Monday, December 12, 2011

Preschooling Little Man

On Monday, I began preschooling Little Man. Up until now, I have worked
with him in preparation for using the TEACCH approach to preschool him
at home. It is going to be a while before he fully has the sequence
down, but he is doing great so far.

The first obstacle was to help him sit still long enough to do a task.
Our son loves to walk in circles and is nearly always on the move. We
first started with a low children's table & chairs. While a nice idea,
it didn't work. He was able to get up and walk whenever he had a mind
to do so. Unfortunately, he had a mind to walk quite a lot! I ended up
sitting him at the kitchen table with his older sister who is
homeschooling at the 1st grade level. Being in a booster seat, he is
not able to get up. This is working out much better. He doesn't even
try to get up, but will wait for me to get his activity ready in front
of him. At this point, I do not have a work center set up. I bring the
activities to him one at a time.

The next step was having a signal for him to understand that we are
going to be working on his schooling. Little Man has one of those ear
flap hats that are so popular today. When wearing it, he stops any
fussing or squirming. We refer to it as his "thinking cap" and put it
on him when it is time to do the task boxes. Surprisingly, as long as
he has that hat on, he is very cooperative. If the hat comes off, he is
ready to get down from the table and go roaming about the house. It is
funny how it works. Some kids on the autism spectrum need a fidget
cushion or a weighted lap mat to apply the weight and pressure they need
to sit still. Little man just needs his hat.

I had 3 tasks set up for his first day. He loves to paint with the
wooden handled foam daubers. I taped the corners of a sheet of
cardstock to the table in front of him. On the cardstock, I had drawn a
simple Christmas tree made up of a large triangle with a rectangle for
the trunk. I placed a dollop of green and brown Tempura paints on an
old deli lid and got him started. Our son needs the gentle guidance of
my hand touching his elbow. I pointed to the pencil lines of the
triangle and guided him in pouncing the paint onto the pencil lines.
Once he pounced the paint on with my help for 3 times, he finished on
his own. The only thing he needed was for me to help guide where his
hand moved by the touching of his elbow. It is really low key
guidance. He just needs a slight touch. If I remove my hand, he stops
working. Once he finished painting the triangle border, he painted the
inside of the triangle. Finally, using the brown to paint the trunk.
The entire time, he worked with my fingers gradually easing the touch on
his elbow to a feathery pressure. I lifted my hand away at one point
and he finished the picture completely on his own. I removed the
cardstock and gave him a blank sheet to paint all on his own while I set
the tree painting aside to dry.

After painting, his next task was to place 8 wooden alphabet building
blocks into a bowl. While the painting with a dauber used his larger
muscles in his arm, this activity with the blocks used more fine motor
development. He had to pick up the blocks one at a time and put them
into the bowl. I had to use hand over hand for much of it. I learned
that painting will have to be the last activity each day or else he is
not happy to do other tasks. While he did complete the task, he wasn't
as happy about it as he was with the painting. Since he was not as
cooperative, I allowed him a break for a little while to calm down and
become ready to get back to task.

The last task of the session was to glue pom poms (ornaments) onto his
tree. This one was very difficult. He had unexpected sensory issues
over that task. He has a sensory bin filled with pom poms that he has
used without any problems. Dipping a pom pom into the dollop of glue
and putting it on the tree was another matter entirely. It was a
struggle. I finally got him to do a few, using the hand over hand
method, before allowing him to walk away from the activity. I am not
sure what set him off. He has touched the pom poms before. Today the
texture of them didn't agree with him.

Overall, Little Man did great. He worked 3 tasks, completing 2 of the 3
without much protest. Getting him used to doing the structured tasks
will take time. I am encouraged with how well he did. I am going to
start using painting as his "reward" for doing his activities each day.
One thing I would do different however is to grab an old adult sized
t-shirt and make a paint shirt before he paints again. A very simple
way to make the paint shirt is to cut up the center back of the t-shirt
from hem to neck. This makes an open back, think hospital gown, for
covering his clothing. To fasten it, you can stitch a ribbon or bias
tape on each side of the neckline for typing. An even more simplistic
method would be to use a large safety pin to fasten the neck area.

It is such a blessing to see Little Man's progress. Even though part of
the activities were more of a challenge for him, he really made some
milestones. He was able to follow the direction of painting along a
line. He was able to do the block activity. Even though he didn't
enjoy gluing the pom poms onto the tree, he did a few. He did awesome!