Need help with an autistic teen

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by MistyDW, Nov 14, 2009.

  1. MistyDW

    MistyDW New Member

    Greetings, my name is Misty and I'm hoping the community here can help me with a problem.

    I am the stepmom of a 14 year old highly functioning autistic teenage boy. Adam can be a very loving child; however, his father and I have been having significant behavior problems with him in regard to disrespect.

    Adam has difficulty accepting the fact that we are the adults and he is the child going as far as to try to tell us what we are and are not going to do, etc. We've tried several methods including taking away items (which doesn't seem to bother him at the time), talking to him at length, etc. He often apologies after the fact but may be back at it an hour later. This creates a lot of strife in our home.

    Everything is a fight. Asking him to do the smallest thing can set off this belligerent behavior. We can go out of our way to do things for him but it is unappreciated. He has stated many times that it is "my job" to take care of him. I've gone out of my way for him, time and time again, and am met with contempt more times than not.

    Needless to say, this causes issues between my husband and I. He tends to be more lenient until he isn't able to take it anymore. Each morning is a fight to get Adam up, showered, dressed, fed, and out the door in time for the bus. He insists on being exceptionally slow and dilly dallies as if he is intentionally trying to be late.

    As a final note, here is an example. Adam doesn't get to see his grandparents very often now that school has started. He lived with them off and on throughout much of his life until my husband and I got together. They refused to discipline him and often fought my husband when he tried to correct adam so he has developed a lot of bad behavior as a result, but he loves his grandparents dearly. We had a horrible last few days with Adam and his defiance issues. Clearly he didn't care what we took away from him but he desperately wanted to see his grandparents. We had arranged for him to spend this weekend with him. It got so bad before taking him over there that had it been up to me, he wouldn't have went. I didn't want to deprive him of this, but there was nothing else I could think of that would make him realize the severity of his behavior. My husband didn't want to be the bad guy and cause strife with his parents, so Adam went.

    Thanks for your help. I love Adam, he can be a joy, but I don't know how much longer I can keep reaching out to a child that is so defiant.
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I have a son with Aspergers. He isn't defiant, but we are VERY aware of his disorder and he has had interventions, therapy, lots of help. Has Adam? Kids with Aspergers are wired differently. Many think of all people as the same because they don't "get" social norms. He probably sees you as his peer and I'm not sure you can change that other than to learn to deal with him in a different way. You can't discipline an Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) child the same as you discipline a "typical" child and get the same results. The morning rituals are common with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids. They like to do everything the very same way, day after day. Maybe he is having problems at school. Some Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids are tortured at school or, at least, teased. We were son likes school and the kids are nice to him, but...

    Do you know a lot about autism? High functioning or not, it is debilitating on many levels. I have a friend with a thirty year old son who has Aspergers Syndrome. His IQ is 160. He has no common sense and has never been able to keep a job, not even as janitor. He doesn't "get" that you can't tell your boss exactly what you think. He has no idea of how to "play the game" of life. He was very defiant as a teen, yet he is the sweetest person I ever met, except maybe for my son. My friend did not understand he had Aspergers when he was a teen or she would have handled him better. Although he has taught himself three languages and is brilliant, he is on disability and child like in many ways. He married, but his wife is more like his mother.

    I personally think it is cruel to keep an Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kid from grandparents who obviously love him. Social issues are the core problem with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The kids rarely have many friends, if any. Many are very lonely. I wouldn't keep him from grandparents, unless they were abusive.

    I would call your local Autism Society (or nearest) to see if there is anyone you and hub can see to explain the best way to deal with an Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) child.These kids think out-of-the-box and it is not their faults. I think perhaps hub understands that his son is a very different type of kid so that's why he is more lenient.

    Good luck, whatever you decide to do.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2009
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Good on you for trying to reach out.

    You said,
    I'm sorry to have to tell you - you cannot discipline this out of him. As you have already discovered, it just doesn't work.

    When you think about it, we teach our children that all are born equal, then we go and sabotage that by insisting that there are class distinctions according to a person's age, their position in the group (ie teacher vs student, parent vs child) and even gender (yes, it still makes a difference especially when taking your car to a mechanic!)

    The truth is - we're not all born equal. But autistic kids find this too difficulta lesson to learn easily.

    I'm sorry to tell you - but in this case, the grandparentsand your husband are closer to the truth. You're still thinking of this kid in terms of "normality" and his brain simply isn't wired that way. Now, in your defence - I suspect grandparents and husband didn't actually develop any formal strategies, they just took the line of least resistance. With autistic kids this can often work out purely by luck to being close to the best way to handle them.

    What these kids desperately crave -

    * sameness.
    * Uniformity.
    * a chance to be left to their own devices to do what THEY want to do.
    * To fit in somehow.

    What these kids have that "normal" kids don't have, to the same extent:

    * loyalty.
    * rule-following (the rules as they understand them to be)
    * an intense ability to focus on what they are especially interested in (computer games, in our family)

    What these kids have great difficulty with:

    * recognising the difference between people, especially in how to treat people
    * change, especially sudden change imposed from without
    * understanding subtleties, especially in non-verbal communication

    Because these kids are so different (but in subtle ways) andalso because the brighter of these kids will more rapidly adapt and mask thier condition, it can be very difficult, especially if you've come later to the situation, to work out the best way to manage them. What works best for me is to always bear in mind the ultimate goal of any parent - to raise the child to be independent, happy, functioning, productive members of society.
    Now, the usual methods of achieving this are the ways we were raised. But often these methods will only make a kid like this more difficult to handle.

    We need to find a better way. Luckily for you, many of us have been there before you. We've also found things that work for us and also work for other people.

    These kids are not easy. But it can be a lot easier.

    What I suggest you do:

    1) Get a copy of "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene. It's not specifically about autistic kids, but about a wider range of kids who, for varying reasons, need a different approach. This approach may seem anarchic to someone used to a firm hand as the best method, but trust me - it works. And think about it - what other choice do you have? ANY discipline method that isn't working, is only causing more harm. You should only ever fight battles you know you can win. This is something your husband and his parents have already learned, if not consciously.

    2) Recognise that no matter how it feels, this is NOT disrespect, not as you know it. DO NOT REACT. There are better ways to teach respect. More effective ways. In fact, iin general - DO NOT USE FORCE WITH THESE CHILDREN. They will win. Trust me on this. Their singlemindedness is their strength and they are very strong indeed.

    3) Do to get. Most people view this as the child needing to earn their way, but with autistic kids you need to do it the other way - these kids are mimics. The brighter ones especially. They will copy the behaviour of other people aorund them. I'm betting this kid has a phonographic memory for movie scripts or similar, which he actually uses to pepper his conversations. They often learn from what they see. I remember difficult child 3 as a very young child watching movies (with subtitles on) over and over. He would play a scene, rewind it and play it agian. And again. He memorised scripts. He would quote large chunks of them. But then he began to use phrases appropriately. For him, movies had been his schoolroom in life.

    What we have found - if husband gets firm with him, scolds and tries the "Because I said so!" approach, he meets fierce resistance. Generally whatever it is he wants done, doesn't get done. But if we try a different manner towards him, we are in fact setting the example for him. These kids will give back what they get, in terms of behaviour form people. A teacher's way of talking to difficult child 3 will show difficult child 3 how that teacher expects him to behave. At least, in his mind that's how it works.

    And in fact, that is how it happened. We found the teachers who were constantly calm with difficult child 3 and didn't react, were the ones who he learned to be polite to. But a teacher who was rude or sarcastic to him would get that right back. It's not insolence or disrespect, it actually is imitation.

    The best thing you can do for these kids is to gently, slowly, teach them how to interact with other people in ways that will be acceptable. They KNOW they get it wrong and they find it frustrating that they don't always realise this. If difficult child 3 says something in a tone of voice which someone has found distressing, we gently tell him, "That didn't sond right." We can even say now, "That didn't sound respectful."
    At first he used to get defensive. "I wasn't being disrespectful!" because in his mind, he wasn't. So we simply said (calmly) "I didn't say you weRE disrespectful, only that it didn't sound it. A better way to say what you did would be, '...' " and then we'd rehearse it with him.

    A teacher at school (when difficult child 3 was 5 years old) had been warned to not make any sudden loud noises close to difficult child 3. But she clearly thought she knew better and one day suddenly began ringing a handbell right behind him. difficult child 3 turned and shouted at her (because he had been startled). He yelled, "EXCUUUSE ME!!!"
    The teacher (who most of the kids were scared of) replied with, "No, you're supposed to excuse me!" but by this point difficult child 3 had turned his back and walked away, leaving this teacher looking very foolish in front of a playground full of kids. This teacher relied on her "firmness" to keep control of the kids. With difficult child 3, this was the wrong approach.

    Now, difficult child 3 has made it clear to me - he adores every teacher he's ever had. And in a few years, he even had this same teacher as his class teacher. Simply because teir role is to teach him, he likes them. Frankly, by this stage I was NOT liking this teacher and clashed frequently with her over her bad handlnig of difficult child 3. But he was untouched by any of this, also untouched by her attitude to him. He still would have seemed disrespectful to her, simply because her way of speaking to kids was to always use withering sarcasm. So she got the same stuff back - to difficult child 3, she was setting the standard for behaviour.

    You should never use sarasm with these kids - they have enough trouble understanding communication, without it being made even more confusing. It's easier to take things at face value.

    Don't assume that because a child is bright, that he can understand subtleties. In English class last year, difficult child 3 had to answer questions about a piece of text such as, "What do you think Jake thought about Bill's actions?" The trouble with this is, difficult child 3 could tell you what HE thought about Bill or about Jake, but couldn't get inside the head of another character. it connects to Theory of Mind. Now, difficult child 3 finally does understand Theory of Mind in general, but the fine detail of it is still challenging for him. We're hoping that giving him a year off the subject will mae it easier for him to cope.

    The irony is - in his best subject, he gets full marks. If he has enoguh time to do the work, he gets full marks (except in humanities and English). He's a bright kid. With coaching, he can 'get it'. But left to his own devices, he can't understand.

    We do have trouble at times with difficult child 3. he interrupts (although is trying to learn) and gets frustrated because he doesn't know how to merge into a conversation. he also doesn't know how to converse. He's learning but it's difficult. He gets angry and shouts when things don't work. He sometimes gets violent and swears. But he is a lot better overall. We've found we do best (and he learns more about how to behave) if we can keep him calm and prevent a tantrum.

    Once difficult child 3 gets enraged, any opportunity to learn is lost. Even when he calms down, he still feels righteously indignant. But if we can prevent it getting that far, we do a lot better. And he learns more from it.

    And that is the important thing - to help our kids learn.

    The thing I have found most fascinating, from using "Explosive Child" - it seems to bypass a step in personal development and these kids learn to use their stubbornness to develop self-control.

    The trick is - you use the techniques in the book to become the supporter and facilitator for the child instead of the obstacle. Think from the child's point of view, get into the kid's head and try to find ways that will work within his limitations.

    One method that has worked for us, especially with teens, is the flatmate approach. we will take a lot more from our friends than we will from our kids. And to an autistic kid especially, this seems unfair. So try treating the child as a flatmate who needs to share equally in the running of the household. We used tis approach to work alongside the child in them lerning the basic household skills (washing, cleaning, mending, cooking, shopping). I find we do best if difficult child 3 & I are both doing the same task at the same time. I will help himdo a chore as long as he helps me. We make it a fun experience, cracking jokes or playing games as we go. Of course he will sometimes be resistant because these kids don't cope well with change (another thing that needs to be handled differently).

    To other people it looks like we're giving way to him all the time. We are not. And the measure is the eventual outcomes. He is learning, he is improving. You can't say things like, "He should be doing better at his age," because such things don't count with a difficult child. They will get there eventually, but of course will take longer. You have to respect this.

    Anyway, stick around, we're here to help. let us know how you're getting on. If you can get your husband to lurk here also, it should help.

  4. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    MWM is right on many levels. Part of the problem that the world has with people with Asperger's is that the Aspie truly does not understand that some people have authority over others, especially when they are in the "others" group.

    Parents, teachers, other kids, they all seem the same to many people with autism spectrum disorders. "Normal" punishments and consequences do not work. (been there done that so many times I ripped up 3 tshirts because they were so worn out!)

    For my Aspie we had to explain school and work as a game of sorts. Play the game and get happy parents and good grades and privileges. Play the game and get rewarded at work by having a job and getting paid to do it.

    Chances are very high that your Aspie does NOT mean to be defiant, but is actually not "getting" the concept of peers and authority. It will be very slow going to explain this to him and to then get him to put it into actions.

    Whatever your plan you MUST take teeny tiny baby steps.

    Withholding visits with the grandparents is cruel, in my opinion. He NEEDS them, that totally unconditional love. He also may see them more as parents than he sees you and husband. Esp as you are the stepmom. Hopefully you and husband can work WITH the grandparents to encourage changes in your difficult child's life. It will take a LOT of openness, talk, and encouragement for your difficult child to make progress. But it CAN be done.

    many hugs for each of you.
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Marg and Star, you really explained things so well!!!

    Kudos to both of you.

    To expect an Aspie to act like a "normal" kid and respond to "normal" discipline will result in more acting out and failure. To parent an Aspie, one needs to become an expert on the disorder and a teacher as well as a parent. It takes a ton of work and is not easy, but is very rewarding. My son, through mimicking, has understood now who the authority figures are he chooses to be respectful. If he chose not to, nothing could make him do it as he doesn't understand social norms (although he does try).

    Aspies tend to also be very sensitive. My son will be hurt three days after we "yelled" at him. We NEVER yell at him!!! He thinks any sort of criticism is yelling and we have learned how to get his mind unstuck so that he knows we love him. If you can't be flexible with your stepson, failure is assured. You have to start to think of him as a child with a difficult disability that you, as the adult, have to learn how to help. Otherwise, you will not understand and could grow to dislike him and leave the family. Few adults chose their spouses over their children, nor do I feel should they.
  6. MistyDW

    MistyDW New Member

    Adam does VERY well in school. We have him in a special needs school at the moment, but he has been doing so well they are talking about moving him to a regular school (special classes of course). So we are very proud of him in that regard.

    The problem is when he comes home, he's a totally different kid.

    A lot of what you've described sounds very much like Adam. He's very fond of repeating things he hears and I often find myself talking to him about interrupting conversations, etc. He does have a great deal of common sense issues. And through reading other posts, I know now that I need to be as clear as possible when providing him direction.

    The issue with the grandparents is that they favor Adam over all of their other grandchildren. So much so that at Christmas, he will get an $800 gift while the others get $100 gifts (to spite my husband and I discouraging them from behaving this way). They believe that he can do no wrong and that his Autism excuses every bad behavior. Many times, my husband has attempted to correct Adam in their home and they verbally attack him in front of Adam. This has led Adam to believe that his GPs have authority over his dad & I. The GPs were also guilty of punishing Adam's sister every time Adam did something wrong. If Adam and his sister were at their Aunt's home and Adam misbehaved and was sent home, they would insist that his sister be sent home as well. Fortunately, my husband and I no longer live in the same neighborhood as his parents, but we are dealing with the residual effects of years of Adam being put on a pedestal. He believes that he can curse at us and we have no right to tell him what to do. That it's our job to walk behind him and clean up after him, do everything he expects of us, when he expects it.

    I did not WANT to deprive him of the visit to the grandparents. I knew that was cruel, but his behavior tends to get much worse after visits with them and after the issues we've had with him recently, I questioned not only rewarding bad behavior by allowing him to visit them, but the repercussions.

    Finally, I am keenly aware that I am a stepmom, however, my husband doesn't work and I have willingly supported him and his children for many months. I think of them as my own. Their mother is a problem case and the children often complain about not wanting to be with her. I've tried to fill the void for them. I do know that when Adam was originally diagnosed as a small child, he did go through a lot of therapy. I'm just trying to catch up so that I know how to handle him. What we're doing now isn't working.
  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Do you understand what autism is? It's interesting to read about it. If he is disabled enough to need a special school, he is really struggling. Many Aspies are book smart. You can't correct an Aspie in the same way you correct a typical child.

    As for the grandparents, my guess is that they feel for him. I feel an extra soft spot for my son too. Life is harder for him. If the grandparents favor him, in my opinion, they are doing it out of compassion. In his life, not many people WILL cut him a break. He may never be independent and it won't be the fault of his father or grandparents.

    in my opinion, it would be helpful for you to go to therapy to learn about autism and how to handle autistic children. I'm not talking about school. I'm talking about at home. in my humble opinion, and I don't mean this in a disrespectful way, but I think it's probably you who doesn't get it maybe because you came into this late. But you can learn about it and perhaps become more tolerant of him.

    I have nothing to say about you supporting the family. It's nice that you do it, but that doesn't give you the right to tell the family how to raise their boy in my opinion (others may disagree with me). I feel that the steps should bow out and let the parent do the disciplining. My own hub is a step and that's what we did. It just didn't work out at all when he tried to be another father. The kids resented it and told him flat out that he wasn't their father, so me and ex decided to parent together. Hub stepped back and became like a supportive friend and everything got better after that. Also, there was a lot of pressure lifted from hub's shoulders. Now the older kids are grown and they do respect him. A lot. But he had to earn their respect and didn't get it just because I married him.

    Anyhoooo, good luck to you and your family however you decide to handle it. I know from my hub's experience that being a step isn't easy. Take care :tongue:
  8. MistyDW

    MistyDW New Member

    Thanks for the advice, but it's easier said than done. For me to back down and let his father handle everything sends the message that Adam doesn't have to mind me (I've tried that). Also, his mom doesn't live near us so that's not really an option. Additionally, I provide for Adam, solely, and have done so since May. It's a little difficult to have a child disrespect you in your own home and be expected to bow out because you are "just a step".

    Regardless, I appreciate the advice.
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    That's really good. But there's more - you also need to sit down and really think (preferably with husband too, maybe even with Adam) and PLAN. It's the hardest part, because so often when we discipline, we do ti automatically. With these kids, you need to be mentally on your toes constantly and it's very mentally exhausting.

    What you need to work out, is in advance, which battles you will engage and which you will leave. For now. You don't have to give up permanently on these things, just think about what seems to have the best chance of working. pick three and leave the rest. As he gains control in the three things you've chosen to work on with him (and a teen boy will often willingly participate in thie process at least at some level) you can re-visit and make changes. Similarly, if you choose three things to work on and seem to make no progress with one or more of them, you re-visit and re-evaluate - did we choose the wrong three things?

    For example, you might choose as your three things:

    1) interrupting

    2) bedwetting

    3) talking non-stop quoting chunks of movie script.

    I forecast you will find that with interrupting you may make slight headway but with a great deal of raging and him feeling resentful. You may find with bedwetting, he willingly takes onthe task of changing and washing his bedlinen (especially if you're helping him) but doesn't go too far with the actual bedwetting, he still has trouble there. And thw quoting chunks of text - he may learn to hold back abit but when stressed or excited, it will all come back. And you will feel like you've made no progress.

    In reality, you would probably have made as much progress in those areas as he was capable of at the time.

    You also need to consider HOW will we work on these things. You can't simply deal with the interrupting problem by chastising him each time. Yes, he will by now be realising when he's done the wrong thing, but if you chastise each time it will be happening so often that you will always be angry with one another. Instead, talk with him and say, "We're going to work on this. I know it's difficult for you, so we need a code word maybe. What action or word will help you understand to wait before speaking?"

    Some suggestions that work for us - holding up a hand (stop sign style). Or if we find difficult child 3 has interrupted to talk about something totally "random" our family code is, "If we're ordering TV antennae, I would like a pink one."

    A problem from difficult child's side - they get something in their heads that they MUST communicate or fer they will forget it. Plus they have to listen to the conversation so they know when is the appropriate time to insert their point. If the concersation moves off their tiopic it can be difficult for them to identify this and also difficult for thme to also keep remembering their point. This is a very complex social skill, which is why interrupting is such a long-term problem for them, one of the last to be fixed. so now you know this, can you think of ways to help him? Because the more he ses that you really are trying to help him find ways, the more he will really value your efforts.

    MWM has made a good point about your level of understanding, but perhaps it could have been expressed in a less ambigious way.
    Basically - you have come late to this situation. The others have all settled into mutual behaviour patterns and accepted a lot of things that most people would not toerate. A lot of this is the compromise we all have to make due to the sometimes extreme difficulties these kids face. You weren't around when these compromises were being made.
    From the sound of things, the grandparents are giving way far too much. difficult child 3's best mate lives in this sort of environment, his mother gives way constantly and lets her son do whatever he wants, choosing when to play etc. But then she gets reactive and starts insisting on instant compliance. Very mixed signals for him because she has NOT done what I suggest, and formally sat down to put strategies in place. Even if she did - she's a freee spirit, expects her son to be a free spirit by association. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way with these kids!

    And thne there's another possibility - you are a fresh pair of eyes and can see things tat those too close cannot. But if that is the case, you need to tread carefully because it won't be seen that way. Not fair, but that's life.

    So what can you do? You've already made a good start, if you recognise the need for clear, precise instrucitons. Avoid ambiguity. be prepared to have to say it more than once, especially if he's distracted. An autistic kid concentrating hard can literally shut off their hearing. To test this (it's fun) wait until he's next donig something he loves (for us, it's computer games). Then stand right beside him, quietly, and crinkle a chocolate wrapper. If he has fully shut off his ears, he won't her the crinkle. Most other kids would.

    This ability to concentrate can be an asset, in the right place.

    difficult child 1 described this to me once, when he was studying for his senior high school exams. He came in for lunch and said, "I need a break. I'm concentrating so hard that the silence in my head is deafening."

    These kids can be very, very smart. But very, very different. They can be frustrating, but tey can also be very rewarding.

    Your problems eith the grandparents - no wonder the boy is so confused, no wonder there are battles. You need to all be a united front. I sympathise with their desire to spoil the boy, but surely they can also understand how important it is for this boy to learn how to function well? he also needs to see that everybody is treated fairly, it's especially important for someone with autism. Otherwise he will grow up expecting ther world to give him more simply because he is different, and sadly the world is not like this.

    Grandparents can be a headache with this sometimes - my mother in law is the only surviving grandparent and she has taken a long time to come "on board". For a long time she was in denial. "There's nothing wrong with my beautiful boy," she would insist. "He's perfectly well behaved for me."
    And of course he is, if you always give him exactly what he wants.

    Same with school -there, he is in a consistent environment, plus their job is to educate him. And these kids LOVE being educated, as a rule. Especially if they're bright. They know they need to learn, if there is a good brain in there, even if it's not always connecting, the kid inside is always trying to make it work for him. Any adult who is part of that process will find their work appreciated by the child. difficult child 3 loves all his teachers, including ones who were mean to him.

    School has rules, it has a pattern of activity that is generally predictable and they adapt to what is te pattern. At home they try to create their own pattern of expectation, but home is different. Things change. You don't always have meat loaf on Wednesday, sometimes you have it on Thursday. Maybe you call him five minutes eafrlier for dinner. Maybe you decide it will be easier if he has his bath before dinner instead of after. Maybe someone has lent him a new computer game and he's just reached the fourth level and is doing really well, about to leap over the... and you call him for dinner.

    What we've found works for us, is giving him time. If this was your husband deeply engrossed in something delicate such as repairing a swiss watch, his miniature screwdriver poised at a particularly delicate point, how would you handle it? The trick here is, - treat your autistic kid who is engrossed in his own things, with the same respect. Help him learn to prioritise by giving HIM the choice and the informaiton. Give him notice - "I'm serving up dinner in five minutes. If you're not ready, your dinner will go cold."
    The punishment ifhe doesn't come when finally called tat dinner is now ready - his dinner will go cold. Nothing more. He has to learn how to heat it up for himself, or eat it cold. You didn't make it go cold. You didn't serve up cold food (unless it's salad). He is dealing with natural consequences. This is how the world works.

    If you can, sit with the grandparents andwork out a plan. You need everyone on side, this means that if they are not on side, you need to back off, even if you know you are right. it's not fair, but again - do not set yourself up for failure. And you trying to make big changes which are unsupported and undermined, will beset up for BIG failure.

    You do sound like you care, and you sound like you want to understand. We can help there. If you can, share the stuff here with the dad and grandparents. There is help, but an autistic kid needs to be given plenty of space to be himself (which is wat they're doing) but also needs to be pushed within his ability to handle it) what you're trying to do). it's a delicate tightrope balance.

    Let us know how you're going.

  10. MistyDW

    MistyDW New Member

    Thanks Marg, that's an incredibly helpful post. I do need to anticipate problems and how I will react to them and I have been sharing these with my husband. One the way home tonight in the car, Adam kept interrupting. I kept calmly reminding him that it wasn't nice to interrupt others while they are speaking and gave him the chance to speak as soon as it was appropriate; however, he did forget what he wanted to say.

    You are absolutely right about getting fixated. You can be trying to teach him something and he will focus in on a few words and totally negate the entire purpose of the conversation. I keep correcting him by telling him to listen carefully to what's being said. Eventually he gets it, but it may take me heading him off and repeating myself several times.

    The thing that frustrates me is his "expectation" that I am here to take care of him. He went upstairs to bed earlier, I suspected he had wet the bed previously and didn't bring down his sheets (very common problem we have). So I stopped what I was doing, went upstairs to check on him, and started to grab another set of sheets when I realized he had taken the last set and never told anyone. I did have a clean protector and one other sheet so I intended to make due. While I was making the bed, I made a comment to him learning to make his own bet (just idle chat), and he basically eluded that I was there to do his dirty work. Of course, this angered me and I immediately stopped what I was doing and informed him that he would have to do his own dirty work and I left the room. He started calling me lazy and followed me downstairs with his dirty laundry insisting that I was going to do the wash for him because it was my job. I was fuming but calmly managed to inform him that I would not be doing his wash with that attitude and he was to finish making his bed and get to sleep.

    This is my frustration. Due to the whole grandparent thing, he has this sense of entitlement to not only tell others what they will and will not do, but that I am here to serve him. I've told him many times that I chose to be here with him and that I do things because I want to do them for him, not because "it's my job". What can I do?

    Also, I've asked him all week to put his clothes away that I washed and folded for him. They are sprawled out all over the couch now (there was another big argument). I told him once again tonight that he needed to take his clothes upstairs before bed and put them away neatly in his drawers. I got the usual "why", and I said "we don't leave our clothes in the living room, please take them upstairs and put them away neatly in your drawers". Well, he's in bed, and they are still sprawled on the couch...I read in another post to go ahead and put them away for him and then next time he asks for something, tell him I don't have time because I was too busy putting his clothes away the day before..I don't know if that's the right way to go...
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I understand your anger, but he's not doing this out of any attempt to manipulate. I know that can be hard to beleive - but there's really not much, if any, guile in these kids. In his mind, he really DOES beleive that it is your job to change the sheets, to do the laundry, to make it all magically just HAPPEN.

    Why does he believe this? Because it's always been this way in his world.

    And now you come in there, the first he kbows about it is you walk in and begin making a fuss and start to scold him. You sound angry and annoyed and tell him that the magic fairy making it all happen 9according to how life has taught him to expect things) is coming to a screeching halt. Of course he is going to accuse you of being lazy and trying to get out of work (Hey, Marg's Man, you getting all this? Is this ringing your bells, this being called lazy just for trying to get him to take a turn at the chores?)

    In case you hadn't gathered, this has been happening in our household too.

    There are two big reasons for why you're copping it at the moment (and why my husband is copping it too).

    1) You've announced a sudden change in the rules, without him working out for himself why the rules as he understood them are wrong.

    2) You're the one who in the past has tried to make big changes and lay down the law and it has scared him because it is so different. He needs a diffferent way of being led to the changes.

    I'm not saying it can't happen, but you need a more productive way.

    In other words - you're doing the right thing, but in the wrong order.

    First - he needs to understand that while he was a child, things were done for him. Everyone has tasks in life they have to do, children have fewer expectations for safety reasons and for compassionate reasons. But when he is an adult he won't necessarily have anyone to do these things for him. He needs to begin to learn, NOW, how to look after himself. What if you got hit by a bus or had to go away on holiday somewhere? Who would do these things for him? And even if he does expect you to continue to do all this, you need this to be a two-way street to make it more effective. It also isn't allowed to be just about you and him, this has to be about a change in the entire household on these issues.

    In our household, husband is not the step-parent, but in some ways it works for difficult child 3 as if he is. In the past, husband has been the strict martinet (army training) with the expectations that a son of his will toe the line and be a man. husband is a darlnig man, but when he's tired or stressed, he snaps back to what he understands best, to what is in his own background. Ands this is exactly what DOESN'T work for difficult child 3. Every time it happens, it undermines the progress they've made together. To move forward, we try to organise fun things, bloke things, for them to do together. Even the chors, we try to keep them on a teamwork basis. It gets away from the "I'm punishing you" aspect and back to "We all have to work as a team" approach.

    You need the team approach if oyu're going to recruit difficult child to this necessary change.

    It needs a change in mind-set. I get yelled at on this site for saying this, perhaps because people don't always understand that I'm not saying you're wrong; only that you're wrong for this child at this particular time. And there is no way you could have predicted this, unless you were already in this kid's head.

    But thta is what you need to do. If you can fully understand the inside of this kid's head, you will have an idea of how he will react if you do X or Y.

    You also won't always get it right, either. You WILL get it wrong sometimes. We all do. The trick is to get it right as much as possible, and if you get it wrong to fix it as soon as possible.

    What went wrong here -

    1) There was a sudden change in the rules and you were obviously angry with him and he didn't know why the sudden change. It's always been OK before.

    2) You reacted to what he said and you got angry. But if he gets angry because of what you've said, it only makes you angrier. So why are you allowed to be angry, and him not?
    (Note - I'm not saying you're wrong - this is how he sees it. And this is where you have to begin, with him where he is. Because it's all he has).

    Going back over it all, I think you do needto sit down with him at a time when there isn't an immediate need to do things, and tlak it all through. You need his dad on side and forewrned and between you and his dad, you need to work out what to say. You both (you and husband) need to agree ahead of time to not react, even when difficult child accuses you the way he did (and yes, it hurts). You can politely correct, you don't have to turn into a doormat, but try to remember - this kid simply doesn't know that what he is saying, is not the truth. He is getting angry because the goal posts are moving and he cannot control this. Allowing him some input can give him back a feeling of control (and it's OK for the kid to have control, parents don't always have to drive, all we need to do is steer).

    Next step - talk to difficult child. "Hey, honey, you're growing up and getting older. I'm also getting older and more tired. We all need to work together and help one another. Instead of you being the child and us the adults, you need to learn and get ready for the day when you will be an adult and need to know how to do things for yourself. THIS IS NOT PUNISHMENT. Because it is WAS punishment, then crikey, I must have been very evil to have to do all that I do!, No, this is just stuff that has to be done. I'm not saying that from now on you have to always do it all. But I need to know that you know how to, and after all, you need clean sheets don't you? I can't always keep up, especially if I don't find out because you've forgotten to tell me or been too busy."

    That's the approach to take. He will protest. Stay calm. He will say some outrageous tings. Remembe, he beleives them to be true, because he simply doesn't know any better. You are trying to do the equivalent of teaching him all about nuclear physics, when all he has known is the internal combustion motor. He will need time to absorb the new information and he will need this to be told more than once. With patience.

    [Note: as I'm trying to type this, difficult child 3 has come in to talk to me several times, about different things each time. I say to him, "I'm busy, you're interrupting my train of thought," and he just keeps right on gonig as soon as I've finished speaking. We're working on this but making very alow progress because for him, the drive to say what is important TO HIM is greater than his ability Occupational Therapist (OT) recognise things from my point of view].

    WHat you next do is go to te cupboard with difficult child and look to see how well-stocked are the clean sheets. If they're there, you both say, "Good. We have plenty, for now. Let's both try and keep score on how well supplied we can keep this. You try to let me know when you use them and we'll both try to work together to keep this working."

    Your next stop is the laundry. Is there washing waiting to be done? Then both of you together, work through how it's done. Tell him that his dad has to know how, as well. Everybody in the house has to follow these rules. The reason (and reasons are vital) isbecause clean is always better than dirty. if there is a sudden run on clean sheets (what if you begin to wet the bed? Or husband? It could happen...) then you need to know that you will all be ready. It's simply good practice.

    Next stop is his bedroom. And your bedroom. Check your bed. Are the sheets clean and dry? If they're due to be changed, then do it now. Show him that you and husband change your own bed. Maybe even get him to help you, if you can (but don't force it). Then keep talking as you take yours to the laundry.

    Then go to his room and work with him to strip his bed, if it's needed.

    The aim is to work together.

    Our ultimate aim is for him to do it for himself, but there are a number of obstacles in the way for this at the moment:

    1) He's never had to before, you're imposing a change on him without notice and he doesn't understand why

    2) He lacks the mental connection between the wet bed/need to change sheets/need to wash them myself to save someone else MY work/need to follow through and not get distracted

    3) He doesn't fully understand the individual steps and finds the entire process looming up before him like a skyscraper he's expected to climb, and it's easier to dig his heels in and scream, "NO!"

    If instead he can see you standing there ready to walk him through it, he is going to be a bit more capable of giving it a go. But not of he's feelnig angry and resentful.

    And here we come back to "Explosive Child". It is a way of negotiating with the child, a way of learning what sets the kid off and what calms him down, and how to use tis to help prevent an explosion and a faster return to calmness.
    It doesn't take long for the child to realise that you're trying to help him stay calm. Our kids really don't like how itfeels when they rage. So as they learn you're trying to help, they do begin to value you for this. The more successful you are, the faster he will value what you are doing for him, in trying to keep him calm.

    Forget about attidue. This isn't about his attitude, it never is with autistics. They really don't get it, so when you punish "attitude" they just see that you're punishing them for who they are. They really can't help it.

    I'm not saying thta you have to put up with this for ever more - you don't. But this isn't the way. There is a better way that works, but it takes time.

    I went through similar problems with difficult child 1. I forget exactly what we were talking about (and I DID get reactive and angry, even though I'm preaching here about staying calm!) but basically he said something about, "I don't need to learn how to do X. I have you to do that for me. You enjoy doing it, I don't. So why should I have to learn how?"

    I quickly set him straight. I DON'T enjoy doing it, but if I stop, then the household falls apart. If I don't have to do it all, then I am free to do other things, often things he also would like me to do for him. I too thought difficult child 1 was being insolent, but he was in fact genuinely surprisedwhen I said it was NOT my job, I did not enjoy doing it, I did it because it needed to be done and for the time being, I had taken it on myself to do it. But I didn't intend to keep doing it, he would have to learn or I would walk away and go on strike.

    Now to practicalities - what sort of protector are you using? We have a vinyl sheet, it's the same sort of vinyl used in upholstery as a leather substitute. It doesn't crinkle the way plastic does so it's quieter and more comfortable to sleep on. The vinyl sheet is waterproof but if the bed gets wet, we just wipe it down with a damp cloth that has a bit of bleach in it, then wipe it down again with a cloth damp with plain water. It then gets dried down and put back on the bed. About five minutes airing, and the fresh sheets can go on.

    We began teaching our kids to at the very least strip their own wet beds from the age of 5. Not a punishment, simply a management strategy. We'd help them drag the clothes to the laundry and show them how to load them into the washing machine.

    And another interesting thing with the washing machine and autistics - front-loaders especially play right into their Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) tendencies. When our front-loader arrived and I was putting it through its paces, I found both boys sitting in front of the machine in the laundry, watching through the tiny window. Their heads were moving in unison, this way and that. This way, and that. difficult child 1, aged about 16 at the time, said, "I don't know why, but I find tihs strangely compelling."
    They also souvenired the packing crate and turned it into a retreat. They filled it with cushions, cut a small hole in one side (facing thr TV or the computer games, ofcourse) then threading the game controller leads through the hole, climbed in. difficult child 1 did his schoolwork in the box.

    Eventually the box fell apart and ended up in the recycling, but it was interesting to see the boys work together to make something they wanted, that suited their needs, for a short while. They experimented with it, adapted it, fiddled with it and generally were happy as pigs in mud. And of course we now understand why autistic kids especially, love tihs sort of thing.

    So treat it as a game, as a special honour to be allowed to do this. To be trusted to do it.

    Another big tip - use an incentive. Some people call them bribes. The best bribe always is the gifdt of your time, spent exclusively on him. The more he helps, the more time you have for him. because of course, if you would have been ready to play cards with him, except you're still changing his bed for him, then he misses out on your time (or gets less of it) But if you can work together and get it done more quickly (even if you have to fudge it a bit, pretend it helped) then he gets to have a game with you.

    If it's computer games, try Mario Party (if he has those). Set a specific time, or some other limit and stick to it. But if he gets upset when the time is up, then promise another opportunity soon. Maybe next day, if he can help you save time in something else.

    Autistic kids respond to logic and calm repetition.

    Read "Explosive Child" Get it out of the library. You will recognise the boy in the first few pargraphs, I'm betting.

    Hang in there. take a few deep breaths. You're on the road now, you will get there.

  12. kk_pdmoore

    kk_pdmoore New Member

    I get you on how frustrating it can be to have a child seem like he is entitled or doesn't seem grateful. My husband who is also a step parent has had some of the same complaints as you. However, please keep in mind that your step son will mimic other's to fit in and watches other's examples of how things go. He just doesn't get it and to punish him for it is unreasonable. It's an autistic thing. He truly believes it's your job and that you are out of line for expecting him to do it. Your family has to lead by example in cases of who does what. I would just have his father sit him down. Everyone have a family meeting and come up with a reward chart. Tell him he doesn't have to but if he does this, this and this then he gets X,Y and Z. If he feels he has no choice he will not comply. It's also an autistic thing as well. Just tell him it helps everyone when everyone chips in. His father needs to be seen helping you around the house and backing you up. Once he sees everyone helping eachother and you are equal he will mimic that. It takes time. It won't happen over night and he has to feel like it's his choice. It may take some time for him to even want to do it. Positive feed back and encouragement works way better than punishment, scolding and lectures. Everytime punishment, scolding and lectures will keep you from your true goal. Being confrontational will also keep you from your true goal. It's just the way his brain works and he can't help the way he understands things any more than you can help being born a female.
    One thing is for sure. You can't be his main parent and it sounds like you are taking on the responsibility of discipline. If anyone is going to get the best results from him it is going to be the people who have known him the longest and have the best possible history and bond with him. I know you financially support him but you can't just enforce your way because of it. It's not working for you and it won't work for you. I tend to agree with your husband and his grandparents. They get and understand his limitations and I don't think you do. Not to be harsh. He has a disability and the problems you are having with him are part of that disability. You have to work with it and find ways around it that are fun, encouraging and make sense to him and part of that is following his father's lead. There are things you just have to let go of and stop expecting from him for now and just build a positive, fun and loving relationship with him. Once you have that boy's heart you will never find anyone more loyal. He may not always be able to show his appreciation but he will find ways in his own way you just have to keep an eye out for them.
  13. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    kk, good to hear from you. Unfortunately, you've posted on an extinct thread, the problems are either long ago resolved or moved on from. Why not start your own thread and introduce yourself?

  14. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Marg is right on the money. These kids "follow the beat of a different drummer". There is no reason to waste your time trying to get conformity. They simply are not like other kids...and they won't be like other aduls either. For them to attach with anyone is a wonderful thing. If the grandparents are a comfortable resource for him absolutely do not try to usurp their position. Parenting...and especially stepparenting...these different kids is a huge challenge. Do some research. You'll likely find that you are fortunate to have a nonviolent child. by the way when he says "that's your job" he isn't demeaning you. He is stating facts as he knows them. There is comfort to using categories. There is not social sensitivity. Social cues do not register easily...sometimes ever in their lives. It is not a personal attack. He is not out to get you or your husband. He is trying to get through the world the best way he knows how. Supporting and fostering his efforts is, bottom line, the best you all can do. Remember the old expression about trying "to put a square peg in a round hole"?? That's it. The square peg is wired in his brain and he will never become a round one.

    It's wonderful that you are reaching out and exploring. With lots of education and awareness his whole family can help him prepare to be his best as an adult. Welcome. DDD