Progress: A Double Edged Sword

For the last several years I’ve been working hard to help G learn to figure things out on his own.   Every time I ask him to do something, I give a detailed explanation to explain my thought process and the logic behind the request.  It’s an extreme version of what parents of typical kids do with their toddlers in an effort to gain compliance and head off tantrums.

I’m starting to see progress, but it’s backfiring in ways I didn’t anticipate.  Now when I ask him to do something and explain why, he evaluates my reasons and decides if he agrees or disagrees with them before cooperating.  It’s very exciting – and very maddening because his logic isn’t fully mature. 

For example, last week I picked him up from school and told him to put on his coat.  He asked why and I explained that it was cold outside and he needed his coat.  His teacher asked if she could speak with me a minute so I told G to head to the playground for his regular after school play time and I would meet him there.  (he walks slowly so by the time I was done he would have only been on the playground for 2 minutes at most and there are other parents with their kids to watch things)  When I got outside, I saw his coat hanging on the fence.  G told me he disagreed with me about it being cold so he decided he did not need to wear his coat.  I had to explain to him that he has a documented inability to feel cold like other people, but his body was still losing heat similar to other people.  And as it was currently 19 degrees, wearing a coat was mandatory!

Then there are the less-dangerous, more irritatingly frustrating situations.  He likes to drink OJ diluted with water and ice for breakfast in the morning.  Today he filled his cup half full of juice and turned to the ice dispenser in the fridge.  I stopped him and told him to use his hands to collect the ice because if he used his juice glass the juice would splash over the sides and would make everything sticky.  He paused for a moment, I could actually see his brain processing that information, before he turned back to the fridge with his glass.  I stopped him again and used a sharper tone as I said, “G, I just told you not to use your glass to collect the ice.”  He replied, “I decided you were wrong, the juice won’t splash high enough to get out of the glass.”

Maybe he’s right.  (Although I really don’t think so.)  But the fact that he disregards me and goes about his business is driving me nuts!  I have serious control issues, I know this and I’m working hard to overcome them.  I’ve always been The Mom – the one who knows everything about their child and how to most efficiently do whats best for them.  This early rebellion is not something I expected, even though I’ve been actively working to teach G how to make decisions on his own.  I’m taking lots of deep breaths and reminding myself that I’m thrilled to see this kind of progress.  And I am – even though the short term might drive me insane, the long term ramifications are truly wonderful.

Meanwhile, DH is standing back and laughing at the both of us.  Because this new behavior of G’s – this confidence that his way is the right way – that’s absolutely me.

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Published in: on February 5, 2011 at 11:21 am  Comments (2)  

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  1. I wonder how the teacher’s are dealing with this type of response. I get reports daily about how my child was disrespectful and defiant. It drives me bonkers to have all of these negative labels being applied. It isn’t helpful for anyone. Do the teachers give you those reports, does it bug you, and if it does, how do you deal with it?

    For my child, many of these incidents are around work refusal. He sees the assignment and immediately gets overwhelmed because he thinks it will be too hard (even when it is at his level). I wish I could convince everyone to respond with empathy and help him learn to 1) have language that is going to get him help instead of get everyone frustrated with him, 2) identify his emotions around feeling overwhelmed, and 3) be able to independently use strategies to break down the assignment into parts to help ease the anxiety when overwhelmed. I think the teacher is worried that other kids will think they can get away with disrespect if she doesn’t respond with firm limit setting. Nothing wrong with limit setting but if there isn’t the empathy the problems don’t seem to get solved.

    But sometimes it just seems like I am interpreted as the mom who puts up with disrespect.

    On the temperature problem, I wonder if you could get the doctor (some authority other than you) to tell your son that when the temp is below a certain level he has to wear a coat. Then you could just have thermometers around and he would have a concrete way to decide if the coat was required.

    M

    P.S. I love reading your blog!

    • Sorry for the delayed response!
      We deal with work refusal weekly if not daily. We’ve developed a multi-pronged approach that seems to work for us. First, we have made it clear to G that his job is to be a good student, which means doing the classwork assigned by his teacher. Once he understands this, we move to the school team and look at accomodations. His classroom teacher will often let him respond orally or will scribe his answer for him because handwriting is difficult for him as part of his disability. We got him some extra resource room time each week where he can work one-on-one with the resource teacher to catch up on his class work. He has a reward system at his desk where if he begins an assignment appropriately he gets a point, if he gives the assignment sustained (sustained for G) attention he gets a point, etc. Points accrued can be redeemed for rewards.
      And finally, any work that doesn’t get finished in class or in the resource room gets sent home where I make sure it gets finished. I don’t want him to learn he can use his disability to get out of doing what he thinks is boing. I use a timer to have him work 15 minutes, take a 2-5 minute break, work another 15 minutes. (we started with 5 minutes of work and have been increasing the time to increase his stamina)

      It took time, but it’s starting to pay off. He refuses less and can work longer before getting frustrated!


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