Funny Things: A Ben Update

Ben head shot crop

I have been terrible about updating this blog.  You can blame Facebook, if you’d like.  It’s a pretty good scapegoat for most of my inadequacies lately.  This isn’t really even a “real” blog entry.  It’s an excerpt from an email I wrote to our RDI/HANDLE consultant about how Ben is doing.  We’ve been on a hiatus from RDI, not working on specific goals, but keeping general principles of living RDI in mind.  During this period, we’re doing a full-on HANDLE program with Ben, instead.  HANDLE uses gentle, simple activities that strengthen underlying, weaker body systems that ultimately support Ben’s neurological functions, physical, emotional, and cognitive development.   Strengthening and regulating those systems (vestibular, visual, tactility, visual-motor, auditory processing, etc. ) are what drives Ben’s progress.  Here’s what we’ve been observing lately:

Ben is doing really well with lots of things, not as well with others.

We’re seeing definite improvement in overall stability and ease in using his body.  Things that really showcase this for us are
1. watching him bowl (no longer just plunking the ball down, but actually swinging the ball, twisting his torso, bending his legs, etc.)IMG_1681,
2. swinging on the swing (not just moving legs in and out, but leaning back and into the swing to propel his body forward),
3. running (much faster than before, definitely having ‘air time’ with both feet off the ground at the same time during his stride),

4. riding his horse (he adjusts his body–not all the time–when he slips sideways in the saddle and will be learning to use the reins soon to guide his horse.  He also loves to trot, which is a fairly quick, bouncy walk.)

5. writing and drawing (can write all the alphabet letters with visual/verbal scaffolding, has a new love for drawing CARS.  He always has a story about the car he is drawing, even if it usually has the same components–name of car, the car’s features, and of course the SMOKE he draws while making car noises.  If I suggest something else, he’ll agree if he can incorporate it into his car drawing.  He’s much more confident at attempting different things and uses a more mature pencil grip–not fisting, but using fingers)IMG_2183

and 6.  boogie boarding!  This is the newest thing for Ben.  He’s always loved watching other kids “surf” while we’re at the beach and actually asked me if he could do it the last time I took him by myself with his siblings.  So, this past Saturday when Mark was with us, we bought a board and Ben jumped right in and LOVED it.  He figured out how to do it just by watching others, and with some verbal/visual help from Mark realized where on the board to hold on for maximum lift and speed.  Crazy!IMG_2209

The things that we’re not seeing changes in (and are driving me crazy) are

1.  eating with his fingers
2.  dawdling and getting sidetracked when he is expected to get his shoes, get dressed, pick something up, put something away, etc.
3.  freaking out about nail cutting (fingers and toes) and not as intensely, but haircuts are still a challenge
4.  getting out of bed every night to get in bed with Mark and I

5.  pronation is still pronounced, not sure how to judge improvement there other than increased mobility as mentioned above

6.  just recently, I noticed that holding hands with other children is something Ben is very tactilely averse to.  Holding an arm was an okay alternative and holding an adult’s hand is okay, too.

7.  not sure if HANDLE would address this or not, but Ben definitely does not distinguish between a purposeful and accidental action, in terms of being hurt by the action.  He has this need for “revenge”.  If his toe is accidentally stepped on, he will not rest until he steps on the offender’s toe.  He used to avoid touching or being touched by the baby, but now she is free game for pushing, hitting, kicking, etc.  He doesn’t seem to understand the concept of intent.

8.  anger is also his “go to” emotion when he disagrees with something.  He’ll yell “NO” at kids who ask him to play and really holler at Will when he is not interested in interacting with him.  To be fair, Will is often an instigator of conflict between the two, but just as often he is not, but gets yelled at, or physically hurt anyway.
Ben is using language more than physical violence, though, to deal with the anger lately.  He can actually be quite creative.  “I’M AN ANGRY MONSTER AND I’M GOING TO BITE YOUR TOES OFF!”  “I’M GOING TO LOCK THIS DOOR AND RUN AWAY AND YOU WILL BE LONELY!”

One of the best things we’re seeing emerge with Ben the past few months is a social sense of humor.  He’s always laughed at things that privately make him laugh or are amusing to him auditorally, but recently he’s enjoyed watching America’s Funniest Home Videos and laughs when people or pets do unexpected things.  Such a great sound to hear him laugh along with everyone else, knowing he ‘got’ it.  There is a lot more giggling with his brother and occasionally his sister, too, over ‘private’ jokes and shared experiences.  He’s also been “making jokes”, although I’m sure they’re not exactly intentional.  I’ve got three examples:
1.  While cleaning with me the other day (he sprays, I wipe), Ben starts to sing a la ‘Bob the Builder’ “Bob the Cleaner!  Can he clean it?  Yes  he can!”
2.  While talking over dinner about how pilots have to go to flying school to get their license, Ben comments that he has a “horse riding license”.
3.  After asking him to stop touching things in the grocery store for the millionth time while shopping, he looks at me and says, “but touching is in my blood”  This is from a movie where the actual line is “racing is in my blood”.  Cracked me up.

So, there you go.  A Ben Update.  With stories and  photos to boot.

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6 Responses to Funny Things: A Ben Update

  1. I’m glad to read your update. Wonderful especially to read about his emerging sense of humor!
    how old is Ben?

  2. gigimama says:

    Thanks, Christine. Ben is five.

  3. Kier says:

    I heart Ben updates! The drawings are awesome, and the “jokes” are really funny!

    This is GREAT progress – Randy and I were really amazed at the marked change we saw in Ben when we came to visit. Go, go RDI and HANDLE… and go, go BEN! Can’t wait to see what this amazing little guy does next!

  4. Auntie Mimi says:

    Hooray Ben-Ben got a haircut! 🙂 Numbers 1-4 of the things that drive you crazy…sorry to say, that’s totally normal. And the “touching is in my blood” is classic, what a funny little guy! Give all 3 of the babies kisses for me. Love yoU!

  5. Nuha says:

    Hi Gigi
    I am very interested in the Handle therapy, how has it worked for you so far? how often do you see your practitinar? how many excersies do you have to do daily? tell em all you can please

    my daughter is almost 6 ASD, and we have done some RDI when she was 3 but did not have compliance so we had to stop… she will be going to an RDI based school this year starting Tuesday and i am so interested in Handle


  6. Gigi says:

    I send Nuha a private email, but thought I’d copy it here in case others had similar questions. 🙂
    Hi Nuha,

    Thanks for your comment on my blog.
    HANDLE has been wonderful for our little guy. You can learn more about this program here:
    And I can’t recommend Judith Bluestone’s book _the Fabric of Autism_ enough. It really helped me understand the neurological foundation behind sensory issues and why HANDLE works the way it does.

    We work with our practitioner long-distance, so only saw her for our initial eval. We “meet” virtually over the computer (skype) every 4-6 weeks to update activities and get her feedback. Fortunately for us, our HANDLE practitioner is also our RDI consultant, so she had the benefit of already knowing our son pretty well from our video exchanges and RDAs before starting our formal HANDLE program.

    Our program right now consists of about 15 short activities. If we do them all together it takes about half an hour to complete, although we try to spread them out throughout the day just for logistic reasons in trying to fit it all in with Ben’s siblings wanting ‘turns’, too. You can view sample activities on the HANDLE website, and there is a generic “autism program” in _the Fabric of Autism_ book, which we did for a while before getting the full eval. Our program developed by our practitioner is specifically designed for Ben’s needs and we definitely see his progress tied to the newer program vs. the generic one.

    I hope this helps. 🙂

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