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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Autistic behavior or naughty behavior?

One of the big challenges with Janey is figuring out when she is doing something due to her autism or when she is just plain being naughty or bratty! It's important to be to figure this out when possible, as I don't want to let her become poorly behaved in addition to being autistic. I think (I hope) this is possible. I don't see myself as a strict parent, but more a firm one. With my boys, I made sure they knew "no" did mean "no", not really so much by punishing them, but by following through---if I said we were leaving the playground and they ran from me, I went to get them and we got right in the car. They also learned that if I made a decision, it was going to stand, and begging and asking over and over didn't work. Politeness was and is important to me. They learned to say Please and Thank You, and I often still get comments on how polite they are, which means a lot to me. They were expected to be respectful of Tony and me, not in a way like we are some scary authority figures, but to the extent they did realize we were the parents and they were the kids.

I don't write all this to self-congratulate, as I think it's starting to sound, but to explain what my parenting style is, and how I want to make it be with Janey, as much as possible. It's hard. There are times when her behavior has nothing to do with naughtiness or brattiness. It has to do with a sound that is scaring her, or internal demons bothering her. But other times, she simply wants her way, and shows that in ways that are changed by her being autistic, but still are ways to try to get what she wants.

For example, the other night we got Chinese food, and as we often do, we tried to watch a TV show on Netflix as a family while we ate. Janey wanted to watch one of her Baby Einstein videos, and was hugely not pleased we wouldn't let her. She started hitting the buttons that change the mode of the TV, she found the remote and turned the TV off, and when all that didn't work, she started screaming a song from one of her videos at the top of her lungs, as if determined to make sure we couldn't enjoy our show. We didn't give in---we put the show up louder and told her she was in time out, and made her stay on the couch. It wasn't a fun meal, and we all probably would have had a lot more peace just putting on her show, but that was a time that she needed to see she couldn't have her way.

However, there are other times when she is falling apart, perhaps because she's tired, or having a bad day, when she will act out and I know it's not her being bratty. Sometimes when she is very upset, she'll ask for a certain show or a certain food. It's not really what she wants, and if we give it to her, she screams and throws it or turns it off. At times like this, I try very hard to stay calm, and to simply distract her and get her to sleep or settle her down. It's hard to explain how I can tell the difference, and maybe sometimes I can't really, but I think I usually can. She doesn't really hear us in that mode, and she wouldn't benefit from reason much.

I am proud of some of Janey's behavior lately! Yesterday she wanted her chip store run. I told her we had to go to the library first, she had to stay with me in the library and be quiet, and she had to be good at the store to get her chips. She did all of those perfectly. The line at the library and the store were both long, but she held my hand and waited patiently, and actually sang a cute song to pass the time at the store. She didn't try to open the chips early, she didn't lose it at all. I felt so, so happy, and praised her hugely. Times like that make me feel there'll be a day when we can eat at restaurants with her without fear, or take her to other public places without bracing ourselves for disaster.

It's going to be a long haul teaching Janey how to behave. I need to keep looking at my reactions to her actions and thinking hard about how I handled different situations. I hope I never stop doing that.


Manic Mom said...

Just found your blog! I have a 5 year old with Aspergers. I too have a hard time figuring where the line is. I am getting better at it, but on those days when I'm rushed or tired the line gets blurry. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

Suzanne said...

I look forward to having you read it! That's a very good point about it being harder to draw the line when you are tired (and who with a kid on the spectrum isn't always tired, pretty much?) When I'm exhausted, it's easy to do whatever seems like it will fix things the fastest, so sometimes I raise my voice when I should be patient or other times I give in what I shouldn't. It's about impossible not to!