Emotional Roll-a-Dex

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Emotional Roll-a-Dex

“Mom, I have to tell you something, but I’m afraid to because it will make you so sad”. Oakley slowly struggled with these words through real sobs. “It’s okay baby, what’s the matter?” Maybe my fellow special ed parents will relate and edify my theory. Maybe everyone else will have a better understanding, because I have a theory about my daughter’s syndrome and the function of her comprehension. I call it the Emotional Roll a dex. And it is also an emotional roller coaster so that play on words, while unintended, is just perfect.   Oakley has a brilliant vocabulary, really brilliant. In fact, most people don’t give me the time of day when I try to explain my concerns because of her vocabulary. Let me be clear, I know she’s brilliant and will never take that away from her. How do I get across that even though she can spout back what seems to be appropriate replies in conversation, she doesn’t always, most always, really understand what she’s saying and so cannot be relied on with her own safety or safety of others. I’ve learned really quickly that she responds by emotion. I’m determining now, that while we all do some of that for certain, she only does so. When you and I hear information we file it in our minds by an intricate link up system, some of which applies to emotion. In Oakley’s mind, the filing system is as simple as a roll a dex, sorted by types of emotion, such as sad, happy, mad, hurt, etc. They don’t typically cross-categorize. And while from within a category she can use an extensive vocabulary, even describe definitions, the depth isn’t something I’d call real comprehension. For example, if she’s really excited, she’ll pull a conversation card from the correct section, the happy one, and say it with emphasis and impressive content. Let’s say she just received a gift from someone. She knows she’s happy about it and she might say something like, “I was like, no way, a present is completed, what the heck is that!?” It’s appropriate mostly; it’s precious and even comical. Beyond understanding that she got a gift and is grateful, well, I’m not sure. You never know what will come out. This has been so much fun, her freedom, her enthusiasm, her unpredictability. But it has also been the root of some very serious concerns.   “I’m just afraid to tell you mom, because it makes me so angry and I just feel like…I feel like I need to kill you mom. Like take a knife to your brain and make you dead. But I won’t mom, I promise, I’m sorry I made you sad, it’s just that I’m done with you and I need you to be dead.”   It took me a while to get it together when I heard what she said to me. She was graphic and emphatic and I’m not gonna lie, it tore me apart. We bawled like babies, holding tightly onto each other while my hubby and two other kids laid their hands on us and just begged for Jesus to heal the hurt for both of us. After she cried herself to sleep I sat in my dark room just lost, feeling like the biggest failure ever. My baby wants me dead.   My husband and I took and always will take several precautions for all our safety. But I just kept thinking there in my dark room, “Lord! I’ve come to grips with the fact that she’ll always live with us, Scott and I have embraced it and love her! Please don’t take her away! What do we do!?” And that’s when the darn neighbor dog started barking incessantly and in my mind I thought, “I’m gonna strangle that dog!”   Oh Jesus, I get it! She’s mad at me. She has filed some version of killing in the mad file folder and it’s even made her upset! Sure enough, Oakley was mad at me, she had been stewing on it for days and she was really mad at me! She heard me say on the phone to the neighbor, ‘We can trap the kitten and take him to the vet to be neutered.’ She explained to me that she was so mad at me because I was going to kidnap the kitten and take it away. She knew kidnapping was a bad thing and that called for a mad file card, which happened I’m sure to come from some moment I yelled at the bloodhound for being obnoxious. I can remember a few! (Please tell me you can relate in some way!)   We have our work to do. Because she knows what kill means in the literal sense, there is some real danger there. But with a much better understanding, we can have a real effect. After Oakley and I cleared up my intentions with the stray kitten and an hour long counseling session from a dear friend with lots of experience we put a game plan in place. If you need this advice, here goes:  

  1. It’s NORMAL! But…
  2. Make sure it isn’t ever turning into a self-inflicted anger
  3. Listen for indicators that ‘someone’ in her mind is telling her what to do
  4. Spend most of your effort as a family talking about and being sensitive to emotions, as it is her world!

  As I am writing this, my little Oak popped in to grab my face, “I love you mom, I just want to squeeze you and give you a kissy! Mmmwah!” It was a juicy one and I’m gonna need to go wipe that down! Goodness, I love her. Thank you Jesus for your clarification, for your healing on a wound that went so deep so quickly, and for the love of my Oakley.    

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