It took me a little time, but I have been really processing some troubling and gradual changes we have seen in our littlest guy. In the 7 years since Justin’s diagnosis with high-functioning autism, We have been so blessed to see incredible progress – social, functional, sensory, speech, academic.
Fairly steady progress … sometimes new challenges or curve balls …but progress.
Our life and family have gladly adjusted in lots of ways to accommodate raising this amazing little guy … he’s a happy kid and our routines are pretty consistent.
But lately, sometimes we turn to realize that there are silent tears flowing down his cheeks over something that he would have taken in stride a few months ago . Could it be pre-teen hormones (can’t believe he is 12!!)? Sadness that his very best buddy Josh is quickly growing into a young man and more independent? Something else??
And couple that with some real and perceptible changes in his attention and focus. He’s more scattered at times, less connected to what’s around him sometimes. Not all the time, but enough that we have noticed a bit at home and more at school. And his progress toward his goals at school is flat. Less time outside being active? Too much screen time? Something else??
So much to make sense of lately. Not nearly what some autism spectrum families I know navigate, but changes nonetheless and difficult ones for him.
Well of all these things, the one we have had the most success with in the past is focus.
So when the going gets tough, the tough get …creative!
One small part of our game plan is to keep him motivated to keep his focus and attention up at school. He responds VERY well to even small rewards like a trip to the ice cream shop or a game of family bingo. So tonight – as one small part of the plan to get to the bottom of these changes – we relaunched our iRewards program, with a ‘bonus.’
This last year we have used a great app to keep track of Justin’s chores/goals and the rewards that we give him – called iRewards Chart. Great little app, and we have loved it.
It has a nice library of goals and rewards, all customizable. And every night Justin would score himself on how he did … on things like manners, brushing his teeth, clearing the dinner table, etc … plus a score from his teacher on focus and following directions. Then we would talk about the scores together at bedtime and see if they were fair, what worked well and what didn’t … and we might adjust some score up or down. Then the points he earned could be traded for rewards later on. And it was a great routine … that we somehow fell out of recently. And so that connection between his accomplishments and rewards wasn’t as front and center as before.
So to get back into the swing of things … tonight I added a little BONUS (his eyes LIT UP!) Each day at school that he earns a 9 or 10 on focus/attention in class, he gets a special Success sticker. 5 of these puppies gets him a Lego minifigure!!
He’s a BIG collector of these guys so this is serious business to have one on the line for only 5 days of excellent class focus. And the glimmer in his eye was back at least for tonight, with plans of how to get his mind ready after breakfast for a great day. of how he will tell his teacher that he wants to get back to the 9 and 10 scores of the fall.
Lots of other steps ahead to figure out the other changes he’s going through … but tonight, I am at least happy that he feels motivated to put his best foot forward at school while we figure out the rest. Fingers crossed … and off to buy some minifigures soon (I hope)