5 May 2000
Here is a short summary of how Sascha was before we started the Son-Rise programme. He is five and a half years old.
Sascha loves the computer. He can sit at it for hours. We have only given him educational, peaceful programs. He learned the alphabet at an early age and could with absolute precision recite it forwards and backwards. Lately he has through the computer understood how to read and can read simple words. He also loves certain videos and has for many years been passionately into Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends. He sees them over and over and over again. He can recite long texts from videos and books always exactly the same, no variations.
He also has a "route" in the house where he can run around, through the hallway, into the living room, into the kitchen, into the hallway and then over and over again. He also spends time jumping on a bed, he can do it for an hour.
His vocabulary spans several thousand words, mainly nouns. He likes to know what things are called. His conversations skills are nil, however. At best he asks for his immediate desires. He uses a collection of standard phrases, the same all the time. Here are the most common ones:
- Are you hungry (meaning: I am hungry).
- Sascha go to daddy's room.
- Sascha play with the water.
- Lunch is broken (meaning: I don't want to have lunch)
- Mummy help you to wash you (meaning: Mummy, help me to wash myself).
- Daddy buy milk in the shop for Sascha.
- I don't want to.
He does not understand personal pronouns - he always talks about himself as Sascha rather than "I" (I don't want to being the exception) and keep mixing up "me" and "you". Neither does he understand the concept of questions and answers. When you ask him a question he merely echoes the question back to you most of the time. The only questions he understands is "What is your name?" (Sascha) and "How old are you?" (five years old).
The concepts of today, yesterday and tomorrow are unknown to him, except that he has learned to soften a "no" by suggesting "another day". Some people in our surrounding are impressed with how clearly we say "no" to him. However, it is merely a consequence of trying to get through to him. He has never told us anything about what is going on within him, how he feels or what he is experiencing or thinking about.
A part from asking for some immediate needs, he mainly uses language to recite texts from books, like Thomas the Tank Engine, which he knows by heart. He has no imagination as far as we can see, he merely repeats what he has heard.
He seldom gives us eye-contact and when he does it is only for a second. This is one of the things that friends of us have remarked about Sascha. Neither does he have any facial expression except when he cries.
He never spontaneously says "Hello" or "Goodbye" to other people.
When we go to playgrounds, he does a few slides, asks us to swing him and then sits on the ground pouring sand in his hair or runs off into someone else's garden if he sees something that interests him there.
Basically, he does not communicate anything except for simple immediate needs.
When he does not get what he wants he screams with a very high pitch. This also often happens when we are outside our home, like shopping or in a new place and there is too much going on. He is much, much more sensitive to this than a typcial child. The first screams of this kind came already before he was a year old.
This makes it very difficult to bring him to any public place. He also runs around and has no control of himself. When he was younger, we could carry him but now he is too heavy. Now his mother can hardly handle him.
The moment we open the front door Sascha runs out and away with no respect or fear for cars. He always manages to find a way out of the garden too. So the garden door needs to remain closed. He does not hold hands spontaneously and often tries to slip away when held by the hand outside.
He makes no attempts to play with other children. When we visit friends with children of his age, he finds some toys to play with and then sits by himself. When we have visitors to see us, he comes for a moment to see who is coming then he goes to the upper floor in our house to be with himself. He shows no interest whatsoever of his one and half year old sister.
When we do go for walks with him in nature, he never answers when we call him. Loosing sight of him is a constant anxiety, because we have to run around looking for him. He doesn't even answer "I am here".
When unsupervised at any time he quickly seems to loose touch with himself. He can create a terrific mess, throwing things and emptying baskets and boxes of toys on the floor. He can destroy anything that he gets hold of in a matter of minutes. It is clear that he does not understand what he is doing. We have to have a lot of doors locked in the house and put everything valuable high up or in a locked room.
He has a very healthy body and a great posture. There is something proud about him. He has a great balance and can with no fear walk on a thin railing pretty high up in a playground when he wants. When he was a little younger he used to practise standing on his head in bed before going to sleep. He was very good at it.
He does not seem to have any motoric disabilities. His limitations in running, throwing balls and so on is probably mostly due to his lack of interest and therefore lack of practise.
He is excellent at fine motoric work such as building with LEGO with the smallest pieces.
He has a total block on drawing. He refuses to use crayons, pens or paint.
He can go and pee when he needs to. But he does not know when to pooh on the toilet. We have to watch him and put him on the toilet, quite often he will do a pooh in his knickers.
It takes about 1-2 hours to get Sascha to sleep at night. One of us parents have to lie beside him and listen to him talking about Thomas and the Tank Engine and his friends for an hour or more
Sascha is a very charming boy. His energy and presence is very clear. He is very happy and has an awesome level of peace in himself most of the time. His personal presence has always made us parents feel connected to him and made it difficult to understand people around us who has suggested he has a difficulty. After his sister came along when he was almost 4 year his challenge has become more visible.
18 May 2000
This day symbolizes the start of us consciously working to help our son Sascha with his difficulties. We do not yet know what they are but we do suspect some form of autism. The last couple of months he has shown signs of not being happy, something we have never seen in him before. We guess he is on some level being frustrated with his difficulty in communicating.
We have ordered books about Son-Rise from The Option Institute. We are considering that one of us should go to the Son-Rise Startup Course in Chicago in the beginning of August.
16 August 2000
I have just returned from the Son-Rise Startup Course in the USA. We are applying what has been learned to the best of our understanding.
We take turns in spending the entire day including meals with Sascha in his Son-Rise playroom. The results are magical. What has not worked before, works in the room. What has been difficult before is easy in the room. The connection we experience with him is at a whole other level. There are long moments of eye-contact. The person who has been outside the room experiences Sascha as having a tremendous radiance and charisma when he comes out after a couple of hours for a short break.
We feel tremendously encouraged. It is all very exciting!
Sascha took two giant steps today! Before we got organized to go into the room he asked to borrow my computer to play with a programme he likes. I allowed him. He was so happy he blew several kisses to me and SMILED. It is the first time I have even got such a clear smile using his whole face, eye contact and everything.
A few moments later I took him into the room. No problem getting him into the room from the computer. He prefers his Son-Rise playroom to anything. His mother had got him a book with maths for 3-5 year olds. We started to play with it. It had a little white board in it. Given a little encouragement he started to draw numbers and later letters. This is something he has absolutely refused to do before.
(About six months we encouraged him to draw a circle. He drew an OK circle for starters. Sascha, however, was very disappointed with his circle. He was crying and kept saying: It's not a circle, meaning it wasn't perfect.)
Within an hour he had drawn all the letters of the alphabet in spite of a very clumsy grip of his pen. I found the magic formula. He drew a letter and I told him which letter is was, proving they were obviously good enough for Daddy to read.
I showed him how to draw a man. Sascha quickly erased it and drew his own! I encouraged him to write how old he was. Sascha wrote his name and his age.
I have tears in my eyes writing this. It is like the eighth wonder of the world! Sascha has smiled, written all the numbers and all the letters of the alphabet, written his name and drawn a man. Everything for the first time and all in one day.
16 October 2000
We went with the whole family to the playground. On our way home we walked through the woods and met a cat. Sascha was very curious about the cat. He(!) tried very hard to get eye-contact with the cat in spite of the cat doing its best to avoid it.
18 October 2000
This evening Sascha played for the first time with his two-year old sister. Sascha's grandfather was here to visit. Sascha and his sister listened to Prokofiev's, Peter and the Wolf, which they both enjoy. Us three grown-ups were having a conversation in the kitchen. I peek into the living room seeing Sascha and his sister laughing, dancing around holding and pulling each other the same piece of cloth.
23 October 2000
In an open moment between lots of isming I asked him why he eats food, goes to sleep and gets dressed. I asked the question then gave him an opportunity to answer and then gave him the answer. It took a few days and then he could answer those questions. More complicated why-questions don't really get appropriate answers yet. He knows that he has to say Because as a response to the question Why but doesn't yet seem to have the more abstract concept of cause and effect.
30 October 2000
Today Sascha has been with his grandparents in town. They do not have a Son-Rise playroom but Sascha has an area of his own and some toys there. He has practically all the Thomas the Tank Engine trains there to play with. Sascha's grandmother tells me that he has started to play with the trains in a new way. He lets the different engines talk to one another.
Sascha's mother has been practising with Sascha answering why-questions for some time.
On the way home from his grandparents we have to stop at a railway crossing. As I always do, I try to find something easy to talk about while we are in the car. I ask Sascha: Why are we stopping here? Sascha immediately answers Because a train is coming. I have never heard him saying anything like that ever before.
5 November 2000
In preparation of Sascha's birthday I had read a story about a boy who went to different birthday parties. From the book I got the idea to play the game of unwrapping a big present with many layers. This was the first time he learned to take turns. We sang a tune and passed the present around. When the music stopped whoever held the present unwrapped one layer. We played that a lot in his room and then when it was his birthday we played it with his two other boy guests. It worked! Since then we have played simple games where you have to wait your turn. When we have guests (very seldom) we take the opportunity to play a game all together.
12 November 2000
For a long time I have been reading the Thomas the Tank Engine books for Sascha. He has also seen the videos at his grandparents.
We were getting him to sleep (this takes ages) and he was babbling along about the engines. Then we started inventing some totally new stories about them with lots of humour in. The first one was how Gordon one day ate pizza (Sascha knows that he can't eat pizza because of the gluten in it) and then Gordon had a terrible stomach ache afterwards. Sascha absolutely loved this.
From the next day onward I kept on inventing new stories all the time about all the different engines. Sascha learned how to ask me to invent a new story and he had to choose which engine I was going to talk about. My mind was feeling overheated at times making an effort to come up with fun, appropriate stories. So as not to forget the best ones I started having Sascha help me to write down what the story had just been about. He can't really do that yet, but I would ask what the story was about and then after a moment suggest an answer. Then I did a drawing.
We have been running around the room pretending to be the engines. I've used that game to get him to practise the right pronouns by telling me who I was supposed to be i.e. You are James and I am a coach.
Sascha who has refused to draw or even hold a pen was willing to draw the engines and even write their names at the back of each drawing in exchange for more running!
28 November 2000
Today we unsuccessfully went to the dentist. We knew beforehand that Sascha probably had a cavity and had prepared him to our best. We went to the same dentist Sascha has always gone to. When it started to hurt Sascha refused to go on and the dentist could not finish the job. Obviously the best way to make sure a special child never gets a cavity.
20 December 2000
Sascha accepted to have his hair cut by a professional barber at a barber shop for the first time with no fuzz at all. He now has a beautiful boyish haircut.
25 December 2000
During Christmas this funny breakthrough really showed how Sascha's language is developing. In Sweden on Christmas Eve (which is our BIG day) a few selected Donald Duck cartoons, always the same ones, are shown at three o'clock in the afternoon. We were at Sascha's aunt for Christmas and Sascha saw a few minutes of these cartoons. Two days later he started talking about it: "Daddy, remember when we were with the cousins....the man was driving the car and milking the cow.....the man was folding the caravan together with a lever..." He was accurately referring parts of what he saw on the cartoons. It is the first time he has ever spontaneously talked about a specific event in the past.
29 December 2000
This afternoon one of our volunteers came for a two-and-a-half hour session. She has had difficulties in the room and now made her most successful session. Wonderful!
In the evening, our two-year old typical daughter had gone to sleep early and Sascha's mum and I were sitting in the kitchen with Sascha. Sascha was talking. It was obvious that with her asleep and both Mummy and Daddy present, our kitchen was free enough of distractions for Sascha to communicate. He started talking about stairs in a basement.
After some time we realized that he was talking about a place I had been with him a week before. Then he talked about a washing machine which he knows, from a previous experience many months ago, which is in the same basement. Finally, he talked about a photo with Mummy and violin pupils which he has seen in our photo album and is taken just outside this basement. He put together three different experiences which relate to the same geographical place. Amazing, this has never happened before. And the whole time he looked in my eyes and I really felt how he talked to me. I felt so happy. I felt totally assured that he was going to make it and be fully verbal one day.
30 December 2000
We had some friends come over who we have not seen in a long time. They brought their six-and-a-half year old son, perfectly verbal, playing the piano and writing beautifully. Only 8 months younger, Sascha, seemed light years away. I started doubting everything.
Fortunately Sascha did not care and continued to make progress. Our visitors played some live music. Sascha, for the first time ever, sat still and listened for several minutes. He also correctly identified that: "We are the audience".
Sascha was quite curious of the visiting boy following him around and looking what he was doing. We also successfully played a simple board game with Sascha, me and two of our visitors in Sascha's Son-Rise playroom.
31 December 2000
We have worked with Sascha most of the day. I am back into being happy and enjoying our wonderful son exactly as he is. Sascha's mum and I have started to plan how to make the next six months the best experience for Sascha and our family enjoying it all the way. I have also found the time to finish an application for some state money to support us to be at home with Sascha.