About The Author

The author is a mother of 3 children, one of whom has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. She started this blog to document that journey.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Conversations with kids

(Originally published over at my other blog 7-Jan-10)

I wish I could say that this post was about some cute conversation I had with one of my kids. But it's not. This conversation was a bit tougher.

I made the decision last night to tell both boys about M's situation.

I had two reasons, really. The first is because I think not knowing is causing tension between the boys. The older one will tease M until he is absolutely stressed out. And more and more I hear the same phrase when he gets to that point - "You don't KNOW ME!"

And it breaks my heart a little bit every time.

The other reason is a guy at a client's office. He's sort of a misfit. He's young, and it's his first job. But aside from that awkwardness, there's this obvious social awkwardness as well. For one thing, he doesn't seem to "get" personal space, and drifts in way too close when the conversation interests him. And he doesn't "get" hints. You have to explicitly tell him what you want him to do. And be careful what you tell him because he follows the instructions to a T. And he's sweet so everyone's still good and kind to him. But there are laughs at times. Not in a mean-spirited way, but still. At. Not with....

I don't know if he's an Aspie or not, but he could be. And that could be my son in 10 years.

So last night. I sat my boys down and explained to them as best I could. And it seemed to make sense to the
 older one. Like puzzle pieces coming together. M doesn't quite get it...

But now they know. And I've asked big brother to love, protect and support M now that he knows.

I felt crappy to have to do this. I feel very unsure and very much in doubt over this whole thing. Sometimes I just have dread in the pit of my stomach. Especially when he's "sad".

I know I'm not a bad mom, but I also know I don't have this together. And I feel like I'm failing.

But when I'm really low, and I walk in and see this, it makes my heart feel a whole lot better.

Because I know they know love...
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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Beginnings

We've gone through some growing and stretching over the past few months since M's diagnosis.

I've been much more aware of behaviours to look out for, and that has shaped the way I deal with those situations. The tantrums have been much more manageable as a result. But as he grows I am noticing more and more things beginning to stand out.

He's gotten this new habit of repeating in monotone a word or phrase that he's either just heard, or some observation that he's just made that may or may not have some relevance to those in earshot.

He will do it for ages.

I'm not sure he's ever stopped on his own. I think at some point I usually bring it to an end somehow.

His aversion to brushing his teeth has gotten much worse. He just hates it. He says he hates the taste of the toothpastes and mouthwashes and I'm not sure what else to try. It is a battle every single day. If I'm very honest, I'll whisper that some nights I'm too worn out to battle and I let him go to bed without brushing...

I knowwwww. I can't believe I do it either. But honestly I consider the battle won if I'm able to get him into the shower to bathe. He fights to get into the shower too. But once there, he's fine. He will stay in the bath for hours if you let him.

He's also taken to correcting other kids slang, and shadowing his words (mouthing them over silently after he's spoken) and I talk about some of that in my other blog here.

The massive daily battle has got to be the socks though. The height has to be right, and the fit and feel has to be right. And the seams bother him. And there has to be the right amount of tension in the sock. Otherwise he'll pull on them so hard he'll bust through the toes.

Which presents another problem.

He wants to wear a particular sock and one side is comfortable, but the other side of the pair is busted. Cue the waterworks. And frustrated Mummy trying to substitute other pairs of socks, or mend holes on the fly, or just frankly get him to accept that he needs to wear some socks - any socks - and get to school.

I won a pair of SmartKnit socks to try with him, but I never did receive them. Does anyone know if they're any good? Are they worth going out and getting? Honestly I'd probably try anything now, because anything is probably better than this, right?

I will share our journey here, starting again in this new year. I hope that it will help some other family recognize symptoms or behaviours and perhaps connect with some of the situations or emotions in their household.

If you have any advice, or even questions for me, please feel free to email me at whendidibecomemymom@gmail.com or leave a comment here for me.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The World According to "Me"

I'm finding it difficult to parent M when it comes to discipline.

It's like he believes that the world revolves around him, and I don't think it's in a mean-spirited way. It's more like he's completely oblivious to other people's sacrifices.

For example, if he and his brother have to compromise on a series of choices, it doesn't matter to him that the last 2 encounters have gone in his favour. His brother obviously feels that this time around he shouldn't have to compromise again, and I think that's fair. How do I get HIM to see that?

To be perfectly honest, M does his share of compromising. For a long time, he'd just go along with what his big brother wanted. But when it comes to certain things, like taking turns to watch a favourite TV show, there are certain times he expects to win out.

Two of his favourite shows are Mister Maker (kids craft) and Louie (art/drawing). If either of these is on, and he knows it, and you plan to watch something else.... watch out. There will be a tantrum.

I will usually deal with these tantrums just like I would with any other child - I can't hear you until you calm down, and I'll put you somewhere quiet to get to the point where we can chat and reason. More and more, it seems that I can't get to that point.

It's as if I'm speaking to a brick wall, and he's not in the least interested in "reasoning".

I used to be able to get him past the temper, to the point where he's calm and we can reason. It just doesn't seem to be working any more. And I'm pretty sure leaving him to scream or cry it out isn't the answer.

Distracting him to some other activity he likes often works, but I'm running out of ideas on this. There's only so much drawing the kid can do - besides that's what he wanted to watch in the first place - more things to make and draw!

And besides, I want to understand what changed to make him act up so much more all of a sudden.

Is there something he's bottling up that's manifesting itself in increased frustration? Has he reverted to trying to use tantrums to manipulate things to his way?

Depending on the answers, there are very different actions to be taken.

As I write this, I recall that he is also now refusing to brush his teeth and to bathe, which he always said he wasn't a fan of but he'd do anyway as long as you "kept him company". As a matter of fact, once he got comfy he'd spend ages and ages in the bath.

Now... different story. It takes a lot of insistence and tears but he eventually does comply. What's making him act up like this? And why now?
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Opening up the Doors to Communication

Finding that mental connection to my son has always been more challenging for me, than it is with his siblings. When trying to explain a new idea to him, we would be on clearly different wavelengths. It would be frustrating to us both, because without finding that mental connection, I had no foundation for building new concepts and he soon tired of trying to "get" me. It would take weeks and weeks of repetition and then just like that - one day he'd get it. And once he's got it, he's got it.

I didn't know it at the time, but two weeks ago at the start of our assessment process I learned that this is typical of the way people on the Autistic Spectrum seem to learn.

I hope to capture here some of the behaviours I noticed as a parent that helped me decide to have him evaluated, and those that I missed as indicators. For me, it is so important to try to understand his perspective, so that our communication doorways remain open.

For more information on Asperger Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders you can check out these resources:

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Parenting with Dr Asperger

Looking at your crying child and knowing that you are powerless to help. This feeling of utter desolate helplessness. This is the root of Mother Guilt. Because instinctively a parent will give their all to avoid being here.

He is sad. And he doesn't know why. And I can't get to the bottom of it. And I can't make it go away. I feel like I'm failing him.

He desperately needs me, and this time. I don't have the answers.

As I watched him curl next to me in a tight ball sobbing silently, I resolved to do the only thing I know how to do. To work through this the best way I know how, and to document the process. I hope it will somehow hold a clue to helping him. And perhaps it will help another parent somewhere, to know they are not alone.

Our journey starts here: Parenting with Asperger, so named after the pediatrician who recognized it in himself and others, and argued for their place in society.

Hans Aperger was an Austrian pediatrician (1906-1980). He may have himself been an autistic, although the disorder named after him was not popularized until 1981.
"We are convinced, then, that autistic people have their place in the organism of the social community. They fulfil their role well, perhaps better than anyone else could, and we are talking of people who as children had the greatest difficulties and caused untold worries to their care-givers."
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