How did such a small thing cause such a huge problem?!
That’s what I was asking myself yesterday as events unfolded at Paradigm, Aaron’s day group.
The small thing was a simple little Subway gift card. I had used the remaining money on it last Friday when Aaron and I went to get subs for supper. I had asked Aaron to throw it away in the trash can near the door as we left, but instead he saw the opportunity to keep something interesting. He thinks gift cards are fun to hold, like a credit card, and to slip in his pocket for safe keeping. When he asked if he could keep it, I agreed…with the further comment from me that I would one day be throwing it away when I found it laying on the floor of his room. Experience is a good teacher, after all, and a good reason to hope that Aaron will keep the floor of his room picked up.
Yesterday morning, Aaron once again slipped the little yellow Subway gift card in his pocket as we were getting ready to leave for Paradigm. Of course, I didn’t see it or know that Aaron had it in his pocket. Even if I had, I wouldn’t have objected. But that was yesterday. Today might be a different story.
You see, Aaron tried to give the card to K, another client at Paradigm. What I didn’t know, but I do now…as does Aaron…is that K is a hoarder. Aaron has in the past caught on to the fact that she loves notebooks and papers. He brought her two notebooks from our house, and wanted to continue until I said no. I also found out that Aaron was taking paper from the computer printers at Paradigm, and trying to sneak it to K.
One day as we were leaving for Paradigm, Aaron ran back in the house to get something. I followed and waited in the kitchen. Soon Aaron rounded the corner, surprised to see me standing there. Look at what was under his shirt. BUSTED!!
Aaron was laughing because he saw the humor in the situation, thankfully. I had asked him if he was taking K a notebook, and he told me no…but he was laughing because the truth was very obvious!
Back to the Subway card. The staff at Paradigm saw Aaron give K the card, but they had to take it away because of her hoarding. Aaron was VERY upset by this! My cell phone rang as I was on my way to get him at the end of his day. There was Aaron, trying to explain the situation to me but getting more belligerent with each word. Barb was there, trying to explain and to calm Aaron, but he would have none of it. He yelled at Barb, very angrily, but Barb was able to explain things to me as I neared Paradigm.
Aaron came to the van, unhappy and frustrated and embarrassed. We talked as I drove us home. We talked after we got home. We talked during supper. We talked after supper. We talked during the evening. We talked out in the yard with our neighbors. We talked on the way to bed. We talked after Aaron was in bed. We talked first thing this morning. We talked during breakfast. We talked while I was fixing my hair.
You get the idea, right? Aaron must talk and talk and talk and talk as part of his method of processing these situations.
But here’s the deal…the thing that strikes me so much about all of this.
So many of the clients at Aaron’s special needs day group have obsessions of varying sorts. An obsession is a “compelling motivation.” And trust me, these special adults are extremely compelled in their motivations to satisfy their various obsessions.
One of Aaron’s obsessions is to give things away. Now, that sounds very sweet, and often it is. But he will give away his food. He will give away his money. And he will give away anything else he has that he thinks might make someone happy.
What he doesn’t understand is that often he is also feeding another person’s obsession…an obsession that the staff is attempting to help the person control.
Years ago, Aaron met Rosa at Paradigm. They became special friends. Aaron found out that Rosa liked crayons, so he would take her a few crayons almost every day. I didn’t realize that Rosa didn’t just like crayons…she was very obsessed with crayons. Too many crayons pushed her over the edge emotionally. I learned this after talking to Rosa’s mother. She and I are good friends today, and I was very thankful that she let me know that Aaron’s generosity was actually a detriment to Rosa.
Over the years, we have seen this pattern repeated over and over with Aaron’s various friends. One wants his food. Another wants his money. One likes stuffed animals. On and on.
It’s what I call the colliding of obsessions. Aaron will give ANYTHING away, so if he finds that someone likes something, he will do anything within his power to see that they get it. He is feeding his obsession while feeding theirs.
Few of these special friends of Aaron’s can fully understand the situation in which they find themselves. Reasoning through this with Aaron was extremely difficult yesterday. He blamed Barb. He was angry with me, and with Gary. He firmly informed us that he was NOT going to Houston with us to see Andrea and Kyle over the 4th.
And he obstinately folded his arms while telling us that he didn’t care!
But he does care. He just can’t rationalize this like we can. And neither can his special friends at Paradigm who struggle with their obsessions. It’s a volatile mix!
Kudos to the staff at Paradigm, and at so many other special needs groups, for all they must handle when it comes to these situations. Most are like Aaron and can’t connect the dots in order to make a complete picture. There is anger and yelling from the clients while the staff must remain calm and focused.
Every. Single. Day. The staff diffuses these situations every day. Just this morning Barb told me that she had already taken a whole sack of used QT coffee cups and empty containers of disinfectant wipes away from K! And I’m sure K was not one bit happy.
I kept Aaron home today to allow him more time to decompress, and to decide that Barb really isn’t the enemy here. He loves Barb – she’s his second mother – and tomorrow he’ll probably be fine. I’ve had time to further explain K to Aaron.
As we talked, Aaron told me that K saw the card and wanted it. I don’t know if that’s totally true, but he also said that she told him it was her birthday and he should give her the card. His statement to me, though, was so telling…said in Aaron’s very special way.
“Mom,” he said, “I fell into her idea.”
I chuckle at how he words things while also being amazed at his insights.
Oh, if only he would remember not to fall into other’s ideas…and into many of his OWN!!
And if he would also remember what I tell him on many days. I tell him not to give away his money, but to give away kind words and friendship to others. No one can get enough of those!
That’s an idea worth falling into!