Autism & Not Losing Your Mind
People who know my son Caleb know that he is a great many things. He is cheeky and funny, he is bright and smart, he can be so loving, and thoughtful.
But a side of Caleb people often don't see is the one that pokes at my every nerve; it's a Caleb that won't back down, even if I've asked him to. He back-talks, and starts endless fights with his siblings.
And some times, I loose my cool. That's a really nice way of saying that I have a bad temper, and Caleb is often staring down the barrel of that temper.
As an example, the kids were eating breakfast recently, and they were each bothering one another. No particular child was to blame, they were all being butt-heads. I was tired of hearing the whining/bickering/grumbling, etc., so I said, "I think everyone just needs to eat their breakfast quietly and not talk anymore at all". I said this in a very nice, calm voice.
All was quiet....for about half a second....then I heard, (mumbled and low) ".....Mom will to be quiet.....".
I look at Caleb and say, "excuse me, but you don't back-talk your Mom. I asked everyone to eat quietly so that breakfast wasn't all fighting. No more talking please" (still calm-ish, but my words were getting a little more purposed).
"Abby and Keziah will be quiet for Caleb...." said that same low, mumbled voice.
For real?!?! Now he was blaming the whole thing on his sisters! **Temperature rising**....
"Caleb", I said/barked, "I've asked you to stop talking, and so far you haven't! You need to listen to Mum, and stop...talking...now". (this is the moment where the internal pot is about to boil over, and you either move it off the heat, or leave it for one more second and it's pouring all over the stove!).
"Grrrrrhhh"-a loud grumbly/growl of disapproval from Caleb.
His sisters faces say they know what comes next. The pot boils over.
I marched around our kitchen island to where Caleb was sitting, and said in a loud voice, "I'm not sure you heard me asking you to stop talking?. "I think your ears may be broken, so you need to go lie down in your room until you are ready to listen!". By now I'm yelling.
Caleb runs upstairs crying and screaming, and shouting, "Mom will be a good listener for CALEB!!". Seriously? He just won't quit.
This argument could have taken place between a Mom and a regular obnoxious 10 year old boy, really.
The girls can often see when I'm heading into scary-ville, and will back off from their fight. Caleb doesn't do that. He is so focused on what is in his brain and he doesn't notice the change in my voice, my facial expression, my body language. Then suddenly I'm lunging at him and he'll start to cry and say something like, "Mom is very not nice to Caleb". Which is true. At that moment, I am not being nice. But I was trying, he just didn't notice!
I struggle with finding the balance between keeping sane, but not letting him get away with poor behaviour. I could ignore him and remain semi-blissfully ignorant. I could pretend I didn't hear him back talk me (because sometimes he does it so quietly I think he really thinks he hasn't been heard), but then I wonder, "what kind of person will this make him?".
I want my kids to mind me, and do as they are told, not because I am the all-powerful Mommy, but because listening to those who are in charge of you is a life skill! But if you add a little defiance from a child prone to mind-blindness (an autism trait where the individual can't understand that each person has their own thoughts), and mix in a short-tempered Mum-gosh, you've got a disaster heading your way!
The reality is that I need help with Caleb more often than I care to admit. The last incident where I lost my marbles on Caleb, my 5 year old stepped in to help. Bless her heart.
I knew I was boiling hot angry, and I said, "I need 5 minutes alone!!!". As I sat by myself in the living room, I could hear Abigail saying to Caleb, "it's alright Caleb (he was crying). Maybe you could lay down in your bed for a few minutes until you feel better?". To which Caleb replied, "yes!", quite angrily.
I beat myself up over getting so heated with my special needs son, but I know him. I know what he is capable of. I know he understands the words, "stop talking". I want to push for the best in him, I just don't want to loose my mind while I'm pushing! I want and expect the same manners and behaviour from him as I do from his neuro-typical sisters.
I also can be close minded as to what other things may be bothering him at that moment (lights, sounds, smells, etc.) But then again, I go full circle and think, "extra stressors or not, I need to set a standard for him!". I want him to learn to cope and adapt, and use his words to explain if something is going wrong for him. Not just back-talk.
At the end of the day, at the end of a melt-down (either his or mine!), there is learning and growing to be done.
I am learning to sit down and talk with my kids and to apologize for getting so angry. Caleb is learning that his life is part of a bigger organism-the family. He needs to be a co-operating member, not just an observer/disturber!
Parenting a child with autism is a very emotional journey, and different feelings show up at different times. There are easier days and harder days, but I love Caleb no matter what. We're a good pair, I guess. We both lose our minds together-neither of us should though, so we'll work on it together too!
10/23/2014 12:00:02 pm
You are an amazing mom! It's important to teach children to listen to, and respect their parents. And if you give them an inch, they'll take a mile.
10/30/2014 10:34:49 am
Amy, I totally get what you wrote here. God bless you with grace and patience and wisdom.
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Hi, I'm Amy-Lyn!
I am the lady behind this here blog! I live in the sticks with my animals, my super handsome husband, and my
3 amazing kids!
Here you'll find things from recipes (gluten-free, paleo, and strait up junk food!), DIY ideas, thoughts on raising a son with autism, and whatever else pops into my brain! : )
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