I am even having to completely rethink normal moment to moment interactions with him. I'm reading Ross Greene's book about dealing with explosive children. A lot of it has resonated better than any book I've read so far about any of his many diagnoses.
So I tried Greene's Plan B parenting strategy when John brought me a worksheet he had just completed 100% incorrectly. John is working on multiplying multiple digits and he is struggling. He finally managed to be successful with single digit multiplication after three years. That answer is described here. When John realized he didn't have a single problem correct, he and I both became convinced he was about to have another explosion.
I took a deep breath and applied the problem solving strategy. I echoed back his statements to show empathy and asked what was up. He finally revealed that he is extremely frustrated because he tries to do the work, and it takes a long time and then he finds out he has to do more work and he'll probably still get it wrong. But he also knew that he should be able to do it on his own and was frustrated at needing help. I shared my concern, which was that I was afraid he was going to give up every time he encounters something difficult. Then I invited him to work with me to find a solution that was doable, realistic, and mutually satisfying.
It took a while, but he calmed enough to say he was really tired, and stressed but he knew he would eventually have to do the work. We had already averted one meltdown earlier in the day using this method. I think he calmed more quickly because he recognized the pattern. I empathized, understanding how his hand would ache and he would have trouble concentrating. I suggested that we both agree that he didn't need to reattempt the worksheet right then.
I put several suggestions on the table and asked for his input as well, but he wasn't feeling quite up to that. He gave me valid reasons why my suggestions wouldn't work. And then, based on some of his responses and the fact he was calm enough I wasn't more concerned with his verbal abuse and disrespect than helping him, I offered a solution that we both agreed on. I certainly would never have come up with it on my own.
I suggested that we wait until after lunch and then I work the entire worksheet from scratch while he watched. I promised not to explain as I worked, just to let him watch. I asked for his assurance that he would pay attention and if he felt comfortable, could jump in and direct me as I worked. Oddly enough, this was satisfactory to me even though I normally would consider it cheating.
John is very visual. He has a very hard time with fine motor control in writing and keeping columns of numbers in line, contributing to many calculation errors. Auditory explanations are extremely frustrating and irritating to him. I realized that if he saw the procedure enough, he'd become more confident and allow the process to sink in. I don't know how long we will continue with me doing all of the math, but for now, I think this might work. And honestly, if it takes less than three years for him to become competent at this particular skill, we will be time ahead.