New Obstacles? New Frontiers? Part 1 “Home, Home”

February 2nd, 2017

Not so long ago, I had a notion that Robert’s behaviors would only get better.  I thought that as he grows up and learns, the problem behaviors we dealt with would vanish and become replaced by better responses to  new situations. I didn’t anticipate new kind of issues. Some of them were created by Robert’s ideas about the rules controlling his world.  Some came out of nowhere. Whatever their origins, the lack of ability to communicate the causes of his distresses remains the main cause of Robert’s problem behaviors. 

Robert used to like going out.  He still does.  He likes going skiing.  He likes going on Saturday’s field trips organized by one of the centers.  He loves SNL parties he can attend in another program. He wants to go to movies.  Yet,in the last year in all of those and other places he expressed very  loudly his desire to go home.

“Home, home”,  he would call in the middle of the movie.  “Home, home”, he demanded not even one hour into 2 hour-long ski lesson.  “Home, home”, he insisted in the middle of the party.  “Home, home, home” he would keep on saying using all kinds of voices, from a low one to a very dramatic high pitch.

It gets more complicated.

In the movie theater, for instance, Robert doesn’t want to leave before the movie is over.  He wants to go home, but not before the ending.  If I get up, and say, ” Let’s go”, he would equally loudly protest, “No, no, no!” .  Because Robert wants  the movie to end just that minute, so he could leave after finishing seeing it.

In the bowling alley, Robert would keep bringing regular shoes to his bowling companions, so they would stop playing, take off their bowling shoes, and leave so Robert could go home.

He can be extremely  persistent.  He can repeat “Home, home” ten times a minute, every minute for an hour or longer.  This is not easy for him, and it is equally difficult for everybody else.

If this behavior happens during his swimming or skiing lesson, it is helpful to tell Robert that he would go home after completing some other activity.  ” Robert’s swimming instructor, tells Robert that he would go home after swimming one or two more times(or three, depending on her assessment of his distress.) She moves her hand back and forth as many times as she wants Robert to swim.  The skiing instructors use similar explanation although they might tell Robert, “First we go on this trail, next on that one, then you will go home.”

The most important thing, however, is NOT to interpret this behavior as a sign that Robert doesn’t want swimming, skiing, field trips, or going to movies and parties. It is possible that when he goes to a new place or the old place he hasn’t visited for a while, he feels confused of how long he should stay there and what to expect.  So we kept going back with Robert.  We tell him what to expect in this place and what is expected of him.

That is why Robert went to two other SNL parties and three other ski lessons. He did better, then he did great.

It is not, that I believe that Robert has already learned not to call “Home, home”  in many new places, or the places he partially forgot and thus become confused and concerned.  He might call, “Home, home” again, but that is not the end of the world, and it shouldn’t be something that would prevent him for coming back.

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