Monday, January 24, 2011

What's the difference....

...between a positive developmental change and a regression? I mean, all kids go through "phases" that, as parents, we wish we didn't have to see, and these are considered "normal" and "important" learning experiences for our kids. And when our kids are neurotypical, we really don't think about it -- we just say, "It's a phase that he/she is going through and we just have to work through it." But when a child is "special needs", we question everything. What is related to the condition that goes with that label? And this is especially true when the unwanted behavior is not atypical with a diagnosis of, say, autism.

I'm talking here, specifically, about "Self Injurious Behaviors" (or SIB's as it is referred to in our communication notebook). Kevin and I started noticing a few things a couple of weeks ago in Rachel (yes, the twin I keep raving about how well she's doing) and decided we needed to bring it up to her teacher to see if they were seeing these behaviors in school. She's been hitting herself (but usually following us telling her that "I don't like that!" [while wearing a frown] when she's doing something that she knows we consider inappropriate from her [like throwing food]). She's taken to slapping herself on the leg, repeating "I don't like that!" (for the record, we NEVER hit her). It doesn't appear that she does it particularly hard or cause herself any pain. It's just a behavior that simply shouldn't be.

And, more troublesome, she's begun pulling out her hair. We first started noticing it when she's bored. She pulls out a strand or 2 and just plays with it, twisting it in her hands or stretching it as far as she can. When we asked her teacher about it, she commented that Rachel seemed to actually be stimming on her hair. And we've been noticing the last few days that it's no longer just a strand of hair, but several. We could have sworn last night she had 10-15 strands in her hand that she was playing with.

We don't quite know what this means. Is she regressing? Is she merely developing a bad habit (comparable to "twirling" her hair but just not quite getting it right)? I honestly just don't know. It's been such a long time since we've experienced a real setback for her, I'm not sure how to recognize one if it happened. Even with Simon, with all of my complaints about his seeming lack of progress, we never really saw a "regression" -- just a slow progression to the point of questioning if he was moving forward at all. Rachel we know DOES experience regressions when she is removed from her routine for extended times (during the summer for example), but that was more of a return to preexisting behaviors -- not the emergence of something new.

Is it right to think like this, or am I worrying about nothing?


  1. I know what you mean. With our three year old we haven't seen regression (other than her initial regression), but our eight year old son goes through occasional regressions. Sometimes, as with your daughter, we see new behaviors appear. Some of them stick around and some don't. I guess it's different for every child.

  2. Are there any children in her class that exhibit that behavior?
    From what I gather sometimes people with autism will attempt to mimic what they believe may be acceptable behavior in an attempt to blend in. Unfortunately not being able to distinguish typical behavior from unusual behavior they some times pick up on the "wrong" behavior. My son has done this before.

  3. I'm planning a conference with her teacher within the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, we'll be able to find out more at that time and I can really get her take on this. But this is definitely something to be considered.