Woman down

“Everyone falls down, the question is: Will you get back up?”


Just to keep us on our toes –( or our knees, rather) – there’s been an uptick in challenging behaviors with our Rhema girl. Grabbing. Non-compliance. Trouble transitioning. Spurts of aggression.

And flopping.

Rhema’s school has been tracking the behavior for years, and once a month every month I look at a graph that shows how much my kid’s been hitting the deck. I’ve Googled it, I’ve asked BCBA’s (Board Certified Behavioral Analyst) about it, What’s with the flopping? What is it about some people with autism that they flop?

Naturally it’s been the precursor to a tantrum. I get that. But sometimes it’s when everything is cool, we’re happy, we’re walking, and then FLOP!  Down she goes. It’s not a seizure (thank God) or low muscle tone or some physical impairment; it’s just a flop. Eight year-old style.

I’m so curious to know what it does for Rhema. Does it release tension? Is it purely an escape mechanism? Does she just love inhaling the floor?

Sometimes when I’m in a crowded subway station, or on the playground, or in the middle of a meeting, I wonder, What would happen right now if I just… FLOPPED!

I decided I just had to try it. It took me a while to figure out the when and where. Who better to do The Flop on than Flop Queen herself? Not only would I experience whatever it is she experiences, maybe it would give her a taste of her own medicine. Two can play this game, baby. Yeah.

This afternoon she took my hand and led me to the refrigerator. It’s a daily routine. She wants cheese so she leads me to the kitchen and throws my hand at the refrigerator door.

But it was at this precise moment… instead of getting the cheese… I went down. Hard. Definitely a score of 9.9.

And there I lay on the floor. Big. In front of the refrigerator. Contemplating patterns in the hardwood. Trying to absorb the whole Flop moment and wondering what Rhema thought of her mother.

My girl, she didn’t miss a beat.

She sat on my head.

26 thoughts on “Woman down

  1. I love it – they outsmart their momma’s everytime! Thanks for sharing – we have had an uptick in our house too – we are saying it’s the “end of school – never experienced summer break before ” event! Hope the wood patterns were exciting!! 🙂

  2. I have to ask – and I’m not trying to be mean at all, so forgive me if I write it poorly. You are doing a lovely job. But I have a problem with ABA’s assumption and I wanting to challenging it – why is flopping bad? It’s part of their vocabulary. It communicates very effectively. When she flops with seemingly no reason, there WAS a reason. Maybe she just thought of something that happened. Maybe the straw happened twenty minutes ago. But it is very expressive. It’s a vehicle to express emotions, so why are we wanting to accept only positive emotions and not be just as accepting of their negative emotions?

    • we track a lot of behaviors at Rhema’s school, not always for the purpose of stopping or correcting them. flopping is tracked because it’s linked with Rhema’s ability to successfully transition from one thing to the next. (perhaps the biggest issue with the flop is not the flop but the effort it takes to get her back up). sure, it may be a way to express emotion but we want to guide her into other ways of doing that. a flop in a busy parking lot or a crowded street is not acceptable… when that type of behavior increases naturally we work on stopping it.

  3. I laughed out loud. Rhema is a wonder & the picture you paint of you flopping & her choice to sit on you- thanks for a morning pick-me-up. Now I can smile thru these med treatments & hold thoughts of you guys.

    And if it didn’t hurt, I say, try it again. But maybe in the yard. 🙂

  4. Did the flop hurt? I am picturing taking a total belly flop onto a hard floor and I keep thinking “ow ow ow.”

  5. I LAUGHED SO HARD! I’m wondering if you were able to get up again. I was fully expecting the end to tell about how long you were going to be out of commission. Hope you’re okay and thank you for the hysterics!!!!

  6. Hahaha! That’s such a crack-up! I choked on my coffee dipped biscuit when I got to the part where she sat on your head :D. I too would love to know why the flopping happens. I’m pretty sure my boy does it as a protest – he doesn’t want to do something, so he flops like a great big lump. Very frustrating!

  7. Oh my!!!! You are on the floor and your precious Rhema sitting on your head…..please give your Rhema a hug and let her know she put a smile on this mama’s face….Rhema Style!
    ps…..I wonder if she is seeking some sensory input….Dawson loves to be close to the Earth. He won’t even sleep in his bed anymore…only the floor…just a thought.

  8. My girl flops down hard on her knees. It makes us cringe, but she says it doesn’t hurt. I worry about her poor joints long term. It isn’t a tantrum behavior for her, it’s more a body awareness (or lack of) issue. I do wonder what’s in it for Rhema. You are such a good mom to get down on the flop level and try to figure it out.

  9. I love that she sat on your head – what an interesting (and funny) response!
    It’s been a long time, but I’m getting back into blogging and wanted to say hi and send some love. xoxo

  10. That is hilarious! This reminds me of the first time my son did it to me! I had a faceful of diaper and was being smothered while I was weak with laughter. He is five and whenever I lie on the floor it still beckons him to sit or bounce like he is on a bucking horse. I don’t know where he learned it but it is funny to me. Quite often I forget that he is going to do it automatically if I get on the floor. It is so amusing to know this happens to others!

    As for flopping, I imagine the journey to the ground feels like flying and then “landing” gives great deep joint impact. It meets the vestibular and proprioceptive needs. Since the location of flopping (like parking lot) is a problem, what do you think of providing an air mattress for her to flop on too? You can demonstrate your flopping on the mattress and then get up, throw your arms in the air like you are an Olympic gymnast giving a medal-worthy performance and shout, “Yaayyy!” Hopefully, she will mimic that and learn to get up too. Then it can be a fun, positive experience for everyone. 🙂

    Rather than eliminating the entire behavior that the kids like which is really hard to do and can create a battle of wills, you are providing a better environment for her to meet her needs. Sometimes behavior people focus way too much on compliance/conformity and I don’t really want my son to act like everyone else. My son can’t fulfill his destiny if he is acting like someone else or conforming to other’s expectations. What if Jesus had conformed to other’s expectations? What if Jesus had to get ABA therapy or was treated by a BCBA?! Yikes! He said greater things shall we do and that includes Rhema and my son. Anyway, I hope this helps and you don’t feel like I am telling you what to do. Feel free to toss out the bad and hold onto the good. 🙂 Love your blog!

    • Hi Tendai!
      As a BCBA, something I find most important in my work is taking parents’ wants, needs, and desires for their children into account. It really helps me to hear and read parents opinions to take into account when I am working with these wonderful children. I think, as you stated, many parents think when we want to decrease what we call “challenging” behaviors, it may be taken as us wanting to change a personality trait of their child, whereas the parent wants to be more accepting. From a behavioral perspective (or my behavioral perspective anyway), we just want to help the child gain as much independence and teach them skills to lead the best life they can. Often, behaviors such as flopping, are interfering with other skill acquisition. So, if a flop is happening because a child does not want to do something, we want to acknowledge that, but teach them a way to do that that will be more beneficial and functional in the child’s life. Mom and Dad may understand what a flop means, but we want that child to be able to express his/herself and lots of situations, not just at home. As you said, this may be “conforming” to society’s standards, but if the ultimate goal is to help this child live a fulfulling life, they may need to do a bit of conforming in order to help them make friends, interact with others, and maybe work in the community one day. I understand your frustrations in not wanting to change your child or make them be something that they are not, but us behaviorists aren’t all bad 🙂 We really do have the child’s best interest at heart. Some behaviors (flopping, self-injury, aggression) may not pose a risk to a small child, but a larger child engaging in these behaviors can be both dangerous to themselves and others. Teaching them a different way to express the same wants and needs can be a stepping stone to helping that child lead their best life. It sounds that maybe you had a negative experience with a behaviorist, but I hope you have found the support system that works for you and your child. 🙂

  11. Haha, love her response!! Bitty does the flop too, it is a mystery to me. He’s kind of adapted it so that now it looks more like a movie-style fake fall or slide into home plate. I’ve tried it with him on carpet (it’s been a while) but not brave enough to try it on a hard floor or sidewalk, lol.

  12. Pingback: How it happened « Autism In a Word

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