This morning we had an appointment with Janine, the occupational therapist that supervises the OT and physical therapist that work with Philip at preschool. We met her and Philip’s teacher at the preschool and spent an hour going over some strategies to use with Philip at home.
While we waited for Janine to arrive, Mrs. P walked us to the classroom so that Philip could hang up his coat in his cubby. She talked to us about some of the things she has been working on since break. For example, they are moving to the next phase of PECS to start using the sentence strip. This strip is at the bottom of the book with room for multiple squares. Now, instead of just trading a picture for a desired item, Philip has to put the picture beside a block with the phrase “I want.” Then he removes the entire sentence strip and gives it to the person with whom he is trying to communicate. We chatted with Mrs. P about how use of the PECS book is going at home and discovered that, at school at well, Philip starts to use the book or pictures as playthings. Mrs. P agreed that it was okay to remove the book when it becomes a toy instead a communication tool.
Next, Mrs. P talked about how they are working on Philip’s functional play. As mentioned in previous posts, one symptom of autism is using toys in ways other than they were designed or playing/fixating on non-toy objects.
As I mentioned in this post, Philip does actually use cars and other vehicles in an appropriate manner. Mrs. P has been working on defining the space in the classroom in which Philip is allowed to roll the cars. Rather than letting him roll the cars off of tables or counters, she is limiting him to the block area. After hearing this, we decided that we will set up similar limits at home: no more cars on top of the tv or dining room table.
Something else that Mrs. P started working on this week was the dollhouse. She showed Philip how to put the daddy doll in bed and cover him up. Without prompting, as we continued talking, Philip went to the dollhouse and did just that. Here is a picture of him from later in our visit playing with a doll again.
Mrs. P also shared how, during Philip’s initial play-based assessment, he had cried when she showed him a larger baby doll. Today, he played with several dolls while the adults talked, lining them up on the floor when he was done.
The focus of the morning was to go over sensory activities that will help Philip develop body awareness, to help focus his attention or help calm him. I didn’t get to take as many pictures as I would have liked of the sensory activities. For instance, I would have liked to get a picture of Philip in the swing. Of course, you wouldn’t have actually been able to see him. So, I offer instead, an example of a cuddle swing from a website that carries autism products:
I also didn’t get a picture of Philip using the fabric tunnel. Again, once he is in the tunnel, all you can actually see his the outline of his body. He really enjoys the tunnel, and Janine is going to purchase the fabric for us so we can have a tunnel at home. Mrs. P & Janine demonstrated how the tunnel can be used as a swing, too. Sorry, no picture, but you can see some examples by following this link.
We left the school with a wish list of items to acquire for home: a therapy/exercise ball; a mini-trampoline; an easel; an egg timer; a weighted blanket. We also had homework assignments. Peter and I are to create a list of activities that are a part of Philip’s schedule/routines. Janine will produce icons to use so that we can have a visual schedule at home. We are also going to conduct an experiment to see if we can determine Philip’s handedness so that we can foster his use of his preferred hand in fine motor skills.
Before we left, the odor in the air was evidence that Philip needed a diaper change. I offered to change it so that I could see where this is done at school. It was also another opportunity to see another sensory tool. Mrs. P said she was getting scratches from struggling with Philip on the changing table. She just started using a weighted blanket. She lays that on his chest up to his chin. The pressure calms him enough that she can change his diaper with a little less struggling.
It seems like there was so much more that we learned and discovered by visiting the school today. We are so pleased that we found this school. Philip seems to enjoy going, and all of the adults working with him have observed changes for the better. I also feel like the staff truly cares about Philip’s development and makes every effort to include us in their efforts.