Empathy revisited

I find I don’t post as often when I’m not feeling good about things.  I try to be positive most of the time, although I do post an occasional rant, but when I can’t find the bright side or something to laugh about, it gets harder to write. 

We had friends up for the weekend recently who have a daughter G’s age and a daughter that just turned 1.  The one year old is walking and exploring her environment which means she routinely breaks many of G’s rules.  We worked a babysitting swap so each set of parents could get out to ski.  Before we left, I had to run down the things they should watch for with G, including not letting the baby and G be together and unattended at any time because if the baby broke a rule I didn’t trust him not to retaliate by hitting or shoving.  It made me sad.  I felt like I was warning people to protect their children from my own son.  G’s also had a difficult month at school, as illness is a major behavior trigger and he was so sick in January.  We’ve been meeting with his team for a new round of behavior plans and positive interventions.    It has been difficult to find the positive to blog about.

Tonight at dinner, we were chatting about G’s day at school and were discussing a program the school runs where they gather certain kids together first thing in the morning and do a bunch of gross motor exercises.  It helps get the fidgets out and calms the students for the rest of their day and G loves to tell us about the fun activities they do.  We love that he can recall this time during his day and try to work it for all it’s worth!  We asked G if any of his friends go with him and he listed a couple names.  Then he says that ‘P’ goes too.  P is another kindergartener that is autistic and I’ve chatted with his mom a time or two.  I asked G if P was a nice boy and a friend of his.  G replied, ‘he’s kind of nice, but he screams a lot and I don’t like that.’  (please note that another of G’s sensory triggers is sudden, loud noises to the extent that he has been known to run from public bathrooms in a total panic if the toilets flush too loudly) 

Dh and I were both silent for a moment as we struggled to explain.   This is what we came up with:  ‘G, you know how when we’re in a crowded place or when we’re somewhere that is too noisy you feel anxious and upset?  And sometimes you react by screaming and hitting?  Well, P feels like that too and deals with those feelings by screaming the same way you do.  P is doing the best he can to cope with a tricky situation the same way you do your best when you feel overwhelmed.  P is a very nice boy and it would be great if we could be more understanding when he needs to scream.’   G silently ate his dinner for the next few minutes in that way he does when he is processing something.  I hope we explained adequately without making too many assumptions about a child we don’t know very well.  Mostly, we spoke from the heart in the way I would want other parents to speak to their children about G.

Published in: on February 25, 2009 at 4:17 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow! You drew that in nicely. My little guy also has been known to run from public washrooms if the toilets flush too loudly. Hands on ears, of course…

  2. *nodnodnod* I know that pause. It’s like in the movie “The Stand,” where Tom Cullen takes a moment to process then he GETS IT. Little Miss is the same way. I’m just glad the processing is taking place. Hope G gets it.

    And DEATH to loud autoflush toilets!!!!!

  3. ALWAYS speak from the heart and you’ll do well.


  4. First blog I read after wakeup from sleep today!

    Mind Blowing!

  5. Sounds like a great strategy. Oddly enough one of mine is extremely sensitive to sound [triggers] but at the same time he screams louder than anyone else I’ve come across so far.
    Best wishes

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