All children whether they are autistic or not, have behaviors and habits that we parents wish they did not have.
As a parent it is our job to decide exactly which behaviors need changing. Also, with Autistic children in particular we need to find if it is the behavior or the intensity, frequency, or severity of the behavior that is causing the problem.
I often explain that the behaviors my daughter presents are not that unusual, it is the intensity of them that make them unacceptable.
The three that this article will focus on are: repeating a certain pattern, inappropriate and persistent verbalization in social situations, and severity in accepting things being done in a matter other than the norm.
PATTERNS: She likes to rearrange the cushions on the couch in a particular order, once arranged, she removes them and then arranges them again, and again, for an inordinate amount of time. Her attention will then shift to another area. This arranging and rearranging activity will continue for hours. Also while she is doing the rearranging she is vocalizing no, no, no, or yes, yes, yes, and if one gets placed wrong she will scream and scream until someone intervenes and puts the pillow where she wants it and she will calmly continue arranging.
Inappropriate social behaviors: She had been to her therapists office, then we went out to eat dinner. During dinner she started talking about some dolls she used during her session. The dolls were anatomically correct. She informed us, in detail, about the difference between them. She used a loud voice and could not be redirected. She was 12 years old. I got many strange looks and comments, I felt embarrassed to say the least. She was far too big to physically take out of the restaurant so we quit eating and left very quickly. One lady cornered me about it, I smoked and simply said puberty!
Rigidity: We traveled the same route, in the same way from our house to school everyday. I had learned not to vary the route or the times I changed lanes etc. My car was in the shop and a friend graciously picked us up to take her to school and me to work. My friend took a slightly different route and drve at a different speed, this induced screaming and crying to the point of being inconsolable. My friend did not deal well with the screaming-I wonder why? There was nothing I could do except to have her take us back home. Once we arrived home the crying ceased. I directed my friend the entire trip as to speed, lane changes etc. There were no further events on this trip.
You no doubt agree that rearranging cushions, talking about a new thing learned, or having a routine are not bad in and of themselves. However, when taken to extremes they can cause a parent to feel extreme exasperation, bewilderment, and stress.
It is behaviors such as these repeated on a daily basis can get tedious. Autism is a 24/7 365 day a year condition.
Are you wondering how I chose to handle the above situations? Her rearrangement activities I simply allow, no one is in danger, it calms her, I have no problem with it
Theappropriate talk, is a little more difficult. We discussed what is personal and what is not personal. We developed a cue that through repeated practice she learned to understand meant to change subjects or just be quiet.
Advance planning and discussion handle the change in the route taken. Reassurance was given that it was safe and acceptable ..
There is much more that could be said on this subject, my goal was to explain how even seemingly harmless behaviors can wear a parent down. Are children are inflexible but we are. There certainly are other ways of handling situations, this was the method I used.