Saturday, December 15, 2007

Drawing Wisdom from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Lonfellow's poem about a young girl:

There Was a Little Girl

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle ofher forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

My application of it regarding my son:

There Was a Little Boy

There was a little boy,
Who could bring a lot of joy,
To everyone in his neighborhood,
When he was good,
He was very, very good,
But when he was bad he was horrid.

An important note: It's not the child who's horrid, it's the behavior that can be difficult for a parent to handle that's horrid. It's important to view such behavior from a child with compassion. A compassionate caregiver will be much more effective than a stressed out one. I know, because I have learned the hard way. My guy usually reacts negatively to stress and can sense it quite easily.

The backstory for my version: When my son first meets a new babysitter or teacher, he is usually on his best behavior. If there is such a person with ASD who can exhibit charm and charisma, it's my son. I warn the babysitters and teachers that they will probably have a grace period (usually lasting about three weeks.) I use this poem as a way to illustrate what may come. It usually gets a smile.

I started using this poem at a time when I'd hold my breath while opening my son's notebook (agenda) to see how his day at school went. Days used to range from great days to ok days to rough days. I used to read about ok and rough days quite a bit. Now he has mostly good to great days. He's not had to ride the bus like he has the previous four or five years and I think that has made quite a difference. He also has a great special ed teacher with whom he has a wonderful relationship.

Maturity has also made a big difference in my son. My nine-year-old has learned to cope some with his disappointments. He still obsesses when he doesn't get what he wants, but he doesn't rage as much as he used to. My husband and I have also learned to spot the triggers and warning signs in order to head off meltdowns. It used to be that we would face a meltdown everyday around 5 p.m on school days. These meltdowns could last an hour or more. Talk about stressful. Now we see them fewer than once a week and the duration of the meltdowns are shorter. I don't know if we can expect to see the meltdowns disappear entirely, but I feel grateful that his behavior has improved a great deal.

The good behaviors have not disappeared. He still has the ability to make people smile and laugh. He truly is :

that little boy,
who can bring a lot of joy,
to everyone in his neighborhood.