Disney with a dose of Autism

We are home.  Our trip is complete and mostly went off well.  But, it wasn’t without some pitfalls.  First, I underestimated the crowd calendar – big time.  It was packed.  Sunday we went to Magic Kingdom and it was as busy as I have ever seen (crowd levels were 10/10 each day).  We spent 8 hours at magic kingdom and rode two rides.  There were wall to wall people and the lines were beyond Mickey’s capability.  So, we did other stuff – Country Bear Jamboree, Enchanted Tiki Room, Hall of Presidents, Swiss Family treehouse, Tom Sawyer’s island, etc.  Those were far more tolerable.  We had fast passes, but they were in the evening and were scheduled around the one fast pass that has eluded us for 12 months – 7 dwarfs mine train.  Once the fast passes kicked in, our day improved.  I won’t lie – Mickey wasn’t at his best on this day.  He was frustrated and down a little sleep and he had a hard time containing his annoyance.  We kept our point system going through the trip, though it was modified somewhat.

Saturday was awesome – we hung out with my friends who moved to Florida about 18 months ago, that morning at Epcot.  That evening we connected with the kids’ kindergarten teacher and had dinner and took in some fireworks with her.  This woman was hugely instrumental in getting us through our first year – I maintain to this day, that without her, we may not be sitting here as a family today.  She was also Minnie’s kindergarten teacher and we adore her.  She loves Disney even more than we do (and is possibly to blame for implanting the Disney bug in my kiddo’s heads).  So, it was very cool to spend the evening with her in that place.  Maybe even more significant – Mickey is obsessed with Sorcerer Mickey Mouse.  We have wanted to see Fantasmic, but Mickey’s fear of fire has proven challenging with the Disney night shows – an attempts at Illuminations at Epcot was an unmitigated disaster – so we have held off.  Mrs. B. talked to Mickey and he decided he wanted to try it.  He did well and it may be our new favorite night show.  Not only that, but he was able to enjoy the new Star Wars fireworks and then when we ferried back to our car at Epcot, we caught the rest of Illuminations.  Mickey did great – not one freak out.

Monday we discovered the Wilderness Explorers program at Animal Kingdom.  This became an obsession for Mickey, but both kids really enjoyed going to the various stations in the park and earning their badges.  We had to change our Tuesday morning plans to finish up the program, but it was totally worth it.  Both kids were “sworn in” as Senior Wilderness Explorers and were very proud of their accomplishment.  Throw in 6 times on Expedition Everest and we had a very nice day and a half at Animal Kingdom.  Monday night we headed back over to Magic Kingdom after some rain cleared out the crowds and we did some serious rides – knocking out all of our favorites and all the classics.

The trip was successful, but not without bumps.  But, that is how Disney is for us.  Mickey has mostly mastered his dealing with the things about Disney that he finds frustrating, and chooses instead to focus on the ways he loves Disney.  We always find something new for him to challenge himself and he does well.  I am kind of glad that it is just the three of us – I fear throwing someone else in the mix, like we did on the cruise, would ruin the magic for both kids.  We have figured out how to do Disney with our particular flavor of Autism.  We get asked for Disney advice a lot, but while we go every 6-8 weeks, we are only experts on getting through our day while having fun and managing frustrations.  I am not sure how typical people do Disney and I know for a fact that my mother would be appalled by how much work it takes to keep Mickey in a good place (mainly work by Mickey, but it takes 4 times as many prompts/reminders from me and a lot of deep pressure breaks, etc by me).  She would tell me it isn’t worth it.  I say it is because of these faces:


Points acquired

Our point system is working beautifully.  The 10 days since we began haven’t been flawless, by any means.  But, the kids have both embraced the plan and the system.  It is utterly amazing how much it has made them aware of their actions.  Mickey uttered yes ma’am, please or thank you 18 times yesterday – without prompting.  He only lost two points for asking for something after an answer had already been given (normally that is done more like 20 times). They are being kind to one another and helping one another.  Not that there aren’t still spats, but much improved.  Minnie helped Mike with some chores to get to his points goal for Disney.

Minnie met her goal of 300 points by Wednesday morning.  Mickey by 5:00 last night.  Both immediately cashed out their points for their trip.  Minnie also bought 30 minutes of t.v. time and Mickey even had enough to buy desert after dinner last night.

So, we are Disney bound this afternoon.  The point system is traveling with us.  I found a free tally app and we will simplify just positive or negative tally’s for the parks, so I don’t have to carry their charts around.  I may have to develop an app for this.  I found some behavior system apps, but I didn’t find one that had everything I wanted or needed.

Valentine’s parties are today.  Mickey picked out a teddy bear that says I love you for his girlfriend.  Minnie chose these artistic adorable little decorate your own cards and individually wrote notes including what she likes most about of each of her classmates.  I am not particularly crazy about this holiday, but these two love it.


I always say I won’t post from Disney, but my kids go to bed early and I am bored in a hotel room, so we shall see.  If I don’t, I wish you the happiest of Valentine’s day.


Our token economy – update

Well, our token economy is brilliant.  Seriously, I feel like I may have unlocked the key to my sanity.  The results haven’t been flawless – both kids had a bit of a rough evening last night and opted to go to bed at 6:51 to keep from losing any more points.  There are a few things that have been amazing:

  1. I offered 10 bonus points for a peaceful trip to the grocery store.  We had the best trip to the store we have EVER had.
  2. I haven’t yelled or raised my voice in 5 days – I just say and that will cost you points or even better, just get the paper and do a tally mark.
  3. The children are making a conscious effort to use manners, do acts of kindness, help each other and do chores.
  4. They are also more aware of their negative behaviors and neither has laid a hand on the other in five days.

I said before, I don’t know if it will last, but I am very pleased with how the last five days have gone.  They are working on their 300 point each goal for Disney in 6 days.  Minnie is at 161 points.  Mickey is trailing with 76 points, but he has 3 big ticket chores almost completed that should push him over the half way point tomorrow.

behavior chart


Here is the plan

A follow up to the post yesterday….

We are going to try this and see how it works.  We have had mixed success with token systems at home for years, but school successfully does it for Mickey, so I thought we would give it a shot.

The plan looks like this:

You can earn points for doing chores, a kindness for others, good behavior reports from school, putting away shoes and backpacks, following directions.  They lose points for Rudeness (to me or each other), fighting with each other, throwing trash or papers on the ground (our home is Mickey’s personal trash can, he thinks), asking for something over and over again, temper tantrums (that one is for Minnie), I.I. at school (equivalent to a principal’s office referral), defiance, aggressiveness, leaving bikes and scooters in the yard, destruction of property (throwing, breaking or kicking my car seats).

All privileges must be purchased – screen time, dinners out, play time outside, Disney.  I will calculate the points daily and they can see their progress. Disney will cost them 300 points each, so they are going to have to bust their tails with the chore list in order to earn that back in the next 10 days.

Day one results were mixed.  Minnie liked the idea and embraced it, earning herself 44 points.  Mickey was blah about it and finished the day with 5 points. He didn’t seem to care very much one way or the other, but it kept the debates and arguments down.  So, win win.  I doubt very much that Mickey is going to come around and get the 300 points needed, but Minnie has already clarified that if she helps him do his room that he gets the points, so she is prepared to “encourage” him.  If that results in team work, even better.  If not, she will resent him more.  I am not sure that is a good thing, but as I mentioned yesterday – I am desperate to make the insanity stop.

Minnie – Day one

Mickey point chart

Mickey Day one

Minnie chore chart

Fingers crossed.  Their lists are slightly different, but only because Minnie doesn’t get behavior reports – unless there is something bad. Those types of minor differences are reflected, but the lists are virtually the same and the chore list contains cleaning, putting away clothes, loading the dishwasher, etc.  Minnie cleaned an entire bathroom tonight – including shower. While Mickey’s day wasn’t as good points wise, he only asked again for something he didn’t like the answer to one time.  Folks, that is a miracle.  We just began this after school, so we will see how tomorrow goes. Quietest night here in two weeks. No tears, no yelling and no backtalk. I am going to have some celebratory wine this time 🙂

Can we get a do over on Feb….already

January ended with a couple of high notes:

  1. Mickey won an award at school for good behavior….let that sink in.  He had the most school bucks earned that month – his behavior was the best in the school for that month.  He was beyond excited, and after I got over the shock, so was I.  This is following a two week break and transitioning back after a fairly difficult holiday period.  While behavior has historically always improved in January, we usually have a rough transition back to school.  In this case, we did not.  He hasn’t earned an Intensive Intervention at school since early December.  This is seriously awesome.
  2. My parents have finally and officially moved.  We finished their storage unit this weekend.  That chapter of their lives is closed and they can focus on their new home that is close to their grandkids and so very perfect for them.
  3. My brother is hanging in there….at this point that is the best we can hope for.  He did pass all his pre tests in order to move forward with the transplant coordinator, but he has been hospitalized twice in January.  So, hanging in there, but not doing great.
  4. Minnie is being considered to move up to junior company for dance next year.  She is on the cusp age wise, so this could go either way.  She has been asked to work on a few things, but she wants to make the move.

And then February began.  Let’s start with the IRS.  I was awaiting a reasonably decent sized federal tax refund that was mistakenly offset for a student loan that was consolidated in early 2015.  The old holder of the loan filed for the offset and shows the loan in default, but the new holder is accepting payments and applying them to the loan.  Obviously, this will be fixed, but I was expecting my refund in my account Friday and was shocked to find this out today.  Two hours on the phone unearthed the problem.  To be clear, I have been steadily paying on my loans for years and just before the adoption, I paid off the biggest portion of them (45k).  I had four relatively small loans remaining and I consolidated early last year (about 16k). These loans are not now, nor were they ever in default.  The state of Georgia is taking forever to process theirs, so I have no idea if I will be fighting to get that one back too.  Not the way you want to start a month.

Also, both my kids have been struggling with behavior at home lately.  Mouthy, disrespectful, not listening, fighting with each other constantly, etc.  Nothing extreme, but just general rudeness.  This is somewhat typical for Mickey, but Minnie isn’t usually guilty of much other than the fighting with brother thing.  I have grounded both kids.  I had to buy a safe to stash the family cell phone (also known as Mickey’s phone, at least by Mickey) because he has taken to trying to take it to school and sneaking downstairs to take it and stay up all night on it.  I don’t know what is going on with the two of them, but it came to  head tonight with both of them.

Mickey had to miss his dance class because he decided to show off his karate moves in the car and karate chopped his sister in the arm, kicked the car window repeatedly and attempted to tear the headrest out of the passenger seat.  This was on a five minute car ride.  This was his attempt to prove to me that he could do karate without becoming fixated on it (FAIL). Backstory – he did karate briefly years ago, but wasn’t coordinated enough, nor emotionally stable enough to get through a class.  He spent most of each class in a ball on the floor in frustration or anger. We tried for 3 months because he wanted to do it.  But, since then he has grown increasingly fixated on proving how strong he is and we have had to eliminate all things ninja/karate/kung fu related (tv shows, books, etc) because he tries to attempt to “show people his awesome skills and strength” at school and on other people. Even when not done in anger, this is a problem.  That has been relatively under control for the last several months, but reared its ugly head this evening.

Minnie got smart mouthed with me and argued over homework, which never happens (the homework – the smart mouth thing happens often enough).  She then threw her self down on the floor in the most epic tantrum I have seen from her in a while.  Her tantrums are hysterical crying – no hitting or anything. It was like watching a 52″ tall 8 year old toddler – complete with little fists hitting the ground. She screamed at me and told me she doesn’t want to live here anymore.  She said she hates her brother. She says his autism caused her behavior and she is sick of it.

Now obviously it didn’t.  I do know that when he gets nastier, she usually gets sweeter (because she likes to fix things and when he is mean to me, she likes to make it better) and then we see some tantrums as she mimics his behavior.  Something is up with her – she is antagonizing him like crazy – even when she knows the outcome is that he is going to lose his cool.  Almost as though that is her intention.  She pushes him to the breaking point and then blames him when he snaps.  She is a smart girl, so I can’t figure out what the thought process is on this behavior.  But, he isn’t the only one getting consequences for his choices and she isn’t liking that very much at all.

So we begin February broker than anticipated, grounded and with two grumpy kids.  We are supposed to be Disney bound in 12 days, but at this point, that is very much up to two misbehaving children waking up tomorrow with a much better attitude and maintaining it.  I know Minnie resents Mickey.  I try to minimize that whenever possible, but to be fair, she has been his punching bag (actual and emotional) her whole life.  So much of what we do depends on what kind of day he is having.  But, other than some mouthiness, he has been pretty okay recently unless she provokes it.  So, this can’t just be about that.  Maybe she is jealous over the award? Maybe she prefers it when he stays in trouble? I don’t know, but I need a solution quick.  I am going batty over here. I am used to battling behavior with one, but when they both gang up on me it is just a bit too much. :-(.  Wine sounds like a good idea now.