Twelve more days until Conor is discharged.
Last night, I ran into two moms on the unit. They were really interested in what steps we were taking to prepare for Conor’s return home. We talked about repairing busted walls, reorganizing various rooms in our homes, respite care on the weekends, and discussions with school personnel. (Conor gets out of the pokey on a Thursday, and he better be going to school on Friday, that’s all I have to say about that!)
But there was one word that kept coming up again and again and again in my conversations with the moms. Structure.
How can we provide the structure our children need to be successful outside of the unit?
Unit life is the ultimate structured life. Conor’s day is literally broken down into half hour increments. From reveille at 7:30am to lights out at 9:30pm, his 1:1 and behavior team script his entire day. Don’t get me wrong; he has time for fun stuff, like “unit activity”, community outings, and his treasure chest time. (Treasure chest time is what he earns for good behavior, like playing the Wii or getting on a computer. Unit activities range from a group game of Pictionary, to coloring, to a short movie, for example.) On the weekends, there is time for just hanging out, or an additional community outing.
But someone is by his side 24 hours a day with a typed schedule, a token board, and a limited number of activities. They follow the prescribed treatment protocol to the letter, with staff specifically assigned to assure protocol adherence.
He doesn’t eat alone, he doesn’t dress alone, he doesn’t bathe alone, he doesn’t sleep alone, and he doesn’t poop alone.
The door to the unit is locked and he can’t escape unless he has been signed out in the care of his parents, or with his 1:1.
It feels quite daunting, to be honest. Are we going to be able to do this? Can we provide the structure that he needs to be successful?
Success=not going bazooka, mind you.
Home life is not unit life. On the unit, at various times, he has his clinical assistant, his behavioral therapist, the assistant behavioral therapist, an intern, a nurse, a supervisor, and a psychiatrist. There is the behavioral head of the clinic, the assistant behavioral head of the clinic, the special educators, and then the head-head of the clinic, Dr. Big Cheese. We have an assigned social worker, and… well, you get the picture.
But, given his recent weeks-long run of stellar behavior, structure is exactly what he needs to succeed. And a hell of a lot of support.
Evidently, it takes a lot to ensure the success of my son. A lot of people, a lot of love, a lot of planning, a ton of nurturing, a healthy smattering of patience, and, to be crude, a shitload of money.
Can we do it, at home?