Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mission Accomplished!

Typical to kids with sensory processing issues, Jennica has always had an issue with instant gratification. In the past, not-so-helpful-but-well-meant suggestions for her behavior have included developing various reward systems for positive behaviors that would allow her to "earn" something over time. It always sounded great, but there was just absolutely NO way to put it into practice. She couldn't grasp the basic concept of if-and-then statements, much less some sort of delayed reward. Once again, it was horribly confusing to us with a limited understanding of SPD, as we knew that this was not a child with a cognitive delay. Why did things have to be instant, or not at all?

With increased understanding on our part of her specific brand of SPD, and the vast improvements in her reasoning skills over the past few months due to therapy and dietary changes, we decided a month ago to attempt something that would have been unthinkable as recently as November. We decided to try a reward system to EARN something.

First, I talked to her one day as to whether she could think of something that she would really really really like to have. The instant and emphatic answer? A flamingo. Here is the non-cognitive-delay part........she had seen a stuffed flamingo in a store over a year ago and I refused to buy it for her that day. She has brought it up off and on since, but it has never been a priority when she was asked for birthday or Christmas gifts, and I just never realized how much she really wanted it. Obviously, she never forgot it!!

So.....I found a stuffed flamingo online, and asked if that one was what she was looking for. She was ecstatic and said that was exactly what she wanted. I printed the picture, and made her a little poster, with exactly 60 circle drawn on it, representing the 60 quarters she would need to earn to buy this flamingo. (The flamingo was $15.00. This exercise was not just about patting her on the head with a reward, and I wanted to make it as realistic as possible where she was understanding the work involved in actually earning something SHE wanted.) We made up a bunch of paper quarters with velcro on the back, and each day since then, she has earned quarters for certain things that are normally difficult for her. She usually gets a quarter for eating a good breakfast each morning. While this might seem silly to someone else, she doesn't particularly like her GFCFEF breakfast options and we were REALLY battling getting decent morning food in her. This was becoming a big problem, as her blood sugar is very low in the morning and she's a total beast if she doesn't eat some complex carbohydrates at that time. She also earns a quarter when her entire hefty dose of supplements is gone. And she earns a quarter for various other random things that she did willingly rather than fighting us. Much to our amazement, this time it WORKED!!! In fact, it worked GREAT! She has TOTALLY been with the program. She has counted the quarters she had, and counted the quarters she had left to go to her flamingo. It has been a RAGING SUCCESS!!!

And tonight, at last, she earned quarter #60. Unknown to her, I had purchased the flamingo already and had it hidden on our closet shelf. She was SO THRILLED to get her flamingo. She instantly named it "Bisketti." Not sure where that came from, but whatever works. She can call it "Pink Elephant" for all I care. I'm just so thrilled to see her begin to put the crucial piece of life-functioning into place.

Not sure yet what the next reward she will choose is going to be, but this is definitely worth repeating!!! See the photo of Jennica with Bisketti above!

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