Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress

Just two weeks back you could have found me afloat in a pool that sported a water slide shooting out from a replica of the Mayflower and a jacuzzi embedded in a simulated Plymouth Rock.

Yes, I was in Plymouth, Massachusetts, home of those pilgrims whose fall feast has morphed into the annual turkey-eating-fest that we've just finished celebrating.

So what sort of pilgrimage would take me to Plymouth? What you might expect at autism's edges: scaffolding Sweet M on her journey.

Her class was setting out on a three-day field trip to visit the sites — the replica of the Mayflower in the harbor, the Plimouth plantation, and the grist mill that ground grain for the pilgrims in the years after their arrival. And there were concerns about how she'd handle the three days, two nights away field trip. Last year's trip to a nature preserve had gone okay — she was with her aide — but still there'd been plenty of tears and homesickness. Since Sweet M no longer has that wonderful one-on-one who helped her last year—just another bit of fallout from the state's budgetary shortfalls — her father and I went as her shadows.

Our goal was to be neither seen nor heard: but just to be nearby in case we were needed. For Sweet M's amusement we called this Operation Secret Parents. Some might call this Operation Helicopter Parents, but I suspect that anyone who would think that has never parented a child on the spectrum. We'd rather scaffold and buttress than pick up the pieces if something goes horribly wrong.

Initially little M thought she'd want to see us on the morning of the second day, but the morning came and went without a call from her teacher, so we settled into touring the sites (on the opposite itinerary from her class, avoiding them at every turn) and visiting with some old friends whom we ran into near the town's grocery store, with me taking time out to grade some papers and write a new syllabus for the spring semester.

By the end of the second day, we'd heard nothing from Sweet M and when the suspense was just too much, we spoke with the principal who told us all was well. One of Sweet M's roommates had been homesick and wanted to call her mom, and M had said, "Why would you want to call your mom -- you're just going to see her tomorrow."

Easy for her to say with her own mom just two floors away!

But still, this is is progress. Scaffolded, buttressed progress. Perhaps over weaning, we sometimes think. But then we have no idea what the trip would have looked like if she'd gone on her own too soon for any reasonable level of comfort. Next time she'll no doubt voyage solo.

So we have some progress of the pilgrim-y type: something for which we're so very thankful.

An appropriate street sign from Plymouth.


VAB said...

(Wow, Romanian spam. Small world.)

Too bad about the cuts. Seems like a very cool move to do the shadow thing. A sense of security is often the key ingredient, and success builds confidence, and nothing has a bigger impact on happiness and learning than confidence. M's a lucky girl.

Anonymous said...

A few years back you talked about doing the brain engineering with Sweet M. I couldn't find another post about it - what was the result of doing the program? Thanks!

Lionel Messi said...

Buen artículo

MothersVox said...

VAB, The Romanian spam was so noteworthy that I've left it here. I feel horrible for the people who are earning their living in spam factories.

Anon, Our experience with the brain engineering program was mixed. There were some very important "take aways" -- esp. the idea of using visual tasks as a break from auditory tasks -- but the difficulty was that it was incredibly labor intensive on the parent side (as are most programs like this). And when I was working two FT jobs we could not sustain the time. Overall, I would recommend it. It was, however, *very expensive*, which is a challenge for many people (it was for us). Between the monetary expense of paying for the program and the time expense of implementing it, I wished that there were therapists trained in the techniques so that so much would not fall again on parents.

Anonymous said...

thanks MothersVox. I agree with you - I didn't realize there was so much parent work - they are very vague when you talk to them and make it sound like its mostly computer programs. I don't know why therapists are not trained in it and I wish she would be more forthcoming with her information - especially if it is as great as it sounds. She would probably get alot more interest if the price was about 1/4 of what she is now charging.

mothersvox said...

Hi Anon, It's not actually a computer program. CF uses a computer interface that allows her to conduct parent training in a teleconference (there were people from all over the country on our calls) with an electronic whiteboard/slide show. And then there is an online forum that parents can post to with questions and information about their child's progress. So the program is, essential parent training. CF also does consulting with parents on school issues -- and she is really very good at coming up with targeted solutions to individual problems. Overall, a good experience.

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Josh said...

What a great blog. You are an eloquent writer that really captures each moment well.

I only know a few things about autism, so your intimate look into your life will be very helpful because your writing is so honest and thoughtful.

I have cystic fibrosis, which is a whole other animal, but is similar in one respect. We stay positive and peaceful while we live the life we are given. Congratulations on your stories. They are wonderful gifts to the world.

Peaceful Things