On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

She goes a raging but ...

... but we can't hear a blazin' thing!

Her safe room is complete. It's actually really cute and cozy (and I've already taken a few minutes of respite in there myself.) It's very quiet in there which means, it's virtually noise free for us when she rages.

And how would I know that? Because the foam was on the wall for four hours and she was already taking the opportunity to rage until she was hoarse but WG, AB and I had to put our ears to the walls to hear anything.

Ah, bliss. Letting Sissy rage, knowing she's safe and we don't have to lose our minds while she screams it out.

OK, therapeutically speaking, here's the philosophy behind the safe room (for those that are curious):

After a full year of DBTs and coping skills to attempt to circumvent Sissy's rage, we still haven't been able to label the triggers or stop her rage before it goes to fight/flight. And we all know, once the limbic system gets involved, all bets are off.

At last week's CBAY meeting, I made the proposal that we take a CBT approach. Instead of telling Sissy to stop her rage, we GIVE HER PERMISSION to rage but we make it safe (and pain free for the rest of us). The objective is to let Sissy learn for herself that her rages accomplish nothing and hopefully, stop doing them altogether. (we can hope, we can hope). Also, with proof that a virtually vacant space with little visual clutter and few personal items to keep track of in RTC and on the psych floor, Sissy did well. Less IS more. It's hard to make that choice for our kids because we want them to have, have, have, have but stop that nonsense. Less is more. (besides, it's just more crap for them to destroy or chuck at us)

Thus, with four therapists (some of which have worked in institutions) in agreement and giving us a nod of approval, we requested waiver money to help with expenses and got to work.

We walled in her curtained space click here for the photo of her room right after discharge from RTC, put on a door and lined the walls with 3/8" foam from wesellmats

The walls are 3/8" construction grade plywood, not sheet rock because you can put a fist through sheet rock. The exterior walls are high grade panel board so it looks "nice". We put in a prehung 2.0 door, a remnant carpet, and removed all wooden furniture. Her mattress is on the floor with lots of throw pillows and fluffy blankets and her dresser is a plastic chest of drawers.

The finished room size is 6x7, more than ample space for privacy, sleeping, raging and chilling.[1]

She has access to her personal items but they are not in her room, save but one small bin of items that can be swapped out.

I tried punching the walls with my arms and my fists, kicking it and running my body against it. The foam is sufficient padding to prevent bruising and broken bones.

And of course, Sissy gave the royal scream fest a try and ... virtual silence for us!

Bliss. Pure bliss. Sissy can rage it out and I don't have to worry about her safety or the screaming retribution of the siblings that have to listen to her!

right, and you're probably asking "yeah, but how do you keep her IN it?" because locking a child in a room is illegal. We have the motion sensor in the living room for her sleep walking and to prevent her waking wandering at 4 am. As soon as she opens the door, the angle of the motion sensor will pick up the movement and it will go off. Besides, once she's in full rage, she usually stays stationary so that's never been a huge issue for us. Before resperidal, she'd wander and rage and get in our faces while jumping and flailing. SCARY!

[edit] there are no windows, no glass, no mirrors (the "mirror" in the third photo is just reflective plastic), no ropes, no nail clippers, no scissors, no long strings, no CDs, nothing she could hurt herself with. See also the list of contraband items you get when you put your child in RTC or on a psych ward. You wouldn't believe what these kids can hurt themselves with! And yes, random bed checks every week. I love her but I don't trust her. Her pillow case is always the first place my hand dives for contraband. And I've been known to remove her mattress and dump drawers looking for contraband, and never with a warning. Just "bed check!" and I go.

It's unconventional but I highly recommend it. Here's some photos so you can see for yourself how cute it is. Sissy picked the pepto bismol pink foam so it's a little nauseating to look at but hey, she likes pink.

and one of WG who wanted my readers to see how much she likes bugs and creepy critters and animals and mostly "that she really wishes she was a boy. Really!"

The walls are screwed into the crown molding and base boards, not bolted to the ceiling and floor. The existing two walls were covered in plywood as well so we could glue the foam to the plywood and not the existing wall. There was already an outlet on the flanking wall so we put in a hanging lamp, suspended from a planter hook in the ceiling. Circulation does not seem to be an issue, the temperature of the room is moderate and the space is large enough for a standing, oscillating fan. Foam was glued to the plywood walls with sub flooring adhesive. READ: no structural changes to our home and it can be torn down and removed with little effort and minimal repair work with wood putty to the molding and base board.

Cost: $160 for materials, $60 for the prehung door, $147 for the mats, $20 for a 6x7 bound remnant, 10 hours labor, all other furnishings were already available in our home


GB's Mom said...

Neat solution!

Corinn said...

Yaaaay! May this keep her safe and you sane.

G Mama Love said...

the violent autistic man i cared for had a safe room that was foam lined and this worked well. of course, he also had a regulation restraint chair as well, but that's a whole 'nother ball of wax

Happymom4 aka Hope Anne said...

That's amazing . . . and I'm so glad you got the approval and support for it. Here in Ohio it wouldn't pass--at least, not according to what we were told in classes. Why, you ask? Because it has no window . . . fire safety, and all that. (Never mind that a fire is less likely to happen than she is to seriously hurt herself were a glass object to be in her room!)

Integrity Singer said...

happymom4 - you make a good point about the window issue. There is a window not three feet from her entry door. And she's not locked in. So all she has to do is open the door and go out the window.

at RTC the windows were 4.5 feet off the ground and useless as a fire escape. At the hospital the windows were barred and not useable as an escape, of course there was a sprinkler system...

...you think maybe I should put in a sprinkler for her space? lol It would certainly cool her off if her rages didn't stop!

Bren said...


Elizabeth-Anne said...

Actually, here in PA, I know some people who, in fact, have special dispensation to lock their children into their rooms as a safety precaution. The local fire and police departments are informed, and I can't remember who all else.

I hope this works for you! It certainly looks like a start!

kisekileia said...

That's incredibly ingenious, and your CBT idea sounds good too. I hope that this keeps her safe and the rest of you sane. Do you think that with this room, you guys will be able to manage even if she doesn't get a long-term RTC placement?

kisekileia said...

Also, I actually rather like the pink.