It’s Mid August and we are over half way through the summer holidays. I’m pleased to report, I still have my sanity, and things are going pretty well.
The fear of family trips has eased, which is good, given that we still have a few to come. Some nice days out we have had, and though they have never been problem free, they have been achievable. It’s somewhat easier when knowing what triggers a meltdown or another form of behaviour, then coming up with ways to manage and overcome them. Certain things have been avoided, and others tackled. I discovered that I myself was avoiding social situations in fear of not being able to control them. How was this fair on any of the children! Little mans sister and baby brother may live to resent him or me for them missing out. Little man also needs to be given the opportunity to make social mistakes and like most children, learn from them. It’s all well and good teaching him a string of social stories, but he needs to put them into practice. I’m not saying I don’t take them out or avoid outings of any kind, It’s certain times and places I’ve avoid, WITHOUT EVER KNOWING I WAS ACTUALLY DOING SO. I once took Little man to the park for lunch, this was in his school lunch hour, another period of time he was on home dinners. We sat on the grass to eat, but he had little interest in food, preferring to run around. He then went into the play area. This would prove to be a bad idea! Something went on involving Little man, another child, and a toy train. (We all know what Little man is like with anything transport) Little man had a complete meltdown, throwing the train, then the child across the play area. Little man was in his first year of full time school, We had moved to the area from Blackheath, and his school life was less then prefect. He had attachment issues and hated going. Mornings consisted of me trying to remove him from his bed, refusal to eat, not wanting to get dressed, and me having to chase him pin him and psychically dress him myself. Feeling I had seceded in my task, I would be ready to leave the door, only to discover he was butt naked again. Well, we had no diagnosis back then, school got education welfare on my back for his lateness and lack of attendance, and now my son was having a full on meltdown in public. Though the park was busy, I had never felt so alone, and this feeling was completely pushed to the limit when the staff went on to ban him from coming back. (This is a 0-5 supervised play area, within the park) The looks from the other parents! Needless to say, none of these local mothers have chosen to since speak with me. Lucky for me “I don’t give a dam.”
So was it since this day I’ve avoid play parks in fear of Little man being excluded? What I considered to be forgotten was very much still there. No mother wants their reception aged child labelled as a spoilt brat! So yes I would think it properly was.
A part from a recent school trip to the park, It’s been ages since we went. We go to the local parks, but they are much smaller, with fewer children. Now I found myself taking all three children to a large park, at a really busy time. The park is massive, extremely popular and host to many public events. Today their was face painters and bouncy castles. We saw birds of prey, and sat eating ice cream. Little man spotted a large play area, that was bursting with kids of all ages. The play area was very modern, far from your standard slide and swings, more recreational with rope swings, and space aged roundabouts, he ran straight for it, with his sister not far behind. Yep, you could easily see it was the summer holidays! The playground was filled with parents attempting to gain five minutes break, and hoping their child or children, would run out all their energy, resulting in them having early nights, leaving the parents free to chill. How comes, everywhere you go, you see these mothers! The types that easily form friendships with one another, resulting in large groups of mothers indulging in mothers meetings, based around parenting, soaps and bitching. I consider many of these “groupings” of mothers, to resemble those of teenage girl groups, that compete with one another over who has the best boyfriend, makeup, and hairstyle. Like these teenagers, these mothers feel no shame when sticking their nose in the air and shaking their heads, like the bloody Churchill dog! You see mothers like this stood around the school at home time! They are known to some as the “School gate mothers” No I’m not being a stereotype, I’m not saying all parents who stand at the school gate, chat, smoke and gossip! But many do, and that’s just how it is.
I sat my eight month old son into one of the swings. With me stood in front, Little man gently pushed his giggling baby brother. My daughter was well gone, she had taken herself off to the large sand Pitt and within a few minutes was playing along side another group off children. “Why don’t you go and play?” I asked little, why giving him a gentle push to encourage him. With this Little man was off, darting around the playground like a child running on super strength batteries. He was everywhere, kinda like a bull in a china shop. He didn’t hesitant, and attempted a number of times to involve himself in group play. Little man was jumping into conversations that did not involve him, then becoming upset by the children’s responses. Ok, of course I know Little man struggles socially, he has a social communication disorder, this isn’t new to me! I have watched Little man struggle with turning taking inappropriate language, controlling behaviour e.g. It’s just that I see this behaviour displayed when interacting with those we know, or friendships his already building. We do have problems with other children when out as Little man tends to tell it like it is. The only other time I saw little man really struggle to a great degree was a few years back. It was at a time in his school life were he wasn’t displaying challenging behaviour at school (More so at home) But he also didn’t seem to socialise with anyone (aloofness) I think he was just starting to want to interact and join in. When leaving a meeting in school I saw little man running around the playground from one group of children to another. I cried when I saw that these groups walked away choosing not to engage, others just run away. I assume because he was able to hold down a few friendships now, despite his more challenging behaviour, It would be the same, when faced with this type of social situation we were now in. I watched parents running grabbing their toddlers, moving them away from Little man. I understood, as I guess to a degree I would have done the same. He wasn’t horrible to these children he just had no regard for them when running into them as though they were not there. He often ran up the slide why children attempted to slide down, and had no concept of waiting. What was heartbreaking for me, was watching him attempt to communicate, this would always be with the older children. He jumped on the roundabout and shouted very inappropriately “Move it, that’s my seat” The child who was sat where Little man wanted to sit was in my opinion 14-15 years old (I later discovered he was in fact 11, just very tall.) Of course the boy was far from impressed and told Little man so. With this little man started shouting and telling everyone to shut up. I was shocked as I heard him saying you can’t do anything because my cousin who is 13 will come sort you out. The girls on the roundabout started laughing and telling him to go get his cousin. (Think they just wanted him to go away) I went and saved him, making sure all the children knew he wasn’t alone.
So here is the crazy bit! After all the above, Little man spots a tyre robe swing, and dashes over to it with no regard for his safety as the swing was full of children going in all directions. He then runs around trying his hardest to stop it. Finally it did stop, and with that little man jumped on squeezing his way between two other children. He then looks up and says to the boy swinging the swing “Push me then” He must have come across stupid as this child who was stood swinging the children, was the child who Little man had argued with ten minutes previous . What shocked me more was the fact this child chose not to continue arguing and did in fact carry on swinging the children, Little man included. With this I sat relieved for five minutes and gave my baby and daughter a little attention.
A lot can occur in just two minutes! As I turned to check on Little man, I caught one of the girls from earlier push Little man hard in his chest. I ran over, baby under my arm to find Little man now screaming abuse and going absolutely berserk. “Your lucky you are a girl” followed by “My dad said I shouldn’t hit girls, but I really wanna hit you” was a sample of his language minus the swearing. Turns out the group of girls had got of the roundabout and fancied a go on the swing. They told the older boy that he should give it up as his had it ages. Little man got involved and the girls taunted him about his previous threat concerning his cousin. Little man then went on to make, what he considers to be a fair and valid point to one of the girls, “I don’t think it’s a good idea, you having ago on this swing, as your far to big and somewhat overweight” Umm not good I know! I was thankful for the older boy and his help to calm little man down. He had suggested going on the roundabout instead, and with that little man run off to select the best seat. With little man out of sight, I took my chances and explained that little man had problems with social communication, I said he was autistic. The girls did seem to look at his behaviour in a different way after that, I found them to be very grown up about the given situation, however this didn’t seem to be the case with everyone! As I turned to walk away, the eyes of every mother burned into me. I could hear the sneers and tuts. But my child was no longer a little reception age boy with no diagnosis, I was no longer a lonely mother. You see since discovering little mans Aspergers, I’ve discovered a whole new world. With the support of others and the love I hold for my son, I now hold my head high. I didn’t feel the need to explain his autism to every parent shaking their head, and those that wanted to judge me without knowing me, Well it was their problem! Non of these people mattered and still don’t. Yes, little man has normal naughty behaviour, typical of a nine year old, But he also has a communication problem. Can ignorance be cured? NO. Can autism be cure? NO. My point is as a parent to a child on the spectrum, I will always face such ignorance. I will be sneered at, laughed at, Pitied and gossiped about. Some days I have great tolerance towards these people, Other days I may not.
Next time you see a child in the park or anywhere else for that matter! Think before you judge, Who knows why the child is behaving in such a way? However I do know that the parent is likely to be facing enough stress in life, without such added pressure from strangers.