When our daughter was still a baby, she began sitting on her own at an unusually early age. She had missed most milestones so I was flooded with relief. Even at this infant age, Ashi demonstrated her intelligence. True to her nature, she was actually accomplishing her own agenda, which at that time, was throwing things. Sitting early allowed her to do this.
She began by tossing toys backwards over her shoulder, crawling over to the pile, then retossing them. A couple of hours could pass with me wondering why she didn't like the scads of fun toys that I broke the bank to purchase. She only wanted to throw. It was her first perseveration.
By toddlerhood, she could throw both backward and forward. Her Dad and I anxiously thought "well, maybe she's got a future career pitching softball!" So we 'throw proofed' the house, made sure she had plenty of safe balls and other objects to throw, and we threw stuff with her. We'd spend hours at night throwing strange objects around to each other as a family; we even invented some of our own games.
But most important, it let Ashi know that her interests were important to us, that we would provide her with the tools she needed, and that we would find a way as a family to enjoy her interests too. All that throwing actually increased the muscle strength in her arms and back, and exercised her eye-hand coordination. Yes, we realized that most children do not obsessively throw things for hours, but we had a paradigm shift. Our child enjoyed doing this and so we were going to make the best of it.
Then we ventured to the church nursery.
After one service, we were met with the nursery director's beady-eyed glare coming down a long, pointy, nose at us. It was a smugness that instantly drained the (much needed) sustenance we'd just received from the sermon. The nasal, snotty, tone soon tattled, "We were going to come get you. She threw things the whole time. We can't have that. What do you do to make her stop at home? She won't be welcome like this."
My reply that "we just throw things with her," was met with a 'hmmf', a 'shrug of the shoulders' and a 'shake of the head.' My tears flowed all the way home, we lived in the country at the time so that's alot of tears.
My point here is to explain the paradigm shift. My husband and I definitely had it. It came naturally to us. Taking what we had to work with, being creative, positive, and using behaviors, interests, perserverations as tools to move into areas where our daughter struggled. The church lady was desperately in need of a paradigm shift.
By having that shift, we also validated our daughter, understood her, equipped her, encouraged her, figured out how to use her interests to branch out to other areas. This has been the environment she has grown up in all of her life and I see it played out in her confidence and her sense of self-worth.
Changing the way we think is what catapults our children's progress. Instead of forcing children to 'fit in' or feeling disappointed if they don't do 'this' or 'that' yet, we should focus on the amazing things they can do! Every person on earth has something they are good at, no matter what age, no matter who they are. Finding that talent and helping our children explore it is vital to their success in life. Surround yourself with people like this and eliminate those who drag you down, discourage, judge, or anything else that takes your concentration away from working with your child in a productive way.
Annie Eskeldson writes for parents of young autists. Her daughter had many perseverations including throwing, listening to fluids in bottles, shadows, lining up animals, tapping, flicking paintbrushes and currently, internet research of incidents and accidents occuring at amusement parks all across the United States. Annie also has 3 published children's books about autism that also nurture parents at www.authorannie.com and will be speaking at a homeschooling convention in Kansas City, April 21st.