Snippits of thoughts that I have tried to turn into blog posts but can’t, yet:
–Being a middle school or high school girl is hard. I so remember. It’s hard enough for a neurotypical girl, and when you add an autism or other social-communication diagnosis, it makes it that much harder.
–Endings, transitions, change are so hard. We as staff dread the end of the summer – and it’s that much harder on our kids. Who don’t necessarily have a happy transition back to school coming, who might not even know if they’ll make it through this year at school, who don’t have friends to look forward to seeing, who are dreading leaving camp, a place where they have safely been nurtured and gently pushed forward, and observed in a non-judgmental way, and supported no matter what they said or did. And so the transition behaviors we see…well, they just make sense. It makes sense that kids revert to old behaviors that had been extinguished. It makes sense that there is more stimming, more scripting, more tears, more anger, more hitting. It makes sense that there is yelling at friends and staff, trying to burn bridges that were made, because isn’t it easier to leave if you convince yourself there’s nothing behind to miss? We see it every year and it breaks my heart every year because I know that however hard it is for me, it’s a million times harder for them.
–I keep replaying a conversation that we had with one of our 10-year-olds the other day as she struggled through a meltdown. “What do I do when I’m not mad, I’m just sad?!?!” she screamed, as she sobbed and lunged herself at us, trying to find relief. “You have no idea how this feels!!! I’ve never been so mad and it’s all in my body!!” she screamed, as she shook and her teeth chattered. You could see the anger and sadness and despair swirling throughout her body. While we sat with her through it, we took turns calmly empathizing with her. “I do know how that feels,” I softly and slowly told her. “No you don’t!!!!!” I waited. “I do,” I said. “I hate that mad feeling. I know what it’s like to be so mad that the best solution seems to be to use my body to calm myself down.” She stopped screaming and looked at me. My co-worker and I spent the next hour or so empathizing and sharing bits and pieces from our own life, just tidbits that might be helpful, but all the while….my heart was breaking. Because we weren’t lying, we DID know how this girl felt. It’s just that we are able to internalize it. Keep it inside of us. And who knows, who’s to say that’s better? Who’s to say that walking around with panic and anger and despair inside of us is better than screaming and crying and hitting until it all comes out?
—Collaborative Problem Solving works. Like, really, really works. Think back to when you were a kid, or a teen, or even now at work in a meeting. Are you more likely to do something when you are told to do it? Or do you feel better, and are you more likely to agree and compromise when you’ve been able to share your thoughts and feelings, to a non-judging listener, and when you’ve been able to be a part of the solution? Our kids are brilliant. BRILLIANT. And sometimes they just need to be heard. And usually they’re right. Try to compromise with them, let them be heard, and you’ll be astounded at the difference it makes.
–And, a related, reminder: kids are doing the best they can. They really are. They might annoy you, push your buttons, frustrate you beyond belief, but if you see it through the lens of, “They are doing the best they can with what they have,” it helps. (And, as always, a connection to us: we are doing the best we can, with what we have, too.) Compassion, empathy, understanding.