Sophie and I visited a therapist. I explained to her why we were there…the fires, the disappearing act, the erratic sleep behaviors…along with our everyday challenges. The look on the therapist’s face clued me in that this was not normal. My biggest take-away that day is that Sophie’s behavior is not normal and it SHOULD BE a big deal. During my entire adult life, I have worked with children who have significant behaviors. There are very few behaviors that actually shock me. I have trained myself not to react when a child displays certain behaviors because it reinforces their negative actions. Wake up, Toni…when it is your own child, you have the right…even the duty…to have a BIG REACTION!
Once I got some sleep, I did what all behaviorists do, I created a behavior intervention plan. Below, I describe my first intervention.
Since we moved into this house, Sophie’s bedroom has been an adorable attic room up some stairs off of my bedroom. She would play there, but rarely slept in her bed upstairs. Because her bedroom was upstairs…for me…out of sight was out of mind. In order to build more structure into Sophie’s life, I decided to switch her rooms.
When I went upstairs (for the first time in a while) I found complete chaos. Not only were Soph’s crafts strewn from one end of the room to the other, but I found a very sharp kitchen knife, a table that had been covered in syrup (how there were not a million ants on it, I will never know) and a mixing bowl full of a very sticky substance that I am assuming was her attempt to make slime. This was proof of the very reason I would switch her rooms. In order to help her build order in her mind, I would first build order in her environment.
When setting up Sophie’s bedroom, I used a technique I learned from Sarah Ward, a phenomenal SLP who focuses on Executive Functioning deficits. I made Soph’s bed and took a picture of it.
I took a picture of the clean floor and her dresser with all of the drawers pushed in. I took pictures of every area in her room.
Taking pictures, using Sophie’s own objects, allows her to have a concrete visual instead of attempting to create a visual in her mind. Now, when I say, “make your bed”, she can look at the picture to know exactly what I expect. When I say, “clean your room”, she has multiple pictures to show her what each area should look like.
I also gave away many of Sophie’s toys, crafts and other items she had not touched in months. In order to minimize the clatter in her mind, I minimized the clutter in her area.
Structuring Sophie’s bedroom and providing her a space with her favorite things has made a huge difference. Not only does she clean her room without a fight, many nights she completes the task before I ask! Once again, she wants to do what is expected, she just needs more support to make the expected happen!
There are many more interventions to put in place as we navigate down this road. Sophie’s behavior over the last few weeks reminded me that behavior is communication. Sophie was telling me that she needed more structure. She was telling me that her mind was rumbling like a tornado and she needed help to get back on track. I am so lucky to climb this mountain with such an amazing girl!