The flip side

I often write about Little Miss, who at 8, seems like she’s well on her way to a place where she’ll be able to cope with life in our world. Many days, however, her triumphs are offset by the antics of Captain Oblivious, our 12-year-old son with Asperger’s. The cloud that hangs over the house those days definitely smells of despair.

The latest thing is his need to steal food. He’s started cruising along the counter when he’s not being watched, licking icing off cake, eating halves of donuts from the box, taking fruit snacks from the closet. The therapist talks about reactive attachment disorder, and I could see where that might be an accurate diagnosis. But the bottom line is this: he does NOT care about anyone but himself.

Yes, Virginia, I understand that’s somewhat the idea behind AUTISM. AUTO. Self. Right. I got it. But he’s so smart. He will rattle off the rules right back to you. And as soon as you aren’t looking, BAM. Break them without a thought for anything but his impulse. He’s fed and clothed very well; there’s no need to steal. But it happens all the time.

When he was 3, and still pretty cute and tiny, it seemed less threatening. But now he’s twelve and nearly as tall as I am, and the hormones are about to kick in. He’s not mature enough to process, so he can’t use traditional behavioral modification therapy. That drive to act on impulse is likely to get dangerous, i.e. we will NEVER be able to have a gun in the house even if we move somewhere where we’ll need it. He’s yet to raise a hand against either parent–but who’s to say he won’t?

Seventh grade comes up in the fall and I have to confess I’m worried. He acts without a thought, just the kind of kid other kids can put up to stunts. He doesn’t care about being liked, he just acts like he wants to, which alienates a lot of kids. He’s the weird, geeky kid who will be the first one shoved in his locker come September. And what will happen then to the boy who does the first thing that comes in his head? And why is it the school counselor can’t understand why I want him to learn to deal with bullies before he hits junior high? And why is it that someone so smart can be so dense?

Some days, I really think I got the wrong play book.

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11 thoughts on “The flip side

  1. I think all the time now, with a 4 year old, what it will be like when I am standing in your shoes. We are seriously considering Tai Kwon Do. Fin has no moderation, and no voice for self advocating. He has no fear of the future, however it looms over me like a black cloud.

  2. Tai Kwon Do will be no good. I was a Black Belt, and Chief Instructor, at 3 London Kung Fu Clubs in my younger days. The Martial Arts are based mainly on ‘kick-fighting’ which would never do for one of your own – even if desperate.
    I also was Head of Security at a major London Teaching Hospital, and attended several classes aimed at ‘how to restrain violent mentally ill patients”. Unfortunately, the only thing that really works is pure strength. Something that not many of us have – and I certainly don’t!
    For what it is worth – and I mean well – my advice to one and all, is…………..just do not get so involved that you have to use force. That may very well be difficult, I know, but it is still preferable to the alternative. Believe me.

  3. Your son reminds me of mine. There is an inner self that is watching everything unfold, totally not connected or caring about social norms. I called that inner impish quality in my son, his Coyote self, always ready to play tricks on us. If we got caught up in it as if it were real and didn’t see it as a trick, the behavior got worse. If I pretended I was talking to the inner Coyote and silently said, “I see you” my son would break out into a funny grin that said he knew he got caught and then would proceed to stop the negative behavior on his own. Maybe he was making sure we “lightened up.”

  4. Oiy, I hear you. I’ve been on that bandwagon too – we need to teach our kids how to handle this stuff early, because it’s not going to get better or easier. And I worry that they’ll either fly off the handle at someone else or turn the frustration inward onto themselves. I remember mentioning it to a principal once and he accused me of projecting horrible things onto my child. Sure he’s happy now at 6, but I already see the signs as he begins to understand that he is different and tries to process that.

    I am amazed, and actually wrote long before reading this, that someone so smart can have such little common sense. It’s scary. Sometimes I see evidence that C doesn’t have a thought in his head about consequences. It’s heartbreaking to say the least. Lots of prayer and hope that our guys will make it through relatively unscathed.

  5. Oh, Sister, I feel your pain.

    Your comment on my blog the other day brought me to you, and obviously, you certainly know where I have been; from reading my meager writing, you know that I anticipate being where you are.

    My approach, so far, has been the application of the golden rule. I’m hardly religious, but having some spectrum qualities myself, I understand a little bit of the “black and white” of my son’s world. The golden rule seems to have caught his attention at least, after repeating it a million times, of course. I did finesse the wording to my needs, however, because, as you said, it has to be all about HIM.

    “You must treat people the way you want them to treat you. The way you act to someone else is the way they will act to you. If you hit someone else, then someone else will probably hit you. If you yell at someone else, then someone else will probably yell at you. If you hurt someone else — on the inside or the outside, then someone else will probably hurt you. So, if you don’t want to be hurt, then you can’t hurt someone else. If you don’t want to be yelled at, then you can’t yell at someone else.”

    I’ve been lucky because, on some level, my son seems to give a tiny rat’s rear that no one else be mad at him. He doesn’t care about associating with people, but he doesn’t want anyone to be mad at him. Now that I think about it, that’s because he doesn’t want anything to be “his fault.” Oy. Oh well, whatever gets it done.

  6. Middle School is really really tough, hard lessons are learned as kids are harsh and there are rules there and shifts of power that are hard to keep up with. I do know that as much as we want to prepare our kids and help them learn lessons the hard way, sometimes there isn’t much we can do but watch and be there for them when it happens. He sounds like a typical boy his age in this behavior though. Testing boundaries, feeling indestructible, not thinking about repercussions of actions… its these years that those things are hopefully worked through to the other side and they mature…and usually not very gracefully. I think keeping communication open at this point is best. Maybe find TV shows or movies that touch on these issues and watch them with him and then talk about it. Sometimes its easier to talk about other people than themselves. He needs you more as a Mom than a friend right now though. Your rules and consistantcy and set in stone penalties for misbehavior are more important than being liked. You are just not going to be through this time. And have some faith that you are doing a good job!

  7. Not to suggest levity, but um… I’ve been known to do the same thing when no ones looking, especially when I’m hanging around my mother inlaws cooking. Kids fruit snacks? Totally guilty, eat them in the garage when no ones looking. The half donut snatch? Guilty. Yeah… Halloween candy? Before AND after the event.

    Love the blog btw. Well written! I’m going to list you on my roll to make sure I find my way back here.

  8. Thanks! Please come often. 🙂

    You’re right, I can see where it may seem like over-reaction, but as part of a general course of therapy to teach them to think about other people and not only themselves, it is important. We’ll keep at it.

  9. Pingback: Finding common ground « Awalkabout’s Weblog

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