Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tortuga continues his progress

Tortuga did remarkably well over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I gave him more wiggle room throughout this time with continuous reminders of what was expected, etc. One thing that I think helped is we had stepped up the "interruptions" to his day and introduced lots of little "tests" to see if he could behave/hold things together and transition back to being on task. Except for a little bit of attitude and a well averted meltdown on Thanksgiving he did really well. I want to focus a little bit on Thanksgiving Day for him because I think this exemplifies some of the areas where I make my mistakes in serving him and his current needs. It also shows where his trouble spots are without them being overshadowed by meltdowns and rages. By themselves, none of these (mis)behaviors are big deals but the feelings and attitudes behind them are HUGE and I think when I miss them in day to day life or don't address them they just grow for him. He hasn't developed the capacity to monitor himself or be grateful that I let "little things" slide and for him it seems that each little thing that slides quickly become a big thing.

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.


BT said...

Hi Dia. First, thanks for your comment on my blog. Your experiences and suggestions never fail to give me a ton to think about and consider integrating somehow into our household life. Again, thanks.

This is a very interesting post. Tortuga's progress is evident! (Pat on the back to you and C.) P is very similar, but much less extreme. For example, from your post I can easily pick up on the amount of energy you're expending being vigilant about how to help Tortuga stay regulated and make good choices, how vigilant you have to be in monitoring his every move and trying to stay three to five steps ahead of him in anticipating his possible actions/choices in any possible situation. P still needs that from us too. I find it very hard to remember -- dumb, I know, because we've been at it so long you'd think it was ingrained -- because his intellectual age is so much more mature than his social/behavioural age(s). On the other hand, we no longer face very real possibilities of escalating all the way to rages, which is a relief, and I think P is quite a bit farther along than Tortuga in being able to cope with changes and transitions (though they are still a huge challenge).

Reading about your patience (even if you don't think you are!) and perseverance is really helpful and motivating to me.

Lee said...

You do an amazing job meeting the needs of your kids! I know how hard i find it keeping my eldest calm at large family gatherings. When he was younger and couldn't see the benefit to leaving the gathering and regrouping it was worse. Even now, (sigh) at 24, sometimes he can't see it. He thinks he is "having fun" "feeding off their energy" but in all reality he is losing it all over the place. I usually now am lucky in that I can set the paremeters before the kinfolk arrive and just cue him subtly when I see the signs. When he was younger we had major interferance from the kinfolk who would undercut literally everything we did. You all rock, and Tortuga has come a loooong way.

Mama Drama Times Two said...

A holiday well done. Isn't it just exhausting, sometimes, how our kids can just peck us to death with their nudgy behaviors???? One challenege we always faced at our family holiday gatherings was how the others would perceive our "strict" parenting styles and quietly undermine our efforts. Sometimes there is a fine balance between maintaining regulation in our children and maintaining civil relationships with our families.

Lisa said...

So glad it went as well as could be expected. The line about letting things slide is huge in my book. I have found it over and over and over to be so true. If I let the little things slide down the mountain the mountain becomes the size of Mt. Everest. Thanks for this post. Very helpful!

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