It is amazing sometimes that things come just when you need them. Like today's RDI appointment. I desperately needed some encouragement and reassurance with Reece. It's been frustrating to see so much of what appears to be regression since we've begun our RDI program.
But our consultant today really spotlighted what some of this new behavior might be telling us: that Reece has a new sense of awareness that she was lacking before. So now, instead of just doing her own thing, being in "Reece World" as we usually call it, she is now more aware of other people, of herself, of things happening around her. Our CIT (consultant-in-training) likened it to a blind person suddenly being able to see - it's wonderful, and totally overwhelming at the same time. Also, Reece has a tendency towards OCD and anxiety, so we're going to probably see these things flare up during the times when she is more vulnerable. Like when we are entering a new stage like this one.
Two things we specifically talked about was Reece's reactions to people leaving her. She is incredibly anxious about people leaving, especially daddy. If she hears our front door open, she runs for it, sobbing, begging for a kiss and a hug and "When will you be home?" She does this even if you prepare her for your leaving. She also wakes up in the middle of the night and comes to our room to see if daddy has left for work yet. She wants to remind him to kiss her goodbye in the morning, which she then never remembers because she was sleeping, so then she gets up shortly after he leaves, crying because she can't remember him kissing her goodbye. It's frustrating for all of us! But this is a new awareness of people's existence, that they go away, they come back most of the time, but sometimes it's longer than other times. And for daddy, he now exists at all! She has never been one to give him much attention, and that is no longer the case! Bottom line: we have separation anxiety in an almost 6 year old! :)
Another thing we talked about was Reece's awareness of danger. She has never had one. I remember walking around the playground when Austin took tennis lessons at a park, and Reece would climb up on the play structure and just walk off the edges of it, despite them being 6-7 feet off the ground. I'd walk around trying to keep up with her to make sure she didn't fall. It was terrible! She would also constantly walk into the street in front of our house, without regard to the fact that I'd take her inside immediately, or that she could get hit by a car. Today we were trying to decide whether or not we could master Reece on this stage 1 objective. I said I was unsure. In some ways, she is showing a good awareness of danger. She doesn't run off like she used to. We can be out in the front yard, something we never could do before because she would run into the street, or into the neighbor's yards. Lately, when we're in stores she wants to walk with us and she will make comments like, "I'm staying with you. When you go, I go. And when you stop, I stop!" I even tested her on this yesterday by stopping without a word, and she immediately stopped and looked back at me and grinned.
One particular episode, though, had me wondering if she has truly mastered this objective. We had been outside playing, and Riley went to see if her friend from across the street could play. I rain inside for a moment to get Reece's sidewalk chalk, and when I came back outside, Reece was across the street going to meet up with Riley to see if the friend could play. I was greatly upset, and I took Reece inside and made her sit on her bed. She kept crying, "But mommy! I looked both ways before I crossed the street!" So I wasn't sure if this episode indicates that she doesn't have a sense of danger since she didn't stay in our yard. Our CIT helped us look up these objectives, and we found a stage 3 objective that connects behavior and awareness of danger with an understanding of negative consequences. Our CIT said that the episode I mentioned indicates mastery of the stage 1 objective but not its stage 3 counterpart.
Then our CIT said something to spotlight the reality of something we never really realized had happened: we don't worry much anymore about Reece's sense of danger. Our CIT said, "When I met you and Reece, you never would have gone inside for a moment without her." That is SO true. Rarely we even went in the front yard because it was so exhausting to try to chase her back into our yard. Now we're out in the front just about every day. Just the other day I was outside working with the leaf blower, all noisy and just taking for granted that Reece would stay in our yard and play. And she did! I can't believe such a big thing has occurred, and I didn't realize it's significance!
After the spotlighting, I was able to really consider everything, and realize there are other instances that demonstrate this has been going on for around 2 months. The last several baseball games, I was paying Riley $3 to babysit Reece so I could watch the game. Before, I followed Reece around to make sure she didn't go into the road, or to another ball field, or to the parking lot. Somehow she has learned to stay near the fields, and I've become comfortable enough to allow Riley the chance to be in charge of her because I have reason to believe she'll stay.
Now, I haven't totally lost my concern over her potentially wandering away, but I am now much more aware of the progress she has made. And if all of this new 'stuff' comes along with the progress, then it makes it much easier to bear. My mom is worried because she feels Reece doesn't seem as happy as she used to seem. And it's true that Reece cries and worries alot more that she used to. But it was because she was in her own world, and while she was happy there, that's not where we want her to stay. She seems to be learning slowly that this world and the people in it have much to offer. But it is overwhelming and scary to her, and she doesn't have the competence and resilience to manage it easily. So we will be able to support her more as she spends more time in the world with us. She does still go into her own world, especially when what is going on in the world is too much for her (like at Riley's musical the other night). She is also old enough that she can shut us all out quite effectively, to protect herself. But as she develops more competence, I think she will want to interact with all of us more and more.
One of the things that is so hard for me is the feeling that I should be pushing her into more independence as she is fast approaching 6 years old. I think that is where the principles of Guided Participation and the Zone of Proximal Development are going to help me most. Because the Zone is where real learning takes place, with the use of Guided Demonstration/Participation ... and not when she is able to do things independently. So I can think less of trying to press her towards independence, and more towards using Guided Participation to draw her in and work on real cognitive and social development.
Well, if I keep typing my fingers are going to fall off. I really mainly wanted to get all this down to help me remember it. It's good encouragement when times are frustrating. It's also good to remember that sometimes, many times, these periods of dysregulation occur because there is underlying progress/development going on. I've been so frustrated with RDI recently because I've felt like we've been making no progress, or worse even, losing ground in her development. This gives me at least enough encouragement and hope to keep plugging away!!