Keep It Simple

Long overdue, but as promised, another follow-up to the birthday post.

As I wrote about Josh's birthday last month, I realized that those of you with younger kids on the spectrum, family members, someone you know or maybe you're just curious, might be wondering how you buy presents for a child that has such difficulty with communication.

That, is a very good question! And one that I have been asked many times by my family, and that I struggled with myself for a time.  "What should we get for Josh other than Blue's Clues things?"  For a while, that's really all it ever was.  That was the easy part.  Sometimes I would try to throw some other things in there, but it was always very hit-or-miss as to whether he would be interested or not.  When Blue's Clues ended, the toys stuck around for a while, but slowly began to disappear, making the usual that much harder.  I could still find some things on e-Bay and Amazon Marketplace, but they were getting more and more expensive.  Plus, he had almost everything anyway.  So I knew there would have to be alternatives.  He still loved/loves the books, and thankfully, you can still get them easily at Amazon and a few other places.  But toys were a different story.  He doesn't really play with things, not in the same way most kids would anyway. 

I finally decided a few years ago that it was too hard to try to guess what he might like, and it was clear in many cases I was projecting what I thought he should be interested in.  So, one December as I was picking up some things at Toys r Us, I just let him show me things he liked.  I let him go, and watched what he went to, what he tried to pick up or actually did.  And I just followed him around and things he seemed to really like, I put in the cart.  Ruining the surprise? Not really.  First of all, I don't think Josh understands that concept as it is intended, and, I'd leave everything in the car and wrap it when he wasn't around, so he wouldn't see the things again until he opened his presents.  This was a great success so this is what we do for every occasion that might warrant it.  This way, I know he's getting things he likes and is interested in and he's always very happy.  So now when my mom comes near his birthday or Christmas we just take him shopping, he picks something he likes and she gets it for him. He's happy, she's happy, everyone wins.

So what kinds of things does Josh like????  Well, as his developmental level would suggest, he gravitates to the toddler toys.  I do have trouble sometimes, buying things that are labeled for 1-3 yr olds for my 12 yr old, but, I just have to remember this is what he likes so it shouldn't matter. 

He loves things that make music.  I have mentioned the vile cat piano, this is still a big favorite.  This by the way, is it:  Except his current one is orange.  I cannot tell you how much he adores this toy. I can't tell you how much I don't.  I don't mind toys that make music or play songs.  But for some reason the particular collection that this piano has in its pre-sets is unbelievably annoying.  But he loves it, so, as long as I can I will continue to replace it as needed.

Anything else that makes music seems to be high on the list these days.  Mostly he likes the small, toddler electronic toys - like the pretend cell phones that play music as well as noises.  This is one of the things I got him for his birthday this year, and he loves it: It makes sounds when you shake it, but it also plays music and lights up at the end.  He'll carry this around all day.

The other thing I got him that he seems to really really like is a classic from Fisher Price.  I found it at Target, and apparently there are several old, classic FP toys back on the market right now and I love it! These are things I actually remember having as a kid.  So this is what he got: 

You wind it up with the little knob, and it plays London Bridge like a music box.  It is NOT electronic.  Took him some time to figure out the knob - haha, yes kids, we had to turn dials and knobs back in the "old" days, there is more to life than pushing buttons!  But he has it now and just loves this.  It's so simple.  But that's what he likes.  There are more of these "classics" around, so I imagine we'll try another one or two at Christmas. 

Probably his MOST favorite thing that doesn't make music are these: He will carry any number of these around with him ALL day long.  They are in my car, they are all over the house.  He will head straight for them in the toy aisle if he sees them.  He does chew on them quite a bit.  But he also just likes holding them.  And he likes the colors of the ends.  He'll line them up and list the colors over and over.  He won't do that with much else, even other blocks.  Here is a close up of one of the alphabet ones: Most of these things are very simple.  But this is what he likes.  These are the things that make him happy, and I know because I let him show me.  

Just a matter of adjusting the mind-set of "this is how we're supposed to do it" to, this is what works best for us.

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In other news, the staff at the middle school continue to make me love them. A lot. Amazing how common sense and understanding can go a long way toward piece of mind.  They are a joy, and I am thrilled. 

Josh is still having a hard time.  I thought for a bit last week he might be coming out of this, but I don't think so now. He is also sick at the moment which is making a tough time that much tougher.  He just has no ability to cope right now and it's heartbreaking.

I have an exciting couple of months coming up: heading to BlogWorld 2010 in Vegas in October, then I'm registered to do the Seattle Half-Marathon Walk at the end of November so there's much training to do!

I realize my posting frequency hasn't improved, in fact it might be worse at the moment, I think if we can get Josh a bit more sorted I'll have more energy for the blog again, I am sorry  :(