RAD DAD (Father’s Day)

Being a father of a child with Autism is a challenge.  Everything takes more time to get done.  The daily routine is slower and takes longer.  And the reason it takes longer is because more effort has to be put in, specifically on self-help activities.  Therefore each one becomes a teaching opportunity.  A moment I can explain how to do things.  A moment I can model and show my Son how it is done, and then control his hand so that he perform it himself and get the sense of it.

We are currently working with the shaving task.  I’ve been using an electric shaver for years now, and when it was time for him to start shaving I thought that it was safer than a traditional razor.  Shaving is something that once you start there is no turning back and we have to do it every day or at least every other day, so we have plenty of time to practice.  I started slowly, first shaving my face with him just looking and seeing that it was safe. Then letting him grab the shaver and turning it ON, then me putting it against his skin and slowly shaving him, allowing him to get used to the noise and vibration.  He is hypersensitive and I need to take that into account in my approach.  I’m currently controlling his hand and occasionally letting him move the shaver through his face on his own.  I remember to have seen on some occasions a smile in his face when he has been shaving on his own while looking in the mirror.

It could be stressful sometimes given the fast pace environment we live in, and all the responsibilities we have. He has to get to school and I have to get to work, or maybe we have an appointment or a place we need to be.  Most of the time there is just something that needs to get done in a certain amount of time.  The thing is that I don’t see an alternative if I want my Son to learn how to do thing on his own and be able to gain some level of independence and self-achievement feeling and satisfaction.  And when I see the smile in his face and read the message he spelled for me this Father’s Day it makes it all worth it.  Following my Son’s message for me this weekend and by the way, I had to google “RAD”. I guess my Son sees me as a “cool and radical” dad, and I like it.

In the past, no part of the way I worked made sense to me.  Now, doing things on my own is such success due to you in my life.  Now, I work much better.  RAD Dad, thanks to you I now understand much more about myself.  I always include you in my successes. I love you.  Diego


Communication Beginning 

I’ve been reading recently the book “Ido in Autismland” by Ido Kedar, which by the way I strongly recommend, and I’ve learned a lot about how it is to be a non-verbal child on the Autism Spectrum from the perspective of the child. Sometime while reading, I felt like if it was my Son Diego talking to me about his struggles and about how he feels, because what Ido explain is so similar to what I see in my Son, and the situations we go through. I will discuss in the future more about Ido’s book, but in this instance I want to concentrate on an action triggered on me directly because of reading the book.

I had recently restarted practicing math at home with Diego using a selection process with his iPad (like they do at school). We have had some success, but while reading Ido book he explained how frustrating it was for him to practice using the ABA method and the selection of flash cards in response to a question for example. He explained how there’s a hand-brain disconnect, how even if his brain is telling him to touch the correct answer due to this disconnect his fine motor skills are severely affected and may choose the wrong answer. He expressed how Rapid prompting Method created by SOMA from the HALO non-profit organization have been a blessing and how this method have helped him to actually communicate. While reading this, I realized that what I’ve been doing with Diego was similar to what Ido explained that didn’t worked for him. So I told myself that if RPM was the way my Son can communicate, I definitively have to put an effort to learn it ASAP. 

I coordinate to be present for the next visit of his RPM practitioner Adriana (who by the way works amazingly with Diego), to my home so I can start the learning process immediately. She explained how I should approach him, how should I present the letter board, that I have to write and show or draw illustrations as I’m giving the lesson instead of just reading, etc, etc. So the day came and I started the lesson that I had prepared the day before, which was about one of my passions; Firearms.

I started explaining where the firearms were invented, what types of firearms there are, revolvers and semi-automatics, that we don’t need to be scare of firearms, but instead we need to understand and respect them, and asking him some questions along the way. The second day I continued with the same topic and basically I had to help him with different prompts in order for him to spell the answer to my questions correctly. Then on the third day we started with the history of my other passion; Motorcycles. I explained him were they were first invented, and how the first ones had a steam boiler as their engine, and then explained that steam was water in the gas phase, which is formed when water boils at 100˚C (As a coincidence, one of the topics he discussed with his therapist during his last lesson was the different stages of matter). Then I asked him what happens to water when it is heated to 100˚C and what happened next struck me. Slowly with his finger he spelled “BOIL” on the letter board. I almost stop the lesson but forced myself to continue. Then I asked him how do we call water when it is in a gas phase and he slowly again spelled “STEAM”. Ok; my eyes almost tear up then, and are about to again as I write and reconstruct the scene in my mind. He actually spelled words to me, and I’m amazed that this is just the third day that I’m practicing RPM with him. I have seen him spelling to his RPM practitioner and with my wife but I felt something different when it was directly to me.  

I think many parents take their kids for granted. Many parents take all their children’s accomplishment throughout their individual development for granted. It could be a sport they are practicing, a good grade they’ve got on their latest school test, an idea they may have, or just their latest discovery on their newest videogame. With our busy lives, working long hours or even from home, sometime we are just tired and want a break from everything. I can’t put in words how much I would like to hear the voice of my Son, and then I see other parents yelling to their children to shutoff. During our personal journey with Autism in our home, we have come to realize the importance of the little things and to appreciate every apparent small achievement of our children. Today I celebrate the two words my Son Diego spelled to me, and I pray to God for this to be the beginning of a strong father-and-son communication.

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