A family's story

Posts tagged ‘behavior’

The Siblings…

There is a little boy in Cole’s preschool class who still struggles with separation from his mom. On many days that he attends class, his eyes are rimmed with red from crying. He looks miserable. Cole often tells me that this child cried during class. Or that this child is “sad”. (In Cole speak, that probably means that the child is having a meltdown.) I haven’t ever been able to talk to this child’s mom about how I “get it”, as she’s always busy reassuring us parents that she’s ok, he’s ok, and that it’s just a rough morning. 

Last week, this child was having another bad morning. He was crying at drop-off. His mom looked as frazzled as he did. I asked if I could help. Another mom, who seems to know them better, asked as well. She politely declined. I smiled and wished her good luck…and threw in, “I get it…” She looked at me with slight disbelief. She has no idea about Tate…she only knows Cole…the most “typical” of our lot.

Apparently, the crying from drop-off continued through the morning. Many of the children were watching this child as he cried and sobbed during the letter of week time. Cole went about his morning routine as best as he could, and according to his teachers, didn’t give the child who was melting down too much attention. As one activity transitioned to another, the kids had some play time.  Cole scampered over to the play area and started to rummage around the bins.

His teacher said that he found what he was looking for–a stop sign. He walked up to her and said, “Can we tell _____ that it’s time to stop (points to the stop sign)–stop the crying. He needs to use words to tell us what he needs.” She said she was flabbergasted. Before she could give Cole an answer, Cole approached the boy. “_____, use your words to tell us what’s wrong.” Cole showed the boy the stop sign. The boy stopped crying. He was surprised that Cole said something. But he stopped. Cole invited the boy to play with him. The boy said no, but the meltdown was over. Cole went about his playtime.

When Cole’s teacher told me about the day’s events, she said that he was never rude or harsh. He didn’t bully. He was simply trying to help the boy who was having such a rough time at school. She couldn’t believe his method for coping with the issue, either. I told Cole’s teacher about Tate, and how Cole is accustomed to dealing with an autistic brother. This is what Cole knows. She then told me that the backstory of Tate’s autism explains a lot…she went on to say that Cole is more tolerant, more kind, more compassionate than the average kids in her class. She said he has patience and is often the first to try to comfort an upset peer. (COLE?! Our resident instigator?!)

I often worry about how our family’s experience with Autism will affect Cole and Jake. I worry that they’ll feel neglected. That they’ll feel slighted. That they’ll feel like they are less loved. I worry that they’ll act up–or out. That they’ll seek attention because they don’t feel like they get enough at home. I worry that they’ll be nasty to children who struggle.

After hearing about Cole’s experience at school, and knowing what I know about Jake, I am confident that, if anything, living with autism has given my boys perspective. It’s given them compassion–even Cole at 3.5 years old. Instead of staring, Cole went on with his day. Instead of making a production about the disruption, Cole tried to find a way to cope with it. Instead of judging, Cole tried to calm the boy and asked him to play.

This gives me hope that our boys will use the tools they have been given and will build upon them as they mature…and that the experiences with their brother will make them better men. More understanding. More compassionate. More patient. More empathetic. Just…More.

Wait a minute…

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.

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