Guest blogger Michelle Kemper Brownlow: When my 5-year-old son seemingly lost all understanding of obedience and appropriate behavior, I was at a loss for what to do. I sat down with my best friend, who is an occupational therapist, and asked for her help. She suggested charts, stories, flip books and illustrated-behavior examples. She knows that being scheduled and rigid is not in any one single fiber of my being. But I trusted her and dove in with both feet. The difference in my son is AMAZING!
There are three tactics that helped the most:
Setting the timer:
I have been an at-home mom for thirteen years, and my older two children are just as fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants as I am. My third child, I have come to find, is agitated and visibly bothered when there is no beginning and end to activities. So I have our day scheduled, using my cell phone as our timer.
At 7:40, the alarm goes off, telling us it is time to go to preschool. He comes home at 1:00 and lives to play outside; formerly, he would stay out all day and I would have to persuade him with bribes to come inside when it was time for me to start getting dinner ready. Now, my cell phone tells us at 2:30 that we need to go inside.
Creating a "social story":
If you Google those two words, you will see that this is something parents and teachers use with autistic children, but I can tell you that this works like MAGIC with ANY child! This is a flip book of sorts. Each activity of the day has its own page. The pages are separate, have a hole punched in the top corner and are on a removable ring. Our pages include the words "WAKE UP!" (with a picture of a boy in PJs yawning), "GET DRESSED!" (with a picture of a boy putting on his clothes), "EAT BREAKFAST!" (with a picture of cereal and juice) and many more.
I am an illustrator so I illustrated our story, but you can print images off the computer that match the activities you are designating for your day. We take this book everywhere so my son knows what to expect next. He knows that when I pick him up today we are going to the library. So when I pick him up from school, his "social story" is on his car seat and turned to the "GO TO LIBRARY" page. It has worked like a charm.
Using a "smiles chart":
We have rewritten the "three strikes, you're out" rule. I made a poster with four large smiley faces. Then I cut out four red circles the same size as the smileys (use masking tape, a cup, etc., for tracing the circles). Whenever there is a behavioral issue, if it is not rectified with a warning, HE covers one smiley with a red circle. (It's important for him to do it.) If he has at least one smiley left at dinnertime, he gets a sticker. If he gets three stickers in a row, he gets to pick a small prize from the prize box.
This took ONE DAY to work! At first, I rewarded him after two stickers in a row, so the "payoff" came sooner and I could create a concrete memory to use as positive reinforcement later to redirect undesirable behaviors. Then I moved to three stickers.