Time Out!

In the late 80s, Mike and I attended a Discipline Them, Love Them conference. The author, Betty N. Chase, spoke from a book she had written with proven steps to help parents use Biblical principles in helping grow self-esteem in their children while teaching life-long skills and learning lessons. With better parent-child relationships the goal.

We signed up for the conference with our boys in mind. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. She spoke about games and chores and spanking. Consequences and time-out and boundaries, plus a lot more. During a break I had the opportunity to meet her and ask a question that seemed unique to me, “we have two boys. The oldest is non-verbal and very low functioning. The other is ‘normal’. How do I use the strategies on both boys?” Her answer wasn’t profound but helped me tremendously. “Your boys may be as different as night and day but so are most siblings. Find what works for each and put that in your toolbox.” She gave me permission to parent them differently and not pressure myself to compare Jacob and Josh.

Josh was easy to discipline. I felt like he tried to be the ‘perfect’ child because he saw the constant challenges with his brother. Of course, he wasn’t perfect but he understood consequences clearly. It seemed with Jacob that the ‘if you do this, that will happen’ worked occasionally. But more often, no matter the consequence, he wasn’t phased.

Discipline with Jacob is just different. He hasn’t told a lie. Or, stayed out past his curfew. The thing that gets him in the most trouble would be his expectations. And the behavior that occurs when things are not going his way. Those times when he slams the laptop shut when I’m in the middle of something. Grabs my arm when I’m slicing vegetables. Pulls me from a phone meeting to his room. His demands of ‘drop whatever you are doing’ and ‘do what I want right now’, often lead to time out. I know, Time Out? He’s forty years old, how could time out possibly be the chosen tool?

Some kids do well with time out. Almost a welcomed respite to slow their minds and bodies down. Screenshot below is a prime example of him chilling when he was having trouble regulating his behavior.

Over 30 years ago we were at a family gathering and my niece, Natalie, got in trouble and was told to ‘go stand in the corner’. That was time-out before parents called it such. As she pouted and tried her best to cry crocodile tears, her great-grandmother thought she looked so cute that she wanted to take her picture. Yes, she did. “Natalie, turn around and smile!” That time-out sort of lost its effectiveness!!

Another time in more recent years, our youngest granddaughter was staying with us. Her parents had suggested a time-out if she didn’t obey. I don’t recall the offense but needed her to understand she had to do as asked. I placed a small children’s chair in the hallway, explained the why, and told her she had to sit there until I came back. In less than 5 seconds, “NANNIE, you have really hurt my feelings!” “NANNIE, I don’t like it here.” “NAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNIIIIEE!” It was super hard to let time-out play out like it was supposed to for that little angel!

Time-out has worked fairly well for Jacob. Sad to say, we have to use it more often than I like because his skill of waiting doesn’t exist. I can be stirring spaghetti sauce, replying to a text, watching TV, or doing a thousand other things and he will come and get me to do something for him. It is often something that may have already been done multiple times that day. Demanding I drop whatever I’m doing is his M.O. Demanding as in, will not leave me alone until I am complying with his command. Sometimes I can, sometimes I cannot. Sometimes I don’t want to because I already have!

Unfortunately, sometimes it means he has to go to his room, find something else to do, so his focus shifts and he lets up. When his patience has run out and mine has run thin. That is often when a time-out is next.

I’ve not escorted him to his room and said, “Jacob, turn around and smile!” I’m not joking around and he isn’t either. Actually, he is mad! It’s hard to admit, but sometimes, my heart, my feelings, and even my arms are bruised in the process. I am bothered that I have to enforce and he is bothered that he isn’t getting his way. Probably, his feelings have been hurt in the heat of the ‘battle’ as well.

But, I know for a fact, he likes it in his room. Loves it. He just doesn’t love that I didn’t respond appropriately to his, “I want it NOW!” When kids that don’t get their way, well they fuss. And he can certainly put up a fuss to rival the pros.

Being home for getting close to four months, translates to more demands with more time-outs. Some days I get bummed about it and frustrated that he can’t practice patience.

And here he is this past Monday. He could not figure out what he wanted to eat or to watch or listen to, etc. He was most irritable and unhappy. I let him get the best of me. Exasperated, his relentless demands called for the two of us to be separated!!

Then I heard him in his room singing and realized it was actually what he needed.

And what I needed, too. Somebody, please put me in time-out!!

Facilitated Communication

There is no solid cure for autism. There are methods, tools, programs, resources, medicines, etc. to make the life of a person living with autism, better for them and their family. As with everything, what works for one, may or may not work for another.

When you have a non-verbal child, you are desperate for a way to improve communication. In 1992 (going way back), all evaluations listed Jacob as extremely low functioning with an expressive language of a five month old (approximately). He would communicate by bringing an object such as a cup, video, or a book OR by taking you to a item such as the refrigerator, pantry, or car. We attempted sign language with little success.

That year, when Jacob was 12 years old, we heard of a tool called Facilitated Communication.

We made a crude letter board that Jacob used to communicate. Lightweight and easy to manage, we actually had two styles:

These are some of the conversations I documented in the spring of 1992 before the above article was written. The capital letters show when he pointed to a letter on his board. Otherwise, he pointed to a word or phrase on the board.

Mike (M): “Jacob, what do you want?”
Jacob (J): G E T V I D E O
M: “which video?’
J: S E S A M E S T R E E T
M: “which Sesame Street?’
J: no answer
M: “Is it Four Exciting Adventures?”
J: Yes
M: “type it”
J: F O U R E X C I T E A D V E N T

Terri (T): “Jacob, what do you want?”
J: I want D A D D Y S T A Y A Z G H Y
T: “Jacob, I didn’t understand the last word, tell me again.”
J: I want S E S A M E S T R E E T

M: “Jacob, Papaw is in heaven and someday I will be and you will be, too. In your mind, do you want to give your life to the Lord?’
J: Yes
M: “Do you love Jesus?”
J: Yes
M: “Does Jesus love you?”
J: Yes
M: ”What do you think about this?”
J: E X C I T E E X C I T E A D V E N T U R E

M: “Tell me what you want?
J: I want eat
M: “What do you want to eat?”
J: I don’t know
M: “Try to think of something and I’ll get it.”
J: C H E E S E S A N D W
Josh (Jo): “He wants a cheese sandwich!”

T: “Jacob, tomorrow is Sunday. Where do we go on Sunday?”
J: C H U R C H
T: “What do you talk about at church?
J: F R I E N D G O D C H U R C H

Jacob had torn a book and was chewing paper. I turned off his TV and told him no video for 15 minutes. Later, he brought me a video.

T: “Jacob, what were you doing that made me have to turn to TV off?”
J: C H E W P A P E R
T: “That’s right, are you going to chew paper again?
J: I don’t know

T: “What’s wrong, why are you biting your hands?”
J: I don’t know
T: “Are you sad?”
J: S A D
T: “Is is because you have to go to school today”
J: S C H O O L

At bedtime, I pointed to the letterboard and spelled, I love Jacob.

J: I L O V E M O M

T: “Jacob, what do you want to talk about?”
J: G R A N N Y
T: “Where does Granny live?
J: C A M H OU S E
T: “Who else lives at the camphouse?”
J: G R A N D A D D Y
T: “What do you like to do at the camphouse?”
J: G O L F C A R T

T: “I love you” (I pointed to the letters as I said it.)
J: I L O V E D A D D Y
M: “Who else do you love?”
J: T E R R I
M: “who else?
J: I L O V E J O S H

These were over a two week period. Were there more? Yes! A lot more. What did this do for us? It opened our eyes to how much Jacob understood. To how much he paid attention. That he had a larger vocabulary than we imagined or had been indicated during an evaluation.

Leading up to our trip to the Facilitated Communication conference, we had friends and family from far and wide praying for us. For Jacob to be receptive, for us to have open minds to see and learn how we could help. I cannot count all the groups who had us on their prayer list. It was a phenomenal display of support.

Did Jacob continue to communicate in this manner? No. At one point, he rebelled. Got tired of the letterboard and refused. Jacob has his own language and good or bad, he prefers it. There have been some other tools we used and currently use. That’s a post for another day.

A while back I slipped into our church and sat by a friend. In conversation he asked, “how’s Jacob doing these days?” I explained that he was home with a sitter and updated him briefly about day to day life. He leaned in and said, “when I think about Jacob, I think about the whole church celebrating him saying, ‘I love you’.”

He was referring to the Wednesday night reaction of the church’s congregation as they were updated on this very answer to prayer. A congregation made up of dear friends, some acquaintances, and others that had never met us. Celebrating our boy and our joy! THAT, my friends is what support looks and feels like.

Blessings in Disguise

Jacob’s Aunt Shellie wrote today’s post.

I was 18 years old when I found out that my nephew, Jacob, was diagnosed with autism. I remember feeling terribly devastated for my sister and her husband, Mike. And, for our entire family. Back then, autism was a foreign word. I had never heard of it and I’m not sure my sister had either. All we knew was that this sweet baby boy wasn’t going to have a normal life. The hopes and dreams that my sister and brother in-law had for their first born son were changed in an instant with a diagnosis that seemed hopeless.

I found this hard to deal with as a young adult. I was scared of the unknown. I didn’t understand autism and I definitely didn’t understand what having a child with autism would be like. I very seldom kept Jacob. Mainly because he was non-verbal and I was terrified of not knowing what he wanted or needed. It was a struggle to have a ‘relationship’ with him because he didn’t show any signs of affection and didn’t make eye contact. I loved Jacob but didn’t really know how to show him or how to love on him.

Over the years, Terri and Mike have had sitters to keep him for them to be able to have a life outside of autism. They had planned a trip to visit their other son, Josh, and his family. When at the last hour they found out their sitter was sick and couldn’t help with Jacob, as planned.

My sister reached out, asking if I would be willing to stay with Jacob that particular weekend. My first thought was ‘oh gosh, I don’t think I can do this’. However, I immediately felt, in my spirit, that God was telling me, yes, I want you to do this. My hesitancy was not because I didn’t want to stay. But, that I was nervous about being responsible for making sure Jacob was happy and felt secure.

One of the characteristics of autism is routine and structure. Jacob doesn’t like crowds, loud noises, and any changes in his everyday life. He can get very upset when he’s frustrated. Being non-verbal, he can’t tell you what he wants. And, frankly, it can be quite scary not knowing what to do when he is upset. I knew I had to be obedient to God leading me to do this and I knew that I could trust God to be with Jacob and me every moment of the weekend.

I arrived at their home and Terri had written out a step by step guide with instructions and great details for any possible scenario. It was meant to, hopefully, provide me an answer to every question and give me the confidence that I’d need to take care of Jacob.

One of the instructions was to make sure I removed Jacob’s sound machine every morning once he woke up. He loved to hide it from his caregivers so he could be entertained as they frantically looked high and low for this machine that he HAD to have to be able to sleep.

On the last day of staying with Jacob, I woke up early and peeked in to check on him. He was fine and content. I made my way to the kitchen to make him breakfast. All of a sudden it hit me! I had not put the sound machine away! I made a mad dash back to Jacob’s room to find him sitting on his bed acting as if nothing had happened.

The missing sound machine was later found in the top of his closet!

But it had ……the sound machine was NO WHERE TO BE FOUND! I panicked looking high and low and everywhere in between to find this valuable object. I knew that my sister would be back that afternoon. Knowing that they would be faced with a search to find where he hid the machine, well, it stressed me out……. I looked and looked and looked some more to no avail.

When Terri and Mike returned home, I had to confess that, indeed, Jacob found the opportunity to hide the machine and it was nowhere to be found! Luckily, they had played that game before and, yes, it is obviously a game to Jacob. He enjoys watching us play hide and seek with whatever he has decided to hide! In his little solemn face behind those deep blue-green eyes, I believe Jacob was laughing! Because he was able to ‘pull one over on us’!

Another part of his daily routine noted in the instructions, was for one or both of his parents to say prayers with him at night. My eyes fill with tears as I recall this special memory with Jacob.

I had gotten him ready for bed and told him it was time to go to sleep. And then crawled in his bed to say a bedtime prayer. Out of the blue, Jacob reached over and grabbed my hand. With tears, I whispered a prayer thanking God for the opportunity he had given me to spend the weekend with Jacob.

You see…… my intention was to help Mike and Terri by keeping Jacob so they could go out of town. But in an instant, I saw clearly that it wasn’t just about staying with Jacob for a few days. God gave me the opportunity to see that although Jacob was born with a disorder called autism, and at times it seems he doesn’t understand or relate to everyday things, he showed me, with a little gesture, that he loved me being there. That he felt comfortable with me staying with him. But more importantly, he showed me that he knew the beauty of the moment….talking to our Heavenly Father, our maker and creator.

This happened over 10 years ago and it will always be one of my most favorite memories of Jacob.

But, I have to share one more blessing that happened this year. Jacob was visiting his grandparent’s house and I went back in his room to tell him hello. As I leaned over to talk to him, he leaned in and kissed me on the lips! THIS absolutely thrilled my soul.

As I stated earlier, at times Jacob doesn’t show emotion and he doesn’t like hugs. Ordinarily, one really doesn’t know if he even knows you are there. But this one time, THIS time, he decided to kiss me! My heart was so blessed!

Thank you Shellie for sharing these unexpected blessings! Your story will bless others.

We Need Love

My heart has been heavy this week. I’m not the only one. So much hurting. So much pain. So much hate. So much apathy. So much violence. So much fear. It’s all too much.

I usually have a couple of posts in the cue waiting to go live. I didn’t this week. I’ve had a lot of projects, a lot of work, a lot of mom tasks. But mainly, I was unmotivated. Seems whatever I said could be construed as focusing on us rather than the state of our country.

Two songs have been playing in my mind. You know this tune:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.
Lord, we don’t need another mountain,
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross,
Enough to last till the end of time.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.
Lord, we don’t need another meadow
There are cornfields and wheat fields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh listen, lord, if you want to know.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.
No, not just for some, oh, but just for everyone.

Songwriters: Burt F. Bacharach / Hal David

Oh, how we need love.

The other has simple lyrics but speaks volumes:

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children
Of the world
Jesus died for all the children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus died for all the children
Of the world.
Jesus rose for all the children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus rose for all the children
Of the world

Songwriters: Donna J. Krieger / George F. Root

Oh, how we have love!

I’m thankful I can count on that! It doesn’t matter who you are and what you’ve done, Jesus loves you and is for you!

Since this blog is about Jacob I’m going to wrap this up with him. Because of autism, I dare say, we have met more people of different races than we would have otherwise. They’ve brought sincere love to our family. They are our family. Their skin is not the same color but their heart beats, breaks, and bleeds like mine. The world, our world is better having them in it. Like a Mama Bear that roars when someone hurts her child. That’s how I feel about these family members. They matter to me. A lot.

We need love and we have it, if we look in the right place. Share the love of God with those around you. He is our greatest need.