Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Need to be Cued

2nd Grade went by without hardly any struggles (probably because of the great works of his teacher who knew him well by now) except for a couple major things---not remembering things and having accidents at school.

Now, what do I mean by this? Well, one big part of MJ's Asperger's is the inability to do things on his own unless he has been cued. This affected almost everything in his life from getting dressed, eating, doing homework, remembering to take his work home, right down to the very basic in knowing when to go the bathroom.

We had a lot of problems in 1st grade where I would pick him up from school and he would be wet. I would worry first most that his classmates had noticed and that he would be made fun of, but luckily he always seemed to have accidents at the very end of the day when he was leaving the last class or getting coats and things ready to go. I felt bad that I'm sure the computer lab teacher was always having a wet chair to clean up, and well, it just wasn't good all around.

In first grade, I had met with the teacher and explained that she must tell MJ to go to the bathroom at least one time after lunch. I remember she was defensive at first like I was accusing her of not allowing MJ to go, but I had to explain the whole thing with him and how she couldn't "ask" him to go, or "give him the opportunity" to go, but she must literally say "go now". Don't give him an option. He must go. I figured as long as he always went the bathroom one time at school, he would be fine until time to come home.

MJ has always been potty trained, it is just that he gets so involved in things or superfocused that he won't even realize the need to go the bathroom until it's at the point of no return. He doesn't even think of going until it's too late. And usually, in a school setting, the bathroom isn't just in the next room like at home---it's down the hall and too far in an extreme emergency to make it.

So this is what it came to. It worked well for the rest of 1st grade. 2nd grade came and I think his teacher stopped telling him to go, and he had a few accidents, not terrible, but it was still a problem. We needed to figure out a way he could cue himself.

And this cuing thing applied to everything. In Kindergarten I used to put a large piece of duck tape across his shirt to remind him to turn assignments in. Yes, it must have looked pretty funny, but it was the only thing that worked. I told him he could take the tape off when he turned his work in. I remember his teacher saying she noticed it and wondering if he had a button missing on his shirt or something, but then it was too high, and it always disappeared later.

In first grade I'd wrap tape around his finger (even the tape on the shirt thing wasn't working anymore, and maybe it would bug him when he wrote) that he couldn't remove until he took a reading test.

Whatever we could do to have something, anything cue him to remind him to do something. It was hard. We knew he was almost exactly like his dad with the whole needing to be cued thing, but the difference was that his dad could have a PDA, emails, and a nagging wife calling him or reminding him when he needed to do things. With MJ we hadn't found a success yet, and the school's didn't allow electronic devices to remind him of stuff (well we hadn't pushed it yet) and so we just tried little things here and there.

With my husband, who had still not accepted the idea that he had Asperger's, it was a never ending battle. Thank goodness he had all these technical devices to help, and his job had him by project and deadlines, or I don't know where we'd be. Let me tell you his days off were incredibly difficult. Nothing was getting accomplished and we were trying everything. Calenders, to do lists, phone calls......it is a difficult task.

We just wished for MJ's sake that we could find a way to teach him how to take care of things himself. We needed for him to learn to be self manageable. So the battle went on, with new inventions day to day, some working, and some not. We realized the best things were more of a reward system, although the annoyance system didn't hurt too bad either.

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