Monday, May 31, 2010
Of course, we were reunited within just a couple of minutes, but the sense of anxiety and loss has stuck with him all these years. As a result, it can be very tough for Tom to be on his own in a public place, out of sight of mom or dad, even at the age of nearly fourteen.
To help him develop the emotional skills to manage being out of eyeshot, we've been practicing in the grocery store. We've developed a whistle to say "here I am!," and today Tom practiced heading up an aisle and out of view, and then whistling back and forth with mom. A little later, I sent him to find a product in the next aisle, but we kept talking throughout the process. By the end of the shopping trip, Tom was able to head back to the produce aisle to get a less-squashed bunch of bananas while I continue to place items on the cashier's counter!
This type of step-by-step approach isn't actually managed in a day. We've been working toward grocery-store independence for months... sometimes in visual range, sometimes not. Each time, we've talked about the issue of anxiety, about strategies for finding me (whistling, calling, asking a staff person for help), and each time the anxiety has been just a bit less.
No, we still can't send our almost-fourteen-year-old around the corner for a quart of milk. But step by step, that possibility gets closer!