Beyond Compare?

I have started reading more blogs from other people who are also dealing with Autism in their own special ways.  It helps in an immediate way because you pick up helpful tips and techniques that you can apply to your own situation, but it also provides an opportunity to engage in what is probably frowned upon in such circles - comparing your child with theirs.

I was reading this relatively new but interesting blog by Julie where she describes her challenges in clothing her son (in his late teens).  It initially piqued my interest because we have had our own challenges with L and clothes.  Usually they are centred around his hyper-sensitivity and the feel of clothes on his skin.  He now generally has to approve any trousers he wears before they are purchased, wears jumpers and t-shirts that are too big (though we don't change them until he has grown out of them in a normal fashion, mwah ha ha ha ha) and sticks to one range of socks which are soft enough for him and have clearly marked out toes and heels so there is no chance of them being twisted.

We have (touch wood) not experienced any dressing failures with him lately, so we natuarally assume we have cracked it.  Clearly, there will be more challenges in the future and we have no clue how he and his Autism will develop, but I do look at Julie's situation and wonder.

I know L's condition is not as severe as Alan's and it is with relief that I expect we will not have to face the same issues as Julie does with her sons to the same degree.  I think this is fair enough to compare in this way as I am preparing myself for the future.

But what about when your child is with other Autistic kids of similar ages, or with his school friends?  I'm sure we all do some internal comparisons at some point, but they are rarely vocalised because society dictates it is rude to do so.

"L is definitely better at maths than x"
"Oh look, L has stopped and is listening but that other kid is still messing about"
"Oh no, L won't stop fidgetting but all the others are sitting still"

I'm sure that with Sauron's eye constantly glaring at your own child, you miss the behaviour of other kids which is probably contradictory to your thoughts, but hey that's what parenting is about.

So what about when other people do it to you?  When other people compare your kid to theirs?  Well, I'm sure they all do it and that's fine.  Yes, L has behaviour issues, he can be aggressive in a disproportionate fashion and yes, there are times when he has hurt someone.  But is he really that different to any other kid?

There are times though when the barrier is breached, when Sauron's eye is drawn across the plains of Mordor and onto another subject, when your child's transgressions mean that someone else becomes the focus of attention, of sympathy and of anger.

This is when your thoughts about someone else, about how they compare with your child can betray you.  When you share your opinions with others.

Unfortunately, in our experience, all that leads to is pain, suffering (yes, I'm in danger of mixing my film metaphors) and anger.

It is natural to compare your child's behaviours to others, and to rank them and decide they are the best at certain things and need to work on other things, but keep it to yourself and do not pretend to know what is going on in that other child's head.  Let the professionals deal with this (Teachers, Doctors, The Parents of The Kid), because wading into the debate just causes problems.

Crumbs, I've ranted a bit today, apologies.  It is dangerous getting involved in the behaviour of kids, regardless of whether they are ASD or simply 'neuro-typical'.

Friends (A multimedia extravaganza)

I'd like to start this post with a brief video, which in my mind sums up male friendship.  Simple, uncomplicated.

(BBFC advisory note:  the following video contains 1 level 4 swear and 1 level 1 swear and a mild drug reference).

My wife and I don't have a huge circle of close friends, probably one hands worth, and we don't head out socialising every night (an evening of Match of the Day and a quiet chat on a Saturday night in my mate's bedsit/shop is as boisterous as my social life gets).  I often wonder how this will reflect on L, because recently he has demonstrated some issues with self-esteem and I wonder whether friends may be the answer.

Isolation is a typical trait of our ASD kids, but L does not demonstrate this in his social life.  Yes, he is very happy in his own company and by no means does he crave social attention to bolster his own self-view, which certainly does seem typical, but he does have a group of friends at school with whom he is very close and enjoys spending time. 

The problem in L's case is not a lack of friends, but what he does with them.  He has a very high set of moral standards (see previous discussions regarding The Rules) and he applies these to everyone he is with.  An example would be if one of his friends was having an argument with someone which was nothing to do with him, he is still compelled to rush in and help to protect his friend, often using a disproportionate response in order to ensure his friend gets his protection, even though unsolicited.

This has become an issue at school where his behavioural standards struggle to match his moral ones.  He still seems unable to balance his response accordingly when he, or someone else, is threatened, instead just going full bore into a fight, or a push or shove, or scratch.

This was raised at a recent meeting at the school where they suggested L needs to learn when his friends fights are not his.  A social story on this matter may help we felt so we are looking into that at the moment.

One suggestion raised by the Education Psychologist was to look into the 'Circle of Friends' initiative, where a group of friends are selected effectively to look out for L and help him to understand what is an appropriate response.  I am enthusiastic about this in principle, but there will be some difficult questions to ask...

How much do they need to know about 'Autism'?

Will there be pressure on them to be more mature or responsible than they are?

Does sharing L's condition with his friends set him up for potential bullying in the future?

What will their parents think about their child having this responsibility?

These are all questions we will work through with the school and the Autism Outreach Team who are now involved in supporting L an the school directly, but it is an interesting point in the process of dealing with L's condition.

So, does the lack of a social life on my and my wife's part have any effect on this, perhaps giving him a general lack of experience as to how adults deal with social relationships?  No, I don't think it does.

And a brief word on best friends - my wife most definitely is my best friend, and I hers, which is wonderful (Sorry to Al, Matt, Phil, Gav and Ben who have all vied for this coveted position at various points throughout my life). 

As Freddie Mercury once put it in the famous song by Queen:

"Scaramouche, Scaramouche.  Will you do the Fandango?"

A wonderful friendly term which I assume refers to his friendship with the aforementioned 'Scaramouche' and asking them to dance along with him.

And I will leave you with a picture of L which I think sums up where he is at.  This picture was taken following a brief sledging expedition.  His sledge went rather quickly towards a concrete block and whilst he was stopped in time and unhurt, he still felt that it was unfair and stormed off across the field.  10 paces later, his mood was sated and he simply started playing on his own.

If he can learn to do this at school, then maybe he can at least take himself away from quickly escalating situations and control his aggressive tendencies?

Thanks for reading.

Oh, I've just realised, the song 'You're My Best Friend' by Queen would have been a much better reference earlier.  Let's just pretend that's what I said, rather than me having to go through the hassle of going back and editing it.  Just between you and me.  OK?  Thanks.

A sad and wonderful brief tale

We have discussed with L about his Autism, even introduced him to The Word.  He is very thoughtful and intelligent so we figured that it would be better for us to have open discussions about it and to be honest with him about his condition.

His understanding is obviously quite basic at the moment but the other day we were discussing his behaviour and how having Autism is not an excuse for mis-behaving, even though it is a 'non-neurotypical' response common to ASD kids.  L commented that he knows his autism makes life a bit more difficult...

Mom:  "Having autism doesn't mean you can be naughty or misbehave"
L:  "I know, I just need to try and control myself"
Mom:  "That's right, and I know it's difficult in the moment, but keep trying"
L: "I will mom.  You know, I am just me and I like being me.  I don't think I would change having Autism even if I could, because thats just another part of what makes me me."
Mom:  [smile].  [sniff].  [wipe away tear].

It was quite a mature thing to say I think - and even though he doesn't fully understand it, his acceptance at 7 years old is a good bearing for the future I think.  Do you agree?

Coming soon, despite this wonderful discussion with mom, L has been having some self-esteem issues lately, so I will be writing a post on that and how you need to keep on championing and being an advocate for your ASD-kid.


I've decided to join a few Google+ community groups to help expand my understanding of ASD and have come across an interesting blog with a few simple rules to deal with Autistic children.

Check it out!

I will be adding it to my links section as well, but I know how you guys eagerly await updates.

Oh, by the way, there is a comment section on each of these entries - I've had one comment in over 3000 views, so please feel free to share your thoughts, agree, disagree, tell me how brilliant I am or how wrong I am.  It is through discussion and debate that our understanding will develop.

Proper post up soon, I'm sure!