Saturday, September 21, 2013

Changing Attitudes

Today Philip had another playdate with his friend Kaylie.  This time we met at her house.  Philip was a bit timid about coming in at first, but when he finally got up the nerve, he came in and presented Kaylie with a new laminated letterboard.  I decided to come prepared with a game this time.  When kids are first learning to communicate, they do best answering close-ended questions before venturing into the wide open field of expressing original thoughts and feelings.  I came up with Trivia Bingo, modeled after the Bible Bingo we played the night before at Stockade.  I placed 16 index cards in a 4x4 grid with the numbers 1-16 on them.  I had prepared questions corresponding to each number for the kids to answer.  Some of the questions were 'what season is Christmas in?' and 'what TV show features Big Bird?Philip breezed through his questions, even knowing the President lives in Washington DC.  Kaylie, being newer to this, had a tougher time.  I could tell Kaylie was completely understanding the questions and probably knew the answers as well, but she was having trouble initiating her responses.  When asked what animal lives on both water and land, once she got the first letter F after some hesitation, she picked up steam and spelled F-R-O-G.  As I asked Kaylie the question, “What is the name of the band that has four members who wear different colored shirts: red, yellow, blue, and purple?” her eyes lit up and a big smile spread across her face.  Again she needed prompting to get her initial start, but then very easily and quickly spelled WIGGLES, this time even on her iPad.  Her mom Lisa and I cheered.  You could tell Kaylie was proud of herself too.  After the kids finished their game, Lisa invited the kids to jump on the trampoline in the backyard.  Lisa and I pondered about how wonderful it was for our kids to finally have real friends. 

At the end of the playdate, Lisa wanted to know if Philip had any words of wisdom for Kaylie like he did last time.  Philip sat down and started, “I AM E. ”  But he didn’t get to finish because the next door neighbor’s dog started barking and by all the commotion, we knew we were done for the day at Kaylie’s.  When we got home I asked Philip to finish his words to Kaylie and told him I’d text her mom what he spelled.  Philip spelled, “I AM EXCITED ABOUT ALL THE ATTITUDES ARE ALL CHANGING ABOUT US.”  I asked Philip to tell me how attitudes were changing.  He replied, “I AM SMART.  I AM TALKING.  ADDRESS THE REEL ME.  I AM LOTS OF USE.”

A change in attitude goes a long way.  Before I knew the “real” Philip, I treated him as a toddler who did not understand and could not be trusted in much of anything.  Philip did not progress beyond what I thought of him.  Now that I see Philip as smart, capable, and trustworthy, he is rising even beyond my expectations.  Like all of us, we need someone to believe in us to believe in ourselves and fulfill our true potential.  Philip is still autistic, by all means, but he is showing he is a lot more than his label.  He is a complete person with ideas, thoughts, feelings, and desires. 

It is now my hope and Philip’s hope to change people’s attitudes about autistic people one person at a time.  Know that your attitude and the way you treat each person makes a huge difference.   

 Finally pooped out!


  1. Hi Lisa,

    I wanted to comment here. The biggest gift that RPM has given us as a family is the change of attitude. We still struggle with motivation of using the letter boards etc and Sanjay is constantly fighting me , he would rather run around and stim with his stuff and do nothing. And today was a particularly weepy day for me, where I decided that a good cry is good for me at this point. He started showing all wrong choices and his hand would not work well and I said super mean things such as he ought to be ashamed that he is not getting this even after 1. 5 years of RPM.... I apologized and cried but I am a sinner and I need grace and mercy. I hurt his little heart and his person. When we have such a relationship going, he goes in complete shut down mode.
    Any way, what I was saying , is the RPM has given me respect for him and even his 9 year old sister, respects him because of the little person that we know is there.

    but it is also sad, that in order for us to respect him and acknowledge his brain/intellect/the him inside, we needed to see this ... you know what I mean?

    My daughter during a car ride casually asked me , what is the big deal about God? Why cant he be seen, everyone will like it and they will really believe in him.

    And I said, that you truly love god if you love him even if you have not gotten proof. it is not hard to love god , if you have seen him?

    1. Oh Padma, I will be thinking about your words today and maybe add more to my reply. A big hug to you. We all need a good cry from time to time! I will even admit I am the biggest crybaby! We all get frustrated and make mistakes. Thank God for His mercy and grace. I have had to apologize to Philip too- a lot. It is good for us to do so. They can know we make mistakes and are humble enough to admit it.

      I understand the sadness you feel from our kids seemingly having to prove themselves to earn our respect. I think it is a hard lesson for us to learn how to love unconditionally. I think we always do, but it does not always come across as evident to our child. The true challenge is treating them in a way they feel our love and respect no matter what. Like your family, RPM's greatest gift to us is a change in attitude. I see it in Philip's brother and sisters too. There is a stronger bond and connection between them. It truly makes my heart swell with joy to see it!

      I can see a connection in your daughter's comment about God and the way we see our kids. A leap of faith is required to see God and to truly see our kids as who they are. There is work in getting to know each one. That only comes with focused time spent with them. In God's case, we are like the prodigal son. God never gives up on us even as we sin again and again and try to run from Him. Our kids can be like that with us. Believe me, I also spend many a day running after Philip when he'd much rather stim and play outside. But deep down, we both want to continue to be pursued by a God or a parent who knows what's best for us and brings us back into the fold. Maybe it's not respect our kids are needing to earn, but rather a more fulfilling relationship with us.

  2. Your reply gave me so much peace. Sanjay's writing prompt for today
    write about something you are proud of about yourself and state why.
    His reply" The thing I am proud of is my leaving to living in California because change is not easy and I miss Rochester"
    I miss Rochester and the comfort of familiarity.