Sunday, March 29, 2015
So I also babysit other families. As I type I’m sitting next to Tyler, he’s one of the boys in my first grade group in the after care program that I work at, who’s 6 and has autism. We’ve been playing Mario on the Wii for about 2 hours now when I told him I needed to finish up some homework when I passed my remote to his older brother, Matthew, who’s 12. Matthew is also a hardcore gamer, so Mario is no challenge. I have been working with autistic kids for years now, and one of the most important things I have to remember is that they want to constantly be in control of the situations that they’re in. With this in mind, when I saw Matthew beating him I see Tyler getting frustrated. His body tensed up, and you could hear the voice that comes from his belly getting louder. When you see something triggering a meltdown, you have to find what emotion is being pushed past the breaking point. Ellen Notbohm from the book Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew describes a meltdown from an autistic child’s point of view. “Meltdowns and blow-ups are more horrid for me than they are for you. They occur because one or more of my senses has gone into overload, or because I’ve been pushed past the limit of my social abilities. If you can figure out why my meltdowns occur, they can be prevented.” It’s different for everyone though. Each child is unique, so planning a course of action must also be unique. With Tyler, he is one of the sweetest and loving kids I’ve ever met…but when he gets upset you see true aggression. Now calming him down is the next step. Now, these children take everything quite literally, and they answer everything truthfully. Talking it out with him and explaining what the positive outcomes of working together could be helps. I told Tyler that by watching Matt, he could learn and get better at what he was playing. It’s like tying your shoes: at first, there are these two pieces of string, but by the time you’ve learned how to tie them, there are presents on your feet every day.
In my first post I talked about how you need to get to know the kids, because through the kids you actually learn a lot about the parents. Sometimes you meet a kid and you think you’ve figured them out right off the bat. The two extremes that I see the most are the really shy and the motor-mouths. I’m currently a nanny to four adorable and wild kids. Liza, 6, Mickey, 7, Ally, 9, and Sammy, 11: girl, boy, girl, boy. 4 kids in 5 years. It’s pretty crazy, really. The first weekend was fun and just like one giant sleepover really. I was 18 when I started and I really did think it’d be just like a Disney Channel TV show, and it was. It was, that is, for the first weekend. The kids are little people, we have to remember. When you first meet someone, you want to show them your best you, but as time goes on your true colors begin to show. And boy, do these kids have some BRIGHT colors. Through the kids, I learned that I was the thirteenth nanny. Since the oldest is 11, they were roughly averaging one nanny a year. I’ve met two of their past nannies who have also lasted for years, they just work at different times and schedules. You can always tell whom their great nannies were by how much they talk about them, and their rankings. The kids have ranked all their nannies, I’m Sammy’s #1 but with the rest I’m #3, which I still consider a great ranking after 13 nannies. After a few weeks I realized the impact that all the nannies had made. Now, I’m only 8 years older than Sammy which he loves to remind me, but I find my age as a strength. I’m young enough to be an older sister, and that’s what I try to act like . I’ll continue to act like a sister because I love these kids so much, even though sometimes I mommy them. But because of my age, their dad can be skeptical at times about leaving four kids alone with a “child.” Age is but a number.