Friday, March 22, 2013

Autistically Speaking...

Most people take every day language for granted.  I know I have.  There are so many rules in the English language that I have really never questioned until now.  Our son is very literal on so many levels and language is one of the strongest areas for him.  Although his verbal skills are off the charts when it comes to his tests, he has difficulty understanding some of our everyday uses of speech.  The other day I was telling my husband that he may freeze if he wore the short sleeved shirt he had on, rather than something a bit warmer.  Our son instantly piped up with, "Really Mommy?  He will freeze?  How could he freeze even though it is not even 32* outside.  It's impossible to freeze right now.".  I had to explain that it was a figure of speech, that it meant daddy would be cold in just a short sleeved shirt.  He gave me a look of confusion, but went on about his business.  I wonder how many times he is listening to a conversation and gets confused about what is being talked about.  If we ask him a question like, "Son, who are you speaking to?" he  will say, "You know who I'm speaking to, you are right there and see and hear me talking."  It's not that he's being disrespectful, he is not understanding why we would ask a question that is evident, when what we are saying is, "You can't talk that way to an adult, its disrespectful."

When the kids ask us a question that may require a "maybe" for an answer, our son automatically realizes that there is a great chance of a "yes" with this answer.  Later when we have decided and the answer is "no", it often dissolves into a meltdown of sorts because he had geared himself up for the more positive answer rather than realizing that there was the same chance of a "no".  We have learned that we cannot use the word "maybe" with our son and we have to be more direct.  Often we will say no and then if we can, change it to a yes later.

He listens to and follows most rules to a T.  We have a rule that when the kids are getting in the van, the girls go first, but getting out, our son goes first so he can assist the girls in getting out(plus he is right by the door).  If one of our girls get by without him getting out first we are in for a rant.  "She was not supposed to get out, the rule is I get out first!  She can't do that!".  There are no exceptions with rules, ie, need to get to the potty before having an accident.

His sister sometimes forgets to chew with her mouth closed at the table and he will most definitely point it out.  He will say things like, "She sounds like a dog!  It's gross!" not realizing that he could hurt her feelings.  When confronted he often replies, "But its the truth, I'm not lying to you.  Dogs do eat their food like that.".  This has been very difficult to teach him because he is very truthful.  We are trying to teach him that we don't have to share every truth at the expense of someone's feelings.  We have responses of, "Why can't I say that?  It's the truth.  How is she going to know it bothers me if I don't tell her?  She won't learn."

We are starting to understand our son more and more.  Language is one of the areas that we have to watch ourselves with and explain things to him when we realize that he did not understand what we were talking about.  It is not natural for him, but he is learning.  He is learning that he cannot talk to adults in the same manner that he talks to a friend or sibling.  He is also learning that telling the truth at the sake of someone's feelings is sometimes not the best way about it.  My husband and I have had quite a few laughs along the way with some of our sons literalness.  These moments have made the tough times more bearable as parents. After all laughter is truly like a medicine!  We love our boy and are very thankful for him and his uniqueness and we wouldn't change him for anything else!  He is created by a perfect God and our God does not make mistakes!  Thank you God for entrusting this boy to us.  Give us the wisdom to teach him in the way he should go. 

Seeing Our Son in a Different Light

Last night was both fun and challenging all at once.  The fourth grade put on a performance about Texas.  Our son was so excited since he not only got to sing, but also got to dance and play his guitar.  It was the first time in a long time that we got to see him in a social setting with his peers in quite a while.  He did a wonderful job and was full of expression and everyone could tell that he really was enjoying every aspect of it.  As parents, we noticed a big difference of our son's social behavior in comparison to other children his age.  It was an eye opener for sure.  Even with those social differences, we were proud of him.

After the program, things started to fall apart and it was in our son's classroom that I realized the overstimulation was a bit much for him.  There was an incident earlier that he had encountered with a friend that was nagging at him.  He never said anything of it until that moment.  The anxiety was overwhelming and he couldn't contain it anymore.  His friend had told our son that he wasn't going to be his friend anymore if our son shared information that he himself wanted to share with others.  He was devastated and deeply hurt.  His friend has been a friend since kindergarten and our son is quite possessive of his friendship and doesn't want him having any deep relationships that don't include him and this is pushing his friend away.  We were in the fourth grade hall when he let it all out, exclaiming how a girl was interfering with their friendship and how she told him that she wanted him to stay away from his best friend so she could be his sole friend(this is how he saw it) all the while the parent of that very girl was standing next to him, listening to every word.  It was shortly after that I realized that she was the parent of the child that he was so angry with and she heard all of it.  I didn't know what to do or say.  All I could think of was how that parent may have felt while she listened to our son rant and rave of how this girl was taking over their relationship and even after trying to convince him that she was probably not doing that, he began to yell, "I'm not lying, she doesn't want me to be his friend!".  I apologized to her for our son's actions, but In her eyes I'm sure it appeared as we had an out of control child, who was being rude.  I wanted to explain that he is dealing with Autism, but because he was right there, I was stuck.  I didn't know what to do.  All I knew is that I had to remove him from that hallway before it turned into an all out meltdown.  He was already in tears in front of his peers and exclaiming quite loudly his situation and we had to leave.  Some of his peers were laughing and calling him cry baby as we were walking away and I was devastated for our son.  I left our girls with my husband and told our son that we needed to go for a walk.  It was on our walk that we met the special Ed teacher and she was a tremendous help.  I watched her talk with him, how she talked calmly, patiently and showed him that worrying about this was not going to fix it.  Talking with his friend tomorrow would be the best solution.  I saw how she used real life situations to show him that how he was perceiving the situation was not really how things were.  He calmed down, took some deep calming breaths and was able to communicate his feelings.  I'm so thankful for that teacher.  My patience level at the moment we met in the hall was at an all time low.  I realize now, that if I had not been so quick to try and stop his reaction and actually listen to what he was saying and have some patience with him, that it may not have escalated to the point it had.

Last night was an eye opener.  We treat our son no different than our other two kids and it isn't until we are in public with his peers that the differences are very apparent.  It's hard seeing him this way as a parent.  I just want to fix the problem, make it go away, make people accept him the way we do, but this is his journey and we are here to guide him though it.  He doesn't need to be fixed, he just needs some direction, understanding, patience and love.