3 year old with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) Autism

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by steph3306, Jun 18, 2008.

  1. steph3306

    steph3306 New Member

    He is almost 4 but we are having a hard time with him. He started respirdal a couple months ago and that is helping with outburst a little bit. Our biggest problem is, is he will mind everyone but me and my husband. He is always yelling and screaming at us. He is very strong willed!! How do you discipline a child at this age. The punishments we have tried (time out) always lead to massive melt downs that can last up to thirty minutes. It is hard for us to take him somewhere because he wont listen to us and it is effecting our family(we also have a 6 year old). I was just wondering if anyone had any suggestions on how to discipline him. Thanks
  2. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    It would be a good idea to pick up a copy of The Explosive Child and adjust your strategies. Many of us have had good luck with this approach.
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Also, have a read of the threads on "The Explosive Child" at the top of this forum to get a few ideas on how we implement it for younger kids.

    Speaking from experience with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids and discipline - don't try. He will win. All his determination is focussed on getting what he KNOWS he must have, while only some of your attention is directed against this. The rest of your attention is spread over 'what are other people thinking?', 'what are we having for dinner?', 'how can I get the shopping/washing/doctor's appointment dealt with under these circumstances?'

    been there done that. In spades.

    Every time you fight a battle and lose, you lose a little bit more authority (assuming you ever had any with him - autistic kids do not see social standing as a rule, you often have to handle them very differently).
    So it is better to avoid the battles.

    But you can't let him run wild, I hear you say.

    True. But where possible, you redirect rather than block. Blocking is what HE does, and does so well. When you do it, he simply blocks back. And he's good at it.

    A kid with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can't be disciplined in the usual way because he doesn't think in the usual way. You may also be wanting things from him that he just can't give right now.

    For example - we could have punished difficult child 3 every time he failed to come when called. A lot of people would have. But what was in fact happening, was at that time difficult child 3 just didn't understand that he was being called. If we HAD punished him, he wouldn't have learnt about names any faster, but it would have confused him and made him angry.

    What you need to do is work out what it is you want from him. Don't worry about next week, next month or next year, just worry about NOW. He WILL improve, but he will improve faster if you can keep him calm and keep his anxiety/frustration under control.

    For example, if you are out somewhere in public and worried he will get lost, then there are several things you can do:
    1) stick a name tag on his back (sticky schoolbook labels - write his name, diagnosis and your mobile phone number). Put it on his chest if you can be sure he won't peel it off.

    2) Make a wrist tag for him - same details - that fastens with velcro and is semi-permanent. We had one for holidays, that difficult child 3 would only take off when he had a bath, and then it would be put on again immediately he was dry.

    3) strap him in somewhere, or put him on a leash. There are some fun accessories as well as some very practical ones. This one isn't good if he's a Houdini, as easy child 2/difficult child 2 was.

    4) If someone else can get better compliance from him, get THEM to handle him.

    5) Don't go out. Sometimes if the expectation/requirement is more than he can comply with, then you shouldn't expose him to it. Or expose him for only very small amounts so you can have a success. If every occasion is a failure, you will all come to expect failure and anticipation makes it very unpleasant.

    A person with autism learns a different way and thinks a different way. They are interested in different things, they value different things. They learn by the example you set, they do NOT learn by observation of what happens to others. it is all very personal, it all comes down to what they personally experience. If they do not get the connections between cause and effect, then they won't learn what you expect.

    This doesn't mean they are stupid - far from it. It's just that what you're trying to get through to them, is at that moment not on their agenda, anywhere. It's like talking to a government official from a totally different department to the topic you're trying to discuss.

    These kids model their behaviour on the way you treat them. So if you scream at them, scold them loudly, tell them they are infuriating, then at some future stage you will get exactly the same behaviour back. And then, when he screams at you, scolds you loudly and tells you that you are infuriating, you will see it as insolence. But it is not. In his mind, this is how people are supposed to behave.

    difficult child 1 has a really good friend from school who has Asperger's Syndrome. He was a big lad, tall and looked very strong. When he was 16 a lot of the teachers were afraid of him, with his size and expressionless face. A teacher told him (as they would tell any kid, "Pick up that piece of paper."
    And just stood there expressionless and said, "Say please."
    He was not being insolent. He was simply following the social rules he had learned.

    In the case of your son, the best thing you can do is avoid problems before they happen. This isn't always easy. If a discipline method is not working, then dump it. Punishment is generally a poor motivator anyway.

    What you have on your side - Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids generally are law-abiding (once they understand the laws) and want to please you. But that comes AFTER they have done what THEY want. So you need to make them want what you want. This is where natural consequences come in.
    Natural consequences - I use this example often. He wants to play in the snow, you want him to put a coat on first. If you make him wait while you fetch his coat you will probably have a meltdown. But if you don't make too big a fuss and instead back away from the argument before it gets to meltdown stage, then he will be more willing to change to your opinion when it becomes obvious that you have a point. THis is what we mean by Basket B - you back away from a meltdown and drop the subject, even though this is something you want him to comply with. Because if he rushes out into the snow without a coat, natural consequences will come in - he will feel cold. And if you are standing there holding his coat out for him, he will be grateful, and will be more likely next time to connect the dots when you say, "Please put your coat on so you won't be cold."

    If, on the other hand, you make a huge fuss about him putting his coat on, he MUST NOT go outside without it, and he throws a screaming rage, chances are he wouldn't admit in a million years if he felt cold.

    Giving way, and having natural consequences do the work for you, gets you the result you want without you being the ogre. It also gets the result you want without anyone getting too steamed ad in a way that boosts your authority, not weakens it.

    Too often we as parents get hung up on "Because I said so." We put too high a value on being the boss and insisting on our authority. But especially with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids, they don't recognise authority. They don't recognise status. They are true egalitarians. Everyone is equal. VERY equal. I said on another thread, that difficult child 3 talks to his 9 year old best friend in exactly the same manner as he talks to his high school principal. And exactly the same way he talks to me. Or his doctor. Or a stranger he meets at the mall and to whom he tells our family history.

    This can be a good thing. Surely we all believe in equality? The interesting thing is, we don't recognise it or understand it until we are living with it to this extent.

    You need to get inside your son's head, work out what he is thinking about , what he is wanting and why, because then you will have a better idea how to get what YOU want.

    It's also possible that he needs time and support to switch from what he is doing to what you want him to do. If he's playing with his toy cars and you want him to have his bath, you need to give him time to change from cars, to bath. He needs to feel confident that his cars will be ready to be left. He might be trying to get them all precisely lined up, and if you insist on bathtime compliance before the cars are properly lined up, he will fret and be upset.

    Think about it - he asks you to get him a drink, and you're busy unloading the washing machine. If you expect instant compliance in the bathtime routine, he will understandably expect the same response from you when he asks for a drink. When you fail to immediately stop unloading the washing machine in order to get him a drink, he will see this as very unfair.
    If, instead, you are teaching him that sometimes we need to wait and that also sometimes, we will give him time to be ready, he will better understand WHY.

    Can you see the logic in this? Because Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids are very, very logical - in their own way. There is always a reason, there is never anything random. But it is all according to THEIR standards, because especially when young they do not have theory of mind and they are very egocentric.

    difficult child 3 is now 14 years old. He is almost there now with theory of mind and is far less egocentric. A lot of people who get to know him at first find it hard to accept that he is autistic. He has skipped a number of discipline stages in some ways, and is still stuck at fairly basic levels in others. He is exceptionally bright and his self-esteem is improving. He has a remarkably good work ethic for a kid his age and is morally more upright than Billy Graham. I could leave him alone in a room with a bowl of sweets and tell him he must not eat any, and be extremely confident that he left them entirely alone.

    And that, too, is part of his autism. He is a good kid. As your son almost certainly is - or will be, as he learns to model his behaviour on the way you treat him.

    Welcome to the site, Steph. Get your husband to come here too, mine does and it helps us a great deal.

  4. steph3306

    steph3306 New Member

    Marquerite, that is one of the best explinations I have heard about my son from anyone. I guess since he is so smart I thought he was just being defiant towards us but maybe there are some things he isn't processing yet. I think that we think he is disrespecting us as parents when he is defiant like that but now that you have explained things differently I am understanding that he isn't being disrespectful he is just trying to process things. He was just recently diagnosed so we are still trying to learn how all this works and everyone I have talked to said every child is different.
    This morning we did have a break through. He was waiting on the bus and he got off the porch and I told him he need to sit back down or he was going to have to go in and wait on the bus. He sat down with no arguments. Normally he would have yelled no at me and ran down the road.
    I think I have became very frustrated and he is getting some of the yelling from me. Sometimes it is do hard not to let him upset me. I was raised by a yeller and so I see myself doing it and I try not to but he knows exactly what buttons to push.
    I like the idea of basket B. It makes since. But I thought if we didn't "make" him mind then we were just letting him get by with something. I think my husband and I are going to have to learn that he does have issues and we need to figure them out.
    My biggest questions is why does he mind others and not us? Are we doing something wrong?
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I think you and your husband are too familiar. He is used to you and feels safe with you. Our Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids have to put in a huge effort to "mind" people, and they can't keep it up all the time. They will tend to relax with people they feel safe with.

    It's actually a good sign - it's a sign that he knows he is safe with you. I don't know if he understands the concept of "love" yet, but in his own way he knows you love him.

    A very bright Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) child is usually described as having splinter skills. In decades past such kids were labelled savants. Like "Rain Man" (which is a very sanitised, artificial idea of autism). difficult child 3 has been described as having savant skills, although now he's older (and those skills were ignored by his school) these skills seem to blend into a more normal manifestation of a bright child. He still struggles when teachers expect him to be equally bright in THEIR subjects.
    Some things just take a lot longer with these kids. As difficult child 3 got older, he fell further behind his peers socially. He could still outstrip them in a number of academic areas but couldn't hold his own in a game of cricket.
    A possible example here - difficult child 3 was hyperlexic. He was probably reading letters/numbers before he was 12 months old. We just don't know because he was non-verbal - but letters & numbers would hold his attention more than anything else. By the time he could stand & walk, he would stand and watch the microwave oven count down the seconds before it beeped. About that time he was able to vocalise the numbers, and would count aloud. He was recognising individual letters and saying the names, at about the same time.
    And yet - he did not understand whole sentences. He could read aloud a piece of complex text, but did not have the language to be able to understand what he had just uttered.

    Another thing - even after he was talking well, he still found it confronting to watch a movie (including cartoons) that he had not already sat through. He wouldn't read a book he didn't already know. One day we made him come to the movies with us - the village "movie club" would meet in the school hall and we would all watch the movie of the month, with any kids present allowed to watch, or sleep on the gym mats we pulled out for them. difficult child 3 was about 9 years old and we were watching "Mars Attacks!"
    He was appalled, but tried to enjoy it. He couldn't take his eyes off the screen as he watched buildings demolished, people burned by death rays etc. We kept telling him, "It's only a movie. It's just pretend."
    Afterwards when we were all having coffee and biscuits, difficult child 3 kept asking, "How did they make that film? Were they able to put the buildings back afterwards that they broke?"
    Yes, honey. Or it wasn't the real building, it was a model."
    In difficult child 3's mind, it had been real. He then asked, "What about the people? What about the lady and her dog? Did they switch their heads back again after they finished the movie?"
    "HOney, they never had their heads swapped."
    "Yes they did, I saw it. But they didn't have to stay like that, did they?"

    At about this moment, husband & I started to feel dreadful. difficult child 3 had thought that actors actually allow such horrific things (including death by ray gun) to happen to them, because it's their job, and that people like us go to see this purely for the sake of entertainment. He was trying so hard to like it too, but really concerned for these poor people.

    So husband spent time with him, showing him the "Making of" special section in various DVDs so he could understand how certain effects were created. We had also done a Special Effects DVD a few years earlier at a Sydney museum, and we dug that out and showed him too.

    He's a very bright kid. He was talking fluently, he was reading fluently. We thought he understood what fiction was but he didn't. He must have thought we were callous and cruel, but as we were his parents he was determined to accept this about us and accept it with love.

    he is a truly amazing boy and we totally got him wrong. Can you imagine how this could really traumatise someone? And yet we discount it, because it didn't really happen. It only seemed to happen, in his mind. But to a child, "seemed to happen" and "happened" - there is no difference, in the impact it has on the child. That is why it is so important to understand the situation from your child's point of view, so you can know why they are upset, or afraid, or angry.

    You go to where your Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) child is, and start form there. You can then lead them into your world, instead of dragging them, unwilling.

    Think of how the best animal trainers work, then use the same techniques on your child.

  6. steph3306

    steph3306 New Member

    It sounds like are children are very much alike. He can say all his numbers(loves numbers), is starting to tell time, knows all the letters and they think he is even sight reading. But his conversations are more of what he has heard others say then his own thoughts. He is starting to have little conversation like I will ask what he does at school and he will say ate popcorn lol.
    My son will watch a movie and get up and rewind it over and over play by play until he has it memorized.
    He is absolutely amazing with a computer. At school they do a lot of his speech therapy on the computer because he is a whiz at it. He can almost do more than me and he is only 3. Today his behavior has been better but I had husband read what you had to say and I think we are looking at him differently know. I think you hit it right on when you said sometimes parents worry to much about what others are saying about us. We are going to start focusing on him and doing what is best for him. I can not believe how much you have opened my eyes and he has an ECD teacher, speech therapist, Occupational Therapist (OT), school psychologist, and a neurologist along with his regular doctor and none of them have explained things to us like this. I think we are making things harder on him because we are trying to act like he is "normal". I was really starting to think we were bad parents. Thanks for all the info and if you think of anything else we might need to know PLEASE let me know. Thank you so much!
  7. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    If he's sight ready you will want to do some more research on Hyperlexia. Many kids with the traits you're describing will respond better to printed language and you can use that to your advantage in issues like behaviors, training, etc.
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Steph, you said, "My son will watch a movie and get up and rewind it over and over play by play until he has it memorized."

    difficult child 3's best friend (also hyperlexic/high-functioning autistic, but several years younger) was doing the same thing. His father said to me, "The light's on but nobody's home. He just watches it over and over, he will stop and rewind and watch a bit again. And again. And you can't talk to him, it's like he's somewhere else."

    I explained that we had been though this too (still go through it now) and from what we had observed of difficult child 3 afterwards (months/years afterwards) he is studying the film, the text, the dialogue, the body language - all trying to understand the interactions. Basically, he's studying humanity. Social skills. In his own way, the kid is swotting for the biggest exam of all - life.

    If your son is doing this, it is really good news. It means that deep down inside he wants to blend in, to seem as normal as possible, and is studying hard so he can imitate it convincingly.

    However - never forget that even (in years to come) when he seems normal, he is not. He never will be. He will just be very skilled at SEEMING normal. But it will be taking a lot of mental effort to do this, more than it will seem, and as a result he will be more likely to have problems with anxiety and stress. All you need to do to help him at this stage, is be aware of this and support him when that time comes.

    What is interesting about this with difficult child 3 - he prefers to watch TV with subtitles. He understands it much better. A DVD that can be watched with subtitles seems to be much easier for him to understand, even though his hearing checks out as very good indeed.

    But it seems that he needs to experience the package deal - the LOOK of the words, the SOUND of the words, the CONTEXT in which the words are used and even the body language. The plot - not important. Eventually some of the plot seeps into his brain though.

    I've also observed difficult child 3 using slabs of text from a movie (or computer game) in life contexts. The classic example was when he was about 9 years old and I let him go to the local library on his own. He decided to run (time was moving, but he also was nervous about meeting bullies). On the way, a local lad who had been mean to difficult child 3 in class began to chase him and call out something (difficult child 3 could either not remember, or didn't want to upset me by telling me what it was).
    difficult child 3 turned and said to the boy, "I can't stop right now, I'm really busy. Can I come back and ignore you later?"

    He said the other boy just stopped in his tracks and stared. By the time difficult child 3 returned from the library, the boy was nowhere to be seen.
    I asked where he got the phrase from, he mentioned a certain computer game.

    difficult child 1 does similar things - he remembers comedy routines, jokes, funny expressions from things he's seen, heard or read, then trots them out in context. He can be very quick. A local comedian dropped in to visit one day and tried to match difficult child 1 joke for joke. I had to send difficult child 1 out of the room because the comedian was getting too demoralised and I didn't want to antagonise him any further.

    So, if your son is doing this of his own volition, then he is looking for what he feels he needs. Let him. Watch what he seeks out, make notes, observe his reactions, ask him why he likes it this way but don't stop him.

    difficult child 3 was about 8 when we were able to finally explain to him about autism. Because by then he was amazing with computers, I explained it in terms of computer function. I said that if a text file has been written and formatted on a computer and then sent to the printer, what comes off the printer is indistinguishable from a similar document written, formatted and printed off another. A easy child or a Mac -it makes no difference which one was used, you can't tell when you look at the final document. BUT - the software needed to 'tell' each computer HOW to do it, will be very different. The Mac software won't work on the easy child, and the easy child will also have been programmed using different language.
    I said people's brains are similar - some people have Mac brains, some people have easy child brains. They are equally capable but need different programming in order to be able to do the job equally well. I didn't specify who was Mac or who was easy child, I also made no statements about people being better or worse. There ARE problems encountered in life when you are autistic; but there can also be gifts, too, strengths, characteristics, qualities, values which are not found as often or to the same extent in PCs unless they really work at it. And you can't have the good stuff without the difficult stuff too. That goes for everybody.
    It was only a few months later, still aged 8, when difficult child 3 said to me, "I'm getting very good at pretending to be normal."

    So although I say that my Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids will always be Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), we do not necessarily view this as a handicap. It IS officially a disability, but "handicap" refers to how this can impede our lives if we let it. An amputee skier competing in the Winter Paralympics may be disabled, but is not necessarily handicapped. Interestingly, an amputee runner has just been given permission to compete with able-bodied athletes in the Summer Olympics in Beijing. He is disabled, but not handicapped.

    WHen you can, look up whatever you can find written by Tony Attwood. He says some wonderfully positive things about Asperger's kids (and high-functioning autistic kids). We found it very encouraging and very empowering. We particularly took on board the information about their honesty, their loyalty, their insistence on rules being followed. Their sense of equality (to extreme levels) can be what some people interpret as insolence or rudeness, it takes them a lot of practice to learn to be more appropriate because politeness IS complex. It is also not always honest (think about it).

    They CAN lie, but they're not good at it and they don't like how it makes them feel. Over time, they learn it's better not to lie. They also learn (similarly) that they feel happier and less stressed when they follow rules. They will develop their own understanding of rules, though, based on their observation of human interactions. For example, at difficult child 3's first school there was a strong rule (on paper) that it was wrong to hit others. difficult child 3 knew this was one of the school rules. But when teachers weren't looking, other kids would hit him. However, if he hit them back (often when a teacher WAS looking; or maybe the teacher was told later on) then difficult child 3 would get into trouble. So in difficult child 3's mind, the rule REALLY was, "Other kids can hit me, but if I hit back I will get into trouble."
    He also learned (unfortunately) that there was a sequence to the events. First there would be name-calling ("What ARE ya? Ya dork. Ya freak. Ya retard..." and worse). Then would come the hitting.
    We changed schools and about a week later, there was jostling as the kids went out to lunch. The other kid turned and shouted at difficult child 3, "Get out of my way, freak!"
    difficult child 3 turned and looked at him. Then said, "Come on, you're going to hit me now. Well, do it!"
    The other kid, to his credit (and also knowing that at THIS school hitting by anybody WAS dealt with) ran and got the principal. The boy thought that difficult child 3 was goading him to a fight. In fact, difficult child 3 was just saying, "First comes the name calling, then the hitting. I just want it over with. So hurry up and hit me, so I can be finished with this interaction sooner."

    You son sounds like he's progressing very well. In fact, he sounds further ahead than difficult child 3 was at this age. Encourage him. Make sure he is never bored, always has plenty of stimulating activities to choose form. Let him choose (where possible).

    Also, start making enquiries about early intervention, where to start school, HOW to school him and how to keep him safe.

    He needs to experience the rules, in order to develop his own sense of them. Once there, he will adhere to those rules more tightly than most kids. You will also have to adhere to the rules - do not show him double standards.

    Where we are now - difficult child 3 studies by correspondence. The school posts work to him, he does it, I sign off on it and post it back. difficult child 3 is motivated to do well and I can now leave him alone and know he will continue working in my absence and won't even THINK of turning on the games. This is because we set rules in place and showed him that these rules work and will help him do well. If he fails to do the work, HE will suffer for it and nobody else. And the work won't go away, it will still have to be done.

    You sound like you and your husband are really getting a handle on him, fast. How has the lad's behaviour been in the last few days? Is he beginning to show some improvement in his interactions with you? Are you feeling a bit more comfortable about his behaviour?

    I suspect things are turning around slowly. I hope so.

    Read The Book. It helps a lot.