By Kodey Toney
As I’ve expressed in the past, mornings with Konner is a difficult task. First of all I’m not a morning person. I, like many, have to have some time and coffee to wake up. This paired with Konner’s lack of concentration makes for a bad combination. When I’m asking him several times each morning to get his clothes on, take his meds, put on his shoes, fix his hair, and work on getting his backpack and coat together it gets to be really frustrating to tell him things several times. So when I began reading another section in the book “The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida, translated by David Mitchell, things started to make a little more sense to me.
I was recently reading from another source that children on the autism spectrum usually have more than one diagnosis. This is called comorbidity. For instance, though they are diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) they may also have sensory processing disorder, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The last one is the one that causes my stress in the morning.
Naoki Higashida, a teen with autism who is non-verbal, has written about why he doesn’t do what he’s told right away. He states in his book: “There are times when I can’t do what I want to, or what I have to do. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to do it. I just can’t get it all together, somehow. Even performing one straightforward task, I can’t get started as smoothly as you can.”
So what takes a person with autism so long to process the information? Well, without getting too far into the science of the brain, it just takes them longer for the information to reach the part of the brain that processes the information, and once it does they then have to make their brain do what they want it to. Unlike a neurotypical person this can be harder because of the delay in thought.
Naoki explains it a little better than I can though. He says:
1. “I think about what I’m going to do.”
2. “I visualize how I’m going to do it.”
3. “I encourage myself to get going.”
So if this procedure is processed quickly then they can get the task done quickly, but if it is not it may take longer. The longer it takes the more frustrated all involved become.
Naoki goes on to say that there are times when his body won’t let him act on the task at hand. It seems as though he has no control of his body. “My whole body, except for my soul, feels as if it belongs to somebody else and I have zero control over it,” says Naoki.
Can you imagine the frustration a child on the spectrum must feel in these situations? Just putting on your socks or shoes is daunting to them.
Throw in the ADHD and low patience from a father and you have a recipe for morning disaster. The worst part is that we have Konner on medicine for his ADHD. However, in the morning it has worn off and he is in full hyper mode. He has also disengaged from the attention mode. This is a non-morning person’s worst nightmare.
There are some things that I try to do to help with the situation. One thing that I have begun is to put clothes out the night before. I don’t always do this, but I find that the days I do tend to run much more smoothly than the days I don’t. I also found that if I get up earlier I can have a little more time to wake up, I can lay clothes out and find shoes and backpacks if I haven’t done that the night before, and I can even have a cup of coffee if I want to. I know it means that I have to get up earlier, but in the long run it seems to make a big difference.
These are just a few ideas, and I’m not sure if anyone else has these problems, but I have to imagine I’m not alone.
For more information on this and other subjects I’ve written about in the past make sure to check out Pervasive Parenting at http://pervasiveparenting.blogspot.com/. This has all my columns I have written and you can do a search for what issues you might be having.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. You can also find all columns archived at blogspot.com.