Saturday, February 21, 2009

Communicate The Way You Know How

We've been having some trouble with Joey. This isn't a huge surprise- spring is here, the weather is all over the place, the light is changing, the world takes a shift for Joey- his sensory needs tend to shift about now, he tends to be trying to process things more and have a harder time with processing about now. The frustration level goes up. Behavior- like any child- also goes a little haywire.

OUr latest campaign is teaching Joey to use words to tell us how he is feeling. The idea is to teach him instead of showing us his feelings by screaming, hitting, slamming doors repeatedly, tracking, and other behavioral ways, he should use words to communicate his feelings. We've been encouraging him to understand different relationships and the roles of people in his life, and how his words can be used to communicate his needs to these people. We've let him know we want to know how he feels, and he can always use his words to tell us how he feels. Instead of fidgeting with things on the teacher's desk, he should say, "I am uncomfortable. I am frustrated. I need a break."

Sounds good, doesn't it? Except you never know what a child hears. How is Joey interpreting what we are telling him, trying to teach him?

Joey got sent to Ms. T this week. The reason? An accumulation of behaviors that was becoming increasingly disruptive. Use of rude words (such as his favorite, "wiener"), putting marks on other children's charts towards "timeout", giving teachers checks, saying other children are responsible for his behaviors, and other inappropriate outbursts. This is very worrisome, as we are trying to keep him in inclusion settings, and these kinds of loud, inappropriate behaviors can get him sent back to self-contained environments. Fortunately, our school personnel- especially Joey's teachers- have been very understanding and willing to try to help him. However, a trip to Ms. T is a bit of a trauma. Joey gets upset when his classmates get sent to Ms. T, so to find himself in her office... well, he's a bit upset. Besides, Ms. T tends to raise her voice, so we've gotten a lot of shouting this weekend (and lots of "Ms. T is loud!")

How to help him? What is going on? What has happened to get Joey so out-of-sorts? Where is my Deerstalker and pipe?

My mom had an absolute brainstorm of brilliance. She's good like that. What if he has taken what we are teaching him- use words to express feelings- absolutely to heart? Instead of lashing out, he is saying words that, to him, express his feelings? After all, that is how Joey uses language- he attaches feelings and meanings to words and phrases, and uses them to convey those feelings and meanings, even when the words have nothing to do with the moment. What if he is using this tool of words to "give himself a break"- to get out of an uncomfortable situation?

We keep urging him to communicate, and to use words to communicate. Perhaps he has generalized that lesson in his own way?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


"iapeng-in!" Andy waddles, then flaps his arms and runs. I suppose he is a penguin underwater, instead of on land.
"I am yellow! I am Bus 30! If I hit you, you will break!" Joey vrooms, turns the plastic ring he calls a steering wheel and zooms through the first floor after the penguin.

What Joey means is he is going to play chase. This is a favorite boy game,especially during the Witching Hour. Unfortunately, it can go horribly wrong during the Witching Hour, as they get tired and annoyed with each other, with their communication hurdles, and with the determination and differing wills of each other. For example, one wants to play penguin and the other wants to play bus. That is going to annoy each other, as opposed to two boys playing penguins, or two boys playing buses.

But I worry about what those words could mean if he uttered them in school, with no interpreter handy. How would his very real fear of being hit by a car be handled? Would it be interpreted as a threat?

Both boys end up crashing into the couch. Someone stubs a toe. Someone else gets annoyed about the two different games. I hug my boys, and they are off again, a bus in one direction, a penguin in another. They run into each other. It's an accident, but the results are explosive. I have to close my computer completely and get the boys engaged. We jump on the trampoline. We play a round of Feed the Kitty (a great game!) Joey gets onto his computer to play some games. Andy wants to watch some Sesame Street. The dust settles. Andy works on some of his art, darted between the kitchen art table and the living room where Sesame Street plays, constant motion.

Distract and engage. Diffuse the frustration, redirect attention, provide opportunities for success. It may not always work, but it is always worth trying.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Yummy Lunch

Joey had off school today for President's Day- and Andy didn't. So I got to hug and squish my Joey all to myself for a few extra hours! We didn't do anything super-special; it was pretty cold, and lots of stuff was closed for the holiday. We went out to cheer up Grandma, and played some video games, and took a ride. We took Grandma to a store where she bought chocolate and flashlights for the boys. She wore out pretty quick, so we dropped her off after we picked Andy up, and I took the boys to lunch.

Taking two small boys to lunch by yourself can be a challenge, especially if the restaurant of choice is a salad bar place. Fortunately, we are well-known at the place, so they were happy to seat us next to the bar and in the window, so everybody could get food without leaving small boys unattended.

And we proceeded to have the Perfect Lunch. Joey got his mac and cheese and green beans and sat down. Andy got his lettuce, dip, pickles, cheese, bacon, and butter, and sat down. I got my salad together, and we had a lovely lunch. Our lunches came, and the boys buckled right into their chicken strips. Food was actually consumed. We talked about Andy making a hat at school. We talked about it being President's Day. We talked about George Washington, and that he was born at the farm we frequent, and spent his youth across the river from our house. We talked about President Lincoln being the 16th president and being born in a log cabin (something Joey needs to know for SOL tests). We played tic-tac-toe on our placemats. We got ice cream for dessert, with sprinkles. The boys spent the time eating it practicing signs and Spanish (well, Andy practiced his Spanish).

They were so lovely and charming, the elderly couple sitting next to us actually came over and told us so.

How's that for a yummy lunch?