December 7, 2011

Justin Time

Posted in Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , at 9:42 am by autismmommytherapist

It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving, or the day I lovingly refer to as “Deliverance”, as my children have been in school approximately five minutes over the past three weeks. It’s not that I don’t love being with the little devils, but there is only so much one can do with the moderately autistic child who only likes three things, particularly in November in New Jersey. I knew I’d hit my wall this past Sunday afternoon when Justin even began rejecting computer time, and I looked at the clock thinking it was approaching 3:00, and we hadn’t even hit 1:30 yet. When that 30 Rock movie theater scene with Tina Fey and Dean Winters floated through my mind for the sixteenth time (you know, the one where they’re watching The Hours and both comment simultaneously it should be called The Weeks), I knew vacation needed to end soon.

And this morning, gloriously, it did. God bless IDEA.

I really shouldn’t be complaining, as things have been relatively calm this month, and we’ve endured entire years here where a tooth extraction sans Novocaine seemed preferable to even one more minute in this house. Everyone was fairly mature (including the boys’ parents), and the kids got along extremely well. Even though Justin had an off day on Thanksgiving (he made it seven minutes at the dinner table before I had to follow him for “surveillance”, but on the bright side, there was no time to overeat), I’d say the interlude was a success. We’ve got (in theory) four straight weeks of blessed school coming up, most of our fall doctor visits, IEPs, and conferences concluded, so it’s time to relax a bit.

You know, except for that little “Christmas thing” coming up.

So I hope you’ll indulge me for a moment if I brag a bit about something I learned in one of those recent school conferences, a little tidbit about Justin which was shared with me by his lovely teacher. After we settled into our seats and I congratulated myself on remembering to bring the “conference muffins”, we began to discuss his academics. Despite moderate autism, Justin’s reading almost on grade level, spells like a champ, and as for math, we’ll just say he takes after his mother. We then moved on to behaviors, where he continues to excel, which makes me just as proud as his academic progress. Finally, his teacher shared with me a little anecdote that sort of says it all about Justin, which is not easy to do.

One of the most challenging aspects of teaching my eldest has always been how quickly his reinforcers lose their appeal. Although the staff at Justin’s school is very savvy as to what the “flavor of the day” is, it seems that one day a few weeks ago Justin became quite agitated while waiting for his reward, one his aide was unable to identify. Given that he’s not at leisure to roam around the room whenever the mood strikes him, she encouraged him to ask for what he wanted on his iPad, even prompting him to try to spell it. He called up the keyboard, but was stymied. She then said he smiled, searched through pages so rapidly she had no idea how he’d gotten there, and found the icon that most represented what he desired. It was a chicken, one which when he pressed it, obligingly said “cluck”. He then stood up at his seat and pointed halfway across the room at a timepiece that apparently had caught his eye.

My kid wanted to play with their fancy-schmancy clock, and that’s how he figured out how to get his needs met.

The two of us spent a few minutes reveling in just how clever that really was, particularly since his mother spends quite a good portion of her own day engrossed in word retrieval, and is not nearly as successful as her son. I’m not sure what aspect of this pleased me more; that my son used his intelligence rather than a behavior to achieve his prize, or the look of incredible pride on his teacher’s face when she recounted the story to me.

Luckily, I don’t have to choose.

I hope you both survived and enjoyed your long week-ends also, and are able to dig in to a few consecutive weeks of relative calm in your respective abodes. With winter break looming (perhaps it won’t snow up to my collar bones this year, a girl can dream), I’ve got a few things to accomplish before school concludes once more, as I’m sure do all of you as well. Here’s wishing for a healthy, snow-free December.

And here’s hoping we all manage to get our needs met too.


  1. Misifusa said,

    Just love to hear stories like this about Justin! Good for him! 🙂

  2. Mom said,

    Wow–I am totally impressed! What a kid, school, parents and teachers!

  3. Kathy said,

    Yay for Justin!

  4. Ann Kilter said,

    So much stuff is available now that was just a dream when my kids were the age of your kids. I was thrilled when my son’s kindergarten teacher figured out that letting him spin quietly outside of the “circle” during circle time, did not prevent him from listening. Trying to make him sit still in circle time did prevent him from listening.

    • I say this all the time- I don’t know how people with autistic kids teen-age years and up did it. My “generation” has had such an easier time of it, due in large part to the parents who came before us. We’re indebted to all of you, truly!

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