Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Striving For Independence

One of the great fears I've had as a parent to an autistic child is my sleep-stealing worry that my sons may not be able to live independently.

This may sound like a helicopter parent's dream come true but I'm not a helicopter parent by nature.  And frankly, I don't think most of them would like to truly believe their child was incapable of independence.

It's always been a delicate dance of pushing them towards independence but also recognizing that some things are harder for them.  Take what should be a relatively simple task: getting Nathan to zip up his coat by himself.

Next year Nathan will be in grade 1 and there will no longer be a solicitous teacher there to help him with his gear.  For the most part, he's quite good about getting everything on and in the right order.  But he won't zip up his coat most of the time.

He will do it if he's excited about where he's going, which tells me he's capable of it.  But most of the time, he wants someone to do it for him.  I think it's part of an emotional test: if you help me, you must care about me.  He's quite anxious about being accepted and liked and tests a lot of boundaries to make sure people like him.  (It may sound contradictory but it's actually fairly common, especially among younger siblings.)

I find myself walking the fine line of making him do things himself while still making him feel loved and cared for and special.  Sometimes I flub the balance.  But I'm trying to get it right.

This drives my husband nuts.  His psychological motto is: just get him to do it so we can get going.  He sees my reassurances as encouraging Nathan in his non-cooperative behaviour.  He might be right but my instincts tell me that pushing too hard will shatter the security Nathan will need to move forward.  I think that being harsh will only encourage more "helpless" behaviour as Nathan seeks to soothe himself.

It's a tricky situation.  Most of the time I respect my husband's views on the children.  Since he has Asperger's, he can sometimes be faster at picking out what's bothering them.  I always take his recommendations seriously.  But sometimes, I have to stick with what I believe is right.  It's rare that we both feel strongly about an issue and have opposite views on how to accomplish it.

We both want the same thing: for our children to be independent and happy.  Unfortunately, there's no way to know which one of us will be right until it's too late to do anything about it.

No comments:

Post a comment