Sunday 6 January 2013

Pacing Yourself

The New Year is a time for all sorts of resolutions.  Eat less, exercise more, meditate daily, take an art class, read more ... all sorts of good intentions.  Most of which will fizzle before February.

One of the things I am always tempted to resolve is to do more therapy work with the boys.  I've always had a bit of a type-A obsessive stick-to-it-until-its-done (or I get bored) internal coach. 

I know a lot of parents reading this blog have children who have just been diagnosed.  There's a temptation to sign up your kids for all kinds of intervention, attack the autism with anything and everything at your disposal.  When Alex was first diagnosed, I had plans to dedicate almost every waking moment to therapy work with him.

But as tempting as it is, it's not a good idea.

Intervention is important and you shouldn't hesitate to start some kind of program.  But the important thing is to remember to pace yourself.

Autism intervention is a marathon with progress measured over months, not days.  It's exhausting for both the parents and the child.  Whatever pace is set, it should be one which can be maintained over the long haul.  That doesn't even begin to get into the issue of cost, another area where blitz attacks can drain the reserves you'll need later.

Often in therapy, progress is built on small, increasing steps.  I think that's a good model for parent intervention, too.  Start with an achievable and non-intimidating goal of five minutes a day.  (I recommend setting a timer because you don't want to "punish" your child by making the session longer if its going well.)

Eventually, a lot of the therapy exercises will become second-nature.  I automatically ask Alex to make his requests with a full sentence rather than a single word.  Getting him to look at me or call me by name when he wants something is a little harder to remember, but I'm getting there.  It probably took me about four or five months to start recognizing naturally-occuring opportunities for therapy intervention (like when we were playing on the swings and I started making him say "Go!" before pushing him).

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