Monday, July 18, 2016

Lights & Sirens and Pre Verbal Memories

     Saturday evening was Dean's work picnic, an event the children love. Tristan enjoys seeing people he doesn't get to see very often, my two 8 year old's love that the children get a gift and Lia couldn't wait to jump in the bounce houses. 

    Needless to say we had three very excited children, add noise, crowds of people, plus food and a certain young man was struggling to function. Such an environment creates the "Perfect Storm" in Joseph's brain and anything is possible. 

When it was announced that an engine from the local fire company would be stopping by, I thought, "Oh no!" Joseph has some deep seated issues with lights and sirens and I expected the worst. However he handled it much better than I dared hope, at least we thought he handled it well.

 Sunday was a tough day for Joseph, he couldn't/wouldn't obey the rules. Sometimes Joseph is mentally unable to follow directions and we need to take that into consideration but yesterday wasn't one of those days, it was more of a, "I have such big feelings and feel so grumpy, I am not going to," reaction. After a meltdown that threatened to turn into one of the top ten, I had an ah ha moment. 

   Many years ago someone shared a game called Best And Worst, where you ask your child about the best and worst things that happened. It is a non confrontational way of getting some information when your child may not be able to say exactly what is bothering them.

     I asked Joseph what the best thing was about the picnic, he said the "Old Time Cars!"

 Next I asked him what was most exciting, to which he replied, "The bounce house shaped like a skid loader."

 What was the worst thing? "Nothing"

What gave you big, heavy feelings? "Nothing!" This was said with a snoot so I knew he had something in mind.

  After much prodding and rewording Joseph finally said, "The fire truck made me feel kind of scared."

   That was what I was looking for! "Why do you think it made you feel that way?" I asked. Joseph shrugged his shoulders, looking frustrated. I knew why he had reacted as he had but I wasn't sure if telling him was going to help the situation or make it worse.

   Dean was sitting nearby and I gave him the look that said, "Stop me if you think I am giving to much info."

    "Well Joseph," I began, "Do you remember how I told you that when you lived with your birth mom, a caseworker (I used that term because it is one he is familiar with) came to your house to make sure you were getting enough to eat and were taken care of?" 

Joseph nodded so I continued, "Well, one day when the caseworker came to your house, she saw she needed to find someone to take care of you and B. Your birth parents didn't want that to happen. They became so upset the police had to come. The police had their lights and sirens on. You were just a little baby so you don't remember this, but the "Little Joseph" inside you remembers, that is why you feel scared inside when you hear sirens and see flashing lights."

    Joseph's eyes cleared, always a good sign that we are on the right track, then he said, "How can I make those big feelings go away?" 

   "By talking to mom and dad, just like you are now," I explained. He smiled and I held my arms out for him to give me a hug. He came over and wrapped his arms around me for a long time, it was obvious his burden had been lifted.

     "I don't like how the lights flash on the trees and buildings, it makes me feel scared," Joseph shared. And some people say a baby doesn't remember?

   What I didn't explain to Joseph was that his brain associates those lights and sirens with being taken away from mom. Knowing how much my own trauma reactions affect my ability to function and feel safe, I cannot imagine how terrifying it must be for a child to have those reactions and not be able to understand where the feeling comes from.

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