Tantrum Interventionist 2.0… My eleven year old’s behavior fluctuates moment by moment. He tantrums. Sometimes in the morning when he opens his eyes waking up, I see that look on his face… his countenance and demeanor… I just know today will not be an easy one. I know sometimes he cannot control whatever it is that’s happening inside of him, but I also know that behavior is learned. Understanding that young kids are malleable and the urgency of making the most of today, I work with making most moments of maladaptive behavior teachable ones for him. We find ways to help him learn about his responsibility in managing his behavior. Fortunately for us he has a great, professional, committed, behavioral team. This blog is a follow up to my newsletter article of September 11th. Here is a link: http://eepurl.com/ceaFZH
I decided to share a few steps we are taking with him:
- Communication: My son receives in-home ABA services. It is so important to be on the same page – the exact same paragraph – with his support team. I try to communicate his behavior effectively to the team so we can compare what we are both observing and continue to make adjustments to his therapeutic plan.
- Education: It is important that my son understands what the team is doing for him… Every step of the way! It is important that he understands himself and his behavior. His Team Supervisors are superb at developing ways to teach him that he can process and understand.
- Consistency: Even though it is sometimes frustrating to hear him complain as most eleven year olds do, we all stick to the plan supporting him. We use the same language and strategies because when he succeeds it’s amazing to see his confidence grow! Consistency certainly works!
Today during my son’s ABA session his BI – Behavior Interventionist – reviewed his schedule and realized that he did not do his laundry. He was supposed to complete that chore prior to his session which began at noon. So she informed him that he would sort his laundry at his scheduled “free time” during his session. He immediately began to whine and complain. His BI continued to write her notes for a brief moment and then briskly said to him: “All you need to say to me is: ‘OK I’ll get the laundry done.'” He was so irritated but repeated what she said. The significance of that is his entire team, including me, are helping him understand his behavior. What he should do and how he should act and respond in order to be appropriate at home and fit in at school and during other social activities. We have decided for this time, that is an important area of focus in his support and we are all very consistent redirecting his whining. What I know for certain is that if we simply allow him to continue to do that, it becomes a new behavior.
TANTRUM INTERVENTIONIST – September 11, 2016 Newsletter Entry
There are so many titles I am proud to hold… Mother, daughter, sister, cousin, niece, aunt, writer, advocate, educator… friend. However, right at this moment, the title I am most pleased to have is “Tantrum Interventionist!” You see, my eleven year old had a colossal tantrum last Sunday. It left us all very drained and me discouraged. But what’s a Mom to do? We continue on. We have no choice! So fast forward to today… Somehow I believe he was trying to go for two Sundays in a row.
This morning I woke him up 7:00 AM and he did not feel like getting out of bed (well that’s not entirely true – he was playing a ‘game’ with his brother) so he snarled at me “turn off that light.” I immediately knew what type of day this could turn out to be so I ignored him and waited for him to leave the room in order that his brother could get dressed. For added measure, on his way out the door he kicked down the brand new clothes hamper I’d bought him one day prior. I just continued to look straight ahead, I did not even glance at him. Then later he put on one of his newer school shirts for the day. He likes the same style of shirts and I had asked him use only the old stained shirts on the weekends and the newer ones for school. Our conversation ensued on which shirts he should be wearing. I was attempting to revisit the previous conversation we’d had as a reminder to him. In order to help him remember which shirts he should actually be wearing on weekends. He kept interrupting me with literal translations of what I was saying and just being mean spirited with his attitude. Responding, “I forgot” or other times he was just shutting down altogether and staring me in the face. What bothered me most was seeing the other kids tiptoe to their rooms and my oldest son gently closing the sliding door to the kitchen in order to avoid the potential unpleasantness. It was only 8:00 AM! So, I suggested that he accessed one of his calming strategies and he finally said to me. “You are annoying me.”
Without missing a beat I responded to him, “You are annoying me too!” He had the nerve to look shocked! I continued, “I am completely amazed and find it incredulous that we seem to have this one conversation incessantly. Never ending… Do you think this a walk in the park for me? No, it is not! I am HUGELY annoyed! But do you see me frothing at the mouth or flailing or screaming my lungs out or pitching a colossal tantrum because I am annoyed? No, I am standing in front of you calmly going over this same conversation for the umpeenth time because I care. I am controlling my impulses to yell and scream. I am accesing my calming strategies and reigning in my control. That is what we do, honey. Almost everyone in the world learn to control their annoyance, frustration, anger and behavior. And that is what we are all trying to help you learn!
I continued to tell him. “You have an elite team of professionals supporting you. Helping you in every possible way. You know exactly what choices are available to you right now and you are being silent because you prefer to lash out. You have reminder cards right there in that cabinet in case you forget your strategies. Yet, you are waiting for an opportunity to tantrum. So here’s my suggestion. Since you are not accessing your strategies right now, let’s get you on your elevator to the 50th floor and count down. Then, when you are on the 1st floor if you feel up to it come and see me in the kitchen so we can continue this conversation and sort out these shirts. If not, you can go up to the 100th floor.” One of the many conversations I have with my son is not giving away his power to anyone. Especially his emotions. Learning to cope with them is vital in life. If not, it eventually becomes the determinant of achievement in life. I tell him if he does not learn to control his emotions and lashing out continues to be a way of life, he will end up potentially giving his power to others who will make decisions for him. That may result in grave consequences. Others may not understand that he has Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome… Or what that even means. But the most important thing is the majority of people do not take lightly to someone lashing out at them.
I am not sure what in my posture or words made him acquiesce but that he did. He started to count. The truth of the matter is he does calm down after he counts. He has had a zillion behavior outbursts and tantrum over the years but something about counting down on the elevator is the most effective method of calming that I have seen having an immediate effect on him. Naturally he hates to use it. God forbid he is calm! But when he gives away his power to me; when he does not want to calm himself down, I just ask him to take a short (or very long) ride on the elevator.
A few minutes later, he came back and stated, “I’m ready” and we sorted out the shirts in perfect unison. He hung up his ‘good’ shirts and I took pictures of the ‘old’ shirts that have stains on them so the next time he says “I don’t know” I’ll just have him reference the pictures. When all was done, I asked him where he was on his thermometer and he replied “green.” I praised him for re-taking control of his emotions and told him later in the day we will sit to collaborate on solutions. So, off we were to the next adventure… Yikes!
Yup… Reclaiming my calm on a Sunday morning… Oh Happy Day!