When I took Mollie out of formal education just over a year ago I quickly realised that my version of education for Mollie needed to be very different to what others would desire or expect me to be doing. I dumped any forms of academia like a hot potato and opted for a complete and total adherence to a form of education known as ‘autonomous learning’. Basically we do no structured learning at all and anything that Mollie does want to learn is instigated by her. I chose this option because, due to her refusal to do anything, it was the ‘only’ option.
I informed the Local Education Authority of my objectives for Mollie and what my priorities were for her. These priorities focused solely on her emotional well-being and not on any form of academia.
Well one year on and I think that I have reached all of the targets that I had set out for Mollie.
- Personal Hygiene is much improved
- Reading and writing has improved ten fold through play with no formal or structured learning
- Basic mental arithmetic has improved ten fold through play but with no formal or structured learning
- General knowledge is fantastic and has been acquired naturally with no formal or structured learning
- Self awareness about her condition and what makes her tick is brilliant
- Violent meltdowns are now nil
- She is calmer and happier
- She is now going out more often and on a more regular basis
- She has recently made friends with three sisters in the street and plays with them on most days. It isn’t without incident but each day that something goes wrong we can learn from it
- Following a period of depression and low self-esteem her confidence is vastly improving and she is beginning to have much more pride in herself
The one area of learning that I do need to instigate for Mollie is her social skills and social awareness. Especially as she is now back out in the community. As much as I love her for who she is there are certain aspects of her personality that do need to be reigned in if she is to be accepted by the outside world. I also feel that the more she understands about herself, how she appears to others and how she can improve her thinking and social skills the less daunting the outside world may appear. The more successful she is the more confident she will be and so for that success to be acquired a little bit of help in acquiring ‘social skills’ knowledge may be useful.
I have found the following website which has some amazing free downloads and a set of eight really good videos to watch. I couldn’t have even attempted doing anything like this a year or even six months ago but I am hopeful that now may be the right time. I have watched all of the videos by myself, made files on my computer for the downloads and I have meticulously downloaded any activities that I think may be helpful. The more I can learn, know and have printed off, ready to use at a moments notice, the more chance I have of slipping bits of learning in here and there.
To view the videos please click on the link below
To view the free social awareness downloads please click on the link below
The videos are mainly Cognitive Behaviour Therapy videos about replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. They are very much based around ASD thoughts and I recognise so much in both of my children. I was watching these, again, within earshot of Mollie while simultaneously laminating and cutting out the accompanying thought bubbles to the videos. I told Mollie that I was giving Jake some ‘Autism’ lessons to help him when he leaves school next year. She became jealous saying that I must love Jake more than her. I told her that she was more than welcome to have some Autism lessons too and that she could share Jake’s downloaded and laminated activities. She then sat down and watched the first four videos and helped me to cut out the thought bubbles. She really resonated with the thought and feeling videos and we laughed at how they related to her and Jake. So by hook or by crook lesson one has been achieved. When the next one occurs is anybody’s guess but at least I am prepared.
The videos and thought bubbles are primarily based around the bad thoughts that children with ASD can have and how these thoughts can produce really negative and bad feelings. The idea is to take a negative thought and replace it with a more positive thought so that the negative thoughts don’t stay on top. I don’t think that Mollie’s first attempt at her own thought bubble was quite what the expert, who has designed these cognitive activities, had in mind.
Mollie’s negative thought is that because Jake is older than her he gets to do everything before her that is dependant on age e.g. watching age appropriate films and so on. Her positive thought to make her feel better about this situation was and I quote “Jake is a Dick, Fuck, Shit” apparently this thought makes her feel better. Oh dear, back to the drawing board but at least her spelling of certain words is spot on!
Through watching these videos I have realised just how much the way Mollie processes various thoughts are possibly contributing to her high anxiety, need for control and rigid behaviours. Perhaps if she can understand to think about some things in a different way it may go a long way in helping her to cope in a more socially acceptable manner. If negative or ‘poison’ thoughts that cause certain feelings and produce certain behaviours can be reduced, replaced or in some cases eliminated then maybe it may make navigating the confusing ‘social highway’ slightly less anxiety provoking.
I have also spoken to Mollie today about how she would feel trying to give up her control for five minutes a day. My husband has OCD and a regular therapy for OCD is exposure therapy and I do view Mollie’s avoidance of everyday demands and her need for control as being very similar to OCD. Mollie and I have agreed to try it and to see how it goes, if she can give up control for five minutes she may realise that it doesn’t feel as bad as she is expecting or fearing it to be. We have done it today, she followed my requests of what I wanted her to do and she said that she felt fine. Of course, she did revert back to avoiding after the experiment but at least, today, for once, she has complied and not felt anxiety by doing so.
It’s all a learning curve and it’s all unchartered territory. We shall continue and see where our journey takes us. Today’s small successes could well be tomorrow’s failures but at least we have tried and we have enjoyed a degree of success even if it only lasts for one day.