Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sleep, Sheep and Lovely Arguments

The good sleep continues. I'm not sure what we did to deserve it but our luck is holding out. I've even stopped counting the nights. Just like with the toileting, our reality has changed seemingly overnight and the further we get down the road in this new land where nothing actually happens in the middle of the night, the harder it is to believe that things used to be so dramatically different. We've had good spells before though so I'm not optimistic enough to actually start looking for real estate in the land of nod or anything. But I'm growing my herd of sheep nightly. And it is a good thing, too, because our recent appointment with the pediatrician when I was anxious to talk about sleep disorders was a complete bust. Really, I don't know what I was thinking. How many times do I have to see that blank look reflected back at me before I really get it? Educators and members of the medical establishment almost universally seem hold low expectations for my son and his quality of life. When I described Oliver's sleep patterns the pediatrician literally sighed and, while looking bored, said: "We see this a lot in kids with autism." He might as well have just said: "Suck it up." Nik thinks we should look for a different practice but I just don't have the stamina for it. When it comes to educators and doctors I seemed to have developed almost universal low expectations. So I'll just suck it up.

But I'm not bitter or anything. Far from it. At the moment things are going rather swimmingly. Each night after I tuck the kidlets into bed I sit myself down at the computer and spend a couple of hours immersed in learning. And my learning is making an impact on the way I am able to guide Oliver's learning. What could be better?

I've written a bit about our struggles to help Oliver understand the nature of communication. I have been stymied about how to teach Oliver to reliably answer yes and no. Sometimes it really seems as though he gets it but when he is tired or when he isn't up to form, 'no' means 'yes' and 'yes' means 'no'. But recently I've been reading about how infants learn to communicate and how they learn to interpret communication from others. It doesn't start with words. In the beginning, infants are participating in communication events that are based on visuals, vocalizations, gestures, and facial expressions. Words don't come until much, much later, usually sometime during the second year. So I decided to take a step back and try to communicate using just those means and as few words as possible. When we started RDI last year I learned to talk much less than is natural for me, to amplify my facial expressions and increase my use of gestures, but I never went as far as eliminating language altogether. Intuitively I always felt that if I wanted Oliver to talk then I needed to model language. But I have also known for some time that what he struggled with most was the very nature of communication, not necessarily the production of words.

We are two days into our little experiment and I'm not sure how much of an impact it is having but I do know this: today we had our first two arguments. He wanted something and I didn't want him to have it and both of us stood there shaking and nodding our heads at each other. In the past Oliver would pretty much imitate anything I did or said hoping it would get him what he wanted. So if I shook my head no he would do the same, thinking/hoping, that this was what he needed to do. He wasn't communicating, he was imitating. There was no real meaning behind it. But today was different. It was a real argument and it was beautiful and clear and I gave in almost immediately. I would happily lose a thousand of those kind of arguments.

And the best thing about this little exchange is that both Oliver and I came away from it motivated to keep trying. And I feel pretty confident that already we are both getting it right.

And now I'm off to find my sheep.


  1. Wow! Wow! Wow! So much wonderful stuff. I'll be interested to hear how the communication continues; the discrimination btwn conscious choices (vs. random selection) is what stymies us with Nik right now.

    Re: the pediatrician...don't give up! I can't tell you how many docs we've "fired" until we found one who would listen and take us seriously. One thing we found that works is video of whatever is going on, documentation of time and frequency...or whatever the appropriate data would be in your case. Once our ped (whom we love, love, love) actually SAW the things we had been describing, all of a sudden it became a much higher priority to help us find answers.

    Enjoy that sleep! And watch out for sheep patties...

  2. Anonymous8:15 AM

    Christine, this is wonderful to hear. Sleep--getting enough of it--really makes it possible to effectively deal with the other stuff. And it sounds like you guys are in a really good groove right now.

    I hope the pattern continues. And the pediatrician? I hear you. We all hear you. It shouldn't have to be this hard.

  3. I love hearing about these huge strides Oliver is making. That first argument is priceless.

    Enjoy that sweet, glorious sleep!