Archive | August, 2010

A Comfortable Rut

Even if you had never heard of such a thing before, I’m sure you can identify with what it is. A comfortable rut is a period of your life where things are just easier to keep doing them as you did the day before, rather than make a disturbance that would be deemed uncomfortable even if it means moving forward.

The most popular of these would be diets, or lack of exercise… or both. Basically you get into the habit of eating the foods you like, you can’t find the time to exercise and eventually it’s just easier to just gain weight even though you don’t want to.

In the case of parenting a child with Autism, it’s a very very easy rut to settle into.

What happens is that you try various diets, various programs, therapies, routines and everything else until eventually something seems to work… something starts to show results and in a little while, it becomes comfortable.

And a few months later you start to realize that your child has been eating the same 4 things every day because it’s just easier than fighting or dealing with the issues that come from not eating. You just start getting used to sleeping at certain times and not sleeping at others. You start dressing your child in the same 3 or 4 outfits (if you’re lucky) because it’s less of a fight to put it on them.

A comfortable rut is exactly what your child with Autism is looking for. We can’t confuse this with a routine. A comfortable rut is what your Autistic child wants, a routine is what they need.

What is the difference between a routine and a comfortable rut?

Well, a comfortable rut sees no progress. There’s no moving forward. For example, instead of trying new foods or dietary supplements or pushing your child to break boundaries, you just keep feeding them the same old thing.

A routine involves doing the same things at the same time but can still be a push forward. For example, when eating with Cameron, we eat at the same time, and he generally eats the same meals but, each day we get him to try something new. Even if it’s just a bite or just a nibble, he tries it. Some things he’s liked, such as combining his cheese and gluten free crackers. Others, like fish… he did not like.

That’s progress while still being in the same routine.

Cameron would prefer to wear the same two Super Mario shirts every day for ever if we let him, which would make for a comfortable rut indeed. Instead, we dress him similar yet different shirts… nothing that will irritate his sensory sensitive skin too much but something that will be less than the most comfortable thing he could wear.

You’ve all heard the motivation speeches, the leaders talk and the get rich guys go on and on… push your personal boundaries if you wish to become more than you are! Well, why wouldn’t it be the same with your kids, especially if Autistic?

If you want your child to get out into the world and be independent, whether your child is very severe on the spectrum or very high, you must push their boundaries if they won’t do it for themselves.

I know, it’s really easier said than done in most cases but I never said it would be easy.

I’m not going to get into the specifics of it or anything because your doctors/therapists will likely be able to help you more than I could if they’ve worked with you before. Moving forward doesn’t mean you stop what you’re doing now, it doesn’t mean breaking from routine… it just means getting out of that comfortable rut and doing it!

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Interesting Conversation Between Brothers

Cameron, who has Autism, is 5 years old and his younger brother Tyler is 2… he does not have Autism. Tyler never ever wants to be apart from his big brother but Cameron sometimes really needs his space, his time alone.

So after fighting for most of the morning, I suddenly hear this:

Tyler: I want to play with you!!! b’cause I love you!!!

Cameron: No!! I love you too but I do not want to play with you!!”

Now how, as a parent, do you get mad at them for fighting and yet not smile or even laugh when you hear this? Especially coming from a 5 year old with Autism while in the middle of a fight… it’s truly amazing.

Just wanted to share.

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Taking Your Autistic Child Out To Meet The Public

Recently a twitter user @ChrisPbacon286 was in line for a ride at an amusement park when his child proceeded to have a meltdown. He mentioned how some other guy said (loud enough to be heard) “that brat needs his ass whooped”.

Had it of been me there, I’d have replied “Yes, because beating on a child with a disability would make you so much better.” but it wasn’t me and as was discussed, it likely wouldn’t have changed the rude guy’s opinion much. Sadly, idiots are idiots, period.

However, it did remind me of a similar situation that happened to my wife. I couldn’t be there with her but her sister was and they ran into an idiot as well.

I asked her to write it up for me to share with you. She’s a tad embarrassed since she’s not a writer but she’s happy to share, since it’s an important story.

A few months ago my sister and I decided to take the kids out to dinner. She has a daughter (11 years old at the time) and I had my two boys (Cameron who was 4 years old at the time and Tyler who was 2 years old). We went to a local family restaurant that serves a wonderful buffet and offers gluten free pasta for Cameron! It’s one of our favourite places to eat. When we arrived they told us they removed the “children’s” area (a place with booths near a toy area for the kids to play and make noise away from the other diners). So we were seated at a large booth in the main dining area. At the time there was nobody seated behind us.

My niece decided to leave the booth and Cameron wanted to go with her but since I was in his way, he needed to find another way out. So he climbed the back of the booth to try to get out of the booth behind us. I quickly took him out and reprimanded him, told him how inappropriate that was and sat him back into the booth. At the same time the waitress was about to seat someone at the booth Cameron was trying to climb into. I apologized to the couple about to sit down and said “I’m sorry about that.” The man turned to me and said “It wouldn’t happen if you disciplined your kids”.

Now I just need to say that I am a VERY non-confrontational person. I never stick up for myself unless it’s to someone I know very well. I don’t know if it’s mommy instinct or mommy guts or what it was but I stood tall and told this man that my children are VERY well behaved and disciplined and that he should have patience especially when dealing with a child with a disability. He started cussing and got angry and told me to shut the F*&# up.

That is when I sat down and left him alone. Not to back down but because I don’t want to subject my children to any negative behaviours like that. I want to teach them that it’s ok to walk away and not fuel a fire that is already out of control.

My sister had other ideas. She is my polar opposite. She stood up and talked him up and down and they were both causing a scene. This guy’s girlfriend was telling him to calm down and it was clear that this was a usual thing for him and he was just looking for a fight. So finally I talked my sister into sitting down and we finished our meals. The rude guy and his girlfriend left the restaurant without paying their bill.

I was frightened for us, afraid of how much my son could understand and feel, embarrassed for causing a scene and just upset at the whole situation. We paid our bill and apologized to the owner (who we have come to know from our many visits to the restaurant) on our way out.

A man from another table came over to us and said he saw it all and was sorry we had to deal with that. He thanked me for handling it so well and was really pleasant towards the kids. It was nice to have someone say that it was ok and not our fault, but it didn’t make it better. It had happened.

As a parent I don’t even know what the right thing is to do in a situation like that. It could have been ANY kid that was getting restless waiting for his food in a booth. But it happened to me and my autistic boy. But I’m proud of Cameron. He didn’t understand the boundaries of the booth, but once I pointed it out and explained it to him, he never attempted it again. He sat nicely and waited. He learned and listened. I can’t say that about the grown man who attacked us acting out like a toddler in a tantrum.

It took us a long time to decide to eat out again and since we’re extremely limited as to where we can eat out with Cameron (in our town there’s only this one restaurant that offers gluten free options) it made the choice even harder. But we did go back. And when we got there we were greeted by the owner. So many thoughts went through my head when we saw him walking towards us. Fear and embarrassment were the big feelings that I felt. Those few seconds it took for him to reach us seemed like forever. I’m sure my face was red too. But he stood there and said “We’ve opened a new children’s section at the back with safer and cleaner play equipment.” Oy!! So of course the first thing I thought was that they added it because of us. But he went on to say “Do not feel like you have to eat back there. You are welcome anywhere in my restaurant. We know what happened and it was not your fault and we love having you here”. We decided to eat in the children’s section anyway because let’s face it, the kids like it!

I think it’s important to remember that one incident shouldn’t stop you from trying again. That one comment or one person doesn’t make or break what you do every day with your children. A family restaurant is for families of all shapes and sizes and you are welcome there. So don’t let what other people think stop you. We almost let it stop us and we’re so glad we decided to get back out there. How can we prepare Cameron for the real world if we don’t let him experience it with us when we can keep him safe.

Just a quick update, I was just reminded of another incident that just happened, where a man literally punched another man in the neck because he felt so upset about being bothered while eating… at a restaurant, the man punched the father of an Autistic boy because that boy was “too loud”.

You can see an update on this story here:,0,6084633.story

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When Lack of Fear Puts Your Child in Harms Way

When you boil it down, Autism can be summarized into a list of mixed signals, whether it be muscle responses, sensory input, language, reading… all that fun stuff. However there’s another level of mixed signals that is potentially dangerous to your child, that you must be absolutely aware of at all times and that is the mixed signals of fear.

Chances are that if you’ve been dealing with Autism for any good length of time, you’ve already heard the news stories about people with Autism just up and walking out of their house and not being heard again for hours, days… even weeks! And I say people because sometimes it’s even adults with Autism that actually have the intellect of a child.

They don’t register fear in these cases, they simply focus on what is on their mind and they go for it… there is nothing else, only their focus. And so they will wander out in search of it.

Now, I’m sure you are like most people when I say this and you picture the dangers lurking in the shadows, like prowlers, animals and so forth… but remember, this is a person that has no fear. None. Nothing but focus. That means that they won’t do the obvious thing like you and stick to the sidewalks and cross at the cross walks. No, these people will just walk in a straight line no matter what road it takes them across. They will walk into what ever building they can find that either is or resembles the one they’re looking for.

But that’s getting to be a bit of a digression from where you probably are, so I’ll give you two ‘close to home’ examples.

Imagine your child is playing in the yard and spots a puppy across the street that he/she recognizes. Or perhaps playing with a ball that is out of control and goes out into the street. This child will run out after it, or across the street to see the puppy! And all the hand holding, and looking both ways practice and caution that you’ve drilled into them for years and years is immediately forgotten as they’ve not abandoned all fears and focused on their target.

You would be surprised at how fast it can happen.

Another example is a very real one which I experienced just yesterday… I took my boys swimming and despite repeated warnings and threats to go home, Cameron still ventured out too far. Now, he had a floaty that went under his arms, also he wasn’t really that far out as he is still only 5… but it’s still something that he should inherently be afraid of. Either drowning, losing control, being stuck out there… something should register and have him asking for help.

Conversely, my 2 year old did go out too far as well (not near as far, he’s only 2 so fairly short).. and he had that look of panic, that desperation “Please come get me!” fear to him.

Cameron did not, and he just accepted that he’d be stuck and have to stay there for ever if I don’t get him…. ho hum.

Now, there is a flip side… as I said, this is a problem of mixed signals. The opposite end of this is where you get to deal with a child that is afraid to go to bed… not because of monsters, not because it’s dark and not because of bad dreams but because he *might* have bad dreams.

Cameron is quite literally afraid to go to bed by himself because he may have bad dreams. I think he’s had bad dreams once in his life, and it didn’t bother him in the slightest for over a year after. But one night, he suddenly realized that he may have bad dreams and it scared him.

At the playground, he gets scared going up the ladder… not when he’s up too high, but when he gets to the second step and isn’t sure what to do with his feet. Tyler, who is 2, climbs right on up.

Now, I recognize, like always, that some children simply are like this… some have no fear, some have irrational fears, some fear everything but again, this is a “many children with Autism experience” type of situation.

Your child may very well be very different from this, it’s not a hard and fast rule much like everything else with Autism. But in general, it does summarize a good deal of Autistic children… and it’s for that reason, even if you know that your child would never put themselves into harms way… you still need to be aware. Because when it comes to Autism, anything could happen.

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Dealing With the Outbursts

Cameron’s at the point where, when he does something wrong, the only thing he knows how to do is shout out the most hateful thing he can think of and stomp off. For example, if he hurts his little brother and we get mad at him, he’ll stomp his feet all the way to his bedroom shouting “Tyler is a stupid baby face!” and slam his bedroom door.

“Stupid” is the most hateful word he knows.

It’s not necessarily an Autism trait as most children will do this sort of thing when they’re mad, but it’s still worth writing about because what does set those with Autism apart is their inability to handle or deal with those strong emotions.

This presents a bit of a problem really because it will grow in magnitude unless contained.. you see, you have to deal with it with all children, naturally, but with Autistics, unless you can really help them to learn how to handle it, you’ll start to see more and more of these outbursts at restaurants, family outings and so forth.

At the same time, you have to know when it’s serious and when it’s not because at a young age, and with Autism… just about every outburst can be as loud and hateful as they can make it, whether they’re mildly upset or furious… it all comes out the same.

How do you distinguish? Do you distinguish? Do you handle them all the same or do you let some instances slide and not others?

Temple Grandin once said “You can not punish for sensory overload” meaning, when a child is totally misbehaving because their senses are overloaded, you can’t punish them for that… they’re already in pain! So when a child is already getting hugely mixed signals and lashing out regardless of whether or not they want to be… do you punish them for it?

I believe in raising my child as I would raise him without Autism… an outburst is not ok… hitting is not ok…  however, if I see that there is a cause for his misbehaving such as sensory overload, change in routine, gluten intake or something like that, I will try to find a more ‘lenient’ way to separate him from the situation, get him into his room without him feeling like he’s bad… something like that.

It’s pretty difficult to keep your patience though, when your child is trying to be as hateful as they can after they were the ones that did something wrong… how do you deal with this sort of thing?

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