Useful tools I use with T – part one

In the last week I have a couple of people contacted me asking about things I’ve discussed before which were useful tools I’d used in the past with T. There is a category on the blog which is called helpful tools but I thought it might be a good time to talk about all the useful things we’ve used over the years to make life easier for us all. This is part one of two – otherwise it would be an unbearingly long blog entry!

Social stories / story books

Social stories have worked really well for us over the past couple of years. We have used them to help T understand what is going to happen and what he can do if he feels anxious or upset. The best have been the one I did to get over the anxiety he had about X-rays and also about going to the airport and on holiday. For both of these I actually went before hand and took photos so I could map each step out for him and also check out what might be trigger or crisis points for him. His teacher at school has also helped us out and produced a book on eating in a restaurant as well as one about babies crying (which is our current effort).

In addition we have used standard and special needs story books to familiarise T to a situation. The best of these are the ‘Off we go‘ series of which we have several. The one about get new shoes worked a treat as did the haircut one. We are going to get Ts feet measured tomorrow and I will read the book with him before we go just to help him remember what is involved.
Topsy and Tim books are also pretty good and T has enjoyed the going on a train / aeroplane books immensely.

I find visual cues are great with T and he responds much better to them than words.

Visual timetable

We use a weekly timetable to help T understand what day of the week it is and to prevent him from fretting over when the weekend is coming – so that he can go to his swimming lesson. I made this myself from a chalk board I found in a shop and use his visual cues on the board instead of writing anything onto it. It works like a dream.

If we are doing something outside of the normal routine I will also use a visual timetable to plan what happens next. We usually use this when we travel as T can become obsessive or anxious because he does not know what will happen next. By time tabling the events in sequence he can work out that the next activity is about to happen and by using Velcro visuals that can be removed from the timetable we can show that each event is complete. It takes a bit of organising before the event but is very useful. My husband is taking T away for the night later this week and we will pull together the timetable so T knows what is happening.

Colour changing timer

We used to have an terrible time transitioning from one activity to another and by accident I came across a battery operated colour changing timer. I bought the big timer first which was useful but the best investment I ever made was buying the mini one because it fits in my handbag and doesn’t need programming. We’ve used this for a couple of years and although we rely on it less and less these days, it has helped to show T when he needs to stay sat down in a restaurant or when it is time to put his clothes on or when it is time to go to bed. Again a visual and audible cue that he relates brilliantly to.

Five minute count down using fingers

We started to using the five minute countdown using our fingers when we didn’t have the timer device with us. As soon as T could count this worked well and it’s what we use on a day to day basis every day. For example when we want him to tidy his toys away, we give him a five minute warning. With each minute that passes we tell him how minutes are left for example “4 minutes” and show him 4 fingers and do this until we have no fingers left. A simple technique but works so well.

Potty training book

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I’d tried to potty train T a couple of times with no success and was worried we would never get him out of nappies. After a bit of searching online I came across this book and read it from cover to cover in a day.

It’s aimed at children with autism or developmental delay and includes many examples of where it has worked with different children at varying developmental abilities and with a variety of ages (up to teenagers), I thought it would be silly not to try. And it worked like a dream for us. Within 3 days T was signing and telling us he needed the toilet and within a week the accidents we few and far between. By week 2 we were pretty much sorted. It does take a bit of preparation but was well worth it. I’d recommend this to anyone wanting to get their child out of nappies.

Love bombing

Another book – this one aims to help children reset their emotional thermostat. We were struggling with Ts behaviour and I was at the end of my tether. I read about this book in a newspaper and ordered the book straight away. I did the love bombing trip with T this time last year and although I can’t say that this was the only cause it probably helped as Ts behaviour has improved. I’ve noticed this last few days he’s started to become a little more aggressive and luckily my husband is taking T away on a love bombing trip himself. I still use some of the techniques like getting into bed with him until he falls asleep and when one of us is away T sleeps in our bed. I can’t say it was the overall love bombing which helped T reduce his aggressiveness but I don’t think it hindered his progress.

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