We discovered Kitty has been neglecting to feed the dogs in the morning. It’s apparently been happening fairly frequently. Ironically, last week we'd praised her for being fairly consistent with her daily chores (with prompting) and even taking on a few extra chores over Spring Break without major meltdowns (this is a major accomplishment). Of course immediately after that praise-a-thon in therapy, she pretty much stopped doing chores, doing only one or two with multiple prompts and me refusing to let it go. I’m thinking it’s time to drag out the FAIR Club again since she’s semi-stable right now.
In the past, we’ve required a child who forgets to feed the dogs to take over the whole chore (morning and night instead of just mornings). We’ve also removed the privilege that they were abusing instead of doing the chore (ex. Bob was playing Bratz instead of feeding the dogs so we took the dolls and she had to earn them back by doing extra chores, $5/doll).
Kitty says she is forgetting to feed the dogs because she’s too busy in the morning getting ready for school (of course during Spring Break she had to be prompted to feed the dogs and take her meds). She has no excuse for not feeding them when she gets home from school, except that she’s forgotten. Another issue is that her sleep is sporadic at best, which can cause anxiety and memory issues. She's under the care of a sleep specialist, but he needs her to fill out sleep logs, which she "doesn't have time to do in the mornings."
Some logical consequences won't work, like: we can’t take away her food (like snack after school), because food’s a huge trigger for her. I’m afraid to give her the whole chore of feeding the dogs, because she might forget BOTH meals and that's not fair to the poor dogs. Restitution doesn't really work with dogs.
So here’s what I’m thinking:
- Put her in the FAIR Club (which includes earlier bedtime, no electronics – including MP3). This will be the first time she's been in the FAIR Club for years, because it's such a huge trigger for her, but she's fairly stable and now's the time if we're going to do it.
- Give the chore to a sibling, and she takes their only daily chore - which is loading the dishwasher (unfortunately dirty dishes has always been a trauma trigger for her, but honestly she's got to learn to do it sometime).
- Earlier getting up in the morning so she has more time to get ready and do her sleep log. Hubby will wake her up at 7am (so she can't sleep through her alarm like she usually does).
- Take meds, including sleep meds, at 7:30pm instead of right before bed at 9pm. Hopefully this will help her get to sleep sooner, and will allow her to wake up earlier without feeling groggy.
- Writing assignment: Sleep logs consistently for 2 weeks.
When I presented this assignment to Kitty, she didn't take it well (not that I expected her to!). Of course she accused me of WANTING her to become unstable. I told her straight out that if this is going to send her over the edge then, yes, I want her to become unstable now, rather than a few weeks from now when she turns 18 and would have to go to an adult facility.
Next she denied having missed feeding the dogs more than once, and begged for another chance. I let her know that while the dogs were the trigger (and I didn't believe this was the first time), there were multiple reasons for this task.
She was able to listen to the whole assignment without a meltdown (although it wasn't pretty!), and we came to a compromise about how the FAIR Club would work. 24 hours is the minimum a child can be in the FAIR Club, and on that I wouldn't compromise, but I did say that some of the FAIR Club essentials (like early bedtime, no electronics, assigned seating, not being able to choose what is watched on TV...) could stop after 24 hours IF she was compliant with the rest of the assignment, including being RRHAFTBALL.
At the end of the conversation, Kitty stormed upstairs to her bedroom with a few "choice words." We could hear her cussing and crying for a little while, then it got quiet. A couple of hours later, she sought me out, apologized for the language, and let me know that she'd found the only way she could calm down was to take a nap. We talked briefly about why that wasn't normally a good choice (she already has sleep issues and has been reminded by her sleep doctor that naps are a bad idea), but there were few options she can actually utilize independently so I let it go.
She did the dishes and a couple of other chores (I wasn't home so I'm not sure how many prompts this required) so I'm going to allow her to take her iPod to school tomorrow since she has a field trip with a long bus ride. Tomorrow though apparently she needs a lesson in loading the dishwasher, since Hubby claims she allowed the water to run for 1 1/2 hours! as she rinsed the dishes to go in the dishwasher. We're in drought conditions here with mandatory water conservation so that's NOT a good thing.