Postby ceabrahamsen » Wed Mar 31, 2010 3:39 pm

I went to start-up in february, and since I came home many things have changed with my son , Philip (5). Some things for the better, but also some things for.. no not worse.. but different and challenging in a new way.
Philip has always had a lot of aggressive behaviours, like pushing, pinching, scratching, hitting, screaming etc. For a long time I have tried to find out what his payoff is. Finally, some weeks after start-up I realised that his payoff has been control. He has controlled my feelings (especially) all these years and I haven't realized it until now. You see, I have tried to be calm for a long time during his tantrums and it really didn't work until I not only acted calmly, but also FELT calm. Now, when I have come to believe that his behaviours are OK, he has stopped pinching me etc. That's wonderful! But, -in comes a new behaviour:

Now that he has found out that he can't control my feelings with aggressive behaviours, he has started to look for other ways to be in control. Now he repeats everything I say, goes after me and close the door if I close the door, if I move an object he moves it afterwords etc. Also, if anything unpredicted happens to him, i.e. if he falls, he goes back and falls again on purpose as to get the feeling that he had control over the fall. (It is kind of cute too :P )
In the playroom he has a strong need to be in control too. His nr 1 ism is cars and has been since he was 1. He parks them, names them over&over. He wont let me join in this ism. I have tried in many different ways, but have ended up with this one: I just sit peaceful by his side, sensing the peace that he is making for himself, sending him the message that I am OK with his activity. Many of his isms are verbal. If he is isming verbally and is exclusive, he gets very frustrated if I join. If he says "yellow truck" and I say "yellow truck", then he starts screaming and has to repeat "yellow truck" again, so he had the last word. So, I have learned to see when he is talking ismy and when he wants contact, and I don't answer him when he is talking ismy.
From all this I see that he really needs a strong feeling of control in general. I respect that and I give him control as much as possible inside and outside of the playroom. Still it doesn't seem like he is relaxing more. Some days I am OK with him repeating me, closing doors etc, but some days I get insecure. So, that is why I write this post. I would highly appreciate if a teacher or any other experienced person could look at what I have written and give me som feedback on this. Am I on track with what I am thinking/doing with his need of control, or should I handle it otherwise? Is this typical? Will it pass?
Until now, in the playroom, he has mostly been isming or we have been isming together. He is using me much as an isming toy too, and I let him do that. (He wants me to say certain things, repeat him etc.) Because of his need of control I find it hard to come with much input from my side. Is this OK?
I hope for an answer :) And thank you for this new site. It is much more easy to navigate than the former one.
Greetings, Caroline.
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Re: Control

Postby CarolinaKaiser » Wed May 19, 2010 11:35 am

Hi Caroline -
I am so glad that you posted your question - it's a great one! (And it's a question that many parents ask - so you are supporting others too!)

First, let me say that what you are doing to help Philip sounds absolutely WONDERFUL. The first thing that stood out to me that is really effective, is your focus on your inner experience - you have really created a wonderful way to focus on FEELING comfortable - not just looking comfortable on the outside. You are absolutely right that Philip will know the difference - and when you are truly comfortable on the inside, you will see the scratching, pushing and pinching decrease. This is such an important key to helping Philip and I'm so excited for you that you've managed to create such inner comfort for yourself.

I want you to know that for our children who are rigid and controlling, it can often take some time for them to relax and move through the controlling behaviors that you're seeing. We see so many children act just like Philip acts - trying to control all of your actions around the playroom and around the house. I have personally seen children move completely through this - meaning that they no longer control everything but are instead very relaxed and easy. So - have faith and know that you're doing what it takes - you just might have to invest some time in helping Philip to let go of some of his rigid activities.

Continue joining just like you're doing - giving him ultimate control and not joining physically or verbally if he won't let you. I think it's great that you're trying to join him - but it's also so insightful of you to notice when it's time to just sit quietly to join him in your mind. I often join children this way - imagining that I'm doing exactly what he's doing. In my mind, I'm parking cars and labeling them too - just like he's doing. That way, I have the spirit of joining while still giving him the control he wants.

Here's something to add to all of the wonderful things you're already doing: try emphasizing to Philip exactly how much control he already has. For example - if he tells you to stop joining him physically - then when you stop, really celebrate that he told you and explain, "You've got it Philip! I will absolutely stop for you. Do you see how much control you have? When you tell me what to do - I'll do exactly what you say." Or - when he falls over again and again - you can point out, "Wow - look how much control you have over your own body!" You can do this in many of the examples you mentioned - showing him repeatedly how much control he has - both through your actions AND through your verbal celebration and explanation. This way he'll really notice how much control he already has.

Also - since you've done such a wonderful job of creating true inner comfort when he was scratching, hitting, etc. - now check in and see if you're applying this same idea when he is controlling you in other ways. You mentioned that some days you get insecure. So check in with yourself on these days and see if you are TRULY loving doing exactly what he's saying. If you're doing what he says, you want to feel really GOOD about doing it. For example, when he is asking you to repeat things over and over again - focus on how much you're doing for him by doing exactly what he asks. Every time you do what he wants, you're helping him to develop and grow in his flexibility - and the more you trust this, the more comfortable you can be - so the more you can absolutely LOVE saying the same thing over and over. The more you love it - the more he will relax and allow variation. Your inner experience is absolutely essential to help him become more flexible.

Wishing you all the best in your playroom - you are doing a wonderful job! And feel free to post additional questions - I'll be looking forward to them!

Warmest wishes,
Son-Rise Program Teacher
The Autism Treatment Center of America
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