He runs to make his mind still, to organize himself and to get rid of the noise from this loud, confusing world. The more he's moved, the more he's introduced patterns and rhythm into his routine. Laps around the house are a daily ritual. He's made it more complex as he's developed, but the basics are the same. There is a pattern of movement -- specific foot patterns based on whatever song or chant he chooses to accompany the run, and he can not be stopped until he is ready to be.

This is James, and this is our story.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

James' bus was 15 minutes late today.  He got off and immediately melted into tears, completely inconsolable.  I tried to get him to tell me what was wrong and he couldn't speak.

When he finally stopped hyperventilating, he told me the bus went the wrong way.  Then he told me he was the last one on the bus when he is usually the first (There are 5 kids on the bus, he is normally somewhere in the middle).  I explained that sometimes drivers need to go a different way, that he was always safe, but he just started crying harder.  

I asked if he was nervous that he was the only one left, or if he was upset it took longer than it should have. He clung to me, and told me that they forgot about him. He then made up all types of different scenarios as to what led to him being the only child on the bus, and each of them was completely different. Then he told me he can't take the bus anymore because there is always going to be something that happens.

The thing is, because he has trouble expressing himself even on a good day, I have to ask leading questions to coax the story out of him.  And most of the time he takes those questions literally, as if I know what the truth is and am feeding it to him. 

I think he is so traumatized by the anxiety that he can't determine what actually happened yet.  Right now he is running laps in the house with such intensity that it is like he thinks he will fall off the face of the earth if he stops.

So, when you have a child who has great difficulty expressing his own thoughts, and is only comfortable answering straight forward questions, and then that child becomes debilitated by anxiety, how do you get to the root of the problem and figure out a way to move forward when only he is the only one who knows what the trouble is?  Does he even know what the trouble is?

Right now I just need to get him back so we can get through tonight, and all the added pressure that comes with homework and reading (of course it is Tony's super late day at work, so hopefully we won't all spiral completely out of control before he gets home).

Thankfully his teacher understands the anxiety that he gets from nightly homework, so we can take small steps tonight, but I realize that I'm basically putting a band-aid on it instead of finding a way to get to the heart of the matter. 

The problem is, I don't know if it is actually possible for us to really get to that.

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