Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Is it autism...?

Not a post about diagnosis denial (a whole other ball game for a whole other holiday weekend), but a question about behaviour.

Today, I met with Billy's teacher to talk through where we are at, and where we want to be in the future. The good news is, we are in agreement that there are accommodations we can make to ensure that Billy is healthy, we are pointing in the right direction for wealthy and all of us feel a little tiny bit wise.

We're going to play around with contact hours again. We're going to set up some new home/school communication strategies and do some much needed in-service. All good.

What's interesting (to a nutcase like me, at least) is the question of behaviour. More specifically, the behaviour of an autistic child in a mainstream setting. Even more specifically, can one ascribe similar motivations and precedents to the behaviour of a child on the spectrum as you can to a neurotypical child's behaviour?

Just a small question to ponder when you know you should be doing more productive things like working or laundry or Christmas shopping or finding the Wiki-Leaks guy.

The great classroom re-decoration of my last post was, in my mind, 100% a result of sensory overload.

In the eyes of hippy school staff, classrooms have been being re-decorated since the first hippy kicked off their shoes and picked up the school guitar. It happens. And it's all a journey, and the important thing is to embrace the teachable moment and move forward.

I love those eyes. I really do, and I agree with them too. But... in autism terms, I can't help thinking we're missing something.

Without trying to (because I know I am gong to anyway) sound like an in-denial parent,  Billy is not the sort of kid who breaks stuff. He has seriously never broken a toy. Seriously. He has broken a few things that have been bought for him that are not technically toys (like Hornby Thomas trains), but seriously the most careful trainspotter could break one of those by looking too closely at it. Billy is not a breaker. He would rather not use something than risk its well being (not necessarily a laudable personality trait in itself, but hey, it saves on clean up costs).

So, the trashing of another class's entire library and toy collection... it's unusual.

Today, I learned he has also taken to throwing rubbish bins down a set of steps, crashing people's lego collections and attempting to empty heavy containers of powder dye onto the floor.

And I know you autism folk are following me down this logical sensory path... he is seeking heavy work, proprioceptive feedback, controlled auditory input... right?

Or... he's being a troubled little shit, hell bent on destroying other people's stuff, getting attention, taking his frustrations out on people who have smote his name (is that even a word?)...

Is it just me?

I just can't see my kid being worried about being smoted... smoot... smod...? He been angry maybe twice in his life. He is not a fan of the dark side. He seriously is the Dalai Lama. I'm not saying he can't be naughty. I'm not saying he's perfect (though seriously, have you seen his little face...?)

I am saying forces that are barely controllable by him (yet) are behind his need to chuck stuff at school. In my opinion at least.

My theory? Give the boy a break. Reduce sensory input where possible. Increase sensory activities to encourage better regulation and appropriate registration. And he will chuck less and focus more.

Or... not. And, if not, I pack up my Birkenstocks and head for the hills.

Because, and this is the serious bit that I said to his teacher today, Billy has enough to handle.

We are reconciled to the autism, and will do everything we can to allow him to advocate for himself, now and as he grows. He has a whole lifetime to live. The autism is as much a part of him as his height, his gender, his eye colour, his endearing sense of love and justice. We can acknowledge, accept, accommodate and a bunch of other 'a' words. He's always going to be different (and not less). It's reality. We've got the t-shirts. We're into it.

But, we do not want to have him known as the destructive kid too. Because it is our firm belief he is not that. Or at least, that is not an intrinsic part of him. Yet.

However, if we handle the next few years badly, it could become a part of him - a way for him to be seen and heard, a way to communicate...  and that just seems like a dumb mistake.

I have made some pretty dumb mistakes in the past (mostly involving doing shots after a night of drinking something tequila doesn't like much or buying a car purely because it had intermittent windscreen wipers... in the 80s... it was cool...) but I'm thinking buying Billy a Bam-Bam costume for a school uniform will not be one of them.

Though... it would be cute... have you seen his little face...?


fiona2107 said...

Both of my boys....rough as guts.
They break literally everything that's ever given to them.

Not deliberately.....they are just rougher than they realise. They still seem surprised when things actually fall apart in their hands!

If our teachers were telling us about bins being thrown down stairs and rooms being redecorated....I'd roll my eyes and say "leave it with me" whle sighing the heavy sigh that I'm so practiced at!

But Billy....if his seven short years have had no other episodes of this kind of behaviour.....I'm going for the sensory overload as well.

I'm guessing that he's had enough of school!

And yes.....I've seen his face......he is an angel!

K- floortime lite mama said...

you are SPOT on with your instincts
what you are describing is really a child who needs a sensory diet
I wish all parents of auties knew the difference between sensory seeking and bad behavior
Becasue if you diagnose incorrectly - you will solve incorrectly as well

Jenni said...

Sounds like that kid is so overwhelmed that he can't stand it. I am glad his teacher seemed to listen a little bit. It would be a pity to ruin that beautiful boy by letting him be overstimulated and overworked like that.

Lisa said...

I think you're right on track, Val.
School/society has expectations based on year level/age. These change, and sometimes there are fairly big jumps in expectations. Oh, and the line of change is not linear either - it's more exponential.
With kids who are developing differently, there are and will be times where they are not matching the expectation level. 'Behaviours' result!

There's a reason why kids on the Aspergers part of the spectrum are diagnosed so late - in the early years, they are verbal and quirky and can more-or-less cope with the expectations, but as the expectations change dramatically in mid- to late- primary, many of them fall in a heap.

Keep walking the tightrope between pushing Billy to improve and develop, and protecting him from being overwhelmed!

This comes to you with perfect 20/20 hindsight. Foresight would've been much better :)