Wednesday, December 30, 2009
So far the RAD behaviors have been semi-contained although Corazon is having a difficult time with too much adult attention and my giving attention to too many other people. She seems quite attached to me but sometimes I think it is a most anxious form of attachment with lots of separation anxiety. This morning I had to run to the grocery store (not enough eggs for breakfast) and she was almost in tears that I was leaving without her. I gave her permission to have a full blown meltdown while I was gone although I reassured her that she should be able to handle my absence for 20 minutes or so. Normally I can anticipae quite a bit of acting out whenever I leave her behind so I was prepared for just about anything. She actually did fine. She decided that it is supposed to take her 10 minutes to do her morning writing prompt so she set a goal for herself to do 2 prompts and then I would be back. It worked for her. She got today's and yesterday's done and she didn't get into any trouble that we know of. I was quite proud of her. It seemed to give her confidence for the rest of the day and she did wonderfully.
Tonight we will have birthday cake and watch "Up" and hopefully we will continue to relax and enjoy our family and friends.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Took the kids on a 12 hour drive yesterday and they were great! My mom changed her mind about visiting for the holidays, then refused to fly. She lives 5 1/2 hours away so we loaded all the kids, the DVD player, Xmas movies and CDs, and lots of snacks and off to get her we went. Just call me a dutiful daughter. I hadn't planned on losing a day of holiday prep so I was on the verge of stressing but since I so do hate stress I just baked cookies instead. :-)
The kids have relaxed all day long--making cards and snowflakes, decorating cookies, playing, watching Christmas movies again and again. I made a traditional Mexican holiday dinner--Chicken mole, rice & beans and my sister and her daughter came out and hung with us. Right now the kids are watching Polar Express and tracking Santa on Santa Tracker. As soon as they finish, they will put out the Santa treats--Nachos and diet coke, in case you are wondering--and go to bed. The gifts are wrapped and ready so C. & I will bring out the Santa gifts and set things up and I plan on being in bed by 11. Early for me.
Good night all....
Saturday, December 19, 2009
The older kids are still wrapping up December assignments (they are both a bit behind so will likely "do school" into early next week.) While I think vacations are good for them, right now I also think that it gives Tortuga much needed structure plus he actually enjoys it so he may only get a couple of days off. I took advantage of C. being back to take care of projects I cannot do while supervising all 4 kids so I spent the bulk of the day making our Christmas fudge. The kids will help me later in the weekend with packaging and labelling and delivering.
While most of our Christmas shopping is finished we had a few items (from Santa for the family) to pick up at a sporting goods store. The nearest one is off the same road as Corazon's gym so we decided to all go after dropping her off for her last practice before vacation. It was a big deal because she was also finding out if she was moving up a level in gymnastics. We already knew but the girls were being told as a group because of the 10 girls on her level only 3 were ready to move up and she was one of them. We are very proud of her and her accomplishments in gymnastics this year but we are even more excited because the coaches for her new level are AMAZING. One used to train the Chinese national team and she takes no prisoners! Corazon will work hard with 3 1/2 hours of practice 4 days/week and her new coach will keep her on track which is what she thrives on. Gymnastics has really been a significant part of her healing and in all areas she's come so far in this past year!
Great start to the weekend!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Pollito was "worried" which was the first time I have noticed this from him. He asked each time he saw me if I was better and he announced that he wanted me to BE better NOW. He also was my self appointed "sleep-watcher" which meant he waited for me to fall asleep and then he would go and whisper loudly (he can't whisper to save his life!) to each person that I was sleeping and of course, wake me up in the process. Corazon wanted to be next to me the entire time (she is clearly my anxiously attached child) and acted up significantly the entire time. Tortuga (because we told him NOT to) wanted to give me a big hug and kiss each time he saw me. Gotta love ODD! He is testing and being tested mightily by all this holiday stuff but it is still better than last year.
Yesterday I was well enough to meet with Corazon's coaches at the gym. They want to move her up a level--more competitive, more practice time, more money--which is great. They don't want us to tell her because most of the girls on her level are NOT ready to move up and they want to announce the moves in another two weeks. She will be so very proud of herself and she has earned this. Her maturity and discipline is so clear. I continue to believe this saved our lives. For a kid so focused on control and controlling her body's functions gymnastics proved to be a very good way for her to channel her energy. I notice when she is most dysregulated she starts to practice beam and floor routines and it seems to calm her down. Anyone with an athletic RAD kid should look into some of these sports that require lots of physical and mental control/energy (ice skating, ballet and gymnastics for her.) We plan on getting a special dessert to celebrate this with her as soon as we know when it will be announced.
I was also well enough to run to my favorite (not) big store for essentials--cat litter, cat food, paper towels, etc--. I had to take all 4 kid and it did not go well for Tortuga in terms of his ability to control he hyperfocus and targetting of Corazon. We almost had a big scene right there in the store BUT he held it together. I was furious and proud at the same time which I didn't know was possible! I got us out of there before we finished our trip and waited until we got home to deal with it. I told him how well he did and how far he had come and he took responsibility. It was great. He was pretty down the rest of the evening and didn't eat much for dinner and a part of me thinks he was sad and just sitting with it. We have been trying to work on teaching him about "sitting" with anger, sadness, and loneliness without needing to lash out. I will try to find out what was going on when we talk more today.
So this is life right now. Holding steady with escalating craziness but it's to be expected. This is our life.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
A minute or two later she shows up with a popsicle from the standup freezer and says "This my favorite Mom. It make you feel better. ... [pause] Love you mom. I no like it when you sick." (Which is what I say to her when she is sick.)
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Thanksgiving morning I was busy cooking away after feeding the multitudes (10 adults 6 kids under one roof). Both Corazon and Tortuga had a little bit of schoolwork they had not completed so they were involved with that. C.'s family is really into walking, hiking, outdoor-anything so they had decided to go for a long walk and offered to take any of the kids with them. I sent Milagro and Tortuga along because Tortuga had missed out on all the walks with his grandparents this visit and that is a big part of life with grandpa. With instructions that he was not to push Milagro's stroller, and that he had to be watched on sidewalks because he will dart out into the street if anything catches his eye or he is playing around and gets excited so he doesn't notice he is stepping into the street. I also reminded everyone including him that he was not to eat anything (I know I have talked about his issues with sugar and starchy foods, bread and pasta in particular) and reminders that if he ate and it caused his behavior to change he would spend time away from the family throughout the day including our Thanksgiving meal. That was said more for the benefit of the grandparents and uncles because they don't really get it and I wanted them to be sure I was serious. Off they went.
Upon their return, Tortuga was drenched in sweat. They had a "short" two mile walk and he was very happy. He had collected flowers for a homeschool poetry assignment and was very animated in his talking. Except for the fact that he couldn't stop to listen to my questions he was doing ok. However, once I set him to put his flowers away and return for instructions he got "mad" and came back with a bit of an attitude and proceeded to interrupt me as I checked in with others. I redirected him 4 or 5 times and finally stopped him and put my hands on his shoulders, pulled him close and told him he was too excited and making poor choices. He started to argue with me and pulled himself away but I held him close so that others would not hear us. I whispered his instructions--go upstairs, take a longgggg shower, calm yourself, read in room with door closed, get dressed for the meal and NOT interrupt or call down for any reason except death or dying.
He called down to me 7 different times before getting himself into the shower. Except for 1 of those times, each question/topic was something he knew the answer to. Unlike our daily experiences where he has a consequence for these, I did not offer consequences until the last time he interrupted. He was still off a bit and I knew it was partly the excitement of Thanksgiving and the walk. I later learned that one of the uncles had been trying to be helpful by giving him a chance to "run off some of his energy" on the walk back home. I written before about how that doesn't seem to work for him and usually deregulates him even more. Just to add insight on how Tortuga processes information I want to add that on Friday and Saturday he had two "attitude episodes" because I denied his requests to let him "run off some of his energy." Despite months of discussing and addressing what happens when he runs without focus and his recognition that it didn't help him in the past, he negated all this and convinced himself that he was entitled to get to run around because it had happened on Thanksgiving.
During the meal he was at the kids table and he monitored every bit of food Corazon had on her plate. He came over and interrupted me in the midst of serving something onto my sister's plate, grabbed my arm, and said in a too-loud voice that I "forgot" to give him enough cranberry sauce. (He did have some but I guess not as much as she did and he had more food than her including 2 items she didn't have.) He does this constant comparison with her all.the.time. I sent him back to the table without more and he was fuming and glaring at Corazon BUT he did manage to control himself. I did catch him glaring at her and had to stop him from trying to one-up her in every interaction she had with Milagro. He was relatively easy to redirect each time but I lost count of how many times this happened. On a normal day he would not have been allowed to remain at the table.
The kids had written and prepared a Thanksgiving play and were very excited to present it. (We do them regularly for school and for holidays and they love them.) Milagro was very tired and a bit whiny so she was having a hard time holding it together. The play went really well and we were able to include my niece and Pollito at the last minute. However, during the play, he corrected/interrupted Corazon at least 3 times when she hesitated or missed a word. He had not done these during any of their rehearsals and admitted later that he was mad at her (for no reason) and was enjoying her "mess-ups" so he wanted others to notice she was messing up. For the record he only messed up about a dozen times and once missed his line completely so I tried to cue him and he snapped at me! Overall minor issues with the play but they were pleased with themselves and that was what mattered.
After the play I sent him upstair for quiet time. I had turned on his music to help him calm down. The adults were watching football and he wanted to join in. I told him that game was almost over (had about 30 minutes left) and if he watched that he couldn't watch the Texas Longhorns game which was starting at 8. I gave him a choice and he chose the Longhorn game. I reminded him he could watch it if he could stay calm while he was upstairs. He was still really mad about being sent upstairs and C. quietly reminded him this was part of the plan to keep him regulated. He was quickly escalating and I told him he had about an hour and a half (it was actually 2 hours) before the game started to calm himself down. If he could stay calm I would let him down in an hour so he could have dessert before the game. He almost lost it--tone, mean eyes, eye rolling, body posture, gritted teeth, etc. C. reminded him again and he started shouting that it wasn't fair. I had said 30 minutes and now I was saying an hour! It took a while for him to recognize he misunderstood the choices--only 30 minutes of football now or a whole game a hour from now. He was still mad and trying to get us to change our minds about him going upstairs so for the next HOUR he interrupted with seemingly important things --someone left the water running in the bathroom sink, he needed a different book, etc. I had also sent him to change into sweats or jeans and a tshirt. He came downstairs in his football shorts (not allowed for home use-long story) and a long sleeve polo shirt. Basically he spent the hour interrupting us and finding ways to be defiant. I didn't say anything but kept him upstairs until after the game started.
I was going to get that 1 hour of calm if it meant he missed the entire game!
During the game he got to hang out with all his uncles and grandpa. The excitement (and testosterone) were a bit much. By the middle of the game he was throwing his slippers in the air and when checked would say "I was just...." By halftime I should have sent him to bed. I didn't. It got a bit worse and we had an almost meltdown by bedtime.All in all lots of bumps but I guess my point is two-fold. He showed the progress he has made AND he showed how much he still desperately needs our limits, structure, and less wiggle-room.
We had a couple of hard days over the weekend after everyone left but he is back on track so far. I will do another 'errands test" over the weekend and into next week and see how that goes.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
This morning I rushed poor Pollito into completing his math "homework" because I didn't realize it was due (truthfully I hadn't even glanced at the growing pile of papers from school). In 6 minutes I tried to get him to count all the bedrooms, lamps, windows, chairs, doors, phones, and 2 or 3 other things. We did fine with phones once he decided cell phones didn't count and bedrooms but after that it was a disaster. He has just recently learned to count and can manage counting up to 11 but it gets dicey after that. He also has to start from 1 each time so we had many false starts. 1, 2, 3, 4, then to the next room where he couldn't pick up with 5 but needed to run back to the first room and start again. It was almost comical except that he was working so hard...bless his heart. I was trying hard to be supportive but rush him out the door at the same time. Bad mom.
I was hell-bent on getting that in because right now I am behind on a few other things. I haven't sent in a book order all year (I am sure she thinks we have no books in our educator household) so she kindly sent me all the order forms for previous months along with the December one. We haven't participated in any of the recent community "giving" events (coins for charity (monthly thing), coats for kids, canned foods for food pantry, or sponsor a family) and we haven't returned his last two library books (I am sure there is a late notice in that pile.)
Most importantly I have, sitting in that pile I furtively glanced through this morning when he mentioned math homework, a (Christmas) tree that needs to be "traced on felt, posterboard, wood, fabric, cardstock, or other such item" and decorated "by the ENTIRE family as a fun family event." Deja vu anyone? We are told it doesn't have to be a "Christmas tree" but can "use this attached evergreen pattern to design a festive creation!...It can simply be a type of tree (pine, maple, oak, etc) with no decorations if you wish OR..." This is followed by two FULL paragraphs on suggestions of how to decorate a Christmas tree. Someone help me out. How do I turn this evergreen tree pattern into a maple tree? oak tree? And who out there seriously believes they don't expect a Christmas tree? Should I really make my kid be even more of a freak (two moms thing again) by being the only kid who DOESN'T take in a decorated Christmas tree. As tempted as I am to have a family event to decorate a maple tree I just don't have the skills required. Or the time. The darn thing was due November 30th!
I am still failing Kindergarten.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Life is good. We are busy. Kids are going through the usual holiday ups and downs. We are trying to get pictures of the grandparents with all their grandkids today in addition to some sight-seeing. Not sure how the kids will handle it but so far we are holding steady. In case I don't get a chance to say it tomorrow--one of the things I am most grateful for this year is my new-found community of RAD moms and friends of RAD moms who have made up an important part of my community this year. Happy Thanksgiving to each of you and know that I will be thinking of you and your families tomorrow.
Monday, November 23, 2009
I survived a week of "running errands" every. single. day. with the kids. This was a grand experiment to help Tortuga handle these better. It went pretty well. Two of the 6 days I got to the store and turned right back around to head home following challenging (minor) behavior. In each case it was an errand Tortuga had been looking forward to (once to get football cards, the other to get fish for his aquarium which I just decided to reintroduce to his room after an absence of almost a year--last year's Christmas Day destruction of his room.) I figured he would benefit from truly "feeling" the impact of his inability to hold it together for these errands. On Sunday, I actually got out of the house with only 1 child, Corazon, (rarely happens) and went and got him his fish.
I am not sure what all I did last week but I can recap some of the highlights. On Thursday we got a call from school that Pollito was running a fever and complaining of ear pain. So off to school we went and set him up on the couch to sleep and hopefully recuperate. Keeping our eye out and fingers crossed because we had been working on keeping everyone healthy as Thanksgiving approaches. C.'s dad has a seriously compromised immune system and they were going to be arriving on Monday (today). If anyone is sick we have to "quarantine" them (which we did last year with Tortuga). C. and I kept Pollito away from the rest of the kids, increased consumption of all the immunity boosting foods we could think of for everyone, and just kept our fingers crossed. By Friday afternoon he seemed back to his usual self and we started to breathe a sigh of relief.
We had big plans for Saturday and Sunday. The house was mostly clean except for the guest room and playroom but we were going to spend Saturday running a few errands, stocking up on groceries, and doing the kind of cleaning we save for special ocassions (dusting lampshades & ceiling fans, changing the
I got the kids up early Saturday, put them all in the shower, washed Corazon's hair and sat them down to a quick breakfast so we could get out the door. C. was checking her email to print out all the travel itinieraries for me since I was doing the airport pickups and wanted to be sure to have details in place to work around school pickups and activities dropoff. Suddenly C. screams "oh my God!" and pushes her phone into my hands. I look at her text message and there is one from her mom that says "On our way to the airport. See you soon!" I ask C. if this is a joke as she is dialing her mom's cell. No joke. They "forgot" to tell us they had changed their flights! Her parents and uncles were arriving that evening!
When grandparents and uncles arrived the kids were tired but thrilled and we were able to keep guests entertained while I snuck upstairs to clear out the one kid's room that the uncles would be using. My head, back and feet were killing me but my heart was warmed.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
When I get Tortuga up he goes through his morning routine (toilet, teeth, shower, dressed, combed, make/change bed) then he comes down to stair landing to get his daily writing journal prompt and goes back to his room to do it. If he finishes before breakfast is ready he brings his notebook back to the landing and picks up his next school assignment. All of this should be done without him interrupting me in any way. This process used to include 12-15 interruptions for redirection, reminders, or unnecessary questions/comments ("Do I really have to brush my teeth today?", "There is pee in the toilet." or maybe "Is it daytime outside?"-as the sun streams through every window!) He comes down and hugs me good morning then he has breakfast on the landing or dining table, brings his plate down to the kitchen, goes back to the landing and practices patience ("strong sitting"), taps and/or rubs. The landing is his "safe space" where he can "be" with the family without having to "be" with the family. After breakfast, we check in about the school schedule and assignments he needs to focus on and he goes back upstairs to do his work. This will vary slightly when I have a lesson to teach, a progress meeting, or a group lesson/experiment (these he doesn't handle well so we don't do them often) or if I have to explain something. He is expected to save his questions until I call him to check in on his school progress. Lunch is the same as breakfast and this is followed by "activity" and/or "mom" time. This can include playing basketball outside, walk, brain gym exercises, yoga, time with me, etc. This lasts until 2 pm or so when we have to go pick up Pollito from school. Depending on the day we are out for awhile or come right back home. If we come back home he spends the time until dinner doing activities (which I choose), schoolwork, reading, drawing, puzzles, outside play (structured), etc. He has 4 snacks throughout the in-between times because food issues have been present for so long but he is now declining snack once or twice each day. He practices patience after each meal and each time we return to the house from being outside (play, pickups, errands, etc.) Dinner is with the family twice each week (the other days it is before the rest of the family and I keep him company). After dinner he does his evening routine-wash hands, brush teeth, pick 2-3 short activities (I give him the options), change into pjs, put clothes out for the next day, etc. We also do another round of one-on-one time here but the time varies depending on when C. is home from work. C. will check in with him for a few minutes each night and he reads for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. He isn't "allowed" to go to sleep before 8:30 p.m. (nightmares for the rest of us!) but unless he has had issues he can stay up reading until I go upstairs for the night (usually between 10-10:30 pm). That is his current basic routine.
This routine has had a few changes recently. He can ask for more food/drink/etc. without waiting to be asked, bring his plates down all the way to the kitchen, and he can check in with me/ask questions/tell me his dreams/etc. Now instead of my company, 2-3 times per week he gets the company of Milagro OR Corazon for breakfast, where he "practices" having "normal conversation" rather than a captive audience. He also "practices" being nice to his sisters and listening to them and asking them questions. He has begged to do family chores so we have added a few. As part of his morning routine he must wipe down the tub, sink and toilet daily. He is doing this to show he can be thoughtful to his brother and sister who share the bathroom with him. For the most part they avoid that bathroom because he manages to leave a mess in the shower, pee on the seat/floor, soap scum and toothpaste on sink, counter and mirror. It is pretty gross in there so for a few months we have been having him wipe it down on the weekends before C. or I clean it. That clearly wasn't enough so we have made it a daily occurrence and linked it to being a good "family kid." He also gets to do the change the kitchen trash and take recycling out to the big container after he finishes eating. Doing chores was one of the things we "took away" from him when we started this new process with him and he has asked to do them again for quite awhile. He is now up to 3 dinners/week with the family and just this past week I have introduced letting Corazon or Pollito keep him company for dinner 1 other night each week. I have also
Whenever he is doing his schoolwork, chores, activities, etc. I have just started to do many more small "practice" sessions where I introduce something we need to work on (facial affect/expressions, talking to the baby, doing a short "errand" in the house, "helping" me with something I don't really need help with but want his company for, folding laundry, looking for something, selecting a book for nighttime reading, engaging in a quick conversation about plans for school, errands, etc.) These are designed as interruptions in his day that require small transitions (transitions are very difficult for him especially going from interacting with Corazon/Pollito/me and then back to his work or room. These used to lead to rudeness, meanness, impatience, attitude and even full-blown meltdowns so we are working on making these transitions smoother. This is a new thing this week so I don't have much to report about how that is working. The other thing I am trying this week is to "run errands" every single day. No, I am not a glutton for punishment but I am trying to create more practice sessions for things that cause him trouble (being in the car, sitting near Pollito when Pollito is being 5, watching Corazon do something he cannot do, doing errands where there is high stimulus, behaving appropriately in a store, not sulking when I say "no" to whatever he asks for that he isn't getting, etc.) I. do. not. like. shopping. so doing this everyday is going to be a big "test" for me :-) So far we have had 1 day of this and he did incredibly well. Throughout all these practice sessions and tests I will talk to him before and after to help him be mindful of trouble spots, redirect and/or praise (which we have to be really careful with!) We have also increased his dinners with the family to 3 times/week and 1 dinner each week he is having with either Corazon or Pollito keeping him company. We are also reintroducing him to "family time" for short periods of time after dinner. Sometimes it is a family meeting, planning for something (holidays, visits, etc.), music, game, and/or story time. He has missed out on this entirely for a couple of months and each test has pretty much ended on a negative note. But we are trying again in small doses and seeing what happens.
I am sure I have missed something but really didn't want to bore anyone with the details. Let me know if you have questions or want to hear more.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Anyway, I dropped Pollito off at school and headed to the grocery story BY MYSELF. I cranked up the country station, pulled into a spot right near the door, and took a few moments to double-check my list for tonight's menu. As I headed to pick up my shopping cart I marvelled at the things I am taking for granted these days that weren't a part of my day to day life in Boston. (Like finding a parking spot especially near the door and being able to pull into a school drive-away to do drop off!) Then I used one of those wet handi-wipes to clean off my cart and a dry wipe to dry it off. I had never seen those until I moved here. As I walked into the LARGE supercenter grocery story I was warmly greeted by two different sales people as they went about their work. I found every item I needed and some were even on sale.
As I was checking out (there were no lines) someone bagged my groceries and then offered to help me to the car. The young man at the checkout stand handed me a balloon for my daughter (she wasn't with me) because he remembered she LOVES balloons AND she "always says 'thank you' so nicely." The kid couldn't have been more that 20! It brought a smile to my face and once again reminded me of the culture we have moved from. None of these things would have happened on a regular basis in my old "world." The pace was so much faster there, colder (weather and people), and just less "friendly."
Of course, it is a trade-off. There we didn't have to worry about our kids feeling deficient because they only had two moms. We didn't have teachers assuming our sons' issues were because they didn't have a father. There we didn't have to worry about my having health insurance because both our jobs allowed us to cover each other and our kids, and our kids had classmates/friends with two moms, single moms, divorced folks, and even two dads. There we had some options in finding a church that had the familiarity and tradition of our upbringings (United Methodist and Catholic--I will let you guess who is who...) AND was accepting of our family. It will come in time, we know.
As I pulled up to my street I noticed it was closed but the workman waved me through. I couldn't make it all the way to my house because I live on a cul-de-sac and they were re-paving it but my next door neighbor (who I rarely see/speak too) waved me into his driveway with an offer to park there as long as I needed. Then he helped me bring my groceries to my door. All things I can never take for granted because they just weren't a part of my daily life in the fast-paced big city that was home for 15 years. I felt refreshed and rejuvinated and oh-so-grateful for the little bit of time away from the kids. If someone had told me back in my single-no-kids-day that grocery shopping by myself would feel this good, I would have laughed. I'm a slow learner. Now I get it!
Yesterday was really rough! Probably it was mostly my fault because I gave in to Tortuga in the way that is so easy to do but always comes back to
I think this qualifies as progress.
Monday, November 9, 2009
This is Corazon.
She is doing sentences.
So why am I writing about this?
Because she is doing Tortuga's sentences.
She offered because he was really struggling to do them.
She asked me if she could help him and I sent her to ask him.
He said "yes" and and "Thanks. I owe you."
She said "no you don't. I want to."
Then a few minutes later he asked me if he could say something to her.
He said, "Corazon, I really, really don't know how I will ever thank you."
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Wednesday--I was quite sad and disappointed about the vote in Maine that did not go in favor of same-sex marriage. I really thought it might. I just keep reminding myself these are historic times and we are witnessing important history in the making.
Thursday--I was pleased that Referendum 71 ("Everything but marriage") was passed in Washington state. At least they will get the 400 or so state rights they had previously been denied. In more exciting news I bit the bullet and registered my car in Texas. It was harder than I thought to let go of those MA license plates but it definitely felt a little bit more like "coming home." Spent half the day on the phone with Pollito's school because he had a golf ball sized bump in the middle of his head that no one could figure out where it came from. He had a mosquito bite there when he got to school and after rest time this HUGE bump appeared. He told one teacher he hit himself on the floor, the nurse that he had it when he came to school and then told his teacher he hit a door during lunch. He told me on the phone that he hit a wall outside during recess (they didn't have recess) and the nurse treated him for a head injury until we confirmed he probably was fine and maybe got a second mosquito bite. I made the nurse ask him if his cheek hurt (no visible injury there) and if his elbow hurt (no injury there either) to confirm that he couldn't answer the question accurately. He claimed they both hurt and she was convinced he was just confused. I got even greater stories from him after school about where he got the bump. Neither benadryl nor ice made it go down.
Friday--Tortuga and Corazon battling to see who could outcrazy the other. I think it was a tie! I was exhausted. Then Pollito came home from school with an ice pack. He hit his forehead on a pole during recess right before dismissal!
Saturday--The crazy continues...C. and I made the mistake of trying to watch a TV show (taped) while the kids played together. She's been so busy with work that we have had so little time together so after working all day she was ready for a break. We sat in the family room (15 feet from them) and spent 78 minutes to get through 14 minutes of the show before calling it quits and sending everyone off to bed.
Sunday--Got a haircut. Big deal for me because I don't let just anyone cut my hair (strange, personal quirk highly connected to my grandmother's superstitions) and I finally got someone who I could trust. Her name is Rain and she was great. I'd forgotten how great it feels to have someone else wash my hair! It is the little things that mean so much. Almost didn't go because I was on the phone with poison control. Milagro sprayed Febr**ze INTO her mouth just before we were leaving and really liked the taste. I was pretty sure it wasn't too toxic but double-checked with poison control to be safe. There were a few panic moments there and I am still feeling guilty about this.
And on that note... I am going to bed early!
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The good news is that he did OK during the visit. No meltdowns (yet) and only two serious incidents of anger/meanness/rudeness/etc. He spent WAY more time with us than he has in quite a while and it definitely demonstrated that he has made progress. He showed patience, kindness, joy, and genuine affection many times during these days. His hugs were nice solid ones that seemed heartfelt not perfunctory. He was able to transition during the day from one activity to another including car to home and to his room without major issue and many times without minor issue. He played nicely with Milagro, joined the family for several meals, and had one-on-one attention from someone besides me. He generally held it together the entire day up until the very end of each day. This included Halloween, treats, and too much sugar on a couple of occassions.
Patterns that returned with a vengeance. Tattle-taling and hypervigilance about Pollito and Corazon. He had to tell about every little real or perceived misbehavior or infraction. "P. is playing with a piece of trash!" "C. is staring at me." and "P. isn't _______"(you name it.) Bossiness and telling others what to do or not do also returned and it was CONSTANT! "Forgetting" routines (especially in the car and out of the house) and inappropriately demanding my attention were also significant issues. Each evening we could see the toll the changes in his routines and daily interactions were having on him. Each night we could begin to see the transformation as he started to "lose" it. He has a tendency to "blow it" anytime he has had a good time so on Friday and Saturday(Halloween) he started to get really moody, short, and belligerant as the day came to a close and it would be something really small (as usual) that would set him off. BUT in both cases he was relatively easy to redirect. On Sunday we let him "hang out" and watch football for a little while after giving him most of the morning/early afternoon to calm himself and just be away from everyone. He did fine until the end of the evening when he really lost it. Rudeness, belligerance, meanness, faces, attitude,etc.--all directed at me--as he was sent upstairs to read and wind down for the night. This led to crying fits and a near meltdown but C. was able to diffuse it before it got too far down that path. The rest of the time he seemed to do ok after that near meltdown.
The biggest challenges we had are ones we continue to struggle with but that had subsided. One of those is pretty typical of so-called "normal" kids but it always takes a bad turn with him. It's what we call "pushing it." I think most of us have been guilty of this and it happens when he is having a good time and decides to "go for broke." For him it means he starts to test all the rules and boundaries whenever he has been having a good time. Fun playing around and teasing turns into meanness or rudeness, hugs turn into rough-housing, and their is a blatant assertion of his "right" to do something he knows isn't allowed. Then this becomes the reason (excuse) for having the meltdown. It's what we have named the "I'm-having-fun-and-I-don't-know-when-this-is-going-to-happen-again-so-let-me-take-advantage-and-try-to-get/do-everything-I-can-now-before-the-feeling-goes-away" behavior. In his case it then gives him permission to suddenly turn on us(me, mostly) and do some pretty awful things. He got set off on Sunday because as he was going upstairs he asked for a "new" book. I reminded him that he could only read the book in his room until he was finished with it (this is always the case) and he kept "begging" for a new book. At first it was done jokingly but after the second or third time he just got angry then it went downhill from there.
The other big issue is what we call "telling stories" and I have written about this before I think. This is when he convinces himself that something is supposed to happen or going to happen in a particular way and then behaves accordingly. So if and when it turns out not to happen that way he is upset or angry and we get the full brunt of this. Other times he tells himself something is happening or has happened when it hasn't. Then there are the times when he doesn't get his way and he turns his anger about that into a story that he then believes to be true. This was the case when he told some of the kids he was playing with that I was mean to him all the time. By the time he got home it had become that I hit him all the time. When I spoke with him about this he ARGUED with me that it was true. He believed it. He was convinced that I hit him and did this often and we had to "process" this out until he could "remember" that I had never hit him and that he had gotten himself confused. It can also happen when he thinks something is going to happen and it doesn't. This can be a very little thing, such as tacos for dinner instead of pasta, but the response is major.
This can also happen when he "chooses" to forget something or remember it incorrectly. For example, he has lost the privilege of using glue or scissors without supervision due to some pretty destructive behavior a few weeks ago. This happened on Monday again. He is working on a school report that requires a little big of glueing. He asked me for scissors and glue and I told him to leave it to the end of the project. A couple of hours later he asked again and I reminded him to leave it to the end when I would help him. About 30 minutes later he asked again and I reminded him again and told him we would deal with it on Tuesday. About 15 minutes after that he came all the way downstairs (not allowed) and asked again. I said no. He ran upstairs, slammed the door, and started shouting that I was stupid, lazy, mean, etc. He was working himself up so I called to him to come down so we could address this. The bad news is that he was caught up in his "stories" and convinced that I was being unfair about the glue, lazy, mean, etc. and didn't "remember" why he didn't have access to these things. While sometimes it seems like an act I think in this case he genuinely believed it. The good news is he was able to handle the discussion and conversation with minimal rudeness and disrespect. I let him make up the mean things he said to me with a foot rub since we don't "do" apologies around here. All in all a success.
So what have I learned? I have learned he is doing better but we still have a long way to go. I learned we are on the right track and should continue down this path. I also learned that he is able to control, calm and rein himself in pretty consistently except when there are extreme(for him) circumstances such as an audience, too much stimulus, sugar, and of course "too much" fun stuff. I also learned that he likes these changes in himself and is learning to take pride in his behaviors and control of his behaviors. As weird as this may sound I also learned that I like him a whole lot more than I did 3 months ago.
Monday, November 2, 2009
So in my infinite wisdom I decided we needed a "test run" this past week with Tortuga. He has been more demanding of having time with "the family" and we have been telling him he wasn't ready. He kept asking for a "test." We generally don't do "tests" until we think he will have a high rate of success. That said, I decided to give some things a try and the perfect opportunity came up when our dear friend P. (who is also Tortuga's godmother) came to visit for this past weekend. She has been here since Thursday and leaves tomorrow (Tuesday) and with Halloween thrown in I thought we had the makings of a good "Test Run" to see just how far Tortuga has come and just how far we still have to go. We gave him more time with "the family" and more "fun stuff with the family." Some of you are thinking how brave, how daring, how wonderful, or maybe, how crazy!
I don't have the chance to write about this now but will do so tomorrow after I get my friend to the airport.Before I discuss how things have gone anyone care to venture a guess at what might have happened?
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
One significant change that we have seen has been with his "need" to belong to the family and to show his "caring" for us. He has always had a little bit of a sensitive/sappy side but it shows itself mostly around special occasions. In the past he has genuinely not "missed" us when he is away from us and in fact we only provide an audience for him. We have been there for his entertainment purposes. So, when we removed him from the day to day activities he was clear that he did not miss us except when he wanted a captive audience and that was clearly one of his greater frustrations. While he has his meals I generally keep him company and basically he talks my ear off. He doesn't listen to anything I say and in fact, he doesn't seem to notice that I don't really say much. Yet lately he has asked for more time with others in the family or he has shown genuine concern for his siblings. Today he told me he had changed his mind about girls and that the next four kids we adopt should all be girls because girls make better siblings. I am not touching this one right now!
As I noted before I also spend about 2-3 hours with JUST him each day which is a significant time commitment given there are 3 other kids but I felt it was important to maintain some of the connections we have had. During that time I DO structure what we do and I reserve the right to leave if he isn't cooperative or if he shows me disrespect. During that time I might help him with schoolwork, listen to him tell me what he is reading about, play a game with him, do a puzzle or activity from one of his workbooks, read to him, or other bonding time (foot, hand massage, tapping/rubbing, listen to music, etc.) These are hard for me (and him) because what he really wants is to just talk my ear off which I allow to some degree. Each day I work in at least 15 minutes of what I consider a "structured" conversation. This might be me asking him specific questions about thoughts, feelings, ideas, experiences, memories, or working through something that he has done well or not so well. When we started this whole "togetherness" time it usually didn't last. As soon as I tried to make it a two-way, reciprocal interaction he got belligerent, bored, impatient, or mad and I would just bow out and try again later. My goal was to have him get 2-3 hours of time with me but that was hard and full of starts and stops. Then I told him there would be no more than TWO times each day that I would do this. If he chose to ruin it in some way then it was over and we would start again the next time. He blew it a few times but actually not too many. So for the last month or so it is rare that we don't get that time together.
What I have noticed is that the quality of those interactions has changed. He seems to "hear" and remember what I say. He has started to ask me questions or for me to share a story. He will share something and ask what I think. He seems genuinely happy to see me and greets me with a real hug and a smile. We can joke around a little bit without his becoming completely disregulated. It has usually been the case that anytime he is having fun, laughing, or joking he loses control quickly. He would drool, spit, get very loud, boisterous, fall to the floor with fake laughter, throw himself against the wall, snort, etc. You get the picture. It was usually not very pleasant and often times seemed fake or forced and his "silliness" would degenerate in inappropriate ways quickly. Once he did this he would get mad if he was redirected or checked and he couldn't be reined in without some kind of meltdown or issue. In the last week or so he has started to be able to rein himself in most of the time. I can joke with him and I still have to check him before he gets out of control but generally he doesn't get mad or sulky about it. This is a big deal because when we have let him play with the other kids and he isn't fighting with them he becomes inappropriate and unsafe and cannot be reined in or redirected. He is starting to show the ability to check himself or at least accept redirection.
This week I also noticed one other thing. He is talking to both Milagro and Pollito like they are younger kids. This is HUGE. He uses that voice that some adults and older kids might use when talking with little children. He has NEVER done this before since most of the time he has dealt with Pollito as though they were peers. I don't know what to attribute this to but I like it.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
One of the things that has been at the bottom of everything we have been doing with Tortuga is that we have been highly cognizant of his basic physiological (food, water, bathroom, shelter, warmth, sleep, etc.) and safety(security, stability, protection, freedom from fear, anxiety, and chaos, need for structure, order, and limits, etc.) Everything we have done has been to try and get these basic needs met and "overmet" if that is possible. We have seen very little from him until recently that indicates any desire for other things like love, affection or any sense of "belonging" to the family. While this is sad and hard to acknowledge I do believe it is true for him much of the time. I know he has formed some attachments to us (me, especially) but they are a source of confusion, frustration, guilt, and anxiety for him too. So this is where we are.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we started adding to Tortuga's routines as he was ready. Someone asked about this so I will give an example. Tortuga is currently not having meals with the rest of the family so most of the time I feed him before everyone else (and I keep him company sometimes but I do not eat with him.) Originally his "routine" was as simple as possible. 1.) I call him to eat. 2.)He goes into the bathroom and washes hands. 3.) Comes downstairs and sits in his spot and waits. 4.) I give him his food, drink, and vitamins (depends on meal) 5.) When he finished he would wait. I would ask if he wanted more food or not, etc. 6) When totally finished he left plates, cup, napkin right there and go upstairs to wash his hands and go back to what he was doing.
We never changed this and variations on his part had consequences (usually sentences or early bedtime). It may sound mean and rigid but this was a huge trouble spot for him. For example, as part of his control issues, his favorite thing to do in the middle of eating was to announce loudly it wasn't enough food, he wanted more, he didn't like it (even favorites) or he'd wait until I was talking with someone else to yell that he was ready for more food or that he needed to pee. As he internalized this routine we added some pieces by either "slipping" them in or announcing they would be "tests." Now he can ask for more food or let me know he is done without waiting for me, he brings his plate/cup/napkin into the kitchen and leaves them in the right place, he can go to the bookshelf to get a new book for bedtime reading after dinner. These may seem like baby steps but all of these were MAJOR sources of contention for us and we have successfully added these things to his routines so that the breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner routines are each slightly different but he is handling them well.
The most unpredictable aspect of our lives is when we go out. An errand to T*rget can quickly become a nightmare if I have all 4 of them. I mentioned before that I will tell him ahead of time the things that will be a challenge--glaring at your sister, talking my ear off, lagging behind or walking off if I redirect you, hiding, telling your siblings what to do, nonsensical chatter and fighting in the car, etc--and remind him he is working on improving these. When we return I tell him how he did on his "test" if it wasn't obvious and we have sentences for any serious slips.
Every week C. & I have a "check-in" meeting with him to give him feedback (mostly positive) and for him to share anything on his mind about what we are and aren't doing. We also ask him what he "misses" about not being with the family and what "tests" he would like to try. For the first 6 weeks he did. not. miss. a. thing. Nothing. We were sad but it reinforced that we were on the right track with him. In her book, Coming to Grips with Attachment, Katharine Leslie talks about how a family environment is "permeated with love and intimacy" and she points out that is too stressful for some of our kids. I think this is definitely the case for him and so I just removed all those expectations and as many situations where he witnesses this or is, by default, participating in this. And I think removing these stresses really has calmed him down TREMENDOUSLY.
After about 6 weeks(we have been at this for about 3 months) he started naming things he missed and the recurring theme was dinner with the family and getting to do his schoolwork downstairs with the family. We took it under advisement but felt he wasn't ready for either of those things. I directly linked his readiness for meals with the family to how he treated his siblings when we were out on errands and amazingly that started to change. He has started to check himself before he gets baited by Pollito (the usually sit near each other in the car) and he has attempted to be civil and even nice to Corazon. As he has made steady progress we determined that he might be ready for some mealtimes with the family.
So, during our meeting last Sunday we informed him that this week (the one that we are in now) we would select two nights (our choice, no advance notice) when he could join the family for dinner. He would also get Pollito's company at night on two occasions. He was thrilled. He was also terribly upset that we would not budge on his doing schoolwork downstairs with the family and we were supportive and reminded him there are too many unpredictables for him to manage that yet. One of his triggers is whenever I give any other child my attention he MUST demand attention right then and there and then flies off the handle when he doesn't get his way. He cried. Real tears. Real sadness. And he said he missed the rest of the family's company. This is HUGE for him. Remember he gets mine for 2-3 hours each day. I hugged him and held him and told him he was feeling appropriate feelings about this and our goal was for him to experience success and he just wasn't ready. Over the past several weeks we introduced several new "tests" and have adjusted accordingly but he has handled them really well. This week these are some of the things he had as "tests."
I wanted to begin to address his expression of "loneliness" and wanting to be with the family. First, Pollito slept in their room on 2 nights this week. Second, he had dinner with the rest of the family on Tuesday and Friday (yesterday). Third, he got to play with the baby outside twice for about 40 minutes each time. Fourth, he got back one part of one of his family chores. He takes the trash can(s) out to the street on Sunday. ALL of these have been on the list of things he has missed and wanted to try again. He did wonderfully with each of these things. I think I only redirected him once. But this morning, he is not in great shape. He has been angry, rude, defiant, disrespectful, etc. and it is only 10 a.m. I have sent him back to bed to "rest" and I will check in with him later to see how we can "fix" this. I guess some of the week has caught up with him but I have every hope that he will turn it around today. In the past, once a day got started like this it was a lost cause. I am hoping that isn't the case today. Questions?
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Me: Tortuga, we are late to pick up your brother! You did not do what you were supposed to do and you are going to have a consequence for that.
T: But Mom YOU put the books on the table and I didn't....
Me: I am interrupting you... [pause] You were supposed to put the books on that table after lunch. You left your lunch without finishing it and told me it was because you wanted to get the books on the table before you forgot. After lunch I asked you and you said you had done it. I believed you and didn't check on you. My fault. Now we don't have the books ready to take to the library and you will have to pay a fine. That is part of your consequence but there will be more.
T: Mom, can I tell you something?
T: Thank you for giving me a consequence for the books. You are right. It is my fault.
I think I heard right.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I want to backup a little bit to clarify a couple of things. Tortuga did fight us on the changes at the start because we made this shift when he still "owed" us sentences that he had refused to finish. We use "writing sentences" (like some of us had in school) as a way to address behaviors and attitudes that violate family values, expectations and rules when the behavior is continually engaged in. In many cases they serve as a "reminder" to change or stop the behavior and we have been using them as a last resort when reminders and redirection from C. & I. doesn't work. Unlike most of our other consequences which are given immediately and swiftly (we use natural consequences as much as possible) these are "saved" for Saturday or Sunday and must be done before they can participate in other "fun" activities. When Tortuga or Corazon "earn" sentences we might say "That means you have forgotten about ____ That's ok. Writing some sentences will help you remember. Let us know if you need more." This has really worked for Corazon and especially Tortuga and has gotten rid of 75-80% of the "small" behaviors that he constantly engaged in such as rolling his eyes or sticking his tongue out at us EVERY time we spoke to him. (Corazon would cross her eyes at us, teachers, coaches or any adult who annoyed her or checked her for something.)
The other thing I want to clarify is that we started acknowledging that Tortuga ALWAYS needed the safety and structure that one would use with a toddler/preschooler. We weren't being condescending and never belittled him for it. We just recognized that the gaps in his learning and his behavior were such that sometimes he responded like a 2 year old while other times he was behaving like a 5 year old or an 8 year old. That wasn't his fault but it made it hard for us and him because when he behaved in a more age-appropriate way we started treating him and expecting him to do so and then in a similar situation he would act like a toddler. From our vantage point, there was no rhyme or reason to this. We decided that we needed to recognize and take stock of as much as we could which is why we treated everything as a "test." We might say, let's see if you can _____ and if not that is ok, you aren't ready and we will try again later." Most importantly, we have stuck with it.
At the end of the last post I noted that things started to change. It was most noticeable with the eating and bathroom behaviors. Once he started eating more normal portions I started teaching him to say things like "mom, I am full" or "mom, I got enough to eat." Yet, I continued to fill his plate beyond what he needed and I started hearing him say things like "I don't need to eat the rest of my food" and "I don't want the rest of my food." I felt it was important for him to be able to articulate and control his response to the food and acknowledge that his need was being met. He has had food issues for as long as we have known him and I didn't want to make the mistake of treating this as something that he was "over" so I have maintained the extra food thing because each time he turns down a snack or leaves food on his plate he gains more confidence that there will be more than enough food, that he has some control over something so critical to him, and that I will take care of this need. (I think it is also important to note that in our house we always prepare and serve the kids' food. We don't let them serve or help themselves because it reinforces that we will be there to meet this need.) Sorry if I am going into too much detail here.
The other thing I did was I NOTICED when he started using a strategy to calm and control himself and I played it up. For example, in the last post I also mentioned he started saying "yes, mom" and "thank you for helping me, mom" when I was redirecting him or telling him to do something. He started saying this on his own and sometimes through gritted teeth but I could tell how hard he was working to stay in control and his "yes, mom" helped him do this. I pointed out that we all use strategies like that to help us not get mad, lose our tempers, or stay in control and it was good for him to try new ones until he found one that worked. So far this strategy has worked and we are seeing that he needs to use it less and less.
The next thing I did is I identified a "routine" that was important and listed all the steps for him. He read it and could decide to change the order and I would rewrite it in the agreed upon order. Then he had to rewrite it for himself and post it in his room. He was then expected to follow that routine as agreed upon. It may sound rigid but it provided safety, consistency and structure for him while giving him control. Initially we didn't allow any exceptions/explanations (RAD and ODD issues) until he would show that it was internalized. When he couldn't or wouldn't follow it we had him rewrite the routine as a "reminder." So far he has "nailed down" routines for mornings, mealtimes, riding in the car, laundry, errands/shopping and afterdinner/bedtime prep. We are now working on a routine for his schoolwork. We will also work to add things to his routines as he is ready. I think the routines really provide safety and security for him. Plus he is generally pretty disorganized and has some ADD issues on top of that so they help him in other ways. We are at a point where small deviations from the routine are ok (give him choice and control) but we have to be careful that we don't let that slip too far because when we gave him too much control it was a disaster. We learned our lesson.
When we had to go out I would prepare him for each outing by identifying the challenges he would face, reminding him what was expected, telling him he would mess up and get sentences but it would be ok and he could do it, etc. We would review the routine, if he had one, and when we returned if things hadn't gone well he would go straight to his room and we would talk about it as he was ready. If things had gone really badly we had him practice patience (strong sitting), yoga breathing and tapping/rubbing before letting him go up to his room. There have been some bumps but this has been working thus far.
Again, this is getting too long so I will stop here.
About 3 months ago we reached a crossroads with Tortuga. There were good days and bad days as with all our kids. We had reached a plateau in his progress and we were experiencing some serious downsliding. I realized we were spending much of our time redirecting him and cancelling most of our summer outings because he was so unpredictable. He would only speak to me in a disrespectful tone. He ignored me, argued constantly, didn't make eye contact, didn't follow even the simplest directions, "forgot" all of his routines (shower, teethbrushing, walking in the house, bathroom use, laundry, bedtime prep, getting dressed, etc.), yelled at me for seemingly no reason, and every request was met with contempt and non-compliance. Whenever I spoke to him he interrupted me constantly and "forgot" everything I said. He would ask for help and then get mad when I tried to help. He shot hateful looks at Corazon and Pollito every chance he got even when they weren't dealing with him. It was always "their" fault or my fault that he was being rude, obnoxious, mean or disrespectful. We were his triggers. He was also deliberately mean to both of them no matter how nice they were to him and he started making up stuff about how "bad" Corazon was. His demeanor toward me was especially "hateful" in every sense of the word including trying to physically overpower me and "bully" me with his words, tone, attitude, and demeanor. While I was non-plussed by most of it I was also getting scared for him. He is 10 and quickly approaching an age where hormones and social pressures and peers will become more influential and I needed to try something else.
Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) is certainly one of Tortuga's "diagnoses"and many of his behaviors "fit the bill." When he first came to us he had ALL of the behaviors associated with ODD. According to the Mayo Clinic and other sources kids with ODD exhibit Negativity, Defiance, Disobedience, and Hostility directed at authority figures. For him it meant we were subjected to temper tantrums, excessive argumentativeness with his teachers and his parents, refusal to comply with adult requests/rules, deliberate annoyance of others at home and school, blaming others for his own mistakes and misbehavior, easily annoyed especially by parents and siblings, anger and resentment, spiteful or vindictive behavior, mean and hateful talking when upset, aggressiveness and spite toward peers and revenge seeking (for real or imagined offenses), difficulty maintaining friendships and academic problems.
But he also had other "diagnoses" (12 or 13 to be precise) that had symptoms that overlapped with ODD. Over the years he had been diagnosed with ADD, learning issues, depression, anxiety disorder, RAD and even a suspicion that he might be bipolar. It was difficult to figure out what was connected to these other issues but in all honesty I wasn't particularly interested in the labels. I was concerned with how to help my child. We took him off all his meds because we wanted to know what we were dealing with plus he had been medicated since he was 3 and I figured his brain had to have been affected by all this. One of his therapists determined that he didn't have ODD he just needed to be heard and understood. She worked hard at building a trusting relationship with him via play therapy and he triangulated us to no end and made our lives a living hell for the 24-48 hours after each session. We eventually gave that up because it just wasn't helping and it was eroding all of our quality of life.
As we worked on helping him become a part of the family and address his many needs and issues I read everything I could on all his potential issues and worked to integrate them into our lives. Because the ODD behaviors has always been obvious and prevalent we have tried to use as many of the recommended parenting strategies as possible including these:
Limit consequences to those that can be consistently reinforced and last a limited amount of time
--Give effective timeouts (time ins in our case as we tried to build attachment)
--Avoid power struggles
--Remain calm/unemotional in the face of opposition
--Recognize/praise good behaviors and positive characteristics
--Offer acceptable choices to your child
--Give him some amount of control
--Establish routines and schedules
--Have specific activities to do with the child
All these things have helped but as I said we were plateauing and I was hitting the wall trying to figure out what to try next. So I spent a few days taking another "inventory" of what was happening with him, what issues he was having, triggers, when he was regulated, when he wasn't, etc. When he was in a decent mood we had a "heart to heart" about a few things so I could gather more "data." I finally concluded a few things that made sense only to me. The most important of these was that I needed to make his world very, very small. Ideally this would have been keeping him close by like I would with a toddler/preschooler (because that was what many of his reactions reminded me of). This was almost impossible because I do have a toddler and a five year old who contributed to his issues. After a few days of trying the "sticktight" approach with him things got worse. It was just too much. Anytime he saw Corazon or Pollito he lost it. He dominated ALL of my time and he was stressed and upset throughout the day and I wasn't able to serve him or any of the other children.
C. and I sat him down and told him he was showing us that he wasn't able to honor our family values--respect, responsibility, safety, obedience and caring/kindness. We told him he either didn't want to, didn't know how, couldn't do it because it was too hard, wasn't interested in doing it consistently, wasn't ready to or all of the above. It didn't matter to us what was causing it but we loved him and we knew things had to change. We told him he would no longer be expected to do any of those things and he would no longer be expected to spend any time with his siblings (Corazon and Pollito) since he vows that he hates them and the writing in all his notebooks/ papers/folders/etc. affirms this. We tried to remove all of the stressors from his day to see what would happen. I informed him that he would be taking a break from the family for an indefinite period of time. We would check in after a week and reassess. I certainly wasn't sending him away or telling him we didn't love him but I was letting him know he wasn't behaving in a likeable or loveable way to any of us.
I took away all the things he couldn't handle consistently and appropriately. No responsibility. No routines. No chores. No schoolwork (it was still summer.) No expectations. Nothing. It was similar to our earlier strategies of removing TV, video games, and other high stimulus activities. We focused mostly on meeting his most basic needs. I "overdid" all the basic "necessities." I overfed him at every meal (we still have food issues) and increased his snacks. He could go to the bathroom as often as desired, stay in there as long as desired as long as he didn't destroy anything, and made sure he had plenty to drink throughout the day. I gave him really comfortable bedding, pulled out his favorite tshirts and pjs for him to wear, got the temperature in his room "just right" for him, and played "soothing" music in his room. Each morning and each afternoon/evening I spent about an hour with just him and no interruptions (chatting, rubbing, reading to him, listening to him.) With three other kids it was really challenging to carve out two hours of uninterrupted time with him but it was essential. Our goal wasn't to isolate him but we had to take him out of all of the stressful situations that seemed to set him off.
At first he was happy with all this. He could spend hours in the bathroom, get 5-8 snacks a day plus 3 very large meals, and he was content to lie in bed and do "nothing." He was pleasant during our time together and seemed to enjoy it. When we checked in he said there was NOTHING he missed about being with the family or the other kids. He also had a few options for activities (drawing, writing, reading, puzzles, legos) or he could just lie in bed and do nothing. After about a week of this he started to "look" for reasons to be oppositional, defiant or just plain mad at me. He initially destroyed puzzles, legos, paper, pencils so we just took them away. The only consequence was that the thing he destroyed didn't get replaced. He took his meals alone or with me keeping him company but I didn't eat with him. He ate before the rest of the family so he wouldn't have to listen to the rest of us while he ate. (Being first at things is really important to him.)
He asked for schoolwork so I said we would try it as a "test." Over the next few weeks everything was a "test." If he couldn't handle it we just went back to the way things were without it. He did continue to have some meltdowns and we ignored them. When he was calm I asked him to come up with something to do to help him calm down. We settled on the shower. Whenever he would go off he would be sent to shower. The shower was an interesting experiment and has really worked for him. The water provides stimulus for him that is both positive and negative, it also muffled his screams so he could scream more freely AND it literally chilled him out.
An interesting thing started to happen about three weeks into this--he spent noticeably less time in bathroom, less need for constant water breaks, refusal of snacks and more normal portions of food. I still "overfed" him but he couldn't/wouldn't eat it. The meltdowns decreased to maybe 2-3 per week and were short-lived. He would ask to take a shower as he felt himself getting worked up AND in one of our conversations he noted (unprompted) that he had realized that hitting and destroying things made him angrier and didn't make him feel better. He even recounted conversations with his therapist (the one who didn't think he had ODD) where she told him to just hit his pillow when he got angry and he had realized that those things did not help him. Other things started to change. He stopped talking to me with an attitude, stopped interrupting me, and started saying "yes mom" and "thank you for helping me mom" each time I redirected him and I could SEE him working hard to keep his attitude in check. Yes there were slip ups but it was worlds better. So I decided to continue to "overmeet" his basic needs but increased the work on meeting more of his "safety" needs.
This is getting really long (no surprise for me) but I am going to stop here and continue this later in another post.