Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Attitude

Well, here it is, October. The seasons change, the light slants through the sky at different angle, the air chills, the leaves fall, and Joey goes bazonkers. I am pretty sure the season change is part of the problem for him, because we have the same thing happen in the spring. When Joey gets off-kilter with the change of season, he can't help it. He feels it, and his frustration goes up, he goes into severe silly moods, the swings of mood can be dramatic. He doesn't like it any more than anybody else, but he also has no where to go with it.

Add onto that puberty. Then, a new school, and problems with regulation associated with change and increased academic demands. Plus, now that we think he is starting to trust the people around him, he is starting to try to process and express a lot of feelings, frustrations, and experiences for which he has no words. Yeah, I think you might go a little nutty, too.

This is the moment that tries a school's soul. For the last few years, that soul has come up wanting. And when the school comes up wanting, it is not longer a safe space- and the spiral goes rapidly into the vortex from there. When he starts acting out and expressing fear and anger from years of bullying, frustration, and difficulty communicating, how do you respond? Do you lecture him, suspend him from class, punish him? Most school settings do. What have you taught him when you react in a way that is punishing, negative, hard, cold?

That he can't trust you. He can't rely on your help, because you aren't going to help. You are going to punish, and just expect him to swallow all that horrible down. He learns you want him to shut up and go away.

We had our first blow up at school. What was the attitude of the new school?

Let's make sure he is safe. Let's give him ways to tell us what he needs. Let's make sure he has space to calm down, decompress, de-escalate. Let's teach him some new coping mechanisms. Let's find out what he is feeling, and help him express it. Let's hire some psychiatric help so he gets some support and therapy for what he is experiencing and feeling.

No panic. No suspension. No "he's got to have negative consequences for this!" No "I have to keep my staff safe!" with the implication of, "your kid is dangerous!" They shifted the positive reinforcement back to shorter time expectations, to give him time and support to learn new strategies, process, and re-adjust. The gave him time to calm down, then engaged him in a discussion of what choices would be good choices when he is feeling overwhelmed, scared, sad, confused, or even super-silly. We talked about things he finds calming, and how to make sure he has access to things like pictures of his cats, squish balls, and favorite games.

How's that for a whole new world?

And the result? He came home happy as a clam, saying he had a good day at school, and talking about Mom visiting and playing games with his classmate and teachers. He's still happy to go back to school and give it another try, every morning. Today wasn't a good day, but tomorrow is a new day.

He still feels safe and loved. That is the attitude he needs to succeed.

3 comments:

Susan Whitman said...

I LOVE it. Soo glad for you all Mandy. *hugs*

Susan from the Pacific Northwest said...

Wonderful!!!

When my Asperger daughter was in 6th grade things fell apart for her. She didn't act out at school, but would spend each day hiding like a turtle in her coat, then explode at home. There were lots of scary behaviors at home.

We put her in a therapeutic school for 7th grade. We, and the staff, celebrated when she blew up at school. We all know that meant she felt safe enough to do that.

They reacted much like your new school. It was amazing. And so comforting and wonderful and I still get teary thinking about it.

That school was a turning point for her and us. I hope it is for you and Joey also!!

D Marcotte said...

Wonderful - what an exciting time for you. I only wish we could clone that school and sprinkle one everywhere there is an autistic child. Thanks for sharing.