Springboard for Post: Transitions

I’m really trying to figure out what happens in Holden’s brain when he is in the process of making transitions: going on a walk, getting ready for school, moving from the car to the grocery store, etc. The double-edged sword of impulsivity and receptive language loss creates the perfect storm for intense tantrums. On our trip to Denver, driving breaks were the most difficult. The first few times we stopped at convenience stores to get gas, Holden walked down the aisles trying to grab as many bags of Cheetos and candy bars as humanly possible. I found it challenging to steer him toward the bathroom—especially when I really had to go—when he’s freaking out about wanting chocolate. In North Platte, Nebraska, he threw himself on the floor yelling “Noooooo!” Really. Loud. I never let him have what he grabs, but I find it equally tough to get those things out of his hands without wrecking them. (Sometimes I can get him calm and he’ll put them back himself but not always). It was all I could do (under the careful watch of an audience of convenience store shoppers) to get him to drop the Cheetos and head to the bathroom.

His neuropsychologist says the “transition” issue is similar to what happens with kids with autism—there’s something impairing his ability to sequence actions and make decisions. I really wish I understood this better and how to make things easier for him. Sometimes giving him other things to focus on helps, like my iPhone or his iPad. Most of the time, he doesn’t really look at the screen, but it’s in his hands and he can’t grab as fast. Sometimes redirecting him to the screen helps keep him from creating havoc.

I have gotten some insight as to how Holden feels about these moments.
A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to get him to put his pajamas on after taking a shower. Meltdown of gigantic proportions ensued. When we’re not under pressure of place or time, I just leave him alone until he gets through them. (When we have an appointment or it’s a school day or if we have to get out the door for whatever reason—time pressure makes those meltdowns feel more necessary to resolve quickly.) But the other night it was just bedtime, so I let him have his meltdown. Once he got over it himself, he sat on the toilet and said, “I’m such an idiot. You don’t deserve that.”

At first I thought he was possessed because Holden usually doesn’t put sentences together like that. Sometimes he’ll say a world like “idiot” but he’ll say it with the intonation he gets from the movie or TV show he’s heard it in, so I know he’s just parroting. This he said in his own voice. I could chalk it up to a fluke, but then he washed his hands and brushed his teeth without problem or prompting. He quickly put his pajamas on and jumped into bed. Words plus action made me take what he said seriously—he really felt remorse for having such a huge meltdown. I was really blown away by this small window into his mind. He really knows in the moment or right after that screaming/crying/pushing is not what he’s supposed to be doing—or what he really wants to do—but he just can’t help himself. I wish a neurologist or psychologist could explain that better to me—tell me what’s happening in his brain during episodes like that. It’s heartbreaking to know that even when he doesn’t say things like “I’m sorry,” he might be feeling incredibly bad for his behavior and regrets disappointing people that love and care about him.

Remembering that he feels remorse and (mostly likely) can’t easily control himself in these moments make them easier to handle. Most of the time.

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2 Responses to Springboard for Post: Transitions

  1. Joy Arbor says:

    This is really interesting because a lot of children (not just autistic or special needs) have particular problems with transitions. In your case, the usual suggestions probably don’t help (give the child a ten-minute warning when a transition is coming up), but here I just wonder whether Holden’s difficulty is just the more extreme end of a natural difficulty rather than something specific to LKS. But what do I know? The best I’ve got is this: hugs!

  2. Demetra Tamvakeras says:

    I can really relate to what you have written here. Leonardo struggles also when we too are under time /place pressure situations. Like trying to get him organised for school. Door to door is an issue. The same goes for when I pick him up from school. The idea that he will go from school to home..seems to disorientate him some how? The petrol station for me is really a no go zone. I don’t like him being present so I always fill up when he isn’t around. I can so relate to you scenario here. Every time we have a long drive my husband is with me. I’m not confident taking him away to my parents holiday home (3 hours south of Sydney ) gee…. It would be great but for the reasons you just mentioned I still haven’t tried it yet. As for screaming melt downs I only just experienced one about an hour ago! He didn’t want to go home after school. He tried smacking me and when “it was over” he apologised . So yes I agree I don’t think that he can control himself. Just on another note …we are up to speech therapist number 3! The last two “dumped” us and they said “you need to work on behaviour first”. We are seeing a new speech therapist . She has worked with LKS in South Africa (where she is from originally). She described Leonardo’s behaviour as 80% intentional and 20% pathology. She is believes he was “playing her” . She asked me to leave the room…which I was SO GLAD TO. She had him at the desk for 25 minutes following her instructions. When he went to hit her she tried this technique which I have never seen before (she has a lot of experience with high on the spectrum autistic kids).

    First she asked him to squeeze her hands when he got his silly impulse to hit…to which he did then she squeezed all the way up his arm and some how that urge left him. She said that these kids have impulses and nervous energies which they need to get of so this is how you get rid of it? Anyway I thought it was weird but it worked!?!

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