Triggers and Blowups

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.

swearing in cartoon Suomi: Kiroileva sarjakuva...

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.

Words and Meaning

Ad for Pear' Soap

Is it time for the soap?

On the heels of “Spread the Word to End the Word” Day, we are struggling with offensive words and their meanings in our own home.  We went through this awhile ago, when The Boy wrote down every single bad word he had ever heard, and wow, there were quite a few.  It took a numbered list form, and thereafter he would refer to each word by their number (“Mom!  That man said #11!!”).  He had a classmate a few years ago, also on the spectrum, who had a hard time not using these words, and they sort of “rubbed off” on The Boy.  He even ended up creating a few made-up curse words, adding them to “the list”, and then he really confused me.  He began to use them in the correct context, using a made-up curse word when angry, but it wasn’t really a curse word, so does that deserve a consequence??  My head was spinning…  This lasted for quite awhile, but like all obsessions, petered out.

Nowadays, I’m not sure if he says one from time to time to test the waters, to see how bad they really are.  I’m not sure if he doesn’t always remember what’s what, although he is much too clever for that, I think.  So I really don’t know why he chose to use the n-word the other day.  He claimed to have seen it on a YouTube video, and was reciting a line that he had heard, thinking it was funny.  It’s quite possible.  But he also somehow knew that it was inappropriate to say, because he anticipated getting in trouble for saying it (which he didn’t, but more on that later).  There is a disconnect somewhere in there about bad words, knowing he shouldn’t say them, but still saying them and I just can’t wrap my brain around it.

The other part of this equation, is that The Boy doesn’t realize when he is “talking back”.  He is such a good mimic, that I think he has picked up “giving attitude” this way.  But he doesn’t know enough to identify when he is doing it himself, because when I call him on “using that tone of voice”, or “talking to me that way”, he has no clue what I’m talking about, and thinks he has said a bad word to make me angry.

Most upsetting to him in all of this is being certain that he has gotten in trouble, and that he will lose friends because he used that word.  He sets himself off in a self-judging spiral that will last several days, repeating that he needs me to write him a social story, that if he says it again, he will not be able to go to the computer lab, and whatever other punishment he can come up with that he deserves, because clearly, he thinks he does deserve it.  All of us adults are just scratching our heads trying to figure out how to talk to him about it so he will understand.