Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's the Typical Stuff That Finally Gets You


One of the more interesting aspects of raising kids with “issues” is that you tend to blame everything that they do or say on their disability. Now that is not to say that you allow them to get away with anything inappropriate. You just chalk what ever it is, up to the fact that they have a disability and that their actions, no matter what, are just another manifestation of their issues. In fact, on many occasions it doesn’t even dawn on you that what they may be doing is quite frankly just typical behavior.

I think that stems from the day-to-day experiences with the fact that our children are not developing at a typical pace so we never really think that they would be doing anything that their neurotypical peers would be doing. We are so overwhelmed at times with therapies, IEPs, speech, OT, PT, psychiatrists, psychologists, life skills classes, social skills groups, neurologists and generally getting our children to function in the real world, that we don’t have the time or patience to try to figure out what is causing some issues, we just deal with them. Whether the issue is “fart” jokes of an eight-year-old boy, or the discovery of the opposite sex in the adolescent, or the desire to belong as a teen, we never really think too much of whether this is just par for the course.

I actually never think too much about any of it really. I honestly just take each episode as it comes. Whether it was HSB refusing to sit next to girls in first grade, and even getting in trouble for hitting one when she dared to sit next to him on the school bus, to him turning around and being somewhat girl crazy by the time he hit 15. I just looked at the way he dealt with daily living as a manifestation of the aspergers. Honestly I used to joke about the girl issue in first grade by saying that when he discovers girls, I am going to have my hands full. Of course that did came to fruition, but I decided that how it was manifested was part and parcel of the aspergers. It never dawned on me that in fact these things were quite typical and the way they presented themselves was really just as typical.

I suppose that in my life I have been so used to everything that the boys do being on a different level than their peers, whether its their emotional development being behind or the intellectual development in some areas being so far advanced. The truth of the matter is that I wouldn’t even know what a typical teen would do at any given moment. Neither of my boys are typical and truthfully, I can’t remember that far back to my own teen years. (As I have mentioned in other posts, I turned 50 this year, so menopausal forgetfulness has set in…hey if I have to go through nighttime hot sweats, I can try to use this menopause crap for something, like getting out of any conundrum that I encounter.) So how the typical boy-girl interaction occurs, or how the typical male obsession first with fart jokes and then penis jokes as they hit puberty are all manifested, is not something I readily remember.

The reality is that a lot of what our children go through has nothing whatsoever to do with their autism. In fact a lot of the issues are quite typical but it’s the intensity of the problem that may be more acute. Because our children can get easily overwhelmed, issues that are minor for most children can be blown into a huge hullaballoo for ours. So I always prepare for the events of life by making sure that I am prepared for everything to be very very dramatic. So many of these issues become so overblown replete with meltdowns, yelling, temper tantrums and an awful lot of drama. Heck, even not knowing to not say inappropriate things in school leads to a call from the principals office; most typical children would know enough to not use swear words when they are in the classroom.  However, yours just doesn’t get it, so again something gets blown way out of proportion.

I am also convinced that its not always you or your child that blows issues into the stratosphere, it’s the people around them that get freaked when they don’t follow the straight and narrow path. Listen because your child says inappropriate things to the teachers, doesn’t mean they can’t be taught the right way to talk to people and it also doesn’t mean they are going to end up being serial killers either. There was one episode where collegeman in highschool kept telling everyone how much he hated me (typical teen would have kept that to himself) and then would study crimes because he was doing a report on The Innocence Project. Well the teacher in school wanted me to know what he said and that he was reading about different ways to murder people...I kid you not. Needless to say I called the vice-principal and had a long, rather annoyed and frank talk with her about the teacher's need to get "the head out of the butt" and help my child with what he needs help with and stop making crap up. You do get used to the drama. In fact when there is no drama I get worried what is brewing. Yep I’m always waiting for the next shoe to drop. Sometimes these things just are what they are. The reality is that I am generally prepared for everything and anything.

But then again, somethings are not what they seem either. The other day HSB and I had an argument. He was gong to wear a dirty shirt to school. I told him he had to change. You can’t walk out of the house unclean. You have to be as fastidious about your clothing as about your hygiene. In fact clean clothes and hygiene are one in the same. Well for whatever reason, probably because I told him to change HSB had a complete meltdown, (he does tend to have these meltdowns whenever I tell him to do anything). He went into overdrive to say the least, about what a shallow person I am and that I only care about appearance. Now if you know me you know that I run around in old sweatpants, with my hair in a ponytail, no makeup (but nice face cream to keep my skin healthy), old Uggs and an old North Face jacket. In fact on that particular day, I even had on a pair of hubby’s old sweatpants that had bleach stains on them. Yep, ironically, on that day I was even grungier than usual. You can really rest assured I am not running around in Louboutins, a Chanel suit with a Hermes birkin bag on my arm to run him to school. I may like fashion. I may know about fashion. But a fashionista I certainly am not.

Well, I finally got him to change and I took him to school. It was such a scene that I felt I had to tell his special ed teacher before I left him off, so I went in search of her. Just thought he was going to be a pain-in-the-ass that day and they should have a heads up. I found her in her office and then regaled her and another teacher with my mornings going on. Of course they laughed at the part where he said I care only for appearances, but then they laughed even harder at my dismay about his behavior. I the autism-mom, who can handle anything that that disability can throw at me, was completely and unabashedly dumbfounded on how to handle my teenage son’s typical teenage behavior.

You know, once I figured out that his being a stubborn, ornery-mule-like human being was more in keeping with him being a teen than in keeping with him being a teen with aspergers, it didn’t bother me so much anymore. It’s his need for decision making versus my job in needing to keep him on the straight and narrow, including not being too lazy to change your dirty shirt. You see, I had forgotten about the jacket episode from the year before and his refusal to wear it simply because I told him he should.

Still not sure how to figure out when its typical-age-related behavior and aspergers-related-behavior for a lot of what happens now in their lives. It used to be a lot easier, only if when they did typical things, like lie, I knew how to handle that and did secretly enjoy when they had their typical moments. But the typical moments in the life of a teen are not always that much fun and quite frankly it’s downright difficult. But I shouldn’t really complain, typical behavior is what we have been aiming for. OK, I am secretly glad too. Not for the yelling, fighting and door slamming. But to see that all those years of therapy, support and angst are starting to really really work. I just wish that he would learn to hide his teenage disdain for his mother from me, his mother. It’s that eye rolling, my mother is an idiot shoulder slump and the under the breath huge sigh of “can she get any dumber” that drives me up a wall.

Well, at least I now have something in common with all mothers of adolescents worldwide….

One of the funniest comedians, Robin Williams, was interviewed on Inside The Actor's Studio. In this clip he talks about his 17 year old son Zack's reaction  when his request to borrow the car was denied and what also happens when your children use inappropriate language at the most inopportune times...it starts at 3:55...enjoy


Until next time,

Elise