A couple weeks ago we met with our 6-year-old son’s multi-disciplinary team to go over the results of his triennial review of Special Education services. When he was three, he was evaluated and diagnosed with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. Over the course of the feeding therapy sessions this past summer, the therapist mentioned that she didn’t even observe any autism except for those traits which overlap with anxiety disorder. That surprised me–I felt that the anxiety disorder was a result of the autism and that I had plenty of evidence of his having autism. Anyway, I was eager to hear what the team would find after going through the diagnostic process again.
The result? Asperger’s Syndrome–along with the recommendation that this incredibly smart little boy switch to attend a nearby public school because it’s entire program is geared above grade level and the multidisciplinary team feels that it’s better suited for him.
That’s another topic. We’d love for him to stay at his current school, but we’re giving the decision fair thought. Tomorrow we’ll attend an informational meeting at the public school and take a tour with our son.
Anyway, as everyone was singing our smart little boy’s praises at that meeting, I gratefully acknowledged their recognition of his strong points. Suddenly, however, my mouth opened and things flooded out–our struggles, my dismay over how life is at home so often, how it breaks my heart to be at odds with my little boy and not be able to help him cope.
I guess that I made my point very clear. I wanted help and I finally wasn’t afraid to ask for it. I don’t regret saying a single word, because the help that’s come our way is making such a difference, and I am more grateful than ever.
My son and I met with his Teacher’s Consultant(TC) and Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) during recess one day. The TC brought a 5 point rating scale with faces depicting how he’d feel–1 being comfortable (happy) and 5 feeling completely out of control. There was a stack of cards depicting various scenarios that he had to tuck into the pocket of the appropriate number. It was interesting seeing how he rated some things. Many didn’t surprise me, but a few did. Talking about the numbers provided an indirect way to discuss his triggers and his emotional response, and I’ve been capitalizing on that lately.
For instance, when he’s upset, I can just ask him which number he’s feeling. I’ll ask him if he has an idea how we can get him down to the next numbers until he’s back to a 1. Usually he’s just too overwhelmed by his feelings to process anything other than magically undoing the bad that’s been done. The other day I discovered that punching is really helpful for him. He had retreated to our bedroom and was kind of kicking at the bed, so I told him that sometimes people feel better by shouting into a pillow or that he could kick and punch the bed. On a whim, I started counting how many times he punched, which encouraged him to keep going. He was using up a lot of that pent-up energy, and soon he was trying to suppress a proud smile…then a few giggles slipped out…so we’ve used that method of releasing his frustrations a couple times since, and it’s amazing how well it works. We don’t have to deal with half an hour to an hour of tantrumming, threats, anger, and so on, or try to finagle an appropriate compromise. We might end up needing a new mattress at some point! I might have to look into a punching bag or bean bag or something to substitute. All I know is that he hadn’t taken to any of the other “release” methods that I’ve suggested (going up and down the steps, playing catch with something soft), so I’m definitely rolling with this.
Those two techniques–counting punches and using a rating scale–combined have enabled him to stay in better control so that I can work with him to “solve” his problem. It’s been a great half-week since those two things fell into place!