Yesterday was one of those days. It was a culmination of several of “those” days that actually became one of THOSE days. Am I making sense? Let me once again offer some quotes from Karen Williams in her excellent article – Understanding the Student with Asperger’s Syndrome. For Gary and I, the title should read – Understanding Our Son with Asperger’s Syndrome (If That Is Even Remotely Possible). Williams says, under the category of Emotional Vulnerability: “Rage reactions/temper outbursts are common in response to stress/frustration.” She goes on to say that those with Asperger’s “………..are easily overwhelmed when things are not as their rigid views dictate they should be.”
I would add that, likewise, parents of Asperger’s children (or adults who behave like children) are at times overwhelmed when things are not as their child (or adult who behaves like a child) wants them to be. Williams adds, “Affect as reflected in the teacher’s voice should be kept to a minimum. Be calm, predictable, and matter-of-fact in interactions with the child with AS, while clearly indicating compassion and patience.”
As a parent with an adult (who sometimes behaves like a child) with Asperger’s, I do whole-heartily agree with Williams. I would also add that perhaps the parent should have a pillow to scream into; a punching bag hanging in the garage to punch on; a blog to write in……………OK, just kidding. Sort of.
Aaron’s been hung up on a computer game and it’s been all consuming to him. Saturday was one of those days when he just would not get off the computer to shower, take his pills, or even eat. Aaron has to reach a certain level of a game before he will turn it off. This is why we removed Nintendo and PlayStation from our home years ago. He does much better on the computer, for some reason, but occasionally will revert to these old behaviors. When this happens, we take the keyboard away and hide it. Aaron has come to expect this and is usually agreeable about it………..as if it’s almost a relief to have the temptation removed.
Yesterday he was not relieved. We removed his keyboard Saturday night, so on Sunday he clipped coupons and then napped while our small group was here for lunch. After his nap, when the small group was gone and a friend who had stopped by had left, Aaron fully expected that his keyboard would be returned. We had not made it clear that we were not returning the keyboard at that time. Mistake number one: Not being clear and consistent, and expecting Aaron to follow along. Consistency has always been an issue, especially with me. And inconsistency and change does not work well with Aaron.
Aaron was talking to Gary and me about all of this, and followed Gary downstairs to his study, where they continued to have a pleasant conversation. Gary was very upbeat and happy. Aaron was holding a container of his favorite Pringles……………and was becoming agitated. Soon I heard a strange noise and when I walked downstairs I discovered Gary staring quietly at the mess. Aaron had thrown his container of Pringles across the room and there was a huge pile of chips and crumbs all over the floor as well as some of Gary’s bookshelves.
Well, well, well…………now what? Aaron grabbed the container, twisting and squeezing it in sheer frustration as he continued to escalate. Gary and I followed him upstairs, talking calmly to him………….no affect in our voices at all. If we yelled, we knew that Aaron would go through the roof. His eyes were darting around, probably trying to find something else to break. We stood there, using soothing tones that calmed Aaron a little but were not totally defusing the situation, when suddenly Gary asked, “Aaron, do you want to go to Dairy Queen and get a blizzard?”
It was amazing to see Aaron’s face. His struggle was so evident as he tried to process this offer. He was slowly deflating, but he wanted to still be angry. He paced around the family room and then angrily said, “OK!! I’ll go!” He put on his shoes and socks, and then Gary asked him if he wanted to take the van or the truck. Aaron calmed down even more as he said that he wanted to take the truck, so off Gary and Aaron went……….with Aaron sitting up in the truck with his dad. I knew what an effort it took for Gary to do this. He was tired after a hard weekend of working outside, studying for Sunday School, and teaching that morning. I knew that Gary wanted nothing more than to rest, to relax, to have time for some things that he wanted to do.
His love for his son was evident…………..both of us were loving Aaron at that moment but not really liking him. While they were gone, I vacuumed up the mess downstairs, wishing that the messes that Aaron makes in our hearts were as easy to dispose of and forget. When they returned home, Aaron was a different person. He was full of talk about his M&M Blizzard, their run through the car wash, what road they were on, and the barber shop that was nearby………….”You know, Mom, they have that red and white sign that looks like a spinning candy cane!!”
Later, Aaron and I sat on the glider on the front porch as a thunderstorm moved through. I love doing that and was happy that Aaron joined me when I invited him to come out. There the two of us sat on the glider, trying to rock as the wind blew and the thunder rumbled and the rain came down. We talked………..mostly Aaron talked, of course……………and I kept trying to rock. You see, Aaron likes to sit forward on the glider and when he does this, he rocks in his own rhythm……….which is the opposite of the way I am rocking. When I went forward, Aaron went back. Then when I was going backward, Aaron was pushing forward. This is not conducive to smooth rocking! I told him to sit back and relax so that we could rock, and for a minute or two he would. Then he would sit forward again………..and again we would not be able to smoothly rock as he was moving against my every move. I just observed, and smiled, and laughed softly at the awkwardness of this supposed rocking.
And I realized how Gary and I have to rock together in our life with Aaron. We don’t always accomplish this feat, believe me! Any married couple will agree that it takes time to develop unity in every area of marriage. Aaron and his issues have certainly been difficult for us at times. We haven’t always agreed on how to handle discipline, especially, as well as other areas. Time and maturity and experience have taught us so much. So many times, I have rocked one way while Gary is rocking in another direction. This makes for jerky, unhappy motions in our marriage and in Aaron’s life as well. He needs us to be unified………..and Gary and I need to be a solid unit as we deal with Aaron’s life and decisions that involve him.
Gary blessed me yesterday in how he handled Aaron with love and wisdom. We were rocking together and the result was smoothness and pleasure in the end as we saw Aaron relax and calm down. We never know what we’ll face today or tomorrow with Aaron, but we do know that if we rock together with God in the center, then life will be much happier and certainly more peaceful.