Tell us about a time when everything seemed to be going wrong — and then, suddenly, you knew it would be alright.
I have not had one singularly dramatic moment when I knew everything would be OK. Rather, I have many moments where I force myself to believe that everything will be OK. It is a slippery slope, my confidence, so up I go and down I slide. Over the last two years – especially the last one year – I believe I’ve gone UP the slope more than down the slope.
Some of these moments:
My boys generally don’t get along – like most siblings. Knowing this is true of most siblings does not make me better able to accept the fact. So when older son scooted close to younger son and said “Of course we’ll be OK because we love each other” and then proceeded to hug his brother – I knew it would be OK.
My husband and I went through relationship struggles through 2012 and partly into 2013. When he shows me his big grin and lets his silly side show – I know everything will be OK.
When you parent a child with Asperger’s, you need to learn to recognize the small victories that lead to everything being OK. When he recognizes a characteristic / behavior that he has causes him problems, that means that the first step of resolving the problem is complete. Recognition / ownership of the problem.
We all do it. Some more than others. Some admit it. Some don’t.
I used to be judgemental specifically of parents. Particularly before I had kids. See, it is easy to judge harshly when you have no experience or appreciation for what you are judging. Standards can be ridiculously high. Especially when you are young.
I have learned a lot since having my own kids. Number one being that I don’t have all the facts, only those I observe, and those can be misinterpreted.
I have had so many parenting moments where I could be judged negatively. Some would be deserved but many others would not. Some examples:
– I once had a toddler immediately run like a madman the moment we entered a department store. I was livid, mainly as a reaction to the fear I felt.
– I have been seen spanking and yelling at my kids in public. Yes, deserved judgement. But thankfully there was no interference from people around me. I am better able to cope with my anger and frustrations now.
– I once had to call 911 for assistance with my 8 year old special needs kid. Unfortunately it was at a busy gas station with a Greyhound bus stop. Those people got a good show of the crazy mom trying to contain her out of control child. And I bet more than a few judged me poorly. NOT deserved. Thankfully we got very understanding police officers to help.
– My kids had recurring ear infections when they were babies. A neighbor lady (who is NOT a mom and never will be) boldly stated that she could have my first cured of ear infections in a week. Ummm, yea. Not deserved. I never told her that we ultimately took both for tubes at the tender age of 13-14 months.
I find that I am so much more understanding of others now, especially other parents.
How cohesive is your family relationship? Are you disengaged, enmeshed, or somewhere in between?
How flexible is your family relationship? Is it chaotic, rigid, or somewhere in between?
If you have a guess to these answers, how can you know if that means your family relationship is healthy or needs some level of rework?
Why should you care?
Understanding your family’s location on this model can help you target specific areas for improvement.
When you are having troubles with teens, evaluate the level of cohesiveness and flexibility. Are you disengaged but have strict rules and family roles? Perhaps growing your relationship with your teen would make those rules seem more acceptable.
Are you and other family members slowly growing apart from each other?
Is one or more family members feeling squashed and in need of more “Me” and less “We?”
Is someone in the family desperately lonely?
Are the kids confused about who is in charge?
My Family 3 Years Ago
We were not in a happy place. Our youngest had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism – basically). I was obsessed first with finding a cure (although I didn’t realize it at the time) and then with finding ways to help him. Communication between hubby and I was like communication between roommates – not like two people in love who share parenting. We were firmly planted in the Structurally Disengaged section, which is not the healthiest but also not the worst. That spot works well for some families and not so well for others. It was not working for us.
Room for Improvement
So, what was NOT working for us? Were we too structured or too disengaged? Where did we want to move on this chart? We never sat down and specifically talked about that, but your family may like that approach. Based on LOTS of conversation over the past 8 months or so, we determined that we were too disconnected. We were two independent people with little loyalty and little closeness. This left the door open for major family and marital problems to happen. We needed to move into the Structurally Connected or the Flexibly Connected section.
Where are we now?
I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that we are no longer Disengaged. It started with hubby and me moving more and more into the connected realm. I would put the 2 of us in the Structurally Connected region. We spend a lot of time together now, whereas 3 years ago it was me & the kids and hubby took off for various hobbies on his own. We have a much higher degree of loyalty to each other because now we talk about things instead of pretending nothing is wrong. We make a LOT more decisions together now, especially regarding family.
Where We Are Moving
We may never move out of the Structurally Connected region, but we still have work to do on where we are as a family. We are slowly working on our individual relationship with our kids and working on whole family relationship. We have a significant amount of time where we are unplugged in the late afternoon and a large chunk of the weekend. This helps us do more things together, thereby increasing our connection. Here’s pictures from a recent rocket launch we had as a family.
Many have heard or have used the words Autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, Bi-polar, OCD, and so on. Individuals with these labels have a wide variety of abilities and behaviors. Often when you hear Asperger you think of a child, but children become adults and enter the workforce. Do you work with someone labeled this way? Do your coworkers have children or grandchildren who face this reality daily? Recently in the news, companies such as SAP and Freddie Mac are heavily recruiting autistic individuals hoping to harness ! their unique talents and to give them a chance to flourish in a job and spark innovation. For Ari Ne’eman, president of the Washington DC-based Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and a member of the U.S. National Council on Disability, the moves are welcome and well overdue. “We need to see neurological diversity in much the same way as we’ve seen workplace diversity efforts in the past on the basis of race, gender and sexual orientation.”
Eilene Edwards from the Supplier Management Learning Solutions team has personal interest in seeing this neurological diversity come to fruition. She and husband Aaron are the parents of two boys. Their oldest Ryan is seated next to dad. Their youngest Luke, seated next to Eilene, has Asperger’s and struggles with the battle between these strengths and difficulties daily. Understanding the strengths and difficulties associated with Asperger’s has helped her to avoid many problems and handle problems that do arise in a more effective way.
Asperger Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a milder variant of Autistic Disorder. The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental DisordersDSM5.org ASD Fact Sheet defines ASD: “People with ASD tend to have communication deficits, such as responding inappropriately in conversations, misreading nonverbal interactions, or having difficulty building friendships appropriate to their age. In addition, people with ASD may be overly dependent on routines, highly sensitive to changes in their environment, or intensely focused on inappropriate items. Again, the symptoms of people with ASD will fall on a continuum, with some individuals showing mild symptoms and others having much more severe symptoms.”
ASD Strengths in the Workplace
Exceptional memory including understanding concepts presented in material and images.
Detailed understanding of concrete concepts, rules and sequences.
Very precise and detail oriented, which can be combined with high levels of focus on tasks that others may not want to do.
ASD and Difficulties in the Workplace
Two difficult aspects of work for the ASD individual include social interactions and transitions.
Social interaction difficulties may include not understanding nonverbal cues, strict adherence to rules and the expectation that others also adhere to said rules, blunt language (which is “truth” to them), and sometimes repetitive behaviors.
Transitions happen quite a bit more often than non ASD individuals realize, and each transition has the potential to cause distress in the ASD individual.
How do you know when you are boring someone you are talking with? It is likely so automatic to you that you don’t even think about it. ASD individuals often have favorite topics to discuss and most people are willing to listen for a period of time. But when a non ASD person has had enough, he or she may start checking the time and giving nonverbal hints that they want the conversation to come to a close. ASD individuals typically do not catch these hints. The best option is to use clear language that closes the conversation politely. For example say something like, “Thank you for an interesting conversation. Now I am going to a meeting. Bye!”
Recall that a common characteristic of ASD individuals is their ability to focus. Transitions are a break in that focus. Some transitions that a non ASD individual may not think about include: switching from one project to another, especially when the first one is not finished; breaking for lunch; adapting to a new information system; gaining a new responsibility. Transitions can cause feelings similar to those that many avid readers have after finishing a good book. There is a letdown period where you may wonder “oh no – what now?” Imagine having that feeling several times a day. When the ASD individual controls the transition, things go much more smoothly. Whenever possible, involve the ASD individual in the transition planning, especially for significant transitions. Allow the ASD individual to control their own minor transitions, such as when to take a break. When presenting an unexpected transition to the ASD individual, be sympathetic and allow time for the individual to process through stressful emotions caused by the unplanned transition.
Eilene tells us that not everyone with Autism Spectrum Disorder has a formal diagnosis. There are many adults who fit the description, but they were never diagnosed as ASD. They may have been labeled “that odd kid who likes to play alone and won’t look you in the eye” or “that kid who is always causing problems or being rude.” Next time you encounter an employee who has some of the difficulties described here, be more open to finding good ways of interacting with him or her. You may be surprised at the innovative ideas they can come up with, if just given the understanding and chance they need.
Merriam Webster says that manipulation is “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.”
My 12 year old son loves to manipulate me. My husband is very aware of this, but I have not been a believer until yesterday. I think that my mom saying that my son was manipulating me is what turned me into a full believer. I was describing our horrible Tuesday morning when she observed that he was likely manipulating me.
12 yr old usually gets woken up by me at 6:20ish AM, but I needed to get him up at 6 AM. A mere 20 minutes early. Son whines and had several prompts to get busy doing his morning routine. After it took 20 minutes to traverse from his bedroom to the kitchen to feed the cats, I lost it when he said, “I can’t.” So I let him know that he lost his electronics for the day. There were raised voices on both sides, him accusing me of hating him, him claiming that he was about to feed the cats, him wondering why he lost his electronics, and me telling him to just get dressed. I really try not to raise my voice, but this kid is trying my patience lately.
We were finally able to make it into the car, where he proceeded to whine about having to go to a “program” for the summer. Then he tells me more about the kid who is picking on him and telling him that he might as well just kill himself. He’s in full meltdown mode now and wonders why I don’t care enough to help him. But I think that in his mind, that help is in the form of me turning the car around and letting him play on his computer all day. In my mind, I am helping him by taking him to his psychologist so that he can learn how to cope with life’s disappointments (like bullies and dealing with consequences grownups give him due to his behavior). In a recent therapy session he indicated that he wouldn’t mind dying, but that he didn’t want to hurt himself. I DO NOT want to be the parent that people talk about and say, “Well, why didn’t his mother help him? Why didn’t she see that things were getting so bad and admit him to a hospital?” Etc. etc. etc. So I contacted hubby to get his opinion. I was nearly ready to take this kid to the hospital and admit him (took him once before but they did not admit him).
Ultimately, I think that hubby made a really good call and urged me to take son to his program, tell the facilitator the name of the boy who has been bullying him, and request that the bully’s parents be notified. The facilitators counciled the bully and plan to keep the two boys separated.
Back to manipulation. I need to learn more about this, so as to be better prepared to defend against this evil tactic. WebMD has an article regarding teens manipulating their parents. I do believe I was victim of #2. Lying (his telling me that the kids were no longer picking on him), #3. Retaliation (he does NOT like to have his electronics taken away and retaliated by playing the innocent victim), 4. Emotional blackmail (we are ruining his life by limiting electronics time and making him go to his summer program, and why would I send him to a place where the people hurt him and EVERYONE hates him).
Tuesday evening my son sincerely apologized for his behavior from the morning. He said that most of what he said was true, that he was being picked on and that a kid did tell him he should kill himself, but that he exaggerated because he was mad about needing to get up early and then losing his electronics.
Now that I recognize that he is manipulative and have a confession of sorts from him, I hope that I will be better able to cut him off at the pass when he tries this with me again.