Friday, January 13, 2012

Continuing the Conversation Re: Perseveration

I love it when blogging turns into a conversation. Kelly, from Unplanned Trip To Holland, left some excellent comments and questions on my last post. I started to answer in the comments, but my reply grew long enough, I thought it would work better as a blog post. With comments like these, I'll never lack for post topics.

Kelly, I think your comments were 100% on-topic, and I totally agree. I think communication with the school merits its own post. I thought about pointing GL's teacher and classroom aides (we had hoped for a one-on-one, but there are 3-5 aides for the classroom, plus student volunteers) to this blog, but I need a place to vent about the school where their interpretation of what I said won't come back to haunt me.

Perseveration seems to have two components:

1. It's a barometer of his overall stress level. We do what we can to reduce his stress level and try to adjust his meds to help him cope, but being on the spectrum is stressful, and our kids seem to find more things than average to stress out about.

2. It functions to make something happen that he wants to make happen.

a. Sometimes it's partly related to anxiety about an upcoming event. GL's perseveration usually takes the form of repetitive questions. Sometimes he's just trying to grasp the situation. We try to explain, with varying success. Other times, he knows the answer, he's just seeking reassurance. In those cases, repeating the question back to him and letting him answer gives some reassurance, and eventually reduces the repetition somewhat. Why he thinks he needs us as the middleman in this process I don't know, but that's what he seems to think. Simply answering his question when he knows the answer does NOT help. He has never asked us to ask him a question, but I suspect he thinks that is what he is doing when he asks the same question repetitively. I arrived at this conclusion by trial and error.

b. If he has something to say that he finds funny or interesting, he likes to say it. The fact that he has already said it 794 times in the last hour is irrelevant. We try to redirect him. I think you know about how well that works. Other tactics are even less successful.

c. His sense of humor works something like this: If saying "boogers" was funny the first time he said it, (I meant the first time, when he was three) it is 3,472,963 times as funny when he says it the 3,472,963rd time. See above.

d. It pisses his brother off. Sometimes he just wants attention. He doesn't always know how to interact with his brother in mutually enjoyable ways, and he either doesn't understand or doesn't accept that BB sometimes has other things that he wants to do (read a book, play by himself) or needs to do (homework, chores) so he picks a fight to force interaction.

e. It produces an emotional tone he can understand. Subtle shades of emotion annoy him because he can't interpret them. The only way he managed to learn how to interpret facial expressions and emotional cues at all was by rote memorization of indicators via Gaining Face. (If your child struggles to interpret facial expressions, I strongly recommend this program.) But if an emotional state is not on their list, or a facial expression does not match what they demonstrated, he usually can't interpret it, and this annoys him. He usually attempts to elicit an emotional response he can interpret. Anger is one of the easier responses to elicit.

So yeah, in most cases, there isn't a whole lot we can do to reduce perseveration, and what does help doesn't reduce it all that much. So how do we cope? School gives us some respite. Oops, I just realized that could sound like our district was providing respite care beyond the school day so Mama Bear and I could spend some time alone together. Ha! ha! ha! Right. Like that will ever happen! I only meant that he is in school 2-3 hours a day during school hours. MB is at work during this time. We are still fighting to get him a full school day.

After school, BB sometimes goes to the library for some peace. It's two blocks from home, and GL can't cross the street by himself. Mama Bear and I tag-team it. Monday nights, BB and I have Civil Air Patrol.  Sometimes I hang out at the library and use their Wi-Fi. One or two nights a week, I go into town and wander around Menards (a regional chain similar to Home Depot, but with better prices. I call it my toy store.) or even Walmart.

We stop at the library every day after school, and GL checks out DVDs. We used to limit both boys' screen time pretty severely, but I've decided it's no great sacrifice to let GL rot his brain. He's very much into Disney and Pixar (of course) and lately even more into Blue's Clues and Bear in the Big Blue House. He has a portable DVD player and, for my sanity, I make him use headphones. This Christmas we got a second-hand Wii. (From an anonymous giver. Not something we could have afforded, even second-hand.) That at least gets him a little more active.

We have a pair of ear protectors (The boys call them "quiet headphones".) from Walmart's sporting goods department. Marksmen use them on the target range. We bought them to help GL deal with sensory issues, but now BB uses them to block out noise when he does homework. I have a pair of earbuds. I never liked earbuds before because I found them uncomfortable and the sound quality was terrible. This time, I got some with three sizes of ear cushions, so I get an exact fit. (Ear Pollution Ozone. a good compromise between quality and cost.) They are more comfortable than any other earbuds I have owned, and because they fit, they make a seal that actually blocks out most noises even without playing anything on them. Playing music makes GL completely inaudible.

Oh, and about that snow? People were overreacting. We got 3-4 inches. The only place in our county that posted a cancellation last night took it back.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, just popped over from Both Sides of the Coin.

Perseveration....I could just perseverate on that topic over and over again.

I stupidly taught my son the "Guess what? Chicken butt!!" joke about 6 months ago. Yeah, now we hear it every day, at least a hundred times.

Kill me.

January 13, 2012 at 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I am blown away, seriously, by the information you shared at perseveration. This, right here, is some very, very good stuff. So, first, thank you, for taking the time to write this all down. Second, I will be printing this out and putting it on the fridge. This is just THAT good. I think Ted's perseveration mainly is an extension of his anxiety, but the other "types" are really thought provoking and warrant further processing - by me.

Yeah. I definitely do not recommend pointing staff to yr blog. This has come back to bite me a couple of times when staff has, for some reason, Googled me. They get quite upset to rad that I was not thrilled when AJ had mystery turd in his shoe.

January 14, 2012 at 6:55 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

Believe me, I know exactly what you mean!

January 14, 2012 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

Thank you. That's one of the main reasons I blog, and the main reason I read autism blogs. Most parenting advice just doesn't apply to our kids. Advice from professionals is hit or miss, and not usually available when you most need it, so other autism parents are usually the best source of ideas that might work.

January 14, 2012 at 11:34 AM  

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