Tag Archives: ASD

Teaching an old dog new tricks (or 3 things my son has taught me)

I have a low tolerance level for many things in life, and apparently am not shy about expressing this.  In share houses over the years, before I married, there were many running jokes about my scathing statements of disbelief at the actions of others (normally my friends or flatmates), and while I still maintain that many of my comments were warranted (particularly about the infamous exploding dish of sausages incident) most of the time it just served to remind me that I can have a short fuse and a cutting tongue (and, of course, to try and temper it).  For a long time this amused me (I was young and arrogant). Then I became a parent, and it worried me.  I have clear memories of sitting with a neighbour (who seemed to have her life together) and confessing that I felt that all I did was yell at my children.  She sensibly questioned whether that was in fact true, and helped me to see that I wasn’t operating in a state of constant anger, but I certainly worried about it all the time.

Fast forward 7 years or so, and I have realised that I have changed.  On Monday, whilst my son was having a meltdown, I ended up with an injury to my hand that required a trip to the emergency department. (Nothing broken, just sprained.)  In conversation with an acquaintance she asked how I managed to keep my cool, and not punish my son for his actions, and I realised that at no point during this incident had I yelled at him.  This old dog (purely in the sense of abusing the clichéd phrase) has learnt new tricks.

Raising my children has helped me to mature and grow in many ways, but I think the most valuable lessons have come from facing the challenges that raising my boy brings.    He has helped me to learn some important lessons, and change my behaviour.  At the moment I am most conscious of three gifts he has given me:

1.  Controlling my temper and emotions.

Anger Quotes | http://noblequotes.com/When dealing with a child having a meltdown, punishment is not the answer. Angry words used to a child who is already in sufficient pain to be raging against the world will cause more damage than they solve.  Reacting in anger is just throwing fuel on an already well burning fire. Providing reassurance, security and support, and looking for the source of their pain has better short and long term effects, and leaves you feeling better about yourself (win, win!)  None of this is rocket science, but so many of our reactions as humans, formed through our own life experiences, are habitual, so changing those habits is tricky.  Having a child who doesn’t respond to your habitual responses either makes or breaks you I think!  In my case I had to learn new responses.

2.  Knowing what my priorities are.

DON'T QUITIf you have your priorities clear, decision making becomes easy.  (Yes, I know that is obvious but it has taken me a long time to get that sorted in my own head.) Today a former colleague (and still friend) asked if I wanted a job with a great organisation doing work I would enjoy.  After two seconds of thinking ‘that would be great’ I calmly explained that I can’t do that, as my boy needs me, my girls need me, and I can’t ask my parents to take on the level of responsibility that being a full time carer to my boy requires.   And it was okay to say that. I didn’t have to fake being calm about that decision.  (Ginormous step forward!  No furiously planning which strategies could be put in place to make it all happen, whilst juggling 5000 balls in the air. Just acceptance that this is not the right time.)

3.  Patience.

Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.This last discovery will shock my old friends. It appears that I have learnt to be patient. Well, more of the time than I used to.  This week I can’t sew, can’t paint, can’t crochet, and can’t attend to a whole list of things I want to be doing because of my injured hand.  Instead of fretting, feeling frustrated, or whinging about it, I have accepted that my plans have to be on hold for a while.  This is a big change for me!  I have chosen to see it as time to do other things, and for the most part that is working out.

Raising a child who sees the world in a different way, and who wears his emotions outside his skin so he feels raw and bruised much of the time is hard, and it wears me down. But honestly, it has been the making of me.  A number of people have told me that he is lucky to have me as his mum, but they have it wrong.  I am lucky to have him as my son.  He has made me a better person, and definitely a better parent.

As a final note, and in keeping with the theme of teaching old dogs new tricks, we are currently minding a friend’s Labrador for a month, and Dottie, our insane and aging terrier, who was so traumatized by our last attempt to bring a new dog into the home, is coping!  I have long thought that giving my boy his own dog to care for and play with would be great therapy – and so far that is proving true.  I see another dog on our horizon!

I hope that you are well, and finding good in the rough patches of life.

a little bird

25/07/2015

If you want to get me cranky, protective and outraged, give one of these statements a try when you are next talking to me.  Even better, use most of them in one conversation, and do it in front of my son.  That is a sure fired way to ensure that I will discount your helpful suggestions on how I can better do my job as his mother.  (It will also 100% guarantee that I will write a blog post about it.)

1. He just needs to fit in with everyone else

You think?  Wouldn’t it be great if just telling him to fit in with everyone else was the answer.  Wouldn’t it be great if we were all cut from the same mould and could fit into the designated slot in life that you think we should fit into.  Oh, and while we are at it, thank you for telling me, after knowing him for a very short time, how you know what he ‘needs’.  Because up until now, while I have been dealing with schools, psychiatrists, paediatricians, psychologists, police, social workers and the government, it never occurred to me that I could solve all of this by telling him to fit in.

Fitting in.  What does that look like?  Is that where he doesn’t say anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, doesn’t question whether something is fair or not, doesn’t overreact when he feels he is treated unfairly, and doesn’t interrupt your vision of what your life should look like?  Wouldn’t it be nice if he did fit in.  Did it ever occur to you that perhaps all he wants himself is to fit in.  To not be the kid who can’t cope with too much noise, or with not being perfect at something the first time he tries, who can’t understand why other kids don’t get his sense of humour, who worries that other kids don’t like him because he gets angry when he is overwhelmed.  To be ‘normal’.why fit in when you were born to stand

Guess what?  I don’t want him to fit in.  If he fitted in, in the way that you want him to, he would lose himself, and all the good things that go with being him.  His awesome sense of the ridiculous, his ability to give hugs just at the right time, his sharp mind and amazing strategies, and the endless possibilities that are open before him because he has to work so much harder than everyone else to do the same things that other kids in his class do with ease.

I'm beautiful in my way'Cause God makes (2)

2. He is just doing this to get attention

Of course he is!  What kid climbs an electricity pole in the middle of winter and declares that he won’t come down, in order not to get attention?  What kid rings his mother who is many hours drive away and threatens to kill himself, in order not to get attention?

The question is not whether he wants attention, it is WHY he wants attention.  What overloading of his senses, his ability to cope, his sense of fairness has happened that is causing him to act in such an extreme way?  And what can we do to help him to see that he is loved, supported, and cherished, so that he doesn’t need to behave in this way in order to get our attention.

3. He needs to understand how this makes (insert name of choice) feel

Ouch.  There it is again.  What he ‘needs’ to do.  If only he can rewire his brain circuits so that he understands other people’s emotions clearly, and take them into account when those people are contributing to his need to seek attention, then everything will be okay.  You will love him if he understands how his behaviour is affecting you.

Maybe, just maybe, you might like to think about how an 8 year old kid sees the world.  Forget whether he has special needs or not – most 8 year old kids are still fairly egocentric in their actions.  Telling him to take your feelings into account and to stop this behaviour is not, unfortunately, a magic cure-all.  If it was then I would be rich, having saved many thousands of dollars on specialists because I could have taken your advice for free.

4. He needs to understand the consequence of his actions

Uh-huh.  Again, what he ‘needs’ to do.  Because if he can just think about what his behaviour is doing, then he will stop it, straight away.  Can I remind you again, using small words, that this boy is 8 years old.  He doesn’t like hurting people.  He doesn’t like feeling hurt.  He doesn’t like constantly stumbling through life, letting people down, making mistakes.  If he could, at this age, think of the consequences of his actions and therefore change his actions, don’t you think he would?

5.  He is going to have a miserable life if he doesn’t start to improve his behaviour

Grrrrrrr…….how dare you presume to tell my son what his life is going to be like. And even worse, how dare you tell him that his life will be bad.  He believes the things that adults tell him.  Ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy?  And quite apart from my emotive response to how an adult can be so cruel to a child, how on earth do you know what his life is going to be like?  Have you seen the amazing steps he has taken over the last couple of years?  Do you know just how bad things were 3 years ago?  Do you know how much work and support I put into ensuring that in fact he has a wonderful future ahead of him, and how much he looks to the positive future now? And finally, do you honestly think that this is his choice?!  What on earth is he hoping to gain by ‘choosing’ to behave in this way, particularly when not behaving in this way has so many more rewards!

 

Lead by exampleAnd finally – don’t ever, whether a child has special needs or not, talk about that child in such a way in front of him or her.  It is cruel.  And slightly ironic.  While you are so busy telling me that he needs to control himself, behave better, understand the consequences of his actions, you are doing the exact opposite.  Perhaps leading by example would be a better way to help him.

Vent over!  Regular programming will resume shortly!

A small post-script.  If you think you recognise yourself in this post, you probably do.  (And we may never have met.)

 

Rural update #489

Guess what?  It is still winter.  I know – who would have thought?   We are deep in the midst of the short days, frozen mornings, thick fogs, and wood fires.  There has been a significant investment in thermal underwear, ski jackets and gloves – and that is just for around the farm!  Although, much to the disappointment of the children we haven’t had heavy snowfalls on the property so far, there have been some in the area, and the snow on the mountains around the area certainly makes for icy winds.  It is that time of year when finding a spot in the sun, behind glass, warms your bones and makes it hard to leave.  And when the sun across the ground in the late afternoon makes everything glow golden.

Afternoon sun|a little bird made me

The number of livestock on the property has grown.  No more dogs (yet) although we have been introducing Dottie to a friend’s Labrador who is quite obliging and lets her be in charge and boss him around, so we will see how that goes.  No – we have progressed to horses. Even better – they aren’t ours!  We have leased our big paddock to our neighbours who have quite a few horses, and they are keeping some in the paddock (which helps keep the grass from simply feeding the kangaroos).  The artist-in-residence is beside herself with joy, and goes to visit them several times a day on the holidays and weekends, and every afternoon on school days.  She will have a riding lesson with the neighbours tomorrow and could not be more excited!  Dad has great plans for collecting the manure for the garden.  The boy thinks that he might learn to be a blacksmith so he can make horseshoes for them.  The eldest is a bit bemused by all the fuss, and  I just like the sound of gentle neighs and harrumphs across the night air when I am lying in bed – true country life!Horses|a little bird made me

The 11 chickens are now all sharing one coop and run, with little drama so far.  The white and black (unknown breed) speckled ones should start laying soon, which is good as our original brown girl is coming to the end of her laying life.  The shells of her eggs are getting more and more fragile and she only lays one every few days now, rather than one a day as she used to.  She is healthy and spritely though, so I am sure that there will be great debates about what should happen to her once she stops laying.  (Dad being practical and farmer like, and me being sentimental and protective like!)

The big news is that we are having a party to celebrate Mum and Dad’s 70th birthdays (which are about 6 weeks apart).  Apart from the obvious Pinterest frenzy that I have gone into (decorations, drinks, presents, signs, more decorations…..) it has also turned my mind far more sharply to re-decorating.  As I type I am sitting surrounded by swatches of carpet.  YES!  The ugly multi-coloured casino style carpet will be replaced soon!  I have found the carpet I want (seriously – anything with a 25 year guarantee on wear, stains, colour, etc will get me in) but the colour?  Boy that is a tough one!  And why is the carpet so important?  Because once we choose the carpet we can choose the paint for the walls……. etc, etc, etc!  Grey, beige, greige, mushroom, oatmeal, silverfern, koala, chirp – these are all names I have been considering. Really – what colour is ‘chirp’?

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I am not sure how much will actually get done before the party, but it has turned everyone’s mind to the topic.  The boy has asked to trial sleeping in the spare room to see if he likes it better than his room.  He wants dark blue walls, which to be frank is an improvement on his previous request for black.   The artist in residence has created her own Pinterest board with decorating ideas and has settled on a colour scheme (aqua, pale pink and gold).  We have spent quite a bit of time discussing how to best carry out her ideas.  (There will be recycling, freezer paper stencils, a staple gun, and fabric involved in the current iteration of the plan!)  The eldest is just desperately trying to avoid any suggestion that she might have to change rooms (hers is the biggest by far!)

We stayed home for the school holidays.  This time last year we had our spontaneous trip to Hawaii.  This year life and funds are significantly different, and the weather was horrid, so we stayed home.  We had friends come to visit, and family!  My nephew managed an evening with us whilst in town on a school trip (he lives on the other side of the country) and my cousin and his wife came to stay for a night, which was so much fun.  The kids caught up with friends, had pyjama days, and we played cards, watched movies, went to appointments, etc.

I took the artist-in-residence, the boy and one of his friends, to the theatre to see the Flying Fruit Fly Circus performance ‘Under the bed’ at the Canberra Theatre Centre.  (The eldest declaring that she was too old for such things.)  It was the first time I have taken the boy to the theatre and it was the perfect performance for it – it started at 6pm, and went for one hour.  He enjoyed it, although he and his friend talked non-stop through it.  Their commentary was amazing at times – where adults might cringe at a mistake like a dropped hula hoop they were marvelling that it was only one that had been dropped. At other times it had nothing at all to do with the show.  I tried to shush them without stressing them out but it had little effect. At the end of the performance the people in the row in front commented that they might be the two biggest chatterboxes in town, but it was mostly good natured.  I was a bit amazed at how I coped and didn’t let it stress me out.  I explained afterwards that they weren’t misbehaving – they were just coping with this new experience by talking it through.Theatre tickets|a little bird made me

By the end of the holidays I was exhausted, and sick.  Having the kids back at school was a relief on one level, as it meant that I could sleep and recuperate, but stressful on another level, as the boy has not coped with the return to school.  I am learning more each day about how to work with him, and by Thursday night had got to the bottom of what was bothering him, so today was actually a good day for him.  I feel like it is one step forward, two steps back at the moment, but then I look back at where we were a year ago, and have to recognise that we have come a long way.  Learning more about how his mind works, and how he interprets the world around him helps, but then trying to convey that to his teachers, my parents, his father, etc becomes exhausting.

For now though, carpet swatches and Pinterest boards are calling my name.  (Yep – its Friday night and I am partying hard here on the farm!)  I hope that you are well, and that your weekend is full of creative moments.

Oh – and if you want something to cheer you up and entertain you, check out the page called ‘My Awesome Life’ on Facebook.  Very clever stuff.

 

Clicking into place

I had a moment yesterday when I stopped to think about something for a minute and realised that life is pretty perfect at the moment!  Lots of little things clicking into place, working out, and finding their rhythm.  Times like this need to be celebrated!

My chicks have settled into the school term well, and my boy has managed to attend school for full days on a number of occasions now. This is massive!!  All the hard work that has gone into building stability for him, helping him to develop strategies to cope, working with the teachers and executive staff, and his doctors, is paying off.   (And while part of me is touching wood that it continues because we have had these ups before, followed by big downs, this is definitely something to celebrate!!)

Enjoy life |a little bird made me

The younger two chicks are also happy to spend time with their father more often, so we are slowly, slowly, working towards a regular routine for that too. Another milestone!  (The fact that he has a new puppy at his house is certainly helping in that regard!!)

And, wait for it, it looks like we might have ADSL broadband internet within the week!  After four months on mobile broadband and constantly measuring out little packets of data for the kids, and keeping enough to keep working (and then having the kids completely shape the plan with a Youtube session and paying premium for the rest of the month – $10 per 1GB!!) this will give us all the ability to breathe out!  Homework research can be done, TV viewing can be caught up on, and life can return to it’s 21st century first world normality!

I have also had a busy couple of weeks socially – tickets to shows, dinners, and amazing behind the scenes peeks at a show about to start.  I have to pinch myself – all of this has come about because of my decisions to apply for the Human Brochure last year. My circle of friends and contacts has grown, and I have been able to experience things I would never otherwise have been able to do.

Even better, we are falling into a routine at home that sees me having one to two days a week where I can focus on my business!  I have been developing new products, designing pieces I have wanted to make for years, and starting to build up stock.  Absolute bliss!

I also have a wide circle of friends who are creative, generous, and talented.  I can now recommend awesome craftspeople to my friends when they ask for a referral to have a chair fixed, a lampshade made, a dress designed, a website built.  I love being able to share the love!

Other's opinions |a little bird made me

The irony of this is that in an exchange with my ex-husband last week he told me that those who read my ‘internet stories’ tell him that I make it appear that my life is hard and that I am a victim.   As this couldn’t be further from the truth, I hope that anyone reading this appreciates that I am delighted that all the hard work, difficult choices, and rearranging of priorities over the last few years is paying off, as I always hoped knew it would.  The challenges that my children and I have faced over the last few years were tough, but we were never victims – we are and always will be, if I have anything to say about it, survivors.

I hope that your life is clicking into place for you this week too, and that you have something to celebrate.