Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Burning dollars

Nearly from the beginning my own psychological/spiritual awakening process has seemed in parallel with Scott's. The dream I took to Sharon, my counselor, the first time I'd seen her in 13 years had Scott, danger, and indecision at its core.

For years, even before having children I was fascinated with the neurological processes that result in the behavior we manifest. As I've mentioned before, having children has been an opportunity to see these descriptions come to life, and to see the rather deceptive facade that apparent behavior presents. Books that were very helpful in articulating my understanding were "Listening to Prozac" by Peter Kramer, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" by Mark Haddon, and any of the number of books by Temple Grandin.

Observing children, and their development, I see a stage where they have not yet developed a sort of internal narrative in which context to place the moment-by-moment events.

Suppose a child is waiting in line to get on a merry-go-round. This waiting has in itself been a trial for the child's immediate desire to be satisfied. He's been restless, fussy. Some might see that as a discipline problem. Some may see it as inadequate parenting. Some might understand that this little person hasn't yet learned how to manage the anxiety that desire can create. Some understand that some children have a higher tolerance to the anxiety such situations can cause.

So this child is about to get her turn, and then the gate is shut. The merry-go-round is full, and the child will need to wait longer yet. Here's an argument for schadenfreude being inborn. The child immediately ahead in line, the one who was last to go in may find pleasure in the first child's disappointment. The happy child on the ride might stick his tongue out at the other, perhaps every time the circle goes round. This might be nearly unbearable for the child left behind.

An older child, or more tolerant child may have a narrative in place. Waiting may still be difficult, but she has an internal narrative that understands the way the 'story' goes. Each moment is not eternal torment, but does indeed lead to a bigger reality of moving up in line and finally achieving the heart's desire. This narrative can sustain a waiting child so he is not stabbed so cruelly by the pain of frustration.

What I have noticed in Scott is that he doesn't yet have a sense of a bigger narrative in regards to school, and other situations. And this may be a result of his mind racing so quickly that he is unable to take in the features that would sketch in the outlines of the larger narrative so he can perceive it. So he is tortured by the jabs of the moment, the sounds of other children's voices, the hubbub around him. He is unable to contextualize it into a bigger story, and thus sublimate the discomforts. So he is at the mercy of every moment, and every distraction in it.

The extent to which he has controlled his behavior while being in a situation with little reward for him still impresses me. I see what it costs him to govern his behavior in class. I feel urgency for him, that while we have this window of his good will and innocence that we find a way for him to get some intrinsic reward from school. I've been extrinsically rewarding him with treats at the end of 'good' days at school. But ultimately he's going to need more than this to sustain his patience. His use of precious self-control is being squandered in just keeping him at baseline. It's like burning dollar bills for heat.

However, I feel that at this school, the adults he is with see beneath the mask of his adhd. I believe they see through to the person he is inside. They don't see him as Behavior Problem; and now that he has a diagnosis, they don't see him as his diagnosis. They see Him. I'm grateful for this.

I realize I need to slow my brain down too. I need to find a way to hold myself still long enough that I can also see the outlines of a larger narrative to place these events and these questions into. My son needs me to be providing the support of a more encompassing context, and I need it too.

Somehow that seems to involve slowing down something internally.

Something to talk about with Sharon tonight.


Mrs. Spit said...

I was just wondering, it's Wednesday - I wonder what Excavator is up to, and if the new baby sitter is working out.

You raise some interesting points. Both about Scott, and about how when things change, big things, we lose our bigger narrative, and how, I think, sometimes we just can't figure out how to get it back.

excavator said...

Well hi! How nice of you to ask, Mrs. Spit.

I didn't need the babysitter tonight. Gary came home early on to meet with someone who was going to discuss solar options. He even got home on time for me to leave and be on time for my appointment without stress.

And, this is Connor's last week of football. This means I no longer need a babysitter for Wednesday nights. That's a good feeling.

I guess sometimes when big things change, the loss of our bigger narrative is the bigger narrative. We have the often painful task of making a part of us something we may not have wanted to happen in the first place.

You write about that so beautifully, and with such grace, that I want to return again and again (even if I haven't been by lately). (But I'll always come back.)

Mercurious said...

Interesting points.

I've often thought that ADHD isn't so much about a deficit of anything, but rather having too much of a certain energy that causes the mind to be interested in too many things all at once.

Attention-deficit, it seems to me, could just as easily be described as interest-excess.

excavator said...

Hi, Mercurious. In reading Temple Grandin, I get this perspective: that one of the things a functioning nervous system does is filter out extraneous elements from the mass of input from the environment. Her theory is that an autistic or adhd child (actually, she didn't name adhd--but I think it applies) has increased sensitivity: less filtering of stimulation=an overwhelming amount of sensory bombardment.

Which is similar to what you're saying, and different too.