Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Smoothing the way - The Parable of the Chest of Drawers

Every year around the start of the cold damp weather, I have a drawer that keeps sticking. It's in a tall boy I keep in the attic, very close to the skylight so I guess on one of the many times I forget to close the skylight, some moisture gets in and warps the timber a bit.







This year it was my sweater drawer. At first, I just tried to yank it out with force. I brace my foot against the base of the unit and force it out with two hands,jiggling it until it gives. Then i tried a quick fix with a bit of candle wax rubbed along the draw runners and more yanking. When this became impossible so I got around it by pulling out all the sweaters one by one and put tights in there. Then I could just open it and then pull the tights out of the small opening. Of course it eventually reached the point where I didn't know what was in there and I kept running out of clean tights. Not useful. I went back to force.
Eventually, after falling on my back one day with the drawer still firmly wedged in the dresser, I decided it was time to do something.

So I got my trusty Black and Decker Mouse mini-sander and some smooth sand paper and removed all the drawers with force, and stacked them on the bed.
First, I did an analysis of the situation, running my hands up and down the timber where I discovered the single plank that had warped inwards, ever so slightly. It ran the length of the dresser so one drawer was going to become all of them if I hadn't finally done something. Further reducing my access
So I sanded that down smoothly making the situation a lot easier for everything.

Then I had a little go at fitting in each of the drawers slowly working out where the resistance was. Turns out that some were an easier fit than others so so rather than force them where they didn't want to go I put them where they were most comfortable, the easier option. I still had to do a little bit of smoothing and preparation but I was no longer having to force things.

Finally I had all the drawers back in place and I began to rearrange my clothes into where I wanted them, adapting them to suit my needs Undies etc are on the top, tight next as I need them every day in this weather, then my make-ups st seat height as I have just set up a dressing table beside the bureau (luxury!) and then my sweaters and tees etc.
Jeans and combats are in the bottom drawer as I won't need them until Spring and all my shorts and sarongs are packed away in a storage bag. Why take up time and space with something that doesn't matter for me, at the moment?

Gracie came in halfway through my putting away and she began to help me, bringing over armfuls of tights and sweaters. You see, she really appreciates order too. In her room she has all her clothes organised into different drawers with a pecs picture of the garment stuck on the front.

And this is where the parable is explained. You see Gracie never used to dress herself for school. She was capable of it as she would come downstairs in amazingly put together outfits with tee shirts on backwards inside out leggings, when She Wanted To Go Somewhere.

But for school I would have to just dress her myself with her passively sitting there ignoring my verbal instructions. If it was not a school day, and she did not know where she was going, I would dress her against her will, forcing the clothes on as she objected.

I could see by her daily school reports that she was doing well with her dressing skills task, so I decided to do what they did and introduce some visual supports.

First was the analysis - what steps did I need to include? I knew she had the skills to put on clothes, but she needed support with putting them the right way round, in the right order. So I got her a large dresser and made sure each garment group had its own drawer where everything was clean and the right way round.

I printed cards with the Grace App clothes pictures on them, laminated and velcroed them to each drawer. Yep, I still use laminated physical pictures.


I also adapted Gracie's wardrobe to suit the season. She has a simple uniform of a longish dress over a long sleeve tee and leggings for winter with socks, boots and a hoody for warmth on the really cold days. Why make her fuss with accessories and jeans with zippers etc when it doesn't suit her needs?

Then I put a corresponding schedule on her iPhone using the same graphic pictures from the
Grace App which included her final grooming tasks like brushing hair and putting in a bobbin.


Every morning I pick up her iPhone from beside her bed; where we charge it overnight, and open the schedule with her, using her finger to point at each step while we say it together.

She opens the right drawer, and then gets to choose which pants or which tee-shirt from the selection. Okay, I do steer her away from bad color/print combinations but she still feels in control of the choice. 


First, Then App from Good Karma Apps €7 or $10

The difference is incredible. With each point she gets the garment from the drawer and puts it on. I forwards or backwards chain the minimum of support, which just means helping her get started, or finish it off the right way, according to the skill the garment requires.

Without the schedule she is like a stopped clock, waiting for me to do everything.

With the schedule she can almost dress herself. On weekends and outside of school times she still does dress herself, appearing downstairs in the signature Gracie ensemble, fully accessorised with hat and coat. (Grace thinks a hat will prevent me brushing her hair)
I would post a photograph but she might be able to read this blog one day and would never forgive me.


With the schedule, the scaffold and the choices, Life is much smoother and everyone is happy

xx

13 comments:

jazzygal said...

What an incredibly simple, effective system with equally incredible results.

I love the parable because I have so many stuck drawers! Thank you for the solutions!

I know I'm coming from a different angle but I remember WiiBoy's Resource teacher telling me about her own teenage son last year. We were talking about the Mind Maps Book and she was saying her son uses it. I think he has Dyslexia. He lays his clothes out on the floor, in the right order, the night before ;-)

xx Jazzy

lifeasweknowit said...

Thats brilliant it is working so well with her xx We are only starting the visual aids for dressing with Diddles
we have a good way to go yet but hes starting to grasp it! Well done with the app its really great :)

Jean said...

Excellent parable...I'm looking forward to the bible XXX

K.Line said...

First off, I can't believe you got out a sander. Secondly, I'm amazed by how that app is transforming your girl.

The line about powerless people having nothing to lose is SO true. Scarily so - esp. since I semi-regularly push the issue with my child - who only pushes back harder.

Autimom said...

another fab post again,im delighted that its wrkn for grace,
everytime i read a post belong to you i see simple yet very effective solutions & reminds me more what i need to do with butterfly, thank u for sharing ;-)

Autimom x

Petunia said...

What a fabulous parable! Having two teenagers I have found out the hard way that force only works when you're bigger and stronger than them and really isn't the best way to persuade them to do anything... Finding out the problem and looking for practical and reasonable solutions which keeps both you and your offspring happy is always going to be the best result. Reminds me of what my martial arts instructor used to teach us... use the opponents strength rather than opposing it to your advantage. Well done on using your sander too (I have a few DIY jobs that you could complete for me if you like ;) xx

Petunia said...

What a fabulous parable! Having two teenagers I have found out the hard way that force only works when you're bigger and stronger than them and really isn't the best way to persuade them to do anything... Finding out the problem and looking for practical and reasonable solutions which keeps both you and your offspring happy is always going to be the best result. Reminds me of what my martial arts instructor used to teach us... use the opponents strength rather than opposing it to your advantage. Well done on using your sander too (I have a few DIY jobs that you could complete for me if you like ;) xx

Hearing Aids said...

Superb blog post, I have book marked this internet site so ideally I’ll see much more on this subject in the foreseeable future!

Taz said...

Nice analogy Ham! Dressing is on our list of "things to accomplish" this year. So far we've managed socks, pants, trousers (but no zips or buttons!) and hats! Funny how he has no difficulty taking anything OFF! Usually just as next door neighbour pops in! Cute when your 3, not so much now!!!

The Seeker said...

What a fantastic parable, dear!!!!
Loved this post.

Wishing a Happy New Year to you and love ones

xoxo

Anonymous said...

Hi,
Great Blog and so insightful. As a mum of a boy with Autism it is truly wonderful to see the advances being made with technology to help our children and empower them to have control over their own lives. As somebody who also still prints out and laminates Im really excited about the advances being made. I also work as a participation worker in my local borough and we are about to start doing some work in our local secondary special school with some pupils in yr 9 about to go through the transition stage. We would like to do something completely different to what is currently being done and help empower them to be able to tell us what is important to them. We are excited to start trying out these apps.

Serena

Hearing Aids said...

Superb blog post, I have book marked this internet site so ideally I’ll see much more on this subject in the foreseeable future!

sharon said...

Hi, was referred to your blog by a recent commenter on my blog (I'm an Aussie mum). Just want to let you know I popped in and will be back.
take care.