Over the weekend I took Michael to a local winter carnival. It was overall a success, but there were some moments, where Michael as usual, through me some curve balls as far as behavior and comprehension was concerned. Some of it was vintage Michael. What I mean was that with some of it I am truly seeing is part of his particularly quirky character and how he approaches people. This is both part of his very social and friendly self where he asks everyone their name and introduces himself, and where I see the traits that are part of his autism side, the side that has a hard time reading other people’s facial expressions and looking for cues in the environment to know what is going to happen. He also talks loudly, which I know is part of his family background, (we all talk loudly in our family), and but it is also sensory and due to anxiety. As a parent, I walk the line of trying to teach Michael to balance these two sides of his personality as he is getting older. It is not always easy. Then I have the task of disciplining him when he says, “I can’t help it. I have autism.” I almost laughed and cried the first time I heard him say it. It is impressive and frustrating that he would say that to try and get away with bad behavior. He is learning now though, that there are limits and how to navigate them.
I am seeing a lot of control issues though lately around perceived mistakes that he makes and others make. He cannot tolerate these. The swearing he does is when we do things he does not like, to his father, I or another adult making mistakes. With other adults, he does not swear out loud though, which is a good thing. In his view, these are when things are not done or said perfectly. I feel so bad for him that he has to see the world so black and white, yet frustrated for myself that it is hard to break into that and show him flexibility. I imagine all that extra stress he carries around with him due to these self-imposed demands. Only call me this name, repeat the phrase like this etc. I know this is his way as it is for a lot of people with autism, to control a world that is uncontrollable and moving at a speed that is often too fast and complicated for him and his nervous system. I sometimes stop in the course of my day and see what a crazy fast-paced world we live in where things happen in seconds and you have to cope, act, react appropriately. Information comes at all of us constantly. Demands are placed on all of us to perform faster in our jobs yet with more accuracy. There is so much to do, so little time. We feel bad when we take “time off” which is not really off. Our electronic devices are with us and/or we are thinking about what we need to do next.
Unplugging is something I am starting to do more of in 2017, and want to slowly introduce my family to. A lot of friends are starting to do this, friends with neuro typical kids. People sense the difference in mindset. This goes beyond daily meditation and yoga and weekly exercise. These things are hugely helpful in staying mindful and present-centered. That is the place from which we make the best decisions. But every once in a while a total mental health break is important too. Detach and head off into nature, curl up with a book, play a board game with family. Stay in the moment and learn how to relax and unwind again. This is mandatory for our Exceptional Children and for us as parents to recharge our batteries and be able to model good problems solving skills and a happier and more balanced life. We will also be able to help our children more when we ourselves are relaxed.
Exceptional Parents, how do you unplug and stay more in the moment? What are some tricks you’ve learned to show your kids? Whether they have autism or not, these are challenging times for our children. They need our help to find ways to relax, stay on task, and read the world around them. Kids with autism have it harder for sure, but it is never impossible. Start with small steps by modeling your own problem solving skills and how you get out in nature to unplug. Soon they will be able to follow suit and learn ways to handle stress better. Until next time.
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