Thursday, January 18, 2018

How To Get Your Child To Follow Instructions -Living With FASD

Jeff Noble had another great example/lesson on his FB page this morning. "If you ask someone with fetal alcohol if they understand they will say yes. Ask them to explain and they will get angry. If that happens find another way to help them understand, i.e. slow down, give them more time, less instructions." 

I remember when Dean and I were learning this lesson. We were beyond frustrated with Joseph because we would tell him to do something, followed with, "Do you understand?" Without fail he said, "Yes," and proceeded to complete the task incorrectly. We became more and more frustrated, why did he consistently fail to follow through with what we asked of him after saying he understands? Joseph was upset, Dean and I were upset and his behavior went on a nasty downward spiral. Was he intentionally lying to us, we wondered. If so, why? 

Then one day I learned that people with fetal alcohol often say what they think you want to hear or they may guess at an answer or only hear a few of the words that were spoken and then fill in the missing blanks with what they think you may have said.

Ahh! We had found the missing piece to the puzzle and life would be so much more pleasant...or so we thought! I began asking Joseph to explain what I wanted him to do after I gave him a chore. I was feeling terrible, "What if all along, he hadn't been understanding us and I was getting angry with him? I was in for a surprise ... oh the meltdowns and raging that ensued when I asked him to repeat what I had told him to do! I was stumped. We were following the recommendations and instead of incomplete tasks and an irritable little boy, we had a very angry child!

So I went to my trusty support groups and asked WHAT am I doing wrong? My child is so angry with me and I am only trying to help him! "You need to slow down, use as few words as possible and never give more than one command at a time and make sure you have his attention before giving a command." So we incorporated "good eye's" into our daily instructions. Good eye's are our code sign for, "I need you to look into my eye's and give me your full attention." 

I called Joseph to me, said, "Good eye's," then instructed him to put the plates on the table. "What are you going to do?" I asked. "Put the plates on the table!" He replied. No meltdowns, he did exactly what I asked of him and was so pleased with himself! 

Good eye contact and a few words spoken slowly - how simple but how difficult to remember!

I wish I could say we consistently remember this technique and it has been smooth sailing ever since, but that isn't the truth. Joseph hasn't changed, it is mom that gets forgetful and starts barking out orders only to be drawn up short when he stomps off in a huff or stands in the middle of the room with a lost look in his eyes. 

People with FASD can be successful if we change our expectations and provide the supports they need.... if only I could keep that in mind!

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