Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A Surprise From Camp

Last week, Nathan went to a day camp for March Break.  He did fairly well, a few temper tantrums, but nothing beyond the expected.  (We're still working on not hitting people when he gets upset, a slow process but one which is working.)

However, there was one incident which worries me.  Apparently, he went up to a group of girls and pulled down his pants.

Luckily, the girls didn't react and the counselors handled the situation appropriately.

I spend a lot of time trying to think and plan for different scenarios so that I can deal with them in a productive way when they happen.  Too often, a parental knee-jerk reaction will only make a situation worse or end up encouraging the behaviour. 

This wasn't one I'd worked on.

I've been reading some books on helping children with severe autism deal with sexuality, to help Alex with understanding puberty.  I didn't think I was going to have to apply those lessons to Nathan.

My first concern is trying to figure out why he would have done it.  Could one of the other kids have suggested it as a joke?  There were a number of older kids at the camp since the play time combined three different groups ranging from 5 to 12.  It couldn't have been an accidental exposure since he wasn't on his way to the bathroom or getting changed. 

If he thinks he's found a way to provoke a reaction from people, this could escalate quickly.  He's typical of children with autism that he has a hard time distinguishing between shock and amusement.  Since people often smile or laugh nervously when they're uncomfortable, someone with trouble reading social cues can believe they're amused.

I explained that his penis and bum were private and shouldn't be shown to other people.  In retrospect, I wonder if I made that too harsh, since eventually he will (hopefully) have romantic relationships and I don't want to make sex into something wrong or dirty.  But in the end, I've decided keeping it simple makes the message easier to understand.  I haven't suggested showing his privates is shameful or wrong, just socially inappropriate. 

It's something I'll have to keep an eye out for.

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