Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is it Weird?

I'm not sure what eight year old boys are into, but judging from friends' kids and even the age suggestions on toys, I'm pretty sure that it's not Thomas, Elmo, Choo Choo Soul, and Big Block Sing Song.

Right now, the kids and Eric are having a little after dinner YouTube time with Big Block Sing Song. The funny part is that he kept jumping up and down, hollering "Bigblocksingsong" over and over until we finally ran across it on TV one day.

It's deliciously adorable how he jumps up and down, giggles, and flaps his hands.  It's even more adorable when the excitement bubbles over into a little humming.  There are times in movies where, at times set by Ryan, he leads the three of them in running around the living room.  The littles follow him, squealing with delight.  

He's safe here to enjoy what he loves.  None of these things are illegal.  None of them are bad for him... I think.

At what point do we start being concerned for how he is viewed by others in what he likes and how he shows it?  There are schools of thought that highly recommend doing everything we can to cut out this behavior as much as possible.  We were taught at the beginning that this is undesirable.  Hand-flapping and other forms of stimming are harmful and should be squelched as much as possible.

For a while, we did try to get him to stop.  When he was about 2 1/2, when we were just getting acquainted with the idea that our son's behavior could warrant a diagnosis, we panicked.  We followed what they said as much as we could.  I remember even then being unsure, although we learned so much from the behaviorist that ECI sent.

I remember a specific moment at Eric's folks' house when Ryan began stimming on a ball that was spinning on the table.  He was hand-flapping just a little.  Nothing scary, like the first time I really noticed the behavior, just a little.  My father-in-law asked if, while they were caring for him while Eric and I went out, if they should stop his hand-flapping, and I had more of a defining moment in that answer than I realized.

"No, it'll be okay."  I'm sure I also mentioned something about redirecting his attention.  

Since then, we've learned to limit not the behavior but what is causing the behavior.  If he's going a little overboard on some sort of stimuli, we can tell by a mix of the look on this face and his stim.  If he needs to back off, we do our best to transition him, which involves setting a timer and letting him know that he has so many minutes.  When the timer goes off, he is pretty good about giving up whatever it is.

So should we stop the stimming altogether?  Are we hindering him by allowing his hands to fly?  We don't think so, but we don't know for sure.  We do know that there are far greater problems... as my Nanny would have said, "We have much bigger fish to fry."

Indeed.  Just as I typed that last paragraph, I heard Ryan come into the kitchen beating his chest and grunting, turning that into a gruntish yell.  When things don't go his way, this is how he responds.

When I hear it, I have to tell you... my ears actually hurt.  I can feel them tighten right along with my heart.

It's loud.  It's hard to deal with in public.  It's inappropriate at school.  But the worst?

It's the sound of frustration I can't begin to understand.

It's the sound of anger.

Earlier tonight, when he didn't finish his dinner because I bought a different type of ranch, he put one of his hands flat on the table and pounded it with his fist.

That, my friends, is a bigger fish.

I'd far rather see his hands flapping to either side of his head, enjoying whatever while fingers fly, than to see his chest red and purple from being beaten by his own fists.

I'd rather he look a little weird while he watches a train go by at the museum than have him pulverize his own hand with his own tiny, angry fist.

This is where the rubber meets the road.  This is where I wish we could have every person who ever deals with him live here for at least a week.  See who he is.  See his highs and lows.

Because once you've seen him in the self-violent throes of anxiety and frustration, you don't care that he's watching a show geared to three year olds.  You're relieved and delighted and rejoicing that he's happy.

And besides, you can't teach a dog not to wag its tail.  And why in the world would you, anyway?  Because he doesn't wag like the other dogs?


Stim on, little man.  Stim on.

Thanks be to God for our little stimmer; our little hand flapper.  For he has taught us to enjoy the world as it is, as we are, and how He made it.

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