Low IQ special needs adolescence does not come as a "thief in the night". It comes as a ton of bricks.
Behavioral management, which was never terribly effective, has become even less effective. We may still have a "paradoxical permission" effect, whereby when we give permission for an annoying behavior it becomes less attractive. I'm not sure we have even that however.
Medications are still available, but of course side-effects may be less tolerated.
Which is why I'm turning, with a measure of desperation, to my favorite sales book: Three Steps to Yes: The Gentle Art of Getting Your Way by Gene Bidell. I hope I can use some of Bidell's techniques to change my son's choices.
Bidell emphasizes understanding your Prospect's recognized and unrecognized needs and aversions, then figuring ways to meet them to get the sale. The Prospect "needs to win", for example, so find a way they can win and you can lose -- while still getting the Sale.
Understanding my son's world is a real challenge. He combines the limited knowledge of an early teen with a limited capability to understand and assimilate new knowledge.
I think, for example, that I erred by describing prison as the outcome of particularly poor choices. In my son's mind, I now realize, prison means no school, association with the police and K9 dogs he loves, comforting concrete instead of disturbing nature, agreeable routines, few challenges, plain meals, lots of television, regular exercise, no frightening choices, no concerns about employment, and congenial like minded peers.
In his mind, prison is not a bad thing, it's a bit heavenly. The worst bit is that in some ways he's quite right. He might actually find a well run low security prison more congenial than the alternatives.
So I need to persuade him that there are better options than prison (even if I'm not entirely sure there are - but that's a different story). Juvenile detention, for example, does include math class. It doesn't provide much police contact, and there are no K9 dogs. Most of all, there are no girls and his companions may not be very friendly.
At the same time I need to come up with a better future alternative for him to work towards - and I need to come up with it very quickly.
Update: In our community the local police are happy to enter a special needs person into their database with a special "tag" including disability and contact information.
Update 6/26/2010: UK study on low IQ prison population.