Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Answering questions from an Aspie child's mother

During yesterday's stumbles around the internet, I ended up on this post, where the mother of a kiddo with Aspergers asks a series of questions about her child.  There's a lot I can't answer - parenting and children are very much not my thing - but some of it really sounded like me as a child, so I thought I'd try to help if I could.  This turned into something far, far too long for the comments section on her blog, so I thought I'd stick it here instead:

1. Do Aspie children tend to lie or make up outrageous stories for no reason at all?  My son does this daily and I can’t seem to break the habit. He will lie when there is absolutely no need and his stories go way out into space.

Outrageous stories? Yep, did that.  No reason? Nope, there were reasons.

For a start, it took me a lot longer than other children to really grasp the difference between fantasy and reality.  Partially it was a maturity thing, partially it was an understanding-how-the-world-works thing, and partially it was about literal mindedness - stuff I I saw on TV or read about seemed as real to me as stuff I actually experienced, so it was harder to separate fiction from fact.

Also, I had a very, very active imaginary world going on as a kid.  In real life I was bored, lonely, and didn't have much in the way of a creative outlet, so this fantasy world developed where I was a child star, with a sort of Young Talent Time meets Degrassi Junior High meets the Marx Brothers groove going on.  So sometimes, I'd talk about stuff going on in my fantasy world like it was real, and in hindsight I'm sure those around me thought I was a compulsive liar and possibly a lunatic.  I wasn't.  I just hadn't yet developed an accurate 'reality filter'.

And now that I'm grown up and have a better handle on how the world works, I'm mortified by me-as-a-child's behaviour.  But I just didn't know any better.

2. Do Aspie children get sick more often than other children?

I've heard this, but personally didn't.  I do know that my health now's not as flash as it could be, mainly because sensory issues make eating a balanced diet hard (how do I fruit?) and I have all sorts of hangups about exercise so I don't do nearly enough.

3. Do most Aspie children talk obsessively? My son gets picked on about how much he talks. He says the other kids at school won’t play with him. They say he is crazy. He said even his best friend won’t play with him anymore.  So much for making him play sports all these years so he could make friends.

Yeah, some of us do. I went through stages where I did this, and others where I barely spoke at all.  When I did, it was usually a special interests related thing: I'd just found something that was so incredibly awesome I wanted to tell everybody all about it right now.  It took a while to learn not everybody finds my special interests as fascinating as I do.

There was also a reading-other-people element: I didn't know how to tell if the other party was bored, or even realise I should be thinking about that.  Like the tall tales, now that I'm older and I know better, my past behaviour makes me cringe.

These days, I sometimes get verbal diarrhea when I'm nervous.  It can hear myself talking shit and want to stop but just can't.  It's usually when I'm out of my depth.  It feels awful, and when it's over I get very angry with myself for having done it, again, for the umpteenth time.

4. Is it extremely hard for Aspies to grow up and have families? 

It can be hard, but it can be done.  I know quite a few people on the spectrum who are or have been in romantic relationships, and quite a few who have kids.  I know one very sweet couple, both Aspies, who have two lovely little kids.  On the other hand, some of us will want that and not get it, and some of us will not even be interested in family life, for reasons that might or might not be autism related.

One helpful thing my parents did (and still do) for me is to not force the issue.  They stopped long ago asking about whether I was seeing anyone, when they were going to get grandkids, or carrying on the family name.  I'm sure they worry about me being alone after they're gone, but they've never said "hurry up and get married!"  They understand that's just something I can't make happen.

5. Do Aspie children tend to be angry? Seems my son grunts and growls about everything.  He has a look that can slice you in half. Sometimes he punches the floor or couch or even kicks things over to keep himself from hitting someone.  I don’t want him to grow up violent.

There are a lot of reasons an Aspie might be angry: social frustration, sensory overload, academic boredom, or just the regular stuff that makes anyone angry.  I've known a few Aspies who have been quite negative, to the point of imagining every random misfortune is part of a conspiracy against either them personally or Aspies in general.  I kind of understand where they're coming from.  It's easy to get sucked into that mindset of persecution when you have experienced persecution just for existing, as many of us have.   Not thinking that way is a conscious decision I've made, based on seeing how it's worked out for others, and something I have to work on.

Violence is a different thing.  Sometimes violence isn't about anger at all.  I've thrown things, broken things, and hurt myself not out of anger but out of frustration, sensory overload, and strong emotions I had no other way to process.  The frustration of needing to do something but not having the motor skills to physically do it was a big trigger for me, that usually saw the pencil or tool (and on one occasion a tape recorder) sent flying across the room.  For some people (not me) it can also be about needing the sensory feedback that comes from the impact of hitting or throwing yourself against something.

Punching a soft object doesn't mean it'll escalate to being violent with people.  If he can channel that need to wallop something into a pillow or punching bag, and get it out of his system safely, there's no reason for it to go any further.  We Are Like Your Child did a post on this very issue recently.

6. HOW DO I GET HIM OUT OF MY BED??!  I'm going crazy here. He’s 8 and I have to stay up half the night telling him to get back in his bed. If I fall into a deep sleep I wake up and he’s right here. 

I have no idea, I'm sorry.  But a lot of kids on the spectrum do have sleep trouble, and I annoyed the hell out of my parents with my constant insomnia when I was a kid.  (I still have insomnia something fierce, but at least these days the most disruptive thing I do is get up and make a cup of tea in the middle of the night.)  You've probably tried all these already, but here's a thing I did recently on sleep hygiene, in case it's of some help.