Living with Amelia
With the cold and snow (cold and snow that would make our northern acquaintances smirk), the local schools were closed most of the week. That meant that our daughter could not attend her special needs preschool classes.
Although we're very interested in homeschooling, this preschool program has been fabulous for Amelia. She gets expert attention and lots of stimulation. One of the biggest advances for her has been with picture communication. We have a three-ring binder with dividers in it. The dividers have strips of Velcro. Attached to the Velcro are laminated photos of various things Amelia might want to ask for. We mostly use it for food and drinks. It's much better than the trial-and-error method we were stuck with before, and it's much better than the vague hand gestures she uses when the pictures aren't available. Is she pushing the milk away because she doesn't want it, or is she pushing the milk toward the counter so I'll fill up her cup?
She's learned to use crayons, and play the drum, and clap, and walk up and down stairs properly. She's also learned to eat her snacks without scattering them all over the place. This last one is a big deal.
You see, one of Amelia's big motivators is sensory stimulation - especially tactile stimulation. Her favorite activities in the world at this point are: pouring liquids onto her hands, pouring sand onto her hands, pouring small loose things, like Cheerios or dried beans, onto her hands... you get the idea. So now at least, she has learned to grab that handful of goldfish crackers and pour it over her hands while keeping them inside a container. We still end up with a lot of crumbs, but nothing like before.
But here's the problem. With Amelia out of school, that means she's home all day. She doesn't really have much interest in interactive play. Her main goal in life is to find that tactile stimulation. As hard as we try, we can't figure out how to give it to her in a way that doesn't make a mess.
Here's a typical morning for Amelia:
6:30am - Wake up. Climb on top of dresser. Open top drawer. Empty contents.
6:45am - Open closet door. Empty contents.
6:52am - Bang door to wake up the rest of the household
7:02am - Stand in front of heat stove fan.
7:10am - Request snack. Eat a few bites.
7:15am - Request different snack. Eat a few bites.
7:22am - Request drink. Take a sip. Throw sippy cup on floor.
7:31am - Request different snack. Eat a few bites.
7:42am - Push kitchen chair to counter. Climb on counter. Open drawers and empty contents.
7:44am - Sit in open drawer.
7:45am - Complain about unreasonable house rules.
8:01am - Request different drink. Shake sippy cup to get droplets to fall on hands.
8:08am - Empty contents of craft cupboard. Dump crayons onto hands. Scatter crayons across kitchen.
8:17am - Get random plastic utensil out of kitchen drawer. Hold it against glass on the front of the heat stove until it melts, leaving a wicked mark on the glass and filling the house with toxic fumes.
8:32am - Open pantry. Take out cans and stack them. Knock cans down.
8:41am - Empty contents of craft cupboard again.
8:44am - Open hopper lid on heat stove. Throw pellets or corn across room.
8:46am - Complain about unreasonable house rules.
9:02am - Request different snack. Eat a few bites.
9:07am - Open hopper lid on heat stove again. Throw pellets or corn across room.
9:12am - Push chair to counter. Climb on counter and empty kitchen drawers again.
9:15am - Open door to garage. Complain that door is chained.
9:18am - Open door to garage. Complain that door is still chained.
9:24am - Request different drink. Spill droplets on table and smear them around
9:30am - Watch placidly as Mommy's head explodes.
Repeat until noon, when the school bus comes. (And no, this is not an exaggeration...)
If she's not in school, you can change this to "Repeat until bedtime." So besides the obvious benefits of her work with expert therapists, you can see why we really, really, REALLY hate it when school is closed. Amelia has this cat-like quality where she assumes that "NO!" means "not while I'm looking." She's also tall enough and strong enough to defeat almost every form of childproofing known to man.
We know that she is basically just bored. But there is very little that we as parents have found that will keep Amelia engaged, entertained, or occupied that doesn't involve making a huge mess. Huge messes are fine every once in a while, but not on a continuous basis. In the summertime, at least we can let her go outside, we can play with her in the kiddie pool or the sandbox, we can take her to the park... but when it's cold and snowy, there's only so much we can find to keep her out of trouble.
So, if you have any ideas or suggestions for keeping this little tornado occupied, I'd love to hear them...