Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tales from The Thinking Chair

Good Evening, Aspierations Visitors!

Tonight I'm going to make this a short one. (Editors note: At the time I started this blog, that's what I intended. Really!) My husband John ended up having a root canal done today (OUCH) and I know his mouth is still really sore so I'm going to try and do a little quick writing and then encourage him to get off his computer and call it an early night. 

Today, I wanted to share for your amusement "Tales from The Thinking Chair".  Our youngest son, Ryan who has been diagnosed with autism started preschool last Fall at a local preschool that specializes in helping kiddos with special needs.  The school bus picks him up in the mornings four days a week and brings him home a little before noon.  He absolutely loves it!  He loves his teacher.  He loves the teacher's assistants.  He loves the girls.  Yes, we have a little ladies man in the making.

Unfortunately for his teacher, he often loves school with just a bit TOO much enthusiasm!  Our little energizer bunny runs, jumps, spins, bounces, tumbles and chases his way through many of his days.  Of course in a classroom setting where you have to be able to sit quietly and follow directions, too much energy can have its challenges.

Enter "THE THINKING CHAIR"

Before Ryan started preschool, I had never heard of the thinking chair.  John and I tried (and still try) disciplining Ryan by using short time-outs, modeling correct behavior, drawing visuals / PECS and rewarding him with positive reinforcement for good behavior.  Of course I'll admit there have been times when I've been exasperated to the end of my rope and have used bribes.  I try to make sure I use incentives for good behavior and not bribes to end bad but sometimes when you're in the middle of a store or playground or in front of your neighbor's house and your kiddo throws himself down in absolute defiance and you know that a major meltdown is forthcoming, there are times when "hey, do you want to play Mario Kart Coin Runners on the Wii when we get home" is the only thing that seems to work.

So it was just a very short time into the school year, maybe a couple weeks, when an email came home saying that Ryan had spent time in "The Thinking Chair" for chasing other kids and not lining up after recess and as such, had missed an opportunity to share in snacktime with the other children.  He cried and protested but apparently realized the error of his ways and was given a chance to  make it right the next day.

For those wondering, what a Thinking Chair is, don't worry.  I wasn't sure at first, although I had an idea. I emailed his teacher to be sure.  In essence, it is a special chair in a special quiet place of the room where the honored guest is led to when he or she needs a break or has broken a rule.  There are many incidents that can lead to a special spot in the Thinking Chair and I'm pretty sure that our son has added a few reasons of his own to the classroom hall of fame list.

When Ryan got home from school after the first Thinking Chair incident, we had a discussion.  At that time, back in September, he was verbal again (he lost his words at about 18 months) but he was only putting 2 - 3 words together at a time.  His comprehension vocabulary was ahead of his speaking vocabulary.  I tried asking him about the Thinking Chair and recall he said it was for No Nos and Not Listening.  Well, that was a good start! 

The next three days I was happy to hear that there was no thinking chair.  It was the end of his week.  Perhaps the Thinking Chair had really impacted his behavior?  John and I tried to create a Thinking Chair of our own but somehow, it didn't quite have the same effect.

Come Monday, Ryan goes off to school and has Thinking Chair again.  This pattern continues off and on for a few weeks until we get a note from school saying that Ryan tends to have the "Monday Sillies".  Apparently he was doing well staying on task and focusing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but with a 3 day weekend, he was just having another Manic Monday!  (I'm sure the teacher wished it was Sunday...)

We come to find that Ryan loves to play a game he dubs CHASE.  Chase, if you can believe it, is even MORE popular than Eyeball.  Well, sometimes.  The game goes like this.  The classroom kids go outside onto the playground for recess.  They play.  Ryan chases a few kids around.  They play some more.  The bell rings to line-up and go in. 

Now the REAL fun begins.  Ryan's game rules are that once the line-up bell rings, whichever teacher is closest to him should chase him around the playground until he lines up.  He of course is giggling along the way.  By the way, participation by the teacher and teacher assistants in theory should be optional but for the first few rounds (days) of his CHASE game, apparently everyone who is an adult is encouraged to play.  The encouragement comes in the form of Ryan running as far and fast away from everyone that he can and not listening at all when being directed to stop, come in or line-up. 

Let me say that Ryan and The Thinking Chair became very close friends. 

If you think that I think sharing this is funny, I kind of do in an oh so not appropriate Aspie kind of way.  I apologize if I offend anyone.  It is not my intent.  Unfortunately, for as long as I can remember, I have had an inexplicable urge to laugh inappropriately at the most awkward moments.  Fortunately, I've been able to suppress that urge in public for quite a few years.  It's the visuals that get me...

Of course I do not think it funny that Ryan is not following rules and I realize there are safety issues involved.  Really, I know this so well first hand having been certified as a bonafide expert in playing CHASE.  (This is a game which we have to be very careful of when going outside because Ryan has a tendency to bolt.)

Sometimes you just have to be light-hearted and laugh a little when your kids do funny things.  Sometimes you have to laugh with they do NOT so funny things because if you spend all your time crying and yelling, the stress will eat you alive.  Little anecdotes that I share may not be so funny at the time but in retrospect, Ryan getting the Thinking Chair because he deliberately turned off the lights when others were still in the room can present a funny visual.  (Especially if it is the bathroom...)

In all seriousness though, the Thinking Chair has taught Ryan a lot of great lessons.  Now we are in the latter part of the school year, his vocabulary has increased and Ryan now will put together sentences.  When asked why he visits the Thinking Chair now, he will say, "because I made bad choices" and "because I did not listen".

Ryan still needs redirects but the concept of the Thinking Chair is working and we are getting less and less of those emails about his Monday Sillies.  We are positively rewarding him for listening to his teacher and following directions. 

Ryan had actually gone a bit without spending time in the Thinking Chair but we still ask him every day.  He's quite honest about it.  He also shares with us what other kids were in the Thinking Chair and for what reason.  He's learning to differentiate good classroom behavior from bad and this is so vital for success in school.

Today Ryan had the Thinking Chair for turning a classmate's placemat upside down and also for squeezing a balloon until it popped, thus scaring himself and other students in the class.  These were new Thinking Chair tales for us to hear but as each one is duly noted, we see Ryan learning more and more about being able to correct and redirect his own behavior.

I know some adults who could use the Thinking Chair, don't you?

Thanks for stopping by!
Karen

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