Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘behavior

J is for Jealousy

with 18 comments

I’ve mentioned before that for all the ways they can be different, my kids have an interestingly typical relationship.  They occasionally play together, in their own way.  They certainly seek each other out.  There are fights.  There is blaming each other for things they’ve done wrong.  There is teaming up as co-conspirators to wreak havoc.  There is a surprising amount of what you might call “normal” sibling behaviour.  And amongst all that, is jealousy.

Both of my kids like a lot of attention, and each becomes jealous of the other, particularly if I’m the only one around.  It is hard to handle, this push and pull, particularly when their needs can make it hard to be around each other.  Often I feel that if I’m not letting one down, I’m letting them both down.

And that push and pull goes a good way to describing my own jealousy.  I don’t feel jealous very often.  I like my life and the choices that I’ve made.  But I’m only human.  Once in a while, a feeling of jealousy will overwhelm me.  Like when I took the kids to the park.

Our local playground is renovating, so we went to the park near where Cubby plays football (soccer) which has a playground next to a cafe/restaurant.  A couple of times, we girls have gone there while the boys were at their game.  Pudding loves flitting between the playground and my table.  I’m free to relax over a pot of tea while keeping an eye on her play.  We both have a good time.

With Cubby there too, sitting at the restaurant is out of the question.  The push and pull takes me from one direction to another.  There is no relaxing and observing with the two of them.  I sit on a bench, knowing it won’t be for long, but I’m feeling unwell and could use the break.  Pudding pushes off, wanting to explore and take her dolly for a walk.  Cubby pulls in to me.  When we first arrive he is overwhelmed at first by the other children running around and making noise.  I gently encourage him to adjust to his new surroundings, and away from the safety of my proximity.

Pudding wanders too far.  I want to pull her back into a closer orbit.  I push Cubby to follow me closer to Pudding, but he isn’t ready yet, and refuses to move.  I watch her closely.  We’re not far, but she keeps going in the wrong direction.  She hasn’t turned back yet, and I wonder if she remembers where we are.  I call to her, but she doesn’t hear, or doesn’t respond.  The other kids playing, the other adults sitting and chatting make too much noise.

She turns around in a circle, but she still doesn’t see me.  I wave my arms like an air traffic controller, but it is too bright, and there are too many others running around her field of vision.  Now she is scared, and I hear her calling me.  Her face is a picture of anxiety.  I pick up the protesting Cubby and run to her relief.  All is well again.  I abandon the bench, and draw both of them back to the playground, warning Pudding that she needs to keep looking for me.  She doesn’t stray again.

I want to rest.  I feel the first sting of jealousy as I look over at them.  Tables of mothers with their friends.  Worse, with their own mothers.  At that moment, I want nothing more in the world than to be sitting over tea with my mum.  I force myself to concentrate on the kids instead, so the emotion doesn’t take over.  Another child takes Pudding’s doll stroller without asking, and she lets her.  She just stands there, until I ask if she wants it back.  She does, and I coach her through asking the girl to return it.  And when the little brat refuses, I intervene myself, because her own parent who should be watching is at one of these tables, doing something other than paying attention to her child’s behaviour.

And the jealousy is throbbing now, because there is never a moment when I’m not paying attention to my kid’s behaviour.  This luxury of being able to ignore, to content yourself that your child will be fine is something all these mothers take for granted.  I can’t even sit on a bench when I feel sick.  I can’t even visit a doctor unless they’re in school.  I live on a different continent to all my relatives, and right at this moment I’m bitterly jealous of the carefree families relaxing in the sunshine.

I take the stroller and call Pudding and Cubby to join me on a climbing frame in the shape of a rocket.  My mood calms down as we play.  Cubby is driving us to the mall.  Pudding has her doll on her lap for the journey.  I’m pretending we can see planets and spaceships on our journey.  We have a few minutes of uninterrupted contentment.  Then we are disturbed.

A boy, probably eight or nine years old comes over to the rocket.  I get down so there is plenty of room for him to play as well, but hang close by.  He climbs up on top, over the area where my two are sitting.  Cubby moves away from the driver’s seat, and Pudding uses the space to lie down- she and Kelly doll are taking a nap.  A smile at the unexpected gift of pretend play.

The first time he does it, I think it was an accident.  He was trying to get down, and accidentally stood on her head as he looked for somewhere to place his feet.  That must have been it.  Even though there was plenty of other space around, he didn’t look before he started to climb down.  That had to be it.  She doesn’t react, though it must have hurt.  I look up at the boy, and he is looking down at Pudding.  But he isn’t climbing down.  And he raises his foot again, and stomps down harder on Pudding’s head.

This time I’m sure it is deliberate.  I’m too shocked to speak, and it is Cubby’s voice I hear telling me that the boy is kicking his sister.  He lifts his leg again, and before I know it, I’ve pulled myself up on the climbing frame, and we are face to face.  He freezes.  I don’t say anything, but the look on my face is enough.  He backs away and scampers off the rocket.  I go over to Pudding, still lying there, not even able to put her arms protectively around her head, but she is okay.

I’m not.  I’m not interested in the boy, but I’m poisoned with rage and I need to find this child’s parents.  He has already run out of sight.  I cast my eye over every table, but not one person is looking, or following in his direction.  Pudding wants to go home, so we do.

But even once we’re home, I can feel that jealousy like venom spreading through my body.  Because if my child attacks another, whether provoked or not, or under sensory assault, or just because they are plain mean; we have to answer it with more therapy.  With more hours spent helping our children learn to respond to the world in a socially appropriate way.  We don’t get to ignore it, and we don’t get to sit over a latte oblivious to the damage being done.  We can’t absolve ourselves of responsibility even for a moment.

There is an antidote, of course.  Those other parents don’t know what they’re missing out on, and they really are missing out on so much.  You can’t fully appreciate what you have when you’re not paying attention.  And not every parent of typically developing children is inattentive, not by a long shot.  But some are, and at times I’m just plain jealous of them, when perhaps it should be the other way round.

This post is part of my A-Z series.  You can find the previous ones by clicking >here<.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm

The Puppy Stage

with 5 comments

Cubby, my two and a half bundle of energy is in what I call the puppy stage.  I know this because he just bit me, and the last thing to bite me was a puppy.  The time before that, it was Pudding, when she was going through her puppy phase.  If you picture a puppy, wagging its tail in the air and nipping at your toes, you have my boy right now.  He is testing the boundaries, and looking for a reaction.  When he gets one, he finds it funny….at least until he goes on time out.

Last week his teacher talked to me about this behaviour at school.  He has been hitting and crashing his bike into other children, and then laughing at their reactions.  Oh dear.  As a spectrummy mummy, I hear hitting and crashing, and I think sensory.  He is looking for additional proprioceptive input, albeit in a very inappropriate way.  But when I think of him laughing at other children in tears as a result of his actions, I worry.

Cubby is my verbose child.  He understands emotions, and has demonstrated empathy.  He is the first one to tell me if somebody has wronged him, in what way, and how that makes them naughty.  Unlike children with a language delay who lash out in frustration, he can use his words to express himself.  So why has he started to do this?

Is is Sensory or Behaviour?

If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you take a look at Hartley Steiner’s post  on this very topic.  Cubby’s advantage in life- his verbal skills- might actually work against him in this instance.  I know I’m probably guilty of expecting too much from him.  The ability to communicate well doesn’t preclude him from feeling overwhelmed in a new social situation.  The demands of preschool with intense social interactions, and new sensory experiences might certainly be more than he can handle.  I made my long overdue contact with an occupational therapist who specializes in sensory integration, and mow we’re waiting for an appointment.

Like a puppy, my boy is exploring his new environment with all of his senses.  Like a puppy, he is testing the boundaries.  The problem though, is that until recently, Cubby spent most of his time playing with the only other member of his litter: Pudding.  Unlike most puppies (or children), Pudding doesn’t always respond in an expected way.  Sometimes he would hit her and she wouldn’t notice.  Frequently she would laugh.  Sometimes, but quite rarely, she would hit him back.  The same action on his part gets a variety of reactions.  Often the only way to get Pudding to react to him was to get physical.

When Pudding went through this stage, I was the other member of the litter, and every time she bit or hit me, I reacted consistently.  She learned very quickly that she shouldn’t hit or bite.  Cubby’s learned behaviour is off, as a result of being a younger sibling to a child on the spectrum.  He is taking what he learned through interacting with his sister and applying that to others.  Something tells me that this puppy stage is going to be harder this time around.

Whether motivated by his sensory processing difficulties, or an atypically learned behaviour, the challenge now is to guide Cubby to more appropriate interactions with the people around him.  The good news is the both puppies and little boys can be encouraged to adapt and respond to sensory stimuli in a socially appropriate way.  Though I think our four-legged friends tend to be much more obedient.  Either way, perhaps I should buy a whistle.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

November 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Sibling

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Negotiation

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Pudding has always had quite excellent negotiation skills. She pretty much potty-trained herself by demanding a treat every time. Later came the reward chart, and as soon as we started talking about a long-haul flight, she mentioned that she needed a Kelly doll. Okay, perhaps I mean extortion, rather than negotiation. Either way, the girl has talent.

We’re lucky in that we can use this facet of her personality to encourage more flexible behaviour. There are times, however, that she clams up, refuses to cooperate, and her behaviour spirals out of control. I hope, as you’re reading this, you remember that I wrote a post called “Behaviour is Communication“. Such a simple concept, you’d think I’d remember it, wouldn’t you? You’d think.

My excuse this time was that I was thrown by an added factor- a new medication trial for her ADHD. This is our third medication trial, and each time I’m hopeful that we’ll have success. This new medication promises excellent results in terms of attention, at the right dosage, with very few side effects. I paid close attention to her response, and saw no difference in her attention skills, a sharp increase in her irritability and hyperactivity. Somehow, going to the grocery store was even more difficult than usual. When four hours were up, and the medication no longer in her system, I expected a return to (our version of) normal, but she remained very emotional and inflexible.

On Sunday, we decided to go to the African Craft Market. Pudding, a sensory seeker, generally loves all the sights, sounds, and smells of this place, but because it can get crowded, we always have to be prepared for sensory overload.

We brought along some fidgets, snacks, and her weighted vest, but by far our greatest defense from feeling overwhelmed is our double stroller (pushchair). We attract some looks with this thing. Though it is easy to manouvre, it is big. And Pudding: she is big too. We might attract attention having an (almost) five year-old in a stroller, one who looks at least two years older than that, even more so. Still, Pudding is happy there, and can pull down the hood when it all gets too much.

Before we entered the market, we stopped for a coffee, and the kids got out of the stroller to sit at the table. Cubby took the first chair, and Pudding had a meltdown. This behaviour is so uncharacteristic of her, that I couldn’t figure out the source of the problem. She was incoherent with rage, and my efforts at calming her were in vain. Spectrummy Daddy deduced that Cubby was in the wrong chair, and successfully persuaded Cubby to swap with his sister. Daddy gave her one of his big squeezes, and all was right again. With this problem solved, a sensible woman might have decided to quit right there, but I didn’t get where I am by being sensible. To the market we went!

Cubby, struggling to assert his independence, decided to walk while his big sister rode along. We found a gift for our friends’ new baby, and we needed to wait while we had it personalized. We wandered around the rest of the stalls, and Cubby began to tire. And by tire, I mean running in all directions and touching everything within reach in a manner eerily reminiscent of his big sister at that age.

I’d spotted a tablecloth I liked, and the trader began her negotiations. I figured it would be easier if I transferred Cubby to the stroller. You’d think by now I’d no longer be following my instincts, they hadn’t proven so useful that morning.

I persuaded him to ride in the stroller with the offer of a snack and a drink. A fine idea in theory, but somehow the cup tipped up, and the drink spilled out into Pudding’s seat. As the trader continued her hard sell, I was trying to dry the water from her seat, as Pudding’s father tried to prevent her from assaulting her sibling, who was now quite content in his side of the stroller, munching on a cracker.

Pudding screamed that her brother had to get out of the stroller, and we attracted more attention than any of the curios on display. I told the trader that we had to go right now, and would return another week for the tablecloth. But market people know that those who promise to return never do, and she wasn’t going to let a sale slip out of her hands. She lowered her price, Pudding continued to scream, I told her we had to go.

Finally she asked what I would pay, and I countered with a price over a 100 rands lower than her best offer. Pudding quieted. The lady agreed the sale. We quickly handed over the money, ready to leave.

Pudding remained calm. She got back in the stroller beside her brother, and we didn’t hear another sound from them until it was time to go. Naturally, they didn’t want to go home.

At bedtime, Pudding became sick, and after a very disturbed night, all four of us woke up with a cold. Just like the time before, my girl who is unable to use words to let us know when she feels ill had let her behaviour do the talking. It is so obvious in hindsight.

Though of course, there is the other possibility that our master negotiator was dismayed at how I was handling the transaction, and did her bit to help. When it comes to that kid, I’d say anything is possible!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

November 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm

The Reward Chart

with 20 comments

I promised an update on what happened with the reward chart, so here it is.  Hopefully this will help anyone else wanting to give this a try.

This was the chart I bought.  It comes with some ready made chores and various circle tokens.  There are also rectangle tokens for completion, and some blank ones to make your own chores too.  The first important thing was positioning.  Pudding would just play with (and lose) the magnets, so I put it up high where she couldn’t reach.  I took on board the suggestion of having a picture of the object she is working for, and found a picture of Abby and taped it up on the wall.  I’d managed to find a smaller and cheaper Abby doll than the one she initially fell for to use as her reward.  For the first trial, I didn’t want her to have to wait too long, so I gave just three chores, and only five days to earn them.  I only put things on there that I was certain she is capable of, so I opted for the following:

  • Get ready for bed (we’d still help with brushing teeth and bath, just taking off her clothes and putting on nightgown)
  • Get Dressed (I’d lay the outfit ready for her, no buttons or zips to contend with)
  • Say Please and Thank You (she is pretty polite, so thought this would be an easy one for her)

After the first day, I realized where I’d gone wrong.  The problem lies with the last one.  In many ways the reward chart is like a mini IEP with goals.  Those goals have to be measurable.  Getting dressed and undressed is pretty obvious.  Please and Thank You, however, get tricky.  Do I demand that she says them without prompting for every request?  Do I just require 50 % compliance.  There is another thing too.  She is a polite kid, especially when she very much desires the item.  So what happens if she asks for something I don’t want to give her (say, a cookie before dinner) and she asks very politely?  And she asks over, and over again (say, every night).  Still politely, but kind of a ceaseless polite whine, even when I’ve said no.  I don’t need to encourage that.

Given that we were just trying to make this as easy and fruitful as possible in the beginning, I just awarded the token for any saying Please and Thank You at least once in any given day.

The other two goals were much simpler.  She gets dressed fine at the weekends when she is going somewhere she wants, but it has become a chore to get her to do it in the morning before school.  Likewise, getting ready for bed signals the end of the day, and that comes with battles when she doesn’t want that to happen.  The reward chart works great here.  I still have to nag remind her that she needs to do it for a token, but the token does appear motivating enough on most days to get her to do it.  Success.

Every single day she asked me for the Abby sticker (the picture I taped to the wall).  Perhaps because our previously unsuccessful attempts at reward charts had involved stickers, she thought that was going to be the prize.  I gave it to her, of course, when she completed her goals, but the smile on her face when she finally got the Abby doll was worth it.  You can see that she is clutching the picture in the other hand.

Ultimately, the first trial was successful.  The chart directly led to increased independence with getting dressed, and also cut out battles over what she would wear that day.  It introduced the concept of waiting for a reward, and having to work for it.  I learned what works and what doesn’t, and shifted the responsibility for some self-care over to her.  For a girl in an ABA based classroom, it was nice to see that she is capable of delayed gratification of rewards.  After several more trials, I’m hoping to introduce a kind of pyramid reward scheme, where she can choose to cash in her tokens for a smaller reward, or save them to get something bigger.  Deferred gratification is a tall order for an impulsive kid like Pudding, but an essential lesson nonetheless.

The second attempt, that was more interesting.  I’ll tell you about that next time.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 18, 2011 at 6:58 am

Behaviour Is Communication

with 22 comments

I didn’t come up with this idea.  It was….ooh, can’t find it.  Probably Skinner though, sounds like one of his.  Feel free to let me know in the comments, I don’t have time to find out this week.  Anyway, behaviour is communication.  I know that.  I’m a Spectrummy Mummy.  I know these things because we get a nice little manual explaining everything with the diagnosis.  No, I’m just messing with you.  I know this through learning the hard way.  There never is an easy way, now is there?

So just to be clear, I know that behavior is communication.  Right?

I also know that my girl has a pragmatic language delay, and that her senses create a bunch of mixed signals, which cause her to be disconnected from her body.  Yep, I know that.  I know things, see.

On top of this, I know my girl.  I know my girl.  I don’t claim to always understand her, but I do know her.

Still, on Monday, all I saw was a terrible day.  I knew her sensory issues were driving her behavior, but that seemed to be all I could see.  She was more impulsive, compulsive, destructive than I’d seen her in a very long time.  I asked myself why, but I guess the part of my brain that figure out these things was too busy trying to deal with the chaos.  Because unregulated Pudding is chaos.  Impulsive, compulsive, destructive chaos.

She was ill.  She felt wrong, and was compelled to make herself feel right, with her sensory-seeking ways.  When they didn’t work, she didn’t stop, she just kept going.  Desperately trying to make it better, angry with me and herself for not being able to fix the problem.  She can’t tell me she is ill, in fact, she says the reverse when I ask her.  Experience has given us clues.  If she talks about wanting to clean her mouth- get a bucket, she is less than 10 seconds away from vomiting.  If she wants to lie down, or needs a blanket, or tells you to clean it up, she is ill.  She’ll tell you she is not sick if you ask her, but she is.  You just have to read her behaviour.

So I can’t tell you why I didn’t think she was ill on Monday.  That I didn’t interpret all that behavior as communicating that basic fact.  If I’d known, we’d definitely have skipped speech therapy.  Who needs that when they are ill?

Yet, aside from that, I wouldn’t have done anything different.  When she got into the fridge and began smearing food everywhere, I found some tactile activities for her.  When she jumped on the sofa and the bed,  I directed her to the trampoline.  When she asked for hugs, I gave them.  When she pushed me away angrily, I let her.  When she screamed, I was calm.  Not a natural calm, but a learned, forced, necessary calm.  A calm almost two years in the making.

I’m not a saint, I was ready for a drink when Daddy walked through the door, I whined to him about all the gory details of the day.  But I’m also a little wiser than I used to be.  I know that behaviour is communication.  And even when, especially when, I can’t understand hers, I need to make sure I’m communicating the right thing.  That I’m here, even when she pushes me away.  That I can’t always make it better, but I will always try.  That when her world feels terrible and different, I will be constant.

You know though, if I could go back two years ago to that Mummy who didn’t know, I’d whisper in her ear what I know now.  Behaviour is communication.  Somebody (damn it, who?) very important came up with that, but before you even try to understand Pudding, you’d better look at your behaviour first.  You can read all about it in this manual.  Nope, just kidding!  Still no manual, sorry.  I keep finding there is still so much I just don’t know, even when I know it.

_______

Today you’ll also find me at The SPD Blogger Network.  Come over and read and share.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 7, 2011 at 6:43 am

Puzzled

with 7 comments

So I mentioned yesterday that Pudding had gone back to sleeping badly. Not just Pudding, but the whole family.  Cubby was also waking several times in the night. One or both of the children would end up in my bed each and every night.  Spectrummy Daddy got kicked out to whichever vacant bed he could find.  I would endure a night of tossing and turning, kicking and having my hair pulled. After several nights of this, it wasn’t just Pudding’s behavior that had gone downhill.   My tolerance levels were at an all time low, which was the very reason I needed that time out.

Following yet another success with positive reinforcement, I decided that would be our only hope for fixing this problem. That is easier said than done, however, as Pudding’s rewards have to be immediate and desirable to work.   I couldn’t think of any motivator that would send her immediately to sleep.  We’d worked through various sensory strategies to no avail. She likes her bed in a certain way to sleep (lots of weight for proprioceptive input), and we played around with sound and light but it didn’t seem to make a difference.   Melatonin helped her to go to sleep, but she was still waking up several times in the night, and resisting going back to sleep when she did.

Behavioral theory dictates that there is always a reason for an action.  In the absence of all other evidence, I concluded that the reason the kids were waking was because they wanted to sleep in our bed.   I was reinforcing by allowing it to happen.  We put a gate up, and before long Cubby awoke and screamed in protest.  Seconds later Pudding was out of bed, crying and pushing at the gate. We live in a townhouse and we don’t have the most understanding of neighbors, so crying (screaming) it out is not an option we could go for in the early hours of the morning.  I took Cubby, and Daddy took Pudding.  Instead of bringing him to our bed though, I took him back to his own.  It was warm in his room.  The heating doesn’t work in his room, so we have a portable heater and I turned it right down. What is just right for him when he gets out of the bath is obviously too much in the night.  Still, there was no way he was going to sleep while he still heard his sister, so Daddy and I traded off.

The temperature in her room was just right.  I sat on the chair beside her bed, but soon she asked me to get into bed to cuddle.  I abandoned any plans to return to my bed for the night, and climbed in.  Yes, I was still reinforcing a behavior that I wanted to change, but I don’t make my best decisions while half-asleep.   She pulled up the covers and snuggled in next to me.  The two of us woke up a few more times in the night, and now I knew why.  The temperature in the room was not so comfortable underneath the two duvets and weighted blanket that she needs to sleep under.   I was hot and thirsty, and the first thing I did in the morning was drop the thermostat by 5 degrees.

The last couple of nights?   They’ve slept better.  We’ve slept better.  We’ve gone the until 5.30 with no little people in our bed.  For all I thought I’d considered every sensory aspect, I’d let this one go unnoticed until I’d actually slept in her room.  Pudding has never told me when she is too hot or cold.  Even when she has a fever, she hasn’t expressed that in words.  Food can be too hot, the weather can be too hot or cold, but never has she described her physical state.  Until she can actually interpret these sensations and communicate them to us, she relies upon us to puzzle them out for her.

Thanks(!) to the recent cold weather, Pudding and I have been doing lots of puzzles together.  She and I do them in very different ways.  I find the corners and the edges, then work my way around methodically.  She picks up pieces, looks at them closely and visualizes which go together, making the picture immediately, then working out to the edges.  There both valid ways to do a puzzle, but her way is about getting into the picture, and figuring it out immediately.  My ordered, patient way means I sometimes the miss the obvious while looking for an edge piece.  Sometimes her way is better, I need to get up close to a problem to have any hope of understanding it.

I’d love to say that our sleep problems are resolved, but while writing this, Pudding got out of bed to tell me she couldn’t sleep.  In detective mode, I returned to her room.  The noise from next door was the culprit this time, but she didn’t want her sound machine on.  Oh well, even this won’t be an issue once we move.   Eventually the neighbors became quiet.  She went to sleep by herself and didn’t wake up until after 6.  The sensory/behavior puzzle will probably always perplex me, but looking at things from a different perspective (the Pudding way) can help clear things up.  And for the puzzle I just can’t figure out?  I’ll sleep on it, given half a chance.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 25, 2011 at 9:23 am