Sunday, March 04, 2012

Just Breathe

For the past few weeks, three times a week, we've been visiting the Kennedy Krieger Institute's outpatient NeuroBehavioral Unit.  Originally, they were hoping to do a functional assessment of Conor's perseverations.  (Perseverations are the verbalizations of Conor's obsessive thoughts.) The constant barrage of perseverations are enough to make me climb the wall while simultaneously pulling my hair out. (It sounds difficult to do both, but it's possible after a few hours of this stuff.)

See, here I go after about 15 minutes.
So I was very happy to run down there three times a week to get a grip on this.  Please, just tell me what to do and I'll do it!  (I hear the Bush administration said that listening to Conor's perseverations for hours was not torture, but I beg to differ.) Conor, of course, had other ideas.  With the team of people trained to figure out why he was haranguing us with these perseverations, he did not utter one, single perseveration.  

Not one.

So, as I grit my teeth, we moved on to the second priority.  

For years, nothing Jim and I tried could stop a tantrum in its tracks.  You could see it coming, but no matter what we did or said, it was like a freight train with no brakes.  You just had to meet it head on and wait for it to lose steam.

Oh, we tried having him write in a journal; he wrote people letters and postcards. We tried having him listen to music, encouraged him to stomp his feet, had him lay down in his bed, count to ten, count from one hundred backwards, and tried to teach him to label his emotions. And medication, don't forget the medication.

Nothing.  It was like a force of nature.
So when the behavioral team at Kennedy Krieger suggested we try Behavioral Relaxation Techniques (BRTs) with Conor, you could say I was a little skeptical.  I can't help it; it's in my nature to be skeptical.  (I also have trust and commitment issues, just ask my therapist.)

No way, I thought. There is NO WAY that sitting down, taking deep breaths, closing his eyes, and sitting a certain way would help Conor avoid a raging tantrum. The behavior team worked with Conor for hours and hours on this relaxation technique.  This is silly, I thought once.  (I kept my thoughts to myself, though. I'm skeptical, not stupid.)

They had us practice this at home twice a day as well.  Five minutes of relaxation technique before school, five minutes when he gets home.

Then what do my doubting eyes now see?  Conor actually likes to "relax".  I know, he told me so.  He asks (over and over and over and over, Lord help me) when he'll go back to Kennedy Krieger for BRTs.  He's had at least two major upsets that did not escalate into tantrums, due, in part, to being able to use his newly learned techniques to calm himself.  (That, and the desire to earn his bonus money for the week. Money talks, baby.  Pretty loudly to my kid.)

I have to admit, I'm not a skeptic anymore.  Not about the Behavioral Relaxation Techniques.  

So now Spring is coming and that means baseball season. I'm hoping my husband will join Conor and start practicing some BRTs when the Red Sox start playing.  That should cut down on some of the yelling, at least by my husband.

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