Autism Watch: 2007

Use the Force!

Posted on: December 22, 2008

Do you? Or don’t you?

And in case I’m not clear, I mean forcing your child to engage in certain social events or activities.

My son was in our church’s Christmas program last night. To say he participated under duress is an understatement. We forced him. He didn’t want to stand and sing, or even pretend to, and he didn’t want to say any lines. Problem was, I did.

I know, you’re thinking “why.” Ten minutes after we arrived last night, I was wondering why, too.

My thoughts were/are that we have to not give up on him in any way, and that we always need to try and provide the same activities neurotypical kids have. If we never make him do things he’s uncomfortable with, will he ever be able to do those things? Of course, there are limitations to where you’d test this theory, but we felt safe with this one. At this point, if I had to decide on next year’s play already, I’d probably say no.

Ds doesn’t take direction well. He wants things his way. He wants routine, sameness, and control. Being in a group activity means he’s going to have to take direction, and he did. Well, he had adults giving needed direction, but I’m not sure he really ‘took’ it. He flashed daggers, shoved away from the group, shoved through the group, argued with a couple kids, and may have told one adult he wanted to kill him. (Thank God, that guy had both a sense of humor and a lot of compassion…and he knew about ds.) He didn’t even make it through the final dress rehearsal/practice. Two minutes before showtime, dh and I were summoned. Ds had another issue with another kid, and it led to a total meltdown. It took dh 20 minutes or so in a quiet room before he was ready to go on-stage, and none too soon — his lines were due in about two minutes. I got him on stage, minus his cap, and he happily said his lines. Total transformation.

Not so fast.

As soon as his lines were done, he started shadowing the child standing in front of him. Every time the boy would move, so would ds. Soon, another adult close by quietly reminded him to stop, which was fine — ds needed to hear that he can’t ruin someone else’s performance and that he’s part of a group — but ds shut down. He moped, dragged, and moved away. It was heartbreaking. I was already nauseaous, it’s painful to watch, and this just made it worse. Then, miraculously, the play was over. Good to go, right?

Ha.

The kids all went to a back room to take off their costumes. Candy was handed out, but when ds didn’t get a ‘big’ candy like the ‘big’ kids (“But I AM big!”) he threw what he was given. That resulted in hysterical crying, and dh carrying him out. We understood his upset and wanted him away from everyone before it got worse, for others and for him. We know he doesn’t want to be seen this way, he hates the stares and whispers, and I hate it as well. So many people came up to us to tell us how good he did, how he at least said his lines, etc. True, true…but nonetheless, it took me a bit to decide if I could eat dinner or not.

I looked through the photos later, and saw his sullen, angry glances. Sure, he may have learned something from this, but how many lessons does it take? How many times do we have to try this? And how often before people start thinking ‘enough, already!’ At what point do the lessons my son learns and the importance/fairness of him participating becomes unfair to others? Or do we continue to ignore that aspect as long as he’s not hurting anyone else? Luckily, the only visible issues last night were not during the show, except for those last few minutes.

I’m really relieved it’s over with. I love children’s performances. I love helping — the laughing, the funny mistakes, the whole organization of it all. But, the stress of trying to get him to go along with the plans? Not priceless.

At least today is the first day of the official Christmas vacation for him, two and a half weeks of him around here, and I’m THRILLED. And no, that’s not sarcasm. He thrives on one-on-one attention, and I had kids so I could be around them. What better time of year than Christmas. Speaking of which, time to go. I need to dig out my gingerbread cookie dough recipe and get that mixed and refrigerated. Tomorrow’s cooking decorating day.

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2 Responses to "Use the Force!"

I have no advice for this as I don’t feel we’ve gotten there yet. I haven’t forced much with the Roc, other than starting preschool, which was terribly difficult to do – leave him with strangers for the first time ever! (I could hardly find my car in the parking lot through my tears!)

Have fun making cookies-we’re doing that on Christmas eve-for Santa!

I feel your heart break. My son was singing in a Christmas concert for our town. His class was picked to sing among 3 other classes for the kindergarten age. He was the ONLY kid who didn’t sing and ended up on 3 different rows, accidently pushing kids off in the process. I wasn’t embarrassed, just so very sad. When I look back though, I remember those other kids just making room for him wherever or whatever he did. It was not a big deal to them or my son. I just wish it were that way among adults who look on and are so quick to judge.

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