I loved Mister Rogers. In fact, I loved him so much that (and I don't think he'll mind me telling you this) I named my son Frederick in his honor. I wrote to Mister Rogers about this, and got back a wonderful letter and signed picture. They are one of our family's most prized possessions, and they will of course be Freddy's some day. So today, I wasn't surprised when one of Mister Rogers' songs came into my mind when thinking about my tough morning with Janey. Here's a link to it (link)
The question in the title of the song is what I've been asking myself about Janey. What CAN she do about the mad that she feels when she feels so mad she can bite?
This morning, Janey was resistant to getting dressed. I think it was because she had to go to the bathroom, but didn't tell me. Once her clothes were on, she wet them, and so needed a new set of clothes. Her bus comes very early, about 6:20 am. It was about 6:15 then, and I had to hustle to get her new outfit on. She was playing with her iPad. I told her to put it down and I would dress her. She ignored me. I asked her again, and again, was ignored. So I took it away and told her to stand up to get dressed. She was furious. And, in an instant, lunged at me, trying to bite me and succeeding in pulling my hair very hard.
I was thinking about the whole incident a lot today. Up until the lunging, and aside from the clothes getting wet, it was not unlike many mornings with my boys when they were young. Morning often involve struggling to get kids ready, kids getting involved in something else at the wrong time, kids ignoring their parents, parents having to take away whatever is occupying the kid, the kid getting annoyed and angry.
That's where I think it gets tough for Janey. What DOES she do with the mad that she feels? She doesn't have the verbal skills to tell me how she feels. She doesn't have the self-control to just simmer internally. She doesn't have the understanding of time to realize that yes, we needed to hurry. She saw it simply as me taking something she wanted to have, and she was angry. Very angry, as she doesn't normally lash out like that, and hasn't for a good long time. But as the song said, she was so mad she could bite. And what COULD she do with that?
That's what I need to figure out. That's what I need to help her with. And I honestly don't know what the answer is. I always explain why I'm doing things, and although I don't remember my exact words, I'm sure I said something like "Janey, you need to put that down. We need to get dressed for school. The bus will be here soon" And she DOES have the understanding of phrases like that. She can follow rather complex directions, and I am quite sure she understands enough to know what I was saying. But so do typical kids, and still, they don't always do what they are told. Of course they don't. And of course she's not always going to. I wouldn't want her to be a robot, immediately following orders.
If it had been the boys in that situation at that age, I can well picture what they'd say, something like "I KNOW I have to get ready! I'm going to be ready in time! Just let me finish watching this one thing! It's very important to me!" And I can picture my answer back "You can watch it after school. There just isn't time right now" If they were mad, they would let me know, and if I were annoyed, I would let them know. But with Janey, that level of dialogue is not something she can do.
I don't like to write about Janey being aggressive. I hate to write about it. But I am, because I've been told by so many people that they are dealing with the same issues, and many of them have said it helps to know they aren't the only ones. And I like to live in reality. I would like to only write about the wonderful parts of Janey, or the progress we are making. But the fact is, raising ANY kids involves some conflict, some anger, some tough moments. If we pretend that isn't the case with our kids with autism, well---it's not reality.
I need to work on how to help Janey with anger. I don't wish away her anger. It's a normal part of her. As Mister Rogers says, I will say to Janey (and William and Freddy)---"I love
you just the way you are" And I will do all I can to help you find your way in this world, and to figure out what to do with the mad that you feel.