Friday, April 5, 2013

Practicality: OCD Meltdowns and School Behavior

Continuing on with the saga of CM2 and his ornery behavior....I had regaled everyone with the lack of social skills oversight which led to his behavioral meltdown in a class. Here is what actually happened that day:

CM2 is taking a theater class that involves going to see an actual Broadway play. Now seeing the play really isn't an issue. CM2 has been to plays before and has really enjoyed the experience. Of course we went to see Spamalot, which is a musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, complete with every obnoxious and decorous butt joke that any adolescent boy would love. Now they added a new scene specifically for the musical.  During one particular moment the actors decided that they had to put on a show to earn money but actually lacking any Jews in their coterie would be greatly hampered in their efforts. Hence they began to sing "We need a Jew." Well at that moment CM2 promptly started to shout in the theater "I'm a Jew..." He was ready to get up on that stage...So no, plays, Broadway and acting really are not a problem for him.

My concern for him going with the class quite frankly, was all the sensory issues that he has been enduring lately and the fact that he would be going into NYC without us. I understand that he is 19-years-old and most 19-year-olds go back and forth into NYC. But most 19-year-olds also do not have a para to aide them in class and also are able to go to the supermarket or pharmacy on their own. He cannot, not yet. He doesn't go with me all the time but he does go with his behavioralist so never  without any supervision whatsoever. There is absolutely no way that he was going to go with the class to see this play. Even if the para went with him. All we needed was for him to become overwhelmed and run into the street or out of the theater or have a meltdown without anyone really knowing how to help him.

The professor as I mentioned previously is a really nice person and understood. She had no issue with hubby and CM2 going on another day separate from the class as long as CM2 had seen the play before the class discussion. So it was all set. We bought tickets. We planned a nice day for the two of them. Made it a matinee instead of a night show so that CM2 could do what he wanted Saturday night.

You know the old plans and God laughs? CM2 was furious that he was not going with the class. I started receiving text message after text message from him when I knew he was supposed to be in that class.

I told him: Pay attention in class. Stop texting. We would discuss it latter.

I am not a 2 year old. Dumbass.

No you are not. And don't call me a dumbass.

Why can't I go with the class.

You are going with Dad on Saturday. You don't even go to school on your own. Dad will go with you to make sure you are OK.

I am not a 2 year old.

What are you going to do if you go with the class and get overwhelmed. What will you do alone in NYC? How are you going to handle it? We will talk about this when you get home. Stop it.

At this moment apparently he also started calling out. He yelled out in class and was terribly disruptive. This is when they got the experienced para out of CM1's class to come back in for awhile. CM2 could not pull himself out of the space he was in. He could not let go. He was nasty. Challenged the professor at every turn and refused to quiet down. The experienced para took him aside and was finally able to make him sit quiet until it was his turn to preform. Which he did to great aplomb.

Now here's the real reason that he was upset about going on Saturday. It had nothing to really do with him being treated as a 2-year-old (well slightly it did but that was not the overriding issue). He enjoys watching a web show called STG Weekly. He would have to miss it "live" if he went to the matinee. His schedule was interrupted and his world collided with an unusual responsibility.

The next day hubby talked with him about what happened in class, why he was upset and what he could have done to behave better. Hubby also found out about the show and asked him if he could watch it in archive format? "Yes," came the reply. The issue is that he couldn't interact with the show and other chatters during the time in the archive. Hubby explained to him that there are times that work has to come first and that we were making a decision based upon what would be best for him in the long run.

In truth there would have been no way for him to have enjoyed the play at night. His nights are scheduled in his own way. He loses focus and his energy needs a reboot. He needs to spend his evenings regrouping from his day. He is not like other college students who could begin their study times at 9pm. He is finished by 8pm and needs that mental health space. Having to be on, surrounded by so many people, with the sensory input of NYC on top of the social requirements of the moment at the end of his day would have just been too much.

The meltdown of a 6 foot tall 200 pound youngman in NYC would have either engendered a call to the police from someone, especially if it happened in the theater, or he would have just been ejected from the theater and then what was he going to do even if a para was with him? He would have to wait for everyone else to finish the play. Where would he go and what would he do in the middle of Times Square in an overwhelmed and fragile emotional state? (At least that was my fear.) So I know I made the right decision. Question now is how could this entire scene been avoided?

I know that I mentioned it to CM2 weeks ago when I bought the ticket. He didn't seem fazed at the time. I now know that:

(1) I should have made him sit down and think about it and try to see if there would be any problems.
(2) We should have brainstormed together what to do if a problem arose in scheduling and how could that have been made easier for him. Perhaps having been home all day quiet and going on Saturday night would have been a good alternative. He would not have had to regroup from the day like during the weekdays.
(3) Discussing with him the archiving and how that would have to suffice for one day instead of him being hit broadside in class with the realization that his normal Saturday schedule was about to be uprooted.
(4) Knowing that the professor was going to discuss the play-trip on that day, I should have reminded him so he wasn't caught so unawares.
(5) I should have talked with him about why he isn't going with the class instead of making him feel like a 2-year-old and explained the reasons why going with his father was better for him. It has to be a very difficult thing being 19-years-old and seeing everyone around you very independent and you knowing that you still need support and help as if you were a non-adult-young-person.

The next question was how could the entire situation have been handled in the class so that CM2 didn't explode and interrupt everyone's education. Unfortunately this is an issue we have been dealing with since he was very little. He is terribly emotionally dysregulated at times and becomes overwhelmed because he truly does not know where to put his emotions. They just come to the surface and they are right there in your face.

For CM2 it is going to have to be preemptive intervention on our part and on the part of the paras.

(1) Maintaining a strict protocol for him during class.
(2) Reminding him of his social skills and behavioral requirements for class.
(3) Keeping an eye on any dysregulation that is beginning and try to intercede to help him through it. (4) CM2 is also going to have to understand that he is supposed to walk out of class when he gets like this and it is OK. No one will think less of him.

In fact, he did just that today. He quietly walked out of another class. They were discussing tics in his ecology class and he needed to leave. On top of CM2 being terribly bug-phobic the idea of a blood sucking insect burying into your skin made him feel terribly ill-at-ease to say the least. For those of us without any phobias, I find tics truly disgusting creatures. I actually even found one on me one day in the shower. It was a creepy thing. At first I thought I had developed a huge whitehead pimple overnight. Then when I went to shave I saw that it was actually an engorged tic. The razor cut it off my leg.. Lucky I did not develop Lymes.

OCD meltdowns are not issues that go away so fast. When faced with new and overwhelming experiences the emotional dysregulation prevails and no they cannot always help themselves come out of it. It is best if the situation can be avoided or at least preempted so that the individual remembers what to expect and can steel themselves for it emotionally.  Also strict limits, boundaries and reminders of social behaviors can help if the person goes into meltdown stage.

Will it always work out? That day in theater class was a bad day, a very bad day. Today was a good day. Tomorrow who knows. We need to remember that at no point do we stop teaching our children and we must always stay on top of the issues. Self-help tools are our children's lifeblood in this situation. We consistently need to reinforce the tools we give them at every age and in every new situation.