Thursday, March 16, 2017

Kicking, Biting and Spitting: What I'm Doing To Combat the Combatant

I've had difficulty the last several months with a new development.  Kicking, biting and spitting.  This has been so much of a struggle, that I've called in behavioral specialists, and DD Services has moved his respite care from 0 hours last year, to 58  hours/month this year (Jake was throwing the mother of all tantrums at the time of his assessment. I'm not sure if that's good, or bad).

This problem has escalated since he started kindergarten, which is a class consisting of seven other kids with developmental disabilities and three para-educators (assistants).  As best as I can tell, Jake is the youngest, and the others range into the 2nd or 3rd grades.

The teacher is new, and highly motivated (thank goodness!), but she is also inexperienced (bless her heart).  I like her. Her heart is in the right place. But there is much trial and error going on in the class.

I've shown up to get Jake for his therapies, and the poor woman is flushed and frazzled.  Once, I came in and the room was annihilated - someone had literally cleared the shelves all over the floors.

Sadly, Jake is beginning to pick up on some of these behaviors and bringing them home.

We contacted a behavioral therapist and had a (sort of) consultation.  However, he wanted the entire allotment of Jacob's DD money $1200 to be used for behavioral services.  Um, I'm sorry. There are BOOKS on behavioral therapy (of which I will be buying - I'll blog about that later, I'm sure). Plus, he approach to dealing with Jacob is to wait his tantrums out, or offer him something that he wants more.

Okay, let me make something clear. I have FOUR children. I am not willing to let Jacob rule my world and dictate when and where I will do things.  I have absolutely no problem taking the time to teach him to behave properly, or what acceptable behavior is, but ALLOWING him to continue with his tantrums, and making the rest of us revolve around him is not acceptable to me. And it does him no favors in the future. It only teaches him that tantrums are acceptable ways of expressing frustration.

So, we've been working with the OT, PT, Speech, and the teacher at school to figure out the best way to work with him.  I suspect that some of this is due to his frustration that he can't communicate his wants and needs properly, and it will go away once he can speak a little better.  Other things are learned from the older kids at school.  And still others are from his innate stubbornness.

For now, I'm doing the following, though I'm sure this will be tweaked as I figure out what works and what doesn't:

1)  Try to spend more quality time with him than I have in the past.  Primarily, this is so he understands that good behavior means he gets lots of attention.  Bad behavior means time outs in his room or on the couch, without the attention he craves.

2) When I'm with him, we try to unplug. From everything.  No cell phones, no TV, no music.  I limit the number of sensory input he can get.

3) Lots of physical play. Jake seems to respond well to physical activity.  The teachers say he behaves better in school after PT and OT sessions. He starts swim lessons tonight, and we're actively working on getting him to the park and going outside to play.

4) Quiet time. He's beginning to sit still long enough for us to read books. So, I'm encouraging that too.

5) I'm working out. This kid is STRONG!  His behavior isn't going away anytime soon, so I'm taking action to be able to handle him better.  The moment he gets stronger than me, I've lost that battle.

6) Taking breaks (Respite). I'm totally utilizing the respite care.  Luckily, my oldest is 21 and wants to be an Occupational Therapy Assistant, so she'll be the respite care. But we've agreed to let him go over to her house twice a month on the weekends so that our family can have a break. We love Jake to death, but taking care of a child with Ds is hard. And it's important for the other kids to remember what life as a normal kid is like, and to enable us to give them their much-needed attention too.  

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