"Now I need 2 Mcdondlles mum!!".......is the text that my son sent me yesterday from his Taxi after a huge meltdown getting him in the car (obviously he normally only has 1 burger!) But he felt that my expectations of him to get in the taxi all on his own, and go to a new school all on his own warranted 2 burgers this time. And to be honest I kind of agreed with him. I was asking a heck of a lot from him on his first day........ So there were two plain hamburgers waiting for him on his return!
To some people it may appear that I spoil him and give into him too easily. I know this is one of the things his sisters find hard to deal with, as he has to have a whole different set of rules and expectations from them. And I can understand how hard this must be for them at times as they often see it as unfair. I don't 'punish' behaviours and actions from him that other people find socially unacceptable. I feel its my job to make sense of the world for him, and help him understand that there are some things he just cannot do and aren't acceptable like being rude, swearing, and hurting people. But its a long slow process as he just doesn't understand how his actions affect other peoples feelings. He can only see it from his own point of view. So punishment just doesn't work with him, he needs to be taught what is the right choice to make time after time, until eventually he realises the consequence of what he has done is better for him when he makes the right choice. This requires motivation not punishment. I cant teach my son its not acceptable to shout at people when he is angry..... by shouting at him myself when I am angry!
You see he just doesn't process things the same way we do. My daughters want to please their teachers with their efforts in class. They want to make us proud and want to share their achievements with us. They are concerned about how they compare to their friends, how they fit in, and what other people think of them. My son just doesn't work like that, he generally doesn't feel the need to please other people. Because his anxieties rule his life and determine what he will and wont do. The minute he feels out of control he shuts down. So in my sons world if he has to do something he simply doesn't see the point of, or finds really hard, he certainly wont do it just to please me.....I have to make it worth his while! And I suppose if you think about it we don't go to work every day to please other people no matter how much we love them, we go to work to earn a wage and get some job satisfaction.. that makes sense to him as it logical. You work ... you get paid.
Over the years I suppose the times when its not gone so well for me is when I am too confrontational with him. When I have made demands on him that exceed his ability, and when I have made presumptions that just because he has done it once before he will be able to do it again. (There are so many variables in my sons world such as noise level, smells, crowds, level of anxiety that affect his ability to cope on a daily basis) And I have found the more rigid and demanding I am with him, the more rigid and demand avoidant he then becomes. I find myself digging a deeper hole with no way out for either of us and not wanting to back down .. not wanting to let him win! So its easy to see why others can find it hard when I keep my demands low and reward all the small steps, as it can appear that I am giving a reward to a child that doesn't deserve it.
But what they may not understand is that my son spends his whole life in flight or fight mode due to his high anxieties. He will either run away from the situation or when backed into a corner, like getting into the taxi, he will fight out as there is no where for him to run to. If I punished him or shouted and lost my patience in these situations it would be like pouring lighter fuel onto a BBQ, it would erupt and lead to a meltdown of epic proportions! Which believe me is no fun for anyone involved.
So in these situations ... I accept I am going to get hit in the firing line and have keep it as calm as possible by reducing my language to the absolute minimum and keeping my body language slow and calm.....which is one of the hardest thing I had to learn to do over the years. Its tough sometimes and I make mistakes.... but I am human. I sometimes think people must think I am choosing to do nothing, but its actually the complete opposite I suppose! And I always try and talk about how what happened made me feel after the event....... but only when he is ready! And he has recently started to apologise when he has hurt me , which is a small step in the right direction. He is beginning to see how his actions can affect me.
This is why we made the difficult decision recently that he needed to be in a specialist school. If my son is motivated by holding a lizard, playing on minecraft, running around the field, or even spinning around on a chair, then that's what he needs to do! He needs to be somewhere that accepts him for who he is. And part of that means knowing that he is not going to motivated to learn or do things we want him to by the offer stickers, certificates or praise ........no matter how much potential he has to learn and achieve in school. Its not a one size fits all world we live in.
People may look at me and judge, but you know what I am ok with that ........because I know my son inside out, I know what he needs, and I know what makes his so unique and special and I embrace that ... And ironically its actually him that has taught me to have patience, see the best in people and always to try and see things from the other persons point of view. Not bad for a kid with Autism eh!
Now.......... who's for two McDonalds ?? x