I love this entry of Billy’s for so many reasons. We have worked so many years on helping Billy create and implement strategies designed to keep his head in the game. For him it takes a lot of work to keep focused, not only during a specific activity but also in his down time. This down time could actually work against him if not carefully planned. This post shows Billy taking ownership of that and making sure his summer is not only enjoyable but also planned, so he doesn’t get lost in his own world. In true Billy fashion, he never complains and works very hard…so much to be proud of.
I would like to highlight two areas that I believe are important for anyone and also have been crucial to work through Autism…One Bite at a Time.
The first area is exercise. I don’t think I need to go over the general importance of exercise. I think we all understand how important it is for all of us. I can’t stress enough though, how important it is for someone on the spectrum. A child with Autism is having a whole lot of trouble receiving and sending messages to the correct area of the brain. The left and right sided dominance is often way out of whack which causes all kinds of problems. When you are getting your child active, especially in ways that utilize both sides of the brain, you are actually helping them with this message transfer. Of course, this is easier said than done. For Billy, there has been nothing natural about physical activity. He has the lowest tone I have ever seen…a wet noodle is easier to stand up. He also has always struggled using his limbs for anything. To say he wasn’t well coordinated would have been a vast understatement. For the last six months we have made exercise a priority. This is partly to have him complete a gym course but mostly for the ways that Billy needs to exercise to keep himself in a very healthy place. There is no area of his life that this has not benefited. He has always enjoyed running, so we started there. The neat part has been the more he runs the more eager he is to try other things. For his recent birthday, we surprised him with a gym membership. Now he and Bill get themselves to the gym at least twice a week. Only good things will come of that!
The second area is in how he can use his strengths as leverage to improve his weaknesses. Billy has so many gifts! These are things that most other people could not even dream of doing no matter how much they practiced. His ability with his memory is just crazy. He literally can remember every moment of his life and tell you very specific times and dates and things happened without much thought at all. In the early days though I considered this only a party trick and wasn’t very sure how to get him to use it in more ways than to help me remember our schedule or wow a crowd. On the flip side, from a very early age, if things did not follow Billy’s internal schedule and expectations it led to quite the melt down. These are really the two extremes our life balanced between for many years, the strength of memory and order and the weakness of a need for a rigid routine. This conversation could fill a book, so I won’t get close in this blog entry. The important part is to look for ways in which you can use your child’s strengths to support and build weaknesses. To see the way that Billy now uses his planning and organizing skill to keep his head in the game is exactly the kind of balance we have been looking for and what independence begins to look like.