I'm learning some things that help explain Missy a little.
I keep saying there is something not working right in her brain but I have had so little understanding of what it is exactly that's screwed and just how that is related to her behavior even though I have been trying to for quite some time. I've been asking where does won't end and can't start? Why are we experiencing 3 to 4 tantrums a day and 2 to 3 rages a week when we have worked so hard to make life as simple as possible for her and fine-tuned the routine to a T? Why does she FIGHT everything so hard all the time? Why is it she seems to make connections theoretically and knows so much and can keep track of everyone else's business and knows what she must do to get from point A to point B and knows the consequences of not making it to point B, but CAN'T get there even when she wants to?
It's played out in the morning routine daily. We have it down to a fine art on paper with little check boxes and an incentive for each and every minute thing. She wants the little treats - sort of, she wants the bigger prize - getting on the bus on time. She does want to get on the bus. She really wants to go to school. She doesn't want to do all the stuff in between necessarily. In fact there are a few things that she WON'T do if she can help it and she will employ every avoidance technique in the book to make sure she doesn't have time to, but I can say that she does want to get to school with clothes on even if sometimes she refuses to get dressed. WHY?
So, I've been searching for an answer. And searching and searching. . . The problem, judging from where I sit, seems to have a hereditary component to it knowing her bio- mother and having heard stories about grandma and others in the family. There's something in common being passed from one generation to the next. So, while I do know the twins have experienced trauma (obviously) and Missy has had actual brain damage from birth and multiple resuscitation, etc..., there is something bigger than that involved because it affects more than just Missy. From everything that I have been told there were no drugs or alcohol in the history. Do what you will with that. There's no way to know the truth, but EVERYONE denies its involvement. Yes, they were drugged up with prescription medication to make them quiet and sleep. This had its effect, but James would be worse off than Missy if that were the greater part of the picture and he is overcoming his obstacles where she is not and maybe that's where the brain damage shows its face in the comparison.
Here's where it starts to get technical. If anybody is still reading, you are welcome to move on.... I write for my own clarification. If you have a kid with these issues maybe you will stick with me and help me sort the problem out. Once we get to the why we will need to know how to handle it in the best possible way.
We're dealing with an executive function deficit of some sort, Or maybe of ALL types. Executive Function development takes place in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain which is more sensitive to stress than any other part of the brain. Any kind of stress will flood the pre-frontal cortex with dopamine and shut down executive functioning... I see this all the time. A stressor comes along (from within, or from without) and BOOM! Instantly the thinking brain is GONE on VACATION! You might as well talk to the wall and cradle the lamp for all that you might try to do with your child to bring them back to rational thinking will NOT WORK. In Missy's case the screaming begins and there's not a thing I can do about it. I cannot get her to deep breath, or calm down in any way. The game is lost and I CANNOT get it back no-how, no-way. My most successful response is to walk away. Anything I try to do makes it worse, so I give her space and time...
I'm pasting a quote here: "Executive functioning is essentially the conscious regulation of
thought, emotion, and behavior (Zelazo, 2010). It is different from what
we usually think of as intelligence, because it is independent of how
much we know. It is an aspect of intelligence in that it involves
expressing or translating what we know into action (Zelazo, 2010)."
This could explain why it seems Missy has the smarts to talk about how things should go logically and yet she can't translate that into action. She has the right answers. She can tell you how something should be done.... She often says, " I want to obey!!!" but often that is as far as it goes... It has been such a mystery why she says that and then plows along to the opposite of what she is declaring she wants to do. She says, "I'm going to do my jobs and be on the bus on time today!!" and then she proceeds to sit there and do nothing to get ready to go, and woe be to anyone who suggests she's not doing something towards making her dream come true. The executive function of being able to PLAN towards her goal is completely missing. This could suggest her concept of the passing of time is warped... Telling her to look at the clock and pointing out what time it is now and what time the bus arrives and telling her to hurry only baths her brain in stress hormones because I think she doesn't know how to translate that into time management. She just goes off into a tantrum. A interesting side to that is, if I ask her drink a cup of water (which she doesn't do on her own without prompting) she will stand there with that cup for an hour or more if I say nothing. If I say "drink it up and hurry" she will become defiant. If I just go over to the stove and put the timer on for 2 minutes she will face the timer and drink the water in 20 seconds flat then continue to stand in front of the timer watching the seconds tick away until it dings.
A friend was watching Missy at church the other day and came to the conclusion that she was minus the ability to make any sort of judgement. Spot on! I hadn't put it into those words before, but it is absolutely true. That would be an executive functioning deficit. Prioritizing, organizing goes along with making judgement.
Shifting and thinking flexibly, being able to access a working memory, impulse control, managing her feelings, initiating tasks are all executive functions...... Life is overwhelming indeed. Some children struggle with one or two of these things. Missy struggles with ALL of it. Oh, and from what I've read, there seems to be a hereditary link to this problem.
"A common denominator and basis of all executive functioning is the
ability to hold things in mind, step back and reflect. Without this
capacity, it is difficult to have perspective, judgment, or control.
Studies with children at different ages before and after executive
development is in place demonstrate that without being able to inhibit
impulses and distractions and hold multiple things in mind, even if we
know what to do and want to do the right thing, that intention may not
translate into behavior (Diamond, 2010; Zelazo, 2010)."
SO OKAY! That was helpful to a certain extent. Now that we know that.... what do I do about it? **sigh** For one, I'm thinking I'm shooting myself in the foot if I am trying to teach her to be responsible in any way at this point. She's missing the tools. I guess that changes the words in my search engine.
Part 2 will happen someday when I figure this out.
Diamond, A. (2010, May). What Do We Know About Child Development and the Brain That Can Help Promote Resilience and Help More Children Be Strong and Joyful? Paper Presented at the Annual International Trauma Conference, Boston, MA.
Zelazo, P.P. (2010, May) Executive Function and Emotion Regulation: A
Developmental Perspective Ph.D. Paper Presented at the Annual
International Trauma Conference, Boston, MA.