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I worked hard for several months to get Sean to keep his hands from flying, his feet from tapping and his body from gyrating. It had become a full time job and he was staying away from me more and more. I had been taught to have 'zero tolerance' for his self stimulating behaviors because the belief was that he could not learn while he was doing it. Then I learned that was simply not true. Sean could learn many things while he still did these things that actually seemed to calm him. What I found worked best was to play more attention to the positive things he did and ignore the less productive ones. And, voila! He did less and less of the ones that disturbed so many people. I came to know that if he was going to communicate he had to be with people more. And if people were going to have 'zero tolerance' for certain behaviors by suppressing them, he was going to have "zero tolerance" for being with them. And then all social learning is lost.
Mario is 12 and has been afraid much of the time since he was two. When this happens he has done all kinds of undesirable behaviors. I have tried many ways to explain to him that his fears of specific things (open doors, dad leaving, changes in routines) were not real and that he would not be hurt. Then I realized I was wrong. Those fears were real and they were hurting him in many ways. He lived in a world that was so strange to him. Then I realized that when I am in a strange place, I often feel afraid and stand back at first. Then I realized that most of the time Mario was in very strange places. He lived in his head but he was constantly confronted by our "real" world that simply was not yet 'real' for him.
When things got too strange for him, I learned to stop all the demands and just get into Mario's world. The more I did this by being silent, responding to him and acting in ways he could tolerate, the more I got t understand him and see that he had real reasons for his fears that I could control. Just by quietly being in his world, I was able to redesign tithe outside world so he could function again. Now he reminds me of times he was afraid a=of things and felt compelled to do things that remembers as just memories now without shame or guilt.
However much Mario drove us crazy with his moving and talking to himself and touching everything in sight, I didn't want him to be a different person. We enjoyed his personality and much of the bothersome behavior seemed to allow him to be himself. The way we finally got him to be with us was to join him in what he did, however silly it may have seemed. When we did not join him, we lost him and became of no use to him at all. And this took some years, but now at 11 he has a great self-esteem and is having conversations that really consider what the other person wants to talk about. That was a big change but only after we kept him longer in interactions on what he wanted. I saw his personally and I did not and still do not want to mess up a good thing. Mario has some peers who behave much better but do not enjoy people the way Mario does. I'd rather, for now that he is a charmer than an obedient but unhappy child. Most people always enjoyed his personality and I did not want him to lose that personality.
We had to learn from John what environments he could function in and which were just too much for him. Eventually when he was about 9, he came to verbalize something that helped us all a lot. He would say "my nervous system cannot take that now" for example when we planned to go shopping or "my nervous system is read for that now" as when he announced he was ready to back to a crowded school.
As his grandmother, I always knew that Jeremy was intelligent. So when he still was not talking at three, we started teaching him all kinds of things for school. The more we taught, the more he stayed away from us even running when he saw us approaching with a 'teaching tool'. Then you showed us that we were busy teaching him things that were impossible and that he did not care about. Then once we began responding to anything he did and entered his play, he bagan interacting much more. We used to think he did not want to be with people and then we discovered that e just did not want to be with 'impossible' people Our first big step was to make him feel successful doing anything he could, but now doing it with people, that is what was new. We now know that it is more important that he become socially than that he know facts that he will not use with people.
Nick was isolated and afraid of most people until he was about ten. He was very sensitive and learned to talk about feeling with his parents a great deal. When he was 12 he was in a foot race with an obese boy who never succeeded in sports. Nick's mother Ann was rooting for Nick and then she saw him slow down to let the boy catch up with him and they tied in the race. When Ann asked him why he slowed down he said. " Well, Bill never wins anything and I know how he feels. Did you see how happy he was?"