Saturday, October 26, 2013

10 Snappy Comebacks to Silly Statements: Help for Parents of Autistic Kids

10 Snappy Comebacks to Statements Made About Autistic Children

Grin and bear it!

Some times you just have to grit your teeth and smile!
Some times you just have to grit your teeth and smile!
Parenting an autistic child can be extremely stressful. But a lot of people make it worse because they still don’t “get” autism and say things that will make you feel like smacking them alongside their head.
I have written a list snappy comebacks I am tempted to use in response to these people but haven’t…. yet.
Someday I may just snap and I am going to figuratively smack these people across the face with snappy comebacks to their silly statements.
1. He doesn’t LOOK autistic…
Snappy comeback #1: It's the way we dress him that hides it.
Snappy comeback #2: You don't look ignorant, but here we are...
2. If it were MY child, he wouldn’t act like that.
Snappy comeback: "I didn't realize you had a degree in child psychiatry"
3. He doesn’t act like that when he’s with me.
Snappy comeback: Wonderful! How about you take him for a week or two and see what happens?
4. Autism wasn’t around when I was a kid.
Snappy comeback: Neither were velociraptors but that doesn’t mean neither existed,
5. Autism is being over-diagnosed right now.
Snappy comeback: That’s a relief. My child’s doctors, teachers, child-care providers, and behavioral and speech therapists are probably just looking for an easy answer to a behavioral problem.

Autism and discipline

One very disheartening aspect of parenting an autistic child is the blame heaped on you  by other people accusing you of being too permissive. Please, if you haven't walked in my shoes, don't judge me.
One very disheartening aspect of parenting an autistic child is the blame heaped on you by other people accusing you of being too permissive. Please, if you haven't walked in my shoes, don't judge me.
6. He just needs more structure.
Snappy comeback: Slap your forehead and say "Well, bless your heart….Why didn't I think of that."
7. What is HIS problem?
Snappy comeback: His problem is people sticking their noses into other's business.
8. If that were MY child acting like that, I would spank his butt.
Snappy comeback #1: I’ll look the person up and down and say, “I’m sure you would.”
Snappy comeback #2: I may try that since the cattle prods didn’t work.
9. My friend’s child was cured of autism by following a special diet.
Snappy comeback: And to think scientists haven’t been able to replicate this in studies. It must be a conspiracy by the pharmaceutical industry!
10. Just ignore his behavior and it will go away. Meltdowns are just a way of getting attention.
Snappy comeback: If I ignore you, will you just go away?

Okay. I probably will not say these things because I try to never hurt someone’s feelings. Sometimes people say these things because they are trying to be helpful, because they have not dealt with an autistic child, or because they are just a judgmental poophead. I will give them the benefit of the doubt - the first time.
Have wonderful day.

The humorous side of Aspergers

A must read for parent and caregivers of autistic children.

If you have a child who is newly diagnosed as autistic, or just need a book to help family members understand your child, 10 Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew.
This book not only helped me with understanding my son, it also gave me strategies for helping him.
I highly recommend it for educators and friends as well!

Anger and Rage in the Autistic Child

Anger and rage are common emotions in children with autism

Although no two autistic children are the same, many are prone to anger and rages. I am sharing my son's issues so hopefully other parents of similar children will not feel they are all alone.
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Autism, anger and rage

Many autistic children have bouts of anger. I liken the behaviors to a two-year-old who is unable to verbalize his needs and who has little control over his emotions. The child expresses his feelings by acting out in anger at being unable to communicate that he is tired, scared, or hungry.
Now imagine an autistic child who is being bombarded by sensory stimuli that he cannot process normally. The lights may be too bright, the people are talking too loudly, or his shirt label is itching him. Add in the the frustration of not being able to express his emotions, and you have a child ready to explode in frustration.
A note about my son's behavior
I wrote of my son's rage and anger when he was six. He is 10 now, and this extreme behavior is much less frequent. My son is usually happy and good-natured, but yes, he still has his moments of anger.
The anger and defiance in my son may seem extreme to an outsider, but the frequency of Lee’s rages is diminishing.
And no, you cannot spank the autism out of a child.
Do you hate goldfish, Mom?
Do you hate goldfish, Mom?

A little anecdote about goldfish and hate

Do you hate Goldfish, Mom. Do you? Do you hate them? Crush them!" This is my son's response after I had said "no, thank you" when he offered me a Goldfish cracker. Now he wants to know why... If I don't want to eat one, he thinks I must hate them.
At eight-years-old, my son is trying to figure out emotions such as love and hate. In his mind, if someone shows any negativity towards something or someone, then hate must be involved.
If I tell him to stop smacking our German shepherd, I will hear "Do you hate me, Mom? Hit me, kill me, Mom." The same thing happens when I correct the dog: "Do you hate him, Mom? Hit him, kick him."
It is exasperating to have to explain that no, I do not hate whatever, nor do I want to hurt it, kill it or throw it in the garbage. It also confounds me that he equates rejection or discipline with anger - anger so profound that whatever is being rejected must be destroyed.

This is the most frustrating part of my son's autism right now. I wish I could peek into his brain and read his thoughts. Where does the violence come from? Why can't he understand that the world is not black and white? Emotions do not come down to just love or hate. There is a whole world of grays I wish he could see.
Until then I must patiently explain that no, I do not hate Goldfish. I just do not care to eat one right now.

Self injury


HEAD BANGING

My son’s first self-injurious behavior as a toddler was head-banging. He would bang his head against walls, floors or furniture, and he would do it for 20- 30 minutes at a time. I sometimes knew what set him off, but at other times I had no clue as to why he was hurting himself. He had not been diagnosed with autism at the time.
Many children exhibit head-banging as toddlers, but after a few incidences of not getting parental reaction, they will usually stop. I ignored my girls when they did this and it worked well. Not so with my son. “Lee” has a seemingly high tolerance to pain, and as long as he doesn’t bleed, he can tolerate injuries that would make a normal child cry.


PUNCHING, SLAPPING, AND CHOKING

As Lee has matured, the head-banging has become self-injurious slapping, punching, scratching, and trying to choke himself. When things have devolved to this point, I wrap him in a blanket and let him scream and curse until he calms down. It may take up to 30 minutes for his emotional meltdown to play itself out.
According to the National Institute of health, researchers looking at those with autism spectrum disorder found that approximately 50% engage in some form of self-injurious behavior.

Destructive behavior

Lee’s anger is directed outward, too. Frustration with a toy will result in the toy being thrown or beaten on the floor. If the toy is broken in the process, Lee will then break down and cry over the broken toy. He’s also put holes in walls, marred furniture, and broken dishes during a rage.
My 130 pound German Shepherd is also a source of my son's violent outbursts. When the dog knocks over a toy, my son must be kept from beating on the dog while he yells, "Stupid waggle-tail. I'm going to kill you!"

Intolerance to minor annoyances

The magnitude of my son’s anger over seemingly insignificant occurrences astounds me. If he cannot get his building blocks just so, he will slap himself. Tripping over a truck causes him to get angry at the truck. If he runs into the wall, it is the wall’s fault and he will slap and yell at it. In Lee’s world, everything must be perfect or it upsets his equilibrium. There is only black or white in his world – no grays.


Anger in a child with Aspergers

About Autism: What to Do if you Think Your Child May be Autistic


If you suspect your child is autistic, you may not know what to do. I have compiled a list of what I did when I first thought my son was autistic.
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My son at age four.
My son at age four.
Source: Author's photo

Trust your instincts

I knew something was “off” with my son when he was about 8 months old. At first, I chalked it up to his being a boy – after all, he had two older sisters and boys are different creatures than girls. Later the guilt set in: I returned to work too soon, I wasn’t being a good mom, I was being too strict or not strict enough.
But by age two and with my son having a significant language delay, I could no longer shrug it off to "bad parenting." I had to seek answers for my son and myself.
Don’t let your self doubt delay help for your child.

Speak up!

Tell the pediatrician, the nurses, local mental health providers, everyone. You want documentation of all the symptoms you are concerned with in as many places as possible. This will help when your child is eventually tested.

Keep a journal of all your concerns

Is your child not babbling or smiling yet? Write it down. Is he/she obsessive about certain objects, or does he/she react strangely to external stimuli? Write it down. Include the age of your child when this happens – you will need this information when filling out paperwork later. Memory is fallible.

Has your child been diagnosed with autism?

Seek help

The earlier the intervention, the better! Many states have early childhood intervention programs. Contact your local county health department, or ask your your child’s pediatrician for a referral. Many programs are free to low income households. If your child is school age, request testing. A diagnosis is essential to creating an IEP (individualized education plan) which will structure your child’s education to his/her needs and abilities.
Don't give up if your young child isn't correctly diagnosed. When my son was first tested at age 2, the psychiatrist said he was not autistic. He was finally diagnosed as autistic at age four by a different doctor.
Because I had documented all his behaviors and had reported all his odd behaviors to his pediatrician, the new psychiatrist had more to base her diagnosis on then simple observation and testing.

Let your child stim

Stimming is common in autistic children. Wikipedia defines stimming as: Self-stimulatory behavior, is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but most prevalent in people with autistic spectrum disorders.
Yes, some stimming behavior is distracting but It is believed that stimming is soothing to an autistic child in a loud and unstructured world. If she taps obsessively, let her tap. If he loves to line up cars or other objects, let him. Let the hands flap and the legs move!

Stimming explained

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Keep your child’s day structured

Transitions are disturbing to many autistic children. Having a set schedule helps them anticipate and accept change.
If there is going to be a change in the routine, tell your child in advance.My son is much more accepting of change if he mull it over in his head for a while.

Read, read, read!

There is no such thing as too much information. As no two children with autism are exactly the same, reading blogs, seeking out autism websites, and reading books on autism can help you relate to your child and find new strategies in parenting.

Be patient

This may be hard to do, especially during an emotional meltdown. But remember your child is not bad! Meltdowns are common and may be frequent in the younger child.
Realize that it usually results from frustration due to the inability to communicate his/her needs. Let it happen, while protecting your child and possessions. If a meltdown is too violent, wrapping the child in a blanket (do not cover the head!) can prevent harm and may actually soothe the child.

Develop a thick skin

Friends, family and strangers will judge you and your child. You will deal with those who feel your child is a brat, those who feel you are too permissive, and those who do not think your child is autistic at all. It hurts, but life goes on.
Try to educate family members, but if it doesn't work, avoid the topic. DO NOT let their ignorance influence your parenting strategies. Only YOU know what is best for your child.

Make time for yourself

Join a support group, go for a walk, just get out by yourself. Parenting an autistic child is stressful and challenging. You need time to relax and not be “on call” all the time.
There is so much more that can be said. If you have thoughts, questions, or strategies, feel free to comment below. Good luck, and enjoy your special child.
My son has always shown artistic ability.
My son has always shown artistic ability.
Source: Author's photo

Advocate for autism education

My son has high-functioning autism. He attended a mainstream kindergarten class in North Carolina and failed. My son and I then moved briefly to Indiana and discovered a more supportive school system. My son attended a classroom with other autistic children and did wonderfully.

We are now living in my hometown in North Dakota which has an incredibly supportive school system. My son is in a regular classroom and has an aid who shadows him throughout the day. She reinforces positive behavior, keeps him focused, and calms him down when he get overstimulated. He is now attending all of his classes but gym.

With 1 in 88 children diagnosed with autism every year, autism has become a global epidemic. The cost of caring for autistic children in the U.S. is estimated at $137 billion a year, according to WebMD. The sooner a child is diagnosed and receives help, the better his chance to be able to function normally in society.

Federal funding for research into the cause of autism needs to be increased, and states must make education of autistic children a priority. We as a society can pay a little more now for research and prevention, or we can pay much, much more later for the lifetime support of our special-needs citizens

Venting after a Meltdown

I knew it was going to be bad when Liam got off the bus. He threw his bookbag and stomped to the house. One thing lead to another until I had to wrap him. It was like a scene from the exorcist:  screaming, cursing, crying. I don’t know what I’ll do when he gets bigger. I’m not as young and strong as I used to be. I didn’t realize how emotional this makes me. I want to run off and cry. When will this stop?

Autism and Obsessive Behaviors

The definition of obsession from the Free Dictionary:
  1. Compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea or an unwanted feeling or emotion, often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety.
  2.  A compulsive, often unreasonable idea or emotion.
My son at age four.


Many children with autism have obsessive behaviors. Some obsessions may provide a feeling of structure during the day, and may be calming to autistic children after too much external stimuli. Other obsessive behaviors are triggered by overpowering emotions and the child’s inability to express them. I get to see first hand how different stimuli trigger obsessive behavior in my 7-year-old autistic son, “Lee”. I define an obsession as something he feels he must do or cannot control doing.

Fire

This definitely a dangerous obsession. When I noticed him trying to stick objects in lighted candles, I thought I was being clever by putting candles up high on shelves where Lee couldn’t reach them. I didn’t take into account his great throwing arm and his incredible aim.One evening I smelled hair and plastic burning. I ran into the bathroom to see a burning hairbrush in a candle I had placed on top of a high cabinet. Luckily I was able to extinguish the fire before it spread, but I learned NO CANDLES! No matter how much I love the smell, it is too dangerous an obsession for my son.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

My first suspicion that Lee had autism occurred when I noticed his obsession with lining up toy cars. He started this at about 18 months of age, and would do it over and over for hours. It was either one straight line or several rows of neatly arranged cars. Woe to anyone or anything that disturbed his rows!

 Lee eventually added planes and trains to his row making, but each is grouped with its own kind. This is a soothing obsession for Lee. It calms him after a rough day interacting at school, and after other over-stimulating social activities.This obsession has lasted for 5 years now, though it seems to be waning as Lee discovers new obsessions, such as making cars and trucks out of building blocks.

Drawing 

Lee’s pictures are very detailed. When he draws ships he has to include anchors, radar towers, and many, many portholes. Pictures of houses include lawn mowers, mail boxes, and toys in the yard. This is a positive obsession. It is useful at restaurants and during long car trips. Drawing is also used as a reward in his classroom, and is a soothing “before bed” activity.

Vehicles in the Breakdown Lane

This obsession started during our car trip from NC to ND and back last year. After I explained that a car in the breakdown lane is probably “broke down,” Lee now gets upset when he sees other cars parked alongside a highway. He wants me to answer “why,” even though he has a “correct” answer in his mind. I must keep guessing until I get the right answer, i.e. the affected car has a flat tire or is a highway worker’s car. Each time I answer incorrectly he gets angrier and angrier. This negative obsession causes a lot of stress to both of us on a long car trip.


Headlights and Empty Vehicles

I can understand why Lee might get upset over broken down cars. He may think it could happen to us while we are travelling. But I have no idea why it upsets him to see a parked car with its lights left on. I get the same “why” questions, and must answer “correctly.” He will want me to drive back to see if the lights get turned off. He also will stare out the window of our home for 30 minutes or more if a neighbor leaves his car and doesn’t turn off the headlights. This is another negative obsession; I have had to chase after Lee when he ran out of a restaurant to see if a car in the parking lot had turned its lights off yet.

Scratching His Back

Lee doesn’t like to be cuddled, and will turn his face away from kisses. Except for the occasional brief hug, he doesn’t like physical contact. He does allow me to scratch his back while he is in bed. We started doing this a few years ago, and now it is a must-do nightly ritual. If I am not there to do it when he falls asleep, he will wake up and ask me to do it when I check on him. This is a positive obsession and my favorite; it lets me share some of the nurturing physical contact every mom wishes to have with her child.