Thank you for the fantastic suggestion of a blog title! Here is a post about Jude’s comfort zone and stretching boundaries. If there’s ever anything you want me to witter on about then please just let me know x
Jude’s comfort zone is a minute phenomenon. It is something I envisage as a cosy bed, with Jude curled up inside a duvet and walls all around that he can literally touch. Jude isn’t one for trying new things, or at least not on initial suggestion.
Let’s stick with analogies. So Jude’s zone is this little warm cocoon of a space, let’s call it Judesville, that he likes to remain alone inside. Occasionally, he’ll invite others to visit. Within this zone you have activities such as playing in his bedroom on his iPad or with his “people” plus Granny and Grandad’s house without any of us with him (i.e. no one to take Granny’s attention away from him) eating his favourite lunch cooked by Granny.
The next zonal layer outside of Judesville can be reached fairly enthusiastically unless he’s in a funny mood. So maybe in this zone you could have swimming or going to one specific shop to buy mango or sweets. Jude will happily enter this zone on the affirmation that we will be returning straight back to home.
The next layer takes a bit of work to convince Jude to visit. So for example, if I suggest we go out for lunch or to anywhere he has visited before but isn’t certain of the surrounds. Maybe the zoo. Going for haircuts…though this may now be relegated to the outer zonal layer. If I mention going to the park or for a walk. There needs to be a reason to visit this layer and the offering I usually make is something food related. Jude has always “played ball” if food is involved. An ice cream at the park, walking via the sweet shop, stopping into the Co-op for a peach pot. You can literally see his eyes light up when food is mentioned1
The outer layers of Jude’s comfort zone are no longer commonly reachable – as mentioned above: going for a hair cut or walking into town. He used to love this! Maybe when the weather improves he’ll be up for it (via the sweet shop of course.)
So how do we prepare Jude for sudden movement from his comfort zone?
It’s really hard because his understanding of information isn’t great. So we’re currently in Edinburgh with my mum and the children and the only way I could explain to Jude what we were doing was the following: for a couple of days before we left home, I kept reminding him that in two days we would be going for a long drive (he likes the car thankfully!), we’d be staying in a flat and could go to the seaside one day for ice cream. It became a bit of a mantra. If I mentioned we’d go to the shops or any other additional information, he’d completely reject the notion and start shouting “no! no!” So I had to promise that he wouldn’t need to come to the shops and that we’d JUST go to the seaside for an ice cream and then straight back to the flat. Always straight back!
In an ideal world, I would have used some sort of visual recognition for Jude before we left home. So maybe printed pictures of the flat and a couple of places around Edinburgh that I wanted to take him. That way he’d familiarise himself with the city before even arriving. In future I will do this but as this was rather an impromptu trip, it wasn’t so easy. Life isn’t always planned months in advance and I like Jude to realise this too. I can’t work within his bubble all the time which maybe a fault of mine but I also have to think about the girls, Joe and myself.
I’m not sure how else to prepare him really. Jude isn’t great with preparation as was proven with our failed attempt to move him to that vile secondary school who virtually demonised him. They wanted a long, three week dragged out induction for Jude even though I explained that often Jude works better by being thrown in at the deep end. Fannying around just confuses him more. If you just suddenly expose him to something new then he quickly adapts, finds his safe space, the things he likes and off he goes. But if you drip feed him into a situation then that’s often when it all goes wrong. As they found out! That wasn’t the only reason his experience at that school was so awful but that’s another story…
It’s a really big thing for Jude to do, come away from home and be expected to cope. I think I push Jude a lot but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I always make sure he has a safe space, so during this week it has been his bedroom in the flat. He retreats there a lot with his iPad and his people, shuts the door and goes nuts if anyone tries to come it. Home from home. He knows he doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to and that Jude pace is perfectly fine. He missed the seaside trip this morning because he was having a bit of a moment (ok a very long “moment”. Mum eventually took the girls out and I stayed with Jude and typical for him, two hours later he kept saying that he wanted to go to the seaside. I’m not convinced he would have gone though. He was in that I want it/I don’t want it mood.
Jude with one shoe on, mid-“I want to/I don’t want to” and contemplating if after two hours of faffing, he was actually ready to walk five minutes to the shop and back. Arghhh!!
It took me three hours in total to convince him to walk to the supermarket with me to buy a few bits for lunch! He kept saying he wanted to go, put one shoe on then freaked out, shouted “no!”, threw his shoes and ran back to his room, slamming the door behind him. Jude would then precariously re-emerge, say he was ready, put one shoe on and freak out again. It’s incredibly frustrating and something they experience at his school as well. Eventually, and very confidently, we left the flat to buy lunch! It’s like he suddenly changes into this other person. The lovely, funny, happy Jude we know so well. Only one day left in Edinburgh and I hope so desperately I can get Jude further than the supermarket for a bit of fun with the family.
I know everyone works differently and perhaps, in future, I should try a different tact with Jude but I’m always convinced they just wouldn’t work. How do you prepare your child for something outside their comfort zone?