So a combo of things today contributed to this post. I'm following a page on Facebook that gives long posts about certain aspects of ASD. A post today talked about punishing during meltdowns or because of meltdowns.
And, today we were in the grocery store, and my son was running all over the place, just out of control tearing around the store. He appeared to be playing with his sister, who proceeded to call out his name over and over (and I can't even tell you how adorable she sounded doing it! I have to get this on video!).
Anyway, I just took it in stride. (It's okay, it is a VERY small town, and a very small grocery store and it was not busy today. And the people in the store know where he belongs. ;) )
Anyway, when we got in the car, and he was calmed down a bit and quiet I asked him sweetly, "So, when you're running around the store like that, what is going on? Why do you do that?"
His simple answer: "It's just so darn loud in there."
I could have punished his running around behavior. It was his "meltdown", but it was slightly annoying. In fact, I have yelled at him for this behavior. I get very stressed and distracted when I am worried about him tearing all over the place. This makes shopping take longer, and I hate that. Every time I get interrupted I have to start over again, look back at the list, or recount what I'm picking up or whatever.
This is only the millionth time that this has happened (which is probably why I take it in stride, especially after he got really lost in a larger grocery store not long ago!). He knows what to do when he gets lost, and like I said, this was our more local store, so it was very small and very slow at the time we were there. So I wasn't concerned for his safety, because I knew he was safe there.
If I had punished him, he would have only become more anxious. He was being driven crazy by all the sounds, the lights (he hears lights), the running coolers and freezers, the people stocking and talking and the music playing and everything. He got crazy and harmlessly ran all around. No one got hurt, and I got to hear his little sister repeatedly say his name so cutely... it was adorable.
When I punished him for these things that are really out of his control (for the most part), then the next time he encountered those sensory nightmares, he would no doubt have some stress about feeling safe releasing his tension about all the sensory input he was receiving. Maybe he wouldn't tear all over the store, but he would argue, or constantly talk and interrupt me trying to shop, or try to ride on or push the cart, or start putting random food in the cart. I think when given the choice, the running around was the least distracting of the options I have.
Often he does sit in the car when I go in. Again, we live in a very small town, and I do leave my phone with him just in case. And I do lock him in most of the time, because why not.
But that isn't always possible. (And to be honest today he said he was staying in the car, then changed his mind as I was getting his sister out so I actually forgot the keys in the car, thank goodness I didn't lock the doors!)
However, next time he has to go in? He needs to wear his sound blocking headphones. He might not be able to hear me well, but at least he can be calm when he wears them.
I have tried other things like trying to get him to hold the list while we shop so that he can tell me what we need next and stuff. I have tried giving him the job of getting the goods into the cart. Sometimes he gets one of those kid carts, but most of the time that is a whole other nightmare in itself. Either way, those things don't help him stay calm, and I usually end up just saying forget it and he's off wandering or something.
It isn't a walk in the park. But from what I have experienced, it is better to assume the best instead of the worst. It is better to assume he is having a problem dealing with being in town or whatever, than to think he is purposely going out of his way to distract me, make me mad, or be a jerk (can you believe some parents actually say that about their children!?!).
It is always better to love than to correct. When you love first, then people want to please you. When you love first, then people want to make you happy with them. If it weren't for the love of people in my life, I probably would have been one messed up kid. Even if sometimes it felt as if there was only one person in my life, pleasing them was such a good feeling that it kept me going.
So. What kind of grocery store tips do YOU have for ASD?
I'm a bit leery of traditional "therapies" targeted at kids with ASD. I agree with many who feel that the therapies focus too much on what the kids CANNOT do, and actually try to discourage the things that the child loves or is obsessed about. I think that the feeling there is that the kid will be picked on, or stick out, because they are SOOOO obsessed with X. They don't want other people to be staring at their kid, or they don't want their kid to be so obsessed. For some reason, this makes other people uncomfortable! Things get said, like, "WHY are you SO OBSESSED with that!!!"
Here's what I think. I think we need to indulge these kids more. I think we need to take their passions and obsessions and we need to find a way to make those things function in their daily lives. Your kid needs to do math homework, but is too obsessed with legos to do it? Why don't you use legos to teach the math? Why don't you bring the legos to the table, and use them as counting tools? I have found a whole link of things you can do to use legos for learning: http://www.blessedbeyondadoubt.com/free-lego-printables-lego-learning/
My B loves it when we get to use legos with math activities. The first time I introduced the idea, I just asked him innocently to go get 10 items from his room. Then I though, make it 10 legos! So, it takes him a minute and he comes back with 10 legos. We do the math activity, and it's awesome. We get done, and he's tells me to wait a minute, and BOOM, he makes a lego car. He didn't just go get 10 legos, he got 10 legos that build something, and he did it in just a minute. This boy knows his stuff.
Then I think to myself what lego can be teaching him. How things fit together, counting, adding pieces together, breaking them down to see if other sized pieces can replace bigger ones. He has some technic pieces now too, so he is learning gears and real simple engineering. I mean, this is fabulous stuff! Why would I tell him to stop being obsessed with legos? It's something fun, he enjoys it, it relaxes him, I hear him in there singing, and he builds the most interesting things! He comes up with an idea, he explains his idea, he refines it and makes it better.
So you're kid is obsessed with being a cat? Let them be a cat! Count kitty food or something. There is always a way to use the kid's passions to help them succeed.
Why would you tear a kid away from the one thing they love, just because you think it isn't normal? While you try to tear them away from their "thing", you are causing them an awful lot of stress that isn't really necessary. Again I say, use this to motivate them to do what you need to do.
I recently watch the video about the "boy genius" who's mom was told he would basically never amount to anything because of his "disability". Now this kid is absolutely genius. She gave an example that he loved to look at water in a glass (I think) so she just gave him a bunch of glasses with different amounts of water in it. That kid was learning something from that, why tear him away from it because you think it's weird? (Read more about him here and here. One particularly interesting quote says: "She believes in a learning technique she calls “muchness ... It is finding that thing that children are truly passionate about within themselves. It can’t be something that you’re telling them to do. And then it has to be total immersion, very rich experiences built around those interests.” "
Thinking back on my life, I can see how some of the things that I was obsessed with actually turned into being some of my greatest gifts. I wanted the people I care about to feel good, to feel welcome, to feel loved. I always was doing little things or big things that let them know they were special to me. I was teased, told I was weird, obsessed. It didn't really stop me, but it did make me confused. If it made me happy, and was rooted in the fact that I wanted to make THEM happy, who is it hurting? I just didn't get it. Maybe I didn't always show in the most "socially acceptable" way, and maybe I was a little "too obsessed". But instead of maybe being taught how to be socially appropriate about it, I was just viewed as weird, or stupid, or crazy, or whatever.
I guess, in a way, I still have the problem of wanting to help people, but being misunderstood. I want people to know things that I've learned or read, so I tend to almost drown them with all the information at once, and a lot of arguments have been started because of it! I never have learned to tone that passion down. Though, once a person gets to know that I'm only sharing to share, and not sharing to judge, then everything is fine. I guess I'm more like a male in the respect that when someone has a problem, I want to offer my suggestions for them to fix it.
Which brings to mind a pretty emotional video that goes around now and then by Penn Jillette, who talks about a man who spoke to him after a show and gave him a Bible. He goes on to say something along the lines of "How much do you have to hate someone to not proselytize?"
I tend to feel that way about almost every topic I get passionate about. How much do you have to hate someone to not show them your passion about breastfeeding and helping moms make that be successful? How much do you have to hate someone to not share with them better information about diet and health? How much do you have to hate someone to not tell them that smoking or porn is wrong and damaging? Do you see what I mean?
Let the kids be obsessed. Let them be passionate. Let them discover what they are interested in and then let their little world be filled with those things, but also let those things lead them in other directions too! We don't just start with legos and never advance to lego technic. We don't just let matchbox cars be the only thing that captures the mind, we introduce books on the subject, which leads to a love for reading! There are just so many ways to do things with a child's interest - and if you can't think of them, then google it! The internet is a wonderful place of information for times like those.
Anyway. I hope this post (that was intended to be short, sorry!) makes sense.
Here we think, as parents, that we are pretty nice to our kids. We think that we give them a break, that we love them too much to do things that might actually be the cause of their troubles.
To be honest, I'm finding sometimes that I do things that cause my son to lose it!
I push him to finish things when he is overwhelmed. I try to get him to switch tasks too quickly. I urge him to just finish this one last part of lessons before lunch when he's too hungry to focus anymore.
Here, I thought my son was having problems, and yes, his ASD is a big part of that. But I'm starting to see more and more little times when his problem isn't his ASD, or, rather not directly. I'm starting to see his problem is ME, more often than I like to admit.
So, once again, just like with my diagnosis, I'm finding relief in knowing for sure. Diagnosis a huge part of helping change what ASD looks like here in this house. Knowing puts you into the place where you can releate and understand what you are going through from a new perspective.