Today was the last day of term three for my children and they now have a 2 week holiday, so I wanted to surprise them by making a delicious afternoon tea to celebrate. I baked a beautiful cake and some biscuits and carefully peeled and cut some fruit into bite-sized pieces. I laid it all out on the outdoor table so that they could enjoy a picnic afternoon tea. They were thrilled….Or so I thought.
I went back inside to stir tonight’s dinner in the slow cooker and then my phone rung so I went to answer it. Mid way through my conversation I heard a large crashing sound so I looked out the window in alarm and was far from impressed with what I’d just seen. I immediately excused myself from the call and slammed the phone down in anger.
I flung open the screen door and marched over to the front fence to see both of the boys standing on the wheelie bins with the remains of afternoon tea on the ground around them. I stood on my toes and looked over the fence to discover that they had thrown every last piece of the food I’d lovingly prepared over the fence including my plates and glasses.
Oh…and that crash? It was a HOUSEBRICK that they threw onto the driveway that broke into little pieces and smashed our pavers. Thank God that none of the neighbourhood kids got hit in the head! I was livid but surprisingly calm.
I grabbed both of the boys by their collars and marched them out the front and watched until they picked up every last piece. As a consequence, all of their computer and Wii privileges were revoked and I then made them go back inside to shower and get ready to go to bed. It was only 4:30pm.
Harley screamed at me, kicked the door and clenched his fists in anger while Lucas threw himself down on the ground and sobbed.
I tried my best to ignore them until I could get the motivation to force them into the bathroom to shower. But Harley stomped past me and grabbed a piece of paper off the computer desk. He then grabbed a pen and started drawing a picture. He dug the pen firmly into the paper, scratching the table as he did so. He glared at me and told me to get out of his way as he stormed up to his bedroom to tape his “sign” to his door.
His ‘sign’ was a picture of a woman and a boy with a speech bubble coming from the boy’s mouth. He was telling the woman that he hated her and the words: ‘Mums arnt alod in my rom evr’ were at the top of the page.
I glanced at it briefly and then walked out to give him time to calm down. I returned about twenty minutes later and sat on the edge of his bed and told him that I was very sad.
“Well you should be!” he replied angrily. “You are such a mean mother and I don’t want to live with you anymore”. I willed my face to not show my own anger and hurt and replied in a steady tone: “Ok you might think that, but I love you even when you’re being horrible and angry”.
He rolled his eyes and mumbled something indiscernible. I stood up and walked over to his door and took the picture down then sat back down without saying a single word. Then I looked at him and then back down at the picture and then back at him a second time.
He grimaced and then put his head under his pillow and I knew then that I had him exactly where I wanted him. He was experiencing remorse. And this is a HUGE step in the right direction for him. Once I’d seen the slight flicker of emotion in his eyes, I started to speak.
“This is a great drawing”. I said and he peeked one eye out from underneath the pillow.
“I can see that you have drawn a woman and a little boy. Is that you and me?” I continued.
The pillow moved a bit more.
“But I can’t understand something about the little boy. He looks mad…really mad but I don’t know why? I paused for a minute.
“Do you know why he might be mad?” I asked.
Harley sat up and looked over at me with a shrug of his shoulders but still refused to talk. “Well, I guess I’ll never know then”. I continued with a shrug of my own shoulders. “But I know why that Mum is sad” I said. He looked up at my face so I continued.
“She is sad because her little boys threw away all the lovely food that she made for them. And they threw bricks over the fence and were being very naughty. And she’s sad because her little boy yelled at her and told her that he hated her and got very angry”.
I looked over at him and he had his head down. “I wonder what the little boy should have done when he realised that he was angry? Maybe he should have taken a deep breath and counted to ten. Or maybe he should have gone for a walk around the house until he calmed down. Do you think he should have said those mean things to his Mummy?”
He shook his head slowly.
“So what do you think that the little boy should say to his Mummy now?”
He put his head down again. “He should say sorry to her”.
“Yes” I answered. That would be a great idea.
“The little boy is sorry”. He whispered back and leaned over and hugged me.
“And that Mummy is very proud of her son for apologizing”. I answered.
I gave him another hug and walked out of his room. He came running up behind me and ran straight past me to the kitchen to grab another pen. He sat down at the table with his drawing and started to alter it. He added a picture of Paul, Ella and Lucas and scribbled over the speech bubble.
The sign now reads: ‘Mum and Dad and Lucas and Ella ar al alod in my room evr’.
And then he handed me another scribbled note. This one said simply: “I love u mum, yor the best mum evr.”
So why am I excited by this enough to write a blog post about it? Because this is some major progress right there! Children on the autistic spectrum have difficulties in understanding and expressing their emotions.
Most of the time with Harley we only see happiness or anger and nothing in between but by talking with him in this way, I allowed him to discover why losing his temper was wrong without coming down heavily on him. I deliberately didn’t overwhelm him with words or yell at him (even though I was furious) because I knew he’s go into shut down if I did.
By using the little boy and the lady that he’d drawn as characters in my story, I was able to acknowledge that there were emotions that needed to be dealt with without him feeling that I was attacking him personally. I was able to address the whole situation from a less threatening angle and help him to discover a better way to react in situations that anger him all by himself.
And he learned another valuable lesson today. Consequences.
He went to bed tonight chanting to himself: ‘If I am naughty, I don’t get to do things that I like’ as if he was trying to memorise it for further use.
So yeah…..we are certainly covering a lot of exciting ground here!
Next post: Learning about consequences.