Monday 29 June 2015

Stealth Autism

I often call Nathan my "stealth autism" child.  He seems perfectly fine and neurotypical until he hits something which drops him in his tracks.

With Nathan, this often happens around using screentime and transitions.  This weekend, he was due to go out with his Avi.  My dad usually takes one boy out for a few hours on the weekend to spend some time together.

I had to take Nathan with me to run errands in the morning and he'd had a good time, especially when we discovered a bouncy castle and dunk tank in the parking lot.  But it meant he didn't spend his morning playing video games or watching YouTube of people playing video games.  He'd been fine with the idea of going out in the afternoon until it hit him that he wasn't going to get screentime.

Then we got the excuses and tantrums.  He felt sick.  He felt tired.  He wanted to stay with Mommy.  It wasn't fair because Alex was going to get screentime and Nathan wouldn't.  If he went with Avi, he would never be allowed to have screentime again.

Dave doesn't have a lot of patience with Nathan when he starts up like this.  He sees it as an attempt to manipulate him.  I agree that it is not appropriate or helpful behavior, but I think there is genuine fear there which needs to be addressed.  (Daddy thinks I'm a sucker, I think he's too harsh ... feel free to weigh in with your own opinions.)

I'm sure plenty of kids throw tantrums when they don't get a treat they're expecting.  But most kids have an easier time transitioning from one set of expectations to the next, especially once they hit school age.  For Nathan, getting yanked out of one set of expectations raises anxiety that he won't be able to come back (this is my opinion).  We've known this is an issue for awhile, which is why we usually have him finish screentime a good 15 minutes before we expect him to do anything else.  That way he's got the mental time to shift gears.

Recently Nathan's been on a "it's not fair" kick.  He uses it to mean "I'm not getting what I want right now" and my attempts to explain that "fairness" doesn't mean getting what he wants are falling on deaf ears.  I'm trying to be sympathetic and acknowledge his disappointment, but sometimes I wonder if I'm just encouraging bad behavior instead of encouraging Nathan to be aware of his feelings.

Maybe I should just start with the expectation that life is not fair, especially by his definition.

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