We went to see a pediatrician who specializes in evaluating behavioural issues. He was a referral from our family doctor, who I spoke to about DS’s agression. At first I was apprehensive; sitting in his waiting room I saw formula swag everywhere, even the darned paper on the examining table was from Enfamil. Blech! But turns out the guy spent an unprecedented 45 min with us. When the kids started going loopy in the tiny examination room he sent them out to his assistant who kept them happily occupied while doc and I had a chat.
The results are in: DS does not have any disorders or diagnosable conditions. He is, according to the ped, simply a normal child who has a few “environmental factors” working against him: his immense size, the fact that communication is not his forte, and a very bright and verbal older sister! He said that over the next year DS will develop enough empathy (he’s already showing a few signs of starting) and impulse control to manage the situations better. The doc emphasized that right now these situations are *teaching moments* and that we can either “make or break” him based on how we handle them. The approach he suggested is exactly what we do, removing DS from the immediate conflict situation and then talking with him about what has happened. He emphasized that punishment and scolding would be detrimental (preaching to the choir here). While our talks won’t stop DS from doing it again (as he lacks the ability to control himself that way), with repetition it will get in his head. And when he *does* gain the ability to stop and reflect on his actions prior to committing them, the lessons will come to fruition. I was very relieved when he said that the book he recommends to all parents (I cringed waiting for it…) was Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, which I read and loved (I own his other book, Social Intelligence).
It was very reassuring to hear that there was nothing inherently wrong with DS. DH and I have already talked about getting him some more one-on-one time, and the ped suggested that some part-time preschool with a class of older kids would be beneficial as well. Right now I understandably avoid putting DS in situations where he might hurt another child, but then this removes the opportunity to help guide him through them. In a preschool setting he’d be confronted with such situations regularly and with caregivers who, knowing the issue, can help with the guiding process.
I’ve already had some success doing this on my own. The other day we visited a local playground and met up with many kids coming home from preschool. I stuck close by DS and instead of just steering him away from kids, I let them come close while I lightly embraced DS. When he went to hit or push I gave him words to use instead, which he did. He almost seemed happy to have an alternative, though perhaps I’m projecting that. It was my very dear friend, whose 18 year old son has Asperger Syndrome, who demonstrated the technique for me while we were visiting her last week and DS was getting rough with her little dog (she said the technique grew out of her work with her son, but did not in the least bit suggest DS is autistic; she has long said DS doesn’t fit the profile). It gave me a great deal of confidence to be able to handle the situation at the playground, but of course it is entirely dependent on where we are and how well I’m able to stay close to him while still keeping DD within a safe distance.
I’ve inquired at two local PPP’s but not confident that we’ll find a space this late into the start of the year. If not, that’s okay. I’m happy to continue as we are, but I think DS would enjoy a bit of time in a play-based, enriched environment. And the time alone with DD would be very useful for working on homeschooling projects that DS would interfere with.
Mostly I’m just relieved and feeling more confident that my son is O.K. and will grow out of this, with the continued support of gentle and respectful parenting.