Thursday, December 1, 2011

School Motivation and Distractions

I have so much that I want to share, I'm not sure where to start. I've been asked - repeatedly - to write a book. Some from people I know, and some just from people I've talked to with kids on the spectrum. My problem is not knowing where to begin.

There are a few forum websites that I actively participate on geared towards mom's. Some pages that have forum areas specifically for parents of children with ASD. Every day I go on and see if I can learn something new, or share some of my stories.

This morning, someone was having problems motivating their son to go to school. When he did actually get there, he wasn't able to focus and was having major problems at school because of this. It brought me to mind of Winnie at school and the problems we've had.

It was really hard for Winnie to get motivated for school and to keep focused while at school. So far this year though, we've had minimal problems that were easily solved. Here's what we did, and it may help you, or may not. Take its as you will! :)

Getting her motivated to even go was very very hard. It was way more fun for her to stay home where she could have one on one time with mommy than go to school where she had to compete with other kids for attention AND they made constant demands on her. Pfft.. I'd stay home too! That said, we introduced a series of rewards with her which we "shaped up" to the broader rewards we use today.

The first one was getting her to agree to go to school. This started as a daily thing and was given with an easy reward that we could do at home. "If you go to school all day today, you can play your favorite game right when you get home. But you have to go to school all day and if you don't, you don't get your game AT ALL today." - Once she went to school for a full week using this method (switching up the activity so it was still something she wanted to do something she didn't like to be able to get it!) - we moved to "if you go to school all week we can.. " and did small outings with animals or something (here we have a free petting zoo/farm, or we'd go to the pet store to look around at the animals etc). We also use motivators like going to her friends house to visit, going to the park to play on the monkey bars etc. We phased out those rewards for school as well, since now she doesn't have a problem going - its a part of the routine that she likes! Plus we use mini motivators like "Aren't you going to the library today? Don't forget you wanted to look for a book about dragons!" She also used to hate taking the bus. The school introduced a "surprise" motivator. If she went on the bus, she got a surprise (which was a dollar store lizard, or a piece of candy - she'd never know what it was, but was eager to see what it would be that day). If she didn't go on the bus, she didn't get the surprise!

The second thing we had to work on was her focus. This took a bit because we had to figure out what things were distracting her. For this, I still have to rely on the teachers at the school to help me out and they're pretty good about it. My daughter gets very distracted by light, so the teacher makes sure to help with that by closing the blinds on really sunny days and moving things that may be reflecting on the walls. She also noticed that when she would bite on her hair (just put her hair in her mouth while at school) she would be completely distracted and not listen to the teacher. After a note home when this was noticed, I started putting her hair in pig tails and that helped a lot. Now Winnie knows that if she doesn't want pig tails in her hair, she can't chew on it at school - so it lets her notice that she's doing something that distracts herself too!

Having a open communication policy with the teachers at school has helped her a lot so be sure to discuss concerns with them and ask them if they have suggestions as well. Being with our kids 6 hours or more a day, they're pretty decent at suggestions too! We've also used visual prompters too to remind her that she needs to focus on her work. A handheld sign, hand signal or verbal prompt can be very effective. I tap my finger to my chin at home and it lets her know she needs to focus on what I'm telling her and her teacher uses "Eyes up here" as a reminder to her class and it works well for her also.

Life with kids like ours is a lot of trial and error, because what works for some, won't work with others. "Intervention" though doesn't stop when they leave the office of the professionals. Lots of things we'll still have to intervene on to make life a little more comfortable and functional for our amazing little people.

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