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Monday, August 13, 2012

The Perils of Pegboarding



If you have a kid with autism then you have undoubtedly been introduced to this educational "toy" called a pegboard.  I must admit that I bought some of these contraptions for my Max early on as I was told "Autistic kids love pegboards."

Yet in our experience, not so much.

When Max was of preschool age we had a TEACCH teacher come into our home to help Max learn some early skills.  If you are not familiar with TEACCH, it is a teaching method which has its roots in North Carolina.  The predominant philosophy of TEACCH is to adapt the learning experience according to how children with autism learn best.  Of course a lot of assumptions are made in how to actually implement this philosophy.  Max's first teacher interpreted this as...all autistic kids love pegboards.  Why?  The theory proposed by Max's instructor is that "Autistic kids are very visual learners and love to line things up."

Only problem was Max had never "lined things up" in his life.

Undaunted by my remarks about Max's lack of fitting into her stereotype of ALL autistic children, this teacher proceeded to gleefully present Max with multiple pegboard tasks.

Max's fine motor skills wowed the teacher.  (Because ya know that autistic kids aren't supposed to have good fine motor skills).  He lined the pegs up by colors.  He imitated patterns.  If this was a pegboard test then Max had surely passed.  But then the teacher wanted him to repeat the tedious tasks.  This is the point where Max had had enough and threw the pegs on the floor.

Here is a simple rule for teachers:  Boredom begets Behavior Problems

As a seasoned special education instructor and behavioral therapist, I had to intrude upon what I felt was poor teaching technique.   Plus  the fact that she was upsetting my child...had a lot to do with what I said next.

Me:  "Why are you wanting to continue a task that my son has already mastered?"

Teacher:  "Kids need to be taught that sometimes they have to do things they don't want to do."

Me:  "Yes this is true.  Sometimes Max doesn't want to take a bath or brush his teeth but he still has to do these things because they are important for hygiene and personal health. But why is it important that he keep putting pegs into a board?  How is this functional?"

Teacher:  "It is important that children with autism learn a routine."

Me:  "Yes everyone needs to learn certain routines but they need to serve a purpose and be functional.  Have you assessed Max on what he does and does not know?  Why begin with a task he already knows how to do?"

Teacher:  "This is just what we do.  All the kids start off this way."

It was then that I began to wonder who had more autistic traits, Max or his teacher.  She was locked into some rigid routine that she could not see her way out of or understand why she was doing it in the first place.

I wondered how many parents actually asked why a certain task or lesson was being taught. 

Here are a few questions to ask about any learning experience for your child:

  • Why are we doing this?  What is the end goal of this task?

  • Is this task or learning experience functional?  Is it going to help my child become more independent?  Is it a building block for further learning?

  • Has my child been properly assessed to find out what he or she can already do? This way we are not wasting time teaching things my child already can do.


    Pegboarding...it is not for everyone.
Of course we would love to hear from you.  Have you ever had the experience of having a teacher or therapist under estimate your child's abilities due to his or her diagnosis?  Tell us all about it!  We are here to listen.




Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Three years later...

Hello out there.

I began this blog well over three years ago and I stopped writing here because I began a freelance job writing for a health site.  But I am back now as I have chosen to follow my heart and my heart is here to write about autism.

I realize I am talking to myself at this point but in time I plan to fill up this blog.  If I build it they will come.

In the meantime I have also created a sister site devoted to not just autism but a wide variety of special needs.  I hope that you will visit this blog as well.  The name of it is:  NotYourTypicalKid and it is going to be a joint effort with lots of friends and guest bloggers.

Welcome!  Stay awhile.  I promise to fill this blog with joy and love. 

Friday, June 26, 2009

My new writings!

A Sensory Integration Approach for Helping Kids who are Hyperactive

I am going to give you a profile of a child and you can tell me if this sounds familiar:

This child does not need a lot of sleep and often times wakes up wired and ready to go. This child is sometimes literally bouncing off of the walls engaged in constant activity. Even while sitting, they are moving by popping up and down in their chair or kicking their legs. This child bumps into people and cannot stop touching people or objects in his environment. If this child is in a large room or enclosed space, he will run to seek out the boundaries of this space. This child loves to crash into the couch or jump on the bed. This child's first word was "GO!"

I just gave you a profile of my own child who has always had issues related to hyperactivity. I am sure many of you can relate.

Although there are many explanations for hyperactivity out there, the one explanation for my son's behaviors which makes the most sense to me comes from approaching this from a sensory integration standpoint.

Want to read more? Just follow this link!

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Fun Summer Time Activities for you and your child

School is out and the kids are home. The kids are looking forward to it but are you? It can be a challenging time for the parent of a child who has learning disabilities or special needs because you wonder how to fill the time. You dread to hear these words from your child: "I'm bored and there's nothing to do!" You also realize from experience that boredom and lack of structure can lead to behavioral problems. So you are eager to find activities to keep the kids busy and having fun.

Well look no further. I am going to give you some ideas for structure and activities for these summer months which will hopefully help you and your child to better enjoy the summer together.

If you want to read the rest of my article just follow this link...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Return!

Hey out there!

Wow...so hard to believe that it has been more than a year since I have come here. Time has flown and there have been some changes in my life. I can now call myself a writer. I am free lance writer for a major on-line health site. It feels crazy to say that but it did happen. At the ripe old age of 44...one of my dreams has come true.

I hope to revitalize this blog and also bring you guys to the sites where I write about autism and learning disabilities.

Here are two posts to begin.

No idea if anyone is still out there but here goes!

Should you or your child try the Gluten-free Casein-free Diet?

I am sure that you may have heard about the Gluten-free Casein-free diet by now. It has been in the news. There are now special cookbooks specifically geared for special populations to try this diet including the "Kid-Friendly ADHD and Autism cookbook." And there are whole blogs devoted to sharing GFCF recipes. This diet has definitely reached the mainstream as more food stores carry these products than ever before. When I started my son on the GFCF diet eight years ago we had to special order foods or go to a health food store to purchase the needed items. Now we can find GFCF foods in our local grocery store and even restaurants have begun to create GFCF items on their menu. The popularity of this diet is growing by leaps and bounds.

So what is all the hoopla about?

If you wish to read more just follow this link!


"What is Good About Me?" How to cultivate your child's strengths

When you have a child who has a learning disability, it is sometimes difficult to attend those parent teacher conferences. You sometimes get this laundry list of things your child is not doing well. When each sentence begins with "He can't..." or "He doesn't...." your heart begins to sink a little. Perhaps it is human nature to report the negatives. Or maybe it is more human nature to hear the negatives. However difficult it is for me, as a parent, to hear about what my child cannot do, imagine how hard it must be for any child who has learning disabilities to hear this message.

It leaves the child to wonder, "Is there anything good about me?"

If you want to read more just follow this link!

I will be trying to catch up with the folk on my list here. Thank you to anyone who has not given up on me or this blog.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Question for the day



If someone came up to you and asked you, "What does autism mean?" how would you answer?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The meaning of life...

*This was an answer I gave to the local newspaper's question of what gives life meaning? It was printed several years ago.

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In answer to the very profound question: "What gives life meaning?" I will answer in a very non-profound sort of way.

What gives life meaning to me is little dumb stuff.

My youngest son has autism.

I think about that a lot. I wonder about the meaning of it all. I wonder why him? I wonder about the future. I wonder if I will ever get to have a real conversation with him. Some days I get tired and I simply cannot find any meaning in this experience.

Today I forgot to search for meaning and it just came to me.

Happiness and meaning both are to be found within the little dumb stuff you do everyday.

I felt happy today and I will tell you why. I played with water guns. My son, Max, was painting outside at an easel on our deck. I had brought out a water gun to cool us off in the hot sun. I squirted Max's leg and he looked up in surprise and then said, "My turn." His utterance was huge for a kid who doesn't say too darn much during the course of a day. He took the water gun and shot me...right in the face. And it was fabulous! My older son peered out the deck door to see what we were doing and flashed a huge grin. He left to retrieve The Super Soaker. Suddenly there were these wonderful fountainous streams of water flying through the air. Max ran inside to get his umbrella to protect himself from this watery onslaught.

Picture my son Max squealing from beneath his lady bug umbrella deflecting the wrath of the Super Soaker. Me, hiding underneath a mickey mouse beach towel, soaking and dripping, bent over from laughing. And my oldest openly aiming for all things and people who still had dry spots, merciless and gleeful with his constant trigger finger.

And...

I just forgot.

I forgot about my son's autism. I forgot about wondering if I do enough. I forgot about brow beating myself for not being a perfect parent. I even forgot about what a mess we were making as the water blasts were going into the kitchen and onto the floor from the open deck door. None of that mattered. There was no past, no future, just a sense of now.

It was totally spontaneous, unplanned fun. I received a gift today...of laughing with my kids...and forgetting myself and my angst in the process.

There it is.

No great profound thing. Just stupid little dumb stuff.

What is the meaning and purpose to life? To enjoy it!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Some of Max's artwork!

Max has always been fascinated by running water and sinks. Here are several different versions.