Document, document, document.
Praise and reward the good behavior.
Don't allow the diagnosis to be an excuse to be naughty, do a half baked job, or to not work up to potential.
These were things that we were told by the child psychologist when we started working on a way to control his meltdowns. We wanted (& still want) him to be able to recognize those feelings inside when things start to get confusing & too overwhelming for him. I said it before & I'll say it again, we want him to be the best him that he can be. We want him to be a happy, healthy, productive member of society who is compassionate, kind, caring, & loving. We want him to know he is loved beyond measure, & that we will do whatever it takes to encourage & foster these qualities in him. Yes yes, we want this for all the children in our family. We want this for the children in your family too. Please know, we really want this for all children, but this is about the Boy. My child. My firstborn. The child who likes to be the oil to my water. The one who is teaching me about patience in a way that is frustrating yet wonderful, all at the same time.
Four months ago, when his psychologist implemented a reward program for him not having any outbursts/meltdowns at school, I thought she was out of her ever loving mind. C'mon now!! In the real world, we don't praise someone every time they do what they should already be doing, right?? I was resistant, but I knew that we all had to be on the same page, & I didn't think that this was going to work. When this child was potty training, he had a sticker chart for taking care of business in the potty. He would peel the stickers off of the chart & throw them in the trash. We tried using fruit snacks & M&M's. He didn't care if he got a treat; he could take them or leave them. Bribing with a new toy or book?? Meh, who cares?? But like I said, we had to be on the same page, so I got on board with the doctor.
It started out with 1/2 hour increments in his school day. For each half hour that he didn't lose it, he'd get a 'guy' on his chart. When he got 11/14 guys, he's get a pull from his grab bag. These slips of paper were rewards such as a toy from the dollar spot at Target, family swim time at the Y, 15 extra minutes of TV time before school, & having a friend spend the night, to name a few. As he made progress, we made things more challenging for earning the reward. He also started refusing to do his schoolwork, so more stipulations were put in place.
His latest goal has been to earn 14/14 'yes' spots on his charts (he no longer wants to 'guys'--the chart was too large, & he was embarrassed for his friends to see it. We made the chart a yes/no chart, & it is in a small enough format that it can be kept taped in a corner of his desk so he can see his progress as the day goes on. He is no longer embarrassed, because many children in his class has yes/no charts that go home each day also. We just told him that his must be kept in plain sight, taped to his desk. No ifs, ands or buts about it; he needs to see his progress to help remind him of the reward at the end of the day.
There is a little more to it than what I've shared, but you get the idea. The Boy & I came up with an additional reward. I told him that if he could 3 days (in a school week) of 14/14 yes spots filled, I'd let him pick out a video game for his DS or for the Wii. He's had so many weeks of struggle, where he'd get 2 days, then that third day of '14' was just out of his reach. My husband & I have been encouraging him, & the Boy has been so frustrated. He told me, "it's never going to happen; I'm just going to have to put the game on my wish list or save up for it & buy it with my own money."
This school week started off with two phone calls from the teacher on both Monday & Tuesday. We kept plugging away. We kept encouraging him of his potential. We assured him that he could do his work. We assured him that he is so smart. We assured him that it's okay to use his 'good coping skills' when he gets frustrated. We constantly assured him of our love for him (even on those days when he & I didn't like each other very much).
Wednesday was fantastic-he did it!! Yep 14/14 yes spots. Thursday was the same. YAY for the Boy!!! This morning as I was taking him to school, he looked at me & said, "Mom, I'm going to get it today; I'm going to use good coping skills if I get frustrated. I just KNOW that I can do it!" I was so proud of him (he's usually quite negative in the morning, especially if one speaks to him too soon).
Little Boy & I went to visit the Girl at lunch today. When the Boy's class came in, he was scowling. Uh oh!! He came up to me & snarled, "it's your turn to sit with ME, not HER!" I calmly told him that it was our turn to sit with the Girl, not him. He turned on his heel & ran towards the wall at the oopposite end of the lunchroom. I though to myself, "great, here we go...now the teachers & principal will get to witness him doing "it" to me. They'll see that he has outbursts with me too."
My Boy did NOT have an outburst!! He did NOT have a meltdown!! I watched him as he was facing the wall. I watched him wipe his eyes before turning around & walking back over to me. He breathed in deeply, & said, "Mom, when you & Little Boy are done with lunch, would you like to come & sit down with me & my class?" THIS WAS HUGE!!!! He handled this situation in a way that was appropriate!! I was so proud of him. To you this may be nothing, but I'm telling you it really & truly was a positive step for this boy of mine.
After school, he came walking up to the car really really slowly. My heart fell to my feet, as I figured that I'd have to console him & encourage him that he'd earn his video game another time. He had a somber look on his face, looked at the ground, then looked up at me. He was grinning from ear to ear!! He'd earned all 14/14 yes spots!! His smile got even bigger when I told him we were going straight to the store to get his game. He looked at me & asked, "right now?" Yes son, right now. His smiled got even bigger.
After we got the game, I asked him to pose for a picture with his new DS game. For once, he didn't give me a cheesy grin; you know, the grin that is fake & not the real child. He smiled a real honest to goodness happy smile.
His new goal? He wants to have 14/14 yes spots FOUR days of the school week!! I'm thinking that the child psychologist knows what she's doing.