Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Unconventional use of an iPhone

Cherub 2 (TT) had a meltdown last night. Not a meltdown of epic proportions. But a pretty big one nonetheless.

He had been playing basketball with his older brother. He lost. His response to losing was to throw the ball at his brother. Then, while stomping in to the house, he tried to be mildly destructive in the garage. (I never did get the full story of what he did in the garage.)

The violence was minimal (his brother is 7 years older than him).  But the dysregulation was super funky! Mr. Wonky was here and in full force. TT could barely walk. His talking was all up in his nose and baby-like. He couldn't think straight. After assessing that everyone and everything was safe, I drug walked TT into the guest bedroom so he could throw his fit in there away from the other cherubs that like to watch (and take notes).

Once in the bedroom alone with me, I tried to talk TT down. He, on the other hand, tried to ramp things up. This is where I struggle. Sometimes it feels very intentional. Very manipulative. On the flip side, sometimes when he's dysregulated it seems completely out of his control. Everything I've ever read about therapeutic parenting says to bring the child closer when they are like this. Stay by them. Help them through it. Everything with "traditional" parenting I've read says to not give the kid an audience. Ignore the fit and it will stop.

I'm not exactly sure what to do with TT sometimes.

You see, he didn't suffer trauma after he was born. He has always lived in a safe and loving environment. His trauma behaviors are not the result of neglect and/or abuse. Not at all. But...he still has the trauma behaviors. His fits aren't the same as my other kids. Even he recognizes this. Therapeutic parenting works well for most all kids. But ignoring fits makes sense with neuro-typical kids. And overall, TT is very neuro-typical.

Our therapist (after only one I'm not hanging on too strong to everything she recommends yet) seems to think that the fits might be more manipulative than not. She recommended ignoring them more and basically telling TT to "stop" when he starts to get ramped up. She recommended a "traditional parenting" response.

We parent "traditionally" sometimes. I mean really - it's how I was raised. It's how I parented Herman when he was 8 years old. It's what comes more naturally. Sometimes it works with TT. Sometimes, when told to "knock it off", TT will self-regulate and de-escalate all on his own. Sometimes though...he can't. He just cannot self-regulate.

I've started watching Christine and Billy's Therapeutic Parenting video.  I've only made it about a third of the way through (my schedule has been busy lately). But...the last topic I watched was them talking about Time In. I love the way they phrased it. Time In is really no different from Time Out except the child is not alone. They may still throw their fit. But you choose to sit there with them. You can simply just sit there. It doesn't have to be any more than that. You are with the child.

So, when Cherub 2 started freaking out last night, I chose Time In instead of leaving him alone to fit.

Here's where it got very unconventional...

Because I'm there with TT, he will often try to engage me. I have to really be rocking my therapeutic parenting to not get sucked in to the craziness. Last night, in an attempt to do things differently, I grabbed my phone. I told TT I was going to video tape his fit.

I had mentioned before that I was going to try this. After my first attempt TT and I discussed it (when he was calm of course). TT was PETRIFIED  that I was going to put the video up on YouTube or Facebook. I assured him that I most certainly would never do anything like that. But, when I grabbed my phone last night, TT immediately freaked out even worse. Slowly though, while staying very, very calm, I adjusted the settings on the phone and started making a video.

I happen to have an iPhone. And I think the way I set things up is the reason this happened to work last night. I switched the video so that it was filming both of us and we could see ourselves in the view screen. Not only was I making a video of TT, but he could watch himself on the screen while I did it.

At first, TT was very upset. I kept the phone out though and used it as a distraction. I would make a couple seconds of video. TT was angry and would hit the red button to stop the video. I did this several different times assuring him that the video was only for our use and no one else would see it. Then I asked him if he wanted to delete the videos that I had taken. He said yes. This really worked well as a distraction (it gave him power over the situation). TT started to calm down. Mr. Wonky was still very much there in his voice and mannerisms. But TT was calming down.

After TT deleted all the short videos, I started filming again. This time I did it like an interview. I stayed super calm. I validated the things TT had to say. And we processed. Instead of him having to look me directly in the face, he could see my smiles on the view screen. I think it was a little less threatening. Plus, it was quite novel.

We continued processing for awhile and then we stopped the video. TT was almost regulated. Almost...but not quite. He thought it would be a good idea to watch the video we had just made. I thought that would be a good idea too. As he watched the video he was able to continue processing the meltdown and what caused it. We also had an opportunity to talk about what he looks like when he's dysregulated and how he can work harder to not get in that state to begin with. By the time he was done watching the video he was completely able to answer the question of what needed to happen to repair things with Herman.

Maybe this whole process was little more than a novel distraction. However, I think TT really responded to it for several reasons. One – he could still see me while we were talking, but he wasn't being forced to make full eye contact. (Maybe holding a mirror up would work the same way if you didn't want to make a video.) Two – he had power over starting and stopping the video camera. Often TT is upset because he feels like all power is being taken from him. This small amount of power made him feel better. Three – he could watch the video after we finished. It gave him an opportunity to hear again what he needed to hear.

The whole thing was a little strange. But, it worked for us and I figured I'd share. Here's to doing whatever it takes to keep Mr. Wonky out of our house!!


Trauma Mama T said...

Not that you asked me, but I would definitely NOT completely parent TT like a neuro-typical kid. A child separated from their biological parent after birth, no matter how loving the environment, has suffered trauma after birth. Even a newborn baby is capable of a full blown traumatic response (though they are not capable of processing that response). My blogpost on "Black and White Thinking" explains the brain's age stages in trauma processing.

We practice "time in" here, too -- even though our kids are teens now. However, I no longer employ all the validation techniques I once used. I think my kids have learned to manipulate that, and so, while doing time in, I also employ traditional parenting methods. Sometimes, I let them know "I've had it" and they need to "stop." I've even told them, "Sucks for you."

My kids are older now, though - 13 and 16. They don't have a lot of years left where they can "throw a fit" and not wind up in jail.

I'm not saying this will work with all kids. For significantly traumatized and RADish kids, it truly can make things MUCH worse. Thankfully, for mine, "snapping out of it," does usually work now that they're older. BUT - they've had 4.5 years to learn to trust me.

Your idea to use the video would have sent my Youngest Son over the top, even a year ago. I would not do it with him because I think it would set us back big time in trust issues. However, your instincts with TT seem like they were right on track. Sometimes, you just never really know what's going to work and what's not. My kids still surprise me from time to time.

I love Christina's "out crazy the crazy." I think it really does snap kids out of it. Maybe the video was TT's "out crazy?" :o)

Thanks for sharing this. I learned something. You're awesome, Cherub Mama!

CherubMamma said...

You know what -- I think you're right. That was an "out crazy the crazy" kind of a moment.

(Which BTW is the BEST parenting video I've ever seen. Out crazy-ing has worked for me sooooo many times with ALL of my children. 'Cause even the neuro-typical ones are crazy!!)

And you're right, I can't parent TT the same as a neuro--typical child. It's so strange though. I do have to remind myself that his trauma is still there. But I have to do it in a way that doesn't make it bigger than it is for him. So I'm always trying to access how he's feeling for REAL so I can respond appropriately.

I NEVER want to diminish his trauma. However, I don't want to blow it up bigger than it is either. And since his trauma is so invisible, it's a fine little dance I'm always performing. It also makes it difficult to include others in the story too. He doesn't want it known that he's adopted. But there are times when I almost have to explain to others why he's responding the way he is to a situation. Because if you can understand WHY he's having a hard time with something, everyone can respond with compassion and empathy instead of always saying "suck it up".

BTW - I love your Black & White thinking post. (I'm the one that pinned it so I'd always have it accessible and so that maybe some of my other friends would read it too.)

Medkid said...

I love your creativity. I am the first to admit I know little about parenting (though I'm frantically trying to learn because among the millions of medical facts I'm supposed to have memorized I'm supposed to be able to advise on that too..AH!) It doesn't sound novel to me. Awesome post.