Find Out What Jen Finds

My journey on the spectrum of life … and the lessons I learn along the way …
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about Excuses: Reasons to Celebrate!

  • May 24, 2010 9:52 pm

I recently started a list on my phone called ‘Phrases that totally worked.’ I add to it whenever something surprisingly effective comes out of my mouth for the first time without my having a whole lot of forethought. Most are in the Parenting category. When I see it has ‘worked,’ I often go through shock & awe, and then pat myself on the back and pray it works the next time. Here is my favorite so far:

“Stop making excuses and follow my directions.”

This resulted in immediate compliance with NO lingering foul mood. I know! I had to inconspicuously pick my jaw off the floor and replace the ‘I’ve Had It’ adult-whine posture with a more confident ‘That’s Right…I’m the Boss…and I Totally Plan to Say Smart Stuff Like that all the Time cause I’m Smart and all’ stance.

I realized The Elder had reached a developmental milestone!

“…children master a variety of alternative strategies for resolving conflict. They can cajole the adversary, use bargaining, suggest compromise or cooperation (like turn-taking), and redirect conflict through humor.”

The School Years: Psychosocial Development – Social Problem-Solving Skills. The Developing Person Through The Life Span – (Berger)

So what’s the big deal? All 1st graders have mastered the art of manipulation, right? Yes! It’s ‘normal’! Yay! I haven’t decided if I’m more excited about his being developmentally on track or about his finally catching up with his nonverbal abilities!

For so long The Elder didnt say anything longer than 2-3 word phrases and only when prompted (and re-prompted). If he needed to initiate communication, it was physical and completely unrelated to his desire or need. For example, instead of pointing to a drink if he was thirsty, he would strip naked or throw his glasses across the room. It was as if he was fed up that no one was attending to his mental request after repeatedly thinking it. ‘Come on, people! If I’ve telepathically tried to connect with you once, I’ve done it a thousand times. It goes in my ear and out your ear! What do I have to do to get heard around here? Sheesh.’

When he was finally verbal, I heavily relied on listening to everything he would say in order to fully understand his triggers. And after some super-sleuthing, it would often fill in the gaps of why past meltdowns occurred. It was fascinating to finally learn the Reasons for his behaviors.

“How children think is as important as what they know.”

The School Years: Cognitive Development – The Legacy of Piaget. The Developing Person Through The Life Span – (Berger)

His Reasons were always literal (raw is more accurate) and logical (tho not obviously connected). While the former is to be expected, his logic far surpasses his age level. When he was 3 he tested beyond Kindergarten (he actually beat the test because it ran out of questions). At 4, his age equivalence was 11 years, 9 months. Because of this, I think there were a lot of unfair expectations for him to be more pragmatically mature. That discrepancy has been hard to parent, especially before awareness, but I imagine it is even harder to have.

Because of early intervention and inclusion, I think that gap is closing as he practices conversational skills. I noticed that his barrage of Reasons became Excuses when I, The Mom, couldn’t find an underlying connection between his words, body language, and past experiences. The usual and oh-so-confusing ‘complacent’ or ‘defiant’ reactions would then be displayed with integrity.

Do you know how freeing that feels? My brain gets to put the magnifying glass down more often…at least until adolescence…knock on wood…

about Mimicking: Youngerese is starting to sound a little familiar

  • November 21, 2009 9:28 am

‘Mommy, if you want to put butter all over the sides of my bread, you may.’

‘You can’t do — AND —. You have to choose.’ Then in same oh-well tone as me, he adds, ‘Ok, then. It’s your choice.’

‘MOM! I washed my hands with soap!’ he announces when leaving the bathroom.

The Younger (age 4)

Ever notice how your kids start picking up your mannerisms and catch phrases (and rules)?

Because The Elder didn’t converse at age 4, he never really mimicked me. The Younger was a different story. He was carrying on conversations with people (with a valid picture ID) by age 3, as well as the walls.

I am constantly reminded of the differences between the two because of the juxtaposition of their development within the confines of our family. It’s both fascinating and frustrating.

It’s fascinating to see their development and how I can respect each milestone (and each inchstone) they reach with a much greater pride than I think I would’ve had if we hadn’t been ‘blessed with autism.’ It’s interesting to learn what ‘typical’ looks like. The Younger will pretend (on his own without prompting!), voluntarily hug and kiss us and say ‘I love you,’ beg to go outside to run around and play, prompt us for attention or approval, make/draw things for us, and other nice little typical surprises that we didn’t even know existed yet. This played a huge part in early intervention (in my opinion) for The Elder. I am grateful for their birth order and the 2-year distance between their birthdates. ‘They’ say that it is common for the emotional and social development of children with an autism spectrum disorder to lag at least 2 years (–They, circa 2000). In the last 2 years The Elder has picked up these ‘habits’ and ‘scripts’ from his brother. Today at age 6, he has grown to enjoy many of these habits, like choosing to play outside over a computer game, and pretending. His creative side has really developed since being in the 1st grade. There are still scripts and if-then scenarios that are apparent to me that they are little performances, but to the general public, he is perfectly normal. And I’ll take a hug whenever I can get it! :)

As for the other side of the coin, I often get thrown for a loop when The Younger has typical emotional responses yet inappropriate corresponding behavior responses. I knew early on that we had to surround him with positive peer models. That way he understood that, when he’s hungry, to say “I’m hungry,” and not to strip naked and pee on the floor. That is definitely not the kind of mimicking that gives me warm fuzzies. Being the little brother who adores his big brother, mimicking is expected and is how he expresses that love (great). He will, overnight, developed the same phobias. Because The Elder acts as if ‘buttons’ are manufactured by The Devil himself, then surely that’s a valid fear, right?

BUT the flipside of the other side of the coin is that The Elder learns unpleasantries from The Younger! The Elder skipped some of those developmental phases of toddlerhood and preschool (every parent’s wish, huh?), like developing a sweet tooth, lying and stealing (often to hide his sweet tooth), calling me ‘stupid’ and yelling ‘I hate you’ when I’ve deprived him of something (to satisfy his sweet tooth I’m sure). But he has begun HIS phases at age 6 after observing The Younger. His ‘regressions’ are actually his mimicking of his brother (he never actually did those things in the first place to regress to them).

As an adult, I catch myself mimicking others too, especially those I frequently see or talk with. I guess its just a part of human nature in all stages of life. The hard part is not enduring the Terrible Twos through the Satanic Sixes (and beyond). The hard part is myself being a good role model for them to mimick.