Empathy... and now self-awareness?

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 3, 2021, 9:23 PM | comments: 0

In my last post I talked about the great win we had with an empathetic connection during a meltdown, and this week brings another meltdown, but a shocking instance of self-awareness.

Less surprising is that the problem was rooted in the inability to follow directions. Simon recently acquired some new tablet game, and he wouldn't disengage from it despite several directives to do so. So after the third time, I dropped the bomb: No TV for you tomorrow. I'll be honest, we rarely follow through on consequences, which I'm sure is one of the reasons that he still doesn't get the cause and effect. As any parent will tell you, it's often easier to just avoid the drama. But stopping and doing what he's asked, that's been a challenge lately.

He did some yelling and stomping, then slammed his bedroom door, so we made it two days. The rage crying and meltdown was in full effect. As much as I wanted to give him five minutes, then help him calm down, we decided to let him work through it. As he started to calm down, we had the parts where he told us that he hates us, and we're the worst parents, and other kids have it better, and we just ignored all of that. At first it was just directed at me, but eventually it was to both of us.

Over time, his posture changed to wanting to tell us something. I was sitting on the chair in our bedroom, and he tried to sit on my lap, which doesn't work well given his size. We moved to his room, and he wanted to talk. He seemed to get past what he did and his desire to negotiate a lesser sentence, and declared that he has trouble understanding when he is crossing a line, and asked for help. He wanted some warning to know he was about to suffer some kind of punishment.

This sounds like a pretty basic thing, but self-awareness is hard for him. We've learned with his therapy that it is in fact a key to unlocking solutions to a lot of the situations that he finds challenging. If he can identify why a situation causes him difficulty, there's a great chance that he can develop the coping skills to adjust.

When Simon had his ASD diagnosis, one of his doctors explained that, provided he didn't have any long-term comorbid disabilities, he would likely develop the coping mechanisms in his middle and high school years to deal with those. That's why a lot of autistic adults are roaming around the planet and you have no idea that they're there (my therapists have said I'm likely one of them). One can have "typical" behavior if they've learned to adapt the different brain wiring to work in a typical world.

Again, this gives me hope. The rest of his school years are going to be tough, but I just hope that they're not completely miserable. I hated grades 7 to 12 so much, and I want him to have a better experience than I did. Seeing him understand his own emotions could be huge for him.


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