Back at the beginning of my blog (oh so long ago in July) I wrote a post about Ben and his journey out of the darkness. Well, he is completely and truly all the way back into the light. Most of his "old" behaviors, especially all the ones we didn't want, have reasserted themselves. He's HAPPY now. He was doing the "river dance" when he was mad; now he does it when he's happy too. Paired with the excessive raspberry spitting and you have a true river dance on your hands, and face, and clothes, ... HA HA. The spitting means he's super super happy, or trying to "mark" his (and your) food so no one else eats it. He's back to responding consistently to transition cues and using his environmentally placed picture symbols to make requests. He is helping himself again and initiating interactions and requests. Did I say that he's happy? He's even interested in doing more than just sitting on his hands. Yesterday at the movie theater while watching Madagascar 2, he decided to ride his seat like a pony. He accidentally made his seat bounce, got a very intense look on his face, then very carefully and very deliberately DID IT AGAIN...and AGAIN...and AGAIN. Had me and his para slitting our sides laughing. And the other day I off handedly remarked that he needed to bring his chair to morning meeting, more to cue the para than anything, and turned around to find him CARRYING HIS CHAIR across the room. He's NEVER done that before. The boy has a severe hearing impairment. He almost never responds to even simple verbal commands like sit down. WOW!
Now for the not-so-fun side of Ben waking up. Yeah, the spitting is an issue but it's one we can deal with. The real problem is his inner bully has reasserted its big bad self. Right now Ben is being very territorial. The treasured sensory room time? Bah! Who wants the sensory room? Ben wants the SWING with chimes to kick and swing into. Not only does Ben want the swing ALL THE TIME but he also doesn't want anyone else to have it. He will happily leave the swing to go do his work, eat, bathroom, or whatever else we ask, as long as no one else gets in while he's gone. Remember, I have 4 other students at the moment, two of whom use the swing set for standing and one who likes to swing as much as Ben does. He got VERY VERY MAD today when Nicki got the swing at the end of the day. He spent 45 minutes variously shoving picture symbols at us (didn't matter which one, he was bringing them all to us; remember our grab and go system? It got grabbed and went today) and grabbing someone and dragging them over to Nicki in the swing and insisting we take her out and let him in (mind you, he'd probably spent over 2 total hours in the swing today). When that didn't work or we ignored him, he would go over and try to pull Nicki out himself. As we discovered, he is actually big enough to do this now (don't worry, Nicki was never in any danger). Meanwhile Miss Nicki was merrily hitting her step-by-step that alternated between saying "more swing" and singing "I've got the swing and you don't, nah nah nah nah nah nah) and laughing her head off (every time Ben tried to pull her out of the swing she got a free push). We took Ben on walks, gave him alternative activities to do including some favorites he hardly ever gets, offered special snacks, and anything else we could think of. Finally I had to get right in his face and tell him quite firmly ("mean teacher" face and voice) that he was NOT getting the swing and to GO AWAY. He looked at me, river danced, then turned around and STOMPED to his favorite comfy chair and pouted, for about 5 minutes. About this time Nicki had to get her coat on to go home so got out of the swing. Ben promptly ran over to get in. I got there first and put the swing out of reach (his bus was due). What does the little bugger do? Does he get mad? Does he request the swing? NO. He happily snorts, spits, and goes to his comfy chair and LAUGHS. His problem was solved as far as he was concerned.
So now we get to enjoy the odyssey of teaching Ben that he does not rule the universe and that sometimes he has to share. Nor does he always get everything he asks for when he requests it. Sometimes the answer is "no" and you have to move on. We spend so much time teaching these guys the power of communication through offering the opportunity to request what they want then giving it to them immediately. When they finally "get it" the rules change on them. Pair that with dealing with a very stubborn and very strong teenager, and, well, things can get very interesting. It's so hard to grow up.