Thursday, January 26, 2017

Triggers, Tantrums, Meltdowns & Rages - Life With FASD

Triggers, tantrums, melt downs, rages...all one and the same, right? Wrong!

Triggers: a trigger is something that arouses the fight or flight response. It can be a sight, sound, texture, smell or any number of things. Confrontation is my trigger. It goes back to the day we sat around the table with various people from CPS and listened as they named our faults, accused us of abuse and said I was mentally ill. Why? Because we sought help for our son. Now when someone, no matter how kindly they ask, questions me or down plays my concerns about a situation, I panic. My heart begins racing, I feel light headed and all common sense flees. The feeling of panic can last for hours or days. I have coping techniques in place for when this happens and I am teaching them to my children but when they are triggered they do not have the ability to rationalize like I do. They go into all out fight or flight mode and there is no reasoning with them until the adrenaline has worn off and they are able to take in the coping skills I am sharing with them. Don't even try to "talk sense" to someone who is in full battle mode, they can't process what you are saying much less implement it. I know what triggers me but many times our children don't know why they feel like they do. Can you imagine panicking but not knowing why? That would be terrifying.

Tantrum's: Everyone knows what these are. They are the all out kicking, screaming fit's a toddler throws when you tell her she must wear a coat to play in the snow. When parenting a child with FASD, you face these tantrums pretty much daily. It is winter so Joseph's eczema is worse due to the cold and stress of the school year. Over the summer we seldom use "cream" as he calls it but during the winter we use it daily. He hates it with a passion, not that I blame him, the stuff is greasy and slimy but it is the only thing that works. He stomps, screams and get's mouthy with me every time I put his cream on. I have offered to forgo the cream but then he yells at me because, "My skin will hurt and bleed if you don't put it on!" I usually let him throw his fit and eventually he lets me apply the cream and he goes to bed as though nothing ever happened. 

Meltdowns:  - Over stimulation. Too much noise, activity, smells, people and meltdowns are called out in force. I understood the reason behind meltdowns but I never really understood how awful over stimulation is until I began weaning from my antidepressant. Now I know. The best way I can describe it is feeling like your brain is going to explode. My brain hurts, noise makes me my skin crawl, light hurts my eyes and all the requirements of being a mom are just too much. As horrible as this experience is, it is also a blessing because now I know why Joseph simply shut's down or begins crying and screaming. Too much sensory input and the circuits in the brain go hay wire. For someone with FASD, day to day life is overstimulating. Too much information is coming in, going down the wrong pathways and being stored in the wrong places due to the damage done by alcohol. Is it any wonder these people need rigid routine and structure? 

Rages: These are tough. Children with trauma rage for many reasons. Because of sensory overload, too much being required of them, not getting what they want (and they view it as life or death) an upcoming event, not being in control of their surroundings, which makes them feel unsafe... The hard part for the parent is deciphering what set them off, do they have a legitimate cause for such behavior, are they manipulating you or are they scared. Then you have to deal with the rage accordingly. Sometimes they need love and a comforting hug, sometimes they need consequences, sometimes they need you to help them find words for what they are feeling. Those with FASD misinterpret their world frequently, through no fault of their own. Rages are the result of that. For instance, I can tell Joseph to do something and he hears only part of what I said or else, misinterprets my words and promptly begins shouting and banging around the house. If I can get him calm enough to repeat what I said, the storm can be over that quickly, other times the battle is on. This happens frequently on his tough days. We have learned (or are learning) to take the kind of day he is having and use that information to figure out why he is raging.

Caring for someone with FASD requires a great deal of insight but we have found that being able to figure out what is behind the behavior/reaction and responding properly makes all the difference. Usually Joseph cannot tell us why he is acting in a certain way. We have come to be pretty adept at figuring out what is behind his actions and if we can walk him through why he is doing something, he can sometimes change his ways. Other times, we have to say, "This is FASD, it is unintentional," and let it go. Teaching his siblings to let it go is another matter entirely, one we haven't mastered.

One mom shared how she asks her child, "What do you need from me to help you feel better." Sometimes asking in that way will help the child verbalize what they really need. The other evening Kiana was having a tough time so I asked her, "What do you need to help you feel better?" Her reply? "Chocolate and a horse!" Umm, totally missed the point there!

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