So now that we understand how his brain works, and are treating him accordingly, it's time to teach him how his brain works and how he can be proactive in settling himself. Without violence.
Last week I sat down with our therapist to bang out a handful of goals for him. Our first one was to give him words to express how he's feeling, and teach him how to use them. A second goal was to replace negative attention seeking behaviors / self destructive tendencies with positive behaviors that end in the same result.
With those two goals down, I had my mom start the ball rolling by writing him a social story. These stories are a tool that she regularly uses with her students to help them talk themselves through just about anything. So here's the story she wrote for Max who is having issues about visiting the therapist.
I get very big feelings when I go to the doctor’s office.
And I DO NOT like that.
I don’t like it when the grown ups talk.
I might think they think I am bad
I might think they are going to make me go away.
I might think they will hurt me.
I might remember some bad feelings from Russia.
I need some help when I have those big feelings.
I can say to Mom, will you hold me and she will always say ‘Yes!”
I can ask, do you love me and she will always say “YES!”
I can ask, will you take care of me and keep me safe? And she will always say, “YES!”
My Mom and Pop love me and want me to feel safe.
They can help my very big feelings to get smaller. Whew!
That will help me feel better.
I will try to ask Mom or Pop for help when I have very big feelings.
I was a little worried that the story would make him feel threatened, but he loves it. He generally needs to hear it about twice a day. At one point last week after he'd heard the story a half dozen times, he snuggles into me and says "Mom, will you keep me safe?" I about died. I had no idea he didn't feel safe with us.
And that my friends is what makes it all worth it. All of his "something is wrong here, but I can't tell you what" behavior, all of his "I don't care if your busy, you need to hold me NOW" behavior. Every dark moment up to this point has been totally worth it.
I've said all along that this little boy is one of God's chosen and if I teach him nothing else, I'm going to teach him how to be a child of God. He doesn't need to be a doctor, or save the world. But he does need to be able to form positive relationships with people and not spew venom at them everytime they do something he doesn't like.
And I feel like giving him these tools is the beginning of a new chapter for Max. The next chapter in the story of who God really created him to be, and of helping him understand that God gave him such a unique story for a reason. He needs to know that his story is beautiful and inspirational. It has already inspired so many people, and will only continue to do so as it unfolds. I want him to look past his pain to see the beauty in his story, and giving him these tools to understand himself is just the beginning.