I’ve already commented on the emoticon that Tucker is…that I am. Emotional craziness – this post isn’t as much about the emotional’ness as it is about how we handle the emoticon himself. It’s not that we’re up and down and hard to handle – but it’s more about how deeply we feel.
How deeply he feels. When he left his dog on the first day of school he cried for 15 minutes. When he gets angry (which rarely happens) he gets a look – it’s the look I always feared. The look that may very well someday get him in trouble-but the look will make him a force on the football field. When he laughs, it is the loudest, most wonderful sound in the world.
So, it’s not that he’s up and down and ‘hard to read.’ In fact, it’s very much the opposite…he’s easy to read.
If you are the friend, husband, wife, grandparent, teacher, aunt, uncle, or neighbor of a child on the spectrum – take time to talk to these parents. They often have tricks – to help you, help their child. Those who surround the child benefit from having a common language. One of our tricks? The reset button. If you are around Tucker and he starts to get…well…a little wacky, tell him it’s time to hit the reset button.
It’s long been our ‘indicator.’ This signifies to Tucker that it is time to relax. Time to recenter. Time to start over. It also signifies that you are not angry with his outburst. That you understand, but also that the outburst is not acceptable…that he needs to start over in his reaction. The reset button helps us talk about how to do it ‘better’ the next time and what exactly it was that set him off.
The reset button also allows him to make amends.
Last year he became angry at school. He went into the bathroom to ‘blow off some steam.’ This was a good choice, because he’s learned to hold it in until he gets somewhere not quite as public (e.g. the classroom). Well, he was so frustrated he ended up pulling a bathroom door off it’s hinges. What happened next?
He told me, “I hit my reset button. I took a breath. I went and told my teacher what I had done. So, we went and found the custodian, I apologized, and then I helped him put the door back on the bathroom stall.”
Now he and the custodian are pals.
Win. Win. You win – he calms down. He REALLY wins – he gets a ‘do-over’ and he knows you are not angry. Most of all he knows you love and care about him…because you are using his language (reset button). He trusts that you will not lash out, but that you will have a caring, calm, conversation about how it could go better the next time.
That is how we learn – it’s how we keep moving forward. We just continue to hit the reset button.