Sunday, 6 February 2011

Asperger's - my biggest challenge this week


One of my kids has Asperger's - he's a sunny, loving boy who has just moved from Lego to Airfix.

But I'm having a bit of a struggle with him at the mo - it's my problem, not his. He's fine. You know I'm generally one for merciless positivity, regardless of the size of the cloud, but it struck me that getting this 'out there' might help.

The thing is, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to listen to him. He talks, a lot, and much of it I've either heard before or is about something I neither understand nor care about.

What I've found is that as soon as he starts, and I can tell by the verbal ticks and sing-song intonation that it's probably going to be a lengthy one, so I just switch off. I try to make myself hear what he's trying to tell me, but I just can't.

I don't care what the new additions to the Airfix catalogue feature, the injustice of the fate of Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, exactly what he's going to put in his bag for the school trip in five months, how many ways his brother is the personification of evil, what the thrilling twists in the Wii game are or which cabin we are to stay in should we go to Centre Parcs (we're not planning to).

Mostly full attention isn't necessary, really, he didn't used to notice that I was only hmmm-ing and yesdear-ing. In fact, full attention would mean that nothing else ever got done at the Palace of Bundance. No journey would be completed, no meal prepared, no laundry done and no money earned.

Occasionally, now he notices. I hear his voice slow down and I say something encouraging "yes, so, tell me about the Airfix do-dah" or "why do you say you're sure something lives on Saturn?".

Then he says: "Ah, never mind."

And I feel dreadful. I try to set one-to-one time for him. He's an absolute sweetheart with his baby brother and I'm so proud of what he manages to achieve. Did I mention that he stood up and sang a song at his class's Burns supper?

But I just can't listen to what he says properly. His sentences meander and stall, he repeats himself. I try to direct what he's saying and that doesn't work either. He doesn't like to answer my questions unless they are along the lines of what he's already going on about.

I know being heard is crucial to self esteem and, although he seems generally chipper, I do worry about his. If his mother can't bear to listen to him, what chance has he in the wider world?

Can I teach him to be a more engaging speaker, to answer questions, or is that fruitless? Should I try harder and, if so, how?

17 comments:

  1. I think we could go on for ever asking if we could do better. We can only do what we are capable of. I know exactly what you are saying in this post. Amy tells me something that I just know will go on and on and on! I switch off, say yes a lot and nod in the right places. And now she knows when I'm not listening. Life doesn't get easier with autism and aspergers. Nor does it get harder. But it does remain a constant challenge.

    CJ xx

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  2. I think you do a pretty good job of listening to him. It is hard work.

    We watched the film "Adam" this afternoon....worth a look!

    ssx

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  3. CJ, Thanks.I'm glad it isn't just me. You're right, things change but the challenge remains. x

    Ss, Thanks. I haven't seen Adam. I must look for it. x

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  4. Max is on the opposite end of the spectrum, but you've just described my 5yr old Zack's constant streams of speech to a tee! I find it hard to really listen to him for long. It's tiring! Hope you manage to find the right balance. xx

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  5. Marylin, Thanks for your comment. Once again, it's good to know I'm not alone.

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  6. Oh, e. You know I have a massive soft spot for boyone, but I also totally sympathise with the boring conversation thing. I am indulging an obsession with the simpering idiot Disney princesses at the moment. The difference for me, I suppose, is that I assume this will get better as she gets older. I always feel like I have to go along with it because she doesn't have anyone her own age at home to chat to.

    I would imagine that this is very common for parents of children with asperger's and I am sure there is advice online somewhere which might help with your practical questions. I think you are doing all the right things in terms of one to one and focusing on the things he does well. He is certainly a child to feel proud of!

    Try not to feel guilty. Parenting does feel like one big challenge sometimes and you are only human. I think the fact that you have recognised it as one of the things that he needs to work on shows what a great mum you are. Would his senco at school be able to offer any advice?

    Much love to y'all x

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  7. Hi Jo, Thanks very much. He is a lovely boy. And that's an excellent idea about trying to speak to someone at school.
    Are Disney princesses as revolting as they sound?

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  8. Hi Ellen- don't have the same problem myself as my ASD DD is usually mute, but a dear friend who has an AS boy has exactly the same problem- I don't think you're alone in finding it annoying :) When my DD does speak it's usually pretty random stuff and I agree, you're wasting your breath if you try to direct!

    I've just got a book called 'Talkability' which is to teach social skills to HF ASD kids- I'll have a look thru, but as CJ says, I think we're all just trying our best as it is. I hope that these issues will get better as they get older and hopefully learn some social skills :)

    x

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  9. My middle son is not Aspergers or anything else that I know of, but he goes on obsessively about whatever he is obsessed with at the time, I constantly guilt trip myself about not listening to him. But, the silver lining is, my OH had dyspraxia and also gets rather obsessive, and although i cant take in all he says about his obsessions either, I'm pretty sure you can rest easy that other people will listen to him, and love him, and dote on him. You do your best, that's all any of us can do.

    Sal. X

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  10. Gosh I would love to know the answer to this. My boy is being assessed for Aspergers at the moment and this certainly sounds familiar to me. He has a penchant for reading menus and telling me all about them!

    Mich x

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  11. Rachel, I'll have a look for that book. I do wonder how much I can direct. Thanks for your comment.

    Sal, Thanks. Perhaps it's actually more difficult for the parents as we learn not to listen.

    Michelle, Thanks, menus sound particularly, um, interesting.

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  12. I hear you. I have two who go on, and on, and on, and on. It is repetetive at best, and I agree, you do switch off, and not fully listen. It gets harder as they get older and start to notice.

    I haven't found the answer to that yet, but I am getting good, at saying sorry when I get caugh out...

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  13. My sister has Aspergers. She... just grew out of this phase. At six or seven, she would go on and on and on and on and on and on. In her teens, she'd talk herself into ridiculous semantic knots and get tantrumical when she couldn't work out what her own point was, and freak if we tried to question her. At 18, she was fine. I mean, she still has Aspergers and is still adorably weird, but her social skills and conversational skills suddenly came together. Now she can tell you about her enthusiasms with charm and stops herself when she starts 'going on', laughs, and makes a joke about it.

    The terrible thing is, I have no idea how, or why, she improved like this, or what we did to make it so, or if it just happened. Her educational psychologist said sometimes puberty changes everything. When my sister was 16 and DIFFICULT, this was not consoling.

    One thing we did do, was ask her to listen to how other people were speaking and taking turns, and to think of one thing of all the things about (in her case) Sailor Moon or spirographs that she wanted to say, say that, and STOP until the other person has finished saying something. It didn't work often, but maybe the repetition sank in eventually. But it did suck, watching her struggle with the fact she couldn't share her delight and passions with her family and friends.

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  14. Scottish,
    Thanks. And saying sorry does help.

    Nutsinmay,
    That is a reassuring story thanks very much.

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  15. I have a wonderful 21 year old Aspie stepson who did this for years. What worked for me was to listen as directly as I could, making eye contact, and then say " i want to hear the rest of this but I am feeling stressed for time and need to start the (dinner, laundry, getting dressed for the event, etc.) so could you come to a convenient pausing place and then can we take this up again after?" This worked beautifully because, #1 he felt heard and valued and, #2, if the topic was just casual he would then say so, and say there wasn't really much more anyway (95% of the time this was the case). But in the 5% of the time that the talk was a lead-in or cover for a deeply concerning subject, I would resume at the later time and would offer my support, perspective, etc. This allowed me a break and gave us a way to moderate the percentage of repetitive chatter. Hope this helps! -- airheart

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  16. Hi airheart, Thanks very much, that sounds like an excellent strategy. I'll try it.

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  17. Thanks for linking up to the BritMums Special Needs Roundup. Aleyna is not on the spectrum but also goes on and on and on about Ben 10! I have to admit I do just nod and say yes in the right places as I have heard it so many times before. The way I look at it though (a bit Pollyanna-ish) is that at least she is talking! It took a long time and which would I prefer in the long run, non-verbal, or a lot of nonsense from that lovely little mouth xx

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