For our son, he typically goes to the “fight” reaction. She explained that once this system is turned on, there is no turning back and all of our previous efforts to de-escalate, such as telling him to take a walk, or take a shower or when younger, his time outs, are all seen through his limbic system as threats.
As a result, he responds by fighting for his life. Which is why he tends to become violent and fight against us. Our therapist explained that over the years, his response has formed neural pathways in his brain, causing him to go this direction more easily and with smaller triggers. So with a little brainstorming she advised us to try a new approach.
Instead of offering him ways to calm down, or worse, removing him from the home when he escalates, we should instead come together and show him that we’re on his team, hoping to disengage his limbic system from revving up. The important part is to not appear afraid of him or go into protection mode over the other kids, because this too will further engage his “fight” response in his brain. Easier said than done.
I find this technique interesting because it does make sense logically, but I know that it won’t be easy for me because I too have formed neural pathways in my brain to go into the “protection mode” whenever my son becomes threatening. So for me to respond in a way that is nurturing and supportive when I feel threatened and scared will be going against my instincts. The same goes for his siblings. How will they avoid running and hiding and instead surround him with support when they themselves feel unsafe? Unfortunately at this point, I don’t think I can change my son’s reactions, only the environment around him, which means we have to change. Our hope is that in time our son’s neural pathways will change and his response will be less threatening.
I’ll let you know how this goes...
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I want to sincerely thank everyone who reached out to me after my last post. I think I cried through most of your comments and emails, it was very theraputic for me. I also appreciate those close to me who have offered their support and willingness to show up at my house whenever I need it. I am blessed to have you all in my life.