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How Does Your Engine Run?

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If you are a parent of a special needs child then likely you know exactly how your engine is running. I recently became a parent of a special needs child. My son is eight years old but we just found out this summer (a definitive diagnosis, finally! and it is a doozy) that my son has Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, Dyslexia, motor coordination disorder, and possibly OCD. I can’t even begin to explain the whirlwind that has been going on in my head since I first heard these words come out of a psychiatrist’s mouth. Surely they must have his chart mixed up with someone else’s. 

We were prescribed occupational therapy. Now, when I think of occupational therapy I think of stroke victims learning how to do their ADLs all over again, or maybe an accident or sports injury victim learning how to walk all over again. I had no idea what to expect when we walked through those doors today.

After a lengthy interview where we discussed some of my son’s problem behaviors and where he needs help, I learned about the engine inside all of us. Let me explain. My son chews on things … constantly. He has ruined many, many shirts. He has chewed through wires, yes wires! If it stops moving long enough he will put it in his mouth. I just assumed that I would learn ways to discourage “chewing” and get him to a more healthy acceptable behavior. Imagine my surprise when I was told that they would give him a “chewy” before we leave today. What the @#$%?

Yes, it seems that as a form of self-regulating that some children chew things to slow their engines down. Now this is a totally new concept for me! I am shown a chart that has “How Is Your Engine Running?” at the top and a line graph with HIGH, LOW and JUST RIGHT (right in the middle). The goal is to keep your engine running JUST RIGHT. As adults, we self-regulate all the time without even thinking about it. Did you ever pop some candy or gum in your mouth to help you stay awake while driving? Well that, my friend, is self regulating, and some children need to be taught how to do it. 

I say “we” were prescribed occupational therapy because it seems that this is a family affair. I am encouraged to think out loud when my engine is running LOW or HIGH and state what I can do to get it running JUST RIGHT. For example, right now my engine is running very HIGH because I am stressed, confused, and anxious about what I learned today. In the hopes of getting my engine to run JUST RIGHT, I am sitting down with a cup of tea and journaling this article. I am hoping that in about an hour my engine will be running LOW enough for me to go to bed. 

I would like to start a forum: How Is Your Engine Running—the Art of Self-Regulation to get your ideas on what your children (or you) do to get your engine running JUST RIGHT. I am at a loss here and it’s going to be a learning process as we go along I’m sure. As I guide my son through the art of self-regulation (with “chewy” in hand), I could use all the help I can get with your ideas. As my son also has ADHD he will get bored using the same tricks all the time. Look for the forum once this is published.

Then there is another side of this ugly coin: medication. He was prescribed medication to help him to focus better. It was explained to me that this medication will help to “connect” the circuits in his brain that are “misfiring.” I have had the prescription for two weeks and still haven’t filled it yet. Mind you, I am on enough medications to kill a horse but when I think about putting my little baby on something that alters the brain chemistry, my engine starts racing!  On the other hand, am I slighting him if I don’t give him that chance? If this is truly the ticket to help him to focus then this impacts not only his schoolwork but his chances to succeed in the future. Not only is my engine now racing but it is running on wacky track as well. (You Thomas the Tank Engine fans will know what I mean!)

On a side note, I found a couple of great books on Asperger’s Syndrome and thankfully my son’s case is not very severe. Some great reads are Can I Tell You About Asperger’s by Jude Welton and All Cats Have Aspergers by Kathy Hoopman. They are very informative and geared towards the younger children in helping them to understand what is going on with them and why they are different from other children.

How is your engine running?


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