Sunday, September 19, 2010

Behavior as Communication

Given the way that September 1st and Labor Day hit this year, the first week of school had only three days; the second week had only 4; and it wasn't till this past week that we really had a full-fledged 5-day school week.

I think Joy's starting to realize that school is for real, not just a temporary state of affairs. She's not entirely thrilled about the new normal, and she's showing it in less-than-ideal ways any time she has to do something she doesn't want to do. Like, for example, get dropped off for the day to begin. The other day she was fine until I parked the car at the school. Then she tried to chomp me when I unbuckled her carseat. When her special ed teacher greeted her at the door, and said "hi," Joy responded with an angry "bye-bye!" Then she made no less than four swat/bite attempts on the way down the hallway to the locker.

Joy's schedule during the day is heavily modified, with one-on-one attention at all times. She's with the class for only a few times during the day -- part of the morning welcome routine, lunch, some recess, some afternoon free-time. In general, though, the classroom and its occupants are pretty much overwhelming for her. She even eats morning snack separately, for now at least. Otherwise she bolts her food so fast that she finishes long before anyone else, and then gets upset that the other students still have food but she doesn't.

Joy's unwelcome behaviors (biting, swatting, hair pull, etc.) are mostly happening in pretty clear communicative contexts: she's being asked to do something she doesn't want to do. Like, enter the danged school building in the first place. Alas, it's not just a matter of teaching her more appropriate ways to communicate her displeasure (tell us "all-done" instead of biting, for example). Unfortunately, whether she bites or (in our dreams) politely says, "No thank you," we can't honor the communication/request. She's still got to enter that building, go to her locker, etc. So there's not really any percentage in it for her to switch communication, because she's still not going to get what she wants. Sigh.

At least she got to get out and have fun for a while yesterday at the annual church campout. As has been the case the past two years, we had an almost-didn't-go scenario. This year, the weather was the wild card. Saturday morning JoyDad and I awoke at 4am to this stuff pounding down:

Can't believe that Joy & Rose slept through it, though they both woke with the thunder half an hour later and I'm not sure either of them got any further sleep.

Though the forecast for Saturday was threatening, the rain held off well enough that Rose & I went out to join the campout gathering after lunch, where she ran around on the trails with her friends, and I got to toss a frisbee around with some of our congregation's Ultimate Frisbee players. JoyDad brought Joy out for the potluck supper part of the event, and she happily ran up and down the path to the group campsite, stopping to play with stones and acorns.

We didn't stay for the singing around the campfire this year to see if Elvis would make an appearance -- too wiped out from the previous night's poor sleep. Those who did stay got their tents rained on overnight, so I think we made the right call. We'll hope to be able to stay over at next year's event, depending on what's going on with Joy (and with us) a year from now. I wonder what she'll have to tell us by then, either directly or indirectly.


Anonymous said...

Looks like a hard time for you and Joy but it also looks like your interpretation - the post title - is evidence of Joy's growing awareness. Alas, your choice to not honor her 'requests' to quit school is hard, too. Wishing you strength and Joy more understanding. Barbara

Anonymous said...

Ah, sorry to hear the honeymoon is over :( The beginnings are always hardest. Bet she'll resign herself to the fact that school is going to be a part of the routine again, soon. And she'll settle. Meanwhile, I toast you with a frothy Margarita and say Hang in there Mama.

Big Daddy Autism said...

I have never seen hail that large before.

JoyMama said...

Barbara - alas, there was a lot more "communicating" today at school. I wonder if Joy thought that the weekend meant she had a chance of not going back? We'll see how many staff have to seek medical attention tomorrow...

blackknightsbrood - funny enough, we still had the honeymoon stuff in terms of how she treated her line-therapist this afternoon. The line-therapist got a full dose of Happy Joy, after all the havoc she wreaked at school.

Big Daddy - I've seen bigger hailstones a time or two, but this stuff came down hard for a long time. Sounded like we were inside a tin can full of rocks being shaken!!