Music and Violence

My Leelo. How sweet and wonderful he is when he is sweet and wonderful.

This is how me and my boy spent yesterday afternoon: lobbing vocal riffs at each other. Notice his recurring eye contact, his checking in, his desire to interact with me. This is not a remote boy. This is a boy who loves to play with the mother who adores him:

Leelo is out of school for several weeks, and at the moment is spending most of his time with me. This can be lovely. Today we went over to Ep's house to feed her cats, inject the diabetic one with insulin, empty the litter box, rain hellfire on the house-invading ants, and let Leelo and Mali frolic on the playground that used to be theirs. Leelo was visibly pleased to be in his old yard, and spent ten minutes snuggling in my lap under the oak trees, as a eucalyptus breeze wafted by and quail wove in and out of the nearby bushes. It was heavenly.

Contrast this with his sudden eruptions of such intense violence that they surprised Supervisor E, a veteran behavioralist with a specialty in curbing aggression.

Supervisor E came by yesterday to work with me and Leelo on food tolerance, his home-based visual schedule, my supervision and implementation of his independent work, and the violence. We had had a mellow and productive morning, initially. I set us some sequence-based fun tasks for him, and he spent fifteen minutes working completely on his own with only a single verbal prompt. I loaded TeachTown on the computer, and he successfully completed a nine-minute session without any input from us.

Then I sat next to him and told him that we needed to go downstairs. In less than a second he had grabbed me by the front and back of my neck, and was squeezing as hard as he could. Thankfully he is still a relatively small boy, with small hands, so I have only scratches and bruises. I reacted as I always do to his violence towards me: neutrality, no reaction other hand-over-hand placing his hands back at his side, and saying "Hands down, Leelo."

This is not the right approach, says Supervisor E. I should step up or back from him -- put distance between us -- and change my tone of voice. I should not be angry, but I should be firm and direct in staying "STOP." He needs to see that I am not approving of his behavior, and/or that it is not going to get him what he wants.

Neutrality and ignoring his behavior are appropriate when he targets anyone else, though, as he usually does so to make them react or get my attention. So if he does get one of his sisters, I am to go to them, comfort them, and turn my back/not react to him. If turning my back is safe at the time, that is; I have made it a policy to try to keep him in my sights.

Not that any of this helps when we retrieve his sisters from camp in the middle of the day and he throws a fit -- I can't let go of his hand, and I can't ignore him. What I need to do is ask the camp counselors to get my girls ready and hand them off to me when I arrive. There can be no waiting around. It needs to be a surgical strike, so that Leelo's dissatisfaction has no time to register before we're back in the car.

I know that Leelo is not the only one having a hard time with school being out of session. He is not the only one whose family and siblings are also having a hard time. I would be very interested to hear what other people are doing, how they are handling these really difficult dog days of summer.

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  1. Medication. The summer is the straw that broke the camel's back and made us go on Abilify. I am not happy about it but am happy with the results we are seeing so far. I hate, hate, hate summer.

  2. Trying not to lose our minds.
    I love the video of Leelo. It was lovely hearing and seeing the give and take of the music. You two sounded wonderful.

  3. Anonymous9:33 PM

    I have a room reserved for a 72 hour hold Psych. Unit at Valley Medical Hospital.

  4. Anonymous10:41 PM

    Leelo has a pretty voice.


  5. ::speechless::

    Leelo's got talent.

    ((duh)) ((said the music teacher))
    we really need to work together.

  6. Your question about how others are surviving summer....answer: trying Celexa with my boy and it may be working. Hired extra help.. his old tutor who is so good with him. We don't have regular ABA but this tutor takes him swimming, to the park, to lunch. He has a better rapport with my son than I do.

  7. Thank you, everyone; I am so grateful to you for sharing this raw & tender part of your lives. I really do wonder if more meds are in Leelo's future.

  8. Anonymous5:36 PM

    Your singing together is so sweet!

  9. Regional Center-funded sleepaway camp for 5 days/nights ;-)

  10. I loved watching the video and seeing how Leelo made eye contact each time the tune changed.

  11. Just found your blog and read back through your recent posts. None of my siblings have autism but we have a variety of other issues and most of us have trouble with change in routine (like school being out). My Mom and Dad keep schedules that are posted in great detail in the kitchen. We stick to the schedules as much as possible and that helps a lot. Also having adult siblings around to help out seems to make my parents' lives easier. Thanks for sharing!


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