Friday, March 18, 2011

sometimes its so simple

Sometimes it's really hard. And sometimes it's so simple.

Genea has an issue. She cannot, canNOT occupy herself. No can do, no sir. Throughout the day, every day, she paces back and forth with nothing to do. I know, all kids do this. The difference is that most kids will eventually learn, or follow suggestions, or sit in a corner or something. When Genea does not know what to do, she paces. We have one of those open floor plan homes so her pacing path is a long one. Walking back and forth, back and forth, back again. Forth again. Oh my lands, sometimes I will sit there and count the number of times. Of course her path goes directly in front of me. She tries to make it look like she has something supremely important to do across the room. She paces across to the table and inspects a place mat. Then she paces back across the room and very importantly touches a pillow. Back across again to look out the window. Across again to pick up a crayon, look at it and set it back down. 400 times an hour. Many times I give her some ideas. Go clean your room is always one of the ideas. I think it makes the other suggestions more appealing.

The difference with Genea from most "regular" kids, is that Genea has one option that other kids only use in an emergency. The all- purpose fit. The wango tango. When she cannot figure out what to do with herself and will not take suggestions, she pulls out her favorite trick, the one I like to call The Set Up. She asks for something she knows she cannot have, something she knows she cannot do, something that is not hers. Something she knows damn good and well is going to elicit the answer "no". And then woo hoo, duck and run people because here it comes. 

Note though, that the wango tango serves a purpose. Genea starts to feel anxious that she has nothing to do. There is no expectation of her at the time and she gets nervous. With no one telling her what to do or scheduling her time for her she feels unsafe. Events cannot be predicted when she does not have them laid out for her. Firing up with the wango tango gives her a predictable series of actions and reactions to engage in, and that is safe. Remember your RAD Rule #1: There is no such thing as negative or positive attention. There is only attention. 

Recently I sat down with her and we made a list. She told me the things she can do when she is looking for something to do, and I wrote them down. I added a few ideas of my own, since I am the Mom and that is my right. Such as clean the cat box. She listed things like do a puzzle, read a magazine, play a game by herself. 

So. Simple.

Now she carries her list around and refers to it. Somehow having in writing all the things she likes to do gives her the ability to choose one of them.

It has not always been the case that she would respond to something like this. In the past she might have ripped up the paper. Or refused to do anything on it while waving it in my face. Or wango tango'd at the suggestion of looking at it. So while it is definitely a simple idea it is not one that would have worked say, 2 years ago. 

If your child cannot read, or cannot read well enough to process a list like this, you can always use pictures. Cut them out from a magazine or catalog, or use the internet to find a picture of "Lego's" for example and print it out. I've used that trick with children with Autism (well, many people have used that trick and I just copied it). You can lay them out, or put them in a jar for the child to pick from. You can put out 3 choices, or 10 or whatever your child can handle. Genea, she likes to see everything at one time. Knowing there might be more than the choices she is given would whip her up. Putting the ideas in a jar and having her select one, dang, that would surely set off an epic fit. You can rest assured whatever she did not pick would be the thing she wanted.

Do what works. Know that it may not work the next time. Be willing to try again.


  1. That is just awesome! What a good idea! I am so glad it works. And I bet having it written on the page helps her feel like she has some control over deciding what to do. I wonder if she'll ever pick "clean the cat box..."

  2. I love that idea!!! Thanks for sharing :) I am always offering up a Clean Your Room or Make Your Bed when my kids (Radlet or not) are looking for something to do :)

  3. Genius. Sheer genius. And I love your explanation of the "set up" and why she needs to have her fits. Wow. You totally understand her. I find this so helpful.


  4. Genius. You are a genius. Genea is so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so much like my Phineas. Let's never ever never ever never ever let them date. Never. It would be scary.

  5. You are writing about Princess. I am not kidding.

    We had something similar last summer called "the box." I wrote 5000 things to do on index cards, color-coded by type of activity. It worked unbelievably well. There were only two problems:
    1. She only ever used two of the cards. They both involved me having to spend more time setting up the activity than she actually spent doing it. Those two cards will disappear when I find The Box because
    2. I haven't seen it since we moved in the fall.

  6. This is a very good idea. I wonder if it would work on my 18 year old. He would probably lose the cards. :)

  7. You have totally described my ten year old son! Thank you, Thank you for the great idea! I am going to have this ready to share with him tmm morning!
    P.S. LOVED meeting you in Orlando!!

  8. Great idea! My 4-year-old has the same problem.

  9. First day of spring break here and I have been banging my head against the wall in frustration over my children's lack of ability to entertain themselves. We especially struggle with "quiet time," which is when I take a nap. They are allowed to play whatever they want in the house, as long as it's relatively quiet, and isn't screen time. But they go bonkers. Even when I give them an activity to DO while I'm napping. They want me there doing it WITH them, which is sweet and great and all, but sometimes a mommy needs a little break. I'm already trying to brainstorm survival techniques for the summer.

  10. Our kids would do that too. Pace around in a circle, but in our case it was ADD/ADHD hyperactivity mixed in with some nervousness. When they were first home they would pace and be nervous if they didn't know what was coming next. Slowly that changed. Although sometimes an occassional worry will creep in and they will ask me repeatedly what to do, what we are going to do, etc.

    I really like your idea of a jar though. I believe I am going to try that, but I can guarantee we'll have the same reaction Genea would.

    I have had some of the same issues as to the set up, and what cracks me up is they really think I don't know what they are doing, LOL.


  11. Anastasia has a list like that, which she uses when she is feeling dysregulate.

    But your writing this reminds me of the way I feel when I have free time....really similar! Except my issue is that I have SO MANY things I want to do that I can't choose one, and am almost immobilized. I expect I have some free radlets running through my blood, as I was left in the hospital for the first month of my life, while my mom recouperated from an maybe I've discovered them!

  12. OOoo! I like that idea! Thanks for sharing. We are a mere 3.5 hours into Spring Break (and, seriously, what f***tardmoron came up with the Spring Break idea/!?) and Keenan is already wearing out the floor and "bored."


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