FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Dixieland Concert

Written By: Scot Butwell - Sep• 04•12

It’s a Sunday, and I suggest a family picnic to the Wife. Manhatten Beach, a neighboring city, hosts a summer concert series, so it will be a picnic on a blanket and Dixieland jazz music circa the Roaring 1920’s.

Technically, going together as a family, this will not be a father-son adventure. But, after we find a spot for our blanket at the top of the hill, and D eats some meat sticks and yogurt, we both take off running for the nearby playground.

D runs straight to a twisting, fifteen-foot high, enclosed tube slide. It looks guaranteed to create a dopamine high, especially after sliding down several times, as I see a dozen or so kids are continuously doing.

D goes down the slide three or four times, and then peers into the opening at the bottom, greeting each kid as they emerge. He’s laughing at the silliest things, so much has the adrenaline buzz taken over him.

A girl lets loose a high-pitched squeal and the effect of the slide, fellowship with other kids, warm sunshine, a slight breeze and the squeal brings forth an effervescent happiness in D, and I am happy to see him so happy.

hyperion4It’s right at this moment that my phone rings. The Wife is calling to tell me the concert is starting. The question is, “How do I interrupt D’s fun and get him back to the blanket?”

My previous experience tells me this will not be easy, and I am met with pinches and scratches. D has difficulty with transitions, and this is his mode of communication when upset.

The multiple scratch marks on both my arms reveal his struggle with transitions. “Let’s go see the tuba,” I say, knowing how much he likes tubas from the Veggie Tales theme song.

This is the one strategy I’ve learned through parent training in his ABA therapy to help him deal with transitions: Present a positive reinforcer to ease him towards a compliant behavior.

And it works. The mention of the tuba calms him down, and we reach the blanket. But then, after the first song, the Wife tells me she wants to leave. Suddenly, I understand, the reason for D’s difficulty with transitions: anger.

One moment the Dixieland music had transported me to a park in America’s heartland during summer. The next moment my reverie was broken by the Wife saying she wanted to go home.

And I became sullen and angry at the wife because I wanted to continue listening to the whimsical Dixie music waft up the hill to our blanket where D was laying with his head on my hip.

It took me twenty minutes to let go of my anger, but now I understand the importance of “priming” him, to help him to transition from a “preferred” to a less desirable activity.

This is what I needed–priming–to prevent me from getting angry when the Wife suddenly said she wanted to leave, but I am grateful for this brief, unexpected glimpse into my son’s world of emotions.

And I realize D has the right to express his emotions when he feels angry (without scratching or pinching), and priming will help him to deal with his feelings at the point of a transition.

So, yes, I plan to use “priming” as a tool to help D transition from highly enjoyable activities like watching Micky Mouse’s Clubhouse to less pleasurable ones like turning off the tv and washing his hands for dinner.


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