Little Bean had his first anger skills class yesterday (if you remember, after seeing a therapist about some of his difficulties, she suggested both testing for Asperger's Syndrome and anger therapy). There were 5 kids total, along with their parents meeting with the psychologist for an hour long session.
I'll admit, and maybe my expectations were too high, but we did not learn anything in this session (about controlling angry behavior anyway) that we hadn't already tried. Basically, she talked about how angry feelings don't have to translate into angry behavior, and she gave us some tips to calm down (breathing, counting, taking a walk or giving yourself a time out to relax). I don't know, but really? It seemed a little basic to me.
What I did learn, however, was that Little Bean's "anger" isn't really manifested in a typical way, at least compared to the other children there. The other parents were all talking about how their kids get angry when they are asked to do something they don't want to do and throw fits. Little Bean of course, like any child has some of that, but most of his fits come from frustration. He doesn't like anything that confuses him, and unfortunately many things confuse him, which causes frustration, which causes meltdown. I'm not sure breathing is going to help him lower the frustration level from being confused. And unfortunately, some confusion is a necessary part of life--like during school time or piano, when he is learning a new song. Some of his confusion is from social situations too--he misunderstands the intentions of others and that leads him to be angry and meltdown. Or his routine is unexpectedly changed which leads to anxiety and confusion about what comes next, which in turn leads to meltdown. His "tantrums" are much less of a manipulation thing and much more of a response to confusion. So, I'm not sure how much this class is going to help him, but I'll hold back on further judgement until we've gone a few more times.
Another thing that was really hard for me to see what how difficult it was for him to interact with the other people in the class. He was very open and friendly (smiling, and being attentive), but every time he was required to respond, he got very anxious and came close to tears. The thing with Little Bean is that he has a really slow processing time when being asked questions that he can't anticipate ahead of time. He has always been this way, and unfortunately in our culture if you ask a question and don't get a response within 5 seconds, you assume the other person is not listening and repeat your question. Little Bean needs a much longer time frame to come up with an answer--even to something as simple as what's your favorite icecream flavor or what is your name. So when you're talking to him, there is always the compulsion to keep rephrasing your questions, which actually makes him more confused and makes it take longer for him to come up with an answer. I can tell he knows that he should be able to respond a little quicker because he gets very nervous with all eyes on him waiting for the response. It was really heartbreaking for me to see how every time a question was directed at him he became so flustered. The psychologist eventually realized that he needed more time, and would start on the opposite side of the table so that he would have more time to prepare (she was asking everyone the same questions), but even then there still wasn't enough time because he was so engaged in what the others were saying he didn't plan out what he was going to say.
He seemed to like going, so that at least is a plus. And since these are all kids who struggle with somewhat similar issues, who knows, maybe we can make a friend for him!