Back to School

Summer is a coveted time for my son to escape from demands of school. Ridge loves his free time and needs it to rest and get bored enough to willingly engage in the world again.
We did not make any trips this summer. We enjoyed going to the river a few times. It was successful because of familiarity, past success, preferred food items, and favorite people.
It may sound silly to think of “fun” in this way but having spent so many years in constant anxiety with forcing and fighting the unwilling child, it is ingrained to my very core.
I managed a few horse camping adventures without the family and this was good for everyone but required a lot of work and planning.
Is it worth it? Yes.
When I was first introduced to ABA , I had some difficulty with the concepts of reinforcement and all the “work” of analyzing behaviors. Part of me thought it was ridiculous and I wanted my child to behave “because he was supposed to”. Although I knew the current plan was not working, I was reluctant to change because I truly felt I was doing the best I could. I was…until my knowledge base expanded and I changed my approach. It was not easy but my new behaviors were reinforced by my son’s new behaviors.
Last week,I overheard Ridge tell his sister that he no longer has Aspergers. I didn’t say anything but later I asked him what he meant. He said that he knows he used to have behavior problems but that they are no longer a part of him. He said that he still has anxiety but he doesn’t let it control him. I asked how he does this and he said he just sees it and remembers that things usually work out better than he feels at the moment.
Wow… He is mindful. He is observing himself. He has mastered what I am try to do with meditation and mind training programs.
Football practice started this week. We had to get up in the dark and I had taken Benadryl for a cold so I was totally out at 6AM. Ridge woke me up and was ready for me to drive him. He was nervous but as he had said, he pushed through.
When I picked him up he was laughing with the other boys. I asked how it went and he said that as soon as he saw his friends, his fear subsided and it went well.
All the years of pushing him to join in suddenly seemed worth it. The natural reinforcement of friendship has taken over and he no longer plays football with a behavior contingency plan.
He likes it.
He likes his coaches.
He likes his friends.
He likes himself as a member of a group.
He wore his CHS shirt into a restaurant and the manager asked about the team. Ridge seemed a bit confused at first because he has never had a “group” identity. Then the man offered him a job!
We had a great discussion about experiences and how others perceive a person. I was so proud of Ridge for the years and years of work it has taken to stand in such a wonderful spot.
Today, he stepped up a little more in independency. After practice, he went to the school and turned in his paperwork and got his schedule without me. I purposely stayed away until he called.I carefully “felt out” his ability to do this on his own. As I drove in to pick him up there was a traffic back up so I called him and he agreed to walk to the convenience store (something he has always been fearful of doing).
I parked and went in to reinforce this event with a soda. I saw a HUGE refillable drink container and bought it. Sugar is not good for a person but in this instant the novelty and volume was too tempting.
I came out to my car trying to carry this monster cup and Ridge was walking up laughing at the spectacle. He told Maddie later how funny it was to see mom struggling with the gigantic cup.
He didn’t drink all of it and suggested we use it for water.
I still use my computer and laminator to help Ridge. The daily visual schedule has been replaced with his regular school schedule and the school calendar. I did write important dates on a desk calendar for him and he took it to his room and hung it on his wall. We all can use organization. He may be even ahead of his peers at this point.
I am proud of Ridge for his willingness to push through the times he feels so uncomfortable. I am proud of my ABA training too. It helped me to keep perspective and break things into small steps. I learned the value of positive reinforcement and the importance of consistency.
This weekend, I found a stray cat that had been abandoned by its owners. I didn’t want her. She was terribly skinny and loud from constantly crying. I brought her home and was amazed at how loving and kind Ridge has been with her. He slowly integrated her meeting the dogs. He feeds her and reassures her that she is ok. Food and water are plentiful here. Her voice is changing from a loud cry to a sweet mew. She wants to fight the dogs and that resistance will take more time to resolve. We just ignore the hissing and pet her.
Her recovery is all of our recovery.
I am so appreciative to see this side of the game. Many of you are in the middle of the highs and lows of the battles. Just don’t give up. Stop any negative voice of guilt and fear that may waylay your progress. Love what is -even if you have to pretend a little.
I hope your back to school time is an easy transition. I have been planning, preparing, getting routines going, simplifying some things and resting. (I also escaped to a see Bad Moms and snuck in a wine cooler. Yep, I laughed like crazy….)

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