So, there is an almost daily battle in this house @ 3 or 4 pm--which is "TV Permitted" time. It goes something like this...
Ben(in BenjiSpeak™): I want a movie
Mom: OK! What would you like to watch?
Ben: I want movie?
Mom: Yes. Which movie would you like to watch?
Ben: Watch movie, please?
Mom: (takes a breath) Ok, Benji. What would you like to watch?
Ben: (crying/whining) movie please!
Mom: (sigh) Benji? What movie? Would you like (insert movie name here)?
(repeat last two lines with different movie titles until you start rooting AGAINST the Lorax or find yourself wishing the man in the yellow hat would make a batch of monkey stew!)
Mom: OK. Let's try this. (Mom grabs the remote and turns on random movie from collection.)
Ben: No! All done (insert obviously asinine movie that he has yearned for before as if it were hoarded water in mommy-caused desert)
Now at this point I turn off the TV and tell him that it won't come back on until he tells me what he'd like to watch. This has two effects:
a) he shuts down and runs off crying
b) he cries right there for a few minutes and then, after a few minutes of silence, mentions a movie in the quietest voice he has. Like a shy secret, or the second line of clumsy expositional dialogue in teen angst pilot about vampires or how hard it is to live in a rich zipcode.
So then I have to get him to repeat the movie's name five or ten million times so I can understand him. Once I do, said show is turned on (he always asks with a quiet please), and he is happy for a few minutes. These minutes often boast a delightful waft of coconut rum, and are always measured in what I like to refer to as "shaker time."
Now, for those of you who are Super Parents® and looked at that dialogue thinking, "Well, why don't you just do (insert unsolicited parental advice here)," there is a reason I drag this out. We ARE working on his communication, and as such, when he is trying to tell me something, I try to help him do just that. Yeah, it's about as much fun as emptying the diaper pail, or chaperoning a junior prom, but a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do.
The obvious problem here is that Ben doesn't understand the concept that "movie" is a generic term, which contains many titles. I try to spend a little time during this battle--if he's not whiny/frustrated/screaming like a banshee to try to explain the concept. Repetition is key, and I can see his wheels turning when I talk--it's just that some of the words coming out of my mouth don't really register. Thus repetition. Eventually all those words will make it to his brain and the light bulb will go off. (This is how we got "please" into his vocabulary--although it's not quite working for "Thank you".) When I get result B, I know that it's working, but he's still unsure of it all--thus the quiet voice.
But learning moment aside, this can be a frustrating moment for both Benji & mommy. Especially if mommy has had a long day, is hormonal, or needs a drink. Then that conversation is a bit of a hair pulling exercise in impatience. And mixology.
This was the time to use some research. In Autistic circles (or ovals...sometimes ellipses, but I digress), one becomes familiar with the "visual schedule". Since many people with autism "think in pictures", sometimes it helps to create something visual to help kids (and adults!) along. It might be as simple as a picture of a toilet and then another picture of the sink in a bathroom, to "remind" kids to wash their hands after potty. Or there may be multiple pictures of very step in the potty procedure. (yes, the picture for "make pee-pee is...interesting) Like with any kid--typical or no--it depends on your kid. Generally, Ben does well with verbal cues, so I haven't really engaged the visual schedule. I can usually give him simple one step commands like " go get your shoes" or "hand mommy that vodka bottle" (although we are venturing into multiple step commands as well--Mixed drinks, here we come!), and he'll follow along--well, as much as a 3yo listens to you tell him to put his toys away, take his shoes off, or please stop playing with that coconut bra, it's for mommy! Well, really it's for daddy. OK, a little for mommy.
So, as I pulled my hair out for the gazillionth time, I realized it was time for a liquor store run and an attempt at the visual schedule. Ben knows he wants to watch a movie, but he doesn't remember all the movies we have, and frankly mommy has been so good at reading his mind for so long, he is confused as to why he needs to start clarifying his needs.
So I sat down at the computer and saved jpegs of all the movies we have on our TiVos® and DVRs. (Hey, Mr. Mommy works in the industry--we have A LOT of TVs in the house. It's all tax-deductible!) I printed them up on photo paper, ran them through my trusty laminating machine, and currently these cards are in a pocket chart on the wall. Eventually I'll have a board with velcro next to the TV where he can look and choose, but for now, the pocket chart will do. He's been really excited about it so far--mostly from a labeling point of view. He loves bringing me a card and telling me what it is. It's great to see, even if I don't need to be reminded at this point which one is Wall-E and which one is EVA (eeeeeeeeevaaaaah!). And he has used the movie board correctly a few times as well, to request either Olivia (his new favorite cartoon) or The Bee Movie. Perhaps we should add a "NAP" card.
Of course, now the new lesson begins:
Ben: Bee movie, please?
Mommy: no. No TV for now. Later.
Ben: (whining) Bee movie?
Mommy: not right now. Maybe later. Now its time for (insert approved mommy activity here)
Ben: NO! No (insert obviously not toddler approved activity) Bee movie please! (crying)
Mommy: No. Let's go get mommy a drink instead...
The Muppets won't take Manhattan as strong as I like to mix mine.