Monday, 29 July 2013

Let him be

This is for my father-in-law. He won't read it, which is probably why I feel I can share this here.

 To his Grampa,

Today I was a coward. I watched you with your grandson, my little Monkey, and didn't interfere. He adores you, you know. He has been looking forward to this visit with growing impatience, and is thrilled to be here.

You sat with him while he watched TV. You sat, he did his own thing. He was really enjoying the show, Scooby Doo, I think, and began his usual exuberant run back and forth from his seat, flopping down to watch, jumping up in flapping, hooting excitement, running to the hall, running back to flop down again.

This is what they call in the autism world "stimming". Monkey's stims tend to be vigorous and physical, and a bit noisy. If you had a bouncier couch, he would probably be jumping on it like he does at home.

Every time he did this, you told him to settle down. When he didn't sit quietly to your satisfaction, you changed the channel. You did this, you said, because he was "overstimulated" and perhaps another program would be less so. Each program change was greeted with whimpers and protests from the Monkey, but he liked the next program you chose, so he settled to watch for a few seconds, before resuming his stimming.

Then you changed it again, same reason given. And again. Monkey grew increasingly confused and agitated. When the last kids' program you could find didn't "settle him down" you turned it to the news. Monkey broke down in tears. "Please my shows, Grampa" he pleaded. You said, "No, you are getting too hyper." "Sowwy, not do it again", his usual phrase when he knows an adult is displeased with his behaviour, whether he knows what he did or not.

I bit my tongue and didn't say what I was thinking. What I am writing now.

Let him be. Yes, he is excited. Why is that bad? He is not screaming or breaking things. He isn't slamming his head into the tiles hard enough to bruise. He isn't interfering with your enjoyment. He is being himself, with exuberant, unselfconscious joy. He does NOT need to settle down, relax, be quiet, be still. He needs to run, to laugh, to hoot, to flap and jump. He feels happy with his whole body, and his need to express it in an unusual way is not a problem.

We are working on "appropriate" behaviour. We try to make him understand that sometimes he needs to be quiet so as not to disturb others in their enjoyment of, say, a movie, or a meal in a restaurant. Yes, sometimes he needs to control himself.

But not here. Not when it's just him and his grandpa in the living room, watching a show he chose because he loves it. How can you not see the pleasure and joy in his stims? How can you stomp on the expression of pure excitement? He has plenty of time and places to practice fitting in, being respectful, being calm.

This isn't the time. This isn't the place. Just enjoy the moment. Watch him light up with happiness at watching a show with his grampa.

Just let him be.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Let's talk poop (or at least pee)

So, I am still a little nervous about saying it out loud.

I don't want to jinx it. Yeah, I know that's kind of dumb, but really, I am freaking out and holding my breath, and trying not to disrupt this latest development...

The Monkey is using the toilet.

On his own. Out of the blue, pretty much. He runs into the bathroom, pulls down his pants, undies and pullups, sits down on the toilet and pees.

Sure, we have been working on this for almost 4 years, and yes, we have bribed, encouraged, applauded, bribed, celebrated, cajoled and wheedled, set up schedules and toy boxes and iPad time and did I mention bribed him with promises of Hotwheels as a reward for a day of successfully keeping his pants and carpet dry. Nothing worked before. For a while, he would sit on the potty for half an hour with his iPad, then go to his bedroom to pee on the carpet. He would drop his drawers in the middle of the living room and watch with interest as puddles formed about his feet. We went through months of him screaming his head off at the mere mention of sitting on the potty.

There was a really fun interlude when he would lead me into the bathroom, sit on the toilet for a second, then jump up and pee on my leg, while laughing his ass off. It was at that point that I gave up for a while.

 Then a few days ago, he started just...going. On his own. Like it was no big deal. He would tell me of course, because by golly, he wanted his "stars" on the heretofore neglected potty chart.

He tells me "I pee" when we are in the supermarket and goes in the public toilet. He holds it until he gets there!
Okay, he still has his moments. He mistimed it a couple of times, and peed on himself and half the bathroom floor before he got into position on the toilet. But when he did this he was upset, and let me know. He has NEVER been honest about whether he has peed before. He isn't one of those ASD kids who can't lie (not to say he is all that good at it; he's still five). Now he is letting me know he has had an accident.

He still plays with his poop on occasion. He is not really interested in pooping in the toilet. (why waste good play material, right?)
But this. Potty training himself. This is huge.

Maybe there is hope for us as parents after all.