Dead Computer

Sunday, The Boy had a computer go down.

I can usually get things up and running, or at least figure out the problem. That day, the problem turned out to be a really old computer that just wasn’t going to turn on anymore.

He had found it high up on a shelf in my closet, and had been using it for awhile, primarily to watch videos. Why can’t he watch videos on the portable DVD player he has? You’re asking the wrong person. It was a Gateway computer (I don’t think they even make them anymore, do they?) that his dad and I had bought, possibly before he was even born. It wasn’t even capable of accessing wi-fi. Yep, OLD.

pexels-photo-51415But to him, it was like watching a friend die, and that core piece of The Boy’s autism, attachment to things, reared its head again. He insisted he had damaged it by dropping it, which he hadn’t. He insisted that it couldn’t possibly be replaced. We kept focusing on the fact that he is getting a new computer – a delayed Christmas present to replace the brand new one that crapped out on us the day after Christmas. He didn’t want to hear any of it. His old friend, the Gateway, was toast, and his world was ending.

The Man turned to me at one point in the day-long drama with utter disbelief that he felt so strongly about a thing.  “I don’t get it,” he said. I tried to explain about attachment to things, but it is difficult for us NTs to understand.

I do know when The Boy is hurting, though. We made the best of the day, tried to be gentle and talk him through it. By evening, he was making peace with himself and the reality that the computer was not going to turn on again. And the next day he was searching online for a new one.

It’s not going to go away, this attachment to things. Or maybe it will. I don’t know. It’s hard to predict and prepare for, though. So in the meantime, we just have to try to understand, get some perspective, and be gentle. Poor kiddo.

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BuJo and ASD

I mentioned recently that I have begun bullet journaling, and it has helped me put one foot in front of the other to get past some pretty dark, helpless feelings this fall. I also belong to a fantastic facebook group with over 14,000 members who also bullet journal, and it has connected me to people across the globe. One of those fabulous ladies is an autism mom in the UK who shared that her son was helping to set the table, and began by making a list of “supplies” he would need – five plates, five forks, etc. – on his iPad. Then, he gathered his materials and put them in the appropriate spots on the table (while shouting loudly what each was). She remarked to him about his list. “Why did you make a list?” He said, “You remember everything, Mom, and you make lists in your journal all day long.”

This story got me to thinking. The reason many of us bullet journal is because it can get overwhelming relying on our brains to remember everything. I, personally, am the type to need to get things on paper, because if I don’t, I will remind myself to do that one thing at least six times in one day – how exhausting, and how almost perseverative (is that a word? it is now…)… Overwhelmed… Perseverating… Indeed, one of the most relied upon strategies for coping with autism is the social story (a list of sorts to describe what will happen), and another is “first, then” (First we will do some homework, then we will have some m&m’s).  Maybe, just maybe some kiddos, young adults, and adults on the spectrum would benefit from bullet journaling.

I may try this with The Boy. But my primary purpose with this post is to share an idea, a connection, a possibility. This may be a strategy that could help you or someone you know. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

BuJo

Stop & Listen

A common theme here on Simple. I Just Do. is that I forget, sometimes.  Your kid gets to be 13 and you feel like you know everything until you don’t.  His behavior is wonky, he’s depressed and ready to blow for a week, and you scratch your head and say, “I hope he gets over this thing soon, because I have no idea what’s going on with him!”

And sometimes you lose it.  You lose your patience because you are just so tired of hearing the negative, and the same thing every day, the fixations on things that never happened, and the punishments he has dreamed up for himself for poor choices he didn’t make.  And you snap, because you just don’t have any more answers, you just can’t understand, and you just can’t listen to one more minute of the perseverations.

And you start talking to him like you would talk to a neurotypical kid who is lying, or has made a poor choice, or is misbehaving, all the while knowing that he is not that kid, and this is not any of those situations.  But you do it anyway because you’ve got nothing else.

“No, that’s not true.  No, that didn’t happen.  I need to understand the real reason why you are upset.”

And you may even raise your voice a little, because he just doesn’t understand you.  And you just don’t understand him. And there is complete communication breakdown. And he begins to get teary eyed.

And then he tells you something new.

He tells you he is upset because his plug and plays are not working right, and you remember that you were going to get the crud out of the battery compartment of that one plug and play, like, two weeks ago and you never did.

plug and playAnd so you hug him, and tell him to find his little screw driver so you can take the covers off of all of them.  When he brings you the screwdriver, you tell him to get the pack of batteries you bought him last weekend, and you sit down together.  And you start working on solving this problem.  This problem that he told you about two weeks ago.  This problem that you said you would help him with and you didn’t.

This problem that a neurotypical kid would have nagged you about, but that your actual autistic kid did not nag you about.

This problem that seemed small to you, but was probably huge to this boy who couldn’t communicate its importance to you.

You kick yourself because you knew and didn’t know at the same time.  You forgot that the importance of things is relative.  And he told you, but you weren’t listening.

 

Luckily, all he cares about is that what’s been bugging him is being fixed. He is no longer negative and depressed, but excited and chatty.  Communication breakthrough. Peace restored.  And he doesn’t hold it against you like a neurotypical kid might.  And that makes all the difference in the world.

 

Some Rough Days

The Boy has been having some rough days at school this week.  Lots of talk about people being absent from school, and students who have “left” school and may never come back.  None of it is true, but he has emotional reactions to these “events” and we are left to try to figure out what is at the heart of it. Add that to lots of perseveration on his favorite topics, and anyone can see he’s anxious about something.

His teacher emailed me the other day commenting that he seems to let one small correction bother him, and then add real infractions to ensure he gets “punished” or sent home, or some judgement that seems worthy in his mind.  I let her know that this is a common occurrence at home, as well.  Yesterday, I could tell she was frustrated because her email started with “Another bad morning today…” at 10:07am. Rather than respond, I let it ride. She’s young, and doesn’t seem to have the patience the job requires all the time.  Maybe she just needed to vent. I wanted to remind her of Rule Number 1: Behavior = Communication, but I didn’t.  People don’t like it when you tell them how to do their jobs.

crabby

And sometimes he’s just crabby… Kiddos on the spectrum are allowed to have emotions, too.

I’m not sure what’s going on with The Boy, but he seemed much happier yesterday afternoon than he has been in about a week.  I hope that whatever has triggered this latest round of rough days has resolved itself, but only time will tell.  The Boy and I did talk yesterday evening, and I got the sense that we had turned a corner.

Sometimes we figure it out, and sometimes we let it ride and walk on eggshells for a bit. As our very favorite teacher always used to say, “Tomorrow’s another day.”

I Hate that Sound…

frustration

frustration by Sean MacEntee

One of the worst sounds to my ears is the sound of The Boy expressing frustration.  Partly because, if left unchecked, it could lead to a meltdown, or perseveration on some negative thing.  But mostly because he is 11, and I have tried and tried for years to teach him to ask for help when he gets frustrated, and instead he continues to do this thing…  This “ARGGHHHH!” thing, to which I think I am supposed to come running and solve his problem.  Or the extremely loud self-talk that sometimes accompanies it (but which I can’t understand, because it is often coming from the basement).  I don’t ever respond, except to say, “Do you need help?”  I rarely get a response, just more “ARGGGGHHHH!” and indistinguishable self-talk.  Beyond that question, I do not respond, knowing that if I do, he will learn that I will try to anticipate his every need, and instead, I want him to learn to communicate his needs and ask for help, even when frustrated.

And so, I will wait him out, turning on some music to drown out the “ARGGGGGHHHH!” until he comes to me of his own accord, or gets interested in something else.

But that noise is just about the worst…

His Latest Obsession

His latest obsession is killing me.  Ever since he returned home from being at his dad’s for two weeks, it has been non-stop cats: dressing like a cat (which consists of sticking a scarf in your pantwaist), meowing, crawling on the floor, and talking about “Gary”, his imaginary cat.

The Boy's hands after he returned from his dad's in January...

The Boy’s hands after he returned from his dad’s in January…

Today, I snapped.  Not feeling well and trying to get some rest, I asked if we could take a break from the meowing.  And as soon as the words left my lips I knew what a mistake I had made.  You just can’t suggest that he take a break from his obsession.  That would be like asking someone to take a break from their career.  It’s not that easy.

But it’s driving me batty.  Mostly because I can’t really help him make this one useful.  And he keeps asking about when he can get a cat, and when I will outgrow my allergy.  And I’m not a huge fan of cats to begin with.  If the “visitor cat” were coming around, he’d get his fix that way, but I don’t think he’ll be coming around with multiple inches of snow on the ground.

And so.  I’m at an impasse.  And slowly going insane.

Bec at snagglebox.com wrote an amazing post about this very topic.  I think I need to re-read it a few hundred times to get me through this.