Friday, January 22, 2010

Control to the extreme

Children with RAD crave control more than they crave anything else including relationships, love, comfort, fun, or showing others that they are smart or capable. They even crave it more than food!

Because of the way their brain had to adapt to survive in their less than ideal environments as babies and toddlers they feel that giving up control, even one tiny iota of it, means death to them. They will stubbornly hold on to their chosen control tactic with all they are worth, while life passes them by. They'll miss out on family fun, playing, dessert, outings, just about anything rather than giving up that control that they view as so vital to their survival.

Just for the record doing something my way means giving up control.

To give just a little glimpse of what this can look like, I will use just one example from the last 2 days...

One of Jada's school assignments was to count out 3 blue plastic bears. I already know that she knows the color blue and how to count to 10 (she can count to 10 using manipulatives as well by touching each item as she counts it). So this request is well within her ability.

At 9:30am on Thursday morning:
Initially I gave her a bag of plastic counting bears that contained 4 different colors. I asked her to hand me 3 blue bears. She pulled out all the red ones and gave them to me.
"What color did I ask for?" I ask her.
"This one?" she asks as she points to a green bear.
"Is that what I said?"
"Is it?" she repeats back to me.

I have her choose between doing 10 correct jumping jacks or 20 sloppy ones to 'get the blood flowing to her brain' so she is sure to hear me correctly next time I say my request. She does 20 sloppy jumping jacks after falling to the ground and moaning for a few minutes.

Again, I say, "I want you to give me 3 blue bears. What is it I want?"
"What number is it? 2 red ones?"

More jumping jacks, the blood must not be flowing enough yet...

"I want you to give me 3... (1.. 2.. 3.. ) blue (I hold up a blue bear) bears. What is it I want?"
"This one?" she asks while holding up a blue bear.
"Right!! How many?"
"Oh, that's okay. You can try again. I want 3 (I count to 3 with my fingers, then I count to 3 with her fingers), blue (I hold up 3 blue bears) bears. What do I want you to do?"
"Get red ones?"

More jumping jacks. I tell her to think about it and I'll be back to her. A few minutes later, I try again. "I want you to give me 3 blue bears."

She pulls out 1 red bear, 1 green bear and 1 yellow bear and hands it to me.
"Yay!! You gave me three!!!" I pop a jelly bean into her mouth. "Now make them blue."

She tenses up when I get excited about giving me the correct amount and makes sure to NOT do that again. For the next 2 and a half hours until lunch I am monitoring her while I am watching the other kids and making sure they are staying on task as well as trying to break through their controling games. About every 3-5 minutes I ask her if she's figured it out yet. She gets out 5 blue bears, 2 yellow, 1 red, and probably every other possible combination except 3 blue bears.

We eat lunch, have quiet time and get back to it in the afternoon. She stays at it for the rest of the day, taking breaks to get her blood flowing to her brain by doing jumping jacks and jumping on the mini-trampoline. Finally it was bed time, she still hadn't counted out 3 blue bears.

"No problem!" I tell her. "You can try again tomorrow! Hopefully getting a good nights rest will help!"

So 'tomorrow' was today. After breakfast and chores, she gets back to it. This time, I write out on the white board

" 3 blue bears "

I draw 3 dots under the number three, put a blue bear under the word blue and draw 3 bears under the word bear.

Lunch comes and goes. Still can't count to 3...
Quiet time comes and goes. Not yet...
It's nearly dinner time and we whip out the video camera to see it'll motivate her to comply. At this point I had taken away all the other bears except for 3 blue ones. I just asked her to count the 3 blue bears.

The video camera WORKED!!! It took a little prodding, but it worked! After she said it, we celebrated. She got a jelly bean, we did a dance together and we went downstairs to the swing in the basement to play together.

After coming back up, Brad asked her to count to 3 again, but somehow she couldn't do it.

I do have a method to this maddness. I figure that I'll wait them out. I do my best to not let their stubborness effect me. I know they WILL be stubborn and try to control things so I plan on it happening. I try not to let it make me frustrated or angry. If by chance I do start to feel frustrated or angry, I DON'T let them see that. They LOVE it when they feel strong enough to control another person's emotions, especially an adults. Anger is what they are used to and comfortable with so they try to create it in their environment.

So, why would I home school them if this is what I face everyday? Because it happens at school as well. They are not interested in learning. They want to control everyone and everything around them. At least at home, we can work on attachment in the midst of all their controlling games.

My task is to change the way they think by rewiring their brains in a sense. When they finally do comply I make sure that good things happen. I might dance around the room with them, do a little chearleading type cheer for them, pick them up and spin them in circles. Take a 'break' with them and play or move together (moving together promotes attachment). Often, I pop something sugary in their mouth. Sugar activates the pleasure center of the brain. So when they comply with something I've asked, I try to associate this with something pleasurable. Eventually, with constant repetition, instead of thinking compliance equals bad things happening for them, it can mean good things happen for them.

The other day Jazmine finished ALL of her school work and chores (this doesn't happen very often with any of them). We threw her a party complete with cupcakes, candles and singing. She did it again the next day!!! Talk about a modern day miracle!!! We got 2 days in a row from one of them! Day 3 was not as good, but that's to be expected. Healing takes place in in spirals. They make progress and then regress. The good thing is that each time they make progress it's just a little more than the last time. And every time they regress it's not as far back as last time. With 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, we move forward.

So one jelly bean at a time, one silly dance at a time, one celebration at a time, one hug at a time, one tiny breakthrough at a time, healing and attachment happens.

I tried to post the video but I couldn't get it to convert to a format compatible for the blog.


Laurie said...

You're such an inspiration! You don't lose patience with your four kids with RAD. Why can't I handle keeping my cool with just my two?? You definitely make me think! :)

Christy said...

Hey Heather! So glad to talk to you today and figure out who your mom is!

That book is Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron and the baby food grinder I have is made by KidCo.

Such cute photos of your family. I keep you and your crazy bunch in my prayers!

Janae said...

Where you get the energy for all of this I do not know, but you are amazing!

Melanie W. said...

I admire all you do, and wish I could have some of your patience and self control! Good luck with the baby steps to healing.

Morris Mama said...

Great job on not losing your cool. Not everyone can do that! Your kids are blessed with a great mom. I had the video compatability problem so I figured out that if I download the video to youtube first, then copy and paste the embed html of the video into my post, it will show up.

student_x_az said...

Heather, Your kids sound so incredible! I'm so serious. I wish I could meet them all and hang out with them. I read all of your blogs (I hope that's not weird) and I feel like they totally enrich my life. You are amazing and inspiring! I hope you are keeping a really good journal. And then when your kids are all grown you should write a book. I want to read it already.

Shannon said...

Ok I just realized you don't know who I am because when I left the comment above... I was signed into a different email account that doesn't have a blogger account. I'm pretty dumb. Sorry Heather :) It's me! -Shannon.

Taz's Mama said...

wow. that's intense. and a lot of hard work. but major props to you for doing it. i honestly don't know a lot of people who could stick with this, and i know a lot of adoptive/foster parents. my son, who is adopted but has bipolar disorder, is also difficult to homeschool. we deal with defiance too but for different reasons. and i mostly have to work around his moods, energy levels, and attention span. the good thing about working with a bipolar child with a short attention span is that he doesn't maintain interest long enough to have an all day battle over something he needs control over. for him, it's not about control, it's usually his depression taking over. when his mood is stable, he is very pleasant and willing to learn. but his attention span, frustration tolerance, and learning disabilities get in the way. that's how i know he has bipolar instead of RAD (which some question me about since there is some overlap). control is not an issue with him. he doesn't have the mental stamina to battle all day like your kids. he is dictated by moods, not by fear from trauma.