“Nothing gives a person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.” Thomas Jefferson
If there was any doubt before, I’m pretty sure Thomas Jefferson did not have an autistic child.
We’ve been having some control issues around my house. My son’s new favorite thing to say to me is “Mommy, say….(insert language here).” If I do not succumb to his directive, he repeats and repeats the demand. Ignoring it gets me no where. He might take a break to catch his breath but then he will launch right back into it. Usually, the insert is some form of echolalia. “Mommy say, ‘All charged up and ready for action!’” A line from an electronic toy car he has. It’s a bit of a “Simon says” kind of game only instead of “Take two steps forward,” it is “say these words.”
Eventually, I can’t take it anymore and I say, (rather loudly) “No, I’m not going to say it.” Worse yet, I will say, “You say it” which is useless because he then always says back, “Mommy to say.” And, yes, I’m guilty of saying the actual phrase just to get some peace and quiet. He is relentless and I am often distracted and that is not a good combination.
bugs asks me enough, I will ask him this, “Who’s the boss?”
“Mommy is the boss.”
“That’s right. And we don’t tell the boss what to say.”
Weirdly enough, he, sometimes, walks away after this exchange and does something else. In other words, it works for redirection on occasion.
The other new, control behavior is that he tries to implement his own discipline. He will do something he knows he is not supposed to do. For example, he will flick the door handles, repeatedly in a very quick action (they are perpendicular to the door handles both at home and in the office). The flicking noise is loud and drives everyone crazy. If he does it at home, before I have a chance to say anything, he will run up to me and say, “Wanna put you in a time out?” which means, “I’m putting myself in a time out.” He will then proceed to go stand facing the wall at home. At best, his self-imposed exile lasts about 15 seconds. Then, he will run up to me, put his face directly in front of me and yell, “I’m sorry, mommy! Give mommy a kiss! and kiss me and hug me.
I know the appropriate thing to do would be to wrest control of this situation by putting him into a real time out. But really? I’m not perfect and, when I’m tired, I let it go. This mistake has snowballed. What happened is that, because I did not impose the discipline uniformly on the door, he has run to doors in public places, usually at therapy, and rattled the handles there, where it is much more inappropriate than at home.
You can see how his retention of control works by: (a) imposing his own brand of discipline at home; and (b) using his charm to get out of real discipline. Doing these things at home makes him bolder to challenge me in public. In public, my choice is to impose discipline in front of a bunch of strangers or let it be. Doing the imposition route would involve finding a place and giving him a five minute time out, which is likely to lead to a meltdown that might last 45-60 minutes right before a therapy is to commence. Speech and Occupational Therapy only last 45 minutes one day per week. The alternative would be to let it go because he is about to go in for therapy which is supposed to help him with his other skills.
Well played kiddo, well played.
This autism thing? In my house anyway, don’t let it fool you. My kid is smart enough to manipulate, charm, control and time his antics in just the right way to hold an advantage over me. God forbid, he’s sounding more like a lawyer every day.