"Autism & Memoirs of an Old Maid"…C'hele's Story

May 14, 2007

Autism: I’m Not A Bad Parent! I’m A Parent Of A Child With Asperger’s Syndrome ~ Part VI

Filed under: Aspberger Syndrome, Autism, Special Needs — C'hele @ 16:26

Part VI

5. Outside their obsessive hobbies, AS children have difficulties remaining focused and completing tasks (otherwise known as Executive Functioning). Many blame this solely as an ADHD issue only. This is not entirely the case as there is some resemblance between the two with Autism being more severe. ADHD and Autism are both considered to be Neurological disorders but AS people have other underlying difficulties that interfere with learning and focusing. Sensory impairments, cognitive processing challenges, and high anxiety may cause the AS child to also become distracted, impulsive, inflexible and oppositional with transitions. Should an AS child become over stimulated or hyper-sensitive by his or her surroundings, the end result is a mental overload and melt-down.

As an example, people question why I have to be up at 5:00 or 5:30 a.m. and why Michaela is up at 6:30 a.m. each morning when we don’t have to be in school until 8:30 a.m. Why? Because it takes Michaela twenty minutes to get her butt out of bed and to the toilet, twenty minutes to get her off the toilet and fifteen minutes (approximately) for her to get dressed. Most of the time I have to assist dressing her if we are running behind. We leave our home to go over to my parents (it takes 5-10 minutes or so depending on traffic), who will have breakfast prepared in advance for Michaela by 7:30/7:35 a.m. The bus is arranged to pick Caela up from my parents, at 8:00 a.m. If we don’t go to my parents, Michaela would not have the chance to eat breakfast due to her inability to focus, transition difficulties and distractibility (going over to my parents is an incentive for her). In addition, I would never make it to work on time as I have to leave anywhere between 7:30 to 8:00 a.m. depending on the school I may be substituting for. God forbid should Michaela have a bad morning (neurologically speaking) and suffer a melt-down; I am late for work to be sure. In the evening a similar routine applies when getting Michaela ready for bed, minus my parent’s direct involvement and support.

People often view these children to be lazy, non-compliant and obstinate. They also are unable to figure out why parent‘s are so damned tired and cranky at the end of the day, especially if they are a single parent such as myself. I am lucky if I have an hour to myself each evening on weekdays!6. Because AS people are not very good coping with transitions, they crave routines that provide “the sameness” and offer predictability in their lives. This can both be positive and negative. While it is important to teach them that life is all about change and flexibility (things AS people dislike intensely), repetition and predictability in routines can be a wonderful way to teach them to memorize the necessary coping strategies, especially when it involves life-skills. Simple things such as: safely crossing a street, how to make meals, how to dress appropriately, plan their day, save money etc. Simple but important things that typical people do on a daily basis but take for granted. These things are immensely important to teach Autistic kids first, in my opinion.  Using visual aids to help plan their day or set chores assist to keep them on task and yet fosters independence (let me tell you, they are a god-send in extinguishing power struggles!). Visual symbols like transitional or change signs are wonderful tools to utilize to introduce last minute changes in order to prevent any sudden melt-downs.

An example of an unwillingness to change in an Autistic child:

Michaela and I are big into having movie nights here at home. Michaela has her own set of favourites she “always” wants to watch; over and over, and over again until I go nuts. She is almost always oppositional whenever I wish introduce a new movie and will sometimes (but not always) freak out when I insist. She will literally attempt to remove the DVD from my hand and a physical struggle will ensue until I get that bloody movie in the DVD player. I will then make an agreement with her, set a timer for 30 minutes and if by then, she still does not wish to watch it, that we will turn it off and put something else on. Almost every time we do this, she ends up liking the movie, *sigh.* When I make the comment “you see?” she will always admit sheepishly that she was wrong to act in that manner. I am grateful that Michaela has only behaved like this at home, at her grandparents, and not elsewhere.

When Michaela was in the midst of being observed for possible PDD/NOS, at the age of three and a half, my parents observed a similar reaction described above in their home. They considered her behaviour to be purely non-compliant and spoilt rotten. They felt she needed a “good spanking.” Instinctively knowing different, I fiercely refused to do so and was considered by them and many others to be an irresponsible parent. Today, they admit to feeling remorse for making that comment due to their ignorance and I needed the confrontation like a hole in the head…

To be continued…




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