Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Concrete Kid

Quinn is so very concrete. The whimsical and imaginary just makes no sense to him.

Two sample conversations from the last couple of days:

Mama (singing): "Here comes Quinny cottontail."
Quinn: "Hey, I'm a boy!"
Mama: "You're not a bunny?"
Quinn (politely but emphatically): "No, thank you."


"Quinn, what are you going to be when you grow up? Are you going to be an astronaut?"
"Are you going to be a scientist?"
"Are you going to be an engineer?"
"What are you going to be?"


Not surprisingly, drawing and coloring has been a huge challenge for Quinn. Give him a blank slate and ask him to create, and he draws a big blank. All we've gotten so far is page after page of angry back-and-forth lines covering a page.

So when I spotted a color-by-letter at the fabulous Indianapolis Children's Museum on a recent visit, I had a hunch it might appeal to Quinn's concrete nature. If it says O, you color it orange. Concrete.

I brought it home and trotted it out, and the results were nothing less than astonishing. This rooster picture was the very first one he did. And instantly, he went from angry scrawls to this (he even signed and dated it when he was done):

Friday, March 23, 2012

Our secret shame, or how we found success with bribery

I've never believed in bribing children to be good. And yet, here I am, doing it. And darned if it isn't working.

Between Quinn's many delays and his sensory processing disorder, he has a very, very, very tough time sitting still and acting appropriately in school. He also loves to bang, to lean, to push - behaviors that, even though they aren't done with aggression, look very aggressive. The girls cry. The boys push back. The teachers get frustrated. Quinn gets in trouble.

In short, Quinn's behavior was becoming a fairly serious problem at school. As in, the teacher pulled us aside when we picked him up, every day, to tell us about the latest problem. This happened at his preschool, at Chinese school and at his therapeutic play group. Making it especially challenging to help him address these issues, he doesn't do these things at home.

We tried everything we could think of and everything his various therapists suggested.
We talked about keeping our hands to ourselves. We talked about how everyone is surrounded by a bubble, and how we shouldn't pop someone else's bubble. We threatened timeouts. The behaviors continued.

Then one day about three weeks ago, I was telling Quinn how I knew he was going to do great in school that day and he said, "If you keep your hands to yourself, you get a dollar?" Hmmmm. What to do? Sorry, but I bit. And guess what? It worked. Immediately. Since that day, no inappropriate behaviors at school, and Quinn is becoming quite the math whiz adding up his haul.

As a side benefit, he's developing a sense of saving. Now when we go shopping he looks at the toys, asks the price and decides what he's saving up for. He vascillates between Smokey the Fire Truck and a big giant garbage truck, but he keeps saving.

I feel a little embarrassed that such a shameful technique is working for us. But I can't help but rejoice that it's working. My goal right now is to help him succeed in school. And if this is what works right now, then this is what I'll do.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Quinn's on a sensory diet

We have lot of things we do when sensory-seeking Quinn gets a little out of control. He knows his options, and can choose one when he agrees that "your engine is running too fast." He can get a bear hug, joint compressions, pressure on his shoulders. We can do wheel-barrow walks or he can push a big ball up the wall.

But it turns out, which I didn't understand until this week, that we need to be doing that stuff every day - or more - to try to regulate his nervous system.

So for the last couple days we've been getting up a little earlier to add joint compressions and brushing of his arms and legs to our morning routine. Then we do the same two things again before school, and if it's a late school day he wears his compression vest for a bit while we get ready in the morning.

Funny with all this stuff: Just when you think you're doing it right, you learn you've been doing it wrong.

Live and learn.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

He's a big boy now!

Quinn's brachial plexus injury has been successfully repaired, but because of the tendon transfer surgery he lost the ability to reach behind his back (that tendon was moved to give him the more critical motions of lifting and rotating his arm). He has very normal movement in most every way, but dressing has been an ongoing challenge. It's very hard for him to pull pants on and off, he's unable to navigate snaps and buttons and until very recently he wouldn't even try to pull a shirt on or off.

Through much encouragement and hard work, he has learned to use his left arm to reach around his body and straighten out his waist band. And although he always ask for help putting on his underpants and pants, I've noticed that at school he seems miraculously able to do it himself. Plus, in the last couple of weeks he has started pulling off his own shirt at night.

So this morning, I laid out his clothes on his bed and told him to get himself dressed and come out when he was ready for breakfast. Then Tom and I stood in the kitchen, waiting and listening. Crickets. But after a while, out came Quinn - fully dressed in rocket ship underpants, blue sweats and a striped blue shirt. ALL BY HIMSELF.

We were so proud and made a big, big fuss about what a big, big boy he was. The little negotiator, sensing an opportunity, made a suggestion: "You should get a prize!" Shrewd, that one.