Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rules When I'm Alone:

April was the last time that I wrote about Daniel striving for some independence. Currently, that comes in the form of staying home alone for short periods of time. For a refresher click here. Yesterday was technically the first day of summer vacation for my children and also the first day of Zachary's week long basketball camp. There are three families that are sharing driving duties between drop off for 8:30 am camp beginning and pickup at 12:30p.m. Since I knew I would be driving this week I thought it would be a perfect time to work on these independence skills. At the most, he'd be home for 30 minutes if that's what he chose to do.

In preparation, yesterday morning I asked Daniel if he wanted to come with me to pick up the boys or if he wanted to stay home for a bit on him own. As I suspected he jumped at the chance to stay home and the fact that it fell exactly during his self appointed "lunch time" worked well. I thought I could make his lunch for him and leave him to play his computer games while I took my turn with car pool duty.

During the morning we talked, again, about what the "rules" are when he is alone. Together we made a list. For Daniel, if it is written down, it is the law. He loves a list. Social Stories have always worked really well for him. They help him understand the expectations from us and what might occur in a new situation. We have tons of old social stories filed away for all sorts of situations such as "Going to the Doctor", "Going to the Dentist", and my favorite "Flying on an Airplane." For him, it takes away a lot of the anxiety of not knowing what will happen and what is expected of him. When he was little he used to climb on bookshelves in his bedroom that were/are very tipsy. I must have told him a million times not to climb onto those book shelves but it wasn't until I took a piece of copy paper and drew a large circle with a line through it and wrote "do not climb" and taped it on the top. The international symbol for "don't you dare go there!"
This immediately made him stop. After all that time of talking and talking it's all it took. It is still there today by the way. Years later.

So when it comes to learning something new, writing it down on paper is the way to go. Who said I'm a slow learner?? So this is what we came up with for our rules. The funny thing is, as I was writing it just kept expanding. I kept realizing how Daniel would interpret things and had to explain it or give explanations. So here it is, Daniel's Rules:


1. Do NOT answer the door. (this is easy because every time I get in the shower I say this!)

2. Keep the doors locked.

3. Stay inside (then I had to add) UNLESS there is an EMERGENCY. (I was picturing a fire and Daniel sitting in the house saying "I have to stay inside" and he would, if that was the rule, believe me.)

4. An EMERGENCY IS: ( I know, funny, but I have to explain this, just so he knows that it is not an emergency if he can't open a box of Ding Dongs) an EMERGENCY is:

a. a fire
b. or you are very injured

5. If a fire started, take the phone outside with you and call 911.

6. Only answer the phone if mom or dad call. When the phone rings look at the caller i.d.

if it says 111-1111 (dad's number) (sorry not giving out the cells to the internet!)or 222-2222 (mom's number)
press the green flash button to answer and say "hello"

7. when finished with a phone call press the red button after saying "goodbye". (important or it will stay off the hook!)

8. If I need mom I:
a. get the phone
b. press green flash button
c. press the numbers 222-2222 (again! mom's cell number)
d. wait for mom to answer
e. talk to mom.

Of course, when we practiced number 8 I was sitting right next to him and my blasted cell phone didn't pick up! GRRR. So I guess I need to add directions for leaving a message, but you get the idea. For Daniel, you need to be specific like "press the green button before dialing". While setting up something like this I have to think through ever single step. Writing it out is SO helpful for him. It has helped that he is hyperlexic and could read from the time he was 3 (that we know of) The funny thing about that link is every single thing listed is Daniel to a "T".

Yesterday we role played calling 911 several times. I tried to throw different questions at him that the emergency personnel might ask. He did well. When I asked him the address of the "fire" he said the numbers but not the street, I asked what street? and he immediately said the street. I was very proud of him. After several rounds of practicing I decided to let him stay while I picked up the boys. After pickup and dropping off two of the children, I called home. It had been about 20 minutes by then. Daniel answered, "Hello, Daniel here!" Which made me giggle. We went back and forth and I told him I'd be home in about 5 minutes. He was THRILLED. So proud of himself and so was I.

I think it is so important to teach kids these skills. The number one skill people need for adulthood is independence. Without that how will he be able to achieve anything? It is a lot of work. But the rewards far outweigh it. He was on cloud nine with his achievement yesterday. We'll keep working on the rules and role playing them, until it is all second nature. He asked me where he should keep his rules and we found a place. I'll have two more opportunities this week for a short 20 - 30 minute test. Two more opportunities to let Daniel's self advocating play out for him. Two more opportunities to build his self esteem. It's not just about not wanting to drag him out of the house. It is so so much more!


Me said...

I really like the rules you have for staying home alone. We've been slowly experimenting with that too. It's as scary for moms as it is for the kids.

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Excellent! It sounds like you have him so well-prepared, and I bet he loves the feeling of a little independence.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. Again, such a big step and I can tell his confidence is growing even in his 'Hello, Daniel here!' I just love it when stuff works!

Amy said...

Michele - we are going to the MSU pool this afternoon--should be there between 2:30-4:30 PM.