather) the breath go in and out of her body and to do this slowly - although when she panics it is considerably faster than in practice!

2) Letting someone know whats going on! - We practiced this little script a few times this morning. It lets someone know that she's getting overwhelmed, why she's getting overwhelmed and what she's going to try to do about it.

"Excuse me, Teacher. Its so very loud in here! It is making me upset. I am going to hum a song. It makes me feel better."

When Winnie gets overwhelmed, she likes to block out all other sounds. Its why when we're in the car alone or after a bad day, she'd like the music as loud as she can get it. If she's not overwhelmed, she wants no music at all - because it gives her less 'interference' to have to tolerate. When she's visiting a friend and she's overwhelmed, we give her a headset and let her listen to songs or videos from my smartphone. When she's at school though, she sometimes has to improvise, and that's where the humming comes in!

Although, the trick here is getting her to let someone know she's going to hum and why, and to hum something that everyone knows so they don't think she's just that crazy girls that hums. Today, it started out as a song from the computer, but we got her to switch to something more popular that she liked as well -  it was "Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer".

3) Ask for a break - Winnie's teachers are very good about letting her "take a break" when she gets overwhelmed and just needs a minibreak from other kids. By doing this, if at all possible at the time, she can go someplace quite away from others and let herself "regroup" or "recharge" for some more social time.

Big stuff like today our kids shouldn't miss out on. However, they require lots of preparation in advance. Letting our kids practice self help steps so they know what to do, what's appropriate and that just all out screaming their head off probably not the better option, then reminding them what to expect and how they can help themselves tolerate rough situations, is a pretty good recipe for success!

I have my fingers crossed for Winnie, but I'm already so very very proud of my little girl.

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