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Sunday, December 6, 2020

What drives us up a wall

After many years of this autism parenting gig, we can be pretty unfazed by most behaviors Janey shows.  We get the reasons behind them, more and more, we understand they are ways for her to communicate, or sometimes, we know they are just teenage behaviors, not autism behaviors, and we try not to take them personally.  But we are human beings, as all of us are, and there are still things that Janey does that are highly trying, to say the least.  Here's some of them...


When Janey is very displeased, she screams.  If you've never heard her scream, you probably will have a hard time picturing just how loud it is.  I'm pretty unbothered by most loud noises, but when she screams right in my ear, it's painful.  She screams so loud that I'm very sure people on the sidewalk and perhaps even people in other states can hear her.  It's an incredible scream, and nothing we say or do seems to stop it.  I think she's figured out it's a weapon---something she can do that we can't do a thing about that certainly gets our attention.

"I need help!"

Of course, if Janey really needs help, we are happy to help her.  But usually, this "I need help!" doesn't really mean she needs help.  It means she wants us to stop whatever we are doing and participate in a ritual she wants performed.  Often, it's changing a TV show.  If she really couldn't change the shows, that would be one thing.  However, she can change shows with complete ease now when she wants to.  The other night, as Tony dozed and I watched from the other room, Janey switched shows around for hours, going from one streaming service to another, switching the TV into internet mode and back, rewinding and fast forwarding, changing shows probably a hundred times.  When I came into the room, though, suddenly she needed help doing the most basic TV action.  I get it...she wants or needs attention, or she somehow can't access the part of her brain that knows how to make the changes.  But that doesn't make it less irritating at times, especially when we hear the "I need help!" phrase every minute for hours and hours.

"You've helped me, now go away!"

This comes up most when Janey asks us to snuggle her on her bed.  What this means is for us to cover her with her comforter, get her pillow (the comforter and pillow are always thrown onto the floor by her when not in immediate use, no matter what), lie down with her for a millisecond, and then..."want to go away?"  Once we've done our part, we are no longer supposed to be there.  Which I get---a 16 year old girl doesn't want her parents around all the time.  But after a few minutes on her bed, Janey will get up, watch a little TV or eat a bit, and then want, once again, to snuggle on the bed.  And we are supposed to, again, lie down with her for a second and then go away.  Often, this happens after a night when she didn't sleep.  Once we get on her bed, we want nothing more than to just close our eyes for a minute and rest, but no---we must hop back up and wait for the next summons to lie down.  If we refuse the routine, which we often try to do, the scream comes out, Janey is in a mood probably for the rest of the day, she makes the demand far more's usually just not worth it.

"Go for a car ride?"

Janey's favorite thing on earth is going for a car ride with Tony, a car ride usually to nowhere, just a ride around listening to music.  Tony takes her for rides like this two to three times a day, every single day.  The rides are around an hour each.  So she gets LOTS of car ride time.  But it's never enough. Often, the minute they are back in the driveway, Janey immediately says "Go for a car ride?"  There's no credit for the car ride just completed.  And the car ride requests are not changed by weather conditions, the fact it's the middle of the night, or even the rare occasions when Tony has taken the car elsewhere and there is literally no car to have a ride in.  And like the other requests, us saying no brings on, always, a predictable series of reactions---screaming, arm biting, sometimes throwing things or smashing her fist into things.

"Music please, music!"

Janey loves music.  She always has.  But she doesn't just like any music.  She has very specific tastes, tastes that change from time to time.  Like any of us, she gets sick of certain songs after a while, or discovers something new, or just wants something different.  Unlike the rest of us, she often isn't able to tell us just what it is she wants.  This comes up the most in the car, and affects Tony far more than me.  Tony will be playing Sirius Radio, or Accuradio, or music he has on a thumb drive, and Janey won't like the song that's on, and she'll say "music please, music!" which means "change the song"  If Tony doesn't immediately comply, she repeats the phrase, much louder.  If he doesn't comply after that, she will kick his seat, scream, generally freak out.  Some days, she's listen happily for a long time to whatever comes on (and Tony does his level best to play playlists she likes---her favorite by far is any British Invasion music), but other days, the "music please" is continuous, stopping songs after just a second or two, over and over and over.  I think that's when she wants a certain song, but can't express it.  So she just hopes it comes up, and of course, with many thousands of songs out there, it's not likely to.  We've tried having her control the music via smart phone, but she won't do it.  It's Daddy's job.

There's more I could add to this list, but those are the big ones.  And thinking about them, they are much more annoyances than things that used to happen.  For the most part, she doesn't lash out at us or herself like she used to.  There can be hours and sometimes days when she's perfectly happy, and none of these behaviors show up.  But I'm not going say it's easy.  I'm not going to lie.  It's still tough, in a lot of ways, being Janey's parents, and tougher this year than ever before, without school as a respite for us and a change of scenery for her.  

I'd be so interested to hear what would be on all of your What Drives Us Up A Wall lists!


Cynthia said...

Fathering Autism talks about distinguishing between a tantrum and a meltdown and dealing with them differently. Bad behaviour (like throwing things or kicking) would get a punishment that his daughter doesn't like, for instance sweeping a floor. He seems to have been successful with this approach.

skippy said...

My daughter intentionally makes noise when we need to hear something. When I answer the phone she'll start talking so I can't hear what's being said. Same thing goes for drive thrus.

Waking up at night and wanting someone make her cereal.

Swearing in general which gets my attention. If I ignore it, she swears some more.

Repeating her wish list of things she wants to us to buy.

She has urges to touch baby strollers but hasn't done it lately. Thank God for social distancing.