After a week of time away from my boys, I missed them. I looked forward to seeing them again. I had no thoughts of behavior issues or kids fighting. In fact, I wrote here about crying in front of a waitress because I didn’t get to hear their sweet voices enough (and that was just after 2 days). I don’t know how she had a box of tissues ready to bring to our table, because I didn’t see anyone else with any tissues, but she got a good tip from me. My point? I totally meant every word of this:
And the next day, when my husband and I packed everything up, got dressed up, and left early to pick him up from camp, I meant every word of this as well:
I knew he would do well with his talent show talent and that he would give us big hugs and I looked forward to it. I also looked forward to going back to pick up his brother and hoped that the week away from everything would lead to a break in some of the behavior patterns.
I got the big hugs and lots of kisses. He did an awesome job with the talent show. He did leaps over huge red balls and did math problems in front of everyone, ending with “What is four minus eight?” And he got every single problem “Correct,” even though, at the age of 7, he does not need to know negative numbers. He’s learning by rote, but I plan to help him explore using a number line since he has a natural curiosity with math. When we got to his grandparents’ house, which is where his brother stayed, he eagerly greeted his brother with hugs and kisses. They played well for a bit. Just for a little bit.
Unfortunately, our honeymoon did not last. We tried chalking it up to exhaustion. Change in routine. Whatever. We got back home, gave him expectations of what to expect “First, then,” and behavior stayed the same. The sweet, loving child we saw when we first picked him up has changed. He vacillates between sweet and loving and violent. He hits and kicks. He charges at us. Most of the behavior gets directed at me or his brother. I don’t know what to do. He lost his tablet, the television, and interaction with me. The only thing he gets back is me, and the behavior changes only briefly before I get attacked again. We had this lovely moment earlier this morning where we cuddled on the couch and he had 100% of my attention. Only then will he stop attacking. Any diversion from 100% attention and it begins again. I can’t commit to that. Dinner must get cooked. His brother needs me. The house is a mess. Right now, I’m in the room with his brother watching Spiderman because that’s where we’re safe.
We tried reading a Social Story with him and going over strategies for when he’s angry (more than once today), and then practicing those strategies. We can continue to work on those things, but he simply refuses to separate himself from us when he’s mad. He seems to prefer hitting and kicking. We’re continuing to use MeMoves, which is a calming video with movement much like yoga that’s proven to bring down the fight or flight response. We need to use it more throughout the day, though. We’ve tried breathing with him. Counting with him. Redirection with silly things in intense moments where necessary (something that doesn’t help the overall issue, but makes the behavior stop in the moment). Unfortunately, I know there’s no quick fix. I also know we can’t afford for him to continue to attack us. We especially cannot allow his brother to get hurt.
But, I love him with all that I am. I know that tomorrow, Big Guy will go to daycare, he will have all of my attention when we’re not at tutoring, or doing a non-preferred activity or at the day camp, and during the times of the day that it’s just me and him, my Squeaker will return. In the meantime, I’m at a loss. How do you break such a rigid pattern when consequences seem to mean nothing and rewards no longer work either? Our system broke. How do we fix it? Sure would be nice to get an answer from a professional. As yet, none have given us answers any that have worked.
Do you have a child on the spectrum? If so, what are some things you’ve tried to help with behavior modification?