Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Getting stuck on something and being impatient

If I can name two things that bother me the most about my son’s behavior and  that occurs frequently on a regular basis it would be his tendency to get stuck on something and his never ending impatience. For some reason Marty thinks that whatever he request should happen instantly. He has been this way since he was an infant. I thought over time it would get better, but I guess I just haven’t learned an appropriate way to manage these behaviors. I took for granted that some little people tend to have a premature yet operational concept of time: timeframes, durations, and periods of waiting, until Marty came along. I could tell my oldest son when he was a toddler to wait a few minutes, or that I would give him something after lunch, and he would get it. There was no excessive questioning or nagging. I cannot say the same for my baby, I have to constantly explain to Marty that just because you ask for something doesn’t mean you are going to get it right away, moments after you ask for it. For example, he might ask for juice – in the next breath, he yells for juice; then if I am still in my seat he nags for juice. I explain to him that he must wait until I complete what I am doing and then I will get his juice in a few minutes [usually between 5, no longer than 10 minutes]. Well, this is like an eternity to Marty, he usually stands in the room until he senses that I am about to get up. He used to get upset on the verge of tears, but he is doing a little better about not over reacting. I still don’t understand this behavior; it makes it hard for me to explain to him time in terms of days of the week. You tell Marty that something will happen tomorrow and he will ask, “Am I going over Blake’s house tomorrow? Am I?” about a dozen times until he has assured himself that the before mentioned activity will take place. Needless to say, I have stopped sharing his play-dates with him in advance. It saves me the stress of dealing with being harassed about it. I once asked him, “How many times do you have to ask me about something before you believe me when I say yes to the same question over and over,” His response, “10.” 

When Marty gets an idea in his head, it is very hard for him to get over it. If he wants to build a new train track layout for Thomas, but he needs help, he will ask everyone in the house to help him. Usually he doesn’t really need help, but he knows that Thomas will be on the tracks “buffing and chuffing” even faster if mom helps. Lately, I have said no to his demands for help building his track. I assist him in building a massive room-size track layout at least once a week, and he gets bored with it after three days. The other day, one of Marty’s older brother’s friends comes over and he is smitten by the latest train track design, so he takes it upon himself to “enhance” it. Within 10 minutes, the track is destroyed and older brother and his friend are on to the next adventure outside. 5 minutes after they have abandoned Marty and the track, Marty runs out of the house determined to find his brother and friend, so they can help him repair the track. I catch up with him and he tries to solicit my assistance in helping him find his brother. “He has to help me build the track.” With persistence, Marty heads to the neighbors house looking for his older brother. I stop him, knowing that this could go on much longer, and tell him that his brother and his brother’s friend have gone somewhere with the friend’s mom, and Marty needs to repair the track on his own. I offer to help him with his track as I can sense that Marty is very upset and on the verge of a meltdown. He starts blaming his brother and his brother’s friend for ruining the track and begins yelling about random things that really don’t relate to what is going on. As quickly as I can, I usher Marty to his bedroom and recreate the track lay-out, improving it to a great degree [I even impressed myself] - Marty is no longer stressed or anxious, and he had calmed down. He even remarked that I build really good bridges. Prior to the construction of the revised track, all Marty could think about was fixing what was wronged. His brother and friend had violated his space, disrespected his property, and gave him false hope. He had loss control and having his brother repair his track was the only way he knew how to regain control of his situation. In this instance of watching my son feel disappointed and overwhelmed, I learned how he approaches problems. Yes, he wants to fix the problem, but his way of solving the problem is different from how I would solve a problem. It would have been easy to ask me to help him repair the track or to simply fix it on his own, but in his mind – his brother and friend deconstructed the track; therefore they needed to recreate the track. He could not get this idea out of his mind and was determined to make this idea come to past; he never considered that his brother and the friend could: 1. Refuse to rebuild the track, or 2. Be out of reach. I find that Marty is kind of ‘matter of fact’ in his approach to most things. Like, if B happened when I did A + C, then B will always happen in this case. Everything is concrete, black and white, with little room for grey areas. Marty’s problem solving formula is a frame of reference or a set of rules to which he applies to most situations. I guess for him this method gives him some sense of predictability and ‘control’. As I was writing this blog entry, I was fortunate to come across the last 30 minutes of the movie, “Extremely Loud, and Incredibly Close” premiere on cable. When it was a feature film at the movie theatres, I didn’t rush out and see it, in fact, I found the trailer quite ambiguous. But, as I sat through the last part of the movie, I started to notice something about the main character: surely, he had an autism spectrum disorder? Though his behavior wasn’t typical of most movies over exaggerated portrayal of a child/man with Aspergers, this child’s behavior was true to what I would say represents an individual with Aspergers. For instance, he didn’t have many friends his age, he had particular hobbies and interest, and he had sensory issues related to loud noises and being in crowds of people; hence, “extremely loud and incredible close.” Like my little Marty, who gets stuck on an idea, the protagonist in this movie was stuck on finding out the origin of Mr. Black’s mysterious key. *spoiler alert* Believing the key was part of a scavenger hunt adventure that his dad created for him, the protagonist sought out over 400 people in New York with the surname Black. He was determined to find out what this key was for, thinking it would unlock some kind of box that would contain a special gift for him from his late dad. When the protagonist realized that the key was not intended for him, he was disappointed, angry, sad, and confused; thus, able to confront the feelings he had regarding his father’s tragic and untimely death. One day, I will have to watch this movie from the beginning; it is very refreshing to witness a very accurate and witty portrayal of an individual dealing with an ASD.

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