Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Go Ahead Bring Your Kid to the Party But Don't Forget...

Last Sunday we were at a family birthday party and some of the invitees were people that we have not seen in a few years. Since my children were the only youngster invited, they gathered their sandwich bags of Legos and headed to the deck to build spaceships to play out the scenes from Star Wars.

Sidebar- Tristan can tell you all the plots of the Star Wars movies even though some of the movies he has not seen. Peter and I are still trying to figure out how Tristan does this. He can explain in detail all the scenes and characters in all of the six Star Wars movies, but at six he lacks full understanding of the alphabet.

Tristan and Dylan and even Liam were playing while Peter and I chatted about our new pellet stove that we bought earlier in the day (thank goodness, since I had no idea how we were going to afford the $750 a month bill).

Then the sister-in law of the host, turn to me and said "You must not have T.V.?"

Everyone stopped talking and peered at me. "No, we don't have T.V., but everyone (even Liam who is one) has a laptop and they watch their share of movies."

"You are crazy with young kid you don't have a T.V.", my mom's neighbor replied.

Still shocked by the way the boys sat and played by themselves, the sister in-law said "You must home school them."

"Nope, we just have expectations for our children." I responded.

Expectations can be difficult to establish and we think of it more like practicing skills. We expect Tristan, Dylan, and Liam to be able to appropriately socialize as adults, so now we need to practice by not allowing tantrums or fighting and we model conversations.

Of course, Tristan, Dylan, and Liam are still practicing skills which means they have "moments" when one of them (or all of them) melt down and we need to regroup or leave. This actually happened at the beginning of the birthday party last Sunday, Tristan wanted a Lego character that Dylan was playing with and a fight broke out. I scoped up Tristan and asked him how he was going to be able to stay at the party. He wanted a Lego guy!

So, we walked up the street to our parked car and where a Lego guy rested. Tristan got his guy and we walked back to the party ready to begin again.

Expectations, can be difficult to establish with your child and more difficult to follow through with. When you reframe expectations as practice sessions, then your child and your parenting never fails, you are just practicing.

Be ready to regroup or leave. For example if your are practicing socializing without tantrums then prepare your child with the plan for the event.

* Create a social story or talk about your expectations for the event

* Be clear with expectations and then the consequences both good and bad

* Don't get angry if the practice session is not working, but don't give up try again

* Remember athletes don't become Olympians because they practice once, the same with children and skills they need to practice over and over again.

Remember your job is to grow your child into an adult with a happy, meaningful, and productive life and that takes practice.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Have a Party!

Create a social situation for your child (and yourself), by inviting a family over for a party! All children especially children on the spectrum need to gain social skills and the best way to hone skills is to invite a few people to practice with. The event doesn't have to be a six course meal in a perfect Martha Stewart house, just wipe down the counters and tabletops and have a potluck or a dessert party.

Invite a family or individuals that have similar interests as you or children (and their parents) that your child finds appealing. At the beginning of the school year Dylan (our number two child) fell head over heels in love with Mary a girl from his preschool class, so we invited their clan (three girls) for dinner.

Everyone actually ate, the adults chatted with minimal interruptions, and all three girls tolerated Tristan's constant conversation about Star Wars. Since that first dinner party we have had several with Mary's family and other families. Tristan, Dylan, and Liam have gain more social skills and we are uncovering the parenthood fog to discover that we actually like having friends and entertaining again.

party tips...
  • Invite friends that understand that kids may have behavioral issues and that will not be disturbed by your re-directions. Remember your kids are practicing their skills!
  • Keep it simply and have the kids help clean-up or make the food.
  • Make sure you put away any toys that are too precious to share.
  • Create a high interest social situation like play dough or our favorite pizza dough, so everyone can play together.
  • Buy a frozen pizza for the kids. Throw it in the oven and in ten minutes all the kids will be happy.
  • Have the kids eat first. Our kids eat fast and prefer kid food and our table only accommodates eight people (then the adults can eat in peace).
  • Then set-up a movie for after the kids eat. Sometimes we even have two movies playing for different interests.
  • While the kids watch the movie, the adults eat and chat (and drink wine).

Party Recipe


Corn chips with salsa

Cheese and sliced apples

Kid Dinner

A frozen pizza (half cheese and half pepperoni)

Sliced cucumbers

Adult Dinner

Green salad- lettuce, tomato, avocado, and cucumbers with a honey mustard dressing

Roasted chicken with red potatoes- chop one onion, one clove of garlic, and six potatoes toss with olive oil and rosemary and spread a the bottom of a baking pan. Peel about ten cloves of garlic and stuff under the skin of the chicken, then rub the chicken with salt and pepper and place on top of the potatoes. Bake at 450 until the juices of the chicken run clear about 45 minutes.

A loaf of good bread


Ice cream cones