Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Fight or Flight Response Rather Than Manipulation - Living With FASD

Joseph has an uncanny knack for figuring out ways to get around the rules we have in place for his safety. I find it incredibly frustrating that this child who cannot follow a two step command, can think of complex ways to get under our radar. For instance, and this is something that happened a long time ago, Joseph went through a phase where he had very "sticky fingers." He saw it, he wanted it, he took it. This was happening mainly at school, so I stitched his pockets closed. Next he sandwiched items between the books in his back pack, so I bought him a clear plastic back pack and made sure to thoroughly look through it before he left for school and again when he came home in the afternoon. He then smuggled things home under his clothing. Somehow he always stayed one step ahead of me, which did not help him feel secure. 

We have an alarm on his bedroom door as he has a tendency to roam the house at night, something that makes me incredibly uneasy. He learned if he opens his door very slowly, the alarm doesn't ring and he can slip out of his room unnoticed. We had been suspicious that he was somehow getting out of his room without our noticing it, but when we checked his alarm it was working. One day he opened his door a little too fast making the alarm ring, thus giving away his secret. His next tactic was loosening the alarm. It is plugged into a receptacle in the hallway so we can hear the alarm ring throughout the house. If he jiggled it a little each time when he walked by, it eventually quit working. We discovered what he was doing when he jiggled it a little too hard one day and it fell to the floor with a crash. After that he was a bit more cautious, only opening his door when he saw the alarm was unplugged. For awhile I diligently checked his alarm at nap time and bedtime, but eventually got sloppy because everything checked out....and then he was soon back to going through the cupboards and the refrigerator, or taking things to play with into his room. 

There have been countless incidences like these over the years that leave Dean and I shaking our heads, wondering if we should laugh or cry. Sometimes I do a little of both!

The other day someone asked this question in one of my FASD groups, and I am paraphrasing here: "Why can our children with brain damage have enough "brain power" to manipulate the rules to get what they want?"

There were many great replies, but the one that applies best to Joseph was written by a friend of mine. She said she thinks it has to do with fight or flight. The child relies on himself meet his own needs, because he is unable to trust others to meet those needs. In their minds we as parents get in the way of having what they perceive to be needs met, when we say no to a request.

That describes Joseph very well. I know understand why he melts down and why, when we say no, he will try to figure out other ways to get what he wants. These actions always felt so manipulative, but now I realize he is simply reacting out of fear that his needs won't be met.

For me knowing the why behind a behavior makes it easier to cope. Somehow it no longer feels like Joseph is intentionally trying to drive me crazy with his various escapades. Deep in my heart I know it is brain damage that makes him react in the way he does, but when someone appears to be intentionally manipulating you, it is so hard not to take it personally. Knowing he is reacting because he fears his needs won't be met, creates empathy versus frustration in my heart. Of course, Joseph can feel that and responds in a more positive way. 

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