I went to an autism conference not long ago and learned a lot. Yes, there were the professionals there in the field that gave me some good information for future resources for Michael. But I found myself drawn to a particular woman who is a pedagogical consultant and autistic herself. She gave me some amazing advice to help with Michael’s extreme anxiety as of late. I spoke with her about his rebellion against “rules” of all kinds and following orders. He just doesn’t seem to understand that we all have to follow rules, even though he has to follow more than his father and I. It was then that she told me something extremely interesting. She mentioned that most autistic people live in the limbic brain, that ancient part of the brain where it is fight or flight. I almost laughed when she said that although they know there are no saber tooth tigers out to get them, this is where autistics are most comfortable living. They have no interest in going up to the cortex part of the brain and living there. She then looked at me and said:
“You have to meet us there in the limbic brain to understand why we don’t get rules. For us, it is about values.”
Interesting indeed. I found myself staying at her table and chatting for a good twenty minutes if not more about how all our brains are the same, it’s just different parts being used. She essentially told me that for Michael, like for most people with autism, I had to explain things to him in terms of his values or my values towards something. For example, if you don’t listen to me it will hurt my feelings because you are not showing me respect VS listen to me or you lose out on a privilege. If he sees the value of listening, he will listen. I’ve started implementing this slowly, and I’ve had some positive results so far. It’s not perfect, but I had Michael say to me yesterday.
“Mommy, did the conference help you understand me better?”
“I think so honey.”
“Are you going to need to go to more conferences to understand me?”
“Maybe. But I think I’m doing a pretty good job so far. What do you think?”
He smiled. “Yes, you are Mommy.”
Yesterday morning we had a big fight in the am. He was so relieved when he came home and saw I was not mad. We had a great evening, and at bedtime when I was lying down with him he asked me a heartbreaking question.
“Mommy, will you ever stop loving me?”
“Even when I upset you like this morning?”
“Never. I will love you forever. I was mad at you, but I never stop loving you.”
“You even love me when I’m away at school?”
Then I heard his little sigh of relief.
“I love you so much Mommy.”
“And I love you so much Michael.”
After he fell asleep, I realized how important values are over rules. I also realized that I was teaching values to Michael. I just sometimes got lost in the art of running a household and disciplining my child. Thank you Michael and to that wonderful pedagogical consultant who opened up my eyes as to what I needed to do.
Are you teaching your Exceptional Children values, Exceptional Moms? I’m sure you are even if you think not. Just remember to follow your heart, remind them what matters to them is what matters to you, and go easy on yourselves at those moments you lose your temper. Pick up the pieces, hug them and let them hug you, and you will restore the bridge to the building of values. Until next time.