Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What to do, what to do . . .

Alright moms, I need some advice. Some help. Some solutions. Some empathy. Some ideas. Some criticism. Whatever you got for me, I'll take it. I'm gonna put myself out there . . .

Dustin, over-all, is doing okay. School is looking up and he is only getting a step (breaking a rule gets you a "step") or two a day. That, my fiends, is progress. But we a struggling at home with him running out of the house again. We had a brilliant streak a couple months ago that when we saw that "I'm gonna run!" gleam in his eyes, we would have him take his pants off. He certainly wouldn't run out of the house without pants off! Right?

Sure. That worked until this week when it started getting warm. yesterday afternoon, I got a call at work from Robert who told me that Dustin was down the block . . . in his underwear and no shoes. I told him not to even go outside, because we know that makes Dustin run farther and more erratically (we live on a busy street) and to wait for 20 minutes. If he didn't return call the police. I could not leave work. We were terribly short handed and I knew I would be of no help anyway.

I told him we needed to "change it up" (thanks for the phrase Lisa!). I told him to try a new approach when he came home. Instead of grabbing him and hollering reprimanding him, grab him and hug him and tell him that you were "So scared!" and that you thought he was "Lost!" and that you have to see him to "Keep him safe!". In other words fake it act like you were SO worried! I told him to choke down the way he really wanted to react and try something new. I told him to offer him a snack and have him sit with him and watch a show together, all the while telling him how scared he was that Dustin was not safe. He did and it worked. Dustin's attitude and demeanor changed immediately.

I did the same thing when I got home. I even faked a little sob when I hugged him. (I am going to hell) I figured that punishment doesn't do a darn thing for his FAS raddled mind and all it doesn't is punish us. I HAVE to find a way to keep him safe inside the house so he does not get lost down the street or become a pancake on the road. It feels so wrong and like we are giving in to "his demands", but at this point I am far too concerned with his well-being to worry about "giving in". Am I wrong?
Am I creating a monster? (oh lord! it can'It be much worse) Also, last night was pretty darn good in the behavior category. I don't think he hollered at me once!

I look at it like this:

1. I may "look" like I am giving in to him and rewarding him, but truly I am winning. He is safe and we are not "that family" with the "mentally handicapped kid" who runs around in his underwear! In this world, the police shouldn't be knocking on my door and CPS will not come to check that we are not negligent and that he has clothing, and medication for his issues.

2. If we punish by removing TV or games or computer or simply give him timeout, we are lookin' for trouble. This is when his brain goes into overdrive thinking about what he can sneakily do, what he can destroy and who he can punish for his boredom. This is when the anger comes and the impulsivity sky-rockets. This is when he takes off out the door.

3. Is the punish making a difference anyway? NO! His brain is broken! If something isn't working why are we still doing it?

4. The "littles" already know Dustin plays by a different set of rules. I think we have a done a good job informing them that our expectations for Dustin's behavior is lower than theirs. I don't believe they feel slighted or will attempt to "work the system" to get away with more. (well, anymore than a typical 5 and 6 year old would!)

I need some input ladies! Help me! Give me some comment love. . .


Lisa said...

I think what you did was excellent. Since you know what you were doing wasn't working it was time to change it up.

J told me she was running away once. I told her to hold on just a minute while I packed her a bag. I packed her a nice little bag (with a note in it from the therapist explaining her disorder) handed it to her and said, I'll miss you honey, but I understand. She sat outside for a few minutes then said she changed her mind. She's never offered or mentioned running away again.

BUT....J doesn't have FAS so I'm not sure that would work with Dustin.

Yondalla said...

It sounds good to me.

Punishment rarely works. With most neuro-normal kids sitting them down and saying very seriously, "When you do that it makes me very angry/worried. I do not want you to do it again" is as effective as grounding them. Which is not to say that a serious talk always works. It is that it works at least as well or better than punishment.

Oh, we call it "giving consequences" but it is still punishment and IT DOESN'T WORK.

Communication emotions does work (better). If you gotta fake it make an impression I say go for it.

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Well, I think you said it best yourself, if it isn't working, why are you still doing it?
FAS is SO hard. IMO, one of THE hardest. I am sure I don't have to explain why I think that.
It seems like you are really scared for him when he runs. Maybe not for usual reasons, but fear is fear. Fear of CPS taking him is VALID.
You may find that by "giving him what he wants" , he quits entirely. I wouldn't worry about the other kids, it sounds like they get it, that D is different.
I think of my daughters brain like a ball of steel wool used on dishes in the old days. When it is like that, she is not taking in anything. She is not logical, and cannot use cause and effect. So taking things away makes no difference, she can't process all of that. Typical behavior mod is useless. It's not going to work because there is nothing in her brain to base it on, especially in the moment. By sitting with D and being calm and nurturing and positive, you smooth his ragged brain so that he CAN think. Forget the idea of rewarding the negative. His brain is probably mis- firing all over the place, especially when he percieves a stressor. He doesnt move into logical thinking, he moves into impulse and survival.
Anyway, my 2 cents. And, fyi, I can type all that into someone elses comment page, but I struggle with it. It is true and effective with my kid, but it is still hard to do at the time.

Jo said...

First off, hugs and LOVE. I think changing it up is a great idea. The only way you are creating a monster is if this new reaction of yours causes him to run away more. If it deters the behavior, how in the world can it be bad?
In fact there could be some argument for saying that feeding our children when they were hungry is creating a monster, next thing you know, you will be feeding them whenever they are hungry instead of when you feel like feeding them, kwim?
Our kids are not wired the way "normal" kids are. Things that generally work with regular ole kids often do not work with ours.
Do what works. If this particular reaction stops working, as Lisa says, "change it up!". Good luck.

Torina said...

What you did is awesome. When we do stuff like that with Tara, I call it the "Fake it til you make it" stuff. Where you pretend you are all lovey and crap while you are seething inside. It really does seem to be more effective for us, too. It works for pets as well. I got my husky to quit biting with this method...every time she would bite someone, I would kiss her face until she licked me. Eventually, she started licking all the time (biting used to be her greeting). Yes, I know our kids are not dogs but they are more instinctual than contemplative is my point, I guess, if I even have one. Blah blah blah. The End.

Eos said...

I do something similar although our issues are not (I'm dealing w/ more of a conduct disorder, RAD, disassociative type thang here!LOL) because we have to do what works even if it doesn't make sense to others or even if it involves faking it.

Just today I said words I NEVER thought I'd say. I said "I hope you make good choices but I'm kinda of hoping you don't because I'd love to charge you with extra chores" - I said it because it guarantees she'll make good choices today just to thwart me. Anyone else hearing that would have been shocked...but it works for us because that is the way my daughter's mind works. do what you need to do and if it backfires then go back to the drawing board again. Hugs.

Dia por Dia said...

I agree with what everyone else has said. I have a runner too, even in his underwear! The last time he ran I waited for him to return and then "pretended" not to see him on the front porch (it was pretty cold)for a few minutes. Then I greeted him with a big hug and kiss, tucked him into bed so he wouldn't catch cold, showered him with love and affection but didn't let him out of bed until the next day (just in case he was getting sick). He hasn't done it since. Do what works is what I say!

BTW I just gave you the Lemonade Award!

Patty said...

Not having any of this to deal with I am not sure that I can or should give advice but when did that stop me? I know when I have a dementia resident that "tries to go home" we put those child proof door handles on the door knobs (you can get them in the baby department of most stores)and they cannot open the doors. Maybe you can find some sort of alarm that you can use to distract or redirect, or some type of lock that you can mount so Dustin can't reach it but you can unlock by remote or key pad (kind of like a garage door opener or those gadgets they have on dementia wards). As hard as it is treating someone loving when you don't feel loving usually works like a charm and seemed to do so this time with Dustin. God bless you for loving him as much as you do, and refusing to give up on him. Great is your reward in Heaven!

Torina said...

I just thought of something cheap and easy that my mom used to do to keep my sister and I from running out of the house when we were little kids. She would take old socks and put them over the doorknob (hopefully you have a doorknob) and secure them with a rubberband. A kid without the best motor skills really struggles to turn the knob but an adult just needs to concentrate a little. It did the trick.

Sheri said...

Thanks ladies for the help. I will have to plod through as we all do day to day.

Great ideas, all of you. thanks for listening.