Military Special Needs Network

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What’s His Behavior Communicating Now?

465986275Well, another month and another opportunity for Ted to receive the Good Behavior Award at school.

And so, another month and another time for Ted to snatch defeat right out of the jaws of victory.

That golden chestnut, “All behavior is communication” leads me to ask, what in the world is this kid trying to tell me right now?

We’ve had a pretty good run. Three to four weeks of very nice behavior. No meltdowns, no self-injurious behaviors, no violence or aggression, occasional incidents of noncompliance, but nothing to write home about. He was relatively compliant with homework, and his work had been impressive. He and his brother have been engaging in unique, imaginative play, TOGETHER, and life was incredibly good.

All the while, I waited for that dreaded other shoe.

And last Thursday, that bugger dropped.

While in his half-hour of mainstreaming (calendar time and centers), he had a complete meltdown. He tossed another kid’s desk, and took his shoes off and tried to throw them. As innocuous that sounds to folks in our community, taking off his shoes and throwing them is the first step in his angry naked kid routine. Buck naked in public is now frowned upon at this age, apparently.

Friday he had multiple meltdowns at school, and we saw the re-emergence of self-injury. His ol’ standby, biting, made an appearance. And left behind a full dental impression and subsequent bruise.

This weekend was fine, but we knew he was on edge.

Monday he attacked a kid on the school bus and had to be locked in his seat. Although, to be fair, the kid he attacked usually attacks him on the days that Ted doesn’t strike first.

And that brings us up to Tuesday. A day that may not live in infamy, but it will take quite a bit of time to forget. On Tuesday, Ted melted. Like Olaf in the summer. Good God, the screaming. The hitting and kicking. The autism?

Yeah, not so much the autism. What I mean is that, per my personal non-DSM diagnostic criteria, a meltdown is when an individual is completely out of control. Sensory processing issues, dysregulation, or any number of other circumstances render the individual incapable of handling the overload. Thus, the system – the person – shuts down. The child is completely out of reach for the length of the meltdown. Only much, much later might the person be able to explain what set him off. But this? This was completely different from a “meltdown.” The entire episode, Ted would look directly into one of the “nanny cams” and scream. Then he would wait a minute. Look. Reassure himself that the camera was, indeed, focused in his direction, and scream. And scream again. For two hours. He’d cup his hands like a megaphone around his mouth to better amplify the sound (like that was needed!). I could ask him questions. “Ted, why are you screaming.” He would stop screaming. He wouldn’t answer, but he’d stop screaming. He’d politely ask for a drink of water. Drink. And resume screaming. He was in control. He screamed when he wanted, how he wanted, and stopped when he wanted. And, after dinner was made, I told him I was setting the timer for two minutes, that if he was quiet for two minutes, he could eat dinner with us. It only took two times for him to reach that goal. He ate dinner, had the enviable cajones to ask for dessert, took his medicine and went to bed.

And could not tell me this morning, the very next morning after the giant meltdown, what the problem was.

No new routines.

No new teachers, aides, school schedule, bus driver, assigned seats, medicines, soaps, foods, moves.

No upheaval, no stress.

No clue.

No answers.

What is he trying to tell me?


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