Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pondering aspie aggression and anger

So for the past few days, I’ve been reflecting on something that Aspie Dad said when I was talking to him about how Marty has this idea that, “No one tells him what to do,” yes, he actually says this to people. I tell Aspie Dad about the occasions were Marty gets visibly upset when he is given a command. There has been many occasions were Marty will attempt to avoid being given a direction [hiding when it is time for a bath] or deliberately doing the opposite of what he was told to do, like walking up the handicap ramp and not the steps. Marty can become very aggressive, when he is being told to do something while he is engaged in one of his special interests. I share with Aspie Dad that Marty reminds me of him. Aspie Dad often gets defensive when I approach him to merely discuss something like changing the litter box more frequently or remembering to close his bedroom window when it rains. If I come to him with a question related to something he has done, all the armor comes out; and I can sense that my point, my complaint, whatever I have to say is not getting through to him. Aspie Dad comments that he  is defensive because he feels as though he is being attacked. Hmmm, interesting. So in thinking about my Marty’s aggression related to directives that he does not want to participate in, does he feel like he is being attacked in those moments? Or does he really believe that no one should tell him what to do. He is frequently disciplined by our neighbor who has a short fuse with Marty’s bullying. For instance, one evening, Marty was told not to ride his scooter in the street. He complied by the rules on his first several trips down the sidewalk, but as soon as he noticed we were not paying attention [or so he thought] he started down the street full speed on the scooter. My neighbor yells for Marty to stop and waves for him to, “come here.” She confronts Marty, who appears angry and mumbling under his breath. Now, if this had been Max, he would have been ashamed [of being caught doing something he was told not to do] and holding back tears fearful of his punishment. But, this is Marty, he is not backing down. My neighbor explains to Marty that he had been told not to ride his scooter in the street. She confiscates the scooter and demands that Marty go play with something else. A stare-off ensues. Marty is puffed up and puckering his lips; my neighbor stares back with an equally angry face. I want to laugh, but I try to keep my composure. After ten minutes, Marty retreats to the yard to find another toy to play with. Victory is my neighbor's.

My observation of Marty, and sometimes his father, is that when they feel attacked or threatened they immediately go into defense mode or sometimes flight. They don’t take the time to consider if the threat is real, what is being said or done to them, or more importantly, how they can respond differently. Lately, I’ve tried to diffuse Marty’s anger before it turns into rage. It has been hard work. He can go from 0 to 100 in mere moments. Usually I am able to talk him down by giving him some alternative behaviors to choose from. For example, when Marty comes running out of his room demanding juice, ice cream, chips, or whatever, and I am busy, I calmly tell him that he needs to wait until I complete my task. I give him a time frame and suggest that he go back to playing and I will come get him when it is time for his juice. Or, he can wait patiently until I finish what I am doing. Marty usually chooses to wait in the room. When I finish, he will remind me of how he did a good job waiting. I tell him that I am very proud and reward his patience. This exercise only works for certain events though; my biggest challenge is getting Marty to comply with bath-time without getting upset.

Because of Marty’s quick temper, I feel like I am walking on eggshells around him. What is going to set him off this time? But, learning to recognize his “triggers” helps me control Marty’s level of aggression if not prevent it. Simple explanations, clear directions, appropriate rewards, and schedules help Marty cope and manage his world…yes, he refers to his life as, “his world.” I also learned to keep a handle on my emotions. Emotions [and some facial expressions] confuse Marty. He caught me crying one day, and screamed at me before he burst into tears and got mad. I had to fib and say that I was pretending to cry. This answer was just fine for Marty. Now, if he sees the least bit of perspiration on my face, he asks me if I am pretending to cry again. Apparently, this annoys him, he shouts at me, “Grown-ups aren’t supposed to cry!” Happy faces are suitable, unless of course they accompany spontaneous laughter in response to a clever remark by Marty that he feels should not be funny…but that’s another story. “Stop laughing at me.”
On my latest DVR viewing of the ever therapeutic Big Bang Theory, Leonard makes a snide comment about Sheldon’s lack of playing fair.
Leonard -Do you understand why people don’t want to play with you? Sheldon –No, although that’s a question that I’ve been pondering since preschool.


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