10 January 2003
It is Friday evening and I have returned from a two-day job in another part of Sweden and been away for two nights. Sascha is lying in bed and I am giving him a good night hugh. He looks at me and says calmly: "What did you do at your work, daddy?"
I had not said anything, it was his spontaneous question. Sascha has never asked that question before or even anything close to it. Clearly his world is opening up and becoming bigger.
Half an hour later, Sascha - as usual - has still not gone to sleep. I go and lay next to him. Sascha starts reciting old stories and ask questions he has asked a million times and knows the answers to. I am tired, it is nearly over ten o'clock and I ask him not to talk but to go to sleep: "Sascha, it is time to sleep now. We can talk tomorrow." Sascha gives a slight smile and comes with the statement we thought we would never hear him say: "I am the one who decides if I am going to talk or not." This may seem obnoxious to many parents but to us it is simply like wonderful, beautiful music.
In total gratitude I answer Sascha: "Of course you do, my darling son." Sascha talks a bit more and then goes to sleep.
This Christmas holiday has been the most wonderful ever.
Sascha and his sister have played together a lot, really enjoying each others presence.
The basic breakthrough is that Sascha’s sister has discovered that she can talk to Sascha and that he will answer back. It is an absolute joy to see them having fun and enjoying one another.
The photograph shows Sascha and his sister having a good time watching a (carefully selected) video together.
Getting Sascha to look into the camera is a rare feat, so look closely!
17 February 2003
Sascha was at his second dancing lesson offered by our local Child Rehabilitation Center. Just like the first lesson a week ago, the teacher didn’t want me in the room. She has so much energy that she manages to hold Sascha’s attention on her own. Sascha managed to follow her instructions and do all of the movements for 45 minutes. It’s a real turning point! I could sit outside and didn't even need to bring him to his lesson. I could just tell him that the teacher was starting and that he needed to go there.
We have also tried other activities at the Center. It seems that success is totally dependent on the enthusiasm of the teacher. Teachers who do not have enough energy, enthusiasm and excitement simply do not catch his attention and then our presence as parents is needed to keep him involved.
Another achievement is that Sascha now handles his toilet and pooh procedure all by himself. He knows when he needs to go to the toilet and he can wipe himself. A little reminder to wash his hands is all the is left.
Also, when asked Sascha can say what his favourite food, colour and animal is. Before he just said: I don't know as an answer to those questions. He couldn't choose. To help this process on the way we've all asked him at the end of our sessions what he liked doing the most. Then we tell him what we liked the most.
The picture shows Sascha at today's Son-Rise meeting with all his assistants.
Previously, we could keep Sascha busy during our meetings with the computer. But Sascha doesn't think the computer is so interesting any more. He prefers people!
We now use the social setting of the meeting to do some training with him towards the end of the meeting.
26 February 2003
Sascha makes his very first visit to school.
A week ago we had a meeting at the our local school to see if it would be possible for Sascha to participate for an hour or two a week in a regular school class of his age group. Our school has an activity called Nature Class where the children spend every Wednesday morning on an outing in nature and then every Morning discussing the outing. This is done in a small group of twelve children. It seemed as good as it could get for Sascha.
Today's Nature School class demanded that Sascha be able to ski. We quickly got him skies and Sascha quickly learned. He did not interact very much with the other children but he was interested and the other children were kind to him
3 March 2003
Today, Sascha has been in a classroom for the first time. He manages for a short period of time, but even the environment of a relatively small class is overwhelming to him. We need to do a lot of practise in the Son-Rise room to help him know how to manage. In knowledge, however, Sascha is totally up to it and knew the answers to most questions.
Sascha can now cycle!
In his Nature Class in school, Sascha is going to need to cycle. He attends this class once a week and goes out in nature with half his class, the teacher and his mother.
Today, Sascha has got a bicycle and one of his assistants is outside helping him to learn. Whatever motivation was lacking when he tried cycling last summer is there now. Within an hour he mastered cycling on his own after getting help to get started.
9 April 2003
After five months Sascha has finally accepted that he is eight years old. He has stubbornly refused to become eight years old and insisted on being seven. The reason? Sascha found out that Pippi Longstocking, whom he loves, is nine years old. Sascha wants to be like Pippi when he is nine. So, he realises that in order to be nine he first has to be eight. It is a clear shift, you ask him his age and he answers: "I am eight years old."
19 April 2003
I have been out cycling with Sascha for nearly an hour.
I took him only a few days to master getting started and now he is cycling as any young boy. We have plenty of safe cycle paths in our neighbourhood. Sascha has an impressive stamina, working hard to cycle uphill. At the same time he is quire careful going downhill and when he thinks it is too steep, he dismounts and walks.
Sascha clearly enjoys his new found ability. It is also clear that Sascha has no motoric difficulties whatsoever in this respect.
We can feel a general shift in the family since Christmas. Everything is easier. It has clearly got to do with that Sascha is clearly more communicative than ever. There are some occasional relapses when things get intense but Sascha gets over them pretty quickly. We can now have meaningful conversations around the dinner table. We can explain to him when in time things are going to happen. Sascha asks for permission to do things. His language is getting so good that his amazing intellect gets more visible. His intriguing charm makes him real fun to be with.
Maybe his communicative ability is most clearly illustrated by his ability to talk on the phone. There is no difficulty talking to him for a minute on the phone. He is so good at talking that the verbal-only communication over a telephone is enough to hold his attention.
Also, Sascha's sister is getting better and better at handling him and talking to him. She loves being with him whenever he is outside the room. Sascha is clearly her most beloved friend.
Another development is the hunger for knowledge that Sascha has. It is no different from any other boy of his age, actually maybe Sascha is even more passionate. Recently he has learned all the parts of the human body. He also knows geography really well, countries, continents, capitals and flags. His memory seems to store everything with little or no effort.
Our five assistants - Clara, Lisa, Veronica, Johanna and Malin - are all still with us doing a great job!
Most wonderful of all, Sascha is happy, energetic, humorous, harmonious and has a real zest for life. We are totally convinced that it is due to the love and respect build into the Son-Rise method. Throughout all the hours he has spent in his Son-Rise playroom for the last two and a half years the Son-Rise attitude has respected and nourished our sons love of life. Sascha today is a living proof of this.
Yes, there is still work to be done. But we have covered an enormous amount of ground since we started with Son-Rise in August 2000 with a son who did not have a clue about what communication was.
The photo shows Sascha today in our garden digging while being admired by his sister. He is looking for worms to put in our compost, all on his own initiative.
23 April 2003
We have just discovered a new wonderful pattern in Sascha. He wants to do things himself.
Sascha loves rice crackers with butter, but he did not want to butter them himself before. This pattern has been true in many other areas as well. But this is changing. Now, he is saying: "I want to" or "I can" and he works to butter his rice crackers himself. It seems to be the same pattern as when we went bycycling the other day. He worked hard to get uphill and he made it. That was probably the first time I saw this fighting spirit in him.
Sascha seems to be discovering himself and his passions. It is truly remarkable to see in a child who less than three years ago more behaved like a robot. Today there is no doubt. He is a person, a wonderful person.
26 April 2003
Three small victories today.
Today Sascha showed that the conversational training we have done with him for quite some time is paying off.
Twice a year we go to a garage to change tires, from summer tires to winter tires and then back again. Today it was time to put on summer tires. Sascha has enjoyed this activity since long before we started the Son-Rise program. As it is only two times a year it is always interesting to see how he has grown. Today Sascha went up to the man changing our tires and spontaneously asked him: Why are you wearing gloves?. It was clearly expressed with no shyness. The man smiled probably charmed by Sascha’s innocent directness and answered: To avoid hurting myself and not to get dirty. We have worked very intensely training him to ask questions in the room so it is very encouraging to see it paying off.
Later in the day Sascha was on a public bus with his mum and sister. The met another family we know with a daughter of six. The daughter had friend, also six years old, whom we did not know. She heard Sascha speaking English and asked Sascha in Swedish:
Are you Swedish?
Yes, answered Sascha.
You can to explain to the girl why you speak English, suggest mummy.
Why do we speak English, Sascha asks himself first, then he continues correctly, Because mummy comes from Switzerland.
The girl was satisfied with the answer. (Adults would of course, keep asking!) We are very happy. A public bus is a place full of impressions. Still Sascha managed this simple conversation in this environment.
The last victory today was attending 30 minutes of story telling time in The English Bookshop in our city. A lady read a few English books to English speaking children. The environment is in the bookshop with customers looking at the same time. There is three children and three grown-ups attending the story telling. Giving Sascha pieces of apple keeps him sitting down. He sits relatively still listens to the stories and answers the questions. We are so proud.
20 July 2003
This year we have been three weeks at our summer place in Gotland. It is Youth Hostel style place situated in the most beautiful nature.
There are several families with children having their summer vacation there and the parents are relaxed so it is an ideal place for us.
No one knows of Sascha’s autistic challenge. This year no one seemed to notice that Sascha was different in any way. It would require knowledge about autism to spot Sascha’s challenge. Sascha found a way to play with his sister and a typical 7 year old boy staying at the place. Sascha comes across as perhaps a bit introvert but his communication and social skills are good enough to handle these situations in a relaxed setting.
One evening four children, Sascha 8, his sister 4 and and a boy 7 and a girl 4 were playing for several hours in an evening, handling situations sharing toys with no problems.
On the last day we asked one family that we have gotten to know really well about their impressions - the family with the four year old girl Sascha had played with. They could not see any problems in Sascha and were amazed at the results we have achieved.
There were funny things as well. One afternoon Sascha and his sister had been gone for quite some time. We found out later they had walked together over a road to a letterbox because Sascha's sister had written a letter she wanted to post. They were, of course, not allowed to cross the road themselves. (It was a very small road with little and slow traffic but nevertheless). Finally we got to hear how it had happened.
Sascha said. My sister told me to go
Sascha's sister said: I held Sascha’s hand.
Even if Sascha is not at all the grown-up that his sister sees, Sascha had, most likey as we know him, taken responsability and made sure there were no cars when they crossed the road.
24 September 2003
Today was a landmark for Sascha in his Nature Class in School. Since March this year Sascha attends a normal school once a week for three hours during Nature Class. Nature Class means the whole class is outside doing various projects together. During the spring this was a small group of about 15 children, now it is a big group of 26 children. Sascha has, up until today, handled this by doing some isms such as being exclusive verbally. This means that he has talked to himself about his own chosen subject and it has not been possible to break in for a conversation or to keep him quite.
Today was the first time Sascha didn’t ism at all for the whole time we were at Nature Class. He went in line with the other children and was quiet. He stood in the circle when the teachers were talking and participated in the tasks given with concentration and focus.
When it was time to eat our fruit we sat down next to two girls in the class. I started a conversation with them and Sascha participated. One of the girls is German and in the conversation she was mentioning something about that. Then with a little prompting Sascha shared which words he knew in German. It was obvious that he was happy to share those words, because it came easily and his voice was cheerful.
Later when we were standing in the big circle Sascha started playing with one of the girls and put his bonnet on her. She (bless her) let him do that and was smiling. He has often mentioned playing with her with his bonnet.
The children in the class are very sweet towards Sascha, they are helpful, they explain things to Sascha, they are patient and they call him back if he is running of somewhere. It seems like, with Son-Rise, Sascha brings out the best in his classmates just like he has done with his assistants.
26 October 2003
We have an assistants meeting and everyone shares developments since last assistants meeting:
- Sascha can now eat an apple by himself. Before he would only eat an apple if cut up in slices. Or he would leave most of what was eatable out of fear of the discomfort of eating the core. Now he has learnt and feels safe with eating all the apple but not the core.
- He talks about two girls from the Nature School which he knows by name. He says they are his friends.
- At the dance class arranged by the Child Rehabilitation Center there was a performance. Sascha handled it beautifully and gave the audience - all the parents - a small but noticable smile. Obviously he had taken in the experience of being in front of a group and liked it.
- A stronger sense of self in Sascha seems to be emerging. He is calmer and more self-assured.
- He uses language more. He seems to have discovered that it is a key to being able to interact with others. He will say things like: "Now I am going to ask you a question", "I wonder what is going to happen tomorrow". He will also more aften ask for help rather than saying: "I can't."
- He is less controlling about some activities in the room and allows for the assistants suggestions more.
5 November 2003
It is Sascha’s birthday today. He is nine years old! Going back one year gives us a perspective on how he has grown.
When Sascha got his presents in bed this morning he said spontaeneously: That’s a nice present to each of the presents he got. The night before he said: "This is the last night I am 8 years old."Quite a contrast to a year ago when he refused to accept to be 8 years old.
Wednesday is the day Sascha goes to Nature School in the morning so he started his birthday there.
His class sang for him and Sascha went around and offered the children a little piece of chocolate. The class this day was about learning about different buildings in our little village. It was difficult for Sascha to stand and listen to the teacher talking when we stopped by a building. But he still didn’t ism, except for a bit of running around during the break and circle time. At one point he wanted to talk about one of his repetitive subjects. I told him that it wasn’t the right time to talk about that and especially not in English. He accepted and said: We can do that when we get home.
Then we went on a walk, Sascha with a boy buddy. They had to follow a map and then stop at different signs where there was a text written and three alternative answers to a question. Both boys read out loud the text and I noticed that Sascha was slightly smoother in his reading although I could tell that his buddy was good at reading too. Figuring out the right answer was easy for Sascha. I was very pleased to see that we have managed to keep Sascha's reading and writing ability at his age level.
Sascha’s buddy was very sweet calling Sascha to follow him and showing him pedagogically (as he had seen me do) where things were written.
Back in the Son-Rise room later in the day our assistant Clara said that she noticed a big difference from last year. Now Sascha showed interest in the present she had brought for him. He was also eager to open the envelope with congratulation card. When he looked at the present Clara had given him he showed clearly he was happy.
Later Sascha asked Clara: Who is coming after you?" Clara thought that maybe he was checking for time to play with his new toy, but Sascha wanted to know who was coming. Clara told him Veronica was coming after her. Clara asked why he wanted to know and Sascha answered: Because I think it’s fun to play with somebody. Yes, he definitely likes to work with his assistants and maybe there was one more reason he had worked out.... Just before Clara left and Veroncia about to enter Sascha said with excitment that now he was going to get another present!
12 November 2003
A new day in Nature Class. Sascha is getting more and more socially involved which today's events show. Today his assistant Clara was accompanied him. Here is the story she told me:
When we came to the class he spontaeneously said hello to one of the teachers, Ann. Then he looked around and asked: "Where is Sabina?"- the other teacher. When Sabina showed up he said hello to her as well.
Sascha took part in the activities with a little encouragement from me. When we were ready to go Sascha said spontaeneoulsy: "Goodbye, Sabina". Then he turned to the class and said "Goodbye everybody".
23 November 2003
We have an assistants meeting and everyone shares developments since last assistants meeting:
- Lisa included Sascha's sister for a game one day. Sascha clearly showed more body language, more gestures and facial expression than the last time Lisa had seen them play somemonths ago. Sascha included his sister although she did not understand all the rules. What is new here is the expression and the flexibilty. Sascha is more OK with thiings not being exactly as he wants them every time.
- Clara tells about a conversation with Sascha about who belongs together. Sascha comes up with Mummy and Daddy, Clara and David (her boyfriend) and a few more couples he knows. Then Clara asks Sascha who he belongs with. Sascha gives the name of one of the girls in Nature School, a calm and quiet girl. He absolutely understands the concept.
- Veronica tells about how she has managed to get Sascha to let her decide how to play. This is something we are activly working on as any play must allow both people to participate in setting the rules. Veronica said: "Now, I want to decide what to do". Sascha accepted this and when they finished Sascha said: "Now it is my turn to decide".
- Malin had managed a similar feat. One of Sascha's repetitious activities is reading a book and having the person with him responding in the same way at a certain number of things on a page. Malin managed to set the rule to comment only one thing per page, which Sascha accepted.
We agree all of us that it was a long time ago Sascha had real isms, meaning being both exclusive and repitious. He is very seldom exclusive these days. He is often repetitious, however, but this along does not qualify an ism. He includes others to take part in his repetious activities. In this way Son-Rise has helped him open up enormously, from spending most of his time being exclusive not letting anyone into his world, to being very open about it and passionately requesting others to join.
26 November 2003
Nature Class in school again. Clara went with him. Here is what happened:
- Sascha said hello to his teachers again.
- Sascha answered a boy who asked him what his favourite sport was. He appropriately said: "Bowling". Sascha attends a special group at the Child Rehabilitation Center every other week doing bowling.
- Participated in a game with enthusiasm and passion. The game was about having your eyes covered, holding your friend on the shoulder and being led by a leader. In other games Sascha participated actively, but had difficulites with the teachers instructions.
- Sascha who has been frantically scared of dogs for years, and has been to a lesser extent during the last year, stood still and watched a large German shepherd dog pass by. He said it felt strange to be so close. But he was still rather than running 50 metres away in total desparation as he has done for years. We have not trained him specifically with dogs in any way apart from telling him that almost every dog is safe especially if on a leash. Sascha being able to handle a dog today is part of his general development and gaining more understanding about the world around him.
- Sascha knows the names of the 5-6 children in the class he has interacted the most with.
- Another thing which has triggered a great deal of discomfort in Sascha is other children crying. He is seldom able to stand his sister crying. When his sister cries he usually runs to another room and closes the door around him. (His loving sister, now five years old, usually goes to him afterwards and says: "Sascha, you can come out. I have stopped crying now.") Today on the walk back from Nature Class one the girls Sascha likes started crying on three different occasions. The first two times Sascha ran away, but the last time he stayed. He also commented the fact that the girl was sad.
- The class had been split up into two group with one teacher for each group. Sascha asked where the other teacher was but was O.K. with that they were somewhere else.
2 December 2003
At last we have found a boy who would like to play with Sascha in his playroom. This is the procedure recommend by Son-Rise to help a special child in learning to play with a typical child. Benjamin is six years old, a wonderful typical boy, the son of a friend of ours. Today he came to play with Sascha for the first time.
To help Benjamin get comfortable I asked him if he knew about Thomas The Tank Engine. He did. I showed him Sascha’s collection of engines. This got him interested to come up to Sascha’s playroom. Benjamin wanted to build a railway and so we started with that.
Benjamin came with most of the suggestions and also built the tracks by himself. He was talking a lot about how to build it and where to put the next railway. Sascha was quiet. He put the engines on the tracks all in a row as he usually does. Benjamin was totally OK with that and said:You can make trains and I’ll build the track. Sascha obviously didn’t understand what was ment by building trains, because nothing changed in his activity.
The great thing about this whole play encounter was that Sascha wasn’t controlling in anyway. Thomas The Tank Engine has in the past been one of Sascha's most repetitive interests. So it was awesome to see how easy Sascha was about it all. He wasn’t exclusive or withdrawn. I would raterh say he was passive and willing. He was willing to follow Benjamin's suggestions for play and even came with little additions to the game. It was a wonderful start at playing with another child.
3 December 2003
Our focus this last month has been to help Sascha to share his personal thoughts and feelings with us and to teach him how to share his experiences with others.
Veronica was out with Sascha on a treasure hunt. This is a structured way to give Sascha some fresh air for 30 minutes a day. He wanted to go through a little wood by himself while she should go on the paved pedestrian path. When they met up again Sascha said: I’ve got to tell mummy this. This urge is all new, we have never heard it before. Veronika tried to get him to tell her what it was he wanted to tell his mummy. She asked him questions to help, but he couldn’t tell. When they came home Sascha saw a girl from the Nature School pass by. He exclaimed the name of the girl and said: "I recognized her because of her chequered rucksack. After this he could tell Veronica about what happened in the woods. He had seen another girl he he knew by name from Nature Class. She had passed him by on her bycicle. This is what he wanted to tell mummy.
Then he went on to say that he wanted to take his bycicle and put a carriage on the back so that he could go and give the two girls a ride to see him. Meeting Benjamin the day before had probably given him the concept of "inviting home". Veronika explained the whole procedure of inviting other children home.
Veronika reminded him to tell me about this whole experience when I took over in the room. I also explained to him the need to ask the children if they wanted to come home to his room. Now we’ve got a new game to play: Inviting children home for a play date.
6 December 2003
I was out with Sascha sledging in the snow. On our way home we were passed by a big black dog that was loose - without a leash. Sascha just stood still and said: There’s a dog. He didn’t run away or shout help like he has done in the passed. I was so amazed and excited. I complimented him on his success.
Another development is that Sascha is a lot more expressive in his communication now as these examples show:
- The other evening Sascha said: "I am hungry" with a lot of expression in his voice. You could really hear that he was hungry. Up until a few months ago he would say: "I am hungry" in a more neutral way expressing a fact rather than an emotion. We seem to remember that this is a general shift since a few months back. Sascha is more alive in his expression matching words with emotions.
- Sascha smiles a lot more, when you smile at him. He looks happy a lot more. We don't he has been less happy before but it shows much more in facial expressions today making it more and more easy to understand him.
- He clearly expresses how much he likes bowling, an activity he every other Tuesday since a few months back.