Tuesday, January 24, 2006

She's a hit!

I have posted previously about how much I adore Bud's teacher, Mrs. H. Now you get a chance to see why.

This afternoon, following the hitting incident, I gave Bud some time to unwind after we got home from school, then said "Bud, I'd like to hear about what happened at school today."

Much to my surprise he said, "I hit."

"Who did you hit?"

"I hit Mrs. H."

We talked about how Mrs. H. felt about being hit (angry and sad), and I asked him if he thought he might hit again tomorrow at school. He said "no," so we talked about what else he could if he got angry. Here's what we came up with: use his words, clap his hands, take a breath. And then we practiced together fake-angry-face to fake-angry-face: "I feel angry." CLAP. Breathe in ... breathe out.

Bud grabbed onto it, and even recounted it to Nana a couple of hours later, so I sent an e-mail to Mrs. H. so she could use it as a starting point at school tomorrow. A short time later I got this fabulous reply, which she has kindly agreed to let me post:

Hi there - first let me preface this with that fact that I am still in my "processing" stage of the day. It's when I spend my "chore time" reflecting on what has happened in the day and what I need to do, or not do. I will apologize right out front, because I will be doing some of my processing "outloud", and you can certainly chose to ignore any or all of it.

Bud. Bud is an ever evolving child, no different , in so many ways, as the children I have watched evolve for the last 27 years...I started young ;) . Yet, he is so vastly different, as has been each child with whom I have worked within the spectrum. Bud is Bud, and there is no escaping that. His evolution hinges on both where he falls on a particular day within the spectrum, and where he is developmentally. I am not an expert, I am a practitioner - my practice is observing children, loving them, encouraging, and nudging them....all in the name of learning.

Bud's hitting response seems to me to stem from different avenues. It is a new tool which he has discovered, and now must learn how to use. It was a matter of time, I believe, before he discovered the "power" of hitting/kicking. With this action there is power, and response. It appears that the notion of these actions was activated by a recent video, but again I believe it was only a matter of time. The slight changes in his daily routine could have an impact on this new behavior, (specialist schedule changes, you on the couch), but in the long run, these small changes have not impacted him in the past - I know, it could now.

The issue at hand for me is not "should I address this", but rather, "how should we all address this?" There are a couple of issues at hand. First there is the actual hitting/kicking. Bud is brilliant in that he has chosen to adapt these inappropriate behaviors at perfectly appropriate times - when someone is in his "territory" (dollhouse, computers, cars. legos, my lap - especially when it's being occupied by another child in my room who is also on the spectrum), or when the world is not going "his way" (ie - I would rather just sit in front of the computer all day thank you Mrs. H., and please don't ask me to paint, draw, build, go to the bathroom, etc.).

With a child, not on the spectrum - these are daily, developmentally appropriate challenges - they just have quicker (easier?) access to coping tools. For these behaviors, we have developed a routine that appears to have worked very well: clear, consistent visual, non-verbal cues, clearly set/realistic expectations (when/then), declarative language, validation of feelings (Bud is angry/sad/worried. - "Yes". "Bud wants to shut down the computer." --"Yes"....(like everything else, I pick my battles - this is one of them. When he shuts down the computer, he thinks no one else should play on them.)

One of the first things I did was to read all the children the story, "If you're angry and you know it", and he loved it. Choices when you're angry were - walk away, tell a friend, stomp your feet, and >>>>take a breath...which we practiced a lot - sound familiar? I'll send the book home tomorrow. I have been trying to find a way to communicate my new expectations to Bud so that they will make sense to him. "Waiting and seeing" has never been my strong suit. Saying "No", or "That's not nice," just doesn't do it.

This leads to my next issue. I am not the only adult to come across Bud's path during the day. I spend a great deal of time advocating/instructing other adults in the optimal way to draw out the "real" Bud, and how to tease out all the "great stuff" in him. Fortunately, the majority of us are on the same page, so my job is easier. However, sometimes it takes just a moment of battle of wills - and it quickly becomes a lose/lose situation.

So here I am, still trying to figure out how I can follow Bud for the years to come, still trying to come up with the magic words which will help shape his behavior the way I want it to go (HA!), and keep him feeling like he is the bees knees, and the light in my heart that he is.

You know, a long time ago, I read somewhere that it takes saying something at least 500 times to a child to get it somewhat a part of their "working memory". Now, I know for a fact, I have spent the last two decades telling children in my house to load their own dishes...well over the 500 times mark - still not to total success. So, how many times am I willing to say - "Hitting/kicking hurts. Mrs. H. doesn't want Bud to hit."...I've got a lot of staying power.

Let me know what else you come up with, and I'll share this with the team. I'll talk to you tomorrow...so sorry so long winded! Get healthy! - Mrs. H.

Sigh. Don't you just love her?


kyra said...

YES!!! i LOVE her. more than that, i LERVE her!!! i wish i had a teacher like that at the preschool we tried with fluffy in the fall.

'team bud' is ROCKING!

Alexander's Daddy said...

Dear Mom-Nos,

First I want to say I love reading your blog and look forward to reading your new posts. My son Alexander, almost three, has started in the last month to say "hit mommy or hit daddy". He then does a "shadow" swipe at us, never actually trying to make contact. What's odd is that he does this when he is happy and playing. We have tried to figure out where this is coming from but we still haven't found the source. We always tell him that we don't hit people and he stops. I'm beginning to wonder if he thinks that "hit mommy, hit daddy" is actually a way to show affection since this behavior only occurs when he is happy. It's always interesting trying to figure out our children.

Kristina Chew said...

Perhaps Bud and Alexander are not hitting out of anger, but as a way to get attention?

Mrs. H.'s sensitivity and compassion are more than apparent in her email to you---sounds like she has a god handle of kids, period.

Eileen said...

Mrs. H sounds wonderful and that she will be on top of this hitting business. She sounds like a great teacher!

Big Orange said...

I want to be like Mrs. H when I grow up. I think I may have to take her writing, print it out and glue it to the top of my desk. Read specific lines each and every day before school begins. Kudos to her, her classroom, and to you for posting such a beautiful, well-crafted response so others can read it.