Note: The photo is my choice. We need to laugh right now. And Cathy is a great wife and mother by any and all standards. Many of us are work overtime, double time, triple time to keep our households running and our kids moving if not forward, at least not backwards. Cathy is blessed with a strong, capable husband who helps in many ways - some of us are single Dads or Moms, one of our Warrior Mamas lost her beloved husband to cancer last week, at the tender age of 52. Be kind. We're all trying hard to hold our lives together. Thank you, Cathy, for your Sunday posts. They are a bright spot for all of us. KIM
By Cathy Jameson
I’ve combined two articles and some old photos I shared elsewhere for today’s post. With how much time we’re spending at home these days, our house has once again turned into a therapy house. I imagine yours may now be as well.
I always joke that our house is not just our home; it’s an oversized therapy room. We have two swings permanently installed inside. We have a mini trampoline, a small slide, and at one time, we had a full-size trampoline in our basement. We’ve had various sized therapy balls including those sit on hop-along-balls inside our home, too. Pull-up bars, pogo sticks, gymnastic rings, scooters, roller skates balance bikes, and exercise mats have found themselves in our home as well. And that’s only the gross motor equipment!
We also have sensory buckets, games with magnets and marbles and board games that I used to play as a child. And LEGOs. We have LEGOs as far as the eye can see. Those are everywhere. Including my bathtub. They are in there because the kids will sometimes want to test out boats they’ve made to see if they will sink or float. Ronan isn’t a big fan of these fine-motor types of toys, but my typical kids like them. They love to explore and create. They are happiest when they are doing something constructive. Working together or independently, my kids cannot wait to be done with schoolwork and chores so that they can play, play, play.
While the siblings play as much as they can, Ronan continues to show that he’s not interested in any of it. In fact, the older he’s gotten the more sedentary Ronan’s become. He prefers to play his Wii games more than do the puzzles he used to love to do. He would rather listen to music or watch YouTube videos than explore his books and games that used to engage him. I don’t want to have him on screens all day when he’s home, so I initiate activities with him. Ronan loves words, so many of the activities I set out are ones that I hope will boost his vocabulary. Ronan doesn’t always like to do them and will protest, even if he knows what to do. But he works through whatever game or activity I’ve set before him with the promise that he’ll get a turn doing what he wants to do next.
Some of the activities I present to Ronan are very simple. But with Ronan’s limitations, they will be a struggle. Ronan’s fine-motor skills are weak, and it takes him a long time to complete a task. Knowing that, I will give him constant feedback. Positive feedback works. So does the promise of more cookies! I love this request Ronan shared with me while using Banangram tiles one morning.
While walking through our house this week, I was reminded of a few things.
We have a lot of therapy stuff.
And we are blessed.
Several of those big therapy items, like that full-sized trampoline, were gifts from family. Extended family knows that Ronan needs extra support. They also know that what we use with Ronan is oftentimes used by his siblings. The kids were thrilled when we set up that trampoline. I was, too. Not just because we had a trampoline inside our house (that I can also use), but because our family understands what we’re going through. With all of them living in other states and not here for the day-to-day life, I love that they wanted to support us from a distance.
My kids don’t know that a lot of the therapy equipment we have in our house is masquerading around as toys. I’d like to keep it that way. They jump, bounce, roll, swing and slide without realizing how many fine- and gross-motor skills they are developing and perfecting. The more they play, the more they learn. I'm going to let them play as much as I can. Plus, it gives Ronan a peek at their abilities. Whenever we can bridge their abilities with his, it’s a win.
The therapy equipment and the time my children spend using it serves several purposes. They get to use their creativity. They get their wiggles out. They get to build skills. They get to peer-model for Ronan, and they get to see Ronan attempt to do what they so easily can do. Seeing Ronan try to play like they do puts the biggest smiles on my other kids’ faces. Their smiles keep me smiling. Oh, how I love to find every opportunity to do that.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.