What motivates you? I mean, what makes you want to jump out of your chair and act? Is it music? Family? Money? A hobby? Your career? What about your kids?

If you read my last post, it was pretty clear that little man wasn’t doing well. We couldn’t figure out what had happened. He had been doing really well and we hadn’t changed his treatment in a couple weeks. Perhaps that was the problem.

While training the dog with treats (she is food motivated), little man wanted to play along. But doggie treats weren’t quite the thing to motivate his actions so, Steve handed him a coin. He ran immediately to his piggy bank and came back for more. Suddenly, it clicked.

We had been working so hard to create new neural pathways and yet, we were doing little to reinforce them. As a result, he would return to default mode. Since he has been sick for at least two years, much of his learned behavior developed during his illness. That behavior felt comfortable. It felt safe. Even though it was everything but.

We were trying to talk him out of his flares, which were now (we believe) happening out of habit. But it was so difficult to recognize the difference. We saw the same pupil dilation, the selective mutism, the aggressive behaviors, the animalistic grunting and even other physical symptoms such as gas and dark under eye circles. It seemed as if he just wasn’t getting better.

We began handing him a coin whenever he exhibited polite behavior or took the initiative and did something on his own. He got a penny if he said please after being reminded, a nickel if he didn’t need prompting, a dime if he didn’t ask but did it himself, and a quarter if he went above and beyond. Now, let me be clear, I do not recommend this as a regular parenting strategy. You would probably go broke, for one thing. But little man has always been diligent about saving his money. He is the same way with tickets from arcades, etc. He is perfectly content leaving without spending a dime (or a ticket). Money is his motivator.

I wouldn’t say he is 100% recovered. We still see some emotional lability, agoraphobia, rigidity, and some mania. As stated before, we continue to work with our homeopath, doctors, energy healers, and of course, he gets chiropractic adjustments. But he is truly a different child. Overnight.

This strategy is a common behavior modification that one might see in cognitive behavioral therapy, and I would recommend that if you are unfamiliar with such techniques, to find a behavioral therapist who might be able to assist in the implementation.

Steve and I have immersed ourselves in understanding the brain as of late and the reason this worked for us really makes a lot of sense. Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental and/or autoimmune issues display an imbalance between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It is as if one hemisphere is one developmental age and the other is a different one. Just imagine trying to comprehend complex philosophical concepts with half of your brain thinking as a 10-year old. It might be difficult to reconcile your thoughts or understand new concepts. But, when you meet that same half of your brain at it’s 10-year old maturity and then nurture each new neural pathway, it grows. For more on this, we recommend reading Disconnected Kids (here).

I realize that to some, this may seem as if little man just had a case of bad behavior and that paying him for good behavior is just going to “spoil” him. I disagree. The changes in him are remarkable. And those close to him recognize the profound turnaround.

We have been at this for only two and a half days and he has already stopped reminding us that he earned a coin. I predict that after about a week, this will become regular behavior and the coin rewards will just fade away. So, I’m out about 20 bucks. But we are rich in life and love.

Hugs and Healing,

Mama Bear