January 25, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Meltdowns

Moe's sessions start at 8:00 in the morning, so between 7 and 8, I have to get myself up and dressed, give Jelly Belly her bottle, and get Moe up, dressed and fed. Even with Jeff's help, this often seems like an impossible task. But we've managed to get it done. Until recently.

Meals have become a challenge in our house. Moe is starting to have an attitude opinion about what he eats. He knows what he wants, but isn't usually able to tell us. He has been getting very, very frustrated. Moe knows how to say "more" and many other food words, but when he's tired, and hungry, and frustrated, he has trouble finding the words. This battle often ends with him, and sometimes both of us, in tears.

The best way to deal with this type of meltdown is to try to avoid it. Our program director suggested I make sure to give him the words he needs to use, then sit back and wait. For example, I'll say "do you want more waffles?" Then I'll wait. But it doesn't usually work. Maybe those aren't the words he needed because he wanted something else. And once the frustration and tears have set in, it is very hard to get past them. Sometimes I think I hear a word, but can't understand it because of the crying.

So I'm trying a new approach. Kids without speech are sometimes taught the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). We don't formally do PECS or use picture schedules with Moe yet. But during his circle time, the therapists have Moe choose the song he wants to sing by using picture cards, so I decided to build on this concept.

I made some laminated cards (http://www.goosiecards.com/) with pictures of Moe's favorite foods on them. Right now, I'm introducing the concept by showing him the cards with the picture of whatever he's eating at the time. I am also starting to present a choice, by showing him two cards and asking if he wants, say, "pizza" or "chicken nuggets." (Yes, that was the choice. Don't judge me.) Moe isn't very patient, so if he chooses pizza, but doesn't get it RIGHT THEN, he might lose it. So I'm finding this works best right now with things at the ready, like yogurt and applesauce. Moe has trouble making a choice, so it also works best with only two choices.

As time goes on, we can expand the time delay and the field from which Moe chooses. My goal is to start avoiding some major meltdowns during meals. And Moe should be happier too.

1 comment:

  1. Obviously, we're a big fan of both PECS in general, and Goosie Cards in particular. For us, because the J-man only eats 6 things, it was pretty easy to put a picture of them all on one sheet and have him point to what he wants, especially since so many things sound alike when he says them. (He can't make a T sound, so toast sounds like Coco... but so does cracker, chips, and sticks - he only says the K in sticks.)

    You know I wouldn't judge about pizza vs chicken nuggets. If we could get the J-man to eat pizza, or really ANY protein besides nuggets, I would throw a party!


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