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Maybe a Little Fear is a Good Thing

February 17, 2012

Hope and I have had a couple of  interesting conversations about school recently, which she has initiated with an observation like, “I’m doing a good job controlling myself at school.”

This isn’t her imagination. Hope got glowing remarks for appropriate behavior at conferences.

Ever-curious about what helps her, I asked. “What makes it easier to control your feelings at school?”

“Because I’m afraid I’ll get into trouble,” Hope confided.

“What happens to kids at school when they get in trouble?”

“They get sent to the principal’s office,” Hope said. “Or they get sent to the pride room.”

“A pride room? I don’t think we had one of those when I went to school there. What’s a pride room?”

“I don’t know,” Hope said. “But I know I don’t want to get sent there.”

“Have you seen anybody get sent to the pride room?”

“Uh huh.”

“For what?”

“For falling in a puddle on the playground.”

“Really? Is that bad thing? To fall in a puddle?”

“It is when the lady just told everybody to stay out of the puddles.”

“And then what happened? After this kid fell in the puddle?”

“Then the lady said, ‘You go straight to the pride room with no lunch!'”

“No lunch?”

“Yep. No food in there. I think...” Hope said, clearly trying to figure out this rumored place everybody else probably heard about in detail from an assembly back in September.

I don’t know what the pride room is, but have deduced it is not a black hole of solitary confinement Hope contemplates. I think it sounds like the 21st century version of what we called “detention.” Remember? Like if you sassed the teacher, you got detention. If you forgot to do your homework, your teacher might send you to detention during recess to finish your work.

Yes: I will ask her teacher to fill me in on “the pride room.”

But I’ve been mulling it over because it fits one of my most-pondered thoughts: why is Hope’s behavior predictably good outside our home, but so unpredictable inside it?

Maybe a little bit of fear –acting on a mind that can tolerate a little –is a good thing.

Know how one of the mantras of FASD parenting is identifying each child’s strengths and building on those to help compensate for their deficits? One of Hope’s strengths is that her social IQ is equal to her base IQ. She is just a capable of correctly reading praise and displeasure from tone of voice, body language, facial expression etc. as a neuro-typical kid.

So she correctly perceived the public humiliation of the child who got sent to the pride room and also picked up on how her  friends reacted. And that negative social frisson is –so far –enough to cue her to do something I’ve not been able to teach her to do at home: to pull her emotional self up short before she steps over the line of dissociating into a meltdown or a rage.

If you have a child with FASD, you know what I mean. The name of the game for Hope has always been redirecting and diffusing to keep her well back from that emotional line.

Hope’s fear of being embarrassed in front of her friends is doing just that: keeping her far enough back from the line that she can cognitively exercise some control over her feelings. And because she’s stayed well-back from that line all day long, she is usually in a saner place when she gets home.

Many people have observed that drinking alcohol while pregnant is like playing roulette: the balls will fall somewhere; we just can’t predict where. Even twins who experience the exact same drinking pattern in uetero  have different outcomes in how it effects their brains. So I’m not suggesting sending all kids with FASD out to school would be helpful.

But I am observing one reason why, so far, it is working for Hope. She knows that we love her no matter what.  That excludes the members of our family from “society” –those people outside our home whose opinion she is internally motivated to cultivate. So in keeping her home for school, we inadvertently removed one of her unique supports from her toolkit –the social dynamic.

Of course, this means that as she grows we’ll have to pay unusual attention to the social dynamics she’s immersed in, knowing how motivated she is to conform socially.

About sixth grade, a Christian school with clear behavioral expectations for all students and a good stiff uniform policy comes to mind :).

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One Comment leave one →
  1. barbershoppe permalink
    February 18, 2012 12:04 am

    Carrie,

    Wow… I’m so glad for Hope, and your family, to be able to enjoy Hope’s school experience. Happy with you, Anna

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