Monday, September 17, 2018

Willfulness Or Brain Damage?

Having a child with FASD makes maneuvering sibling relationships challenging. We are trying to teach our children that  Joseph's behaviors, which bug them to no end, are due to brain damage not a fixed desire to irritate his siblings. Sometimes I wish they would simply show him a little more grace, that would make being the mom would be so much easier! But then I remind myself of how often I fall short of responding with patience and understanding, after one too many challenging interactions with him.

After an exceptionally challenging day, Dean said, "I think Joseph tries to be kind and respectful, but he falls so far short of it that it is difficult keep in mind that this is brain damage, not will full behavior."

I KNOW it is brain damage and I KNOW he can't help it, but when a child's behavior drains a family of their emotional energy, it is hard to remember that. Sometimes I totally forget and when I begin seeing his behavior as will fill, bad things happen.

First, whether I like it or not, Joseph regulates off of me. He relies on me to maintain his equilibrium and when I am irritated (even silently irritated), with him he falls apart and tries to regain my favor by doing things for me.  Anyone who has a child with FASD will know that these children often struggle to anticipate their own needs, much less someone else's. Having to exert brain power to meet another's needs, means they have that much less to use on themselves which means more accidents, more messes, more tears... all in the name of trying to regain my favor. So who is at fault here?

Joseph adds his three cents worth to every conversation, unless we specifically tell him, "No more talking!" Then he sits and sulks because, "You never let me talk!!!" Which of course isn't true. After he has butted in and made multiple comments which may or may not have had anything to do with the subject being discussed, it is easy to become frustrated. To complicate matters, the more stressed he is, the more he talks. So if he senses that we are getting upset with his ceaseless chatter, guess what he does? You guessed it, he talks even more. I need to remember this is impulsiveness and/or dysregulation, not will full behavior, but it is so hard to remember when it happens so often. 

He will do whatever anyone tells him too (unless it is in regards to chores). If I send him on an errand, and Lia stops him and tells him to do something else, he will drop what he is doing and do her bidding. I will find him wandering around in another part of the house and ask him what he is doing, his reply, "_________ asked me to help fix this toy so I went to the basement to get the things I need." Never mind the rule that I need to see him at all times, never mind that I told him to come right back....everything goes out the window when someone asks him to do something. Yes, we are working on his siblings in this area as well, because they know they are not to be telling/asking him to do things without permission. Confronting him does no good. Yes he knows what he is supposed to do. Yes, he knows that he is not to run off and do things without permission, but in his mind he isn't in the wrong because ________ told him too and he was only trying to help. I need to remember that he has a kind heart and isn't trying to be disobedient. 

All this sounds so simple. Remember this is brain damage, and the child cannot help it...until you take into consideration the fact that he does have the ability to misbehave intentionally. And when that happens, if you do not give a consequence, his negative behaviors will increase tenfold. For some reason, he seems to think that if mom and dad slack off and give him an inch of leeway, they won't mind if he takes a mile of freedom. For this reason we have to consistently enforce our rules and boundaries, while taking in to consideration that he has brain damage and what appears will full, may be anything but and he will be crushed if we give consequences. If it is will full and we let it go, however, our problems are only beginning. 

For example, he has trouble regulating the quantity and appropriateness of his words when we are in the presence of others. For this reason, we have implemented a rule when in the presence of strangers, "Answer their questions, but then no more words." He is able to do amazingly well most times, with frequent reminders. The other day we had a visitor and I reminded him of the rules before she came in the door. He nodded (when he knows exactly what is expected of him, he can often relax and do well in situations that would typically increase his anxiety). He answered her questions appropriately, I smiled at him to reassure him he was doing well and then he sat and quietly listened to the conversation. Suddenly he piped up, "I drove over a kitten with the trike once and Tristan had to dig a hole and bury it!" I will leave you imagine the rest. 

Knowing Joseph's impulsivity, I was going to let the incident pass without further comment because we all make mistakes and it appeared that was all it had been. Except his behavior proved otherwise. After our visitor left, Dean talked with Joseph, explaining why we have rules and the necessity of obeying them. That chat cleared up the air and he went to bed happily. It is so hard to know when to hold him accountable and when to chalk it up to brain damage. 

*By the way, the cat story was due to confabulation... we did have kittens once upon a time, and I accidentally backed over one with the explorer, which was the end of poor kitty. He remembered bits n piece's and filled in the gaps with, what to him, was a plausible explanation.

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