Seamus had a great relationship for two years with his school psychologist Dr. Chips. There was nothing that Dr. Chips didn’t help him deal with – fights on the playground, strategies to stay calm in the classroom, navigating angry feelings. Tuesdays and Thursdays were their special days to meet and work out issues over Beyblades, Legos and Star Wars characters.
But now, he is gone. Six weeks of preparing Seamus didn’t matter. The memory book they prepared together is a cruel leave behind. To Seamus, Dr. Chips vanished. He lost an ally in this harsh world and he is in mourning.
What does his mourning look like? There have been tears and lots of them. But the real mourning is seen in his total deregulation and inability to “deal with” life as we know it. He picks a fight at hockey and gets thrown out of the game. He yells and screams at Little League, throwing his helmet after being called out. He threatens to jump off the roof of a building and moves close enough to the edge to look like he may be for real.
That’s how sensory kids cope. Sure he’s learned deep breathing, he knows “how is your engine running”, we have emotion charts. But any reminders to use his calming strategies are reminders of the loss of Dr. Chips who taught them to him. Change is the enemy.
Odds are in our favor that this too shall pass. But Seamus is 8 now and I can’t prevent change from happening again in his life. And it’s hard to discern if he making progress in dealing with change. Can we chart any progress from the last episode a few months ago? For this one, I’ve got 10 self-inflicted punches to the head, two nights of running away from home, and one full speed run with fists drawn to pound on his dad.
This all serves as a brutal reminder of how tenuous some of Seamus’ gains are and how his reactions remain – even if infrequent – intense, scary and deeply troubling.
But someday again Seamus will be on the receiving end of change and he may for a miraculous moment stop to take a deep breath and that may make all the difference. Until then, I just need to keep deep breathing.