Re: I could use some help
Thank you for having an open heart and open home for this little girl. Autism can be very frustrating to deal with...whether YOU are the one with it, or are the family of the person with it. Ultimately, though, you end up realizing that love and affection translate into a broader language than you ever knew before. Sometimes, a single smile will send you zooming to the stars in happiness. And you will be happy for having loved her.
First thing - her self esteem...Lots of times, you'll think that what you say to an autistic person rolls completely unnoticed, off their back. They seem to ignore you or are deaf. Sometimes they aren't "hearing" you. That is true, but not always! When you are discussing your foster daughter's autism with somebody, make sure you do so as if she were a 21 year old typical girl sitting right there next to you. Speak of her with respect because she may be absorbing every thing you say and do.
Educate yourself...getting online with this group is an excellent start! There are major sites set up by the national associations that have great all round info about autism. You will learn that autism can be debillitating (like the stuff you saw on made for TV movies 20 years ago) or as mild as the kind Bill Gates has. Many people with autism are extremely gifted in certain areas.
More specifically, find out from your foster daughter's case worker what history she has. If she's been labeled autistic, then obviously, she's been evaluated by a doctor. If she's been in school, then there should be school reports from her therapists/special ed teacher. Is she considered bright, average, below average? Remember that some kids who have lower IQ scores do so not because they can't answer the question correctly, its because they DON'T WANT TO ANSWER the question. Don't underestimate her smarts!
Learn/experiment if she has sensory issues...This is important because what one autistic kid loves, another will have a tantrum over if they're anywhere near that thing. You might get a tub of Cool Whip, a couple brushes, a couple packs of jello...let her paint some dark colored construction paper with the white Cool whip, she can mix A BIT OF jello powder in to experiment with making colors on some waxed paper or aluminum foil. Don't put out the entire tub of Cool Whip or the entire box of jello...she may not know she's only supposed to use a little and dump everything together.
My little boy likes to "bake", so you can also see if she wants to help you make pudding or fruit salad, something that doesn't have to be cooked but she can have fun mixing. Its fun to do it together, and she can have a sense of accomplishment when the family sits down to eat her salad.
Routine - routine - routine...most autistic individuals feel very comforted by having a known routine or schedule. I guess its because they can't always process verbal information.
You have to think about how they see/hear things. For example, you can say, "well, remember today we go to the dentist", then you get in the car, but when you hop out at the dentist's office and NOT school (where she thought you were taking her) she has a meltdown. If you know about autsim, you'll see that that is very understandable behavior.
Its like she's been dropped off in rural Tanzania and nobody speaks English. She asks for scrambled eggs and the idiots keep bringing her goat's eyeball soup. Every day, for weeks, somebody drives her to the fruit market. Then, one day they speak some gobbledygook to her and drive her to a landfill instead. Huh?
If you can make a big calendar for her, it might help. I bought one (about 3 bucks) at an educational store and use little yellow cut-outs (icons) of schoolbuses for the days my son goes to school. When we are going to go to the zoo, I put a picture of a zebra on that day. We have a little icon showing a kid getting a haircut. When we are going to the grandparents, I put on a little picture of my son & his grandfather riding a 4 wheeler.
You can map out the whole month for her visually. The visual component is important when the person has a communication problem. Remember, she wants scrambled eggs and you're the idiot serving up the eyeballs!
Autism is kind of a giant communication disorder...its hard to translate words, facial expressions, and body language. Eye contact can feel invasive, like somebody is sticking his finger in your ear. You will learn to communicate in new and creative ways with your foster daughter. You will be a better communicator with everyone in your life because of it.
I'm so sorry your little gal has autism, but I'm awfully glad she's got you.