Tuesday, 24 September 2013

It's not always easy . . .

Last week was the first time the kids were back at their regular multi-sports session after the summer, it was A's first session but M and J have been going for well over a year.  They were all looking forward to it - so surely a good time would be had by all . . .

I learned after the session that M had been a bit intimidating and had hit someone.  After a week of cogitating I thought I'd share how we deal with this sort of thing in general, and specifically how I dealt with it last week.

Firstly - I asked M to come to my room, where it is usually quiet and calm, we cuddled and I asked him in general terms about the session - was it fun, what had they done, what did he enjoy, that sort of thing.  We talked for about five minutes, it "felt" like he had had a good time and been happy.  I knew that he had come bouncing out of the session though - thoroughly hyped up and a bit OTT.  As he hadn't volunteered anything I asked if anyone had got hurt - he answered no.  That made everything else much more tricky.  I asked if he hurt anyone, again no, had anyone got upset?  No.

At this point I always run over what I actually know - in this case I trust both the parent and the child, and there was another person who mentioned the incident.  In the past we have had manipulative children claim that M has done something that I am certain he hasn't.  Once I knew he hadn't because he was sat beside me, not out on the field as the complainant claimed, other times there has been ambiguity, and that makes it tough to deal with.

So, there was nothing else to do but come straight out and ask - had he hurt anyone?  No.  How about by accident? Still no.   X has said you hurt her - what happened?  "I don't know.  Is she alright?"  A few more questions trying to work out when or how it might have happened still gave me no clues.

Now seems like a good time to talk about memory - specifically ASD memory.  Quite often M is convinced that something happened a particular way, when I am sure it happened another way.  For a long time I interpreted this as lying, but I don't think it is.  M is absolutely convinced that he is recalling whatever it was accurately - when he does lie he is very obvious! From reading other peoples blogs, and various books, this is pretty common in those with ASD.  It seems that so much happens without M being able to see cause and effect that his mind "fills in the blanks" - a little like persistence of vision when you drive past a fence with gaps, you see an unbroken landscape that is perhaps a little blurred.  That is how M sees these events - he subconsciously fills in the gaps, then is convinced that this is the truth.

So, back to this particular incident . . . Before I could really work out how to avoid this sort of thing, I needed to work out why M had no idea anything had happened.  Without going back to see, I can only guess but I can have a pretty educated guess. . . M is uncoordinated - when he runs arms and legs flail about rather randomly.  If he is racing someone to somewhere or something he subconsciously pushes - I think this is a feature of ADHD and poor executive function (he acts without thinking).  He doesn't look at peoples faces, and doesn't "get" body language.  Lastly he is very good at tuning out the background - often you need to get his attention before starting to speak to him as he just won't register what is said around him. 

When you put all those together, what I *think* probably happened is that he was racing to somewhere, either pushed past or accidentally bumped the young lady and just didn't realise, then he carried on to wherever he was going, and didn't see the result of what he had done.

So, first things first, I suggested to him what I thought may have happened.  He agrees it's possible, but still isn't sure.  We talked about trying to pay attention to people around you.  We talked about not pushing, and thinking about how it would feel to be pushed - at this point the disconnect he has between the names of feelings and how they actually feel was apparent again.  We talked about wanting everyone at the session to have fun, and how he couldn't dominate or they wouldn't have fun.  We did go over not hitting, but that's well trodden ground.

Before this weeks session I reminded him of all of this, and he seems to have remembered what we talked about.

Now comes the really awkward admission though . . . I have no idea if it will help.  M knows not to hit, and when he is calm and thinking he doesn't.  When he gets over excited, or in the heat of the moment, he isn't able to go through that subconscious checklist of "Is this a good idea / what happened last time / what could go wrong/ will I get in trouble."

I have, however, done my best, done all I can think of, followed the "expert advice."

One last thing, though . . .

No matter how often it happens, no matter what happens, if my child does the wrong thing TELL ME! Too often people just don't tell us when stuff happens, and then it happens again and again.  Eventually when I am told instead of trying to deal with a one off issue I am trying to stop an established behaviour - which is much harder!  Even if it looks like I am doing nothing, I *will* do my best and try to stop the behaviour.  Often, as with this incident, it is best to wait for the child to be calm and relaxed - no one ever learnt anything whilst they were in meltdown - so whilst it might look like nothing is happening "in the moment" when the storm passes the talking starts.

This week M managed to stand too close to someone and got whacked with a hockey stick . . . after a bit of crying (which was warranted, it was a heck of a lump) he went back in happily.  As far as I know nothing else went wrong . . .

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