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“Building” on Blondie’s Pizza

Mon, Nov 9th, 2009

Building is the first thing we do with a child to teach them there is a reason why we are there. It is also an in between step that allows us to begin to stretch a child and this where this article focuses. This allows the child to expand beyond their immediate routine. Children of all level of the spectrum, become stuck in the safety and predictability of their activities, and are left with limited resources on how to evolve. They survive on a perpetual ping pong effect of people asking them to change and holding on tighter to avoiding this. Building allows us to slowly provide new experiences that are not completely new. Frustration and tantrums may still happen no matter how careful methodical we may be, but this is not a reason to stop. The following story is taken from when I was an aide to a 14 year old boy in California.

Whenever I would take Max out into the community, he would choose Blondie’s Pizza. He would say Bwandee Peesah! One day I was walking with my supervisor and Max and we decided to experiment with expanding on Max’s pizza taste. As I stated, I was building, but at that time only had one way to build. I suggested we go to another pizza place nearby. High pitched sounds began to come out of Max immediately as he began a high-pitched version of bwandee peesah! He was becoming louder and louder as he emphasized different parts of the words. I can’t remember if I repeated the message or just waited but I was educated on avoiding flooding a frustrated kid. Anyhow, we stuck to our guns and didn’t fluctuate from our choice of changing the pizza venue. Max began to smack his head against the wall along the corner of the busy street we were on. There we were amongst the Berkeley college students with Max really losing it.

Later on I understood what we were doing better and was able to add many different angles and steps to future and similar events. We were essentially conducting the second stage of the program called, “building” When you are building, you are adding to the child’s interests, by adding in your own agenda. Although you don’t have to challenge the child to the extent where they are being unsafe as Maxs was, you should also not be afraid of this happening. The reason is, you may have to, and this may be unavoidable. I always tell parents and professionals that it is okay to take small steps, big steps aren’t imperative to growth, but steps are. Sometimes with limited knowledge, too big of a step makes us want to go back to the beginning. This is because the consequences of our steps scare us. The reaction of the child, or ourselves is so startling and uncomfortable, we will be ready to do anything to feel better.

Max’s tantrum was for my beginning knowledge, extremely uncomfortable. It was the first time I saw a child smack his head against concrete, and I immediately began doubting my approach. “I must be doing the wrong thing here” I told myself. After all, it is my request that created this behavior. If I hadn’t asked him to change pizza places, he wouldn’t be acting this way. All I had to do was say, let’s eat at Blondies and the behavior would have been over. Although I was extremely uncomfortable and concerned for Max’s safety, I didn’t back down, we went to the other place.

It turned out Max was fine, absolutely fine, and the best thing was, he didn’t have a concussion! That was a huge relief. Now today, I have more angles to come from, so I wouldn’t have to put De’Andre in an unsafe situation. This allows me to not have to give in but to prevent this in the first place. I can still add to Max’s agenda and build on his love for pizza, but I no longer am only left with one option.

This is the middle point, we are talking about, without going back and forth between the bigger step and nothing at all. I always respect parents as the ones who have to live with this behavior, so small steps are really important. Although Max might have acted this way no matter what, I have listed some possible alternatives. One thing was clear, don’t challenge Max near a cement wall! Be cautious, the biggest problem is NOT finding the right steps, it is our fear of upsetting our children and feeling guilty about it!!!

Alternatives

  • Go to the new place after going to Blondies
  • Get Blondie’s to go and find eat it at a place Max really likes
  • Have Max eat his Blondie’s pizza at the new place
  • Inform Max earlier, to give time.
  • Go to Blondie’s when they are closed, and then choose a new place
  • Eat at both places, yum!
  • Bring other pizza to Blondie’s to show Max while he eats, how similar it is
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