Saturday, 14 November 2015

Respecting My Teenage Son With Autism

We have been back to see the psychologist recently. We visit every six months or so, for a review and check up.
J was measured, and is now 6ft. He is 'off the scale' for his height according to our Dr, but I don't think 6ft tall at 13 and a half is excessively tall, considering I am 5ft 9 and his father is 5ft 11.
We discussed J's recent unsettled behaviour at home, and my reasoning as to what it could be caused by. Puberty is obviously a major factor, and one I feel is making him feel quite uncomfortable - I can't have a chat with him about why his body is changing so dramatically and that what he feels is perfectly normal. Social stories have helped a little, but there is always that barrier for J understanding that it relates to him.

Whilst we were in the office, they were undergoing a major move, and therefore there were no toys or games for him to play with (it was completely bare with just chairs and a table) - something he always does when we're there, as he can keep himself occupied whilst I talk. I did pass comment to the Dr as we walked in to his office, that "this is going to be fun then" (irony intended).
J was anxious. He paced. He fiddled with the cord on the blind. He repeated a song (spoken not sung) over and over again. He looked as if he had ants in his pants and they were crawling over him.
It must have been 'meant to be' that we were there during this big move, and that their offices were topsy turvy, as it meant J showed his true behaviour, the one he is displaying at home a lot more.

J, at home, likes to have control over the television. We have one TV downstairs, and it's connected to Sky, with the capability of recording programmes. He can use the controller perfectly well, and will choose what programme he wants to watch, either from the main channels, or via the recorded section.
He doesn't want to just sit still and watch the telly all of the time, and will wander about, maybe go into the other room, but all the while his programme is playing. He likes to do that. If someone changes the channel, or turns the telly off, he becomes anxious. He is still listening to the programme, even if he's not in the room. I have found a lot of the times he goes out of the room is because he doesn't like the next part of the show, and avoids it. He doesn't want it fast forwarded or switched off - he is controlling his comfort level by what he does, and I don't have a problem with that. His anxious levels increase I have noted, when he is not in control of the telly, or when there are other people there. He is solitary, and again if I can accommodate that for him, I will. The other two boys have their iPads and are happy to watch Netflix or make use of the TV app that enables them to watch many Freeview channels live as they are broadcast. For my youngest, W, who has the vision impairment, he actually prefers the iPad as he can see much better, close up.

As a parent, I am learning every day. I will never be perfect at my job, but I do try and keep up.
Recently I have begun to get annoyed at the use of 'baby talk' directed at J, or on behalf of him.
I am very matter of fact about his autism - he has it, it makes him what he is, and I treat him no differently than I would anyone else. I respect him. Love him. I expect him to have manners (I always make him say "sorry" if he's bumped into someone, or "pardon" if he burps). I talk to him as I do my other children, and more so, I treat him like any other 13 year old. Yes, he may not be socially adapted like a regular 13 year old (wanting to have more freedom to go out with friends) or have the learning of one, but he is still a teenager, and I believe he should be spoken to with respect and not patronised (the baby speak).
When I talk about him to others, I am proud of him. I don't make sad faces and want people to feel sorry for me, or him. I don't use his disability to garner sympathy, or to get people to pay me compliments on how wonderful I am ( I've seen others who do this).
If someone starts to slow their speech to pigeon English, and 'goo goo gah gah'  him, it makes me cross!
The kind of sentence such as - " Look! A. Plane! In. The. Skyyyyyyy" Or "It's. A. Choo. Choo."
He is not a toddler! He may have learning difficulties, but I want him to be spoken to with respect, as he is growing up fast, and looks a lot older than 13, due to his height.
I always keep in mind that he may understand perfectly well inside his head, but it gets lost in translation, and he doesn't want to communicate, or just cannot do so, so to talk to him so condescendingly or without respect is plain rude, and hurts him.

He is changing. He is growing up. It's what we all do, if we're lucky enough. I fully expect there to be challenging behaviours, upset, wondering if my parenting is any good. It's life. I chose to have children. And despite it being so very flipping hard at times, I really do enjoy being a mum. Being a mum to children with special needs is an added bonus - I get to see so much more about people and life, and appreciate the small achievements, borne from hard work and determination.