An ongoing struggle that I have with my son and his brain disorders are the
behaviors and inabilities that come to follow. Sure every child has issues with not listening, and not wanting to do their chores, but when it comes to children with brain disorders they need a little bit more incentive, effort, and reminding as they do not have the executive functioning ability as other children their age.
A great article to better explain this is “Understanding Executive Functioning Issues” by Amanda Morin from Understood.org (You can find the link for the article at the end of my blog). Executive functioning issues are often found in children with learning and attention issues as well as in children with “neurological conditions, mood disorders, autism and acquired brain injury” (Morin, 2016). Key skills that are affected by executive functioning issues include impulse control, emotional control, flexibility, working memory, self-monitoring, planning and prioritizing, task initiation and organization. This makes everyday tasks such as chores, and homework very difficult for not only my son, but children who also live with brain disorders.
When I give my son a chore it is more like giving myself another chore, sorry if it sound’s snarky but my son cannot compute a two-step command the way we are able to. For example, when I hand my son a pile of his folded laundry and ask him to put it away I should expect that:
A. The clothes will not make it into his drawer
B. The clothes will ALL make it into 1 drawer
C. A meltdown or an emotional reaction will occur while completing such task
I only say this all from experience. I often would get very frustrated with this, especially considering that we have two other children in the same age frame that do tasks with no problem. The big difference is the other two do not have brain disorders, and I often lose sight of that.
The other night after prompting him to put away his clean laundry which was folded, and separated, and I even verbally reminded him where each item went, I discovered that all of his clean clothes were shoved in one drawer, to the extent of breaking the drawer, and some were even strategically shoved in the bedroom closet. I resisted the urge to kick and scream and throw a tantrum myself, instead I walked away as mommy needed a moment.
After a few woo-sah moments I called him into my room where I was finishing up the rest of the laundry. I asked him if he could explain to me what happened, why he wasn’t able to put the clothes where they belonged. I thought it was a simple 1…2…., but what he explained really opened my eyes, and allowed me to get a glimpse of it from his perspective.
1. Pick up clothes
2. Put in drawers
1. Listen to mom when she speaks
2. Mom said to put clothes in the drawers
3. Mom said to remember where all the clothes go
4. Mom said short sleeves in first drawer, long sleeves in second drawer, shorts in third drawer, and pants in fourth drawer.
5. Pick up the clothes off of the bed
6. There folded so don’t drop them
7. Open the door to the downstairs
8. Make sure to close the door for the stairs behind me
9. Don’t drop the clothes down the stairs
10. Open my bedroom door
11. Turn on my bedroom light
12. Put the clothes down
13. Open the drawer
14. Put the short sleeves in the first drawer, long sleeves in second drawer, shorts in third drawer, and pants in fourth drawer.
15. All clothes are put away
16. Close the drawer
See, for us we think it’s a simple task because we look at the larger picture, yet for them the working memory that would allow everything else such as turning the light on to be a knee jerk reaction, actually has to be self-prompted and makes a simple task a complexed one.
Although I was aware of this more or less and have helped him with similar issues, in this moment I honestly lost sight that what I was asking of him was a lot more than he could handle. My solution going forward for the laundry issue is to place all of his clothes on his bed, folded, and labeled with an index card, or verbally prompt him with him visually looking at the clothes on the bed and his dresser. In the past for similar reasons everything in his room was labeled so we agreed that, that may help as well and I will label his drawers for him.
We currently use a lot of visual reminders such as lists, and good behavior sayings posted on the wall to help with managing him, and decided creating a list for not only his laundry chore but for all chores would help, which is another task on the mommy do list.
I included some great visual behavior management/modification tools below which I recommend taking a look at if you are having similar issues as I am.
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