Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Beans Beans and More "Beans"!

Beans Beans and More "Beans"!
....our story on how my son actually chose his path for what he loves to do in life!

Some people ask,  "Does Danny really make these?"
Others may say, "How did you get Danny to start beading?"
Very few, "How did Danny gain a love for beading?"

It is a personal story and one that I don't tell anymore.  Working with his hands is something that brings sheer joy and yet soothes him.  When he is hand stringing, it is almost as if he is not feeling pain, or where his autism is at peace with his body and his brain.  Hard to explain in words....

Truth be told, no one can make Danny do anything he doesn't want to do.  No one - not even me!

I write our entire story with a huge smile plastered on my face and tears in my eyes.  For the times that I have explained, a handful have actually have listened and most didn't care after asking...

At present, Danny can attend to non-preferred tasks (things he doesn't like to do) for approximately 20 to 60 seconds.  I would so far as to say 10 minutes for preferred tasks (things he likes to do).  My son can hand string beads easily for at least one hour at a time at least three times per day. This is nothing short of a miracle.

When Danny was in the public school system (prior to learning about "inclusion" and what it meant, and also prior to being home schooled), he was in an autistic support classroom.  Danny was taught to complete a 6 drawer Teacch station (applied therapy from the University of North Carolina).  This is a "workbox" type system, placing incomplete activities one per drawer and having the child complete the activity before moving onto the next drawer.

Within one of those drawers was an activity made by Lakeshore.  The educative concept was for the child to place each bead on a stick to match the pattern shown in the 2d multi-colored photo. Danny loved this.  I remember observing him in the classroom and noting that when he did this activity, he looked like a "normal" child completing an activity.  He was in his "zone".

Of importance to add, I was asked to observe my son several years later in the classroom because his behaviors were "out of control" and for this reason he could not be educated with his peers who did not have disabilities in an inclusive setting (e.g. his twin brother).  I went, I observed and this is what I found:  Danny had just completed a fifteen drawer Teacch sequence.  He wasn't completely out of the station when the classroom aide completely stripped down each completed drawer readying it for the next student (who was scheduled after lunch which was not for a few hours yet).  Danny had a very bad tantrum which was extremely hard to watch and hear.  My thoughts were that he had just worked for 30+ minutes completing minute tasks, took pride in what he accomplished to see someone just "tear" it down.  I would have had a tantrum too.  I called a meeting with the school district.

When explaining in his IEP meeting (a.k.a meeting from hell) I said to 26+ school district employees who were considered his educative team, "Danny had just completed a Teacch station.  The aide went into each drawer and got the Teacch station student-ready.  Danny then engaged in a tantrum.  He saw someone tear down what he had just painstakingly done. It is my belief that no one linked the tantrum with the true antecedent.  He didn't have any words to say anything about what he had just seen.  He only knew to scream.  When Danny engages in negative behaviors, there is a valid reason.  It is our job to find out that reason and remedy the situation until he is able to learn more words.  He is allowed to have feelings and right now that is how he communicates something extremely aversive or painful.   To try to put into words on how he felt after seeing the aide strip what he had just done would be as if you just completed that final coat of varnish on your newly rennovated hard wood floor and a neighbor sprinkled a 5 lb bag of sugar all over it."  Silence.  Complete silence.  What I didn't recognize back then was his love for patterns, beads, stringing.

Throughout the years, Danny loved each patterning activity with stringing (enhancing his fine motor skills).  He seemed to calm each time he was presented with one of these stringing activities.

Way back when, while perusing the craft store, he stopped dead in the bead aisle.  He had that "win the lottery" look as he started to gather different packets of Swarovski crystal round AB beads.  I clearly remember him placing a package in the cart and saying "buy it", then placing another package and saying "buy it" over and over again until my order totaled over $350.00. I ended up purchasing many Swarovski beads that night as his love for beads began to grow. He would play with them in his own unique way - watching the way the light would hit the different facets of the round beads while rolling them around gently in his hands, on the floor, on the carpet, on the table always looking so closely to see al the magnificent facets of light... It was only later that I realized the difference in the facets from bicone to round to checkerboard etc.... Danny saw the difference immediately that day in the craft store.  He always chose round in lieu of bicone if they were available... I noticed but never thought it was intentional.  To this day, he studies all the different cuts and facets, types of stones and beads, the different variations of wire weaving around cabochons, etc.  Thankfully there are many kind people on facebook.  We have friends that are the best faceters in all the world, miners that have the toughest work ever, beaders, jewelery designers, wire artists, etc.  The pictures on each friend's profile page gives both him and I so much pleasure!

With each craft store visit - his bead collection grew while  I would gather homeschool items and try to create new  activities teaching the same boring thing over and over again-preschool concepts and always trying to increase his word base understanding. Everywhere we went - he always searched for "beans"and if he found them, I had to purchase them.  He would exclaim "beans" when we would walk into any store meaning "Mom, c'mon, let's go find the beads and find some that I can get for my collection pleasse?"

Eventually, my monthly themes went away as I started using beads and beading to teach him.  My goal was always to increase his receptive and expressive understanding.  He began to learn.  He started to retain.  Why?  I get it now...  He was interested in something and that was the only way to teach him - through pictures in the language that he understood and through his medium - hand stringing beads.

His collection became rather large and soon I was out of ideas on how to have him carry them at all times.  I bought some strong beading string.  POOF  it was like magic, it all came together.  Danny immediately knew what to do with the beading string!  He continues to do so to this very day...

His daily schedule has 3 one hour block times on it that say "work with hands".  My son works at least three hours per day on making jewelry.  It started out as one activity gone awry - turned into a collection of crystals and today it is his sole reason for being so happy!
Mine?  Watching my son of course!!!!