On a day when there was no school, I took the kids to the YMCA to play basketball while I worked out. Cameron, our newest community worker and also a gift from God, was with us. It was her first time experiencing the YMCA with Ben and his celebrity status. It was also her first time seeing him throw a tantrum.
When it came time to leave, Ben decided he did not want to leave. He successfully threw himself on the floor and refused to be lifted into his walker. At almost 65 lbs, he can decline to move his body, and we have to oblige.
I was frustrated with him. The other kids were waiting outside, and we needed to be somewhere else soon. I told Ben we were leaving and I watched hidden, behind a column as he pulled himself into a chair and sat very nicely. He did not care one iota that his family had left.
At this point my frustration subsided and I realized he wanted something and was determined to get it. I took out the NOVA Chat and quickly plugged in a few feelings buttons. When approached with the communication device with the choices, Ben chose angry.
I knew what he would choose, but he did it so swiftly that I was blown away. After nine years, he was finally able to tell us what he was feeling. Anger. We didn't have to wonder or interpret. Sure, he was exhibiting all the signs of frustration and anger, but he was able to say it for himself. He was able to choose. Isn't that what we all strive for, to say what we are feeling, even if we display the feeling in an outward and non-verbal manner?
Once he was able to say this, I explained to Ben the plan - we were leaving, but would be able to come back to the Y another day. I told him that I understood his anger, but needed his help in getting to the car.
We made it to the car with Ben using his walker to get there.
Since then, Ben has been able to tell us when he is sick, happy, hot, cold, and just right. Recently while at the movies he wanted to leave before the end and expressed it through the NOVA Chat. Cameron was able to explain that we had to stay to the end because we were with other people. She gave him the choice to stay in the theater or wait in the lobby. He chose the theater and remained silent for the remainder of the movie.
It is more than a feeling, it is power.