Sunday, October 21, 2012

We now have... Accountable Kids!!

We have been using the Accountable Kids program for just under two months now. I wanted to really get it going before I sat down to share my impressions. When we first began I didn't know how it would work but I have been very pleased. We had tried developing our own system before and it just was too complicated and failed. This program does have several components but the book and video walk you through and all supplies are included.

Here is a quick list of what we love about the program. A detailed review is below.

1. Kids become more self disciplined
2. They take pride in their work and
3. Learn to save for items
4. It Bonds us as a family (special date card and family forum)
5. I nag and remind the kids less about chores
6. Cuts down on time kids spend on activities like TV, computer, iPad, etc

Detailed Review

To begin the book that came with the Accountable Kids kit is very well written and well though out. I do not usually have time to read, but I breezed through this book because it was so easy to read and had such valuable information. The book doesn't just lay out the Accountable Kids program for you, it actually give psychological backing for why a system like this can be so valuable. Then in the back there are example chores based on the child's age so that it is easier to know what is age appropriate.

The four parts of the program are:
1. The core chores, reminder cards, tickets, best behavior cards, and discipline
2. The privilege pass and the special date card
3. Extra chores, bonus bucks, savings, and helping hands
4. The family forum and quite time

I will go over in brief what these parts are and how helpful they have been in our family.

Step 1 - We picked the chores that we wanted the kids to do every day from the included reminder cards. The cards show a picture of the activity and there are 50 activities included. There is no payment for these chores but the children earn tickets for doing them which are redeemable for things like ipad time, watching a dvd, or computer time. The magic of this step is that these are things my children were already doing for the most part but maybe not as consistently as we would like. So for example my 7 year old has to make her bed, get dressed, brush her hair, and brush her teeth before school. After school she has to put away her personal items (wash out her lunch box, put her shoes and socks away, etc), do her homework, and clean her room. And in the evening she needs to clear her plate from the table, do some reading and scriptures, pick up toys, put her dirty laundry in the hamper, put on her PJs, and brush her teeth. So out of that whole list the only things that were really extra to what she did automatically every day are cleaning her room, making her bed, and picking up her toys.

This made it less of a shock to her and she was more willing to go along with it because we didn't add too much to her all at once. She now got to earn something for doing those things (tickets) that she could redeem for preferred activities and things actually got done without me nagging.

After the first week the kids learn to do these chores automatically. There are very few verbal reminders from me. If they disobey or act up they lose a ticket. They HATE losing tickets so this has been working very well.

The best behavior card is used to "catch" your child doing something good. I've decided to have a prize box that the kids can pick a piece of candy from or a small toy (I get toys at party city). This is an intermittent motivator for good behavior. I have given one out for immediate obedience (coming right when called) or for helping each other. Really you can use this for what every behaviors you like that you want to encourage. My girls love these. The rule is you don't get one if you ask for it which my girls have a little bit of a hard time with especially Abigail. If she gets one for not interrupting me while I'm on the phone then she wants one every time she does that. We are still working that out with her to figure out the best way to utilize it. 

Step 2 - We were having trouble with my 7 year old and 5 year old staying in their beds at night. My 7 year old was having nightmares and crawling on the floor of our bedroom or the hallway. When my 5 year old would stir she would see her sister down there and join her. Because it was nightmares that were waking my daughter I didn't think the privilege pass would work. After doing the program for a few weeks my 7 year old seemed more confident. We weren't having as many issue with her being disrespectful. I introduced the privilege pass that could be exchanged for time playing the Nintendo DS (I never let them play it otherwise). Over the course of a week or two both girls were back in their beds. Really no more night waking save for a few incidences here and there.

The special date card is filled up with stickers for every 10 days that they do all their core chores. They can pick an activity like getting ice cream with a parent or going to the book store for a new book. We will allow any activity within reason and budget. This is a fabulous time for us to bond as a family and give the kids one on one attention.

Step 3 - The extra chores are additional to the core chores. Things like dusting, putting out the trash or recycling, emptying the dishwasher, checking the mail. These are redeemable for bonus bucks. We make each bonus buck worth a quarter. Some chores are worth more than one bonus buck (like cleaning the bathroom or mowing the lawn would be worth more). This is great because my kids can save money to spend on our special date. AnnaSophia (my 7 year old) is saving to buy the new tinkerbell movie at the end of the month. And my 5 year old loves earning these extra bucks to trade in for quarters on Saturday. She has saved and used some of her money to buy a book on her special date.  We have not yet integrated the helping hands. I plan to start this with AnnaSophia first because I think she will understand it best. The concept is that the kids so something selfless and helpful for someone else each day (I love this but if I am going to add it to their core chores I have to make sure we will follow through on it every day).

Step 4 - The family forum is to be a time each week when the family comes together and can talk about schedules, trade in bonus bucks, and really come together as a family. I haven't tried to implement this part of the program yet. I think my 7 year old could easily do this but my 5 year old and 2.5 year old may not understand the point of the meeting. It is my goal to coordinate these meeting times soon though because as the kids get older I like the idea of making time for each other each week. I feel like it builds in some quality time which I think is so important. I have not established quiet time yet either. This is a time for everyone to find quiet ways to relax and recharge. I also think this is so valuable as so many times I hear my 7 year old say she is "bored". I want her to have the skills to do quiet activities and to enjoy that. Currently our family schedule makes it difficult to have time for this each day. We are usually going from the early part of the day till bedtime during the school year. Again though it is my goal to integrate this last step of the program as soon as I can.

In the above picture you can see the core chores at far left, completed chores, bonus bucks and ticket peg, date card, and extra chores. 

The only negatives at all so far are that my 5 year old has bent a few of the cards even though they are very sturdy. She has a hard time getting them off and on the pegs at times. I also don't know exactly how to use the extra chore reminder cards. Right now I show them the pictures a couple times a week to remind them what they can earn bonus bucks for. But when they complete a task I immediately give them a bonus buck rather than wait until the end of the night. My kids love getting their bucks and want to get it right away. I also wish the cards could be laminated because I foresee us having to replace some of the reminder cards as well as the special date cards soon.

Special Note: As noted in previous blogs, my 5 year old is autistic. She is high functioning and her behavioral therapist didn't think she would be able to do the program because of her autism. She has amazed us all with how well she has done on the program. She requires a bit more reminding (i.e. she won't do chores past the morning ones if I don't reminder her to look at her chores) but overall she understands it really well. 

I love how this program instills discipline, positive behaviors, accountability, motivation, and more in my kids! This has been a huge blessing to our family. I look forward to using it for the years to come. Overall I rate this program a 4.75/5! 

Please find more information at Accountable Kids

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Start of Something Fabulous

Our adventure in family life continues. The kids are getting adjusted to school. AnnaSophia has had a couple "incidences" that have turned out to be good life lessons. Abby has good days and bad days as usual. Sometimes she is happy as can be to head off the school and other mornings she will come up with whatever she can to get out of it. 

In my quest to simplify life and get my kids more involved around our house, I purchased the Accountable Kids program. After watching the instructional DVD and reading the beginning of the book we put it into action. I knew AnnaSophia would catch on but I wasn't so sure about Abigail. 

We are only in week two, but I am so excited about how it is going. Both girls know what the core chores are and they do them. Abigail has surprised me in that she goes right to the board looks at what needs to be done and does it. She is extremely motivated by her "tickets". Yesterday she actually helped me do the laundry so she could earn more. I will be posting a full review once we delve more into the program and iron out some of the kinks. But I am very excited about the progress so far. 

Updates to come!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fall is in the Air!

The summer has come and gone. AnnaSophia started school today and Abigail starts in two weeks. This was a learning summer. We decided not to put Abigail in summer school this year to allow her a break. Since her diagnosis, she has been in therapy up to three times a week with additional therapy time with someone in our home 2-3 times a week. In June she kept asking me when she would be done with school. I toiled about what to do. In the end I wanted her to have a summer where she could mostly just be a kid.

This was good for her I think but difficult too. Our house with all three kids in it is not a picture of structure and organization. These changes and irregularities in her schedule caused some stress for Abigail for sure. She weathered it really well though with the help of our excellent care attendant (Christina. Or as Mia says "TT")!

This summer Christina has used the hooked on phonics program to teach Abby how to read. I am amazed at how well she has done with it. Abigail is so well prepared academically for kindergarten. It's the behavioral aspects I am most worried about. Updates to come!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Lighting it up Blue

April is autism awareness month and today is World Autism Awareness Day. All over the world people will be using blue light bulbs tonight to spread awareness that people with autism are important. This time last year we were just getting into the swing of things with Abigail's therapies. She was just getting ready to start at her special education preschool. Nothing about her diagnosis had sunk in yet. In fact, only now do I feel I am finally closer to accepting it and everything that comes with it. I still haven't been open about it with all my friends. I'm sort of afraid of their reactions. The look of pity or confusion or even ignorance that may follow. I don't want it to change the way they see me.

The first year of her diagnosis I just wanted to make her well. I wanted to figure out how to "beat" this thing called autism. Now I know there is no beating it. But we will continue to live with it. We will fight everyday for Abigail. I will fight to help her cope with her anxiety over change. I will fight to get her to want to learn and be engaged by her therapists. But I do not know what the future holds for my beautiful child. Will she be able to make friends, will she be bullied as she gets older, will she meet someone and get married? I also worry about my other two wonderful girls. Will they ever have a sense of normalcy or "fairness". 

AnnaSophia sees that my patience with Abigail is much longer than it is with her. I know this to be an issue but I struggle with it almost every day. I hope AnnaSophia and Mia know that I love them so much. 

So this year on World Autism Awareness Day... I will be celebrating this day. We have autism awareness in our home every day. But today other people can be a part of it with us. It makes me feel less alone. So if you are reading this... please go buy a blue light bulb and turn it on tonight for my Abigail and the other 1 in 88 children and families affected by autism!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Yeast in her Belly

We went to go see the Dr. a couple of weeks ago and he tested Abby's zinc level again, nut allergies, and checked her for yeast. We were checking her IgE level (which indicates food allergy over food sensitivity which is shown on the IgG) because she threw up after eating a peanut, cashew, and almond. I knew she had been exposed to almond and peanut before so I suspected cashew. Sure enough that is what it was. Now we will have to be careful about foods with cashews in them as she could have a more serious reaction if she exposed again.

Her zinc was normal which means her supplement is working. Unfortunately she came back positive for yeast in her gut. The doctor would like her to go on a antifungal medication to get rid of the yeast. Apparently yeast in the gut can cause many issues such as dizziness, brain fog, inattention, mood swings, etc. Hopefully treating the yeast will help her feel better.

She has started in a food therapy group where she works with two other children to over come her issues with trying new foods. I have hopes for all of this but I am feeling overwhelmed and exhausted these days.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Day of Behavioral Therapy

I figure I should keep track of Abigail's progress as we start behavioral therapy so we can see how she does. I really have great hope that this is going to help her get out of her own way so she can enjoy life and learn.

Donna got here around 2:30 (she is our therapist). We started to talk at which time Abby interrupted by asking to play with the Ipad. I told Abby should could play with the Ipad after she goes to OT tonight. This launched Abigail into a full on tantrum. I found this interesting because usually she would not have responded so rashly. It was almost as if she knew what Donna was doing there and wanted to give us something to talk about.

Donna explained that any acknowledgement of the tantrum would reinforce it. So looking at her, talking to her, etc should not be done. She also explained that if I usually do respond to her positively or negatively that she will keep tantruming to get what she wants. So I proceeded to ignore Abigail. Donna explained that when you ignore a tantrum the child will "up the ante" so to speak. Abby did that exact thing. She kept yelling and asking me to stop talking to Donna. She then started screaming at the top of her lungs and then she began to hit me. She hit me on the head with a care bear and then with her fists. Abby has never hit me before so this was alarming.

Donna explained that I should get up and remove myself when Abby hits or is hurting me. I did this and Abby followed. If I stayed standing she couldn't hit my head. She tried to get me to acknowledge her but I stayed strong and ignored it. She finally back down and got quiet and asked for a snack.

She then seemed fine for a little bit and even played with Donna's toys for a bit. When it was time for Donna to clean up the toys and go she freaked out and began to tantrum again. She ran back in her room and came out a minute or two later in a new outfit. She said, "I did it all by myself". I had told her earlier she couldn't change clothing but Donna said it was just her way of self soothing and maintaining some control and that we need to pick your battles.

I think this is going to worse before it gets better, but I am hopeful nonetheless.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Day Worth Writing About!

I have recently been inspired by a friend's blog. She is insightful and honest and very funny. I have been wanting to blog more and today was the day for it. Unfortunately, I don't have any fun pictures to share of today, but I want to share all the same.

Quick update on Abigail. She is now on a waiver that allows her to receive Medicaid and she is given hours for a personal care attendant to help with her. We hired someone at the end of June who is AMAZING. Her speech and occupational therapies are going well. She has improved speech for sure and she is trying hard to function in social settings. Recently though we have been struggling with motivating her. She just doesn't want to do what we ask of her. She had a full on tantrum at speech two weeks ago and as her mom it was terrible to bare. I just feel like she gets in her own way. If only she would listen and do what was being asked of her she could learn and become more "typical" (whatever that may be). I know she needs behavioral therapy (defined in many ways but basically it is a psychological technique based on the premise that specific, observable, maladaptive, badly adjusted, or self-destructing behaviors can be modified by learning new, more appropriate behaviors to replace them). Thus far we have not been able to afford it. The therapy is not covered by most insurance providers and can cost anywhere from $40-$100 per hour.

So onto today's news: I was invited to the beach a couple of days ago. Now normally I wouldn't even consider going to the beach. In fact we only go about once a year. However, I know how much the kids love it and now that we have a wonderful helper (Christina) I wanted to give it a try.

We had the best time! The water was great. The girls were well behaved and had an absolute blast. Abigail loved the water and spent at least an hour in there with Christina. Mia loved it too and did some serious work on that sand. It felt so good to be doing something for my girls that I normally wouldn't be able to do. When I get home, my neighbor bring over a piece of mail of ours. Abigail was approved by Medicaid to get behavioral therapy and she starts next week!!!

I feel undeserving of these blessings but I am so thankful. I am hopeful for my dear Abigail.