Master Manipulator

From an early age, Eddie figured out ways to get out of activities he simply didn’t want to do, or that were hard for him. It didn’t seem to matter what developmental milestones he wasn’t hitting, he was mastering all the milestones of manipulation. This was especially true when it came to avoidance tactics. Just when we thought we had him all figured out, he’d come up with another strategy.

We first noticed this skill when he was six months old. His physical therapist would come over and work with Eddie for about ten minutes and then Eddie would fall asleep. He literally went limp with his eyes closed. Of course, after trying to wake him without success, his therapist would pack up and say, “See you next week.”

After the third or fourth time of this happening, his therapist left early, and I looked over to see a grin spread across Eddie’s face at the same time the front door closed. What a turkey! He was faking sleep to get her to leave. From that point forward, we continued to keep him moving through his pretend slumber and eventually he would open his eyes and participate. Immediately after he knew we were on to him, he gave up this tactic.

Once Eddie moved to pre-school, he realized his growing size was on his side. When asked to walk alone with a walker, he would simply drop like a sack of potatoes onto the floor. It took months of teaching him to use his walker before he trusted it enough to use it alone. At first, we were able to muscle him off the floor, but as he got bigger, this just wasn’t possible. He still pulls this trick from time-to-time, but we simply wait him out and eventually he is on his feet again.

Also in pre-school, Eddie worked on the tantrum strategy to avoid work. At first, he probably got away with it many times. Once we knew the tantrums were task related we simply waited for him to pull himself together. It wasn’t too long before he realized this wasn’t getting him out of anything, just prolonging the inevitable. We still see tantrums for sensory reasons, but rarely for task avoidance.

This year, as a kindergartner, he has discovered the ultimate strategic action for avoiding unpreferred activities. He snuggles. He crawls right into anyone’s lap that will let him and he hugs, and he grins, and he makes himself so adorable that all work is forgotten. Luckily, they figured this out quickly at school. However, even at school and home, this strategy still works from time to time. I find myself giving in often and then I almost have to slap myself out of it.

Overall, it doesn’t seem to matter what milestones Eddie has yet to achieve, he has already become a Master Manipulator. Even though it is frustrating at times, it also makes me happy. He is learning and practicing avoidance tactics right along with his peers and siblings. It is another indicator for everyone that Eddie is just a kid who happens to be blind. It’s true that he can’t write his name, but if you ask him to do it, I’d bet one hundred dollars he could find a way out of trying. Simply for that, I am proud of him.