Friday, October 10, 2014

When to Say No

Today's society says that your child needs to be involved in as many things as possible to succeed in life.  I live in the 4th largest city in the US, Houston, and this is more apparent here than many other places in the South.  It's a constant competition to say that "my child can do this" or "my child is involved in that".

Having a child with Asperger's, or High Functioning Autism, make this competition extremely difficult.  Group activities, like sports, leave these children in sensory overload and feeling defeated.  Understand, that the feelings of defeat don't come from a lack of trying.  Most children with Asperger's also have trouble with spacial orientation, and simply don't perform at sports as many of their peers.  There are always exceptions, but this has certainly held true with my Aspergers son.

Birthday parties are also a challenge.  Sensory overload abounds.  There are noisy children, having fun all around them.  There's competitive games, that they don't have muscle coordination to play well.  And sugar, lots and lots of sugar.  This means that parties can be a recipe for disaster.

Group lessons can also be difficult.  When class sizes get too large, an Asperger's child can go into meltdown, or begin to exhibit ADHD like behavior.  When there is so much activity around them, they don't know where to look and what to do with their body.

There are many activities that can send your child into overload and it's important to understand which one will be too much for them.  Pushing a child into a situation that's uncomfortable for them will only lead to disaster.  Even the best behaved Asperger's child will eventually act out.  This behavior is not intentional, simply a way for them to release their feelings.

Learning when to say no is something that I'm learning.  When I'm asked to attend something with my child, or we're considering a new activity, there are a few questions that I always ask myself:

1 - Will the venue be crowded?
2 - Can I remove my child/children quickly if it becomes too much?
3 - Will it be noisy?
4 - Will my child be forced into physical contact with others
5 - Do the chances of success outweigh the risk of meltdown?
6 - How busy have we been the rest of the week?

We rarely go to birthday parties, they are usually too much stimulation for C-note.  Sports also leave him feeling less than what he really is.  We have found a local swim team that he can compete, but he is only trying to beat himself and no other person.  We are trying to get down to 1 activity a day, with at least 1 day a week that nothing is scheduled.  If we want to see friends, we invite them to our house, it's comforting to my son.  Yes, they need a change of scenery at times, but too often, and it just causes stress.

It's ok to say no to extra activities.  It's ok not to go to someone's BBQ.  Saying no doesn't make you a bad parent, it makes you a sensitive parent.  Not going out doesn't make you anti-social, or overprotective;  It means that you care about your child's feelings more than another persons.

If those who invited you are true friends, they will understand, that sometimes, it's better to meet at your house if they want to see you.  There will be times that you can't avoid an overloading situation, but simply prepare as best as you can.  For my C-note, we have a tablet, with games set at his level, that he can retreat into it and block out everything around him.

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