Ever since Elijah was diagnosed as having a Nonverbal Learning Disorder, we have been doing our best to learn to think the way he does. It's not easy! He processes information in such a unique (to us) way, and it has been really difficult for me to understand that I need to change the way I interact with him. I find myself doing the same things I've always done, and getting the same results I've always gotten.
Over the past week or so, I have been thinking a lot about potty training and how we are basically in the same spot with E that we were two or even three years ago. I've felt in my gut that this just HAS to be related to the NLD. Something isn't connecting. The ONLY time Elijah uses the toilet is when we ask/tell him to. Before this week, he literally never went on his own, which has resulted in soooo many accidents and tears, and so much frustration over the years. Oh you guys, you have no idea how much poop and pee Dan and I have screamed and cried over. It's been such a grueling and long road in that department.
I had the thought a few days ago that first and foremost we need to get him to LISTEN TO HIS BODY before anything else. For two days, I set the timer on our microwave every 10 minutes. When the timer went off, I'd tell him to ask his body, "Do you need to pee or poop?" We even came up with a fun gravelly voice that his body uses to respond back to him. "No Elijah, I do not have to go pee or poop right now." A couple times a day, his body would actually say, "Yes! I do have to go!" and he'd run off to the bathroom.
For the past few days, instead of using the timer I've just been asking him about every 20-30 minutes what his body is telling him. He has continued to use the toilet ON HIS OWN when his body tells him it has to go! This is incredible! A couple times he has even done the body check on his own, without my prompting, followed by a trip to the bathroom. And get this! Today after school he told me that he did a body check during school and his body told him he had to pee. He raised his hand and asked his teacher if he could go to the bathroom. She said no. Darn. He asked again and she let him go. MAJOR SUCCESS! All along we've been dictating when he uses the bathroom, not teaching him that he needs to listen to his body first. For most people this is something that comes naturally, but Elijah needed for us to tell him what step 1 was. COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR BODY.
This morning we were in a hurry to get out the door, so without thinking I told Elijah that he needed to go potty QUICKLY. He started crying and yelling, "BUT I DON'T HAVE TO!" and flopping around on the floor. This is a typical scenario in our home that has gone down about 3,000 times over the years. We fight over using the bathroom many times/day. I started doing what I normally do. I gave him a choice: go potty or sit in a chair by himself until he's ready to go. I started to walk into the bathroom when I heard him say between screams, "Mommy, snuggle me!" I stopped, turned around and knelt down and gave him a huge, hard hug. Once he calmed down I told him I didn't blame him for being frustrated and confused! For the past few days I'd been telling him to go to the bathroom when his body felt like it had to go. And now I was telling him to go when his body didn't need to! I explained to him that there are two times that we go potty. When we need to and when we know we'll be away from the house for a while. I think he will just need to hear these two rules spoken to him a number of times, and then he'll be able to categorize Potty Rule 1 and Potty Rule 2.
I've also taken a different approach to his "okay" and "bad" days at school. Instead of expressing immediate disappointment and removing privileges like I used to, I'll now sit down with him and calmly ask what his teacher didn't like about his day. He is MUCH more willing to tell me details when steam isn't pouring out of my ears. "Some other kids were telling me to do blurt-outs and I did!" Having specific details, we can sit and talk about strategies to make things better the next day. "If your friends tell you to do that again, tell them 'no' and then raise your hand and ask for help."
Another thing I've started doing is instead of freaking out or giving threats when I hear potty talk or bad words, I will offer an immediate alternative. So far it's working great! Tonight I heard him get frustrated and say, "STUPID!" I said, "No, that's icky. How about 'fiddlesticks!'" and he happily repeated it. As the doctor told us and as I've been reading, we need to repeat positive things to him CONSTANTLY until they become ingrained. I've also been rewarding him for positive responses/reactions with computer/iPad time or candy or playtime/coloring/legos or anything he enjoys.
Slowly this is all making more sense. It feels good to grasp even a tiny bit more of it each day! I've started reading a book about NLD that is super helpful. I'd love it if everyone who cared about/for Elijah read it, but instead I'll just offer up a synopsis when I'm done. :) Today was a MUCH better day than yesterday. I think God knew I needed a day of progress and positivity.
The boys are in bed, so it's relax-time for me! Have a great evening!