Tonight after Michael finished having his hair cut at the children’s hairdresser I still take him to, he turned to me and told me, “I need to stim Mommy. I can’t stim properly in the car with it moving and on the bus the kids tell me to stop.”
He was clapping his hands quite loudly with his hands fidget, and as always I worried that it might disturb people in the hair salon though there was just two other families there. I very gently gave him a deadline of another minute and told him we could continue when he got home.
“That’s not enough time. The salon is open till nine o’clock tonight. We can stay till nine, right?”
I knew it would not take till nine, but I also did not want to leave the time open ended.
“No, Michael. We can’t stay till nine. I have things to do at home. A minute more and that’s it. You can finish stimming when we get home.”
Michael started swearing and posturing. I saw an escalation happening in the hairdresser, so calmly responded in a low voice.
“I don’t like that language. It is inapropriate. I don’t mind going back to the car and waiting with the motor off for you to finish your stimming, but we need to leave now and you need to calm down.”
I waited to see how he would react. He calmed down, and immediately responded.
Really? Ok, sure Mommy.” And off we went. Michael happily walked to the car and once in the car did his stimming for about five minutes until he announced he was finished. Then, interestingly he asked me a question:
“Mommy, do you get upset when I stim?”
I couldn’t help but think back to a conversation I’d had with a Mom friend the night before, about our sons with autism and stimming, and how much we had hated it at the beginning as it reminded us that they were different, and of course , we wanted to change our kids, make them something they weren’t for we feared society accepting them for who they were. Those were the days when I thought autism was a bad thing. I later learned it was not the case. Autism is who my son is and is beautiful. I wouldn’t change him for anything in the world. I e’d come a long way since then. So had she. We laughed about it.
However, I still did worry when Michael stimmed in public. I worried about people underestimating him for what he could do if they judged the stimming. I worried about mean comments being made towards him. Though this has not happened as more and more people GET autism now, I still worry, so public stimming is still something I am working on understanding and as much as possible, letting Michael do what he needs to do to regulate everywhere. I am starting to watch other adult autistic videos where they are teaching me how to understand Michael better. I so appreciate their guidance. I answered him;
“No, Michael. It doesn’t bother me when you stim. You need to do it for your health and I know it helps you feel happy and healthy. You do need to find places where it is easier to do it though, as sometimes it can be noisy to other people. But, I will always understand if you need to do it.”
Michael smiled and said he was ready to go. Later at the house while he was getting ready for bed, he again surprised me by saying;
“Why do you talk firmly to me? You can’t do that because I have autism. It’s hard for me to get ready for bed on time.”
I looked at him and smiled; “Nice try. But I was speaking firmly as you were stalling to get ready for bed and me being firm reminding you of your bedtime schedule is because I love you and want you to get rest. Plus, don’t blame your autism on you stalling. That would be an insult to you and all autistic people who are smart creative individuals.”
Michael admitted he had been stalling, then said;
” I know Mommy. You understand my autism and ADHD quite well. Daddy too.”
“And I am doing my best to keep learning Michael.”
After that the rest of the routine went well, and Michael turned in on time for bed.
What did this show me? This showed me that in spite of rough moments (Michael testing with language and aggressive talk), I could still show Michael my love of him in all moments, while being firm and setting some boundaries in how he needs to respect those around him too. Yes, autistic brains are different, but it does not mean that rules don’t apply. Michael asked me as well tonight, do I love him even when he is angry? He worries when we have tough challenging moments like this morning when he got angry at what I packed him for lunch and tonight when he was upset that I was redirecting him where to stim. I answered yes, of course. I love him no matter what and I will always help him. It’s important when our kids struggle emotionally and behaviorally that they know there is acceptance from parents no matter what. Of course there needs to be boundaries too and rules made to protect them. But if you show your child love with rules they cannot break, you will strike the right balance.
Exceptional Parents, do you show and tell your Exceptional Child you love them even when they mess up? Do you accept the whole package of your child, even what is hard for you to process? If not, it’s ok. Most of us are neuro typical, and it takes time to understand a different brain that is autism adhd or other different ways of seeing the world. Above all, show your child support for who they are, remind them you love them, and learn all you can about how they think and why. The interest you will show will make a massive improvement in your child’s outlook, and help them feel better about being who they are in the world teaching them strategies to help them get along and advocate for themselves one day. Until next time.