Dogs of War
It's been weird the last few days.
Carter has been gone with Jen's parents camping since Sunday afternoon, shortly after the Two-Face Incident. Talk about separation. THAT'S separation. He won't be back until Thursday.
Bennett's demeanor has obviously been a lot calmer because of it. He still tantrums. The boy does not like to be told no. It's really that simple. When it comes right down to it, all the research I have done says this. Find the trigger points and try to change them or try to make behavioral changes based on what you observe.
I've been observing. Lots of observing. He gets pissed when he is denied shit.
Don't we ALL?
But for him, his brain just doesn't seem to be able to process the denial in a way other people do. I don't know how correctable it is, but in order to move forward I certainly have to believe that it is. And I say that based on evidence provided by Carter's absence. As much as I have missed Carter, Bennett has been subjected to less denial at home, so the behavior has diminished.
What is he not being denied right now?
A relationship with his brother.
It's Catch-22. When Carter is around, he wants to be close to Carter. LOVES him. Little brother looks up to big brother and wants to be around him. Big brother is annoyed. They behave like a couple of wolves sometimes, both sort of nipping at each other, as any brothers might do, but the shrapnel from the Disability Grenade makes the outcome of their exchanges go down paths that are not normal.
Bennett reacts negatively to Carter when Carter doesn't do some things in a way that Bennett wants. Another totally expected reaction. But the relationship morphs because in response to being denied these things, by being 'dissed' by his older brother, Bennett forces his older brother to reckon with him by being violent.
Carter MUST react. He CAN'T ignore.
Carter can't dismiss Bennett if Bennett is in his grill, hitting him or running after him with INTENT TO HARM. It's a somewhat learned cycle, though. AND one that feeds and perpetuates itself. Those few times when Carter can get past feeling like Bennett is a loose cannon (which he is) and showers him with attention, Bennett is satiated and will ease up. But Carter can't maintain it all the time, AND he should not have to.
And that is because Bennett cannot be encouraged to engage in socially inappropriate behavior or be shown that he is in total control of any relationship, because THAT would also be something that he can't learn is OK. And I know that he would learn this if allowed to.
At SBSA they don't just let him walk up and put his hands on other kids. But for a while we had been allowing it here with family members because to deny Bennett that would force an 'issue'. I had to explain to everybody involved in Bennett's care-giving that it teaches Bennett the wrong information to allow it under any circumstance. He has to be taught that any contact that is uninvited is unacceptable, period. Otherwise he will not learn to not hit. It's a simple equation, but it has to START with no uninvited contact at all.
It can be very maddening.
Especially since I don't even know if I am on the right path. I am guessing here on some of it, based on things I have observed and read and learned from BT's at school and things that SEEM logical. However, I have often found that whenever I speak to some ABA people I discover that I can be way off base in my thinking, especially in the area of negative reinforcement. Something I happen to think is valid but most ABA purists tend to think is not.
But again, I am not even 100% convinced of anything these days. I am going through this day by day and trying to go with whatever works.
I THINK I am sure of one thing. Bennett gets frustrated by things that have everything to do with his lack of ability to 'join in'. I'm about 96% convinced of it. He's just normal enough to barely fit in, and a lot of people mistake him for a 'Norm', but he's disabled enough to not be able to. It's got to be a shitty place for him to exist in. I wonder just how aware of it he actually is. I think more than we often give him credit for, but I can't know for sure, at least not yet.
This morning it occurred to me that it really bothers Bennett when I laugh at something on the radio on our way to SBSA. When I do, he imitates me and then scowls and gets mad. This morning I started to speak to him about it, though I am not sure he understood me at all, as I am often when I talk to him about anything, but I am still in that place within myself where I try speaking to him as if he can understand me.
But what I asked him was if it made him mad because he didn't understand what the men were saying and why was Daddy laughing and he did he feel bad that he couldn't join in? He was smiling.
Now you have to be careful here. And I have to be careful with how I say this, but we often assign emotional or even higher levels of thinking in situations where we simply DESIRE there to be some kind of feeling or thought. We project what we feel or think somewhere it doesn't really exist.
People do this most often with their pets. They believe their dogs, for example, have higher levels of reasoning than they actually do. I have to be cautious if I say that I think Bennett was smiling because he UNDERSTOOD me. He may very well have just been smiling because I was SPEAKING TO HIM DIRECTLY and not LISTENING TO THE RADIO instead of communicating with him, or trying to engage with him. Therein lies what can often be compared to Hell's Pizza slice.
Now, I don't mean to compare Bennett to a dog, but in a lot of ways the communication barrier that exists between us often makes it feel as if we are members of two entirely different species.
That's not a judgment of my son, just a statement of fact at how difficult it is to build a bridge from my brain to his.
As far as bridges go, I can say this. Sometimes, all it takes, even on nights like last night where it looked as if the scales were going to tip towards Meltdownville, sometimes all it takes to build bridges is not necessarily communicating with Bennett, but just PARTICIPATING with him.
It requires, not unlike what I explained above with Carter, time and effort and something mutual that we can enjoy together.
So while the early part of the afternoon back from SBSA was sketchy, while I was trying to do some cleaning, do SOME work (which is almost a joke now as Bennett is taking so much time it is hard to manage my small efforts to generate cash for the family), get some stuff together for him to eat and so forth. During this time, he was a beast. He was defiant, with definite purpose, getting into everything he was not supposed to...all for attention.
Sounds fairly normal. doesn't it? He just doesn't understand limitations or boundaries, which is why it gets dangerous. Doesn't KNOW, or even remember after getting scalded, that the hot water tap is HOT, so I have to shut it off, doesn't know what sharp is, or that heavy objects hurled across the room can hurt people or break other objects. He doesn't have a full grasp of consequence.
Later, when Jen focused on him for some play time then I for a bath, and then he and I settled down for the Heat @ Thunder Game 1 of the NBA Finals, he was having a good time.
A great time actually.
Full focus. 100% engagement. It is just hard to maintain the intensity all the time, every moment with a boy that has a really hard time doing anything on his own these days. That's the hard part.
But more on THAT, and the NBA and Game 1 and everything else, next time. Why shoot the entire clip today when I have to keep up a pace for daily posting? See? Old dogs can learn new tricks too.
PS: Dogs are great, but we do NOT need one. It isn't something that we even want in our lives, at all. Can't handle the extra responsibility or annual expense or burden of care-giving the dog will require. Dogs are super cool, don't get me wrong, but it is not in cards for us right now. Just throwing that bone out there. ;)
Oh and one more thing...all the pictures? From a VERY cool website I stumbled on called TotallyCoolPix.com, worth checking out. I don't normally credit sources (I suck) but they have some awesome photos.