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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Friday, January 27, 2006



"One two three four five six seven...basic, that's good. Now side to side, open....crossover. Turn in, comb, check, two turns, arm up...snap hand..." The music is rapid as reams of instructions fly at me like words dissipating into thin air...bla bla blee bla bla...

I can't THINK and dance. I have to FEEL the dance. Taking my first salsa lesson yesterday, my instructor said I accomplished two levels in one session. Somehow, I have the music in me and I can inutitively feel dance steps. But when broken down piece by piece, I think TOO much and my feet stumble. Give me the essence and give me the music, but translate dancing into words and I get all mixed up.

Adam enjoys "dancing." I hold him in my arms and make him extend his arm and hold my hand like a gentleman. "Da, de da, de da, de da..." Our version of the dance is mommy bobbing up and down the hallway with Adam in my arms. He enjoys the bobbing, and enjoys echoing the "da, de da, de da..." We do this a few times before I get winded --he's almost four and getting a little heavy.

I am still Adam's needed dance partner. We, as his teachers (he has a few), teach him how to feel things. In order to learn HOW to play, dance, put something together he still needs us to prompt him from behind (This is the best way to teach independent skills. If the child sees you prompting from in front, it is an extra step because you are now associated with the action. If prompted from behind, I can fade myself and my physical prompts faster. Adam gets the feel, faster). I do this from putting on socks...1st we put in the thumbs, 2nd we open the sock, 3rd we put the sock over our toes, and 4th we pull the sock on. I do a hand-over-hand prompt until the pull part. (He still has trouble opening a tight sock and putting it independently over his toes). I am "backward chaining" my teaching so that he gets each part of it on his own. His fine motor and bilateral skills are still a little weak, but coming along. Soon, I am sure he will show me just what he can do! But, if I just sat in front of Adam and recited instructions he would be peering out the window! In autism, the steps are broken down, but the tactile sense, the learning by doing, is the easiest way for him to "get it"...with lots of practise!

"Can't do it for myself. Can't do is as myself. Can't do it by myself." The words of Donna William's from her book Exposure Anxiety reverberate in my head pretty much all the time now. Everytime Adam walks away and observes from the periphery of an activity and needs to be nudged in, I think about how he needs the little push on his back to walk again. I think about the movie AWAKENINGS from Oliver Sack's novel, and remember the catatonic woman who rose from her chair because of the pattern on the floor. The pattern was the impetus, the fluidity, the guide to get her to the window. When the pattern stopped, so did she. When Adam stops in his tracks and watches like he is on his way to something, and then just stops for no apparent reason, I think of those similar examples. If prompting, a little nudge, gets him back into things, so be it. Hopefully, he will find his own way to nudge himself back into the world.

Today, Adam started a music class. There was no aide, no shadow, but a nice small group of five little children. There were some imaginative movements, and musical instruments. I was so proud of him and always want to keep him in some activities without an aide because I can see how he was watching the teacher, watching the children, joined in the circle independently, expressed some delayed imitation! (We can practise banging on the drum at the same time as everyone else at home -- coordinated activities also have to be practised). Most of all, he was gleaming again. When Adam gleams, everyone smiles. Adam is practising his skills on his own, and I think that he has to feel that he can do it without anyone else's help. Right now, he is beginning to and I don't always want to get in the way of that.


Blogger Kristina Chew said...

Nice! Dance and music---music and motion seem the perfect combination. Have you read Beth Kephart's Slant of Sun--she writes about a memory of her younger self as a figure skater in the midst of a long winter afternoon with Jeremy, her son.

9:07 PM  

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