Friday, 25 May 2012

Lets play "Brat or Autistic"

Every day is a guessing game. Not a fun, play with your kids, 20 questions type game, but a frustrating, confusing, confounding game of  "is this behaviour Autistic, or bratty?".

I worked with kids many moons ago, but in the challenging, stressful and at times hilarious adventure that is raising my son, I seem to have forgotten what normal looks like. I honestly don't remember how the average, NT, regular kid type 4 year old behaves.

Now I know that regardless of whether a behaviour is deliberately bratty or because of Autism, if it is dangerous, inappropriate, or just plain irritating, we will take steps to try to reduce that behaviour.  The trick is to try to figure out what steps are actually going to be effective to do that. Autistic behaviours don't respond well to punishments that reduce the bratty behaviours. Bratty behaviours need to be addressed as such, because they are behaviours the kid has chosen, not ones that his differently wired brain has forced him into. Also, as parents go, I tend toward the permissive, and indulgent, so he is probably a bit spoiled. That is as much my problem as his, but I still need to know what factors are at work for a specific behaviour.

So, when his iPad runs out of power unexpectedly and he pounds it on the table and screams, is that Autism, or spoiled brat? (Whoever designed the heavy duty cover on this device, I thank them a thousand times)
When he jumps on the couch, throws himself down, over and over until the couch breaks, or he injures someone (usually me) is that Autism, or brat? He does this when there is something especially entertaining on TV.
When he dumps a large container of ice tea mix, a bucket of baby formula and a bin of sugar together on the kitchen floor, then drives his cars through it, is that Autism, or brat? It is sure as heck expensive.
When he throws his juice cup at me if I don't respond quickly enough to his request (verbal or point and grunt, depending on what kind of day he is having) is that Autism, or spoiled brat?
When he breaks down in tears because he has to interrupt what he is doing to go to school, eat dinner or go out somewhere, is that Autism or spoiled brat?
 When he gets off the potty and pees on the floor, is that Autism or spoiled brat?
When he poops in the tub, then smears it on the wall, is that Autism or spoiled brat?
When he refuses to eat anything but watermelon, cheese cut into triangles, and Triscuit snack crackers, is that Autistic, or spoiled brat?

Sometimes it is more obvious than others. Sometimes it seems to be a mix of reasons and explanations. Sometimes I try to figure out what a "normal" 4 year old might do. Or a two year old, for that matter, since that is where a lot of his functioning is at.

We get through, one way or another. I love this kid, no matter what the challenges, and I don't want to do him a disservice by assuming his behaviour is Autistic, or just him, testing boundaries and experimenting with the rules.

I need to learn. I need to figure this out.

But first, I need to clean up the mess on the kitchen floor. Sigh.

23 comments:

  1. Oh no...
    I have nothing to say,
    Still nothing....
    ..
    Hang on... iPads are heaps tougher then you'd think yes?
    Sending you love,
    oxox

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    1. Thanks for dropping by anyway, and yes, the heavy duty case we got for his iPad was SO worth it.

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  2. It's soooo hard to tell sometimes. And everyone's definition of "spoiled brat" is different. At school, my staff and I don't always agree on where to draw the line between "spoiled brat" and autistic - and we've been working together quite a while now. Good luck - and if you find the answer let me know!

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    1. Heck, there are days when I figure I'M the brat. I need to find some extra stores of patience. Trade ya for that answer...

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  3. It's so hard to differentiate. With some things it's a normal 3 yo but the reaction is kind of blown out of this world to an ASD level. On other things the reaction is purely ASD. When he gets annoyed that its not the right episode of Little Einsteins he had in mind and he wants to destroy the tv- that's ASD. When he gets angry because he can't have a popsicle for breakfast- that's normal (I hope). I struggle with this all the time. Somedays I just have to take a deep breath and walk away before cleaning up. And yes this gets expensive and frustrating!

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  4. Yep, that's why I had to post right then... I needed to vent and get my head together before dealing with the aftermath. It's not just one day at a time, it is one hour, one episode, one meltdown at a time. This too shall pass. :)

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  5. I remember going through the exact same thought processes when my boy was younger! It really is hard to decipher. For me though the level of tantrum was too bad to be just a spoiled brat. The crying and screaming for an hour because he couldn't have an ice cream one day might have seemed like a spoiled brat. It wasn't though. It was down to routine and rigidity. He usually got an ice cream and he wan't getting one that day! Either way, I reckon bratty or Autistic, their responses aren't appropriate so they have to be taught more appropriate ways to respond and/or strategies to help them cope when they feel frustrated/angry etc. That's what I believed.

    And I always fought him being punished in school for behaving inappropriately. Teach him the strategies first and ONLY punish him for not following them was my big thing!

    xx Jazzy

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  6. I am right with you on this. My 5yrd old sounds similar. I treat most of his behaviors as though it's not him being a brat. I can tell in his eyes and actions most of the time. He will get anxious afterwards or while he's doing the behavior. Talking flat and loud, walking on toes, spinning, streaming math facts or just numbers. Other times it's not obvious, like twirling his hair, rapid eye blinking, pacing or rubbing the couch, ground....anything. If he starts throwing himself around, down the stairs, from the car.....whatever, I make sure he is safe 1st and then I know he needs pressure applied or mental exhaustion. Then we get out the math books. HAHAHA Before he was officially diagnosed (March2012) I ignored him when he would hit himself or throw himself around, because I raised my other kids like that. I never engaged bad behavior. It worked for them, but not Kaden. It's so hard to know, I still don't know half the time. I just take it one minute at a time. I never know what the next hour in the day holds for me. I hope today is a good day over there, at least less expensive. :)

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  7. Ive long given up on that game! Ive come to learn over the past 3 years, it doesnt really matter where the behaviors come from. Deciphering whether or not the are ASD derived or not is irrelevant. My daughters have autism (5yrs old and almost 4). Not all of their behavior is Autism derived BUT I still have to handle those behaviors differently than I would if they were NT. They dont process discipline the same way an NT kid might, so regardless of the root of the behavior, I still have to be creative in addressing whatever issue arises. An NT moment can quickly become an ASD moment if not dealt with appropriatly! Thats my take, but it took awhile to realize that was the case with my kids!

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  8. i feel like im reading about my boy. i feel your pain and it's nice to know there's someone 'in the same boat' if you will it.

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  9. I am going through similar behaviours an waitin diagnosis but am still not sure if it is autisum or jus a boy who is content in his own bubble so does not need other people or communication the aggression is getting worse tho an absolutely no empathy for his poor baby bro who jus wants to play not get a car on top of his head I have started a diary today for the doc an myself to see what sets him off for future avoidance but I think it can't jus be brat behaviour cos why have my other 3 never behaved like it also he used to talk an stoped around 16 months went for 50 words to 5 where as 2 year old bro can tell me "mum new bum I prezley stink" one of his cute sentences lol makes me feel very sad as no one wants to have there child not be "normal"????? Is it jus brat cos after a yearn half I know it not jus a fase like I hoped :/ any advice an tips greatly appreciated Marie

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  10. I am an old school grandmother. I say bratty is bratty regardless of the excuse behind it.

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    1. Autism is not an "excuse". That kind of thinking is why parents with children on the spectrum have a hard time going out in public. It hurts to be labeled bad parents when we are doing the best we can. Old school doesn't mean ignorant and rude.

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  11. First off ^^^ IGNORANT^^ secondly none of the reactions you listed seem like those of a typical four year old. The problem is one of inhibition and regulation. Typical kids get upset and may tantrum a bit but not nearly to the same extent. They absolutely do not pee and poo on the floor or tub at 4. Nothing listed here is typical and you did your kid a disservice by suggesting its because he is spoiled see above ignorant comment. Kids on the spectrum have poor self control and appear bratty but its not the same. The behavior needs to be addressed but never shame your child by suggesting they are a brat.

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    1. Some of us don't use the term brat as degrading. Most often I call my kids spilled brats while smiling and hugging them. She was simply staying that she doesn't know how to handle each situation. With kids on the spectrum punishing or redirecting can be difficult if the behavior isn't on purpose or for attention. There are some behaviors my son can control and some he can't. I am trying to figure out how to handle them all without making things worse. You shouldn't judge a mother for trying get best. I can clearly see she lives her child and just feels lost.

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    2. So, how is a teacher supposed to handle a child on the spectrum when they don't respond well to discipline? It is not fair to the other students to have to try and learn while he is having a meltdown and screaming fit because he isn't getting his way.

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  12. I don't mean to judge you when I say this. What are your behaviors like as a parent? There is a psychology to it and I'll try to be simple and brief. I'll use one example you talked about and leave it at that because I don't want to ramble on and I know you have other helpful tips to digest. When you said he usually gets ice cream when he asks and the one time you said no he fell apart. There is a psychology to that and as a mature adult raising a child, especially in the instant gratification world we live in, you have instilled in his mind that he can get what he wants. It could be a simple as that(and I know the experience is not that simple) or it could be a mix of autism. But as a parent you have to stay strong and help the child instill different behaviors in his mind. Don't be afraid to say no. Don't be afraid to let things get messy and when your child wants something reply "ok, after you clean up the mess you made". That is constructive. You're correct when you say it doesn't matter why he does it so move forward and figure out how to minimize his disruptive behavior. I wish you the best thanksgiving and plan ahead for his behaviors. Don't react. Think of constructive ways and I'm sure both of your lives will get less hectic and less hectic. BTW. I'm sure there is no such thing as a normal 4 yr old boy!

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  13. Has anyone considered not breeding further since this disease is passed along in dna, as in yours at conception? Has anyone considered what will happen when your autistic beauty turns into the autistic adult?

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    1. When my autistic beauties turn into autistic adults, like me, I can only hope that there are fewer bigots like yourself to spout nonsense about controlling human reproduction to avoid any genetic difference that offends them. My children are as likely to contribute as they are to cost the system, and I happen to think that human beings, whatever their imperfections, are well worth the investment.

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    2. Autistic kids are well worth the investment? I suppose you can point to Dr. Temple Grandin as a good example, but let's be honest, how many of those on the spectrum will do well as adults? Kids on the lower end of the spectrum certainly won't.

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  14. I am a step mother to an autistic 6 year old boy. Two years ago when I met his father and him the child was non verbal (shrieking, screaming, grunting) still in diapers, would throw his feces or rub on the wall, and would never ever sleep! I was astonished, in disbelief and almost outraged people live this way. He threw a fit over everything, and I mean everything. His father only made excuses for his behaviour, babied him through every day. i thought it was just normal for a parent of a child like this because other than putting him in a home what else could a loving father do? After a while I started noticing the child showed signs of comprehension so I started working with him his mother, BTW, disappeared when he was 4 because she couldn't handle the stress. It took me 1 month to potty train, 5 months to teach hygiene and table manners, and almost a year later he started kindergarten in regular class, not special ed. Now his doctors when he was 2 years old and first diagnosed told his father the boy would never speak, never say I love you, never hug or show empathy. It took me 2 years to basically reverse autism. I'm not a doctor, I'm not a teacher, I'm just a mother and the only education I have on the matter was being a mother to my own biological boys who are now 7 & 9. They are in gifted and talented at school, above their grade level average and are very well mannered, I had never gotten dirty looks in public until I met my step son. Now when I'm with my step son he speaks clearly, no temper tantrums, isn't afraid to walk to the bathroom, and is independent. As soon as his father walks through the door from work my step son cries, whines, shreiks, Wales, is obnoxious, can't do anything for himself all of a sudden and acts like a total brat towards me when all day he showed me respect and compassion and everything as I said above. This leads me to believe there is some "spoiled bratness" to the equation. I have video taped this for my husband who sees it but doesn't know why his son regresses everyday at 5pm and we don't know what to do. His father babied him for a long time that's the only thing we can figure, my step son still wants to be babied so he plays his father, even after 2 years of his father not giving into him every little time and not spoiling him. It just kinda shows that parents spoil and baby and excuse behavior because they love their child, they feel bad for the diagnosis and to soothe the child give in to every want. Temple grandin who I've researched a ton said she made it where she did because her mother expected more from her, demanded table manners, manners in general, sometimes tough love and basically tossing them out into the world to face consequences is the best and only way to learn. And that is real love.

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  15. Either way, the child needs to be corrected. For throwing things at you, there needs to be consequences. Now that we have the autistic diagnosis, self-centered behaviors are ignored by parents. They say, "He is autistic." "I can't make him." Well of course you can't, because he knows you are going to do absolutely nothing. Not caring for others (when the child is perfectly sociable) can be taught. I tell my neighbor's child, when he tries to dis my advice, "Don't tell me you already know that, what you say is 'Thank you'" I then get him to say "thank you." He totally understands. His mom will just say, "He will have to learn" and refrains from teaching him, so he can be selfish and lord. The boy completely understands if someone would just teach him. Of course he is going to test boundaries when there are none. I have an autistic child, her bad behaviors are triggered, kinda like tourettes, where they get the best of her. - Dina Dean

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  16. I'm reading this several years after you posted it, and your child is no longer four. I don't know whether he is autistic or "just a brat", but I can say I'm pretty appalled you let him have an iPad. Children that age have no business being glued to electronics, or being plunked down in front of a TV for that matter. Take him to the park and let him run off his energy instead of relying on electronics to babysit him. Seriously.

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