In previous entries, I’ve talked about Nate’s low muscle tone, which causes him to naturally sit in a backwards “W” position. It also gives him weakened strength in his chest, which hinders his ability to point up at things that he wants. It’s a skill he’s never developed so Nate doesn’t have an effective way to ask us for things that are out of reach like a cup or a toy. While we’ve tried to naturally cultivate this ability in Nate by placing highly preferred items in high places, it’s not worked. Over the past few weeks, we’ve begun working on “distal pointing,” teaching Nate to point in a specific reference to something.
It’s slow going. First, Nate’s gotten in the groove of therapy so to throw in a whole new skill set made him uneasy and unsure of what was being asked of him. We started doing distal pointing on the third shelf in Nate’s playroom (aka my former living room) and it was like starting therapy all over again: crying, sobbing, kicking. He just didn’t understand what we wanted him to do so he freaked out. By the end of that 1.5 hour session, he started to see that we were showing him a new way to request items but, still, it wasn’t quite ingrained in his mind. Practice makes perfect so it continues to be incorporated in his nine weekly sessions. On one glorious day, Nate actually grabbed my hand and gestured (not pointed but gestured) for me to get the squeaky balloons off the high shelf for us to play with.
Meanwhile, we’ve also been working on animal identification by playing with Nate’s zoo and puzzles, reading books, and singing songs. (Miss Lisa has a particularly unique version of the “Three Little Monkeys” song that goes like this: “Three little monkeys swinging in a tree/Teasing Mr. Alligator, Can’t Catch Me!/Along comes Mr. Alligator quiet as can be/And SNAPS! that monkey right out of the tree!”) Last week, Miss Lisa asked if we’d been to the zoo lately. Since we’ve been working on animals and distal pointing, she thought that it might be an activity right up his alley. So today, we loaded up the four-wheel drive sleigh and headed to the zoo. We’d been there once before and Nate was nonplussed. But that was months ago! Maybe this time, Nate would get a kick out of seeing tigers and monkeys! (OH MY!) And with our distal pointing practice, maybe Nate would see the things that we were pointing at!!! We drove to the zoo dreaming of purchasing an annual pass to the place: what a wonderful way to practice distal pointing all year long!!!
Guess what, people? Nate could have cared less.
When we first arrived at the zoo, we saw this guy.
We asked Nate if he saw the tiger. We pointed at the tiger. We talked to the tiger. Everything was tiger tiger tiger. Nate did not see or care about the tiger. So, we carried on. We came across this guy: a statue of Mr. Alligator! We figured Nate might want to get out and play on him.
Instead, Nate freaked out a little and took off running down this path, which was the exit to the rainforest exhibit.
Chad re-directed Nate into the gate and they took a waddle through the rainforest. Nate said I should follow him.
When we got inside, we were greeted with a Nate-sized balcony overlooking running water. A connoisseur of water, Nate naturally wanted to get in.
We explained that a) the water was smelly and b) Mom’s favorite exhibit was coming up. Let’s go see some river otters!!!! Unfortunately, the otters were sleeping.
But never fear! Nate was Otterly Prepared!!!
We left the rainforest and carried on to more distal pointing activities including my other favorite gang: PRAIRIE DOGS! They’re featured in one of Nate’s favorite books, The Great Fuzz Frenzy by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel.
Nate didn’t notice the prairie dogs from our really pointed distal point. He sort of noticed them when he met the up close.
This is how the entire trip went. We pointed at things (warthogs, bison, ducks, peacocks) and Nate didn’t respond. He only really noticed one thing: Duck Feet.
On the pavement all over the zoo are painted animal prints that lead you here and there. Nate didn’t pay attention to the bear prints or the other animals but he did notice the duck ones.
He followed them three times. Once the path ended, he turned around and started again.
After thoroughly exhausting his parents with the great duck feet adventure, we headed to Sunday brunch. It was awesome! This place had tons of food including Nate sized eclairs. The fudgy eclair top wound up all over his face.
All this to say, we’ve got a ways to go on the distal pointing thing. (Lucky for us, we’ve got a week chock full of therapy…plenty of opportunity to practice.) And we won’t be buying zoo passes any time soon.
We’re also headed tomorrow to the dreaded pediatric neurologist appointment. I’ve heard that between 25 – 30% of children with autism have seizures, so we want to get a baseline for Nate in case they develop. In the meantime, here’s pointing at you!
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