Friday, November 4, 2011

Ask yourself is the battle worth it?

A comment from my son's teacher made me think. Apparently there was a situation that occurred in the beginning of the year (I suspect math calculations were involved or perhaps journal writing two of my son's largest source of frustration and meltdown; though she never did specify the precipitating factor) where she and my son got into a battle of wits.  He shut down, nearly curled into his "turtle" position. Grunting in response (if he even acknowledge her presence), turning his back to her, hiding his face, pretty much wanting to shut out the universe.  She took him to task and ended up in a battle of stubborn.  But she caught herself, pushing him was just making things worse. She stopped. It took a few but he recovered.  She apologized to me (him) for getting into a battle. She stated how bad she felt when she caught herself in the battle of wills, it's easy to fight him but it's hard to know when the battle is worth it.

Certain things in (our) life are not up for discussion or optional.  Such as wearing a helmet when biking, skateboarding, or scootering; wearing a seatbelt in a moving vehicle; being polite at least with please and thank you; respect.

Other things are optional--there is more than one way to complete a math problem or construct a sentence. Art has so many variables it's hard to make an incorrect choice.

Homework is necessary but it's not worth the battle of wits...sometimes.  As my child's mother I've gotten better at finding the source of the stubborn. Once we were both overtired, and nearly in tears over homework; just shy of blowing my top I didn't know what else to do to get through to my child.  I caught myself and did the first thing that popped into my mind. (No, I didn't beat the peanuts out of him) I hugged him and told him I loved him. While hugging him he let out a big sigh, then passed out.  Turns out the battle was not over homework but a battle fighting the inner demon of pure exhaustion. He was so tired he couldn't funciton. So tired he couldn't communicate except to pretend to do his homework and argue with me.  For a second there I was worried that my son was developing some type of bizarre behavior problem but alas, it was just a difficult night of insufficient sleep (much to my relief).

My son has two scenarios that can make him pretty bizarre and odd, and if I'm not intuned to the situation I (and others) can cause an escalation of bad "behavior".  For one: lack of sleep, lack of restful sleep, or exhaustion from a busy day. When he's overtired he can be pretty odd, making rather bizarre requests (such as asking for purple spaghetti with peanut butter for dinner) or actions (licking his pencil if trying to avoid homework). 
The other: prodromal illness.  Before spiking a fever he's pretty bizarre, he'll be very cool with cold hands. He won't talk, he'll actually look like he is in sensory overload without any obvious overstimulation.  Then about an hour or so later he'll spike a temp of at least 102F.  (It also happens when he's ill between doses of Tylenol or Motrin, just as the medication is starting to wear off the temp hasn't gone up but he starts acting wierd.)
This happened recently. My aunt went bonkers when he wouldn't respond to her (not that he spontaneously talks to anyone unless he has something "important" to say), he didn't turn his back but was hyperfocused on his Legos.  We had already planned an early exit as it was a long day. My aunt was pretty upset, made several snide almost hurtful remarks. Fortunately my son totally tuned her out.   Later when we got home his hands were freezing and he started to feel warm. Low and behold 101.5F at the first temp.

Other times I need to be aware of simple stubborness and avoidance. Not exactly atypical for a 9 year old child. But sometimes he just doesn't feel like to doing something (like math homework) and knows just what to say to make me cuckoo.  Sometimes being a single mother definitely has disadvantages such as stubborn homework refusal nights.  I have resorted to what some consider "bribes" but I consider negotiation or positive reinfocement with tangible results.  I have to determine if the issue is frustration (not comprehending the assignment or an assignment that is beyond his cognitive capabilities), if my son has psyched himself out (thinks it's going to be difficult so he avoids the work to avoid frustration), or if he's just being a pain in the heiny 9 year old.  But battle isn't always necessary in these scenarios. I knew full well that my son had the capabilities to work on his multiplication, he just thought he couldn't do the work. 

So I challenged him. I found similar worksheets to the one he was assigned. we had 60 seconds to complete as many as possible. (Apparently I can complete 100 multiplication problems in less than a minute. GO ME!) First he watched me and how I analyzed the page for patterns in the problems to quickly solve the equations. Then we battled.  He got his 25 problems done in 60 second to see if he could finish his work before I finished mine. We laughed. We worked. He got to check my answers while I checked his. Work done, crisis averted.

When he has "super sentences" to write for grammar or spelling he is near ready to melt. I scribe his ideas and then he rewrites the sentences. (it's rather obvious who comes up with the sentences :) )  Sometimes he hits a roadblock and gets I will create the sentences my way for him. (he he he) like "I am getting frustrated with the homework assignment from Mrs. B son instead I've decided to abscond with all the cookies from the kitchen and eat them."  He's too busy laughing at my sentences to be frustrated. He usually rewrites what I created in his own words because mine are too long or too silly/embarassing.  I just remind him that I graduated years ago so I already have proven that I mastered the fourth grade cirriculum.

So the next time your Aspergarian is ready for a battle of wits and you are ready to pull your hair out, think is this battle worth it?  Sometimes it is, but then again sometimes it is not.  Quite often, a little silly is needed to diffuse the situation.

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