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Posts Tagged ‘challenging behavior’

I haven’t written for some time because a lot has happened. Peter has been growing leaps and bounds. He did well on his online courses and homeschooling classes last year, so this year we are venturing for the first time into the gen. ed. classroom, having signed up for chemistry. Between remodeling the house, dealing with family health issues, helping Peter’s little brother transition into a new school, managing Peter’s schedule and helping him keep up with his homework, and acting as general secretary of the calendar, it’s been busy. However, I don’t know about you, but it seems the lion’s share of energy goes into mom’s job of emotional coregulation.

Sigh! The things that go on in the space of 24 hours!

Yesterday, without warning, Peter started knocking his head against the car window on the freeway. His tutor got scratched in the process of holding his hands while I pulled over. When I came out and opened the cardoor to the backseat, he grabbed the metal keyboard I offered for communication, and banged it against his head instead. When I took that back, he reached over and snatched the iphone out of its case on my belt and started banging that against his head.

This morning, Peter rummaged through all the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator, searching for a soda. Finding none, he dashed to the garage, and found one in the back of the extra refrigerator, a forbidden beverage loaded with caffeine. We eventually had to lock the garage door to help him sit down and pay attention to his chemistry school work.

We should be doing chemistry at school, but lately the panic attacks have been so severe, that even setting foot on campus triggers one, let alone making it into the classroom. As Peter puts it, getting through passing period is “very stressful and overwhelming; like a busy street in New York City, I imagine.” Often takes Peter 15 minutes of Herculean effort to literally drag his feet the 300 feet from the school parking lot to the classroom.

Though the poor upper brain struggles to get the body to obey, the lower brain is fast. He dripped oil on the table helping me brush potatoes for baking. He paused, noticing, then faster than I could grab the kitchen towel nearby, he smeared oil all over the table trying to get rid of the spot. That’s OCD for you.

Do you have a child like this? What is a parent to do? Is there any hope to remediate this proclivity toward emotional dysregulation and its attendant challenging behaviors?

I do believe there is. With coaching (CBT), mind-body exercises (meditation, attention shifting, daily regular aerobic exercise, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation), and a lot of reflection and prayer, Peter has made a lot of progress. You see it where the rubber meets the road. Peter will lunge to scratch, then suddenly stretch out his hands to ask for squeezes instead. He didn’t even want to enter the swimming pool yesterday, but slowly warmed up and eventually insisted on completing his usual 25 laps although it took an hour and a half (we had offered to let him quit at ten laps, but he wanted to keep on going). He used to watch the same movie, Prince of Egypt, compulsively every night, but deliberately took it out of the video player to let his little brother have his pick last Friday because he appreciated how Luke had sacrificed a trip to the store earlier when he was having a hard time. (He’s stopped watching it since.) And the ending to the story about racing to get the caffeinated beverage?  He reached for it, but I snatched it out of the refrigerator first. Yes, Peter grabbed it back from me. But do you know what he did with it? He shoved it back into the refrigerator and chose a diet (noncaffeinated) 7-up instead.

Come with us over the next weeks as Peter posts a series of articles about his struggles with sensory hypersensitivities, motor issues, aggression, impulsivity, anxiety, and OCD. His intent is to share what’s worked for him. His hope is that you’ll share what’s worked for you. Maybe together, we as a community of families coping with autism and its attendant emotional challenges can grow together.

And if you’ve got any magic charms for insomnia, we’d love to hear about that too. Peter got up in the middle of the night again. Which is why I’m posting this blog now.

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Praise God!

On Wed., 4/21/10, I posted a devotional about a Helen Keller quote.  I had been feeling very upset because Peter had hit me.  The timer had gone off, and  I made him come out of his beloved bodysock to get back to his classwork.  Peter had never really hit me before.  Although he hadn’t hit me hard at all, and I knew he didn’t mean anything more but registering his displeasure, my heart was heavy.  As recounted in my devotional entry, the Lord gave me the encouragement I needed with a little quote the gals had posted up on the board at Curves.

Well, the Lord is abundantly gracious!  Later that day, Peter’s tutor was trying to get him out of the bodysock to get back to work.  He was reluctant, so the tutor said, “Remember this morning?  Your mom took away the bodysock for the whole morning when you wouldn’t come out.”  Peter then popped out of the bodysock and cheerfully went back to his classwork!  So he did learn, and the whole thing was worth it!

But that’s not all.  Later that afternoon, I took Peter to gymnastics.  He ran to the chip stand, and I said, “No, Peter.  It’s time to start your class.”  Right after gymnastics, he ran right past me to the chip stand.  Then he stopped, turned around, and looked at me, asking, “Chips, please.”  I was so thrilled!  He self inhibited, and appropriately made a request, even using his words with eye contact!  Of course I said, “Thanks for asking so nicely.   Yes, here’s 50 cents for the chips.”

But that’s not all.  Peter’s little 5 year old brother, Luke, asked Peter for chip in the car.  Peter handed Luke a big chip, Luke said “thanks,” and Peter said, “welcome.”  I was so happy!  The two of them had a spontaneous conversation without any prompts or intervention, and even a polite one!  Glory alleluiah!

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