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pretty please! advice needed for 6 year old with mild Aspergers

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I feel like I'm going to loose it and need big mama hugs, and bigger advice

 

My six year old DD is on the spectrum and besides flapping/being in her own world/being obsessed with horses we haven't had any problems with her behavior wise. We used to say we could take her anywhere - fine restuarants, museums..she's super charming and loves being out and about on adventures (reason #13 I love homeschooling her..) lately though, she's just unbearable. 

 

She screams/throws tantrums when she's not getting her way. It's like "can we go __ now" and if I say "nope! In a few minutes" or "not today" she starts screaming and throwing things and acting very brat-like. Another example is today (we are at beach for the week) I said "lets go to lighthouse, than the bay because the weather is a wee bit crummy and it's supposed to pass.." and she just started screaming NO NO NO I DON'T WANT TO and ran onto the deck, locked herself out there, and than almost slammed her 3 year old brothers hand in the door. It's like a constant fight ever single day, she's so unpleasant to be around! Which sounds awful but it's true. It's not like she can't do these things for some social reason, she doesn't WANT to and therefore we should be doing only what she wants.

 

She's just being rotten lately, and in general I'd love to be able to rant + get some advice on disipline in someone with Aspergers as I'm new to ALL of this. Thanks you so very much

 

(and I would write more but DH has bacon ready to be served!) 

post #2 of 6

I have a daughter with Asperger's (and a son who is HFA). So first, some sympathetic hugs. I've been where you are when DD was younger. It was puzzling and annoying and exasperating and for a while I mourned the "perfect little girl" she had been. Thankfully, with the help of some great people who understand these kids, plus just practice and experience, things are wonderful with us and have been for some time. 

 

I'm sure there are more kinds of example than the ones you have provided, but what immediately struck me was the lack of predictability involved in the situations you described. It's so normal for kids on the spectrum to have a really hard time dealing with change and unpredictability. So here are a few tips on how to reduce these types of reactions from our kids. 

 

1) have a schedule for each day and present it to your child the night before going to bed, then again the morning. Many kids respond well to pictures. So, for example, you might have a a picture of you and your child eating breakfast, a picture of you two at the grocery store, a picture of lunch, a picture of the playground...You would show each picture to your child, explaining: "Today we are going to have breakfast, then after that we are going to the grocery store. When we get home we'll have lunch and then go to the playground". And show her each picture that goes with what you are saying. Of course you can have anything in there: quiet time, play time, errands, etc. Once you are done, stick them up in a prominent place so you and your child can refer to them as often as she needs. The kids seem to love this (they use this at the autism program my kids go to). So when your DD says "Can we go to the park now?" you can point to the pictures and say "Remember? First we have to eat lunch. I'm making it right now. Then we will go to the playground." It's no guarantee they won't find waiting hard, but IME it greatly reduces the severity and frequency of such responses.

 

2) avoid spontaneity as much as possible; sounds depressing, doesn't it? ;) But for these kids it's really hard to deal with. If you were planning to go the Bay and then decide at the last minute to switch the the Lighthouse (which, for anybody else, would seem totally reasonable) your DD may find that very hard to deal with. My kids do NOT like changes in plans, they don't like surprises or the unexpected. So unless it is really impossible (in which case, mentally prepare yourself for the reaction, deep breathing, etc, lol) try to avoid changing plans on the fly.

 

3) You wrote: "It's not like she can't do these things for some social reason, she doesn't WANT to and therefore we should be doing only what she wants." While needing to have control is part of their reaction, please also consider that underneath her reaction is anxiety. That was my biggest lesson for DD and her Asperger's - I didn't see it at all. When she acted willful and headstrong and as though she just "wanted her way", what I learned was that this is a "fight or flight" response. The child is anxious inside and is manifesting that the only way a kid knows how. Our OT worked with me on this for some time, and it was really revolutionary to the way I responded to my DD and getting her to move past it.

 

The reason these kids want to have so much control is because the world can be a very unpleasant place for them, for reasons that most people can't pick up on. From the time they are babies they have learned that people are unpredictable, that smells and sounds and tastes can be horrible for them but nobody else seems to underestand or get that, etc. And each time they were "forced" to endure such an environment, their Fight or Flight response became stronger such that the next time there is a seemingly small incident the child has an extreme reaction that leaves the parents frustrated and scratching their heads. Without validating the experience and working to "make it better", and especially if someone tries to just "get them to deal with it", the Fight or Flight response gets worse and worse over time.

 

By making her world as predictable as possible you will reduce her need to "defend" herself in this way (btw, she does not have any understanding that this is what she is doing). As you know, sh*t still happens and there are going to be times when she is just going to have to deal with it, so you are not putting her in some kind of bubble. But you want to reduce this unpredictability to let her Fight or Flight response calm down a bit. The less it is triggered, the better she will be able to slowly learn how to cope with such situations.

 

At the same time, have conversations with her (as lengthy as is appropriate for her age and development). Validate what she is feeling. "You are really worried right now about our change in plans. I know change is hard for you. I will keep you safe". Dialogue like that. Identify what is going on for her to give her language to use. As she gets older, explain what is going on inside her body "you are feeling frightened and it makes you want to yell at everybody. you can use your words. you can tell me this place is scary or smells bad and together we will work out a solution". etc. I spent much time working with DD and she was so relieved when I could help her identify what was going on for her (it also helps to remember, when they are freaking out, that they don't like feeling that way). Now if she starts to freak out I get her to take a deep breath, I say "something is making you anxious, what is it?" sometimes she needs a minute to figure it out (a great exercise for any person to do) but she will and she will tell me and then together we will "fix" the problem. It has made such a difference in our lives and also gives her the tools to cope as she gets more independent.

 

Anyways, I could go on forever, lol, but I'll stop here. HTH!

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Please do! Honestly this is so new to me -- all of it! Completely and utterly new. Also want to add we are away on vacation so our entire schedule is totally gone..

 

(Hence my seemingly not sensitive rant.) 

 

I know I need to be more compassionate. It's a wee bit hard because I feel like some days can be a struggle -- one thing I love about Waldorf is the rhythm, and when we have a strong one she does much, much better so that's something I want to work on. We homeschool and so having our days mostly planned out is important to me -- she loves asking what we are doing the night before, so showing her our chart would be great...

 

(literally as I said that, she popped up beside me and said let me share our plan for today! We will stay here at the beach house for an hour, go to breakfast, head to the beach, than go to dinner and do arcade! And than go to bed!) which is exactly our plan, so should be a relatively smooth day..my entire family is here and she's so happy. 

 

I also DO need to sit with her and talk it out more...I swear I get myself worked up because I have a toddler who's going through the terrible 3's, and some days I feel like my soul is getting sucked out with constant screetching, demands etc..I love my staying home gig but sometimes I wish the kids wanted someone else besides ME for all their need, you know? DD is actually a lot like me, so I can relate to some of her "quirks" 

 

Ok I'm a wee bit brain dead, it's so early here! I need more coffee, thank you so so much for responding. 

post #4 of 6

Piglet pretty much covered everything I was going to say!  So just 

post #5 of 6

I agree with everything Piglet said. Also, for my DD, sensory issues are often the key to very difficult behavior. My DD hates lighthouses. She really can't cope with the way if feels to be inside one, the steps, etc. It just bothers her in huge ways. (she was a teen before she could cope with escalators. She can do them now, but they still make her a bit nervous).

 

For most of her life, she lacked the ability to really explain what was going on with her or how she was experiencing the world, so she would freak out because she couldn't say, "mom, I really don't like the lighthouse. When I am inside it, my heart races and I feel very, very NOT SAFE. I know it is fun for you, but I really hate it." 

 

So my question is, has your DD seen an OT? Have you worked on developing a sensory diet? It most likely won't make your DD fine with everything in the world (mine isn't) but it will help her with lots of day to day stuff and help you understand her better.

 

For us, getting a handle on what was a sensory issue helped me model speech for my DD, and over a period of years, helped her develop the ability to  say what she was feeling rather than acting out.

 

But over the years, we have skipped a lot of stuff that didn't work for my DD because of her sensory issues. It's OK -- we did other things instead that were fun for all the members of our family.

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

She actually ended up going, and loved it -- she was under the impression it would be boring -- and of course we had veered off from the original plan, which she didn't like.

 

 

We are going to lunch, more later! 

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