By Kodey Toney
Love is a Battlefield
There's an old saying that you may not win the battle but you can still win the war, or something like that, but as a parent I’ve learned that with kids you have to pick your battles in order to win the war.
This is especially true with a child on the spectrum. When trying to deal with a child’s behavior issues there are many factors that can be involved in those actions. Sensory issues and communication are probably the top two influences. Let's not forget that behavior is communication. If you have a child showing behavior problems they're probably using that to communicate, and usually those stem from sensory issues.
So when we want to address these problems there are a couple factors that I always try to look at first. This doesn't mean that I always do the right thing. It just means that I try to think, “Is this a battle I want to pick now or is it something that can wait?”
I think time is one of the biggest factors. Do I have time to actually address this issue, and do it calmly? Is trying to pick a battle in the middle of Walmart, or at a restaurant where you're already stressed, a good place to start this? The answer is probably not. You want to pick these battles, usually, when you're at home and you have time to calm yourself and the child, and explain what the problem is and why they shouldn't be doing it. An example is, if your child is stemming by putting their shirt in their mouth, and stretching it out, or getting it all wet with spit, is making them stop in the middle of a restaurant the best time to deal with that? You should probably wait until you're at home and you can explain why that is a problem.
The next factor would be safety. Is what this child is doing a safety issue for them or someone else around them? If it is you need to address it immediately and make sure that nobody is going to be harmed. If not you may want to wait until later time. If your child is stemming by banging her head against the table or hitting himself in the face then you definitely want to stop this immediately. I know this seems like a no-brainer but in some cases parents may feel like they need to let the child go rather than bring attention to themselves. Remember in that situation that your child's safety is way more important than what other people around you think.
The next thing is questioning whether the lesson is worth teaching at the time. For instance, if you are in a situation where the lesson is important right then and there is a good teaching moment I would say go ahead with it as long as it's not bothering anybody else, and sometimes that doesn't even matter. If your child is going to learn an important life lesson then it's best to teach in the moment. Konnor used to get upset if anybody opened the door for him, so trying to work on that at home is not a good place. He didn't mind anybody at home getting the door for him but if we were out in the public and decided to walk into a restaurant and someone opened the door he would get upset, so the only real place to work on that was when it was actually happening.
I think the final factor is exhaustion. Everyone knows it’s hard raising a child with or without a disability. However, when raising a child with a disability sometimes you're just too tired to fight, so you just let things go. I don't see a problem with that, again as long as nobody is being injured. Sometimes it's best to just wait and pick that fight when you're a little bit more prepared mentally and physically.
As I've always said I'm no expert, but then I'm not really sure anybody is when it comes to raising a child, especially on the spectrum. It's just a trial and error thing. We have to try things and sometimes they work sometimes they don't. In this case I hope what I'm doing is giving a little bit of insight and advice on to my philosophy of coping with the small battles. In the end hopefully we can win the war which is making our child a little bit more prepared for life.