Adoption Interview

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nurtured Heart Update and other Random Stories

We are now a month into the Nurtured Heart Approach and fully implemented as far as all the steps go. It has been very interesting for me to see the changes that occurred in Hannah even after beginning the very first step. For those who don't know, the Nurtured Heart Approach is all about giving a ton of energy for every little success and no energy what so ever when negative behaviors are happening. The first several steps are all about what they call Time-Ins. Time-Ins are all the positive attention you give to your kid whenever things are going right. This is basically all the time that a rule is not being broken. The thought is that kids learn that breaking the rules gets a bigger payoff (more of our energy even if it is negative energy) than following the rules. When we started recognizing Hannah for just random moments throughout the day in which she was not breaking any particular rules she really started to perk up and actively tried to do things that would get more of our attention. We implemented all of the Time-In steps for several weeks and then moved on and introduced the final two steps, the credit system and consequences, together a week ago. The gist behind the credit system is that the child earns credits for not breaking the rules and for displaying certain positive behaviors you value as well as by doing certain chores and responsibilities. Credits are not taken away for breaking the rules, instead only partial credit is earned for any given rule where that rule was broken during the day. Each day starts over with a clean slate as far as earning potential goes. Those earned credits are then used to purchase basically everything in the child's life that is not food, clothing, or shelter. For Hannah she has to buy TV time, playtime, outings, bedtime books, etc. That has taken a bit of getting used to for me, but it seems really motivating for Hannah. She loves her credit review time at the end of each day and she's really getting into counting out her money each time she goes to purchase a privilege. The consequence step is simply a time-out. They call it a reset. A reset is the consequence for any broken rule (except for in very serious cases, but I'm hoping my 2 1/2 year old won't venture into those waters) and lasts only a brief period of time as long as the child is quiet and calm during it. At first Hannah was quite hostile during her resets and they lasted a long time. Other times she refused to take them and was charged credits for the privilege of being helped to complete her reset. For the first 4 days or so of starting the credit system and the consequences, Hannah had no credits left at the end of the day for any bedtime privileges because of being charged for her resets and this affected her deeply. Then one day it finally clicked in her mind that the reset would be over faster and she wouldn't lose any of her credits if she just walked over and took her reset. Once she began doing that we found that the reset really did serve as a reset to her behavior. After only a few seconds of reset we were able to release her from the consequence and the problem behavior was over and she was back in a positive frame of mind instead of spiraling out of control which is what usually happened with any other form of discipline. The change in her behavior really has been amazing. Though today was a rough day, it was nowhere near what it could have been if we were using any of the old methods we have previously tried to manage Hannah's behavior. I am pleasantly surprised with the results even though I was quite the skeptic while reading the book. I was pretty desperate for something different though so I was willing to try just about anything that I didn't think could actually do my daughter any harm. If you've tried everything and just don't seem to be getting anywhere and you are frustrated and your child is frustrated then I highly recommend checking out the Nurtured Heart Approach and possibly giving it a whirl. I was pretty skeptic, but it seems to be working amazingly well for Hannah.

Now for a few Hannah stories. Last week Kyle was out of the country traveling for work and Hannah was really out of whack because of it the first day he was gone. We were only 3 days into the credit system and consequences of Nurtured Heart and I was still getting used to the new way of dealing with problem behaviors and having a hard time resisting giving lectures or more severe consequences for what I considered worse infractions. At one point we were playing with Hannah's pattern cards and she had to go to the bathroom. She wanted to take one of the counters/pattern blocks, a yellow school bus, into the bathroom with her, but we have always had a pretty strict No Toys in the Bathroom rule. When I told her that she could not take the school bus with her she glared at me, grabbed the bus and bolted to the bathroom. I was after her like a rocket, but I was sitting on the floor and it takes me a bit to get up and she had a head start so she beat me there easily. Just as I was rounding the corner to the bathroom I saw her (imagine a slow motion movie scene here) chuck the bus into the toilet and flush before I could stop her! I was so angry I wanted to scream! However, Nurtured Heart says absolutely no negative energy to negative behaviors and the same consequence calmly given for any infraction. So, instead of lecturing, picking her up and plopping her butt in time-out, or even showing with body language that I was angry or acknowledging what action she had done that was wrong, I had to calmly and neutrally say, "You broke a rule. Time-out," and then never mention the infraction again after the consequence had been served. It was so hard for me to let that go because I get very anal about keeping all the pieces of a toy together and there are very rarely lost pieces of anything in our house. When Hannah was younger I used to count all the pieces of every single toy as I cleaned up each night and if a count didn't come up right I knew immediately what piece was missing and would not stop searching until I found the missing piece. So, for Hannah to purposely lose a piece of one of her toys, it felt like she had thought to herself, "what could I do that would make Mommy pay the most for not letting me have what I want?" and then putting her plan into action. Isn't that insane of me to think? What's worse is the fact that I was more angry about the fact that that stupid yellow school bus would forever be missing from the set and that every time we tried to do a pattern that required the yellow bus we would not be able to complete it and I would be continually reminded of the incident than I was angry that she had disobeyed me, ran away from me, and flushed something she knew did not belong in the toilet down the toilet. All of the things that she did wrong in that incident and I was more concerned about the stupid bus! What kind of horrible Mommy does that make me? I managed to keep my cool though. I showed no emotion (at least I think I didn't) and I calmly informed her that she had broken a rule and to go to time out. As one final stab in my back, instead of fighting the time-out like she had been doing, Hannah blithely turned on her heel and practically skipped off to time-out like it was no big deal! Are you kidding me?!?! It was like she was conspiring to drive me crazy while Kyle was away and I had no respite. She completed her first time-out/reset sans resistance for an action that I desperately wanted to punish her for. I wanted a reason to charge her heavily for her time-out, to make her pay for the mental anguish she had caused me by flushing that bus, but if I was to follow the plan I couldn't. How childish and insane is that of me to want to make my 2 year old pay for losing one of her own toys? Surely the fact that she would no longer have the toy should have been enough. It wasn't though. I wanted restitution as crazy as that sounds. During her reset, I took a reset as well and God showed me how immature I was being and helped me see some of the changes I needed to make as a parent to parent Hannah in a more Biblical manner. He also taught me about forgiveness with this incident. Hannah paid her consequence by doing her reset and I was not to bring it up again. She was completely forgiven. Just as Jesus paid our consequence for our sins by dieing on the cross and we are completely forgiven. God will never bring it up again. As parents we are to strive to love our children as Christ loves us and that means parenting biblically. God definitely uses the Nurtured Heart Approach as he parents us and I think that as I take a closer look at how God treats me then I can see just why the Nurtured Heart approach is working so successfully with Hannah. We screw up, we ask for forgiveness, forgiveness is granted unquestionably as long as we mean it (AKA we comply with our consequence), or we make bad decisions and God withdraws his peace from us (removes His energy), obedience brings us blessings beyond anything we could imagine that we might want (lots of credits earned for good behaviors and not breaking the rules), lather rinse and repeat as often as we screw up or obey-each day is a clean slate with endless potential for obedience and success. Yes, God is truly Transforming the Difficult Child by using the Nurtured Heart Approach on me.

The weather here has been absolutely glorious. Friday it was in the 70s, Saturday the high 70s and 80s and today it was actually in the 90s! Consequently we've been shaking off our cabin fever and getting outside. Friday Hannah and I went out exploring to find a new park. Rhode Island is odd in that most parks don't seem to have playgrounds. They seem to value large open green space more than play equipment. That's all well and good. I like nice green space, but when you've got a 2 1/2 year old with SPD that desperately needs a swing it can get annoying! We found a beautiful park with an interesting playground situated along the water's edge. The playground was packed since everyone wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather. The weather was such a change from what we had been experiencing that the news crews were out in force interviewing people about what they planned to do with their weekend. AND guess who they chose to interview at the park?!? Hannah and I earned our 10 seconds of fame by being featured on the evening news! Here's the link if you want to be jealous of our new found celebrity status! Just click play to watch the video. Unfortunately you'll have to watch a commercial before you get to the actual video. I'm the one in the pink fleece jacket and Hannah's the kid in the flowered sun hat on the swings. Saturday we went exploring again, this time with Kyle in tow since he was home from England and found an awesome park and beach. We walked up and down the shore picking up shells and tossing them back into the ocean. It was awesome. I've never seen so many shells in all my life. It was actually more of a challenge to find a spot on the beach to walk that you weren't stepping on shells than it was to find a shell. I think I had as much of a blast digging through the shells as Hannah did. I can't wait until the water temperature catches up with the air temperature so that we can go wading or swimming as well!

As we prepare to close on our new house on Wednesday (YEAH!) and have our things delivered on Friday, we've been trying to prep Hannah the best we can about what will be happening. While I'm so excited to be getting out of the apartment and into our house finally, I dread the transition of moving AGAIN and having to start from square one with Hannah again. At least this time some things will remain constant. We can go to the same parks, she'll have the same therapists, we can eat at the same restaurants, attend the same church etc. Still, it will be another big change and there will be lots of chaos as things are being unpacked and organized and there will be little time and attention to give to Hannah as we direct the movers and unpack the essentials. I'm bracing for another rough several months (just as things have begun to settle down a bit). I worry about the stress this will put on my little girl so soon after the stress of our initial move. Once again, I know the end result will be positive for Hannah because she will have more space to move around, can run and jump and crash into things at will, her swing set will be in the back yard and we can set up her sensory play room again, but we have to survive all the rough stuff before we can reap the benefits of the move. Please pray for us if you will that we will be able to equip Hannah with the tools she needs to cope with the very big changes ahead of her and that we will not just realise intellectually that we need to be patient with her, but that we will be able to put that patience into practice.
Here's my autism blogger of the day, ghkcole writes at Rooster Calls about her life as a mother, teacher, and wife. She's the mother of two children, Rooster and Peaches, who currently attend the same school that she teaches at. She shares the struggles she has as a full time working mother juggling the demands of caring for her two children, fitting in all of the therapies that Rooster attends, meeting his needs when he's having a rough day while still completing the requirements of her job, and giving Peaches a chance to be a regular little girl outside of the shadow of Rooster's autism. Her posts are always honest, thought provoking, and easily relatable to. I highly recommend stopping by and reading a few. If you only have time for one post, this particular one highlights the struggles that so many families with special needs children go through just to make things work and get through a single day.


Quirky Mom said...

You are not the first blogger I've come across who advocates the Nurtured Heart approach, and I've seen it listed among the techniques used by a local therapy center for kids with AS and HFA. I'm going to have to check it out. :)

Unknown said...

I have never heard of the Nurtured Heart Approach before. It sounds really interesting. I will have to check it out.

Glad to hear it seems to be working well for you.

Elizabeth Channel said...

I've read about NHA before but not on a while. I am so glad it is working for you all! I love how you compare it to how God treats are so right!

ghkcole said...

WOW. I was carefully reading your post about Nurtured Heart Approach and thinking about our long ABA session today, wondering if perhaps we could be on the wrong track at our house, and then all of a sudden I saw your kind mention of my blog, and I want you to know you made me smile. After a tough day, when I crawled to the finish line and got in bed with my computer, a smile is a great gift. Thank you. I mean, thanks for the mention, AND thanks for all the inspiration. I get a lot from what you share.

Chun Wong said...

This sounds like a really interesting approach and seems to be working for you and Hannah. Rewarding positive behavior is an effective way of managing behavior, rather than drawing attention to problem behavior. Shame about the toy bus, but as you say Hannah has to live with the consequences of her actions and that is probably more punishment than you could ever dish out. Good luck with holding your tongue and keeping calm!

Patty O. said...

Wow, that Nurtured Hearts Approach sounds really difficult. I too would have really struggled with the whole bus incident. Which probably means I need to work on the whole forgiveness thing. Maybe I should check it out. Is Nurtured Hearts a booK?

Lanny said...

I think I need to look into Nurtured Heart Approach! I need to look into it for not only Linus, but for me too. The bus incident could have easily been me. I laughed about you counting toy parts---I've been known to do the same thing. I crave order, and I think it seeps through in my parenting sometimes.

Unknown said...

It sounds like ABA. Is it? Very interesting. :)