Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Acknowledgement of a Child’s Feelings


Almost one year ago, Owen was threatened by  an adult.  His best friend (who I’m going to call Lola) and her mother (who I’m going to call Jenny) chose not to believe Owen (and Mark).  Both families have not been friends since the incident.  Owen’s confidence was really knocked after this incident and it has taken him months to recover and rebuild his confidence.  A few weeks ago Owen attended a local Home Education event.  Jenny told him to pair up with her child Lola who he had fallen out with.   I was shocked that the mother would have such disregard for Owens and her own daughter’s feelings.  After the event Lola and Owen walked away from each other with very disgruntled faces.  However, the rest of the day seemed to go well and Owen didn’t initially seem to be affected by the incident.  During the days that followed Owen's ‘behaviour’ seemed to rapidly deteriorate.  He was chewing (pica) his clothes again, didn’t want to go out, didn’t want to do anything with me, and seemed withdrawn and angry.  Two days after the event he had his best friend from school over.  They got into a really nasty fight which was started by Owen.  Mark and I managed to get the children to sit down and discuss the problem and they seemed to amicably resolve the problem including an apology from Owen (which came from his rather than being instructed by me).  The following day Owen still seemed frustrated, angry and depressed.  I initially started to look to blame the obvious targets such as too much TV, computer time etc.  Then I sat down to think what had actually happened before the deterioration.  The only event was the home education event where he had been paired up with his ex friend Lola.  Could that incident really be the cause of all these negative feelings?  I used the Liberated Parents, Liberated Children approach of acknowledging his feeling.  I said to him “that must have been confusing when you were paired up with Lola? Owen replied “I WAS TERRIFIED WHEN JENNY TOLD LOLA TO CARRY ME!”  We went on to discuss when the adult threatened him (one year ago) and how he felt let down by me because I insisted he went that day even though he didn’t feel like it.  Again, I acknowledge his feelings and said “it must be awful when your Mum who is supposed to protect you makes you do something that results in you getting hurt”.  He agreed and we discussed some of his bad memories from school sports days.  The discussion wasn’t long and I wondered if it would make any difference.  However, literally within minutes Owen was his chirpy self again.  Imagine the more traditional alternative; Owen hits his friend, I confiscate his Nerf gun and take away computer time, Owen resent me and sinks more into his depression resulting from the home education event!  This incident also reinforced my understanding of superior memory which seems to be common in autism and makes it harder for autistic children to move on after upsetting experiences.

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