Kurt has been tested several times lately regarding his stealing. I've discovered it is about impulse control. He wants something, so he takes it. He knows right from wrong, but he impulsively swipes the object of his desire anyway.
Things started clicking for me when I talked to our behavioral consultant. "Kurt needs to control his impulses so that he doesn't do risky behavior," he said. "I worry that he'll do something that puts him in danger."
So this is about more than stealing. This is about giving Kurt the opportunity to practice making the right choices, practice in becoming competent as an adult. It struck me that I had already done this with Keith, and I'm in the middle of it with Kelly, our 17-year-old high school senior. Teens are by nature impulsive.
Searching for "impulse control" and "teens" on the internet brought 79,000 hits. When I added "epilepsy" to the search, 344,000 links came back. Impulse control is regulated by the brain, from what I've read, and someone with epilepsy is at a higher risk of having problems controlling their impulses.
On Saturday, Kurt saw a pile of pictures I had gathered of his brother Kelly. "May I look at these?" he said.
"Sure." I was already impressed that he asked first. In the past, I would not have left them sitting out because Kurt would have been too tempted to take them. "But don't take them. I need them for Kelly's graduation party."
As we sat in the kitchen together, Kurt remarked over several of the pictures. "I wish I had this one," he said. Kelly was three-years-old, dressed as a fireman for Halloween. "I would put it in a frame in my room."
"I have to make copies. Would you like me to make you a copy?"
"Uh-huh," he said.
I was pleased with our conversation and the fact Kurt was willing to wait for something he wanted. Later, I found him downstairs with one of the pictures. "Did you take that?" I asked. "Remember? You weren't supposed to take any."
"I did take it," he said and handed it back.
This was practice, and admittedly, Kurt took a picture. But now I have some perspective. Keith made mistakes. Kelly makes mistakes. And they don't have epilepsy. It's going to take a lot of practice.