RDA week success

We spent four days up in Sydney this week doing Bright Eyes' RDA, or Relationship Development Assessment.

It has been eight months since his first one, and it was definitely time to refocus and see where we all are at. I found the week very helpful and I have come home enthusiastic and refreshed, ready to work in better ways with him.

A very good thing that came out of it was to see all the things Bright Eyes can do now that he couldn't do when we began. He really has improved in his relationship skills. He's far more aware of us. He can understand more. He can transition from activity to activity well. He can cope with changes and differences much better. He can follow instructions better.

And where he started right from the beginning with the RDI stages eight months ago, he has now progressed to the new 'Stage 3' objectives. I like numbers like this - they give me a feeling of achievement!

Probably the most useful thing we discovered was that all the tantrums and bossiness that I have been complaining about (loudly) on this blog for the last month come down to the same problem - super-high anxiety.

It should have been obvious really. I've always known he was highly anxious, and I could tell that he was anxious when he screamed and ran away. I just didn't realise that the bossy words are the same problem, but in a different form. High anxiety leads to 'flight or fight'. Before, he used to flee. Now he fights.

The solution is not to fight him back or punish the behaviour. The solution is to reduce the anxiety, because once he is calm and quiet, he will quite happily be convinced or brought along to do whatever it is that we are asking of him.

Fixing it
How do we reduce the anxiety? First, be aware that it's happening. I am learning to listen for the rise in his tone - it's a tightness in his throat. Then I follow the four S rule - Simplify, Slow Down, Stop and Sssh.

Just quietening my voice, making gestures more deliberate, giving him more processing time and not piling extra options on him works a treat.

Our consultant helped us do this a few times in the sessions in her office, and it made a remarkable difference. Since then, we've tried to follow it, and we have really noticed how much easier everything is.

We have come back with lots of things to work on, but a lot of parent objectives too. Our use of gestures and language still needs work. We also need to work hard to not get stressed ourselves when he gets uptight. Our consultant recommended one of her families buy a heartrate monitor each. I've pinned an imaginary one onto myself today and really tried to notice my own heartrate increase when his anxiety rises.

Our consultant also had a few words to our daughter to help her understand that when Bright Eyes acts belligerent, he's actually anxious.

In the car afterwards, I heard him behind us start to boss her and get angry at her after she touched him by mistake. I tensed up, ready to spring in to the altercation, but I didn't need to. Instead of biting back with the same words, she put her arm around him and stroked him. He calmed down straight away and the biffo was over.

Bright Eyes has come home from the week away almost a different child. He certainly is happier and calmer. I feel so very grateful for this program and for our consultant, and I have a new burst of optimism and strength for the next six months. Thanks y'all for your support and prayers.