I always try to be positive when talking to others about Fragile X syndrome. When I share my stories I try to make them funny or put a comical spin on them. Sometimes though it can be really hard to see things positively or comical. Jackson has some behaviors that can hurt or drive you completely insane, sometimes both at the same time. It is really hard sometimes to keep calm and not have a negative reaction.
Jackson is a master at pulling hair and he can grab that one spot on your head that makes you drop to your knees. Sometimes it takes another person to help free his hands because he grabs you with both of them. If you ask him nicely to stop, he pulls harder. He also might throw himself to the ground while latched on, or put his feet into you and pushes outward against your body. He has also grabbed my hair and pulled his head into mine like an extreme head butt. Sometimes you can see it coming because perhaps he isn’t getting his way, or if you get too close it makes him anxious. He doesn’t like people to be too close. Other times the hair pulling seems to come from nowhere. Maybe he was hurt and you are comforting him, or you are playing with him and he is laughing and having a good time. When you are public people just stare at you as though they have never seen a child pull hair before. I try not to worry about those people who appear to be judging us. It makes you just want to cry either because he pulled too hard, or because you are so tired of having to pull him off. We have tried to track what triggers him to revert to hair pulling, but sometimes it is very impulsive with no rhyme or reason. There are days that the hair pulling drives you completely insane making it hard to not yell at him or the person who might be helping you out. We are at a loss as what to do to keep him from doing it. The answer is not pulling his hair back for those who are thinking that, although I will admit I have tried that and it did not work. We will continue to try the suggestions our providers continue to give us.
If Jackson isn’t getting his way he reverts to head banging. This is something he has done since he was around a year and half. He sometimes sports a bruise on the middle of his forehead. Our last trip an ER a nurse asked us if someone hits him, she quickly followed that statement with saying that is something they ask everyone. We have been to the ER a few times in last few years and that is the first time anyone has ever asked that, so it took me a little off guard. Recently though Jackson has been swatting at or hitting, mostly at us. This usually happens if you try to redirect the head banging or hair pulling. The swatting is newer and it isn’t that frequent, but I worry about it happening at school. School says he doesn’t bang his head or swat at anyone, so I guess he saves that all up for us.
Then there are some of the things that drive me insane. Jackson has the ability to clear things off everything… shelves, tables, and counter tops are a few examples. Because of this unique ability, if you visit our house you will notice everything is up very high or you just don’t see much in our house. We do have things, I promise…they are just all put away. I have had friends tell me not to worry that all kids are like that, but I really don’t think they understand. When I say clear everything, I mean everything. If it is within reach it will be swiped off in less than .2 of a second. We give people heads up of this ability, especially when we go out to eat, but by the time food is ready to come to the table and all seems to be lost our server. Please all waitresses and waiters please don’t try to server our food over our sons head or stick anything right in front of him. We had a waitress deliver hot soup right across Jackson and try to hand it to Sara when all she had to do is walk over to Sara’s side of the table and give it straight to her. Jackson swiped the bowl of soup and it burned his hand, but of course we are the ones left apologizing. In our house all of Jackson’s books are put away in a cabinet, his toys in bins. Our bathroom sink only has hand soap on the counter. Our decorative shelf is empty unless we have a house showing, we even had to remove the individual selves in the middle because he figured out how to lift them up and drop them.
Jackson also likes to knock things over like chairs, lamps, trash cans, and plants. You can redirect him away from the tipping object and send him to his preferred activities, but he will go right back to it. Jackson is an awesome bait and switcher. We have to put our dining room chairs away until company comes to visit. The kitchen is locked off with baby gates. Pillows are not to be on couch, they are to be thrown over banister and down the stairs along with TV remotes, cell phones, or anything that he gets his hands on. Every door in our house is closed and he is close to figuring out how to open them. Not looking forward to that day. Seriously it is super extreme, my son is the Tasmanian Devil and he does these activities with a giggle and a smile. I grew up watching my siblings and toddlers in my neighborhood; and I don’t recall it ever being this extreme. So when others say to me, “Oh he is just a boy or he is just a 3 year old, all 3 year olds are like this..” I laugh and think to myself, “I dare you to invite us over…” Most 3 year olds I have encountered in my lifetime even those who have behavior quirks can be explained to why this is not an acceptable behavior and once they experience consequence like a timeout they most of the time they learn not to do that behavior again. I wish a timeout would work in my house. Please don’t tell me to spank or discipline my child. Most of the time the behavior is attention seeking, so even if you give the child a negative response they are still getting what they want which is attention in the first place. I have gone to a few behavior workshops and a parent training program on autism and autistic like behaviors, I personally think all parents should attend such programs if possible. If you are going to give me input on how you would handle these behaviors then come take a class or attend a workshop with us. Now I am sounding like I am ranting and venting, which is not my intention. What I am trying to say is sometimes it can be so hard.
Sara and I attended a Fragile X behavior workshop last year and learned so much from this. We both felt overwhelmed with information when we left, which is a good thing. One thing that stuck out is that it is easier to change the environment than it is to change the behavior; however this is easy to forget when the behavior is present. The shelf clearing I mention above, Jackson is not the first fragile x kid with that talent. We know that fragile X syndrome can exhibit many challenging behaviors, but we really worry about the aggressive behaviors. The hardest part is figuring out what triggers the behavior because there are so many factors that can cause these behaviors. Jackson seeks a lot of sensory integration and we give him tons of throughout the day. Jackson has an indoor swing, a brush for his hands and arms to be tickled (or our hands work as good tickling devices), he also likes to get squeezes and rolled on (I am a human steam roller), he has an indoor trampoline, his chewy tubes are amazing, and he has a rocking horse. All these things help with all his sensory needs. I am really looking forward to our trip to Chicago to visit Jackson’s FX doctor over the Memorial Day weekend. We have so much we want to ask, especially now with Jackson’s seizures. We will also have time to talk about his behaviors and medicines. I am also looking forward to going to Miami for the FX conference in July. We are going as a family and there are so many sessions that we can attend. I am so grateful for these wonderful opportunities to learn and discuss things that can help my son succeed. No one said parenthood was easy...