Saturday, June 23, 2012

Having a small bovine

Being ten, Joey has discovered the glory and power of language in a way that young boys often do. That's right! He's discovered the word f#@%.


We've actually worked up to this gem, in a very usual way. "What the..." has been bouncing about for a while now, occasionally completed with the more tame "hell". "Holy crap!" has been ringing through our halls (in an excellent imitation of my own inflection). Kids at school thought it was funny to teach him "bitch" a couple of years ago, but it didn't really catch on, especially after he discovered it's a real word for a female breeding dog. But then came the power of f#@%.

Not much turns heads in a room like a ten year old shouting it out to the world, I can tell you.

With Joey's communication issues, and the potential for bullying and whatnot, and hey, he's TEN, we made the executive decision to curb this behavior. I mean, who wants their ten-year-old swimming in the pool, yelling "F#@%!" at random? This isn't an autism issue. This is a being ten issue.

Ignoring it didn't actually help. When you ignore Joey, and he says something that he wants attended to, he just says it again. And again. And again. And increases the volume. And then adds, "Mommy, I said _____________!!!!" That wasn't going to help. We were kinda silly thinking it might.

Another choice for changing behavior is to try to replace it with another, more appropriate behavior. This is something that can be very difficult, because replacement is not something that can be always controlled. For example, if we had Joey stop sucking his thumb, he would replace that comforting behavior with something else; and what would it be? We might try to train him to chew gum instead, but that doesn't mean he will do it. He might find it more satisfying to bang his head or spit. Now you've replaced the behavior, but not with a more appropriate behavior. Whoops.

We got lucky. Or maybe someone at school picked up on the problem and made a suggestion. Or maybe an angel whispered it into Joey's ear. Whatever happened, he came into my bedroom one morning, and instead of yelling "What the hell?" (yes, it became a common routine), he yelled out, "What the cow?"

And I laughed. Joey loves the idea that he might be funny and make others laugh. He picked right up on the positive reaction. We had a winner!

We are totally replacing the bad words with "cow." As in, "What the cow!" and "I don't give a flying cow!" and "This job is completely cowy." My apologies to offended bovines everywhere.

No, we haven't yet eliminated the foul language, but we have the first step- an alternative, which gets him a more positive reaction, which is more pleasing than a negative reaction. Our job is to reinforce the behavior we want, not the behavior we don't. Listening for words and signals is a constant thing here, teasing out what we need to know from the stream of babble. And we like this approach, because it doesn't negate Joey's need for exclamation and communication of extreme feeling.

After all, sometimes you just gotta let out a big ol' "COW!"

1 comment:

Sencho said...

Hello Joeymom,

Thank you for sharing how you handled the not so nice language issue. You're rigth it is a issue of being ten and not of being autistic. I wonder what will happen when Brandon turns ten. Here's a video of him how he is now.
Love, Sencho