Yesterday, I got a call from Janey's school to pick her up, as she was sick to her stomach---needing repeated pull-up changes. I can honestly say that's the first time Janey has been that particular kind of sick in her whole life. I am not sure what's up. She seems better today, but to not infect other kids, I'm keeping her home.
While picking her up, I got to talk a little to one of the supervisors of the summer program, who I've known for a while. She told me something that surprised me---that Janey has not been screaming or crying almost at all at school this summer. In fact, she said the day before Janey had screamed once, and surprised the ABA specialist that was working with her. They told her that screaming was something Janey had certainly been known to do, but it wasn't a behavior she had been showing at school during the summer at all.
Well, that set me back a bit. Of course, I was very glad Janey had been happy at school, but at home, almost every day, she gets off the bus and screams and cries for a LONG time---often two hours. Nothing we can do seems to help. I had wondered if she was hating summer school and reacting to that, but that doesn't sound like the case. So why at home?
I have a couple ideas. I don't think she hates being home. Much of the weekend, and later in the evenings, after the screaming is done, she's very happy. I think part of it is that she holds herself together at school and relaxes at home, and lets out her tension. My sister used to do this almost every day, I remember. She'd be perfect at school, but would come home and within minutes would get upset by something, and would fall apart. I think it's something a lot of kids do. Another part of it might be that she really does like school a lot. At school, she often gets intense one-on-one attention. She has people working with her, a busy schedule, outdoor fun---things are kept moving. At home, as much as we try, we can't quite give her that intense attention. The boys need rides, we need to clean and cook and sometimes sleep. Although we are with her constantly, we aren't interacting with her in the intense way that school provides. And although I think she likes some down time, it's a transition every day, I am sure.
I've realized something interesting lately. How I react to Janey's crying affects how long it last almost not at all. I can do everything in my power to stop her from crying, to keep her happy, or I can do nothing, and the crying lasts about the same amount of time. It's like she needs a certain amount of time to scream and cry, and once that time is over, she stops, no matter what I do. I've taken lately to saying to her when she starts "You seem very sad. I am right here if you need anything to help you feel better. I'll wait for you to ask me for what you need". Then I just wait. I stay near her, but I don't frantically try to help. I do make sure first she's had enough to drink and eat, that she doesn't need a change, that nothing I can see is hurting her. Then I wait. If she asks me for something (usually, it's "snuggle on the bed!"), I do as she asks if I can, but I don't desperately try to help as I used to. Basically, I've realized it's totally useless to do so. Last night was a good example. Tony was with Janey, and Freddy and I were watching the last episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, something we had been eager to do. Janey started screaming. My impulse was to turn off the TV and put all my attention and energy into trying to make her happy. But Tony was with her, and I really wanted to see the show, and most of all, I knew it wouldn't help. Janey screamed for about half an hour, and then stopped and was as happy as a clam. And I got to spend time with Freddy.
Now for something completely different and off-topic. If anyone is interested in seeing Janey's very cool brothers, here's a link to a music video they made together, featuring all original songs written by William, with acting by both of them and film editing by Freddy! I have three very cool kids! VIDEO LINK!