Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Resolutions, Mountain Climbing and Potty training

Happy New Year Everyone!  I hope all had a warm holiday season and are looking forward to 2010.  I love the optimism of a New Year.  You're slate has been wiped clean and you are ready to start over.  I love making resolutions, so much so that I usually make way too many.  I often make 4-5 that are easily forgotten by February. So this year I decided to make just one.  What is it, you ask?  Well, I was inspired by a documentary "Touching the Void" about a mountain climber who was able to make it out of the inside of a glacier back into the mountain and then down the hill on his own with one broken leg.  If that sounds impossible then watch the documentary.  You will see that it seems more impossible than you can imagine and yet this guy pulls it off.  I just happened to catch this movie on cable a couple weeks ago and have been haunted by it ever since.  I had never heard of it or this story before and I wasn't sure exactly how I ended up watching it in the first place.  It was late a night and I was about to go to bed I started watching it peripherally while reading a book and then found myself drawn into the story.  As I lay in bed for the next several nights I would see images of this man pulling himself out of this glacier.  I would have to think about him for about 30 minutes before being able to think of anything else.  I thought about this in relation to what it feels like living in a world with autism.  Pulling yourself out of the void, into the light only to be met by thousands of feet of mountain with one broken leg, in below zero temperatures, with no food; what could be harder than this?  Potty training a child with autism, perhaps?  For most people this will sound pretty funny but not to those of us with kids on the spectrum.  All of us want are kids to become potty trained neuro-typical or not and when you're child is difficult the thought of a teen-ager in diapers will undoubtedly run through our minds.  As ridiculous as this seems it is a very realistic occurrence for people on the autistic spectrum.  So what does this have to do with my New Year's resolution?  I decided to do just as the mountain climber does and not think about the entire mountain but rather about getting to one place at a time.  As you will see in the footage I've attached below he would set goals about getting to a rock in 20 minutes or a tree in 10.  I can't think of recovery as a whole but rather one thing at a time.  My son will potty train once I can get him to initiate when he has to go but you can't start with that.  First we begin a routine, pulling the pants down and up, washing hands, etc., then we start to teach him to communicate once he's had an accident, then we work on him telling when he has to go and so on...  At present we're making progress because he has begun initiating when he has to go but inconsistently so the goal is that within 3 months he will be doing this consistently.  So as to not confuse the official New Year's resolution isn't that my son will become potty trained but that I will learn to set small goals, one at a time.