The silly 911 script

I’ve written before about scripting, how it’s safe and comforting to our kids, how it’s often a way for us to get “in” to their brain and form a connection, how scripting can be so positive and we should utilize it. (And as a side note, I thought of another real-life example of scripting. When my favorite yoga teacher ends a class, she always, ALWAYS ends it with, “Drink water, be good to yourself.” And it’s a routine and I love when she says it, and if she didn’t, I would feel unsettled)

There’s a script/routine that I do at least once a day with one of my kiddos, Joey [not his real name]. Joey has high anxiety and often feels as though a problem is an emergency, and will react as such. For example, in the past, his anxiety combined with his impulsivity would lead Joey to push a child if he lost a game, call a peer stupid if Joey wasn’t picked to go first, or just get stuck ruminating if he wrote his name messily. Joey has learned all about the problem scale and though in a moment of calm he can understand and identify what’s an emergency and what’s a glitch, and what’s in between, he has a hard time accessing that in the moment.

When I teach the Problem Scale, to any of my kids, I often say that since a number 5 is an emergency type problem, if there’s a problem for which we don’t need to call 911, it’s probably not an emergency (e.g., though your pencil falling on the ground might feel like an emergency, we don’t need 911 to help with it, so we don’t need to react as though it’s an emergency). Joey latched onto this almost as a security blanket, and for whatever reason, it clicked in his brain.

So when a problem arises, like he spills water on his worksheet, he often turns to me and mimics dialing on a phone and says, “Do it, boop boop boop.”

And I hold out my palm like a phone and I pretend to dial and the noise I make for the pretend numbers is, “Boop boop boop.”

I hold up my “phone” to my ear and I say, “Hello, 911? Yes, we have an emergency. Joey spilled water on his sheet. Oh. Really? Hmm. Okay. Thanks. Bye.”

Then I “hang up” and tell Joey, “911 said it’s just a glitch and they don’t need to come.”

And Joey laughs and laughs and then moves right on. Calm. Comforted. Reassured.

We have done this countless times. For not winning a contest, for tearing a corner of his paper by accident, for not getting to have speech one day if there’s an assembly, for losing a game. The script is always the exact same, and it brings Joey comfort. For whatever reason. The reason doesn’t matter.

So yesterday when there was an assembly and a something happened that Joey perceived as upsetting and problematic, he tugged on my sleeve and I knelt down and he mimicked dialing, so we whispered the script to each other – and he was fine. He rocked that assembly and not only was I psyched that the script worked, but I was proud. He sought it out, he used self-advocacy, he knew what he needed and what he needed was reassurance, and this is how he got it. And that is no small accomplishment.

Speech-Language Pathologist. Nature-loving, book-reading, coffee-drinking, mismatched-socks-wearing, Autism-Awesomeness-finder, sensitive-soul Bostonian.

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