Michael is an amazing little boy, and extremely complex. The same can be said of many children, and many adults. We all have our layers of complexity, and getting to know one another can be challenging. Having autism is truly having a brain that works differently than most people’s. It is also amazing how much gets lost in the shuffle of communication. I used to naively think that when Michael learned to talk more, we would not have the misunderstandings, the meltdowns, the anxiety. Instead, it sometimes seems to complicate and frustrate both Michael and I even more. There are disagreements, the meshing out of things, and constant negotiations. He wonders why I don’t understand what he is saying and I feel the same. It is getting better though, with each passing day.
What is helping me is this whole neuro diversity and different brain movement happening in our world today. This movement is showing me how Michael really does see things differently, and how he needs things broken down to him so he can get where I am coming from. It is also I who need him to explain to me sometimes what he needs. He is getting better at doing this.
A good example is the following. We were playing tennis the other day, and though I had told Michael we could only play for a half hour to have time to go to the park, I had thought giving him a five minute warning that the thirty minutes had elapsed was enough. That was not the case. Michael felt taken by surprise, angry and thought that a half hour couldn’t possibly have passed. He had a big fight with me and that afternoon ended in tears and a meltdown. Afterwards, when he had calmed down he had told me why I hadn’t explained to him what a half hour was, showed him. He is starting to learn to tell time at school, and I honestly thought he knew. I apologized. Ever since this time only a short week ago, I now make sure my instructions to Michael are very clear, have him repeat back to me what will happen and ask him if he has any questions.
I am beginning to see that I have to be very concrete and precise when I outline the day to Michael. I have also asked him to tell me when he is anxious, confused or needs clarification. Last night I had told him to get ready for bed and choose his story then wait for him when he is done. I was on the couch reading a book. He proceeded to get his story and wait on the couch with me. I had made the mistake of not telling him to “wait in your room.” When I calmly turned to him and asked him what he was doing on the couch next to me he said, “waiting for you Mommy.” I almost laughed. Michael then realized, “oh, you wanted me to wait in my room. Next time tell me Mommy.” Michael has been calmly reminding me how he needs clarification and I have been doing my best to give it.
Exceptional Parents, are you making sure that you are super clear when you talk or structure the day with your Exceptional Child? Don’t worry if you have not been. It’s a learning curve for all parents, as most kids will throw new things out at us. Exceptional Kids though often forget that their brains work on a different level than ours, so they too need to be reminded to pace themselves when talking or explaining things to us as we do to them. That’s all you can do as your child’s caregiver, love them for all they are, and show them they can tell and trust you with anything. Until next time.