Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Child Psychologist and a Plan

It has been just over 6 months since Seth (I have decided it is time to introduce his name) to our family. Given his history and previous diagnoses, i knew we would eventually need to seek some professional help. I also knew that the first months would be a honeymoon period and that until he became comfortable and began to show his true self it would do no good to try therapy. Well, he seems to have hit his comfort level! I have also gotten to a point where I am struggling a little to be creative and ahead of the curve. Time to seek help.

I found a child psychologist near here who had a lot of experience with small children and trauma. Not necessarily RAD, but many related issues. I spoke with him on the phone at length (OK, that alone earned him points. He was willing to call me personally and talk at length, offering ideas, with no strings attached.) I checked out about 8 different therapists, but many failed to ever return my calls, or had office help that were rude and cold. Geez, like I needed to be treated badly by yet another person! So I made an appointment with Dr. R to start discussing Seth and Ahren and our parenting plans.

We met Monday evening. He works out of the top floor of an old house and his office has a full playroom and comfy, well-worn furniture. No fake plants, no decorator touches, no foo-foo garbage at all. Just a homey, relaxing environment geared towards kids. I could relate. That is the style of our home.

We talked and talked and talked. He was quite impressed with how well we have done so far on our own. He was very sincere and even asked if he could use one of the things we had tried. We designed a plan that helps us break down the attention seeking behaviors and deal with them with behavior modifications while simultaneously working on the emotions behind the behaviors. It is all designed to create a successful environment for him and to teach him the skills he needs to create that success. We have to get him out of a survival mode and into a calm, regulated, happy place.

The first thing we are going to work on is Seth's inability to modulate the loudness of his voice. He has one sound level....very loud. Stress on VERY. An example is that I will have him in the seat on the shopping cart and as I push it, his face is inches from my own. He will ask, at the top of his voice, some inane question, leaving my ears ringing and every other customer staring at us. I remind him to use an indoor voice but he just can't. I truly believe he has no idea how loud he is or what is sounds like to others. He seriously lacks the skill set to modulate his voice to the situation.

Per Dr. R., we have created a chart, using characters he loves, to represent different levels of voice and their appropriate uses. There is a green box around the appropriate talking levels. We will discuss the levels, act out the levels, record and then listen to the levels, and refer often to the chart. Finally, we will set up a reward system for the times when he uses the appropriate level of voice for the situation. Each member of the family is acting out the chart. We are outside so we use big, bold voices. We have a secret so we whisper very quietly. We will model the correct volume for him all the time. I will let you know how this works. I have great expectations.

We have many layers to the plan, but I can tell you that I wanted to crawl into Dr. R's lap and weep. I felt like someone really understood, was cheering us on, and had high hopes for Seth. I felt inspired. I think Seth can tell I feel that much better because he has had an awesome couple of days since then. (And I haven't even had time to implement the first part of the plan!)

Sometimes all it takes is a different point of view to shake you loose from a rut and bring new inspiration. This is a long process. Two steps forward and one step back. Progress comes in fits and spurts. Sometimes, all it takes is a fresh face. Thank you so much Dr. R.


Kim said...

Wendy - I don't think you will ever understand how much I needed this post right now. We just made an appointment with a therapist for next week to help us with Alex. I'm scared - and sad - and scared - and can't stop crying. I needed to hear this. I hope our therapist is as hopeful as yours is!!!

Reba said...

Wow. I found myself wanting to move to your area just so I could visit the same therapist. It sounds like you hit the jackpot with him! I cannot wait to hear how it all works. Feel free to share some more about what you are doing. I can ALWAYS use ideas!

Ellie said...

UP FOR ADOPTION: Single mom with 2 Wild Child's... Only adoptable by Wendy and Chris! LOL!~

Gosh Wendy, I so need that doctor here... I have been crawling up walls for months now. School meetings, time outs, "use your words" thearpy... NOTHING IS WORKING...

Miss you...


Diana said...

Yeah for good help! I know some people can do it without, but most of us can't. There's no shame in seeking help, either. I'm especially glad you found someone who won't demonize you!

I am quite interested to see how your plan works, especially the charts part. I've tried several different things, including stuff like this, and I haven't been able to pull it off successfully. So, keep on sharing!!

BT said...

So happy to read this post. So glad you found Dr. R. And that you are/will be devising step by step plans. We waited too long in our P's case, but we've been on track with similar steps for three years and I can vouch that it can work. Know exactly what you mean about the loud voice and inability to perceive it or modulate it. I recall this phase vividly. We dealt with it with both our older int'l adopted sons. I have also read that boys don't develop the same voice modulation as girls at the same rate anyway, so with boys you're starting a step "behind" on this anyway. We did try sevearl things similear to waht you've worked up for Seth on this, and with success, but it also seemed like a huge part of the developing voice modulation came once our kids appeared to feel more settled and far less hypervigilant. So I also recommend putting as much energy as possible into helping Seth and Ahren find the comfort to feel settled and let go of their vigilance. Lastly: predictably, the loud speaking resurfaces whenever our kids get super dysregulated. We're five years in with ours, and the loud voices still come back out every once in awhile. It is one of my leading cues that they are feeling scared about something.