on hold: when skills in Autism fluctuate

on hold- when skills in Autism fluctuateAn audio version of this post is available at the end. Scroll down if you’d like to listen.

Parent/Teacher Conferences. Fun right? Actually, I’m kinda weird and I “like” talking to my son’s teacher. She’s great with Jeremiah, cares deeply about him, understands what it’s like to have a child with Autism, and the best part, she has a son with Autism. She gets it, but she also loves what she does, she really understands Jeremiah and works so well with him. I’m sorry she’s not your child’s teacher. Really I would share if I could.

So, now that you understand how amazing she is (if you follow Lovin’ Adoptin’ you only hear about her, oh, every other week at least), I’ll share a bit of what she said in our conference. She said there were some things Jeremiah’s doing that are really exciting, and some things that are really frustrating.

Some of the good things she’s seeing is, he’s looking at himself, specifically his mouth in the mirror a lot, and if teachers or therapists join him, he really engages with them. Jeremiah said the word, “cracker,” when one of his therapists pointed to her own mouth and enunciated it. He’s playing with play dough, although he is licking it, which is better than eating it, which I could not get him to stop doing this summer. (And no worries, we’re keeping our germs to ourselves, he has his own bag now.)

The things she’s frustrated about are, he won’t do what he used to do. No puzzles, they at least used to be able to do this hand-over-hand. No shape sorter, no interest in shapes at all. This kid used to be THE fastest shape sorter in the history of man kind, that’s right, Guinness Book of World Records right here. No more, but that hasn’t been there for well over a year. Nor will he do work boxes, they used to be able to encourage him to do those too. Nope.

As to why Jeremiah isn’t participating in these activities, Justin’s mind started going to the seizures he’s had recently. He felt the seizures had to do with his lack of interest, which could be a possibility, but I haven’t seen the regression I have before. He’s completely lost skills at times in his life, but this seems different. So my mind went in another direction.
Autism skills put on hold

I had a thought, or quite a few to be exact. When we worked with the Developmental Interventionist, she pointed out to us that during the times when I freaked out and thought Jeremiah was losing a skill, he was actually putting it on hold (sometimes) while working on the new skill or focus. For example, if he was needing a ton of sensory input, he would be jumping, swinging, needing push-pulls done on the floor, etc., he would stop using the PECS pictures. He’s done this throughout his development.

It seems that a lot of what Jeremiah is doing right now is social.

I remembered and told his teacher about an instance a couple weeks ago, where he was sitting down in a circle with some other kids. He stayed there, which was awesome in itself, and he was holding some blocks and the other kids were building and playing with their own. It was so awesome because he really doesn’t parallel play.

Then they talked about how when Justin takes him to school, he’s actually skipping through the play yard into class! Yeah, totally cool, especially for a kid who cried and screamed when he had to go to school last year. Now he’s excited and so are we! He goes into class and stands at one end of the room where he has a visual of all the other kids and parents coming and going.

He watches.

Add that with how he watched the therapist in class make the “cracker” sound, and the awareness he has of his mouth, how engaging he is when his teachers join him in front of the mirror, and the situations I listed above, and I think he’s focusing on the social aspect of life right now. That’s awesome because he’s never been this intent on other people before, and never on other kids. He has his “girlfriend” who he’ll sit by, but usually not other kids unless they’re in the rocking boat, and since that’s paired with his favorite, sensory, he’ll deal with it for a couple minutes. But it seems that a whole new awareness is taking place and it’s thrilling.

So, just to encourage you parents, if you see your child isn’t doing something, or skills come and go, remember that sometimes those “skills” might just be placed on hold while something else is developing. We really don’t know how the Autistic brain works, but it works differently and they may need that time to put a skill aside while they work on another. For me, it’s really taken some of the frustration away when I can see it like this.

Has your child ever lost skills? Have you noticed that your child puts some on hold while working on others?

If you feel this helped you understand a little more about Autism, or it made you feel as though you’re not so alone, feel free to share it with others.

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