Tuesday, January 6, 2015

On a Scale from 1 to 10...

One of the ways that being on the autism spectrum impacts Sky's life (and therefore the rest of our lives) is that it is much harder for him to figure out what to do with his emotions. Whether he's feeling good or bad, it's easy for him to slip into the extremes. So, one moment he can be gnashing his teeth questioning his very existence and the next jumping giddily around the house. Regulating  emotions can be difficult for any kid, but for Sky, it's an active daily struggle to keep it together and to behave "appropriately." I've written about his meltdowns in the past (here, here, and here among other posts), and he can still fall apart like no one's business. But, lately he's become much more interested in trying to figure out how to get a handle on this.

For about 9 months now, we have been working with a play-based behavioral therapist who turns out to be a perfect fit for Sky. Her willingness to work with all of us to understand how his challenges impact the whole family paired with Sky's increased motivation to make things better have yielded some amazing results.

In their last session, they came up with this.

Click on the picture to enlarge it. Trust me, you'll want to get the full effect.
This is a visual cue chart that Sky created to help him be more in tune with his feelings. In making it, he had to think about how to articulate and graph his various emotional states. Now that he has this poster, he's trying to use it to keep himself aware of where he is on the scale and to think about different strategies for avoiding going above level 6 (and what to do if he does). The first night, of course, that meant that every two minutes he told me what number he was "just so [I] would know." Admittedly his verbal play-by-play got a little annoying, but, as time passes the goal is for him to shift from extrinsic control mechanisms (i.e. other people helping him manage his emotions) to intrinsic ones (i.e. he recognizes when he's getting into the hot zone and makes the necessary adjustments on his own). The first step is this chart, which will hopefully become a go-to tool to help him cope with the wide-range of emotions we experience in everyday life. 

In case you can't read it, here's how the chart breaks down (and my commentary because I just couldn't resist):

1-3 Great, controlled, fine. These faces make me laugh because I'm pretty sure they are direct copies of the pain chart he saw on the wall at the pediatrician's office the last time we were in. 
4-5 Mad, controlled, angry. By number 5, Sky is moving away from his pain chart inspiration and into unchartered ground. 
6 Freaked out, controlled, keeping feelings inside. You guys, I love number 6. This is where Sky finds himself a lot. The good news is that he really does try hard to keep his growing frustration inside. The bad news is that it's still really hard for him to do that, so sometimes this stage lasts for about a millisecond before he slips into 7-10. 
7-10 Totally lost it, hitting, yelling, etc. These pictures speak for themselves, but I do want to note that 90% of the time Sky hits levels 7 through 10 either his sister is bugging him or he thinks his dad or I don't understand what he's trying to say. On the bright side, this means we know exactly where we still need to do some work!
Sky was thrilled when I asked him if I could show this to you guys. "I love it when I can tell people what it's like to be me!" he said, grinning. He really does love to help.

Me? I love it that he tries so hard and that he keeps fighting the good fight--kinda like a superhero. This has been our theme song lately. Between the back and the allergies and the autism, maybe these kids ARE superheroes. Either way, I think I'll keep them!

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Ha, ha, ha! I THOUGHT 1-3 looked familiar! Sky is awesome!