So today I was reminiscing about when Boom Boom was about 9 months old, and he hit that fantastic stage where he wanted to eat human food but didn’t really know how to communicate. Hence, the huge chocolate cake mess in the cover picture.
And we all know what that leads to.
Food on the floor. Food in the hair. That second helping that goes untouched. Basically, food struggles.
That was when I decided to teach Boom Boom two basic signs: “all done” and “more.”
And you know what? It changed both our lives.
True, food still ends up on the floor. I’m expecting that to happen until my children go off to college. If it stops before that, well then, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
But these two signs allow your child to communicate wants/needs, and they also allow you to communicate with your child (as in, no more food, or asking if they want more)
The key to teaching these signs is lots of modeling, immediate rewards, and not taking no for an answer.
Modeling is fancy-speak for doing what you want your child to do. In the beginning, you also have to model the reaction/reward for the sign.
So these two signs are super easy.
“All done” looks like jazz hands. You hold your hands up, and shake them.
To make the “more” sign, you make a “lobster claw” and have the fingertips of your two hands touch.
I recommend teaching “all done” first. Motor-wise, it is easier to do, and there are more acceptable variations. For instance, my son usually just flails his arms, but I know what he’s trying to say.
Okay, so here’s what you do:
Wait until your mom (or dad)- sense kicks in and you know your child is done eating.
Make the sign yourself, and ask your child, “All done?”
Repeat. And repeat. And repeat. (lots of modeling, remember?)
If your child doesn’t try to mimic you, grab his hands and help him make the motion, always saying “all done.”
Now, let go of his hands and model it one more time.
If your child makes ANY movement, you give lots of praise and immediately take the food away.
Repeat and repeat and repeat. Every meal, every situation involving food.
If your child still doesn’t do it, once again, put his hands in yours and help him make the sign. Then immediately fulfill the “request.”
It is SO important that you immediately respond to your child’s attempts to sign. It trains a Pavlovian response, and since you are most likely dealing with a very young child, he/she needs that immediate response to pair the cause-and-effect of the sign.
If you don’t know who Pavlov is, let me give you a quick rundown:
Pavlov conducted an experiment with dogs where he would ring a bell and then give the dogs a treat. Eventually the dogs associated the sound of the bell with getting a treat.
That’s the essence of what we’re going for here.
Make the sign, something desired happens.
Don’t Take No for an Answer
Kids are sneaky. And kids are lazy.
Now, before I am tarred and feathered, let me explain.
If you don’t make a child request something, they will use the smallest amount of effort required to get what they want.
It’s just human nature. I, for one, will only do the minimum amount of cleaning that I have to to make my house acceptable. (Ya….that super-detailed spring cleaning list I made two months ago? Buried somewhere on my kitchen fridge).
So it is important to be consistent. Don’t have your child tell you “all done” for breakfast and then just clear his plate automatically for lunch (no matter how close you are to naptime). Remember, you are not just teaching this sign; you are teaching your child that communication is necessary and important.
However, you do have leeway in terms of what you will accept as a sign. I accept any flailing of the hands/arms for “all done”; I accept “more” when Boom Boom moves his hands closer together.
You Can Do It!
Teaching nonverbal children signs is step one in speech therapy world. But I also know that some parents are hesitant to teach sign, fearful that it will impede verbal language development.
This theory has yet to be proven by any study done on the subject.
You could teach your child several signs- you could expand into “help,” “food,” “drink,” etc., and it still wouldn’t impede their verbal language development. If anything, it will help it because (as I wrote in bold earlier), you are teaching your child a)how to learn to communicate, and b)that communication is necessary and important.
So please, give sign a try with your little learners! You may find, like me, that those two basic signs allow for a WHOLE lot of communication!
So since last Monday I wrote about princess books, it only seemed fair that I do a review on four dinosaur books that I think would be great additions to any child’s bookshelf.
Now, I’m not going to lie- I don’t have a little boy demanding dino book after dino book after dino book. My little Boom Boom is only 1 1/2, after all. But I try to expose his older sister to as many genres of books as possible, so we do have dinosaur books come into our house.
And I have found four gems.
So without further ado, here’s my lead batter:
Suppose You Meet A Dinosaur by Judy Sierra is a great book to teach manners! This story takes place in a grocery store and the dinosaur and the little girl have several interactions. My favorite part of this story is that with each interaction you have an opportunity to talk with your child about what is an appropriate response. It is also at a basic level (thank you, please, sharing, etc.), which is perfect for little learners!
My next recommendation teaches opposites, which can be such a tricky subject:
Dinosaur Roar! by Paul and Henrietta Stickland, compares several physical and emotional attributes between dinosaurs (think long/short, nice/grumpy, etc.). I used this book to do a small group lesson with my special needs preschoolers, and it was a big hit. It has a basic, repetitive structure that allows you to highlight the words you want to target.
This book by Gareth Edwards and Guy Parker-Reese doesn’t necessarily focus on dinosaurs, but introduces several animals that will delight any child’s fancy (tiger, bison, etc.). This rhyming book a-la If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is silly and fun and gives probably the only advice your children will heed- never ask a dinosaur to dinner!
My final book is a dinosaur classic. I remember my mom reading me this book as a child, and was so excited when she gave me a copy to read to my children!
Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoffman is a simple story about a little boy who walks into a museum and walks out with a real, live dinosaur! They then spend the day doing perfectly ordinary things. I think this book is such a classic in the same way Roald Dahl books are classic- they are stories of everyday people and events with just enough magic to think that it could actually happen!
I would say all these books are in the 3-7 age range. They are engaging, quick reads, and provide plenty of opportunities to expand and bring the book to life.
So make your biggest dinosaur tracks to your library and check out these four great dinosaur books!
Buuuuuuuuuuut…today I want to share yet another trick for your toolbox.
Did you know it’s possible to get more conversation out of kids by not asking questions?
Because I didn’t. Not until grad school.
The secret here is to not ask questions, but only comment on what your child is doing.
In my humble opinion, this is so effective because it puts the child in charge of the conversation (even though you still really are in charge of the conversation). This, in turn, makes them feel validated and confident, and they want to share more information with you.
It also teaches them about longer responses. Asking questions, you run the risk of only getting one-word answers. If you have an open-ended comment, typically a one-word answer isn’t going to cut it.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of how a conversation can go.
Scene: Your child is playing with Duplos.
Parent: What are you doing?
Child: Playing with Duplos?
Parent: Where are they?
Child: The house.
Parent: What are they doing in the house?
See how it sorta feels like 20 Questions? And you’re not exactly getting stellar responses.
Let’s run this scenario again, but with the parent NOT asking questions.
Parent: Ooooh! Duplos! I want to play!
Child: Okay! Here’s one guy for you.
Parent: Thank you! Let’s see, you’ve built a great house, but I don’t know where my guy is supposed to live.
Child: O we need to build one.
Parent: I might need your help. I want a house my guy can have his friends over.
Child: Let’s build a big, big house! They can all play in it!
See how much better the conversation flowed? And the parent still got all the information they wanted, plus some!
Now, obviously, this technique is not going to be as effective for toddlers, or those with only 1-2 word utterances. But you can still use the concept of commenting to identify words in play. In fact, I recommend it since it keeps things simple and clear for very young children.
You will be surprised how difficult this strategy is. Asking questions is so ingrained in our minds as the only way to get information, especially from children. You have to actively remind yourself to not ask questions. Once you get used to this different approach, though, it becomes easier and the responses you get are much more satisfying.
So go ahead. I dare you. I double-dog dare you. Try NOT asking questions, and see what responses you get!
I would love to hear from my readers, so please comment down below on how this went for you!
Tired of the same cookie-cutter princess stories? How about exasperated at reading the same princess book night after night after night? Maybe desperate for a bit of a change, but know your princess-loving child will never go for a different genre?
Have no fear, tired parents.
Today I want to share four non-traditional princess books that have been little-girl tested (sorry, my son isn’t old enough to care either way). They all involve princesses (in fact, it’s in the title!), but they all vary from the expected happily-ever-after.
The first is Princess Super Kitty, by Antoinette Portis. This is a cute story about a little girl who starts out pretending to be one thing, but then she “morphs” into Princess Super Kitty, with all the imagined powers possible. I like this one because it shows that pretend play can expand and evolve, something that not all children grasp easily.
The next one is Princess Pigsty, by Cornelia Funke. In this story, little Princess Isabella does not want to be a princess at all. So she revolts, and the king sends her to “awful” places like the kitchens and the pigsty. And she loves it! This book is silly, fun, and teaches that princesses don’t have to be dainty, and they definitely don’t have to follow the “Princess and the Pea” model.
The third one is Princess Pirate. Apparently this book is a popular one because I returned it to the library just a few days ago and it wasn’t there today. So internet gods please don’t strike me down, but here’s a picture from Amazon/Goodreads:
This story is about a princess who wants to be…you guessed it…a pirate! But it turns out she’s really bad at it…like, really bad. And just when the captain’s going to throw her overboard, she uses her princess qualities to redeem herself and find treasure! This book is lots of fun, but I will warn you- she does get seasick (cuz, you know, the ocean), and the illustrator chose to give it a two-page spread. Chicka Chicka didn’t care, but those prone to queasiness may want to skip that page.
My final recommendation is a non-traditional princess classic: The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. This is a delightful tale of a princess that loses her castle and all her possessions to a dragon. But most importantly, he took her prince! Undaunted, she fashions a paper bag into a dress and seeks to trick the dragon and save the prince! I won’t give away the ending, but this book is great for teaching that your worth shouldn’t be determined by what you wear or how you look.
So there you have it! Book it to your local library (pun totally intended!) and check out these princess books that don’t make you want to pull every shiny, golden lock on their heads!
So around this time every year I start bingeing on Pinterest’s gardening ideas. The sun is out, and in my mind, it is time to turn my backyard into a magical wonderland of perfectly-placed flowers, shrubs, and landscaping.
But unfortunately, I run into two main problems: 1) all those things cost money, which sadly doesn’t grow on all the trees I want to plant, and 2) I kill plants.
Now, I don’t mean to. I really don’t. But I’ve never had an annual, blooming flower last more than a few weeks. So when I finally admitted defeat on my once-beautiful ranunculus, sweet alyssum, and lobelia arrangement in a pot on my front porch, I knew I had to do something different. Something that didn’t have flowers but still felt flower-y.
Well, all those hours of PInterest-bingeing finally paid off because fairy gardens have been ALL.OVER. the gardening boards. I knew that was my answer.
I also knew I wanted to involve Chicka Chicka, so it had to be kid-proof, and kid-approved (none of the ceramic/glass/breakable stuff would be allowed). I knew she would be enamored with the idea of making a fairy home, especially since we’ve found the Tinkerbell movies on Netflix (Neverbeast? Pirate Fairy? Anyone?).
So after a quick trip to the Home Depot and the Dollar Tree, some foraging in the backyard/garage, and quite a bit of tinkering, we got….
Voila! A fairy garden with two hardy succulents, a walkway, and a little swimming hole!
As soon as we finished, Chicka Chicka started calling out “Fairies! Your house is ready!”
I have a feeling she will start getting little notes from fairies wanting to move in 🙂
So here’s what I used, did, and learned:
1 unfinished wood birdhouse (thrift store/craft store)
1 bag fake moss (Dollar Tree)
2 succulents (Home Depot, $3.50 each)
1 bag blue floral stones (Dollar Tree)
Pebbles (in garage, previously bought at Home Depot)
From my backyard:
What I Did:
I had Elsie paint the birdhouse while I filled a pot with dirt.
I covered the roof of the birdhouse with moss while the paint was still wet.
I put the birdhouse in the pot.
I planted the succulents.
I carved out a path and filled it with pebbles.
I toyed with the rock placement until I found an arrangement I liked.
I filled the small planter from the succulent with the blue stones.
I dug a small hole in the planter dirt so that the planter with the blue stones was level with the dirt.
I put a thin layer of sand on the top.
I put a ring of stones around the “pool.”
I broke off some sticks and made them look like a fence.
I then put some leaves to look like foliage.
Things I Learned:
1) Pinterest makes things look a LOT easier than they are. It took about four tries to get everything the way I liked.
2) The simpler the better. Chicka Chicka was absolutely ECSTATIC with just the essentials we put in today.
3) Succulents are awesome. Minimal water, full sun, and they thrive when you just leave ’em alone.
These little “gardens” are definitely not limited to fairies. Off the top of my head I’m thinking gnomes, dinosaurs, aliens…
Make it interactive. My plan is to make it “Elf on the Shelf”-esque with a fairy figure that can be repositioned and moved around the fairy garden.
I also plan to introduce miniature accessories slowly- once again, encouraging the magic and imagination. (I’ve just gotta wait for a JoAnn’s coupon!)
I hope this has inspired thumbs of all colors to try a fairy garden! It made for a great afternoon for under $15.
You don’t want to say it out loud, because that might make it true.
And if it’s true, your entire world just got turned upside down.
You’ve noticed that your child behaves a little differently than other kids his age. He doesn’t use as many words, and he won’t make eye contact. He also seems like he is in his own little world most of the time. And light switches. What is the deal with the light switches?
So where do you start? If he does have the dreaded “A” word, he needs help. And you need support.
Because this is a BIG DEAL.
First off, you need to visit your pediatrician. Your pediatrician will refer you to early intervention services after a discussion of your child’s behavior and your concerns.
This is something that the city/county is required by law to offer, so don’t let anyone tell you there are no resources available. Children ages 0-2 are evaluated by early intervention services. In several areas, Easter Seals works with the city to offer these evaluations and clinicians.
Your child’s evaluation will depend on your pediatrician’s referral. It can include things such as language development, cognitive skills, and physical abilities (fine/gross motor movement, vision, hearing, etc.).
If your child qualifies, these services are typically offered on a weekly or monthly basis, with goals listed on an IFSP, or an Individualized Family Services Plan. There is usually a lot of emphasis on teaching interventions that parents can do as well, at home.
If your child is ages 3-5, then it is the school district’s responsibility to find and assess potential special-needs children. Once again, this is a law, not an option. The district I worked at was large enough that there was an Early Intervention Assessment Center, but you may need to get in contact with the speech therapist at your local school.
If your child qualifies, the appropriate special education teachers and therapists will work with you to create an IEP, or an Individualized Education Plan. This is a legal document that summarizes the testing results as well as lists your child’s goals. It is good for 3 years, and there will be an IEP renewal meeting annually.
Whoa. Let’s pause.
But what about you, the parent?
I haven’t forgotten about you.
This process seems crazy and unfamiliar and maybe you’re doubting your ability to parent an autistic child.
Maybe you were already doubting your ability to parent a child at all.
Honestly, you wouldn’t be a parent if you never felt that way.
I am here to tell you that your child and your life can be every bit as happy, rewarding, and fulfilling as you imagined it would be, diagnosis or not.
It comes from a willingness to accept a new normal. In this normal, progress is still celebrated. But that progress may be baby steps, rather than leaps and bounds.
But it is still progress.
Communication occurs, but only with hard work, highly motivating rewards, and possibly alternative forms of communication.
But your child will communicate.
There will be those frustrating moments when you just want to run and hide and cry.
There will also be those moments that you are so proud of your child you feel you are going to burst.
And in those moments, you’ll realize…you do have a normal life.