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!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dramatic Shut Down!

Bear had a meeting with his study skills trainer this morning, and I thought it was a good opportunity to address his issues with shutting down in ARDs. We started with just chatting, and the trainer commented on how animated and awake he seemed compared to how shut down he often is during their meetings. She attributed it to the morning hour (normally we meet in the afternoon).

We started by talking about the upcoming school year (school starts Tuesday), and what concerns Bear might have. Bear participated in the conversation and was very animated. He couldn't give details in how things are going to change though. Mostly he just said things like, "I'm going to do better in school," and when asked how he was going to do that he said, "I just am."

As things slowed down, I suggested talking about how Bear can address his shutting down in meetings and/or when he feels criticized. He needs to participate so he has input and has a chance of getting what he wants. Bear immediately focused on the fact that I hadn't told him he had an ARD that afternoon. I told him I hadn't wanted him to stress about it.

I wish I'd videotaped this. Within minutes, Bear went from being animated and participating to laying down with his eyes closed, his voice slurred, answering everything with "I don't know." So much for helping him work on not shutting down. The trainer and I talked to at him for the remainder of the session, but were never able to "get him back."

I did suggest to Bear that if he wanted, then he and I could talk about what he wants before meetings like this and that way if he gets overwhelmed then I could speak for him. He was too far gone to talk about it. I do continue to make suggestions and give advice even after he shuts down like this, because I've learned that sometimes more gets through then it seems at the time. If it is a true "fight, flight, or freeze" reaction he remembers nothing, but sometimes he's not totally gone. Plus, to continue to speak calmly sometimes helps him emotionally regulate (or at least it gives him time to calm down).

Obviously I've seen him shut down like this before, but never this quickly or dramatically. Actually I was surprised at how animated he'd been to start with since he's been so cranky lately, and is usually shut down during the entire training sessions. I think the surprise of the meeting helped (he'd forgotten she was coming).

At the conclusion of the meeting, Bear left the room and laid down on the couch in the living room, "NOT sleeping." Grandma had arrived while Bear and I were meeting with the trainer. Kitty came over with $.10 to buy a brownie (did I mention the issues with Bear about the brownies?) I was talking to mom about her opinion on selling brownies, and she told me the story of how selling baked goods came about. She said it was really supposed to be a joke.

Bear was furious we were talking about him, and started complaining about how I was, "always telling him he's wrong." I told him this wasn't true, and gently pointed out that he was upset and therefore his perception is off.

A few minutes later Bear, with his eyes shut and in his most burly and intimidating voice, continued arguing with me. He said he wasn't going to the IEP/ARD meeting. Children don't have to go so he wasn't. Hubby (He used Hubby's first name which he hasn't done since before he went to residential, and only does when he's super mad) and I could go to the meeting without him. I told him he's 17 now and he needs to go. I repeated what we said in the skill training meeting that if he doesn't speak up in the meetings, then of course he's not going to be heard.

Bear said it didn't matter if he said something in meetings, no one listened. I reminded him that just because they didn't do what he wanted didn't mean they weren't listening. Sometimes his actions speak louder than his words, and decisions have to be made based on those, not his promises. He is a vital member of the team, but he is not the boss and he does not get to make all the decisions.

I felt guilty but I left the house with him still mildly upset. I knew they would be going swimming soon (they'd tried to go earlier but the pool wasn't open). I hoped he would stay calm enough to be safe with Grandma, but my PTSD was so triggered I was shaking and I had to get out of there.

Two hours later he called me. As usual it was as though the whole morning hadn't happened. He started asking me questions about the course schedule so he could tell the school what type of welding class he wanted.

What happened at the ARD will be my next post, but I have to tell you guys this:

Bear arrived at the ARD, awake and animated. He spoke up and volunteered some information. He shut down a little toward the end (it was a 2.5 hour long meeting so I can't say I blame him!), but not completely. He handled the critiques and frank discussion of last year's behavior pretty well. I was totally impressed and said so a few times during the meeting. (I worried a little that people would see this Bear and assume he'd changed/matured over the Summer, and we would have a set back in our progress on getting Bear what he needed, but their decisions were already made so this didn't have an effect after all).

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