It seems like lately our focus has been on Mr. C a lot and not so much on Mr. E. It’s funny because we had such a stretch of time where we were so focused on E and how to help him and now the tables have turned. We spend our time trying to figure out what tools we need to give to C to help him and figure out what we are dealing with.
Meanwhile, E has been growing and growing and growing. It’s like we looked at him and were like: “Parenting this lovely high functioning autistic boy is easier now. He is stable. We got this!”
Then introducing puberty. He’s our sweet and thoughtful kid on his good days. On his bad days, well…
So now we have a son that we walk on egg shells around. The slightest word or even noise can send him in a spiral. Stimming has increased. Anxiety increased and anger…the anger increased. It’s like every time we try to talk to him, regardless if we are trying to instruct him, guide him or simply ask what he wants to eat mild mannered Bruce Banner turns into the HULK and “target angry!”
All hopes of a calm day or peaceful encounter go down in smoke. What are we to do? Are we going to survive this?
An article in Psychology Today states:
“Most children with autism have a terrible time with change. They like things to stay the same, as they are used to the familiarity of routine. If there are no new things, they don’t have to anticipate for any ‘attacks’ to their senses; they can anticipate what is coming next…The point is, body changes are scary for those who do not like change, but by telling them and showing them the changes that will happen can make it much easier for them.”
Ok check, we’ve had “the talk”…well not that talk but the “You’re growing into a man” talk. Part of the issue that concerns us is that he will regress in his behaviors, and being our first time parenting a “mean green tween machine” how do we know what is normal adolescent behavior changes and what is connected to his autism?
Recently I read an article on VeryWell.com discussing regression. You can read it here. It stated:
“Adolescence can be trying for children and their parents. A diagnosis on the autism spectrum compounds the journey and makes it more complex, to say the least. …on the issue of regression, there is reason for concern, but not panic…it is reasonable to conclude that a child with Asperger syndrome or High Functioning Autism can learn to cope with the trials and tribulations of puberty and adolescence. Your son will have many questions, it is important for you and his father to be tuned in to what he might be asking for.”
Ok phew, I don’t have to panic. We’ve discussed changes in a matter of fact way and he gets it. Mostly, we just have to try to help him learn to cope as he changes. We can do that.
What is interesting to me and so hard on all of us is the emotional rollercoaster he is on. He seems fine one moment and the next he is rolling on the floor yelling. He can’t put words to what he is feeling. As a person who sometimes finds too many words, it’s hard to comprehend.
Healthguide.com also had some good information. You can read it here. It says:
“Aggression and Moods
Due to an increase in testosterone during puberty, it is possible that this time will show an increase in aggression. Also, mood swings and strong emotions can lead to aggression and in appropriate behaviors. It is important to focus on communicating feelings and finding appropriate outlets for increased feelings of aggression and strong emotions. For example, using a punching bag to work out excess aggressive energy or having a special spot to take a break when emotions are overwhelming can help a teen with autism have their emotional needs met without turning to maladaptive behavior.
Since teens with autism will not always be aware of social norms that go along with puberty, it might be necessary to pay attention to bodily changes for them in order to prevent them from standing out and being ostracized. Things like wearing a bra, putting on deodorant and shaving legs are often looked forward to by typical developing peers who are anxious to grow up. Yet, teens impacted by the combination of autism and puberty might not notice that these things need to be done and will require extra guidance.”
I really like the tip to find an alternative way to get those frustrations out. Now all I have to do is figure out what might help him. Always “figuring things out.” It is also important to help them to pay attention to the changes as the article brought out. One, that is a big deal in our home, is deodorant. We’ve had him using it for a while now, but he usually forgets to put it on. Boy let me tell you, we all notice.
So, we gently remind him that he needs to put it on. However, with the additional attitude he has now, that usually brought on a problem.
I decided I’d try another method and looked at some ideas on Pinterest about wall charts. It took me about one whole afternoon, start to finish, some poster board, free clip art images and tape/glue. I did a small chart for his bedroom using the “First, Next Then” method and an AM and PM chart for the bathroom using the same method. Pictures help make the visual connection to the action, rather than just having a bunch of tasks in a list that don’t mean much. So far, this has been a good start to helping our E find a little bit of independence and dignity with his new changes, but it isn’t a fail-safe. After having the charts two weeks, he still at times forgets to check them and forgets deodorant.
Still, it has helped. Dad has also taken time to sit and talk so things don’t come as a surprise. All in all, I think we still got this.