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Sunday, March 3, 2013

"OK Mom"

In the closer quarters of the family, where we are interdependent and the temper of one may make the prevailing atmosphere of the household joyous or sad for days together, it is still more incumbent on us to cultivate amiable dispositions and habitual unselfishness. The essence of being agreeable is being like our Master, of whom it is written that, " He pleased not Himself." - The Art of Being Agreeable by M. Sangster
I think that if I were to die tomorrow, "OK Mom" are the words I would want inscribed on my tomb. They are my favorite words in the world, bringing peace,  joy and relief to my heart and mind. They relax every bone and muscle in my body when I hear them uttered in response to something I have said, or rather demanded.  “Time for bed now Finney. Finish up your game.”  “OK Mom, I’ll be finished in 60 seconds, OK?”.  Aahhh. Yes! No stress.  

A frequently cited red flag of autism, PDD NOS or Asperger  behavior is a child’s difficultly handling transitions like the bedtime one I just described. That is stopping one activity, in which the child may be very engrossed, and moving on to another, often at the request of a parent or teacher. I’ve seen many ASD kids absolutely meltdown with fear of having to change gears. Face crinkled, head shaking side to side, cry baby voice rising in frustration, fists clenched braced for war.  When the kids are younger, usually the parent just has to pick them up kicking and screaming to move on. When they are older,  parents seem to try a combination of reasoning and mild threats.  Either way, it is just not fun when you child never learns to cope with transitions.
Another Asperger’s or HFA trait is to be very argumentative.  Regular requests are met with  “but why….?” Or “why can’t I….”.  A lot of back and forth ensues and you find yourself as a parent completely undermined as you engage in a power struggle with a highly intelligent human being half your size. The constant debates and antagonistic retorts wear you down and make you downright mad.
Inflexibility and rigidity in thinking and doing is also an autistic trait. Again, as a parent you struggle to make your child see things your way in an effort to get them to come around to a compromise. But the lack of social thinking and empathy these children manifest makes this an uphill battle. They are always right. The way they see the world is right.  The world is black and white. No shades of grey. No flexibility or compromise.  Your request is just not logical, sorry.
I am writing about this, because I was reminded by someone the other day about how impatient you grow over the years as a parent of a child with “issues”, due to constantly having to argue your point or remind your (autistic, ADD, Aspergers) child of whose boss.  You  (over)react to your child with increasing impatience and frustration over the simplest things shutting them down with words such as “I don’t wanna discuss it now, JUST DO IT.” or "If you don't do X, then you are punished from Y and Z."    To outsiders who have no point of reference or who simply have well behaving conforming children (Gawd I despise those parents, j/k)  you just seem like a real asshole talking to your child like that.  They expect you to be able to use good ole fashioned child psychology in order to get them to do what you want.  Or better yet, they expect you to use  reasoning - ha!
It used to be that almost everyday, I wondered with each request if I was going to be cross examined by my son.  I remember being at parties and events worried that I would have to make a request to Finbar, such as "please sit down and eat", and trigger a firestorm of debates in public.   It was exhausting.  Yet, after years of living with these behaviors, we are finally to a point where I get at least 50% if not much more frequently  “Ok Mom” replies out of Finbar instead of  “But why….” arguments.  “Finbar, I know that he took over the toy you were playing with, but you shouldn’t have pushed him. Go apologize”.  “OK Mom.”   “Finbar, it’s time to stop your video game and come and practice piano and math before dinner.”  “Um, OK Mom.”  “Finbar, please stop playing Wii we have to leave NOW because we are running late.”  “OK Mom.”    “Finbar I think that you should let mom finish eating your hot fudge sundae, it look very yummy. “Sure OK Mom.”  :)   This happens a lot now, and it is pure bliss when it does. My life is much easier now because son is more agreeable than he used to be.

I just thought I should briefly write about this, at the risk of sounding like I am on my high horse,  because I know that there are parents out there who must be struggling with this issue of getting their child to conform to simple daily requests or to see another person's point of view.  When I think about how we got here to the “OK Mom” phase, really just one thing come to mind. Brain Integration Therapy (BIT). I’ve written about this therapy before, so I won’t do so again. But there is no doubt in my mind that somehow this therapy triggered that part of Finbar’s brain that tells him “it’s OK to change gears without having a fit.”  Somehow it allowed his brain to understand that if he is agreeable to changing his mind to meet another person’s point of view that somehow that might make Mom, Dad or teacher happy and that feels good.  I’m not suggesting that you go out and do BIT (well actually I may be doing that just a little).  But I AM suggesting that if you are struggling with these issues of inflexibility and argumentativeness, that you may want to take a look at what you are and aren't’ doing and try something else .   ABA did not help us much in this area (although the therapists sure tried).   Nor did behavior charts and rewards, social stories or books, and certainly not punishment.  My suggestion would be to try BIT or a similar applied kinesiology approach, perhaps cranio sacral or brain balancing, that deals with areas in the brain that affect coping skills and socio-emotional thinking - primarily the limbic system.   If you think that such techniques are hocus pocus, then think again.  They may not affect everyone in exactly the same way but chances are that there is some alternative protocol out there that could be the key to getting to your “OK Mom” moments.   And please remember DRUGS DON’T HELP THE LIMBIC SYSTEM - they keep it from learning to cope! 



Rebecca Royce said...

Its amazing you wrote this right now. I just got 'the look' from someone watching me correct Austin. Oh my gosh. I hate it.

jmburton said...

I found your blog by searching the term: brain excitability autism

I found your post: Giftedness or Autism? - Life on the Fringe


I am working my way through reading each post on your blog - I will read comments later

i started with the most recent and have worked my way backward - i may stop and read in correct chronological order


hmmmm - i just realised that this is a brutal introduction to myself - sorry

i am processing your postings and your expressed emotion, and in such circumstances i trend factual and chronologically linear in my words because i am distracted by the feelings i sense and the insight gained from the feelings of others


I have asperger's and non-verbal learning disorder - i was diagnosed 3 years ago at the age of 45. Nobody guessed through my whole life - even after the initial diagnosis the team re-tested me because they couldn't believe the results - i am very socially adept (except maybe in the text above. ;-). Apparently I am so far on the autism scale i should be almost non-functional - but, i guess i'm special...

My son is now diagnosed (age 21 - this year) with PDD-NOS because he learned a few coping strategies that make the asperger's diagnosis not fit.

My father is likely asperger's/spectrum as well - he fits the checklist

my nephew is also on spectrum


This particular post of yours struck me as a place to comment in an effort to be helpful

in trying to get my son to do things when he was younger (and even now) i offered a variant of the phrase i more recently heard used on Sheldon on Big Bang Theory

with Sheldon his friends say "It's a non-optional social convention", to which Sheldon responds "Fair enough" and agrees to do what they want

with my son, i sat him down and explained that the role of a parent is to act as a filter and guide for the world as he is/was a not fully developed human being and that he didn't have a large enough experiential framework to make an appropriate decision in in some contexts (this explanation started around age 5 or 6...). i told him that there were times that he needed to just go along with what i wanted or other authority figures wanted because it was needed and it would take too long to explain all the reasons for every request - used an example of a fire or emergency - then related an emergency to a situation where an urgent task needed to be completed - even if that was just buying groceries and getting supper ready on time without him arguing over what we should buy or what we should make for supper.

i also used a historical reference - i asked him if he had different interests than when he was younger, or if he would behave in some of the ways he did when he was 2 or 3 years old - and provided examples of behaviour he would no longer do - generally behaviours he now found embarrassing or problematic (e.g. crawling on all fours barking like a dog in a classroom - ok for kindergarten, not so much in later years)

i then explained that being not fully developed, he would be as oblivious to the reasoning or social context behind some of my requests at his current age, as he would have been at the younger age to things he realised/understood at the ripe old age of NN (current age)

i then told him that if he had a problem with my request, he could remember it or write it down and that when it was a good time to talk i would explain my reasoning - and if he had a counter argument that was sufficient, i would alter my behaviours and requests in the future (and actually did - crucially important [as i'm guessing you already know])


jmburton said...

this structure is similar to your figure 2 graphic in your story post


by using an approach that appealed to my son's reasoning, and his demand for the world to be rational, he was able to defer his need to "be right" in an effort toward participating in a functionally efficient group (family, school, whatever) because he was able to see the value in group outcomes - they just had to be the "right" outcomes

by giving him the opportunity to alter his world if needed, and by granting him the status as a rational being, and not just a mindless follower, he was able to suppress some of his need to be always informed and on top of things in favour of a future discussion of right/wrong/correct


the need for predictability is huge - not in the rote repetition of actions like a "Sheldon" but predictability of outcomes from inputs

humans are notoriously inconsistent

this is my major complaint about people in my life - lack of consistency

being able to provide a philosophical and reasoning structure to explain human inconsistency was huge to my own anxiety reduction, and has been huge in my son's life as well

we are always on the outside thinking we aren't getting something. we are constantly trying tot review the inputs and contexts to understand why rules and behaviours change without a good reason


i hope that my experience speaks to yours in some way

i hope my commentary is not intrusive