Judging by my last couple of posts you might be led to believe that Oliver still has tremendous challenges in self-regulation. And for the most part you would be right. But interestingly, this is an area where I also saw some growth this past week.
On Friday (which was when we were just starting to resolve things) we had some friends drop in just as we were finishing dinner. These are good friends of ours -- the kind of friends who know it is OK to just come by if they are in the neighborhood; the kind of friends who help themselves to a taste of whatever is cooking on the stove. One of the reasons I love these friends is because they ask the questions that other people might be afraid to ask. They always address Oliver as they would any other kid, they don't pretend that he isn't in the room just because he doesn't talk to them. And the male part of this couple always makes a special effort with Oliver. On this particular day, however, it didn't work. Oliver became so dysregulated that he actually bit him. Lucky he is missing two of his bigger teeth at the moment :-) When I told Oliver to apologize, he did, but then completely melted down. So I took him upstairs and we sat together watching YouTube clips of sesame street. I kept saying to Oliver: "Don't worry. We can stay here for as long as you want." Then, after each short video I would ask: "Are you ready to go back downstairs?" and Oliver would answer: "No. Stay Here." Then, after the third or fourth clip I asked him: "Are you ready yet to go downstairs?" and he said: "Yes!" Then he got off my lap, went downstairs and was fine for the rest of the visit.
On Sunday a similar thing happened. We went to a seasonal park that we had gone to a few times last year. The place is fantastic. They have a giant, underground slide that you go down on burlap sacks, pots and pans strung up that you can hit with giant sticks to make music, a tractor pulling a mini cow-train, animals made out of corn stalks that you can "ride", goats to feed, mini corn mazes, giant catapults, a full scale merry-go-round -- well, you get the picture. Anyway, Oliver LOVES this place and when we pulled up he couldn't get out of his seat fast enough. But almost immediately he began to sob intermittently. Nik kept shooting me quizzical looks: "What gives?" My theory is that he was so happy and so excited that he was just overwhelmed. So I took him to a quiet swing and did just as I had two nights before. I told him that he could stay there as long as he liked, that I would stay with him and we would swing together. Off and on I would ask him if he was ready to move on and he always answered: "No! Stay Here." Then, when he was ready, he said: "Let's go!" He was completely fine for the rest of the time there. In fact, we stayed almost three hours and they didn't want to leave.
So is this self-regulation? Oliver obviously understood that he just needed some time to get it together. He can also communicate a little bit better these days so that helped. Maybe in the past I hurried him back to joining the fray too quickly? Probably. Definitely. But what excited me was that Oliver now clearly understands when he is and is not emotionally regulated, and he understands what he needs to get regulated: time and space.
After a week of mostly dysregulation, it felt like a huge success.