Last night, The Boy and I sat down to do some social studies homework (it never ends), and like most on the spectrum, he has a hard time with the whole concept of homework: School stuff should be done at school, and home is home. It’s a struggle, but as long as I break up our sessions, reward him, and don’t ask him to do too much at once, he does what I ask, and we are relatively successful. Usually.
At first, I couldn’t even find the answers to the fill in the blank questions. It took a fair amount of digging in the textbook, something at which my boy is not so good. Nor is he patient. “How long is this going to take?” he kept asking.Knowing the assignment was four pages and that this is his last week at his current school, I was overly optimistic about how much we could get done. If the assignment hadn’t been so challenging, we probably wouldn’t have had a problem. But we did.
He began playing with a chip clip on the table, and when I needed him to read from the text to find an answer, he was distracted. I asked him to put it down until we finished five answers, and he refused. I tried to take it away, and all hell broke loose. Screaming, swearing, breathing heavily, skin becoming mottled, and near tears, The Boy was all of a sudden not The Boy.
He became preoccupied with the “swear” which wasn’t really a swear, but he knew he had crossed the line, and was now punishing himself, saying he had to apologize to everyone he had ever sworn in front of, and was throwing quarters across the room (a family joke about owing someone a quarter every time they let a swear word slip in front of him)… I had to get him calm enough to figure out what had triggered this, and get him off the idea that I was mad about the swear word. It was a challenge.
After about a half hour, making him sit with me on the couch, practicing deep breaths together, I was able to get him calm enough for me to understand that the homework was just too much. I told him we would cut it down to one page tonight, which turned out to be 3/4 of a page, but I was amazed that we were able to get anything done after a blowup like this. Progress? Maybe.
As he gets older, his triggers change, and what these blowups (pre-cursors to meltdowns in our case) look like change, as well. I won’t ever stop learning about my kid, oftentimes after the fact. It seems that as long as we concentrate on why the blowup happened, and take the focus off of consequences for “poor” behavior, I am able to learn so much more, and he is able to recover much more easily. Usually.