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.

No comments:

Post a Comment