There are so many mysteries around autism. In my experience as a mother as well as a therapist, one of the hardest things to deal with is the extreme differences in behaviors that are often hard to predict.
For most of Ridge’s life, I expected resistance and complaining when we went anywhere- school, grocery store, trips, etc. The limited food interest was a constant problem too but then every now and then, my son might try something new and like it! Those moments were great but it would make me think that he COULD act differently more often.(And I would feel manipulated)
As a therapist, I would take data on the time it would take to start and complete homework. I tried positive reinforcement, prompting, and behavioral contracts. My data would show months of noncompliance with very little change and then one day, he decided to stop the fight and did his homework immediately and without any assistance. I wanted to see a progressive line of improvement but this is not how it went. I shared my data with my ABA teacher and he said, “Asperger kids blow our data and don’t follow along the expected course.” You don’t say???
This is confusing to other people as well. Teachers often judge my son as “able” and so they seem to get angry at him when he does not comply. Family members are confused as well. I felt that they often thought I was the cause. How could such variation be possible without clear changes in the environment or the plan? (It must be the mom!)
How many of you have been questioned why you put up with these behaviors? How many times have you heard that a good spanking would stop it? It is so aggravating to hear stuff like that because although maybe they want to help, they don’t understand the situation and are basing their suggestions on the assumption that we are at fault and that corporal punishment is the cure.
I have come to the conclusion that especially Asperger folks need to feel in control and not coerced. They are so intelligent and quickly respond with counter control measures when they feel pushed. Schools are based on rules and routines that may or may not have legitimate reasoning. In fact, why do most schools require a silent lunch? Shouldn’t we encourage positive social interaction in a natural situation? I know kids get loud but the constant policing of noise levels makes me nervous too. In a way, I don’t blame them for pushing back against stupidity.(But , we all have to learn how to blend in somewhat to navigate the world.)
At home I have seen wild variations in behaviors without any commands whatsoever.
Earlier this week, I picked up Ridge from school and headed to the CrossFit gym as planned. He looked angry and reasoned that he needed to go home because he had an end of year English test the next day( March is the end of the year?) I was struggling to see how the afternoon class would interfere with the test the next day and took him anyway. Once we got there, three athletes were completing a competitive work out for the CrossFit Open Games. We cheered on the amazing display of strength and endurance. CrossFit is a very close knit group where cheering for others is normal so he was used to this. Suddenly, he was out of his “funk” and when they finished, he decided that he wanted to do the same workout. The coach tried to suggest that he do the scaled version but he said he wanted to do the same workout that they had done with the “prescribed” weights for an adult male. (I did not know at the time that his dad had bet him $20 if he could beat his score.)
The next 25 minutes was grueling to watch as he threw up 95 pounds and hit the ground and up again to perform countless burpees. He was so exhausted but at the last minute he gave it everything and beat my husband’s score by 6 seconds. He stumbled outside, collapsed and threw up.
I was afraid that he would end on a negative note and never want to come back but then one of the men came over and congratulated him. He told him, “Ridge, you gave a tremendous effort and it reminds me that I can do more too. You are raising the bar for all of us. Great job, man!”
Maybe that is tricky part – finding the true motivations that our kids are working for. Thoughts are private events that we can’t observe like outer behaviors.
All I can say, is that I have seen amazing changes in my son. Often times it has to do with a person that he feels comfortable with that has encouraged him.
I have become a role to him that is more than a mom. I am often the cook, organizer, clothes washer, planner, checker, preparer, motivator, problem solver and other executive functions for him. I am more than a personal assistant though.
I have been pushed into roles I did not want. Advocate, fighter, mystic, and survivor. Most of us have become she-wolves in digging deep for answers that are not apparent.
“Ahhwooooo!!!!” to all my sisters in this pac! We are not alone in the wild ride!