Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Aspie Life & The Expectations Of Outsiders

Recently I had a few short conversations, and it brought my attention again to the fact that what you do inside your own family with autism/aspergers is completely different from the perspectives people without autism have.

One quick thought I have is although it seemed like everyone else was SOOOO concerned with my having a crush on my teacher, my mother was highly unconcerned. See, she's on the inside, and from the inside, she understood from her personal experience and perspective, and never gave it a second thought. And obviously, to me that means she trusted him too, which is encouraging. 

But probably the most common, is discipline. First of all, based on a LOT of research (and I mean a LOT, including religious research {EGW}), I am intending to parent differently than my parents did, or their parents. Most of the time, I completely fail it, do it wrong, do what I know. But I intend to do things differently.

Even so, I've TRIED the other route, and it simply doesn't work. Instead of putting the "fear of God" into the kids, it puts the fear of ME into them. I don't want my kids to obey me because they fear me, I want them to because they trust me and that it's the right thing to do. I want to engage their critical thinking skills or something. 

I want to "teach [my] children pleasantly, without scolding or faultfinding, seeking to bind the hearts of the little ones to them by silken cords of love". (CG, pg 86) Again, I fail fail fail at that so badly, I scold quite a lot and faultfind quite a lot. I'm a perfectionist, and unfortunately that falls onto my kids too sometimes, and I'm really bad at holding myself together sometimes. But I do intend to do things in a way that bonds them in love, instead of fear. It is apparently an incredibly difficult thing to balance because I feel like I'm failing at that every single day. *guilt*

But, as I said, I've tried that ever popular, punishing "other way" that everyone seems to love and support. All it has done in THIS house is increase the anger, in both directions, and increase the attitude, and give more fuel to the fire of anger and vengeance and meltdown intensity that the boy has. I personally remember it increasing my "hatred" of my parents. I don't want to encourage that!
 I feel things would be at least 90% better if I could control MY response/reaction, but still, the method of punishment only makes things worse.  It has, and it does, still. 

Now, on the outside, this looks like permissive parenting. We let things slide that the average person wouldn't. When it comes to attitudes and sass, there is a higher limit to those things in this family, simply because we know where it's coming from (the autism, sensory issues or whatever the situation dictates). We understand the limitations our kid has and we don't punish him for it because we understand the whole picture. We don't punish him for losing it in a high noise/high sensory situation because it is not his fault that his system cannot manage those situations for very long. I think, reflecting on this, we don't always do a good enough job of helping him to avoid or take a break from that situation either.

That's like punishing an adult for swearing after they just stuck their hand on a hot electric burner. Would you really expect an adult to maintain calm after that just fried their hand? Then why do we expect kids (with or without autism) who have sensory issues (or maybe even just normal kids) to be perfectly behaved in overwhelming situations? After all, an adult has at least 2 decades of experience "practicing" dealing with situations. It should go without saying that a child has less experience and practice dealing with life in general, but more so when they are overwhelmed by life to begin with! So to punish them for that? It's a really really hard decision to make.

Obviously, this does come with a balance and enough does become enough. We do draw the line somewhere. It's just in a different place than everyone else thinks we should draw it.

Maybe if we drew the line sooner, we wouldn't get so far into intensity, you might be thinking. Sure, that might be true. But we don't choose to make every single infraction WWIII. We'd like to try giving him a chance to think about it and change his behavior under his own power instead of using force. Additionally, as an aspie myself, I know that I'd rather do things based on my decision to, or because it makes sense. If I don't understand it, I tend not to want to "follow along" no matter who is doing the leading in whatever situation. So, we try to give him a chance to understand why he should do something, or that he should do it because it's in his best interests, or whatever. This means some deliberation has to take place! We have to discuss it or talk it out. Sometimes this is enough to help him tell himself "oh, okay..." and it's over. Sometimes it doesn't work and the sass gets worse, and we do have to step in and step up and get more firm. It just doesn't happen at the first indication of friction, and we want him to choose it, instead of having to start a war to force it.

See, there's another angle to look at this from too. My kid is one of those kids who isn't necessarily afraid to speak up. Sure, he does it with us, and an outsider considers that as disrespect. As I explained, we know there's a process there that we have to go through with him and it's going to look crazy to you on the outside. But, at the same time as much as he's willing to talk back to us, he will and has used that same strength to talk back to someone who's trying to make him do something that goes against our morals or family guidelines. He isn't afraid to speak up for what we've taught him is right and wrong. It doesn't matter if that ends up being a friend or family. I appreciate that. I have less worries about him being a people pleaser, or caving to peer pressure because he just doesn't care about doing something he knows is wrong or makes him uncomfortable. 

Basically, if you have no experience with autism, or even with that particular child, you don't really know from the inside what is going on. To be honest, autism or not, you really don't have the right to interject your opinions on parenting into someone else's parenting situation, because you just don't have the whole story. You can't possibly understand the family dynamic or the personality of the parents and the child involved, Add autism, either in the parent, the child, or both, and you're really overstepping into a world you really don't understand. If you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism. So even if you do, that doesn't mean that you know everything about it and can offer suggestion to another family about it.
If they ask, or engage in a conversation that is leading to needing help or whatever, then fine, the door has been opened. But otherwise, you'd best file it away in "I don't understand the full picture.." section of your brain and just not say anything unless you're invited.

Also, I can't help but think of the whole "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" line. If you think you should offer advice of how one way is better, you'd better be able to back that up with healthy outcomes. I find it the most frustrating to receive advice from people who's families are a complete mess as a result of the same said advice. Perhaps they think one doesn't have anything to do with the other? As if our childhoods don't determine anything about our futures? I don't know about that. I think, as they say in "Hope Floats", "Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome.". 

As I said about myself, I usually end up falling into what I know, yelling and punishing. I KNOW it doesn't work, I HATE doing it, but somehow its easier to yell and lose it than it is to stop myself, do the hard work of connecting and focusing on the problem. Again, I hate it, but I sometimes just can't overcome the things I know. And my parents can't overcome what they know, and theirs can't overcome what they know either. 

People think that all these "labels" are somehow excuses for kids to misbehave. I think we all need to be told that it isn't an excuse, it's an explanation. If you are having a health problem, the diagnose isn't a label, its the explanation. It all of a sudden makes your life make sense, because you're suffering and all of a sudden, you know why. Autism is no different. See, previous to the past few years, or maybe a decade, autism wasn't recognized the way it is today. I'm only in my early 30s and it was completely missed in me when I was a kid. I know I'm not the only one. There's likely thousands, if not millions, of undiagnosed out there. We've had 30 years to practice life, and we are who we are, and honestly most of us don't care what you think about that. We're that "weird" person you know, or "difficult" or "antisocial" person. So, that being said, we grew up where it was thought that we were just being jerks, so we'll punish it out of you. NOW, as I said, I can look at the whole picture. 

My son has autism. When we decide to try to go to a waterpark hotel for his birthday, and all of us end up fighting and having meltdowns, we know it's because of the noise, the lights, the people, the excitement, and so much pressure to have fun. No, my kid is not giving us a hard time, he's HAVING a hard time. I can look at him with more understanding and patience because I know that it's not something he can yet control. I have to help him learn it and I have to teach him how. 

Anyway, does this make any sense? I think as in all things parenting, we need to give each other more of a break. I don't think that most parents are out there purposely being permissive. I think we are all just trying to do the best that we can with the tools and knowledge we have. Getting outside judgement and advice from people who barely know isn't really that helpful, and actually only makes the situation worse. It makes us feel as if we "should" be doing something else, which stresses us out, which takes away our ability to be as patient as we would normally be, and it breaks things down sooner than if the situation is allowed to naturally work through the way we do it.

Just give your fellow parents a break. Give them the benefit of the doubt that we're all just doing our best. If we invite you in, and ask for advice, by all means, lovingly offer your thoughts. But really, you can't make any of that happen without a relationship and an invitation. It just comes across all wrong.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Non Verbal Autism

So, I don't really like to talk about autism in relation to "function" or "severity". I honestly believe that autism is for a reason, and to compare or describe some people as being "severely affected" or "higher functioning" sounds so harsh, as if someone who can't speak, for example, is "less able to function" than someone who can. I don't believe that. I believe that even those who aren't able to speak have a lot going on inside, they just haven't been given the tools to let that out.

I think in recent years this has come a long way. With the invention of special computers and programs to help these people who cant speak have an outlet of communication, I think we are starting to see proof that these people have active, exciting minds, they just aren't able to speak for some reason or another. 

I think it is fantastic to give these people the ability to speak. I think it is beautiful that we are finally saying that, okay, they can't speak, but their brains still are going a million miles an hour, lets get them hooked up to a computer program and give them some tools to speak to us from where they are at! 

It really isn't that different from deafness, or blindness, or Helen Keller, is it? Even Helen Keller found a way to communicate thanks to an understanding person or people who found a way to meet Helen where she was at her ability of function! We should be doing no different to autistic kids. So they can't speak. So what? It doesn't mean that they are stupid, or brain dead, or mentally handicapped. Meet them where they are. Give them the tools, whatever that means individually, for them to communicate. Stop focusing on how "disabled" they look, and start being creative and thinking about what they can do! 

I think the two links I posted in the beginning of this post are a good place to start talking about these things. We DO tend to judge all autistic people as WE think they are. We have a LOT of learning left to do!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Sorry that there has been silence on my end! I didn't mean to let so much time go between posts. 

I guess I would say things here are going good. We started homeschooling again a few weeks back, and we are finally getting into a groove. The first couple weeks it took all day just to get and keep him motivated and do the work. Now though it is down to a manageable 2-3 hours, which is what we like, even though sometimes that 2-3 hours goes over lunchtime and we have to pause for lunch and nap. 

Yes! Nap! I started lying down with little B girl to get her to nap. She really needs one still, if she misses it she ends up falling asleep at supper, then she wakes with night terrors and wants to stay up super late. Naps help her a lot, and though I have to stop what I'm doing to put her down, it is worth it. Heck, sometimes it is nice for me to lie down too and get a short little catnap, and I'm sure that's something I will be having to do when the baby is here anyway.

So, the baby! Things are doing find. The "big" ultrasound pretty much put all the measurements right exactly on target, or within 2 days on either side of the due date. So everything is just perfectly fine there. Boring boring, as the midwife says, and that's where we want to stay. No surprises, no crazy stuff. Just boring. I'll see her again Thursday this week.

I'm to the point now where I wanna meet this baby! Finally! We did not find out if it is a boy or a girl, and we have a boy name, but the girl name is still up in the air, though I have one picked, Jeff doesn't seem to like it as much, but if nothing better comes along, then I guess that's what it's going to be. ;) We will see how it goes, I still feel confident that I don't care either way. 

Sometimes I think of something that still bothers me, like where am I going to put this baby's clothing?! We have 2 bedrooms for the kids and they are both filled with clothes for the kids of course. We've been trying to find room for and go through some things that we had stored at my parents, so thats taking up quite a bit of space in closets as well, which makes me nervous too because, really, there's a third kid coming and we're going to eventually have to have a place to put its stuff! Obviously, some major purging is going on around here. I don't mind that, because I am a kind of organizing, purging machine most of the time. We have never gone to BIG town without at least one bag or box of stuff that is getting rid of. I'm always deciding I don't need things, or reorganizing, or sorting through.

I'm glad we have a small house and even smaller storage spaces so that we don't really end up with much for hoarding. But right now, I'm feeling as if I wish I could get some temperature controlled, safe, mouse free storage location going. There are just some things that can't sit out in a box all winter, or all summer, or between temperatures, or whatever, without getting kinda yucky. It's a one story, double wide trailer. That's it. The garage is not temperature secure enough, and moisture/mildew/possibly bugs have already ruined one whole box of stuff, I don't think I'd be excited to have that happen again. 

So I've been trying to sort, reorganize, rebox, reshelve, and plan for where things are going to have to go. It is going okay right now, but I feel like it's going to get stuffy around here. I guess we will have to eventually build some sort of addition onto the house or something, but that is easier said than done. So one day at a time, one box at a time, I guess we will eventually figure it out. We have to, right?

Still trying to figure out a few things with the boy. Just the constant procrastination, or lack of motivation to do what he needs to do, or whatever. I feel like if he would just do it and get it done, then he could be back to whatever he wants to do, but he just puts it off and when it's something like homework or dishes, where I need it done so I can do something I need to do, then it really gets on my nerves. I just want to get it done, and he is reading or playing somewhere, or in the bathroom. (What is it with guys sitting on the toilet for hours? Don't they know it causes hemorrhoids?) 

But anyway, I think things are looking up around here. I feel better, I'm happy with the choices I am making and encourage that I'm through the hard emotional stuff dealing with the unplanned and surprise of this baby. I'm so glad for that. I want to get some things set up so I can have some meals prepared for myself so I can relax a lot more and not have to worry about food at least for a while. I'd like to say that I would wish I didn't have to worry about money, but that will never happen haha! That's ok, one week at a time. 

But anyway, that's a check in for now.

What would you like me to write about?