Raising little Westies, and life as parent of a special needs son


Oh! How I wish I had a stunning personal victory to brag about in great length and detail.

No, sorry. But there’s been a few people discussing… things other than success.

And I respect that. It’s certainly a hard time of year.

So this isn’t about life right now. I’d get bogged down, and I think I’ve said my piece already. As I said there, I work in IT. Specifically, in “end user support”. In other words, people “break their computer” then ring “me” (well, a big team that includes me) to “fix it”.

As you can probably imagine, it’s a bit of an endless job: computers can always be better. People keep changing them. People are always hiring new employees, who keep forgetting their password, needing access to new things, then moving on – which means we have to take their computer access away.

Yet, here we are – just costing the organisation money.

Then in my personal life – as a geek, I like “sandbox” games. These are generally defined by having “no win conditions just a series of ways to lose”.

To work out if you are winning, you have to decide – before you start playing – how will you know if you have won? Earn a certain amount of points (or money), reach a certain stage within a certain amount of time (game or real world time), what’s it going to be? It’s what keeps World of Warcraft ticking over (not that WoW is my game of choice).

“Get to the point”?

It’s a bit like our life: We can spend as much as we want on our kids.
No matter who we are or how much we are spending, someone will come up
with a different “program” that will cost something: if not money, the
time we – or our kids – are already using for something else – even if
that something else is “processing all the stuff they are already doing”
(and for our kids, it probably takes two hours to process one hour of
therapy). The more time they spend on maths, the less they can spend on reading and “learning to be socil

A few lucky (very lucky!) people get to sit back and say “I’ve done it” in this life. But even those people, very carefully, decide something: I want to win the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. I want Microsoft to be a massive company everyone in the world knows about. I want to radically overhaul the taxation system in Australia. I want to reach my goal weight.

The final one actually mentions the main word: Goal.

To “succeed”, you have to have one. You need to write it down, and decide how to reach it. You have to be open to changing it – either because it has become impossible, or because you have surpassed it.

To be able to write it down, you probably need to be able to measure it.

At my work, a great deal of effort is put into developing “metrics” – things that can be measured about what we do – communicating these to the people that pay the bills, and beating them.

Anyone can say “I wish my son had less tantrums (or meltdowns)”. But it’s pretty impossible to remember saying that, and know if it’s happened, unless you work out how often the tantrums are happening, decide you want to change it, do something to change it, then keep track of how many tantrums or meltdowns are happening.

It would take a very special parent to be able to celebrate “we only had four tantrums this month”! But it’s exactly the type of event I’m
talking about – I guess a better idea would be to celebrate “x” days
since the last tantrum (from a dad in a family with a very poor history of using reward charts).

Tactics like this tell us that Positive Parenting Program techniques, work. No matter how infuriating they are to start with. Things like “unless it represents a danger, ignore it unless it’s positive, and if it’s positive, praise it”.

But without a goal, all we ever notice is the things that go wrong. We lose sight of the whole reason we try things like PPP, or speech therapy, or OT.

A lot of us have kids in school. In main-stream school, there are clear delineated check-points with milestones, goals and objectives. You can tell, is your child kicking arse and taking names, doing OK, or in need of help and support to get up to the required level of reading, writing, maths, science, or social interaction.

For any kid on the spectrum – we have to reassess our expectations. We all say that, and that’s fair enough. So what are they?

“Our kids are individuals” – ours even more so than most. So the tactics we, and our therapists, and other service providers (including teachers) employ, are going to need to be tested, adjusted, adapted, and sometimes thrown away. But these tactics need to be clear. They need to be communicated. They need to reward positive behavior and shut down unacceptable behavior. They have to be both consistent, yet adaptable as our child grows – or needs to mark time for a while.

I’m over the moon to be able to hang around here, and hear / read all the issues everyone is going through. Here I am processing it in my own way and hoping to put it to good use with my own son. I’m looking for the positive, and the traps for younger players.

So: How have you succeeded this week, this month, or this year? How are you going to succeed in 2011?

Reproduced from the now-closed autism united ning website
appologies in advance for broken links


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: