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!