When Bad News is Good News

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Mr Rockstar just finished his second week at the Children’s Autism Center (CAC) summer Bridge program.  So far it has been amazing.  There is part of me that always starts to doubt that there is anything “different” about Mr Rockstar.  Maybe it is all in my head.  Most of the people around us don’t seem to notice.  All of my friends tell me he seems perfectly normal.  I start to doubt myself and think maybe he is just a stong-willed kid and I am a failure as a mom.

But the therapists at CAC aren’t questioning his diagnosis.  Actually they have had two pretty severe bouts of aggression from Mr Rockstar resulting in him having to be isolated until he calmed down.  Today I had to sign a release form stating I was aware that they had to physically move him to another room after he started knocking over chairs, throwing punches, etc and he sustained a small scratch to his chin during this process.  Usually information like this would be totally depressing but bizarrely it is actually encouraging because:

1) It validates me that small things trigger disproportionately out of control behavior in Mr Rockstar.

2) They AREN”T freaking out about it!!!  They are getting the same behavior that had preschools and therapists struggling to continue working with him yet since they are trained to handle these situations they are just calmly relaying the information to me and telling me how they are adjusting their behavior modification strategies to prevent it in the future.

3) Weirdly, Mr Rockstar still wants to go back.  They must be doing something right because usually after one melt-down Mr Rockstar is done with the person/place and refuses to go back unless physically pried from my person.  Yes, he has said on more than one occasion “I’m never going back.” but then when it comes time to go he happily goes.

4) CAC is something new for us.  We have had a behavioral therapist in the past but only an hour of therapy per week at most.  Mr Rockstar is getting 9 hours a week during the Bridge program at CAC plus we are starting an hour a week of therapy at home.  In the past our therapist could recommend strategies to work on the problems but it was up to us to put in the HOURS of work to get the desired response.  It was/is exhausting.  At least now there are trained ABA therapists to help us with some of those hours of behavioral modification needed with Mr Rockstar.

So what exactly is Mr Rockstar struggling with?  He doesn’t want to paint in any form, he doesn’t want to sing with the group, he doesn’t want to follow directions i.e. he wants to complete the activity the way he wants to rather than as planned by the therapist, he can’t stand getting the wrong answer and getting corrected(Hello kid!  Hate to break it to you but you still draw half your letters backwards), he doesn’t tolerate losing a game, etc.  After the past two weeks I wonder how he even did as well as he did at preschool for the 3 years he went.  Any one of these activities can trigger a fight or flight response from Mr Rockstar (usually fight).  I know many kids struggle similarly but most of them don’t start knocking over all the furniture, throwing everything in grasp, tearing everything up, breaking anything they can break, punching anyone in the way, etc.  Is it any wonder I feel uncomfortable leaving him alone with ANYONE for any significant length of time?

Today I had a meeting with one of the behavioral therapists who has been observing him.  Our previous behavioral therapist worked mostly with foster kids and adoptive parents but at CAC they work mostly with autistic kids so she has a different perspective.  She thinks maybe Mr Rockstar is unable to visualize what is being said to him.  That maybe he has faulty verbalize to visualize skills or vice versa.  This makes a lot of sense since Mr Rockstar cannot follow verbal directions to find a lost item to save his life.  He could be standing right next to it and still not be able to find it.  He is unable to verbalize a need for help which might be one of the reasons he so quickly turns to inappropriate behavior when he is frustrated.  He also has a really hard time remembering the shape of letters or their sounds even though we have spent HOURS and HOURS working on it.  He still can’t count to 100 but if I give him the first 100 numbers he can put them in order just by patterning.  The therapist suggested perhaps a speech evaluation would be in order.  Mr Rockstar hasn’t had a speech eval for a couple years so it sounds worth a shot to me.

While she was here we made a short list of goals for Mr Rockstar:

1) Be able to lose a game without getting aggressive

2) Be able to handle being corrected without getting aggressive

3) Be able to verbalize when he needs help or needs a break instead of acting out inappropriately

Lately the kids (and I) have really been missing our beautiful home back in WA but I am really thankful to have found some great resource for Mr Rockstar here in Indiana.  Something about the state policies in Indiana means there are a lot more therapy opportunities for Mr Rockstar (when we lived in IN when Mr Rockstar was 2 it was the same way…for some reason the therapy is so much more available than in IL or WA) and for that I am thankful.

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