Friday 5 April 2013

An Experiment

Last weekend, Alex came home with some lovely spring-themed craftwork: a giant egg cut out of bristolboard and painted in bright colours and a sheep face made out of a paper plate and cotton balls.

Nathan has a section of wall where I display some of his craftwork from kindergarten.  He has a half-dozen paper plate flowers, various paintings and other works.  I've wanted to have something similar for Alex, but his desire to shred usually triumphs. 

He's been better about shredding paper of late.  It's been over a month since I lost a book (although having said it, I'm probably going to lose two or three at once now) and so I decided to give it a try.  Maybe shredding paper was no longer satisfactory.  Sometimes children with autism do seem to grow out of these stims.

I put the sheep head and the egg on the back of his door, figuring on increasing my odds by making it less likely he would notice them right away.  If they could become part of the background, they'd have a better shot at survival.

It took less than two hours for the egg and sheep to be shredded into miniscule bits of confetti.  (Maybe we'll be lucky and if this fixation persists, he'll be a dream candidate for a shredding company.)  It was disappointing but not entirely unexpected.

I'm sure I will get heat both for allowing him access to the artwork to destroy and for expecting him to destroy it.  But I made a deliberate choice to give him a chance.  It can be very easy to stay in a rut when your child has autism, to avoid the inevitable headache of introducing new things or the building frustration of repeating patterns of behaviour.  But I think it's important to try.  Otherwise, you'll never know what potential is there.

I was listening to another parent awhile ago complain how tired she was of listening to her son watch Disney cartoons.  He'd fixated on them when he was three and at seventeen, it was still all he watched.  I wondered if she'd ever tried introducing different films and television shows (it's not impossible that she did and failed, I never did ask).  Alex still adores the Wiggles but I'm slowing introducing him to other options.  Thus far he's warmed to 80's musical movies and Star Wars.  Not so much to Spongebob Squarepants. 

I can see he's comforted by the familiarity of the Wiggles but also getting bored with them.  He only wants to watch his favourite parts over and over again (sort of the same way I watch The Avengers these days).  I'm lucky that he's fairly tolerant of small changes, as long as he's not denied his favourites.

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