How I managed a difficult afternoon with my ASD son
Yesterday Bright Eyes was grumpy. Really, really grumpy.
There were several reasons. Something happened at school that he didn't want to talk about, but the gist was that a girl in his class bossed him around a bit. "She's a cockroach," was his assessment of the situation.
In addition, he was recovering from two big events, the sleepover and a school excursion. Plus, he's not had a couple of his supplements, (SAM-e, to be exact) which help keep him 'sweet', for a couple of weeks.
Anyway, for some reason, he had it in for me. To begin with, I was insulted and whinged at for at least an hour.
"You're a runt. You're just ruining my life. You're a very bad mother. Tomorrow I'd better have everything go MY WAY or you won't get to do any emails for two whole weeks."
He kept on at me, and wrote a letter to me threatening death and unlimited wedgies, so I did a little bit of these things: attempt to make some jokes and ask some questions to get him off the topic, tell him I loved him very much, explain why I put time limits on computer time and didn't allow open slather TV-watching, and ignore him.
It didn't really work.
Finally, after my head was full, I said, "You're obviously very upset. I think you're tired. I'd like you to go to another room to calm down. After you're calm, I'm very happy to talk to you about it."
"NO! I WON'T! YOU'RE A COCKROACH!" came the reply.
"You need to go to a room. Which room - yours or mine?" I said again.
"NO ROOM! YOU"RE A LOSER AND YOU'RE A VERY BAD MOTHER AND I WON'T," came the reply.
"If you can't go by yourself, I'm going to pick you up and take you," I said.
"I WILL NOT GO! YOU RUNT! YOU COCKROACH!"
I needed to get him out of my face so I picked him up and dragged him to my bedroom. He didn't like it, but I didn't want him to escalate further, so I felt it was necessary. I got him in the room and was relieved that he decided to stay in there. I went out to cook the dinner and supervise the little brother's homework, look after the three year old and help the teenager with her speech, due in two days. From the bedroom I could hear him still hurling threats and insults but he was easy enough to ignore.
"He'll calm down soon," I thought.
About half an hour later my husband walked into our bedroom to find Bright Eyes staring malevolently at my bed, over which he had thrown an entire glass and a half of water. The sheets, pillows and blankets were completely soaking.
He came back out to find me. "You'd better see what he's done," he said.
When I walked in, Bright Eyes looked at me half-guilty and half-defiant.
"Hmm," I said. "That's a mess. I think you'll need to clean that up before dinner and TV. You'll need to get some towels and take the sheets and everything off."
"I won't clean it up," he said.
"That's a shame," I said. "If you're so tired that you're doing that sort of thing, I think you'll need to go to bed and straight to sleep."
"I'm not tired," he said.
"Are you going to clean it up?" I said.
"No," he said.
"Okay, it's time for bed then." And I took him upstairs to his room and put him in bed. He knew he'd crossed a line so he didn't try any physical refusals but he protested and cried all the way. "I'm NOT tired. I'm NOT sleepy. I WON'T go to bed."
"You're obviously not coping," I said. "Which tells me you need some rest. Bed for you. Good night." I turned off his light and left him in bed, still angry and throwing out insults.
I left my bed the way it was. If he decided to come down and fix it up, there needed to be something to fix.
We all had our dinner. He stayed in bed, angry and sulking upstairs. After dinner, his brother got to choose a video, as per our well-established schedule. At this point, my husband went up (as a neutral figure) to suggest to Bright Eyes that he might like to (a) apologise and (b) clean up the bed so that he could get some dinner and watch the video.
"NO!" he yelled, so his dad came down. About three minutes later, though, he called out, "What's the video?" We told him. Next thing, he came down the stairs, looked at me in the face, said, "I'm sorry, Mum," and then took towels to the bed.
Okay, so it wasn't an effective cleanup, but at least he made a token effort. He watched the video, calmed down (mostly - there were still a few insults afterwards, but I looked stiffly at him and threatened no ipod time in the morning and he pulled his head in).
I was pleased with myself. I was able to stay calm in a pretty chaotic environment simply by not worrying too much or taking it personally. By giving him reasonable choices and realistic consequences ("you're too tired to be out with everyone, so go to bed") he was able to choose to do the right thing and make amends for his bed wetting and insults.
This morning I had a talk with him. It's always more effective for him to refer back to previous bad behaviour when he's calm and look forward to a better alternative, rather than just expect him to control himself in the middle of an outburst.
I said: "You know how you were so grumpy yesterday? I really hope you'll be able to handle it this afternoon otherwise you'll have to go straight to bed again because I'll see you're tired."
"I'll handle it mum, I will," he said.
We'll see. Oh, and by the way, I've got his SAM-e back. I'm not running out again.