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SAHM of 3 wonderful kids, one brilliant one Asperger Syndrome. This is not a living shrine to his disorder, but rather a place to share & discuss the different challenges that came with it and other things about parenting & life in general.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Road to acceptance for my aspergian son

Acceptance came easily for everyone in my family, except for one person, my dad, W's grandfather.

Unlike other grandparents, W's relationship with his grandparents' is unique. When W was a year old, he came to live with my parents. We continued to lived with them while I worked and attended college. As I was young, immature, and clueless, I left the his care to my parents. They were not just grandparents, they felt like they were raising both of us. So when he started having difficulties, they took it very personally,
especially my dad. Even though, he didn't agree, he blamed himself for what W was going through. 

I couldn't blame him. He's not a bad person by any means. He may not have been an ideal dad, but he was and is the best person in the world for W. He is of the generation, where there weren't many being diagnosed with mental disorder that stayed in public. And there was and still is stigma attached to anything related to mental disorders. So he wasn't convinced.

These are the key things he used to say.
- W is shy
- W will grow out of it.
- W is used to being with adults, he just doesn't know how to make friends.
- When I was going to school, they had names for kids like that, they were nerds...

He continued like this for years even after the diagnosis. He didn't accept it but he didn't interfere in any way with him getting help. We just didn't talk about it.

I don't know when my dad warmed up to the diagnosis. But after the bullying incident, I gave him the book "Be Different by Jon Elder Robison." That was one book that made him more understanding of how W's brain worked. Then he pointed out some of the common challenges that he saw in W that this author and some other books laid out. He finally accepted the diagnosis.

But every now and then, he would pick up a book and highlight the areas trying to convince me how W was different from how Aspergers was described in the book. And then I would have to explain how not all aspies are the same. I guess I was asking for too much. But he has agreed that therapy was making W a happier and more talkative teenage boy. I will just have to be satisfied with that and move on. It looks like W has done that already. ...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stress management for my aspie

"Stress is not a reaction. It is our response TO what happens. And RESPONSE is something we can choose.~~ Maureen Killoran"
Stress has become the reality of our modern lifestyles. We are constantly bombarded with different stimuli throughout the day. And when it comes to my aspie, it is often the most intense moments of our life. Our joint attempts to identify and avoid the triggers have been one of our main goals for years.

Before his diagnosis, his meltdowns consisted of him sobbing. He suffered silently, unable to tell me what was bothering him. I used to think he was being stubborn and he was doing this to me on purpose. Sometimes, I used to continue asking him what was wrong, but he never did.

The sobbing would stop eventually as he sat in the corner doing his timeout. But I noticed that the timeout was serving no purpose. He enjoyed his solitude and withdrew to his own world. Sometimes, I would  find him circling the living room with a smile on his face. Then he would go and read his books, one of my little encyclopedia's obsessive routines. Eventually, I would get calls  by his teachers that he wasn't paying attention in class and not completing his work because he was busy reading, writing, and drawing.

I realized that I found out when he was stressed. Not what was stressing him, but what to look for when he was under the stress. Whatever it was, it manifested itself into this self-soothing behavior, that often got in the way of his school work and attentiveness at home. I put a stop to behaviors like circling,  I redirected his need to reading, writing, and drawing to deal with the stressful situation.  

Now that he is sixteen, I don't know whether it is the teen angst or the Aspergers is that is adding to the stress level.

After trying many things to keep him away from his obsessions such as reading, drawing, writing, and music, I decided incorporate it into his routine so he could avoid it.

After my observation and a short discussion with him, we narrowed it down to a few. Time management, homework (too much or too little), and mostly social situations such as when his friends were arguing and he was caught in the middle. The social situation also played a role when watching his little siblings and cousins. He felt out of control because his siblings would not listen to him when they were being too rowdy.

As a mom, you have an inkling that he is getting stressed out. Can't really pinpoint it, but you know it's coming. So this is what we do.

1. We have a brief conversation about anything good or bad thing that happened in the day, how he reacted, and what he should do in certain situations. That makes him feel better to discuss appropriate and inappropriate reactions.

2. He is asked to ask if he feels overwhelmed. Then I would give him his Itouch for him to go for a run or walk around the block. I don't ask him why, I just ask him to get it out of his system.

3. We have a quick meeting when he comes home and compare calendars which includes homework, quizzes, and activities coming up and when they are due. That takes care of him feeling overwhelmed by the work load.

4. We agreed that his soothing behaviors like reading, writing, drawing is allowed in one designated folder organized and away from his school work. As long as he is done with his responsibilities, I give him free time to do what he wants.

5. My expectations of him in general are realistic and he has admitted so. But just in case, I repeat it to make sure he doesn't get stressed out.

The main thing for us is predictability and consistency. I know, as well as my aspie, that life is unpredictable. But we have an open line of communication. He knows he can say anything to me and I will not judge him because he is my son and I love him with all of my life. I think that has made the difference in him slowly coming to his own. I just hope it continues.

SPECIAL NOTE: Don't Forget to Check out 30+ bloggers on this issue. S-O-S Best of Best, Edition 10: Calming Techniques for Stress and the Special Needs child is http://bit.ly/oKBWWT

A true "staycation"

I didn't have any plans for the labor day weekend. The obvious reason being my back. But I couldn't get myself to stay home alone with the kids doing nothing. So I took up my mom's offer and decided to stay there for the weekend.

I packed up the kids and took the 20 minute drive to her house. I left my big house and comfortable house for my parents' little cottage overlooking the gold course and some ocean view.

When I got there, it was if I never left home. I was back to asking my mom for everything and disagreeing with Dad about all his complaints of the world. I needed earplugs. The good thing is that, with age, you have easier time tuning out to the things you don't want to hear.

W had the best vacation. I was too busy to be nag him about anything. He has his grandpa who was more than willing to hear hours about what he wanted to talk about. That is something I don't have the time and patience for.

My stay-cation actually turned out well for all of us. Mom tried her best to stop me from moving around, my kids spent most of time at the pool, Dad stayed his grumpy self, but tried to remain nice about it because he enjoyed the company.

It was a good getaway. I didn't feel the need to clean and organize as I would be at home. I wonder what my mom would say about that. I think she's still recovering from cleaning.
Love my mom. :-)