Tag Archives | tantrums

Knowing your child’s limits

No one knows your child better than you do… at least, that’s how it should be. That’s not true for every single parent but that’s a subject for another post. I digress…

All children have limits, Autism has a way of setting the bar a tad lower so that it’s hit a little sooner, a little more often. However, it’s still a bar to reach and as the parent, you begin to recognize where that bar is and how far away your child is from reaching it.

The terrible twos

angerIt’s usually around the age of two when that limit begins to show itself in a recognizable fashion. It’s around this time that afternoon naps stop happening as part of a routine and begin happening as a way to calm the storm.

For what ever reason, when children get tired… they do one of two things:

  1. They put their head down or against what ever they have next to them, unable to keep their eyes open any longer, then fade away into dream land
  2. They build momentum, gathering energy from the depths of their being and turn into very loud, very hateful little monsters that freak out at seemingly anything and nothing

Does any of that sound familiar? Do you remember those days?

Anyone that has a child older than 2 recognizes the “uh oh, I think someone is ready for a nap” part of the day where nothing can keep a child from getting upset.

Autism and the years that follow

The reason that it’s called the terrible twos is that children grow out of that, they stop having naps and hopefully stop testing you so much.

With Autism though, that may not be the case. Well, let me rephrase that… they may stop napping, they may stop testing you but they may still be reaching their limits just as easily as ever.

For example

My son Cameron, 6 with Autism has long outgrown afternoon naps. His little brother Tyler, 3 without Autism, has now outgrown naps as well.

However, there are still days when Tyler is very obviously tired in the afternoon and not happy with anything. On those days, he’s sent off to bed whether he likes it or not.

It’s much more rare but the same thing happens with Cameron, even to this day.

If he’s having a bad day, if he had a long day the day before, if he woke up too early, if he went to bed too late…. any number of things and in fact, sometimes it seems as though there’s no reason at all…. sometimes he’s simply just at the end of his rope far too easily, far too often.

Today was one of those days.

I work from home but we still have a babysitter during the day when my wife works… as I can’t really work and take care of them at the same time. Well, Cameron was at the end of his rope.. outright defiant and screaming at the baby sitter. So I had to step away from my computer and make an appearance.

It was very clear to me that Cameron had reached his limit and wasn’t coping with it.

Sometimes Cameron, and most autistics really, learn how to deal with it themselves… seeking out a quiet area to be by themselves, or even just sitting back and doing something so as to sort of “power down”, as I call it, to just relax for a bit.

Cameron was clearly not going to be powering down today on his own so I had to step in, get him to his room and inform him of his need to have a nap. He objected, quite loudly, but that was that.

Almost 2 hours later, he emerged from the room… a completely different child. TWO HOURS! So ya…. he was tired!

Pay Attention

You know your child and you know when they’ve gone beyond the point of no return. Meaning, they can’t calm themselves back down, they can’t seek out the quiet, relaxation they need on their own… you will have to be the bad guy and tell them that you don’t care what they want, they need to calm down.

Once completely out of control, they could hurt themselves or others… even if not, sometimes the grief is so strong after that they feel guilty for days for how they acted.

If you can’t avoid it from happening before hand, you have to step in and do something as it happens before it gets out of hand.

Know your child’s limits.

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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: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/palm-beach/fl-restaurant-rage-autism-20100809,0,6084633.story

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People Need to Realize that Autism Is Not Less, It’s More

I think that something that is lost in the translation to people who do not deal with Autism, is that yes, Autistic people have less communication skills, less social skills, less ability to understand non-literal speech and on and on…. but that does not mean that there is less to the person. In fact, it could be argued that there is so much more!

What most people fail to realize is that a person with Autism does not miss details, they get it all. All the sights, sounds, smells.. everything. When you walk into a grocery store, your mind filters out the white noise… the buzzing, humming, mumbling, background music, stuff being moved around, people walking, doors opening and closing… on and on. An Autistic person can’t. And that’s just sound.  Next you take the harsh lighting, things moving everywhere, glints of light off things, flashing lights, labels on everything, colours everywhere, people constantly doing something with something… there’s a lot to see. We say excuse me to the person in front of us and look for items on our list or that’s on sale. And Autistic person can’t do that.
And then there’s the smells… I’ll spare you the gory details on that one.

Now, on top of the sensory issues, you also have to take in the fact that the computers in their heads are working a mile a minute as they process every conversation, work out the math on all the numbers in the place, study the geometry of the fruit… all of this is happening faster than any science fiction computer you’ve ever seen.

What happens is, and is to be expected, a mental break down where even the best and brightest on the planet would agree that it’s simply too much to bare. We’ve all heard of that fun little torture technique where you poke someone in the forehead long enough it drives them crazy, or there’s a high pitched sound you can’t get out of your head?  That’s one… one thing that happens for a matter of minutes… and it drives you crazy. Now imagine a thousand things… for an hour… for a day… forever??

If you are not touched by Autism, then it’s hard to understand… even harder still to understand why we parents and friends are so vocal and fight so hard for our loved ones… and why we hate you oh so ever much more than you hate us while you stare at us because our child screams in line at the cashier.

And if you are touched by Autism, your child, relative, friend… always try to remember that if it seems like they’re behaving irrationally, there’s likely a very good reason for it. Have more patience than you thought you could as you take a deep breath, slow things down a bit and have a look and listen around. You may find that they’re dealing with a lot more than you ever thought someone should have to.

It’s not their fault… it does not make them less… it makes them different.

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The Hardest Thing My Son Has To Do is Love

It’s always seemed odd to me that an Autistc child is so prone to letting negative emotions out like a hailstorm but the good emotions so easily get lost, deep and buried behind cold lost eyes. No one seems to be able to provide a solid answer but violence, aggression, outbursts… these are normal and even to be expected from a child with Autism, especially the more severe cases. What’s also to be expected is that the child will likely never want to hug you, kiss you or say ‘I love you.’

Now, for those of you reading that has a child or children, and they’re not Autistic, I want you to imagine what that must be like. No hugs good bye, no kiss goodnight. You say ‘I love you’ over and over again and never get it back. But if you tell them no, they can’t have an electric toy in the bath, they’ll instantly go into a tantrum and try to hit you in the face.

Does that make you feel loved?

That’s what life is like as a parent of an Autistic child. Not every single child, but as a general rule, that’s pretty much how it is.

I think, the hardest thing to come to terms with when raising a child like that, is that they do love you, they do want to show you… they just can’t. I compare it to an arachnophobic person being asked to walk into a room with one thousand spiders. Likely, if they really really love you, they’ll do it to prove it… but it’ll be the hardest thing they ever do. I picture my son walking into that room every time he gives me a hug… and he does hug me.

The one thing I’ve learned more than anything over the last 2 years is patience… to have far more patience than I ever thought I could have, even more than I ever thought was possible in a person. You have to find a way to keep reminding yourself, to keep telling yourself that your child not only loves you, but they have a hailstorm of love buried in there… it’s just not coming out like the temper does. But it’s there.

If anything, he may love me even more than he would if he didn’t have Autism… even though he may not understand emotions or know how to express them, I bet he feels them every bit or more than others. I just have to never forget that it’s there.

One night, as I tucked Cameron into bed, I told him that I loved him and he looked at me. So I asked him why he never says ‘I love you’ to mommy or daddy. He just sorta shrugged and so I asked if it made him feel embarrassed and he nodded yes. I asked if it was hard for him to say it and he nodded again. I assured him that it doesn’t make us mad, it doesn’t make us sad… we understand and it’s ok. I think it’s important for him to know that we know how hard it is…

Then he did, as he does quite often… he put his index finger tip around to the tip of his thumb, much like you’d do if you were to do the ‘ok’ sign. Then he put it up in front of his face and looked through it with one eye, and moved it back against his face, still with his eye looking through the opening.

I then asked him why he does that, to which I got no reply. I asked if it helps him to see better, like glasses and he just looked at me… so I asked if it helps him to see me and he said ‘yeah’. So I asked how it helps and he glanced around a bit…  I asked him if doing that helped him to not see the rest of the room and he again said ‘yeah’.

Cameron did this motion, almost ever night, quietly, sometimes completely without my notice, as his way to see me, and only me. Without interference or distraction. It occurred to me then that he had been doing this for quite some time, months… a year? I can’t remember but it’s been a while and it was always something I just thought was something silly he started doing.. like a child looking through the middle of a roll of toilet paper.

But it was so much more than that. I like to think that it’s his way of telling me he loves me…. that… he sees me.

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