After last week’s reality check, and a lot of encouragement from you all, I met Lisa at the door today with a renewed sense of purpose. I had no doubts that we are on the right track, which helped me to focus on my questions, concerns, and advice seeking, without having the nagging feeling that we were somehow not in the right place.
Lisa worked on a lot of different things today, but mostly she tested his cognition. She pointed to pictures and asked if he knew the name of the object, told him to point to a specific object, and asked him to pick out shapes and colors. I was a little surprised that he got almost all of them right. I guess all the hard work is paying off! 🙂
After working with him for a while, she confirmed what we have known all along, which is, there is nothing wrong with his brain. The problem is the breakdown in communication between his brain and his mouth. And, really, I’d rather it be that way than not being sure there was anything for his brain to communicate!
I had to wake Jake up today and so he was super cranky for the appointment. But, that turned out to be a good thing. Lisa was able to see, first hand, what happens when Jake doesn’t get what he wants, how he fusses instead of trying to communicate, and how quickly he gets frustrated. She said that one of the most common conversations she has with parents is our inability to see where the sensory processing disorder ends and the bad behavior begins. For example, did Jake just toss a block across the room because he couldn’t ask me for help, or was he just irritable and being good at being two? It’s hard for me to tell which is which, and Lisa encouraged me by saying that even trained therapists can’t always tell the difference. She also recommended some reading material which I’ve already requested from the library. I’m hoping that will help.
Since one of my biggest annoyances/frustrations/soul suckers is the whining, we talked a lot about that today. After seeing Jake whine about not understanding how a wind up toy works, she told me that the whining is simply a habit. And, habits can be broken. So, this week, instead of going to Jake when he whines, I will stay where I am and call him to me. The current thought process for Jake is “I whine and Mama magically appears to help me fix everything. Cooooool.” whinewhinewhinewhinewhine We want to break that habit and develop the habit of “I’m frustrated, I’ll go see if Mama can help because Mama is the Queen of Everything”.
Another habit we need to break is the “no” habit. Right now, the answer to virtually everything is “no”. Jake says “no” to bedtime, food, hugs, kisses, being catapulted into outerspace, “more” of everything, even the stuff he loves. The word ” no” is just easier to say than “yes”. This week, we’re going to try complying with “no”, so that he’ll start to understand what effect different answers have. If he says that he doesn’t want more chips, no more chips. If he says he doesn’t want more water, then no more water. Within reason of course, and he won’t get out of cleaning up his toys because he says he doesn’t want to. After he says “no” and we withhold whatever the thing is, we need to wait for him to realize what’s happening, and then encourage him to say “yes” instead. That will eventually help him to start giving the correct answers, which he knows, he just can’t communicate without a lot of practice.
I habit that I am going to have to break is reading Jake’s mind and giving him what I know he wants or needs. Instead of giving him water when he brings me his cup and looks at me as if to say, “Hey, lady, I’m thirsty.”, I should take his cup and ask him what he wants and not give in until he asks for “water, please”. Lisa did say that this is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule since I could spend pretty much all day with this one. But, it’s a really good thing I need to think through and I’m hoping that breaking this habit won’t be too tough.
The last thing we’re going to try this week is what Lisa calls “rigging his environment for communication”. This one really ties in with not giving him what he wants without him asking. Instead of opening his toy box for him, I should wait until he asks the right way. Instead of going to him and helping him figure out a toy, I should wait for him to ask me for help. I should wait for him to ask for more food instead of asking him if he wants more food. This one is going to take some time, but I’m excited to see what happens with it.
Really, all of these habit breaking tasks are just forcing Jake to use the muscles in his mouth more and more. His disorder has made him not want to talk or eat, and so his muscles haven’t developed. The only way to develop muscles is to use them and breaking these habits will help develop those little, but crucial, muscles.
I feel good about this week’s appointment and encouraged that we have another set of do-able tasks to work on. Breaking habits are tough, but I know we can do it! 🙂