After Little Man’s episode yesterday, and the subsequent fallout/parental discussions that went on last night, I went to bed sad and a little angry. I woke up angry, frustrated, and wiped out. For those newer to the Herd, Little Man is high-functioning autistic.
Spouse and I had a long conversation last night. We know there is a fine line between the meltdowns and tantrums Little Man cannot control, and him being smart as a whip and knowing how to manipulate situations. As for what happened at school yesterday, we have no doubt he was upset about something, but, being unable to properly verbalize, he plays a trump card he knows will get him what he wants, or remove him from something he doesn’t want to do. Does that make sense? I may be ruffling some autism parent feathers with that, but this is our reality. He’s an eleven year old who is bloody brilliant, but whom also has the social and emotional skills of a five year old. It’s a sticky situation. We agreed, to a certain extent last night, we have enabled him to hold our household, our family, hostage. Its affecting his siblings in ways which are completely unfair to them. Some changes need to be made. Yes. he’s autistic. That’s not going to go away. He will always be autistic. We’re going to work on the manipulation part of it. It’s time to stop letting it control our entire family.
We don’t pretend to have the answers. But I’ve always said I would tell it like it is when it comes to our autism reality. There are times we don’t take him places because a) we know he doesn’t want to go; and b) we know he will do everything in his power to make it miserable for everyone. Yes, sometimes it is because it’s overwhelming for him, and I would never put him in a situation that would force him into meltdown on purpose. I’m talking a car ride to take his sister to the dance studio, or dinner out, or running into the grocery store to pick up milk. There are the weekend days I will stay home with him while Spouse, the Princess, and Big Man go to the beach, the gym, or the movies, because it’s easier than making him go, even when we know he generally ends up enjoying whatever activity we’ve chosen. As far as his siblings are concerned, he gets his way and we cave whenever he has a meltdown or tantrum. Whether that’s true or not, that is their experience, their belief, their reality. And it isn’t fair.
No one ever told me autism was going to be fair, but I can’t let it continue to hold our household hostage. There are days I’m exhausted from fighting and managing, but as with most parenting, what’s right isn’t usually the easiest path. I’ve a call into his psychiatrist to get him back in therapy for awhile. He does have some pragmatics to work on. We have a plan to do a better job getting him out of his hideaway and involved in the family activities. Spouse intends to spend more time with him. And we both need to do a better job of changing the perception of how things are for the Princess and Big Man.
Edited to add: I know we can’t parent the autism out of him. Trying to do so moves us backwards to pre-diagnosis days. We can, and plan on, using therapy and management techniques at home more so as not to let it continue to rule our home and family life.