Sometimes we have to be reminded that our kids are not us. I mean, sure, my child is adorable & funny–which he CLEARLY gets from me, amiright?–but I think that may be where the similarity ends.
FACT: I work well under pressure. Give me a deadline and a few hours to create something and BAM! done! YES! SUCK IT TIME! Some of my best writing has been under the “this has to be submitted tomorrow” time crunch.
It focuses me, pressure does. It blocks out the shiny nonsense and squirrels that generally hinder me and puts me straight on my path. In plays, I would be useless up until the final week. Then every line was etched into my brain, every mark every cue. ETCHED. When working on my senior thesis–given the WHOLE SEMESTER, most of my best work? done the night before each portion was due (there were several deadlines, to that helped)
I may have preached to my students the importance of pre-planning and preparation, but I was a hypocrite. How many kick-ass lessons did I prepare in the wee mornings before the stumbled into my room?
Now, that isn’t to say deadlines don’t give me anxiety. But mostly it’s an anxiety that I will not finish in time, or that my work will be sub par. A normal anxiety, really. No Xanax needed.
But all this I’ve described here? Not my son.
Oh–he may show signs of this later on, but right now, for this lesson, THIS is not my son.
So, we’ve been potty training for a few years now. And I use the term loosely, because its been more of a “how to sit on the potty and then put on a pull-up” training. Its been an ABA goal for a year. He does everything for potty training–EXCEPT ELIMINATE.
Now–before you “have you tried…?” me, the answer is yes. 100x YES. underwear weekend? check. a million gallons of fluids and following him around with a potty chair? check. prizes, prizes and more prizes–check, check and FUCKING CHECK. Where do you think these extra pounds came from? those Reeses cups aint’ gonna eat themselves. Naked–check. new underwear–check. EVERY. THING. Sometimes a new method would give us a small victory, only to go back to drawing board the next minute.
And as much as I would LOVE to be past all this(with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns), I’ve given up being all horked up about it and am letting him do this in his time–with a good push from time to time (can someone say naked summer pool time?)
Because here’s what I have discovered: All this pressure? TOTALLY giving him anxiety. And I don’t mean he’s a little nervous. I mean ear flapping (he smacks his ears and then covers them) head shaking, crying screaming anxiety. I have seen him try. Hell, he’s gotten out of bed to tell me he wants to try, only to sit down and nothing happens, and he looks at me so forlorn, so upset, telling me that “it’s not working” and then bursting into heartbreaking tears. Because I have offered some awesome treats. and he really wants them. But he gets so worked up…
Well, he gets so worked up that when he fails, its traumatizing. I’m not exaggerating here. We’ve had days when I have to retrain him to simply go BACK into the the bathroom because he jumps into a screaming meltdown if I even suggest the potty. And then he wants NOTHING to do with potty training whatsoever. NOTHING.
And back to square one.
So, we (his therapist and I) have come to the conclusion that the pressure, the hype, the ramp-up–ALL OF IT is creating this anxiety train that is getting in the way of actual progress. Lucky for me–his therapist is the same way–she cannot TAKE the pressure of something, but does extraordinarily well when simply left alone–she is NOT a cram-for-the-exam-the-night-before kind of gal.
So now I am back to baby steps. Yesterday he wore his new Spiderman underwear for 30 minutes. Today I am hoping for a little longer, but I am ok if it’s not. I have learned how to use reinforcers to guide him, not pressure him. (I.e. he couldn’t get on the computer yesterday until he at least put on the underwear, then I let HIM dictate when that happened)
This may seem silly to those who have successfully potty trained their kid, neurotypical or non. But I know I’m not alone in this. There are plenty of us with kids on the spectrum (and not) who have kids much older than old frowny faces would tell you they should be trained. Because it isn’t about this method or that–but how your kid works. I was coming at Ben like *I* would solve the problem, and clearly that was wrong.
The pressure isn’t on him–its on me. Well then–this should be a piece of cake then. Let the focus begin…