How Journaling with My ASD Son Created a Special Life Connection
Recently I was searching the house for something. We have no storage space so “storage” is pretty much anywhere I can stuff something and finding “said something” later often proves to be an all day event. I never did find what I was looking for but I did come across DC’s Journal from way back in elementary school.
The journal was created after many years of me begging for the teacher to write something in his book other than “Fine day overall” (one of my favorites). I wanted to be able to have a conversation, as much of a conversation as possible, with DC about his day. I wanted him to understand the question. If I wasn’t told about specific things that he had done on that particular day, and took his standard responses as fact, or guessed at what he had done and was wrong, he would never be able to understand the question. Other than lunch, the rest of his day is described with standard answers. Some of these answers may have been the truth at some point, but I am sure they are not the list of things he does every day. Once he comes up with an answer, that is the answer I will get every day.
Even now that he is out of school and working – I get the same response every day: “DC, what did you do today?” “Good” (Some of the time he doesn’t understand the “what” of the question and other times I am sure he is just jumping the gun and giving me an answer to get this over with) “No, DC, what did you do at work today?” The daily reply: “In the Greenhouse, scooping the dirt, clean the cart.” Fortunately the staff will sometimes write specific things that he did that day, so I can respond with, “Didn’t you mow the lawn today?” “Yes”
After years of not getting information about his day, we began writing a journal every night. I would type the things that I KNEW first-hand that he had done that day. I left some blanks for him to fill in names, locations or items. I included photos, so that it made more sense to him. I did add a few little jokes that helped me keep the boredom of typing this every night, at bay.
We did this every single night for a good three years. The book went to school with him every day. I knew people were reading it, but still it took them three years to finally begin a journal for him at school. I came across this book a few years back during another search for something I had put away and could not find again. I didn’t have a lot of time to look through it at the time, so I put it away and haven’t thought of it since. I was glad to come across it the other day again. I’m so glad I didn’t get rid of it – so many memories. One day I will sit down with DC and read the whole thing from beginning to end.
Below are a few randomly selected pages (most from the front of the book, early on). They are certainly make-shift and not close to what I could have done today with all of the different software available (or should I say, the different software I have learned to use), but still, it is nice to have the pages and the book. (some names or locations have been edited for this post)
I know that his communication is and always will be a work in progress, but I do think he’s made a bit of progress from way back in the day when we were making this journal every night.
Vickie C. is the proud Mom of a 24-year-old son with autism. She blogs about her life, the ups and the downs and what they have learned from both.
This article was featured in Issue 39 – Working Together to Communicate Better