It seems, so often, that after we’ve figured out how to fix life’s curve balls, things get worse before they get better. I remember when my oncologist told me that thing were about to get really cruddy just prior to my chemotherapy and I looked at him and said, “Seriously? Wasn’t cancer bad enough?” I think that the situation with Jake is a bit the same. We’ve identified the problem (sensory processing disorder) and we’ve figured out what we need to do to help (lots of therapy and consistency), but that doesn’t magically make it better. And, in fact, it’s made a few things harder.
Poor Jake, and poor parents, dogs, and neighbors, has not been responding the greatest to our new regime of forcing him to communicate appropriately. All of the new requirements, plus the fact that he’s only two, have caused some pretty bad tantrums. Let me tell you, lots of things have come naturally to me as a parent, but dealing with tantrums has not been one of them. I have no idea what to do when Jake throws himself on the floor, kicking and screaming. I don’t know how to discipline him when he hit Lucy in the face with his tractor for the tenth time this morning. I don’t know if a time out is going to get his attention and any other discipline requires me to be in more control of myself, and the situation, than I am.
So, when Lisa arrived this week, I pretty much begged her for advice. (This next bit may all be obvious to you fellow parents!) Jake has normal two-year-old desires to assert his individuality and his control, coupled with the confusion and out-of-control feeling of his sensory disorder. When you put those two things together, it can make for a pretty angry little boy. Jake has been using his tantrums to get attention. Or, at least, he knows that I’ll show up if he freaks out. So, I’m going to try to treat his tantrums like I would a person having a seizure. Make sure the kid is safe, but then get the heck out of the way. This could be everything from turning my back on him to putting him in his bed if he is getting violent. I’ve tried it a few times and it seems like it’s getting better. Plus, it’s helping me not feel like I’m panicked and freaking out myself. I pray that this helps. I don’t like this feeling of struggling with my little guy all the time!
I am going to continue to back off a lot in my verbal interaction with Jake. I prompt a lot, and it isn’t having the desired effect. So, instead of telling Jake to “say please”, I’m going to try just not giving him what he wants if he doesn’t ask the right way. He’s been hollering for “water!” when he wants water and I don’t think that screeching “water, PLEASE” is really accomplishing appropriate interaction with the world. It’s been interesting to see that when I just don’t respond to him being a little jerk, he actually calms down, adjusts his slipped halo, and becomes a nice boy. Who knew that not doing anything could be so effective? I’ve learned the sign langauge for “say”, so taking all this a step farther, I’ll be signing “say please”, “say thank you”, “say ______”, instead of talking to him all the time, with the goal of helping Jake become more independent verbally.
The amount of language and enunciation that Jake needs to master is pretty overwhelming and Lisa and I discussed the need to refine what I work on with Jake. We are going to start picking a letter of the week and have most of our work focus on that one letter. This week is “B”, so we’ll talk about bouncing, bed, balls, blue, etc. Jake drops the first letter of a lot of his words and to help out with that, I’m going to stop focusing so much on the entire word coming out the right way and helping Jake say the first letter. The perfect time for this is on our walks. We talk about “b..b..birds”, and that the sky is “b..b..blue” and that we found a “b..b..ball”. My neighbors must think I’m nuts to put a scuba outfit (the Benik vest) on my son and walk around talking nonsense. But, hey, it’s working. And really, even if I had to wear a scuba suit myself and walk backwards the entire day to help Jake out, I’d do it!
Lisa and I discussed some things about the future for Jake this week and not all of it was encouraging. She has seen many children with sensory disorders continue to have behavior problems and struggle with communication. She is encouraging that we are on the right track and that Jake will continue to improve, but that there will be some lasting problems as a result of the sensory processing disorder.
To be honest, I’m struggling with that right now. I feel like I’m struggling with a lot of different things right now, but this one was a big one. Reading the Psalms this week, I came across two verses that really helped me out. The first one is Psalm 68: 19-“Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation.” God doesn’t help me carry the burden, He bears it Himself. I need to remember that when this is all weighing me down that it is God who holds me up and that He IS my strength, not just a nice addition to my own strength. The other verse is Psalm 69: 13-“But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord, at an acceptable time; O God, in the greatness of Your lovingkindness, Answer me with Your saving truth.” The prayer and the saving comes at an acceptable time. Not when I think it’s the right time, but when God says it’s the right time. So, if God says that Jake will always struggle with this, then God will carry that burden for me and will be my strength, and it is His blessing to me that I get to experience Him through Jake.
Maybe my job this week is to remember to say, “B..B…Blessed be the name of the Lord!” 🙂