Monday, December 29, 2008

Going Postal

My daughter, Jessica, is 18 years old, and should be starting to find a job. Jessica is significantly cognitively impaired, but I strongly believe that there is a job that she can do and can do well. She has always said she wanted to be a nurse's aide, and I want to support her in reaching those dreams. And even if she doesn't realize that exact dream, she needs to find her place in the adult world. It's going to be really tough though given her outbursts of rage and aggression.

For years, 11 to be exact, Jessica has struggled with Reactive Attachment Disorder, a condition common in adopted children and which manifests with outbursts of aggression. Because of her significant cognitive challenges, traditional talk therapy has not been an option. All her doctors and I have been able to do in an attempt to control the aggression is to medicate her. I hate it, but she cannot be allowed to hurt herself or other people.

I had hoped that once the surge of puberty hormones subsided, her aggressive behavior would also. But the opposite has happened - she has gotten increasingly more aggressive, and as she has grown, that aggression has the potential to be very dangerous.

When Jessica is not being aggressive, she is the sweetest, kindest person you might ever meet. But when the moments of rage strike, and those moments are not predictable, everyone around her is in danger. So I wonder, how will Jessica be able to maintain a job when she can't maintain control of her anger?

Her school system, her case manager, other support staff and I have been working very hard to make sure she has the skills to do a job she would enjoy doing. But we are all at a loss as to how to help Jessica overcome her rage and aggression to the point that an employer would be comfortable hiring her.

Have any of you faced a similar situation, and if so, do you have any advice to share? I sure could use some...


mommy~dearest said...

Oh- I have no advice, but will be checking back for some. That is a very valid concern that we share. I don't doubt that my son will be able to "do" a job, but I am not so sure he would be able to "keep" a job. He is so resistant to authority, does not accept constructive criticism, and any little thing could send him off into an aggressive outburst.

Talk therapy is not an option for him either, so I try to teach him self-regulation skills when I see an opportunity. He has been a bit receptive, but still needs me there to coach him in harnessing his frustration before if blows into something bigger. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn't. He knows what he has to do to calm down, but when the frustration strikes, he just can't do it.

This is perhaps one of the biggest things that cause my heart to ache with my son- and he's still young.

hennhouse said...

Both of our sons also struggle with RAD--especially our oldest (12 years old). One thing my Tim does when the aggression seems to rear its head, is take our son to the garage where they pound nails into a two-by-four until the angry seems to subside. Sometimes, they pound together. Sometimes, the husband just lets our son pound away. We have also allowed rock throwing. We draw a picture of what he is angry at (on really large craft paper) and then we take it outside and let him throw rocks at the real object of his anger--instead of at the house or at us.

Neither is a long-term solution. But they work for our 12-year-old son for now. And honestly, I don't know that he will ever get over having bouts of anger, but we're trying to help him cope with it.

Jami said...

Google "customized employment" and/or "micro-enterprise"

the latest wave in the developmental disability community and the world of work.

if you haven't already, try looking at the TASH website.

By the way, I read your blog almost every day and love hearing about your family. As a professional in the field of developmental disabilities for 21 years, I need to hear what parents experience so that I can retain humility when my professional demeanor becomes too...professional. :)