Saturday, January 23, 2010

Part 5:Book Study: No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for managing and preventing out-of-control behavior

Section 2 cont...

Creating a prevention plan

By this point, the author has explained how to collect valuable information about behavior. Now, what to do with that information...

1. Can you change the triggers or cause of behavior?
Altering the sensory stimulation either by eliminating or increasing specific types may allow the child to stay in a more constant arousal level thus preventing extreme behaviors in response to stimulation.

Be aware of the timing.
If a child is tired or hunrey or may not be a good time to place additional demand son the child.

Simplify difficulty level if this is causing the problem behavior.

Add visual supports in the form of words or pictures to increase the child's ability to understand and learn material or serve as a visual reminder of something.

2. Can you teach skills to deal with the triggers?

There are 4 basic kinds of triggers
Threats to Self image
Unmet wishes for attention

What skills can you teach to help
How to ask for help?
Teaching "why" it is important to...
How to understand and deal with criticism
How to effectively start playing or having a conversation

3. Once the trigger of the behavior has been modified and the child knows how to effectively deal with the situation use a reward/ loss system to help reward positive changes and extinguish the negative behavior.

4. Consider biological and physical strategies such as diet and exercise.

So, what are some of Crash's triggers:
1. Demands: Being expected to tolerate different textures of clothing.
Being expected to complete dressing tasks in specific periods of time.
2. Waiting: Accepting No. (very limited issues currently)
3. Accepting Threats to Self Image: (A recently new evolving issue)
Loosing at a game. Getting caught making mistakes.
4. Unmet Wishes for attention: (another recently new issue)
Accepting that someone doesn't want to play with him.

Part 4: Book Study: No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for managing and preventing out-of-control behavior

Section 2 Cont...

Now that the author has explained how to use distractions to deal with an unexpected meltdown, it is time to look at why repeat problems occur. I was a little uneasy beginning this chapter hoping it would not be full of technical terms and fancy observation techniques that you need at least 8 years of college to understand. How in the world could I be a parent and a scientist at the same time??

Lucky for me, this explained how to go about doing this in an easy way that almost made me say duh, it's that simple??

Here's the basics:
1. Problem behaviors have a purpose (avoid a tough situation, get attention, vent frustration...)
2. Preventing the problem behavior involves teaching the child a "better" way to accomplish that same purpose.

The details:
1. In order to understand the problem behavior you need to observe what happens before and after the problem behavior occurs.

A). What triggered the behavior (what happened before the behavior)

sensory stimulation (noise, light, taste, textures that are upsetting)

Lack of structure (confusion on the part of the child as to what the are to do

Internal triggers (hunger, illness or tiredness)

Demands (to do work, interact socially, converse)

Threats to self image (situations causing the child to feel embarrassed or ashamed)

Unmet wishes for attention (jealousy, when others refuse to play, feelings of being alone)

B). Describe the problem behavior (use concrete words not an explanation of why)

C). What happened after the behavior occurred?

Was the child able to avoid something

Was the child able to gain attention

Was the child able to get a desired object

Was the child able to use the behavior for self-pleasure or soothing

Was the child able to vent frustration

These observations need to be written down over time and then looked at later to see if there is a pattern. Are there situations that lead to constant triggers? What were the consequences of the behaviors? What was the purpose?

I have to admit it, here is my downfall. At times, I find it much easier to use distractions to get through a meltdown rather than taking the time to analyze the behavior and then doing something about it. It seems like the difference in trying to "survive" and actually fighting the battle." Although it may be easier in the short term to distract, the "battle" will continue forever. I live this every day. I know in my head what will trigger a behavior, what the behavior will be, and the consequence that will result. By writing it down I can formalize my "battle plan" and begin to put things into action.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Part 3:Book Study: No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for managing and preventing out-of-control behavior

Section 2 (cont.)
The Solution

The first strategy the author presented was accepting and appreciating our children. The next strategy involves de-escalating a meltdown.

Although this is a temporary solution that can not work to change or modify behavior on a long term sale, it is a powerful strategy to use in the moment. Especially for a meltdown that one is unprepared to deal with.

To de-escalate a meltdown use distraction to "avert the escalations" of behavior and emotions. In younger children this may be as simple as distracting them away from what is upsetting them by showing them a different book or toy, a tv show, or even a hug. With older children you can build upon their interests and change the topic to an area of extreme interest, use humor, or even validate their feelings.

Distractions are a quick fix and provide time to create a plan on how to deal with a behavior. They in themselves are not the solution.

Have you ever used distractions to deal with a meltdown? I know I have. In our house getting dressed to go outside can be a challenging event. I have often placed a mitten on a foot or tried to put a child's boot on my foot in order to distract Crash enough to get out of the "meltdown" cycle and continue on with the dressing activity.

Part 2:Book Study: No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for managing and preventing out-of-control behavior

Section 2:
The Solution

Is this the golden ticket? If I read this section, will I always be able to handle these meltdown situations?

Unfortunately, no. There is no golden ticket or recipe to follow for every meltdown situation. This section, however, lays out strategies to help understand behavior and insights into ways to deal with them. It is close to a golden ticket, but involves a lot more work on my part. However, if I am reading a book called No More Meltdowns, I am probably ready to put in the work.

So where does the author suggest we start?

1. By Accepting and appreciating our children

Hummm. At this point in my mind I am picturing a full out meltdown in the middle of a store and me smiling and soaking in the moment to fully appreciate what is happening...Luckily the author goes on to explain that:
a. We "need to be able to control our own frustration before we can reduce our children's frustrations."
If a child does not know how to control their behavior we can not be angry at them. Challenging behaviors are natural and will decrease when we figure out a better way to handle the situation.

b. We "need to help our children feel competent with us and avoid learned helplessness."
By identifying activities that are with in our child's current ability level and providing praise for the child's effort as well as completion of these activities we are building competence.

c. We "need to avoid constant power struggles."
The author states, "If children are prepared for a challenge and have been taught the skills to cope with that situation, then we can try to push through the resistance and endure the power struggle. If children do not have the skills to cope with the challenging task then we should avoid the power struggle."

At times I really find myself struggling with maintaining my frustration to reduce Crash's frustration. I want to get everyone out of the house and to school on time. I try to start early enough to assure that this will happen, but there are days where there seems like there is nothing I can do except haul a naked child out of the house in the middle of winter and strap him in his seat in order to get out the door on time. Of course this has never happened, but seriously how hard is it to get dressed and get out the door? I have to remind myself, that in reality for Crash this is very hard. I hate wool. It is itchy, scratchy, and uncomfortable. It would be like me wearing a wool body suit, having to go about all my daily activities like nothing is wrong. Next to impossible. I need to remember that.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Part 1: Book study- No More Meltdowns Positive Strategies for Managing and Preventing Out-of-Control Behavior

Section 1:
The Problem

It is important to define the topic before trying to understand what is happening and attempting to create workable solutions. The problem I am focusing on is a meltdown. The author defines a meltdown as

"escalating emotional reactions." (kicking, screaming, aggression...)

The type of "meltdown" referred to in this book is not responsive to traditional parenting rules involving consistent rules and consequences. When a daily structure is in place and rules and consequences are consistently enforced, and discipline produces no results, the book recommends a new strategy.

"When the challenging behaviors continue despite consistently enforcing rules, it does not matter anymore whether the behavior was intentional. We need to understand how to alter the triggers to those behaviors and/ or teach better was to cope with those triggers." (p.8)

The author explains that there may be many reasons for meltdowns, including an unregulated limbic system leading to difficulty controlling emotions. We have all experienced the Fight, Flight or Freeze response. It is an automatic response that happens when we feel threatened. It's purpose is to ensure survival. It is up to the rest of our brain to interpret the situation to determine the appropriateness of the response and regulate our emotions. In children with sensory processing concerns, many not so threatening situations get interpreted incorrectly, leading to meltdowns. These children also might interpret seemingly meaningless input as threatening. Add in rigid and inflexible thinking and it is easy to see how meltdowns occur.

The Strategy

The author provides a 4 step model to manage and prevent meltdowns.
1. Accepting and Appreciating the child
-Controlling our temper
-Reducing the child's frustration
-Helping them feel competent
-Avoiding power struggles
2. De-escalating a Meltdown
3. Understanding why meltdowns occur
4. Creating plans to prevent meltdowns

Doesn't this make you want to read more?? After reading this first section I couldn't put the book down. Any thoughts so far? Leave a comment.

I AM VERY MAD AT YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Who would have thought this statement would be music to my ears. The clouds have parted and the angels are singing an Hallelujah Chorus. Well that may be a bit extreme, but it about explains my enthusiasm when I was on the receiving end of that statement.

We have been working on with Crash for what seems to be forever on using his words and not screaming when upset or problems arise. Seems like a reasonable request for a two legged human being. Can you imagine your co-worker screaming at the top of their lungs every time something didn't go their way? Absolutely unacceptable right? Well, it is also unacceptable in our house.

We have been modeling ways to express feelings, using social stories to express feelings, and scripting situations to allow Crash to begin to use his words in these tense situations. Fill in the blank sentences like this have been helpful...

I feel_________
When __________
I want to _________.

We have been using this in situations that become overwhelming to Crash's sensory system as well and have found it can also apply to meltdowns. We are trying hard to acknowledge the feelings that he is experiencing and looking to him to come up with a solution. (Not that that will be an acceptable solution, but it is a starting point.)

He is our encounter from the other day.

Mom: Crash, I need you to do X
Crash: No. (and proceeds to do Y)
Mom: Crash, that's 1 (working in a little 1,2,3, Magic)
Crash: Continues to do Y
Mom: Crash that's 2. You need to do X
Crash: NO!
Mom: 3 Time Out.
Crash: Throws Y and starts screaming. But sits in time out.
Mom: You are in Time out for throwing Y and not doing X. I know you are mad because you want to do Y, but you have to do things that you are told first. Then you can do Y. So if you do X, then you get Y.
Mom walks away.
Crash: Screams I AM VERY MAD AT YOU. I WANT Y.
Mom: Thank you for telling me how you feeling. It can be very frustrating not to get what you want. When you are ready to do X, let me know.
Crash: 2 min later. I want X.

I love it when the process actually works. It gives me hope that we are progressing on our journey towards becoming a functional human being.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Book Study-No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for Managing and Preventing Out-Of-Control Behavior

No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for Managing and Preventing Out-Of-Control Behavior By Jed Baker

I have happened across a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, therapists, care givers or anyone for that matter who comes in contact with children. This quick easy to read book provides insights into the underlying reasons that lead to out of control behavior in children. Looking at behavior from this angle makes it easier to understand and allows for foreseeable changes to occur. This book provided so many clues and insights into behavior that I would like to take the next several weeks to do an on-line book review. If you get a chance to read this book, please share your comments, stories or personal insights.

Product Description:

Finally a social skills program that covers all the bases!

Whether it’s learning how long one can look at somebody without being accused of staring; how to shift topics, despite one’s desire to stick with that all-consuming special interest; how to say no to peer pressure; or dealing with a sensitive topic - it’s all here…and more. In this comprehensive and user-friendly book, the author translates years of experience working with students with Asperger Syndrome and social-communication difficulties. After brief introductory chapters on skills to target, instructional strategies, behavior management, promoting generalization, etc., as well as a special chapter by Brenda Smith Myles on relevant characteristics of autism spectrum disorders, the reader is presented with the essence of this must-have resource: 70 of the skills that most commonly cause difficulty for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and social-communication problems. The presentation of each skill consists of a reproducible skill handout, as well as activity sheets listing ways teachers and parents can demonstrate, practice, and reinforce the skill in the classroom and at home. A concluding chapter on promoting peer acceptance offers sensitivity training programs for both students of various age groups and school staff, making this a complete social skills training package for students of all ages.