Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Reason He Runs

This picture shows Ben running in circles around a pond at my aunt's house.   This was yet another wide open space where he enjoyed running endlessly.
 Stimming is a word often discussed in the autism community. 

A stim or a self-stimulating behavior often has a negative connotation. 

There are many articles that discuss how to reduce or eliminate stimming behaviors.  While I understand that harmful behaviors such as head banging should be reduced and even eliminated, I believe that often a stim can be calming and regulating for a person. 

We all have our stims, whether it is nail biting, pencil tapping, or hair twirling.  For Ben, one of his stims is running.  Running in circles.  Running in straight lines.  Running to be free.

Ben has always loved to run. 

He does not run away, as some autistic children do.  I am so grateful that he is not the child who runs into oncoming traffic or who may, at a moment’s notice, run out the door and into the neighborhood.  My heart goes out to those families who must constantly be on their guard lest their precious child slips away from them and into harm's way.

No, Ben runs when he sees an opportunity, just as an artist feels compelled to fill a blank canvas.

Open spaces call out to Ben.

Grassy fields.

Sandy beaches.

Areas that form a continuous loop call out to him also.

Playgrounds with rounded fences.

The sensory gym where he receives his occupational therapy.

A house with a front and back yard that connect.

While on our family vacation, we recently visited our friends for a cookout.  

Their house rests on a beautiful plot of land with slightly rolling hills in the backyard where we often spot wildlife such as deer and raccoons.  Rocky stone steps connect the side of the house to the long driveway of their front yard, with trails that loop in two directions where the paths meet. 

The perfect space for Ben to run.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

5 Tips for Flying with an Autistic Child

*This list was originally intended for my parents, who will be flying with Ben for the first time alone in a couple of weeks.  However, I thought that others might benefit from the tips that I’ve accumulated from years of flying back and forth across the country, so I decided to post this here.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Thanks so much for taking such good care of Ben these past few weeks.  Ben loves to fly, and I know everything will go great, but I thought I’d share a few ideas to help make the process smooth.  They may seem like small things, but they can add up to a successful flying experience, which makes everybody happy.

So, without further ado, here are my Top 5 Tips:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

There's Something Rotten In The State of Florida #SensoryHop

Creating art is a messy process!  

Of all his senses, Ben’s sense of smell is perhaps the most keen.  He tunes into scents and odors that would barely register with the rest of us.  Ben is constantly asking, “What’s that smell like?”  This happens several times a day, often at the most inopportune moments, like when we are standing in line at Target behind a heavily perfumed woman.  His also has a habit of sniffing everything and everyone, from the flower growing on the sidewalk to that before-mentioned perfumed woman in line.

A few weeks ago, Ben started asking the question every morning during breakfast in the kitchen.  “What’s that smell like?”  For the first couple of days, I’d reply, “I don’t smell anything.  It’s probably just the dogs.”  It is, after all, summer, and our hounds love to lounge around outside in the hot sun all day.  After the third day, however, I began to detect an odor, too.  I checked in the refrigerator, but I didn’t see any suspicious products, so I went about my day without another thought.

On the fifth day, I decided to do a deeper investigation.  Ben was perched in his chair at the kitchen table, deeply immersed in an art project.  A huge pile of Ben’s Pre-K papers sat in a messy stack next to him, a visual reminder for me to start his memory book.  Mixed in the precarious pile were art projects from the year, school assignments, and a few stray photos of Ben and his classmates.  I made a mental note to start the process of sorting through those papers later that day.  I’m forever putting off these sorts of tasks, as I’m not very crafty and am often too busy for projects of this sort.

So, when Ben asked, “What’s that smell like?” yet again, this time I agreed it was time to find out....