Every morning, my son lies so peacefully in bed. His long eyelashes so beautiful against his baby soft skin, his pouty lips ever so slightly parted. It’s one of my favorite parts of my day to watch him, lying there so peaceful, quiet and innocent, for a few minutes. Then, it’s time to give him lots of kisses to wake him. He’s still enough of a baby to be cuddled and loved for his wake up call.
In the morning, we follow a routine. I ask him what day of the week it is. He never knows. He must look at the verbal chart we have on a door. He always reads it to me. Without reading, no matter what the day, he will guess it is “Wednesday.”
After we establish the day of the week, I discuss with him where we will be going and what will happen that day. Some days he will express his verbal knowledge of where we go before I tell him. Some days, I must remind him.
At age 4.5, my son is slowing re-integrating with NT (neuro-typical) preschool children aided by his senior tutor from behavioral therapy. What this means, is that he goes to a private preschool for a half hour for circle time. His aide sits next to him. She prompts my son to sit with his legs crossed, listen to the teacher, imitate what the other children do and to answer when asked a question. He sings songs, imitates movements, listens to stories and turns in his name tag, spelling his name, at the end.
As time goes by, the plan is that my son will be able to participate in circle time without prompting from the aide and she will slowly fade back. She will still be in the classroom but her role will be to take data, intervene in the event of a behavior and to continue prompting when necessary. His day at preschool will slowly expand until he is spending a full half day with his peers.
The rest of the morning is spent in behavioral therapy in a workroom of the office where I practice law. There is a child size wooden table and two chairs in the room with a lot of therapy tools, books, and toys. During therapy, the tutors run “programs” which are intended to teach language, comprehension of concepts, social skills, and daily living skills, such as brushing teeth and combing hair which can be painful to his sensory system. He works in a room with the tutors for 2.5 to 3 hours at a time, is given a 1/2 hour to hour break, and returns for additional behavior therapy or leaves for outside speech and occupational therapies.
The behavioral tutors give my son “down” time during these sessions when he can play quietly while they take data. Then, they call him to the chair, usually by saying, “Come sit down”. They start by having him follow simple instructions like clapping. When he follows, they give him verbal praise. Then, they start to work. They teach him concepts like “why” and what is wrong with a picture (“the car is in the tree”). Each time he “works” for something. If he completes the task, he is rewarded with playtime with a toy, eating some candy, or playing on the iPad, for example. He definitely has the system down. Even at home, he will occasionally say that he wants to work for something, if I deny it to him.
They are also teaching him something with which I am fascinated. It is a program relating to his ability to recall immediate past events. When I ask my son what he did at school, he cannot and never has, answered that question. From what I have read, the concept of what he did at school is just too abstract for him. In order to help him discuss immediate and short term past events, the behavioral therapists have started with baby steps in a program called “Trips”.
The tutor will take my son down the hall and place him in a room doing something. For example, he will go into mommy’s office, put on his shoes and give me a kiss. (One of my favorites). After he completes the tasks, the tutor takes him out in the hallway, puts him in a chair and says, “Where did you go?” His response must be in a complete sentence. “I went to mommy’s office.” Then he is asked, “What did you do?” This one is more difficult. He seems to be getting it about 50 percent. “I gave mommy a kiss.” “And what else did you do?” “I gave mommy a kiss”. (Obviously, this is the more important part.) Sometimes, after another prompt he will remember to say that he put on his shoes. Sometimes, he only remembers the shoes. Sometimes, he appears too distracted to get any of it out. I’m always listening, cheering him on in my head.
His routine was disrupted due to illness this week. There has been no therapy. So, being the mommy, I attempted to get him to sit down and work in a pre-K workbook we have at home. I instructed him to come sit down. We got through one exercise of tracing some shapes with a marker. (He hates using any type of writing implement: crayon, marker or pen). Once we got through it, with some rather unhappy strokes of the marker, he looked me in the eye and said, “I want Trista!
I wanted to laugh. Trista is his senior tutor. He apparently prefers her methods to his mom’s. That’s okay. I wanted Trista too! It’s been a long week.