How to get Jake to take his Vitamins

One of the things I struggle with the most is the feeling of frustration and loss of control when Jake is insistent on doing something his way, or exclusively.  For example, this morning, I wanted Jake to take his vitamins and eat his lunch.  In a timely way, so that we would be able to get ready and leave for school on time.  Jake stood, looking at his vitamins, bouncing on his feet, eyes flickering, for what seemed like eternity.  It was probably about 10 minutes.  He said he just needed to think about it.  He said he needed to remember what they tasted like.  He said he needed quiet.  He said he had to build a fort first.

It was exasperating.  It was mental.  And it was followed by him sitting down at the table to eat his waffles.  Which he couldn’t eat.  Because he had so much to say.  Literally, he took one bite in ten minutes.  And talked non-stop the rest of the time.

Eventually he both took the vitamins and ate his breakfast.  And went to school.  However, I am left exhausted, unsatisfied, feeling guilty, bothered, and frustrated.  I imagine he felt much the same.  All before 9 am.

I have been rereading Raun K. Kaufman’s book, Autism Breakthrough.  It is loaded with incredible ideas and insights.  It focuses on putting the parents squarely in charge of the changes they want to see in their autistic children, which is a huge weight.  But I cannot deny the common sense of what he says.  He also focuses on loving our children respectfully, building meaningful, trusting relationships with them, and showing them all of the best reasons to want to learn to be more social.

He describes using motivation rather than reward to entice our autistic kids to change.  “Instead, think about what your child’s area of interests (motivations) are…. If your child is verbal, what does she talk about when an adult isn’t dictating the conversation?”  Then he says to use this to work on specific goals.  Today, I am choosing taking the vitamins and eating breakfast as my two goals.  Then his technique looks like this (my paraphrase):

  1. Wait until Jake is paying attention freely and willingly
  2. Playfully invite Jake to participate in a game designed around something HE LOVES and the goal.
  3. Keep playing the game as long as you possibly can, adding layers of challenge.

It sounds like it would work.  But it doesn’t deal with my anxiety of trying to get ready to leave on time.  However, I believe that I could use this to make some progress.  My plan would look something like this:

  1. Start my own game based on Star Wars.
  2. Playfully invite Jake and Aiden to play my game and include the vitamins, as maybe, super Force power-ups.
  3. Keep playing the game, suggesting they have to eat the breakfast in small sections before they battle the next bad-guy.
A series of awesome Lego people.  I think my favorite is the one with two heads.  Hard to decide.
A series of awesome Lego people. I think my favorite is the one with two heads. Hard to decide.

It requires a level of energy and enthusiasm I don’t feel first thing in the morning.  It requires creative thinking on the fly, which means that my mind has to be moving quickly, very quickly, as I will also be trying to eat my own breakfast and feed Penny.  The payoff could be that we are all happier, breakfast gets eaten, and no one starts the day feeling crummy.  I’m in.  Isn’t this exactly what I’ve been saying?  That I would do better?  That I would get myself in gear and really figure this out?  Okay, I’m in.

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What (on God’s green earth) is there to say?

Alright, here we are, summer holidays.  Jake and Aiden are thrilled that school is over and they are facing an endless cycle of cartoons, play time, and trips to the beach.  It is my absolute favorite time of the year.  And yet, we are now four whole days in, and some patterns have already become painfully clear.

One of the hardest things that my husband and I faced last summer was Jake’s constant interruptions.  All of a sudden we were all home together, for the entire summer, and no one, NO ONE but Jake could speak.  We would go for hours, looking at each other, trying to start conversations and giving up.  We talked to him about interrupting.  We tried to model conversations.  We tried to walk into a different room for three minutes to quickly figure out who was grocery shopping and who was cooking dinner.  Nothing worked.  He followed us.  It was so hard.

We were relieved in knowing that we were getting help.  We had started having home visits from an energetic and encouraging family support worker.  While technically out of her usual cliental, she took us on as a favor to Jake’s soon to be kindergarten teacher. She arranged for our first visits with the occupational therapist and we felt so thankful to be getting help that somehow we survived.  But it was so hard.

This summer, my husband has a new iPod that he can text with.  He joked with me that we can just text each other all summer so that we can communicate while in the house with Jake.  As we laughed, we realized that this is an awesome idea.  It doesn’t deal with the actual problem, but it may save our sanity.

Jake has learned so much this year, and the interrupting was listed right away as one of the goals we wanted to make a priority with his behaviour consultant.  So they have been working on recognizing whether someone is ‘available’ for conversation.  It is getting better.  In the last four days, there have been many times when Jake started talking to me and asking for my attention and I responded, “I’m just not available right now, give me five minutes.”  I was busy doing something like cooking on the hot stove or keeping Penny from falling off of her change table, situations not obvious to Jake yet.  He has followed up with, “Mom, are you available now?  Now?  Now?”  So it is a work in progress.

His interruptions are varied, from chants that make no sense whatsoever, but seem musical in nature to demands for attention so that he can discuss the fine points of his newest Lego creations.  He mimics both music we have played and TV he has watched with great joy.  To this he adds his own ideas of what is important, a request for pretzels or to create a new sports playoff bracket.  None of it is bad, or really hard to deal with, the problem is just the constant nature of his verbose interruptions.

In two more days my husband joins us at home full time for summer.  I am hopeful, and praying for a smoother summer for all of us than last year.  Jake has learned much, and is also doing more independent play.  We still have a long way to go on the interrupting, however.  It’s one of the most difficult things about Jake’s autism for our family.  Aiden has started repeating, “I want to talk, I want to talk, I want to talk,” until we get Jake to be quiet enough to hear what Aiden has to say.  It’s cute, and heartbreaking.  I want everyone in this family to be heard, to know that they are valued, and to be able to listen to each other.