Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Age appropriate behaviours

Peter has been living with us nearly five weeks now, and we're really proud of how much progress he's making. He's very delayed in most areas but it can be difficult to judge some things, as even some "normal" four year old behaviours can have very different meanings when taken in the context of Peter's past experiences, additional needs and high stress/anxiety levels when he arrived. We're now starting to see:

Pushing boundaries - he's testing Esmeralda and I to make sure that we always react the same way to his behaviour, so that he feels safe and secure. Unpredictability, inconsistency, anger etc. from adults are all very frightening, so he needs to know we're going to be calm, consistent and in control.

Refusing main meals in favour of pudding - this is actually a massive breakthrough for Peter (although can be annoying for us!) and means that he now trusts us enough that we will continue to provide him with food.  In common with many children in care, food has been one of his big anxieties and he's taking a risk refusing a meal, but he feels secure enough in our daily routine that the next meal will appear as usual.

Running off in the park… and returning! - this is another huge breakthrough and is still nerve wracking each time we test it by continuing to walk and pretending that we're not looking to see where he is. He's getting to know that we are "his" safe adults and wants to return to us.

Independent play when out of the house - this has only really started in the last week. He now no longer needs to always keep us by his side or in sight, and will go off and play by himself for short bursts at soft play. When he wants company or help, he will come and fetch us (usually both of us) and lead us by the hand. He likes to walk with each of us holding one of his hands, it's very sweet!

Imaginative play - this is a big thing for Peter specifically, as his diagnosis of severe autism means this sort of play would usually be unlikely. We've seen him pretending to cook and taste his concoctions on a toy kitchen, he pushes cars and trains around, flies helicopters, planes and rockets in the air and gallops toy horses across the floor.

And the big one… tantrums! Progress is being made here too as he settles. We're noticing a shift to less "meltdown" type tantrums, and more "goal oriented" tantrums, which are completely age appropriate. I never thought I'd get excited about a child shouting and screaming before, but when it's about something he wants but can't have or something he's not allowed to do, he responds to the behaviour being ignored, calms relatively quickly without assistance and accepts a natural consequence (i.e. the TV stays off until all the toys you've just tipped out are tidied up), then we consider it a success!

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