So much has happened in just 4 short days since I wrote my post on Harley’s struggles with his OCD. Some of has been a struggle to get through but most of it has been an amazingly eye-opening experience for me! If you’ve only just landed here for the first time, go and have a quick read of *THIS* to catch up. It’s ok…I’ll wait
So…..the very next day after I published that post, I took my boy straight to the GP to get a referral to a psychologist (amongst other things).
That morning, I dropped Ella and Lucas to school then continued on to the surgery with Harley. It went ok I suppose, but I found it really difficult to sit there in that Doctor’s office having to talk about my little boy in the third person even though he was sitting right beside me. He’d clamped his mouth shut and was refusing to answer the Doctor’s questions or allow him to examine his hands.
(Which probably went in my favour to be honest – the Doctor could see that he clearly wasn’t coping and it backed up everything that I’d been telling him).
Long story short – we got the referral and headed back to school to drop Harley off since he’d only missed an hour of lessons. But even though we’d already discussed exactly what was going to happen later that morning, he wasn’t having a bar of it. He climbed out of the car – screamed at me, kicked me in the shins, punched me in the stomach and ran off at full speed for the big man-made pond that is on the school grounds. The school is situated in a rural setting and although this pond is securely fenced – he told me as he ran off that he was going to throw himself into it, so I was concerned that he would come good on this threat. He is extremely unpredictable and I know that despite my best efforts – sometimes I just can’t stop things in time and sometimes he does really stupid things. Especially when he’s mad.
I had heeled boots on that day and knew that there was no way that I would be able to run after him to catch him so I did what I could – I went to the front office to summon some extra help.
The head of junior school was pulled out of a meeting and she tried her best to talk him back but he wasn’t playing ball. He ran and ran for what seemed like an hour (but was probably nowhere near that). Most of the adults that had come to help also tried their best but none of them could successfully get him to come back either. Because every time that someone got close enough to catch him, he would take off again like a timid little rabbit. And he’s fast! They even tried sending a golf cart after him and when that failed as well, one of the groundsmen finally managed to grab him. But only when he tripped over…sigh….
And the most surprising part was that after all the drama – he happily walked back over to my car to say goodbye to me holding hands with both the Principal and the head of Junior school!??
He apparently went easily to his classroom and ended up having a great day. He baffles me sometimes. He really really does.
Later on that evening, I sat down on the side of Harley’s bed when I knew he was in a much calmer frame of mind, and we chatted about what had transpired that day. I asked him why he ran off at school and his answer surprised me. He said that he thought that he’d be in trouble for being late to school. Wow….THAT hadn’t even occurred to me….I thought he just didn’t want to go. And he explained that seeing all the other adults in authority positions at school also trying to catch him made him run more because he thought he was majorly busted.
And being so totally aspie – the “rules” had been broken in his opinion (being late to school) so he feared a backlash as a result.
It made much more sense to me when he’d put it like that!
I also asked him about the ‘voices in his head’ that he’d told me about a few days earlier and told him that I was concerned to find out that he was hearing things. I asked him what the voice sounded like and if it was a child’s voice or an adults voice. He replied that it was neither and that it wasn’t actually a ‘voice’ but his brain ‘talking’ to him. I breathed a sigh of relief when it finally dawned on me that he was unknowingly explaining the process in which his brain filters his thoughts.
And the ‘voice’ that he speaks of isn’t another personality so much as it is him reasoning with himself and working through things in a visual way. He told me that he needs to see pictures in his head to understand things and that when he doesn’t have a picture – he freaks out and panics. Which is exactly what happened that morning. He didn’t have a script in his head for “late to school” because it has never happened before. He couldn’t ‘find’ the appropriate picture (or film strip in this case) in the filing cabinet in is head so he was unable to predict what might happen next. And that scared him. He doesn’t like new situations that don’t have clearly defined endings and he is a slave to his routine and thrives only when it is in place.
So what he was actually explaining to me literally blew me away! I was so fascinated to learn this , and it also helped me to understand why visual social stories work so well for him. Because he knows what to expect even though he hasn’t necessarily already got a file on that situation in his head, he is able to place one there with the help of the social story. And THAT’S why our trip to America went so smoothly. I had tried to predict every possible scenario and written a social story for it. Nothing was a surprise and even those I forgot to write about were ok because he knew that everything else had been covered.
Harley literally blows me away. Here’s another amazing fact for those who haven’t had much time conversing with a high-functioning child on the spectrum: Conversations like this don’t exactly flow as easily as how you’ve read it in this post.
Often time, I have had to really learn to listen and learn how to talk to my boy in a way that he understands it. He doesn’t respond to some of my questions in the way that a typically wired child would, he tells me facts that I have to piece together until I have a clearer picture in my head. And these facts are often all out of sequence and hard to follow at times. And this is where “Theory of Mind” (ToM) comes into play.
ToM is something that individuals on the spectrum don’t possess. Explained simply it means that they assume that we know exactly what they are thinking at all times. They assume that other people can ‘read their minds’. It’s why a conversation with Harley can jump from one topic to another and back again in the space of two minutes with him giving no indication of how his thoughts got from one place to another. Because he lacks ToM – he believes that I am following his thought processes the whole way through.
This kid is totally amazing. He blows me away and I wouldn’t have him any other way