Your Child Has Aspergers : You Are Not A Bad Parent


 

 

Your child comes home from school. A question as innocent as how was your day ignites your child with Asperger’s into a meltdown the size of a volcanic eruption akin with the intensity of  Mt Saint Helens. If this sounds familiar, please take heed. Your child does not single you out as a missile target aimed at an enemy. It is quite the opposite.

Anger is expressed towards you versus others because of trust. This may sound odd. How could an individual express anger towards me when they trust and care about me one may ask? The child does so because they know you will accept them for good or bad. Others may ostracize the child if they display anger or frustration. Your child knows that despite their meltdowns, verbal outbursts and more, you will still be there to support them.

Thus, do not perceive meltdowns, snide comments or actions from a child with Asperger’s to be indicative of bad parenting skills. If you had not gained your child’s trust and acceptance, they would not be comfortable displaying these behaviors in front of you. It is difficult and hard not to personalize. I have walked this walk many times.

I recall asking my son how school went and receiving a comment like, “well Mom that depends if you live in America or a third world country. What is defined as a good day in America is defined much differently in a third world country where people are starving and have no housing”.

Does this interaction sound familiar? Comments such as this are usually a predecessor to what could become an extremely bad afternoon for us if not defused. A verbal interaction as described above is normally a sign that my son had a difficult day and attempted to contain his feelings. Once he was in a safe place, which in this case was in his home and with trusted family, every emotion spewed out of him with the force of projectile vomit.

Attempting to reason with your child when they are in this state of mind is futile. It is difficult. However, the best thing to do in this situation is to avoid comments regarding why they are treating you in such a manner. It is likely that any comments from you will merely incite the child with Asperger’s and the situation will become reactive and volatile. Remember, your child’s emotions are already on edge at this point.

What has worked for me with my child and in the classroom as well is to merely say, “I can see you have had a bad day, I am not going to discuss this further with you. It looks like you may need some alone time to calm down so I am going to give you your space.”

By doing so, you are modeling for your child. These point out the fact that your child had a bad day and is upset. (Defining their feelings) and you are modeling a coping strategy for them to use. (Needing alone time). When we define our observations to the child and express an outcome, the child has been given a reason for their behavior.

The delivery of comments makes a huge difference. By making a statement such as, “Why are you acting like this” rather then the above mentioned strategy, the child is put on the defensive. They believe you are judging them rather then understanding their behavior. The first strategy that I mentioned has always been resultant in a far better outcome then the second for us. Please attempt to remember that many Aspergians have large descriptive vocabularies but lack the words to describe their feelings and emotions.

 

When the child has been allowed space, they may calm down. At this time, they may be more open to talking. Play a video game with them, watch T.V., go for a drive, cook dinner together or any other situation you can size up that will place you in a non threating situation where your child may open up. You may take this opportunity to use statements such as, “I am so sorry that you are so upset today.” Lead in to a conversation with an example of when you were upset as a child. This normalizes their situation without reeking of preaching to the child. It is all in the timing.

Please attempt to remember that aspergians have an extreme amount of experience regarding being judged within society, struggling to be accepted, struggling academically, and struggling in social situations and more. When parents point out behaviors in a direct manner versus (reactive) versus expressing concern for their behavior and what caused it (proactive) defensiveness is a reaction by the child to self esteem that has already been beaten down by day to day interactions.

Attempt to involve your child in learning problem solving skills. Define the issue. Make sure the child has input as well. Ask your child their opinion regarding problem solving techniques. Write down appropriate outcomes for the behavior. Create cards with problem solving techniques that may be useful in the future.

I created cards with emotions on them. The cards had simple pictures of happy, sad, sick, mad, bored etc. faces on them with the appropriate word written on the card. These simple pictures could be posted on a bulletin board to alert family members to how the child was feeling. It is a great way to reinforce comprehension of emotions.

In closing……. Always point out the positives as well as negatives. Even after a meltdown a child can receive positive reinforcement by noting what a great job they did in turning their behavior around. Point out positive behaviors i.e. Brushing teeth without being told, doing homework without an argument even helping to set the table for dinner.

Remember. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. If children only receive attention when they present with negative behaviors, the negative behavior is sure to increase. Note positive behaviors but do not use false praise. Find the positive actions and let your child know that you notice them. Positive praise begets positive praise seeking behaviors.

Remember, you are doing the best that you can. Parenting special needs kids is a 24 – 7 job. Your child’s behavior is not indicative of bad parenting skills. In actuality, you are an awesome parent. Otherwise you would not support them day in and day out would you?

I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s success.If you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

 

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Parenting A Child With Special Needs: The Good Bad & Ugly


 

 

 

 

Parenting a child with special needs to adulthood has been fraught with a hodge podge of ambivalent feelings. Bringing up a child with Aspergers syndrome and co-morbid challenges has provided membership into a club that I did not choose to join. I choose to call it the club for special families. My choice of special families for the title is because having special needs children affects the whole family. Children, parents, siblings and others struggle with individual issues related to living in  a special needs family. It affects the continuity, belief systems and most importantly priorities that the familial unit is composed of. My life – (our lives) have been changed forever.

I possess a Bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in sociology. I have my Masters degree in Educational Foundations as well. I have worked as a professional educator, done public speaking engagements and more. Although my academic and professional background provided me with information and experience within the special needs field, tt did not provide me with a window into what being a special needs parent entailed. One cannot Google Aspergers Syndrome and profess to be an expert. I had to live it. I have learned more from special needs parenting then I ever learned in the classroom. The college that I attended to be a special needs parent is called the College Of Live And Learn. ALL lessons within the College Of Live And Learn are performed as on the job training.

While performing my functions within my classroom and other professional responsibilities provided me with a set time to go home and leave behind the professional world of special needs, my parenting responsibilities do not. Parenting special needs children requires a 24 – 7 commitment which has no end date. Young children require constant assistance in assisting them with acquiring skills that will provide them with some semblance of normalcy as they grow. Parenting special needs kids into the world of Adulthood will provide parenting challenges as well , while  attempting to jettison them down the road to independence.

We deal with challenges that parents of neurotypical children take for granted. When our children have a meltdown the size of an earthquake that could register a 7 on the Richter scale in a public place our self-esteem can be torn apart in a nano second.This holds even more truth when the child’s meltdown is not appropriate for their chronological age. Individuals who witness our children’s behavioral issues may give parents dirty looks, ask them why they cannot control their child or worse (and yes I have heard this comment, (“What your child needs is a slap”)

It is not easy to have free time as babysitters are difficult to acquire. Our child’s special challenges which may be medical, behavioral, intellectual or emotional can cause caretakers to refuse care so parents may have a moment of respite with their spouse or one on one time with other children. Money is generally in short commodity as therapists, physicians, special diets and more can command the brunt of a parent’s income.
Special needs parents and their children have the same needs as other families. We want and attempt to be attentive to our children thus providing them the best parenting and opportunities that we can. Both special needs children and parents seek acceptance, support, understanding, tolerance and friendship just like any other parent or child. Thus, It would behoove parents of neurotypical children to learn about our families rather then ostracize special needs families like they have a communicable disease. You cannot catch special needs like a disease. Who knows, once you get to know them you may like them.

Without a doubt another special challenge for special needs parents is watching other children develop on an age appropriate timetable while your child lags behind. This is a heart wrenching issue for parents of adults as this is a time when the lag between chronological age and emotional/physical development is extremely noticeable.Other young adults are getting married, getting the jobs of their dreams and moving down the road to independence while the special needs adult lags behind. A myriad of emotions may arise, low self-esteem, self blame, sadness, envy of other families, self-deprecation regarding your parenting skills.

At this point allow me to emphasize those special needs children will develop. However it will be on their own time frame, to their own level of growth, on their own terms, not on the ones that we as parents define for them.From the perspective of a parent that has and does walk the walk of special needs parents, please heed this advice. Do not worry where your children will be in twenty years. Focus on where they are today, at this very moment. Do not focus on what they cannot do, focus on what they can.

Instead of looking into the future and worrying about what will be, look into the past and look at what was and what is. Focus on the strides your child has made. What you note in terms of growth may not be large bursts of growth. They may be taking place in baby steps, in your child’s time frame and on their terms. Please remember that all the baby steps will eventually be indicative of a new noticeable skill.

On the days when you feel like you have failed your children as a parent, you feel alone and like no one understands you, when you are of no use to your child and you want to help them but it is as if your hands are tied behind your back please remember this. NONE OF THESE FEELINGS ARE TRUE.

You are providing the best care, love and assistance to your child as is feasibly possible. You did not cause your child’s challenges. By providing your child with constant support, your love, guidance, and yes even the fact that you worry; this is proof of what a wonderful and capable parent you are. You love your child unconditionally, challenges and all. Kudos to all of you.

On a positive note, despite the challenges special needs parents deal you are a better person for having special children. Your priorities are less materialistic and more spiritual. You appreciate development in your children that neurotypical parents take for granted. You have learned to be more accepting to mankind because we gained an awareness of human fallibility through our special children. You have gained emotional strength by taking care and advocating for children with challenges. At those moments when you thought that you could not go on you have.

You and your children are an asset to society for you are role models and educators for society at large. Carry on, hold your heads up high and know despite having one of the toughest and lowest paying jobs in the world you never back down. You are warriors and do not walk alone.

I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s success.If you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

Mari Nosal M.Ed. CECE

Thou shall not avoid my family. Autism is not a communicable disease. It’s a way of life. (Mari Nosal)