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>iLs Update 50% through Level 1

June 16, 2011

>Last week, we took our first break from iLs–mostly for my sake. It didn’t take me long to figure out that we got the most out of doing iLs first thing after breakfast. In the beginning, iLs acted something like a stimulant medication on Hope’s brain: it slowed her down and grounded her. Not perfectly. But it was an improvement of about 50% over her (former) typical, which was motivating.

The flip side of doing iLs first thing was that with two children doing it, iLs used up the two most predictable hours of our daytime and after two months without those hours, I needed a break to catch up. I had a great week crossing things off my task list. But Hope had three record-level melt downs, two of them while we were all trapped in the van together. It surprised us because after that awful week Hope cut two front teeth and two molars a moth ago, we hadn’t had any meltdowns and had quickly acclimated to our new normal. We drew two conclusions:

  • the iLs seems to be having a helpful effect on her ADHD behavior
  • we need to carry a high-caffeine beverage with us for emergencies

I should add one more thing. Three melt-downs in one week are no fun. But compared to her “typical” a year ago, three is a significant improvement. They were also of a little different character. They were what I think of as a “lost” melt-down. Not high-anger despite the fact that in two of them she was perseverating about not getting her way (like she wanted to go to the beach at bed time). Rather, it was like watching her teeter at the top of a muddy slope, lose her footing, and slowly slide downward to a far-away pit inside herself. None of the ropes we had to throw were long enough to help. The only way to prevent it is to keep her away from the edges of her personal slopes because once she starts sliding, there is no way to reach her.

Like a night terror, a day time melt down or a rage (for her, those are two different things) is just something we have to wait out. And like Hope’s night terrors, over time, we have figured out what helps keep her from going dangerously close to the precipice. It took a week long break from iLs to confirm what I suspected: for Hope, it seems to firm up the edges of her slippery-slopes. It builds margin so she is not as easily pushed over the edge.

How? you ask. My non-scientific impression is that it is helping re-organize some the disordered spaces in her brain. Or perhaps more neurologically correct would be to imagine iLs helping forge new neural connections that are beginning to compensate for her deficits. The “i” in iLs stands for “integrated.”

Another sign to rejoice in, crazy as this may sound, is that Hope is beginning to engage with her sisters on a more typical level of sibling conflict. Like as I write this, she is pouting in her room (going there was her choice) because Mercy was tired of playing outside and Hope wasn’t ready to lose her playmate. Hope just spent two minutes fake-crying, then stopped. Not because Mercy caved in and gave Hope her way or because I went up to her room and consoled her. She just stopped.

Hope just came down from her room and asked if she could have a cup of applesauce with a straw (her own idea), which is one of the calming strategies she discovered in OT. She got her own cup and straw, got out the applesauce and poured it, and sat down next to Mercy and began helping her hunt for beads. In their interpersonal language, that’s an apology.

Six months ago, she may have come in pouting and taken herself to her room, but it would have been 50/50 whether she could pull out of it without needing my help to keep it from turning into a full-scale meltdown.

This is not just my perception. Hope notices the change, although she is unable to articulate what it is.

Last weekend I announced that we’d be starting iLs again on Monday. We did iLs in our accustomed style on Monday and Tuesday. Then Wednesday morning, with my husband out of town, I got sucked into finishing the last task on my iLs-vacation list: cleaning the basement. I wasn’t watching the time and Hope tracked me down to ask if she could start iLs. I was right in the middle of something and said, “Give me ten minutes to finish this and then we can start.”

“Is it okay if I start now by myself?” Hope asked. “Then you can keep cleaning.”

Mercy hollered down, “I’ll do her exercises with her!”

“Can we mom, please? I’m on 29, right?”

“Okay…” I hesitated, thinking of that old TV show The Twilight Zone. “Sure!” I brightened. “You two start and give me a call if you need something.”

So yesterday, Hope did iLs without me, with Mercy’s company for the first 20 minutes. She spent the last 40 minutes doing her own thing. The same thing happened again this morning except the girls decided that after warming up, they wanted to scooter to the park and asked me and Daisy to go with them.

After we got home, they were scrubbing the back steps with toothbrushes (another story) when Hope got disappointed, pouted in her room, then pulled herself out of it. Five minutes ago, Hope simply said, “Yes, mom,” and got to work when I asked her to start picking up the beads. Now, at her own initiative, she arranging on the counter the things I will need to make lunch.

Three and half years ago when we were absolutely at the end of our rope with Hope, I never imagined there would be days like this in our future. I think the Holy Spirit was there at the dinner table with us in Philadelphia the night my husband and I, in complete ignorance, settled on “Hope” as a name for our third daughter.

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