Welcome back to The Way I See It, an honest look at how what I observe transforms what I see depending on what Lens I choose to look through. When I first introduced this new blog, I mentioned the possibility of sharing about my life as full time Grandma with a grandson diagnosed with autism and other neurological differences. So this will be my first foray of that nature.
Let me begin by saying that whatever I share here is meant to be thought provoking but not offensive. Autism has become better understood in recent years, but everyone’s experience with it is different and affect different families in different ways. So, with the hope of being understood and even appreciated for my point of view on this subject, especially with how it affects me on a daily basis, I shall share what’s on my heart.
My grandson loves dragons. He received a stuffy dragon for a gift from his great grandma. He loves looking at dragons in books and he especially enjoys the movie series, How to Train Your Dragon. I highly recommend this series for its humor, family dynamic and what each member learns in the process, as well as the conflict of interest between father and son concerning said dragons.
There’s quite a lot of dragon fighting amongst the tribe of Vikings in order to save the lives of the people and animals. But Hiccup, the boy in the story, has a sensitive heart and struggles to fulfill his father’s dream for him as a dragon slayer. Instead, Hiccup finds another way to solve the Dragon Dilemma. He trains his dragon to fly and take him everywhere. They end up becoming best friends. Of course, there is a lot more to this story, and I won’t offer any further spoilers.
Of course, over the past several months as I’ve watched this series with grandson and Grandpa, it has given me some serious food for thought.
First of all, Love conquers all.
Secondly, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Not that it doesn’t include consequence, because it does. Sometimes following what you feel is right can end in sorrow. But also victory.
Life is full of true paradox. And there’s such a fine line between letting the child lead the way and knowing when it’s necessary to step in.
This is the struggle the father and son face as they reckon with the dragon issue.
Thus it can be with autism. When you want to step in and try to show them how life is done, they often have their own way of doing it. Their brains work differently and they are sensitive folks. And when they aren’t understood or appreciated for what they do know (which can often be difficult to access if they don’t tell you), this brings on the frustration, on both sides, with both child and grandparent (or parent for those who are).
But like the verse goes, Train up a Child in the way he should go.
Now let’s look more closely at the word Train. It means to teach a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior through practice and instruction over a period of time.
We can all be trained to learn new things and to instill good habits over time.
An example from my own pursuits would be learning the piano in the past year as I have played my spiritual songs by ear. First I had to learn where the keys were on the piano; I did this by feel rather than by sight. I found the keys to play the melodies and harmonies of the songs I added to my piano book; and then I practiced every day. Of course, over time, I have built new neuro pathways in my brain, so when I go to play a song I have practiced many times, I often find myself remembering what keys to press to make those melodies, which is deeply satisfying to me. All that practice for me is a delight! It also helps to have a routine to follow so it becomes second nature to include what I want to do in my day.
I try to do this with grandson by instilling a routine of first, then next, then after that we do this. Of course we have to get past the hurdle of resistance when one doesn’t want to follow through with said activity because it’s boring or stupid in their eyes. But there are some things that simply have to be done to make one civilized!
Now there is a difference between learning a new skill that is meaningful to you and simply learning something that needs to be done but is considered mundane. But the same principal applies toward the success of whatever the training is for.
I try to aim low, or as low as is reasonable to not overload the sensory aspect that is involved with mundane tasks when it comes to teaching grandson the way he should go.
Faithfully showing love, affection and even making a game out of as much of it as possible does make it an easier process; I just have to stay consistent without losing my patience. Especially when said child has to be reminded repeatedly.
So, how do you train yourself to learn a new skill, whether it’s pleasurable or mundane?
I think staying present as much as possible can make any thing you choose to do more palatable, not to mention looking at it through a positive lens. This I try to instill in grandson; sometimes he gets it, especially when he learns a new concept and succeeds and understands. And even those verbal gold stars go a long way toward encouraging those habits, such as putting on a seatbelt without a reminder.
Ultimately my goal as a grandma is to bring grandson to a place where he sees himself as intelligent, capable, funny, and creative, so much so that he will learn to fly.
There’s nothing like the exhilarating feeling of flying your own dragon once you’ve made friends with it, like Hiccup did with Toothless.
I’m sure that grandson would love to fly on a dragon too. Maybe he will some day—-in a story he writes and illustrates.
In the meanwhile, he’ll have to learn to do the mundane things, one day at a time, even if it’s boring.
I think he would tell me, I’d rather watch a movie, Grandma. Can you put on How to Train Your Dragon?
Yes, dear grandson, I can do that for you. Just make sure you brush your teeth afterwards, ok?
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I'm Dawn Herring. Here is a space where I share The Way I See It from my many Life Lenses of Art, Music, Journal Keeping, Autism, Mental Health, being Full Time Grandma of Special Needs Grandson, and many other POVs that are relevant and helpful. Prepare for a full spectrum of experience, with an invitation for you to share your POV because The Way You See It Matters too.