Last week we met with Tate’s team to discuss the results of the FBA (functional behavior analysis) that was done. Tate started the school year out fairly well, but had a marked increase in scripting and stimming behaviors, especially during the times that he is mainstreamed. Hubz and I were totally ok with the school district doing observations and data gathering. We were seeing similar behaviors at home during downtime. We had no longer signed the paperwork and his scripting decreased. Ironic.
The team had come up with a stimulus control for Tate’s scripting and stimming. It worked. If he participated and was able to get his school work done without scripting/stimming interfering with it, he got a few minutes of “stim-me time”. We were doing that at home, as well, and it seemed to help…during some parts of our day.
The behavior specialist at school was observing and tracking his behavior in his instructional class, in his specials, and at lunch. Tate is still only mainstreamed for specials–music, gym, library. He eats lunch with this mainstream class, and does parties with them, too. A different behavior emerged…during down time…or periods where the class was told to “wait”, Tate would start scripting. Or shouting. Or making his stimmy noise. Or, one that’s really noticeable, he would act like a drill sergeant and boss everyone, including teachers, around. Fabulous.
The antecedent for his behavior is completely related to having to wait. He just. can’t. do. it. Hubz and I totally got this. It made so much sense. Tate likes his routine and predictability. He likes when there is order and he knows what is going to come next. He can barely wait for a peer to answer a question in class. He will shout over the peer and give the peer the correct answer…because the anxiety produced by waiting for the peer to answer…and the anxiety that the peer will get the incorrect answer just is too much for Tate. So he’ll shout out answers. He’ll start scripting. He has made some of his stimmy noises to fill the time.
Looking at his behaviors at home, this rings true, as well. For instance, on Wednesdays, I often get the boys take-out. It’s from our local burger joint…and to Tate it’s ambrosia. The gooey grilled cheese. The crispy french fries. The savory fried cheese curds. The quenching lemonade. It’s.so.freakin’.yummy! He cannot wait for me to get my jacket off, put my purse away, and set the dinner on the table. Instead, he starts barking, and I mean BARKING orders. GET ME THAT GRILLED CHEESE–NOW! I NEED KETCHUP! DON’T GIVE COLE CHEESE CURDS. HURRY! STOP! WAAAHHHH! My head is spinning and I want to collapse from frustration.
Tate also bosses his brothers around–big time. But the bossing usually doesn’t occur unless he’s waiting. Waiting for his turn in the bathtub. COLE-WASH YOUR HAIR–NOW! NO PLAYING! PUT THAT SOAP DOWN! GET OUT OF THE TUB! JAKE, FLUSH THE POTTY! FLUSH THE POTTY, NOW! GIVE ME THAT TOWEL!
We had been dealing with the behaviors with the ABA-suggested process. Ignore the demands. Ask him to do it over the right way. Model the correct behavior and have him do it. Going over the process. But, try as he might, eventually it would all break down. I was frustrated for him. I was frustrated for us. I was frustrated for his poor brothers who will likely have PTSD about showering as they get older. *sigh*
On the upside, the ABA team is taking the same approach as the school. They are working on building his ability to wait gradually. ABA had already been doing it..but he wasn’t generalizing it. At school, and during therapy (and I think with us at home), they use cues. And motivation. At school they are using cards with objects he desires. Doc McStuffins. Fans. Team Umi-Zoomi. If he needs to wait, they will use their cue, “hang on”, and that will prompt him to choose a card to use to wait. Eventually phrases will be on the cards. “I sit and wait with a quiet body until my teacher comes to my desk.” For now, he can look at his cards with his favorite things. It is anticipated that this will help his brain leave the anxious state and calm down so he can wait.
Goals were written for his IEP. He will work towards waiting 20 seconds, quietly, until the end of this trimester. By the end of the school year, we are aiming for 30 seconds. By his IEP meeting in October, we’re hoping for 45 seconds. Ultimately, we’d like to get a minute. A minute is an incredibly looonggg period of time for a 6.5 year old boy. Even longer for a 6.5 year old boy with ADHD and anxiety. And autism. But we know he can do it. He is so amazing at taking coping skills and practicing them. He has learned SOOOO much. We’re hopeful that he can learn this, too.
Waiting is an important skill. No one likes to do it. It makes me antsy and anxious. And I’m neurotypical. I can’t imagine how magnified that must be for my boys who want to know EXACTLY what is coming next so that they can draw from their scripts/social stories/repertoire to act and react appropriately.
This all made me think about my own behavior…so many times I will tell my boys, “Wait a couple minutes, ok?”. I say this so often that Cole’s response to being asked to do a chore he doesn’t want to do is, “Couple minutes, ok?” I’m really bad. Maybe I need some ABA to help extinguish that one!! I know, now, thanks to the team at Tate’s school, that when I ask Tate to wait a couple of minutes, he really, truly cannot…not without some help. So I will make that a priority..and will hopefully help teach my son how to wait. It’s a skill that too many of us just don’t have in a society that favors immediate gratification.