Susan's Blog

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Aggressive-Passive: The Tale of Two Nats

I came home today to Ned engrossed in a phone call. He handed the phone to me, mouthing the name of Nat’s teacher, and then whispering, “outburst.”

Shit! Didn’t I just write yesterday that Nat’s outbursts had decreased? I had even knocked wood. Wood! What good is it, anyway? Lesson here? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

So I found out about Nat’s outburst, which was — as always — directed at himself, a bite to the arm, and lots of staccato screaming. Terese told me that it happened because the class computer froze. But — she told me about the bright silver lining. When the computer froze, Nat asked for help. He watched Terese press the “reset” button (whatever, I don’t know). It did not fix the problem. He then pressed the reset button himself. My God.

Still nothing. Then he started “perseverating about wanting to play the computer game,” (to me, it is not ‘perseverating,’ which has a clinical, slightly pejorative ring to it. Why do Neurotypical people get to ‘persevere,’ but Autistics are said to ‘perseverate?’ One is good, one is undesirable. I would say that Nat was persevering in trying to accomplish his aims. Perhaps perseverating is in the eye of the beholder, and it has to do with how annoyed the beholder is getting.)

So — after articulating the problem, observing what was to be done about it, trying it himself, and then talking about it many times — Nat blew his stack. But still, he directed it at himself. Just what I was talking about yesterday.

Terese feels about this the way I do. It is actually such progress, to see this sort of behavior, even the outburst, compared to what Nat used to do (need I go into it? See Chapter 8, “Hitting Bottom“). It is a grim reality that this society would much rather see someone hurt themselves than others.

Terese changed tracks after letting all this sink in. “Oh, my God, at Papa Ginos,” she burst out, her voice swollen with joy. “Wow. He was just whizzing through his work. Over 100 boxes in an hour. Phenomenal. So we are now fading the job coach. I almost never get to tell a parent this, but we are fading out Nat’s job coach.”

I wanted to cry. “It’s like he’s your honor student,” I said.

“Definitely. Nat is going to graduate summa cum laude,” said Terese. “The problem is,” she went on, “sometimes our students see the job coaches as a kind of prompt, and they depend on the job coach to be there in order to do their work. This is what happened with Nat. The job coach had moved to where he could see Nat, but Nat could not see him. Nat would have the package in front of him and just sit there.”

There it was again. That passiveness. The crux of Nat’s disability, where the “I” is somehow not clear. It is getting better, of course, but it is a long time coming. It reminds me of when Nat was just a little guy, around 4, and we took him to LCDC (Arnold Miller’s Language and Cognitive Development Center) in Boston, where Miller did an hour-long intake. We loved the theory of LCDC, whereby a child must go through all of the developmental phases in order to progress, and the school would mold the environment physically to stimulate developmental growth and problem-solving. ( It was so long ago, I may have some details wrong.)

At the intake, Miller took Nat’s shoes and hid them in a large play structure, full of holes, shelves, ins and outs. He watched to see what Nat would do. What did Nat do? He cried for an entire hour for his shoes.

Miller interpreted this as a “motor planning issue.” But I knew — I just knew — that Nat’s angst was about not knowing that he could just go and get the damned shoes. He was waiting to be told. That is my Nat. Motor planning be damned! Needless to say, Nat did not go to that school. People have to watch out that they don’t bulldoze you with their dogma.

At any rate, Nat waits for his moment, and I am sure it will come one day.


Starting to fade the job coach is perfect. It will take some time, but not everything happens the first time. Maybe fading the job coach in and out, intermittently would work. They walk in they walk out, until one time, the job coach walks in and "catches" Nat doing his job and reinforces for working on his own, and bingo, he's got it!
We do all perseverate at times, but maybe the difference is that we can be distracted or distract ourselves and do something else and not get totally "stuck" on the issue. He'll get it! Michele

— added by miti on Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Susan, thanks for sharing about aggression and SIBs. I learn so much from you and Nat. It may seem like a step back, but look how many steps forward he has had. That gives me hope for J. I'm going back to read chapter 8. Keep positive, we all have a bad day here and there.

— added by Candy on Friday, December 4, 2009 at 8:48 am

As someone who often writes, "perseverates" as a neurological indicator of dysfunction, you gave me something to think about. Thank you.

— added by Therapeutic Ramblings on Monday, December 14, 2009 at 10:03 pm

%d bloggers like this: