Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The importance of the back-up plan.....

Every since we started back after the new year, David has been a mess. A sprite of a boy, he walks around with his arms in flex, looking ready to bolt at any moment.

"I'm fast," he declares with pride. And he is.

The thing is, he tells us this at least five or six times a day, every day. Makes me wonder what he is running from.

He spent a good part of the month of January in crisis. Nearly every routine direction brought on tears or loud denunciations. His play has been more aggressive; his ability to settle himself fleeting. He's not very interested in playing with his classmates, and any thought of writing on paper sends him packing!

"I'm fast."

According to his mom, all is well at home, no major changes or challenges. No meds change-- no reason for any of this. She, too, sees a regression, though only slight, in his ability to sit and listen to her and work out his feelings.

She suggested we make sure he's not hungry when he is fussy, and keep concentrating on helping him talk about his concerns.

Good advise. Still, the concerns remained.

So we put into place a few changes:

We now start his day with breakfast, even if he ate at home. He is welcome to eat his snack if he feels hungry throughout the day.

He is encouraged to use as many self-referral passes to the counselor as he needs. We hope to stave off full blown tantrums by helping him identify when he is beginning to feel stressed. When you are five, dealing with the BIGNESS of your angry feelings can be just too much to bear. (A reminder card is taped to his desk showing a picture of a pass!)

We are using a gestural cue to gently remind him to do what the teacher says: You put a hand at each ear and pretend you are turning volume knobs on a radio. "Check your listening ears, big guy!!" we chirp! He likes this. He smiles, imitates us, tries to comply, and we praise liberally. This is what I did with my own children at home when they were two and three.

We are offering choices, choices, choices, all day long, to help him feel more in control of his day. Sit here with us or choose your desk. Pick a book from the library or draw in your journal. Put your toy on the shelf or place it in your save box.

He started his day today with the grumpiest face I have ever seen. I caught sight of him storming down the hall; it was almost comical in its exaggeration. I met him half way with a huge hug, and he mumbled into my stomach "I need a new school. I need a new day care. I need to go home."

Surprisingly, we made it through the day, and his last words as he headed out of the classroom at dismissal: "I love you."

Yep, I love my job.

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