Monday, August 17, 2009

#17 Is Progress Ever Frustrating for You?

With children on the spectrum, it's so easy to get, well, comfortable with certain things. Our children can be so habitual, and habits can be good things...or at least things you come to expect.

Take, for example, Thomas the Tank Engine. So many autistic children obsess on Thomas that actual scientific studies have been conducted to figure out why. Jack has loved Thomas since he was two. He plays with the engines repetitively, moving them back and forth at eye level for hours on end if left to his own devices. When he was two, we thought this was evidence that he would grow up to be an engineer like his grandfather. Then we learned at almost four about autism and that this sort of repetitive play for years on end is BAD, not normal, not cute.


For years, Jack wanted a Thomas cake for his birthday, and every year, I shelled out the $20 for one at Kroger. Jack only eats frosting and is quite happy with a spoon and jar of frosting, so this $20 seemed a waste of money. Last year, when we removed the Thomas track and wind-up train from the cake, I set them aside with plans of making a Duncan Hines cake this year and reusing the kit.

For the last six months, Jack has been talking about his birthday and what he wants to do. "I want a Thomas cake and lots of presents and to go to the Blue Fish Museum for my birthday." (Blue Fish Museum = Newport Aquarium) Anyway, a few weeks ago, we were at Kroger walking past the bakery department and Jack saw...a Ben 10 cake. "Mommy, mommy, mommy! Look, a Ben 10 cake. I want a Ben 10 cake for my birthday!"

I replied, "Don't you want a Thomas cake like always? You love Thomas."

He said, "No. I definitely want a Ben 10 cake. It's unusual for me."

Unusual, indeed.

Have you ever made plans--large or small--with the autism in mind, and had your child make progress in an unexpected and somewhat frustrating way? Or am I just a whiner?


Lisa said...

I am getting the first evaluation of my son today (at 1:00 p.m.), but whether or not S* is on the spectrum, he definitely has traits...with that said: I think that I depend on certain things happening with S*. Like I know that he will obesess about a color, ritual or timing. Sometimes, without thinking, I prepare my self for this quirk, so that I am ready to deal with it in a calm and mild manner. For example, I got my older son a cheesecake for his birthday, and I also got S* a mini carrot cake at the bakery so that S* wouldn't have a fit about not liking the dessert (he doesn't like many desserts). So at the bakery, we were eating together and I cut the mini carrot cake in half and told him that he could eat it instead of the cheesecake. He was very happy with this arrangement and told me exactly where to cut it. Anyway, maybe he would have eaten the cheesecake, if I hadn't intervened...maybe he would have had a fit? On the second presentation of the cheesecake, he took a very small taste, but he seemed OK that his mini carrot cake was all gone.
So, I think sometimes the ritualized part of S*'s personality gets into me, too.
Thanks for the question, and letting me process via words.

Canadian Kristin said...

I am constantly surprised to find that I'm laughing out loud to myself (yes, I'm sure the other adults around think I've cracked!) when our son does this. I will be all pre-planned and prepared to coach him through an offline moment that I think is coming...and then he'll just sail right through it no problem. I'm not sure how or why, but rather than make me feel cranky for all "the best laid plans", these moments give me a breather that lets me just sit back and feel "it's all going to be okay". You know?!

tinamarie said...

Tony surprises us still quite a bit. We get use to him liking a certain thing and then it changes without warning - food, TV characters - music.
For the longest time he did not want his hair cut. It definitely needed it and we were on him to let us get him a haircut. then a couple of weeks ago he threw a fit because we did not have time when he annouced he wanted us to take him to the barber for a haircut that day.