This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cliff fences


Bear has been saying more and more frequently that he just doesn't care. He's going to move out the minute he turns 18 (if he waits that long), stop taking meds (he's convinced that someone told him that there is a food substitute for every med and therefore he's just going to change his diet and not need meds anymore), get a job and go to school - in regular ed classes (because I'm the only reason he's in special classes and programs. Yea right).


The good news is he wants to do well academically this year. The bad news is this is because he thinks if he gets his grades up he can transfer to a smaller school where he can be in regular ed classes without a lot of people. We've mentioned that there are no small schools around here except his special school (although technically there are private schools, but he wants to play sports and most of the private schools don't have teams. Doesn't matter though because he doesn't have the grades needed, they don't have the programs needed, and we don't have the money needed!). Should I mention the concept of transcripts to him? We've talked about how his issues are inside himself and running away isn't going to help.



If I leave it alone he'll do better in school - which is great. He'll also probably convince the school that he doesn't need the level of supervision he was getting at the end of the school year - which is a major set back. If I thought he could control the impulsive behavior that required the supervision that would be different, but I know he can't. He's not controlling the impulses, he's controlling how much attention they're getting. If he's acting up they notice. If he's flying under the radar he's still doing dangerous stuff, but they don't see it. *arrgh*



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Bear's skills trainer asked me to come to his most recent meeting because the last time she came he informed her that the only reason he was there was because I made him be there. He shut her out and pushed her away and she finally left early because she couldn't get anything out of him (normally if you ignore his "I'm not going to answer questions" statements and just keep gently pulling stuff from him he'll keep from shutting down, but apparently that wasn't the case last week. The therapist has been having the same issues. Bear has been really shutting down more and more lately.



So at this session the skills trainer talked mostly to me while Bear just laid there with his arm over his eyes. She asked about my childhood and I told her a little about my own attachment issues, issues with men and fights with my step-sister. I talked about how I felt these things not only made me more empathetic to the kids, but that in working through them I felt that I knew how better to help the kids with their issues (Hubby helped me with my attachment issues, by not leaving - no matter how hard I pushed him away. Worked for me so that's what I'm trying to do with Bear). I did mention to the skills trainer that I have control issues. Which I do. (I was anorexic for many years in high school, I don't let most people see my emotions - although I do now acknowledge that I have them, and yes, I control what happens to my kids when I can - it's called advocating).


The skills trainer mentioned that Bear seemed to need more freedom to make mistakes while he was still living at home. She implied that the reason I'm not allowing him this freedom is because I have control issues. While I will admit that there might be a little of this in what I do with Bear, I have to say that it is largely untrue and therefore I find this implication not a little offensive.




I've told y'all my "teaching him to swim before throwing him in the ocean" analogy, and I mentioned that briefly to her, but I came up with a new "Look before you Leap" analogy that I want to share. (Yes, I really love analogies, it's a shame Bear doesn't understand abstract concepts well enough to "get" them.).
Because I was describing this analogy with Bear sitting right there I wanted to throw in some examples he would understand, but that weren't so pointed that he would shut down in defense or drag us off topic to argue about them. Bear still ended up pretty shut down for most of the skills training session, but it helped a little when the subject came up again in therapy a few days later because I didn't have to bring up specific examples that triggered him, but he'd heard them so maybe he was a little more accepting of the veracity of the analogy when I was discussing it with the therapist.



The skills trainer brought up the fact that now that Bear is 17 (as of today!) that he needs to be able to have some freedom to make mistakes. She wanted to advocate for him to get me to lighten up and give him some of that freedom. I told her that Bear has lots of freedom to make little mistakes. Contrary to popular opinion I do not have him on so short a leash that he can't mess up, I just have him on a short enough leash that he can't hang himself.



Part of the problem is that Bear does not really learn from his mistakes (common for kids with trauma issues). Another part of the problem is that he won't ask for or accept help or training. But the biggest part of the problem is that his main issue is NOT with something he can be taught how to do or not do. His biggest problem is impulse control.


Bear can be walking along doing exactly what he's supposed to do. He can have earned his way up to pretty high levels of privileges. When all of the sudden... WHAM! He gets an impulse to do something he's not supposed to (take something, lie, go somewhere...), and he does it. No amount of behavior modification training, anger management classes, talk therapy, EMDR, good parenting... has any effect. He's not thinking about why he should or shouldn't do something he just does it. After the impulse, he makes choices. Whether to admit to it, lie, cover it up, manipulate, run away... these choices are the things that all of the therapy and skills trainings and whatever can actually have an effect on. (Of course sometimes he also makes conscious decisions to make a "bad" choice too).



So that's the problem. What do you do with someone with almost no impulse control? All the training and therapeutic parenting in the world is not going to "fix" or prevent that.



When you have a small child who tends to leap before he looks, then you control his environment - you don't remove every obstacle. You make sure he has little things to leap off of so he will learn to look before he leaps. (He learns to look because he discovers that when he doesn't he usually falls and gets hurt). You do NOT however move to a house on the side of a cliff. If you must live on a cliff then you put up a big fence and you keep your child inside that fence. If you didn't and your child jumped off the cliff then who is morally responsible for the death of the child? Even if the child jumped off the cliff it is of course the parent who is responsible for the child.



I have a child who is a known leaper. We live in a world full of "cliffs." If I put my son behind the wheel of a car, knowing that at any moment he could choose to turn left without looking, then I am endangering not only his life, but the life of all others around him.



Still I am hearing what the skills trainer is saying. Bear is planning on getting his license the minute he turns 18. Shouldn't I be teaching him defensive driving now? Letting him practice while he still "has" to listen to us because we have control over the keys and whether or not he can get his license?
On the other hand, I know he's not safe behind the wheel of a vehicle, and if I don't help him get his learner's permit there is a very real possibility that he won't be able to get his driver's license. He doesn't read. He has no money to get insurance or a car. Still, down the road someday he might be able to talk someone into giving him those things and then he'll be even more dangerous because he'll be an inexperienced driver.


At this point I feel that my best option is to keep him in the yard, full of little bumps, knowing that in a year or less I'm going to have to let him walk through the gate. Knowing that once he steps through that gate, unlike most kids he will never look back. He will never ask for help. He will wipe his feet clean of the family and go.



I think morally and to some extent emotionally I feel that frees me from the consequences of what we all know will happen when he leaves. I will have done what is right in keeping him safe while he was a child. I did the best I could to help him, knowing that I have almost no influence on the really big stuff. I cannot teach him impulse control, and I have failed at teaching him love and trust. Therefore opening the gate before he becomes an adult is morally wrong because it will most likely have dire and potentially lethal consequences. Neither will I allow myself to be treated as though what happens after he walks through that gate as an "adult" is my responsibility.



This is not to say that I will not be continuing to try my hardest during the short time I have left, but I know that any major changes in the next year will be up to Bear and God.

7 comments:

Mom 4 Kids said...

I don't have anything really to add, my kids are younger. But I do want to say that you are fighting a good fight and doing all that you can to give Bear the best chance at success in life. That's called being a great Mom!

Miz Kizzle said...

I'm reminded of the good old country song, "Mama Tried." You did the best you could. There comes a time when your kids leave the nest, ready or not. In Bear's case his future seems bleak but then again, as Chuck Berry told us in another great old song, you never can tell...

waldenbunch said...

You need to rid yourself of the belief that you have failed at teaching him love and trust. You can't make someone change until they're willing. What he does at 18 is not on your head. He will reap his consequences and hopefully learn from them. The sad reality is that there will be a day that all our children make mistakes. We have to cover them with prayer and hope these mistakes are not debilitating. It is hard. So hard. You have made a difference by being in his life and I pray there will be a day when he can thank you.

GB's Mom said...

If you stick it out until he is 18, you will have finished the race. You can't keep them home after that. You and Bear are in my prayers.

Struggling to Stand said...

A child with no impulse control is kept in a mostly-contained enviornment until he matures enough to have the impulse control. The assumption is that he will mature.

Mr P's NR evaluation opened my eyes on impulsivity. One side of the brain says "Go! Do!". The other side says "Well, now, lets take a second to think about that." One of the things needed in a person with little impulse control is a stronger corpus callosum. That involves working both sides of the body -- swing your right arm when your left foot goes forward. I know you can find tons of advice online.

While I believe you are doing the right thing in not helping him get a learner's permit, you haven't, so far, found anything that is actually helping him mature. After struggling with Ms A for 18 years, I don't think that any of the methods used to "help" her have helped at all. Do you think Bear has actually been helped by all his therapists?

As I started reading your post, I had the thought "I wonder if Bear was a shaken baby?" His acting like he has brain trauma would make even more sense.

Bear's therapists are trying to build on loose sand. His neural foundations need to be firmed up first. And YES! I am a CONVERT! Movement (the right kinds) is the answer. Can you do a full NR program? No. He wouldn't put up with it either. But you can find info on exercises to strengthen the corpus callosum.

Cool info about music:
http://sites.google.com/site/accawareness/acc-facts/school-and-acc/acc-success-stories/things-we-found
(also has a way to test how well the c.c. is working)
Wow! It seems the major therapy for building a c.c. is music! Mr P does many of his "exercises" with music on. I bet that has been helping his progress!

Another often successful therapy: neurofeedback.

And how about a (free) OT evaluation for him to find out what sensory work might be do-able?

I'm up too late, need to stop researching.

Bottom line: His brain is not going to mature on its own. He needs work below the level of academics.

J. said...

they all beat me to the comment and said the things I was thinking. Hang in there.

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