The following is not my usual research filled column. These are just a few stories that I hope will brighten your day and make you think a little before you speak…especially to a person with autism.
In the past when I ask Konner to do something and then change my direction there has been some pause and confusion, but after a few minutes he has understood and moved on. However, in the past couple weeks I have noticed a completely different pattern. If I tell him to do something and then change my mind he throws a fit.
Let me give you an example. Last Wednesday night I was preparing for Cub Scout when Konner asked if he could take his juice pouch with him to the meeting. My first response was sure. I was really busy and didn’t think before I spoke. I automatically just said yes and went on. Then I realized that we hold scouts in the local church and it may not be the best idea to let him take his drink. I thought about the other children, how they would probably want one, that there may or may not be a policy against drinks in the church, and that he could just finish before we left. After this, seemingly harmless, thought process I said, “Konner we can’t take your juice to scouts,” and proceeded to explain all the above reasons.
This normally would not be a problem. Not sure what has changed recently, but he immediately began to break down in near tears. He began yelling, “You said I could Daddy! You told me I could!” I continued to plead with him about the logistics of taking the juice with him and that we probably shouldn’t. This was to no avail. He just continued to explain to me that I had already told him to do things one way, and that I couldn’t change my mind.
So, being the thoughtful person I am I decided to do what any intelligent parent would, or so I thought, to rectify the situation. I explained to him, “Konner I think this time it will be okay to take your juice.” Ah, let the peace begin, right? Wrong!
“Dad, you already told me I can’t,” he screamed. “You said I can’t take my juice to scouts! You said I can’t have it in the church. You said.” This continued for a few minutes as I began to explain that I was wrong, and people change their minds, and it’s okay to do that.
Nothing doing, he’s not budging. So I then ask the next logical question which is, “What do you want to do? Do you want to take the juice or not?”
His reply is, “I want to take it.”
I say, “Great, then you can take it.”
“No! You said I can’t,” he screams again.
“Okay, then don’t,” I retort.
“But I want to take my juice,” he said.
This went on for a few minutes before I could get him calmed down long enough to get him to move toward the door to go to scouts. So on the way out the door I say, “Go get in the car.” He looks around and says, “Where’s the car?” I look and realize that Jen has the car and we have the truck. So I said, “Well I meant the truck.”
Yep, you guessed it; we went into meltdown mode again.
“You told me to get in the car,” he said.
“Do you see the car?”
“Then we can’t get in the car, so we’ll have to get in the truck.”
“But you told me to get in the car.”
So after a few more minutes of arguing laced with screams we got to Cub Scouts.
They say with a child with autism you have to pick your battles. When do you really want to deal with the screaming and meltdowns, and when do you just want to resolve the issue temporarily and deal with it later. The following is an example of my quick thinking. It’s not ideal, but it works if you are exhausted and don’t feel like picking that struggle.
Sunday night I asked Konner to get in the bath. As I said the words I looked up and saw that Kruz was not ready to take a bath yet because he was in the middle of eating his supper. I quickly said, “Konner why don’t you wait until Kruz is ready?”
“But you said to take a bath,” he said, and the battle began.
“I know I did, and I changed my mind because Kruz needs a bath too,” I said.
“But you said to take a bath,” he screamed back.
So, again thinking it was the right thing to do, I said, “Then go ahead and take a bath.”
“You told me not to,” he said teary-eyed.
So I automatically began the back-stepping.
“Ok, what do you want to do?”
“Take a bath.”
“Then take a bath”
“But you told me not to.”
So, as I said, I was using my noggin this night, I looked at him and said, “Go ask your mom what you should do.” Now, many will think this was just a way to get my wife to deal with the situation, and in a small way it kind of was. However, I knew that, if she was listening to me, she would give him an answer that would override anything that I have told him.
She said, “Konner you need to take a bath.”
He looked at me and said, “Dad mom said to take a bath and I’m going to listen to her and not you.” Then he turned around and walked to the bathroom.
This is the one time in his life that I’m glad he didn’t listen to what I said.
Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at email@example.com. I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.