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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Spilling on the floor

Last night was some good old times around the home. First, Janey got a container of yogurt, which she seemed to be eating nicely, until she had the sudden urge to pour it all onto the floor, slowly and deliberately. I was across the room, and couldn't get there in time to prevent a huge yogurt mess all over. We did the whole routine---make her help clean up, time out, firm tone, etc. Then she was having some oyster crackers, and again, not 10 minutes later, the whole bunch of them, thrown on the floor, again, me right there but too late to prevent it.

So what gives? All the advice I've read about autism behavior management starts with figuring out what the antecedent is. What caused the behavior to happen? I was searching my brain for that. I think what causes the behavior is a thought in Janey's mind that it would be cool to see whatever substance she is holding fall onto the floor. I think it's that simple. Sometimes it's anger, but last night, it was just plain wanting to dump things on the floor, because it's interesting to her. So how do I use that? Not let her eat? Not let her have access to anything in the house that could be spilled? Neither are possible.

And how do I discourage the behavior? Nothing works. It seems to be that almost all ways to control behavior are based on two things---wanting to please the adult and understanding cause and effect. Janey doesn't care about pleasing adults. And she doesn't seem to get cause and effect, at least beyond one level. She understands that pouring something on the floor looks interesting---that's cause and effect. But the next level is more complicated---pouring something on the floor looks interesting, but THEN Mama or Daddy makes me help clean it, puts me in time out, talks to me in an angry firm voice. That's thinking that either she doesn't get, or if she does, that she has decided is not a deterrent---the fun of the spilling is greater than the not fun afterward.

So what do I do? We already try to keep everything out of reach, but in a small house with 2 other kids, it's not possible to totally lock everything away. The fridge is bungie-corded shut, but Janey can open that now. Foods like crackers are in bins that snap shut, but she's more skilled at opening them now than the rest of us. And she does have to eat. The one thing we sometimes resort to is feeding her a bite at a time, so she doesn't have food in hand to spill. But she is closing in on being eight, and is very capable of eating on her own. Feeding her like a baby is not a long term solution. But absolutely any food or drink she can hold is subject to being tossed on the floor.

I'm at the end of ideas here. Last night just felt completely depressing. I had no idea what to do. Janey barely slept last night, and today I feel highly discouraged. I spent time when I wasn't sleeping trying my best to find some advice on-line, and I didn't. Over and over, I was told by the writing of "experts" to find that antecedent, to figure out why. I don't think that will help. Am I supposed to somehow block the part of Janey's brain that has the desire to spill? Believe me, I've filled the house with sensory toys. I've put in orders beyond what I can afford for toys that supposedly will fill her need to use household items for whatever she is craving. And they don't work. Other experts say to do what we have been doing for years. Be firm, make her help clean up, put her in time out. Great. I do that. Except for the 7 minutes she's literally made to sit in time out (by means of about 20 redirects back to the time out spot), that doesn't prevent anything. She gets back up and does it again.

I think there is a lack of true understanding of autistic kids by the experts that give advice. I don't think they totally get a child that is not motivated by pleasing adults or anyone else. I don't think they understand the combination of autism and retardation. As I have felt so often, I feel like I'm writing my own rules here, with the help of the few people that do understand, such as her teachers and therapists and other parents of children like Janey. And it feels lonely.


2wiweys said...

Wow- no ideas other than what you are already doing. We are really starting to hold our boys accountable for their messes. R spilled orange ice cream all over the couch cushion last weekend and B (other mama) started to clean it up. I had to insist that she allow R to do the job himself. The guys are 7 now- old enough to clean up their own messes (with constant reminders and encouragement).

I admire the work you do every day with your beautiful girl.


cee said...

Oof. That sounds frustrating. Do you want me to ask my boyfriend the staff member what they would do at his work? There's no guarantee he's got a good or applicable answer, but I know from reading his training guide that the question of "FIRST we handle this material appropriately, THEN we find a way to fulfill the urge you're having to handle it in a way that's messy/distracting/destructive" is one of the big autism questions in general.