Tuesday, January 5, 2010

So this must be the one step back

I normally don't write when I'm in the midst of an emotional situation. This isn't designed to be my diary or a place for me to process my feelings in public view.

I tend to write after I've had some analytical distance from an event, hoping to provide some Big Insight that might also help one or two of you, or maybe just validate some Big Insight you've had yourself.

I tend to write after something good or funny has happened, so I can celebrate with a community who understands that a small step forward can feel like a leap.

And I tend to write for that mom who is frantically googling Hyperlexia or Asperger's at 2 a.m. looking for answers and reassurance that the world has not actually ended. Maybe that mom will find a story about Ben telling me "I love you" on Valentine's Day and feel better, or read about a particularly creative use of echolalia and get a good laugh.

But right now, I'm In The Middle Of It.

And I'm going to write anyway.

After a stellar start to the school year, Ben has had several discouraging days at school. Not that many: a string of them before winter break and then on the first day back.

Many, but not all, of the episodes start when he misses out on something the class is doing. He explodes, and can't seem to pull himself together.

He's bolting out of the classroom.

He's shouting insults and teachers and students.

He's hitting, shoving, and even in one case, biting other students.

That one landed him the principal's office for the first time. (How's that for a milestone?)

It's not like he doesn't have support at school. There are good people who are on his side, trying to figure this out.

And he's able to talk about the episodes with us at home more than he's ever been willing or able to do in the past.

Some of his reflections sound like he gets it and that he's sincerely sorry, but then in the midst of reflection, he'll say something like, "I never want to be anyone's friend anymore." "I don't want to be YOUR friend anymore either." "I'm going to be SO naughty that I crash the WHOLE WORLD.""I"m going to teach [insert child's name here] a LESSON!"

My worst fear is that these self-defeating thoughts simply create a vicious, inescapable cycle in which he doesn't believe he can do well.

My second worst fear is that these behaviors will stamp out the tiny, green shoots of real friendship that have started to grow with some of his classmates this year.

At our parent-teacher conference last month, his teacher told us that he is doing well academically. He's doing the work, mostly unprompted. It's the lack of impulse control that causes the struggles. He doesn't want to take breaks because he doesn't want to miss out on what the class is doing.

I know so many of you have faced this and so much more. So many of you have looked at your phone every five minutes waiting for The Call From School. So many of you have waited until your child wasn't looking to let the tears come.

Anne Lamott says there are just two prayers:

"Thank you, thank you, thank you." and

"Help me, help me, help me."

So, this is where I am right now, this moment. Saying a lot of the second one, and hoping that today is a good day.


The1stdaughter said...

Thank you. You know, I sometimes hold back and think people don't really want to hear about my daily problems with my own son, but your post shows me that's not true. It was such a comfort to read your post.

Right now my little guy has been having a lot of the same problems, but isn't quite old enough to be in school ALL day. He's still preschool age and for a short period we thought his whole diagnosis was just a mistake. It wasn't, it never is, and it always seems to creep right up on you when you least expect it. I often wonder when seeing these episodes what kind of man he will grow to be and how I can help him to be the best person possible despite this challenge. I want to give him every possible chance at the best in life and all of me so that one day he can live a happy life with lots of friends who care about him the way I do.

I know we will get through this, you included, but it's tough. And I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one who struggles. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you wrote this, too. I used to post a lot about our struggles, our "in the moment" worries and fears, but as my son has gotten older (8 now!), I've tried to take a step back; process more, think more, and then write. But, honestly, we're going through something similar again. We went through it when he was 5, 6, less so last year at 7, and now again, at 8, we are back in the thick of it.

I don't have any answers. It's just nice to feel not so alone. And for me, to be reminded that none of this ever truly goes away. There's peaks and valleys. All of which takes me to the place where The1stdaughter is--what kind of man will my son be? And how can I help him to be his best self, in spite of his challenges?

It's never easy. I think I leave that comment more often than not. Never easy. Not by a longshot. And waiting for the call from school? Every. Single. Day. You'll get used to it.

Niksmom said...

Are there common threads to the triggers that are more specific than missing out on something the class is doing? Like: the class is doing a FUN acitvity, OR the class has moved on to a new topic and he feels like he can't catch up?

See if he can help you fill in more details; I'm sure the clues are there.

I wish I had words of comfort and a magic wand. As you already said, he's got lots of support and people on his side trying to help figure this out. See if you can catch him dong something good and give him a motivator to TRY to control himself in these situations?

Good luck. And thanks for sharing from the middle of it, too.

Heather said...

My 5yo has dyspraxia and ORDER is huge. She struggles when specials are on different days of the week (we do a rotating 5 day schedule which I can't even keep track of) or if we have to miss the bus or any number of things that don't take place in just the right order for all of the other stuff to be manageable.

For her, I notice that her explosiveness/exaggerating is related to not at all having the other language to express anything about the situation or label the emotions. We do a lot of you could say this, but not this after the fact. I don't know if it's a girl/boy thing, but more often instead of anger/rage I get TEARS and drama.

Can taking breaks feel embarassing/sad for him? Is there a way for him to signal that he needs help to calm down in a non-verbal way? Holidays at school has for us anyway seen a LOT of changes in normal classroom routines for getting ready for holiday programs, parties, assemblies, etc.

Not sure that any of this helps, but the stepping back stuff sure resonates w/ me.

Anonymous said...

We're in a down cycle here as well. And while it looks different than Ben's struggle, I still don't have answers, and I'm not making headway in finding solutions.

It's just tough sometimes.

In a way it sounds like maybe some low-level anxiety about missing out and in not knowing how to deal with that feeling, he's lashing out. I don't know what language you use with 5 yr olds to help them talk about anxiety, but maybe there's something.

Good luck, and thanks for sharing.

KAL said...

I wish that I had some easy answers for you too. Sam tends to "nonsense-talk" when he's having a particularly hard time expressing his feelings (much like Ben did with "I'm going to be SO naughty I crash the WHOLE WORLD".)

We've found that giving Sam a script that he can go through when he's feeling frustrated helps a lot in diffusing his anxiety -- just by trying to discuss as many scenarios as possible and help him figure out how he might respond appropriately. Doesn't always work, but he loves order and rules so much... anyways, I hope it gets better soon. Hang in there.

Natalie said...

So sorry to hear that Ben is struggling right now. Thank you for being honest and letting us all know that everyone feels this way sometime.

ghkcole said...

I so relate. I've been reading about executive function a lot lately and it always stymies me how to help my son with impulse control. January is a cruel month. I say keep writing to us, keep reading Ann Lamott (I have all her books!) and be kind to yourself til February gets here. It will be better.

pixiemama said...

I can relate, too. Both of my boys are struggling mightily in school right now. It's hard to think about, write about. It's hard to breathe through it; it's hard to make it not drag you down, down, down.

I'm glad you're choosing to talk about it. I think it's healthy, and it's certainly fair to be realistic. Sometimes there's a big lag-time before there is resolution. We spend much of our time dwelling there. It's just part of the equation.

Anne Lamott knows her stuff! I'll add your pleases and help mes to my own.


jaki said...

I have no advice or solutions.... just know I'm thinking about you and Ben...

Jordan said...

Sorry it's been so hard lately. You know I'm happy to talk this stuff out with you offline anytime. Hope this week is going better!