Sometimes I am unable to discern the difference between regular ‘boy’ behaviour, normal sibling rivalry and behaviour that is typically and consistently attributed to having an ASD.
Because both of my boys are diagnosed with Aspergers, anytime that I see them BOTH doing things that I never did as a child – it’s too easy to assume that it’s an ASD thing.
But then I talk to other parents of typically developing boys and realise that their son(s) do some of these things too and I occasionally feel like a fool because it’s more than likely just a boy thing and I’ve made it into much more.
Or have I?
I’ve discovered that as mothers of special needs kids – we deal with all the same things that regular parents do every day…..and then some. Because everything is multiplied by thousands. And I mean EVERYTHING.
We experience much higher highs when we celebrate what is considered to be a small thing to an average parent – much lower lows because our kids struggle with basic daily tasks and HUGE swings between the two extremes daily.
Take for example: running away. Other mothers of boys have told me that their sons often wander off in shopping centres and have the urge to touch EVERYTHING in sight. Their sons also have trouble keeping their hands to themselves and they often misbehave in a similar way that mine do when we’re out. It’s just a boy thing they tell me. I hear the stories of how they remember the days when they were unable to take them ANYWHERE and how exhausting it was!
But they usually follow with comments to the tune of: “But thankfully he’s outgrown that now”.
Harley is 9 this year and still runs away regularly. He obviously hasn’t outgrown it and isn’t showing any signs of growing out of it. Because for him – it’s not an age thing. Nor is it a “boy” thing. When Harley runs off – it’s because he is terrified of the noises, the bright lights, the crowds and the brain overload that all of this stimuli causes. He will run away so that he can hide in a clothes rack or to sit in a far away corner rocking backwards and forwards crying because his sensory system reaches overload so much quicker than that of the average Joe.
And he doesn’t just instantly stop crying once removed from the situation either. The tears, aggression and emotional outbursts can last for literally hours after the event.
And when Lucas wanders off – it’s because he is drifting along in his own little spacey world and is completely unaware of his surroundings at all. He doesn’t live in the moment and doesn’t realise that he has moved away from us.
My boys don’t run off to be naughty, they just have an uncontrollable need to escape whatever is that is sending them in meltdown or they are not living in the same realm that the rest of us are!
And as for punching up their siblings: Well, that’s just a boy thing too isn’t it? – Boys are naturally a lot more rough and tumble, and a hundred times more active than their female counterparts, so I’m not dealing with anything that they don’t all encounter daily either am I?
Well maybe not. But when you see your son going pale and crying till he almost vomits from the mental exhaustion that a school day heaps on him, the lashing out and physical attacks on his brother are often a sign of much more than just a boy being silly and rough-housing with his little brother. When he is this overloaded, he is not in control of his body and the punches are his way of releasing some of the pent-up emotions from just BEING that day.
And what about boys refusing to do homework because they would rather play than concentrate and sit still?
Sure – I know many boys who struggle to do this, but when you throw sensory issues, brain overload and mental exhaustion from trying to be what society expects all day instead of who you really are into the mix….than it’s likely to be much more than your child simply refusing to do what they’re told.
And I can imagine a lot of you sitting screaming at your computer monitors now: WHY DO YOU EVEN CARE???
DOES IT REALLY MATTER WHETHER IT IS A BOY THING OR SOMETHING MORE???
And I totally understand that it may seem that I am making a mountain out of a molehill here, but it’s important to me to define the differences. I was told only today that I have got to stop using Aspergers as an excuse for my son’s bad behaviour and that I need to teach him how to behave better.
Yes – I held my tongue but comments like this from people who don’t walk in our shoes are exactly why I write controversial blog posts like this one.
Because: that kind of perception is damaging and hurtful to parents of children with “invisible” disabilities such as Aspergers as it belittles our struggles and invalidates our achievements and successes.
I read recently in >>THIS<< fabulous post that it’s like they’re saying to us that autism isn’t real. When we are spoken to in this way – we are being told that we are attention seeking super emotional freaks of parents who should just sit down and shut up.
So let me take this opportunity to point out that I am not the least bit interested in being pitied and I’m not writing this to extract sympathy from anyone, but I want people to stop downplaying the struggles that special needs parents have with their children by trying to explain it away as something that everyone deals with.
And I also want to know the differences because: If it’s something that is “just a boy thing” I know that I have little control over it, but if it happens to be an ASD thing – I can research it, work on it and teach my boys the life skills that they will need to not only survive this big bad world but to thrive in it.
And I need to know for my own sake as well. Because I need to know that not everything is my fault. I need to know that sometimes – its ok to collapse under the weight of something that I have absolutely no control over. I need to be proud of how damn hard I really am trying here. I need to be able to sleep at night knowing that I did the best I could with what I have.
Because as I wrote earlier – special needs mothers do all the stuff that regular mothers do as well…..but then there are volumes of extras that are also required on top of that just to be able to even function.
But don’t get me wrong here: I certainly don’t OWN exhaustion or frustration and I know that every mother struggles from time-to-time with their children on some level. And I’m not trying to take that away from mothers of typically developing children because I don’t for a second think that any of you have it easy either. But I know from living it personally that mothers of children with special needs feel like throwing in the towel almost every.single.day.
For us – a good day means you were only kicked once. Or we only had to throw out 2 meals instead of 3. Or that your child didn’t punch their therapist. And a great afternoon might mean that you child only screamed for 1 hour over their homework instead of 4.
Most of us would love to be able to have only the occasional bad day or moment. But we were never given that option. But we don’t want our efforts and struggles reduced to a simple shoulder shrug and a throwaway comment.
That’s all I ask