Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mom, why do I have autism?

The other day I was walking home with Bubby from school and out of nowhere he dropped a bomb of a question. It's one of those that even if you rehearsed it and was ready you'd still stammer through the words to explain.

Bubby: Why, do I have autism?

I paused.  I didn't know what to say. I didn't know how to answer that.  My brain in literal, and so is his. He wants an answer, not some sugarcoated 'because, you're special' crap.

Me: Well, because your brain works differently than most other people's.

Him: Like yours?

I paused again.  We were on a crowded sidewalk with little listeners around.  I was am unsure how much I want to discuss my own autism at this moment.  But, then I remembered that I must be a good role model for him.  I must do what I say and I always tell him having autism isn't something bad.  So, I know that I have to do the uncomfortable task of talking openly talking about it in front others.

Me: Yes.  Like mine.

Him: I think I have more Asperger's than you. Who has more Asperger's? You or me?

Again, this is not easy stuff to answer! He has been giving this all a lot more thought than I ever thought he was. I don't propose that all of my answers that I gave were the best.  I do want to be truthful and authentic in writing this by not dressing up what I said with what I know sounds better in hindsight.  

Me: I don't think anyone has more or less Asperger's.  Everyone's brain is different and how we see the world is different for each person. I just have a different kind of autism than you.  You technically have autism, not Asperger's.

Him: Did you go to special classes, too?

Me: Well, no.

Him: Why not?

Me: Because, I didn't need them. My brother did, though.

Him: Your brother did? Does he have Asperger's.

Me: Yeah, I think so.

Him: Does my autism make me cry at school?

Me: It doesn't make you cry.  It makes your brain have a hard time dealing with emotions.  Sometimes, you can't process emotions very well, so you get overwhelmed and upset.  You have to learn to know your feelings and deal with them responsibly.  That's why we do lots of talk about deep breaths. I'm trying to teach you to effectively manage your feelings.

Him: I can't help it. Homework makes me cry!

He was crying about homework when I picked him up from school.

Me: Homework doesn't make you cry.  How you feel about homework makes you cry.  You can choose to be calmer about getting homework with practice. Homework is a part of life.  Everyone has to do it, and they don't like it, either.  It's important that you learn to not cry every time something happens that you think is too hard.  

Him: I can't help it. School is too hard.

Me: Yes, you can help it.  You have to learn. You want a job someday, don't you?

Him: I don't know.

Okay, that backfired on me.  I really thought he'd say a solid yes!

Me: Well, you can't cry at work every time stuff gets difficult.  You will still get upset and being upset is okay, but you must be responible for your own behavior.  There's lots of stuff you can do to be responsible for your calming yourself down.  You can take breaths and you can ask for a break, so that you can go to a quiet place.  Those are things that work well to get calmer.  If you get upset at school you can ask your teacher for a break.  Maybe, you can take a walk to the office or another quiet place to get calmer.

Him: Okay.


That was pretty much the entire conversation.  He did really well listening and sharing. It is seldom that he takes that many conversational turns with me, so I was happy to have a real conversation with him that was about something real, and not just me answering questions that he asks, which he already knows the answers to.  I was shocked about the amount of attention he was paying to his own differences and to others around him.  He was paying a lot more attention that I had originally thought him to be.  That is how he tends to work, though.  He keeps things in while he processes them, and then when he thinks he has figured them out, he lets it out.  He did that with talking. He did not hardly talk at all until he was 4, but when he did it was all of the sudden, and in sentences.  It's either on or off with him.  Just like his mom!

26 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I think you answered authentically and accurately, kudos to you!

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  2. Reads like you owned it Shawna!
    ox

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    1. Thanks! I was scared, but I moved through it!

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  3. This is beautiful... What a wonderful support you are for your boy! Yay wonderful you!

    Hugs,
    Leah

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    1. Awww. Thanks for all of your unwavering support!

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  4. We haven't had this question yet. We've had the what is Autism talk and the "why can't my brother speak yetbecause I learned to talk." talk. We have a lot of talks about how he feels about school too. But this question Bobby asked was wild. I would have choked cause you were on the street. My hat goes off to you for not only answering but being so candid with him even though you had no privacy. I am always amazed how much alike our boys are. It's weird. My sons words came back at 4 as well but not really in sentences more like two to three words at a time. Then boom he was saying all kinds of stuff. He also hates homework. Doesn't know why we hate him to torture him day and night he says. I give him the same type of answers but it never stops the meltdowns around homework. It's really hard to watch him struggle with it all but he gets through. We love to say to him " when you grow up and get a job and a family of your own ...."

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    1. We've had that conversation about his brother, too. He said "Why can't Beans talk? Is he stupid or something?" I was l like OMG, that was awful. I explained it to him, but he didn't get it. Another time he asked me out of nowhere if Beans swallowed a fly and when I asked why he told me he thought he may have and that's why he couldn't talk. Imagine how afraid of flies going near his mouth he must've been! lol

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  5. That was a GREAT answer hun keep up the good work!

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  6. Great conversation! It feels like Daniel is going to be asking something similar soon.

    Yesterday, my other two kids were playing and it was flowing for them, Daniel wanted to play too, but he didn't know how. Long story short, I ended up talking to him and asked him how he felt he said, "different" but it was not in a positive way. At least, he could express that and we could talk about it. He has been noticing things a lot more being more social with other kids his age.

    I am glad you shared it can up the rest us be prepared. :-)

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    1. My son hasn't talked much about how he feels compared to others. I'm waiting for that conversation, though. I know it's coming, because he has been trying to play with the boys at school and they really won't let him in their group. He's just not able to talk about it, yet.

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  7. Very cool! Great answers AND questions. :)

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  8. Thank you for putting this into a worded play by play. I find I too, like many aspies, do best with imitation. When the next time my sons ask me how their minds are a little different from thos around them I'll have a good idea of how to go about explaining things.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I'm glad my post helped you. I felt that I kinda stumbled through it, but I was happy to give him an answer that he could feel good about.

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  9. I too, really appreciated the play-by-play.
    But, I'd like to know what your hindsight says would've been better. I mean, if we're modeling for people - let's tell how it actually went, and then let's go for the gold.

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    1. I'm not sure. I think I could have gone in a different direction at the end of the conversation, but I'm not sure what I could have said in it's place.

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  10. This was great and I love your answers - I sometimes grapple with how to answer my son who has asperger's about why "homework makes him cry" when you're right, it doesn't! I am going to read this with him, thanks!

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    1. You're welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting! I hope it helps him understand and to know that other little boys cry about homework, too. He's not alone!

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  11. I'm saving this for when my son is at a place when we can have these conversations.

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  12. This was so interesting to read. Thank you for sharing it with us. I need to learn how to respond to questions like that now, before they come at me. :)

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