Category Archives: Autism
As if parenting a child isn’t hard enough…
In spite of my Aspergers, I somehow managed to convince/trick a woman into marrying me. In an even more unbelievable course of brainwashing, I had two children with this wonderful woman. I’ve since learned exactly why Aspies are awkward in social situations – it’s because parenting is EXTREMELY tough for Aspies.
Aspergers makes parenting especially difficult because:
1) you may very well be parenting a little Aspie. Although a genetic component hasn’t been confirmed, autism tends to run in families. As a parent with Aspergers, your chances of having a child on the Autism Spectrum are higher than those of a neurotypical parent. Children on the spectrum can be challenging for anyone; an Aspie vs. Aspie situation is only going to be more intense.
2) children are very effective triggers. My children love to climb on me and use me as a jungle gym. I’m completely fine with it, but someone with sensory issues may see this as an intrusion on personal space. Even something as innocent as an infant’s cry can seem like an assault on the senses to an Aspie.
3) everything can’t be about you anymore. One thing that’s great about being an Aspie is you have an excuse for being self involved – you can’t help it, it’s part of who you are. It takes considerable effort for an Aspie to put the needs of others before their own. But when you are a parent, what you want is almost always irrelevant. Your kids should ALWAYS come first.
4) you have to be in charge of everything. Your child’s doctor appointment, paperwork for school, lunches, setting up playdates, keeping organized… all of it is your responsibilty. People with Aspergers very often have trouble keeping their own shit together. Now you’re in charge of running your child’s life as well. They can’t do it. It’s all up to you. (Luckily, my wife takes care of all of that stuff for my kids… although that leaves me in charge of my stuff, which is hard enough as it is.)
As difficult as it is, Aspergers can also make parenting SOOOOOO much fun! As an Aspie, I find it easier to relate to my children. I can slide into “play mode” very quickly and just act like a crazy kid and have fun with them. Discipline is also a breeze when you can dissociate your emotions from your child’s responses – “I hate you!” and ” You’re so mean!” hurt a lot less when logic tells you that they are simply lashing out.
But the most beautiful part about being a parent with Aspergers – at least for me – is it gives you a chance to connect with someone almost effortlessly. I sit comfortably in silence with them, talk endlessly about nothing, I gaze into their eyes and feel the love that every parent has for their child… and I am at peace.
My family is one of my very few comforts in this world, and I am truly blessed to have them in my life.
In general, Aspergers and Autism do not cause higher risk for health problems. Spectrum disorders are mainly cognitive in nature and do not lead directly to issues such as heart disease, cancer, or things like that. However, I believe that people with Spectrum disorders can suffer from health problems that would be routine for neurotypical individuals. It all comes down to prevention.
Most NTs will not be able to understand this, but nevertheless it is true – going to the doctor can be an overwhelmingly social experience. Think of all the social interaction that occurs during a doctor visit:
– the receptionist greets you
– you are required to provide your name, info, health insurance, medical history, etc.
– the nurse/PA greet you and asks you to describe your condition as s/he enters your personal space to pre-examines you
– the doctor greets you and asks you to describe your condition (again), asking more probative questions as s/he enters your personal space to examine you
– the receptionist handles your billing on the way out
All of this may seem simple to an NT… and yes, it is. But to an Aspie, I can tell you that this is a LOT of work. It’s enough of a hassle to want to avoid the whole thing altogether.
Imagine being an Aspie for a moment, and it is absolute torture to even have to talk to people that you don’t know. Now you are talking to 3 people, revealing intimate details about yourself to them, you are being touched all over. It’s a pain. You HATE it. So you find yourself skipping your yearly physical. You have a little bit of pain in your chest? Shake it off. It’s easier to deal with the pain than to go through that ordeal again. Next thing you know, you haven’t been to the doctor in 10 years and the pain in your chest cannot be ignored. So you FINALLY get yourself checked out, only it’s too late. Now you need heart bypass surgery.
It’s like that. Aspergers didn’t cause the heart disease, but it caused actions that led to the heart disease.
I’ve been thinking about my elbow lately. I have tendonitis in my elbow from repetitive movement at my job. I’ve had it looked at and gotten prescriptions for physical therapy. I really feel like the PT could be helpful in relieving some of the pain, but I stopped going after four visits. Why? Because the physical therapy involves me doing exercises for my elbow for an hour while a physical therapist watches. An hour of me sitting with this guy. After 10 minutes, I have nothing to say. I feel stupid talking, but the silence is even more uncomfortable. So I don’t go anymore. The treatment is more painful mentally than the condition is physically.
I also think back to the post I made about going to the dentist. I’m lucky that I have strong teeth and gums and my gap in seeing the dentist was only about 2 or 3 years. There could be Spectrumites out there who haven’t been to their dentist or doctor in over a decade.
How many of us out there have been skipping cancer screenings because of the sensory issues associated with needles and drawing blood?
How many of us have not had a regular eye exam because of a sensitivity to light?
How many of us are suffering from conditions that can be easily remedied or prevented by easier access to health care?
It can be very difficult for parents of Autistic children to deal with, but this is a fact: tantrums are unstoppable. And in the case of children with Autism, the tantrums are SO MUCH MORE INTENSE.
If you are a parent of a child on the spectrum, I am about to tell you something you won’t want to hear: the tantrums don’t go away with age. I’m a full grown adult (sort of), and I still throw tantrums when I lose my keys.
The good news is that it’s not your fault. You may feel like you are causing the tantrums by either using discipline or holding firm to boundaries, but it’s not that. Sometimes it can be the smallest thing that sparks a tantrum. For me, it’s losing something. For someone else, it can be an uncomfortable setting (too warm/too cold/too loud/too quiet/etc.). Some kids can throw a tantrum over a broken toy. Some can go off because they didn’t get the right amount of chocolate chips on their cookie. It’s different with every Spectrumite.
So, how to deal with the tantruming child? Well, let’s start with what not to do. First, don’t tell the child to be quiet or to not be upset – this will only make the child feel alienated and “wrong” for being upset. Second – and trust me on this – do NOT let them “cry it out.” Tantruming Spectrumites very often get physical during tantrums and can cause harm to objects and themselves. If you just let them get it all out, you may end up with a broken lamp or a broken body part.
The best course of action is to hold the child tight and let them know everything is going to be okay. This is where wrestling skills come in handy. Your youngster is going to fight back; don’t take it personally. But, BE CAREFUL!!! Remember, you are trying to prevent harm, not cause it. So make sure your child can breathe and nothing is bending at any weird angles. Also, do your best to soothe. Speak in a soft voice; tell him you love him, that it’s going to be okay, or sing a lullaby she likes. Don’t expect an immediate response, but it will sink in and they will feel more confident in their bond with you. When your child (FINALLY!!!!!!) begins to calm down (AFTER 19 HOURS OF SCREAMING!!!!!), reinforce the fact that everything is okay, and s/he shouldn’t feel bad about going off.
Tantrums can be scary, especially for parents of Autistic children. But when you know how to handle them, you can get through them with at least some of your sanity intact.