Cynthia (our ABA therapist/saint) and I decided that it was time for her to help me get Diego to change out of his uniform after school. I can’t seem to get him to allow me to do it (or anything..really), let alone ask him to do it himself. It isn’t a matter of his ability to physically perform the action of dressing, it is a matter of overcoming his anxiety. The anxiety (esp since school has started) makes him incredibly rigid, which then turns into a huge protest and then a self-injurious melt down. When Cynthia arrived yesterday I warned her about what she was in for and asked when I should intervene.
I trust her, she has helped us so much and has a heart of gold.
She said that if she needed me that she would peek out and grab me, I told her not to worry that I would be right by the door.
D was already protesting as they walked over to his bedroom, I knew this was going to be major.
I went and sat on the couch, D’s bedroom is right by the living room so I could hear everything.
Which was both a good and bad thing.
D immediately started screaming and crying “NO I CAN”T GET DRESSED!!!!”
Cynthia calmly told him that he could do it, she tried to use her reinforcers, and tried to negotiate.
The situation just got worse….much worse
Diego then began screaming “Mommy help me please!!. My mommy always helps me!!!!!!!!!!.”
It took every ounce of strength I had not to run in there.
He needs to overcome this rigidity that keeps him from doing so much and nothing I am doing is working.
I HAVE to let Cynthia try.
The screaming continued, he started to hyperventilate…I could hear every breath, every hiccup, every yelp. Then he began to hit himself and kick the walls. I could hear Cynthia’s calm voice telling him that it was ok, and that she was there to help him. That once he was just a little bit calmer, she would call me in to help him.
This same pattern of behavior went on for about ten minutes while I sat crying on my couch.
I have never felt as helpless as I have for the past two months. This same type of melt down happens multiple times everyday. What I find amazing is how he verbalizes how he his feeling during these times.
He will scream and cry ”I want to calm down but my brain won’t listen, my body hates me that’s why it hurts me, I am trying very hard not hit you mommy!!!” His body is tense, face splotchy and red, and he is typically on the brink of hyperventilating.
and I can’t do a f*cking thing to help.
Cynthia finally peeked out and I ran into his room, he was drenched in sweat and hysterical. I scooped him up in my arms, hugged and rocked him. We laid in his bed and I rubbed his head, repeating over and over ”it’s ok, mommy is here to help you”. I also told him that Cynthia and Stella want to help him too.
After about 5 minutes his breathing was a bit more regular and the crying had subsided. I gave it another 5 minutes before revisiting the task of undressing. I told him that if he can just take ONE sock off that I will do the rest. He protested in the beginning, but I told him that we could do it together. He eventually took the sock off, and I praised him like he won an Oscar,and I meant it. Because for me….Diego removing one sock, FEELS like he won an Oscar.
Things finally calmed down and at this point Stella the ABA supervisor had arrived . Cynthia filled her in on what happened and we all agreed that the rest of the session would have to demand less from Diego. Stella began to play Dinosaurs with D and Cynthia and I went to talk in the kitchen. She gave me the run down of what happened in the bedroom and there were tears in her eyes as she said “It is so hard to watch him like that. You can tell he is trying so hard to get it together.”
So of course this opened the flood gates for me, I excused myself and went to the bathroom.
The rest of the session went on without any more major meltdowns.
Stella came up with a new plan to reduce the demand and use the token/reward system for EVERYTHING he does.
I listened and I will do it all, but honestly I am not incredibly hopeful.
Hope is in very short supply these days.
I always try to be so PC about autism, but you know what?
I hate autism, I absolutely despise it.