There's a BIG difference between what it takes to raise a typical child versus a kid with autism. Hopefully, everyone reading this blog knows what an understatement that is. Lately I've gotten a much better grasp on what it takes to care for a child with autism versus a typical kid. I want to share some of my insights here.
My wife and I have only one child, a 10-year-old boy who has autism. His name is Braden.
I also have only one blood nephew, 8-year-old Kanyon.
My sister, who is Kanyon's mom, works when most people sleep and she sleeps when most people work. Since Kanyon's biological father is a deadbeat dad and out of the picture, childcare is tough with that schedule. So when Kanyon has weeks off from school he's often at Grandma's house. And my house is near Grandma's house, so I get to see Kanyon quite a bit.
Kanyon is so easy to care for that it's almost like he's not even there. Indeed, sometimes he's not there because he's at the house of the neighboring kids playing with them and having fun.
Braden, on the other hand, is never at a neighbor's house. Nobody invites him over, and even if they did invite him, we'd have to go over there with him.
Kanyon knows how to play on his own and entertain himself with his Lego's, Nintendo DS, or any other toys.
Braden is beginning to play on his own, but it doesn't happen often. His iPad is the one real exception. When he has the iPad he goes down to his room and he's cool. He just plays the racing games on there and is well entertained. But without his iPad he hardly knows what to do. He will bug us to no end to go somewhere! And he doesn't understand when we say, "No." To him, "no" means that it's time to have a fit.
Like I said, Kanyon can self-entertain. But if he wants to go somewhere, and if the answer is no he can deal with it. He can comprehend the refusal and he can understand why. He won't have an emotional meltdown.
Braden will have a meltdown. And he'll continue to pester his parents as well as the animals in the house. But, as we recently learned, he does understand consequences.
The other night he had a fit and disobeyed us when we told him it was bedtime. "I don't want to!" he yelled repeatedly. After giving him several chances to rectify the situation and calm down I finally told him no iPad and no walking tomorrow night. That's it! Now you should know that Braden loves to play his iPad and he really loves walking his dog on the trails around our house. This punishment was something he would feel.
After dragging him to the toilet and then lifting his body up into bed his night was concluded. And then I went straight to the kitchen for a cocktail.
Fast forward to the next evening - We were in the car around 7:30pm and I turned around to him and asked if he knew why he wasn't allowed to play the iPad or walk the dog.
"Last night didn't listen," he said without hesitation. Yep. Last night he didn't listen to us. That's why.
It's a big step for him to comprehend that he was being disciplined for not doing as he was told almost 24 hours earlier. Wow. He adjusted well. And he knew there was zero chance that I would bend because, well, once Daddy lays down the law it doesn't change. He pays the price, listens, and the next night things are back to normal.
I was proud that my son understood. I was proud that he was taking the punishment... like a man.
We have to remind him ever so often by saying, "You gonna show me you can listen?" But generally when we say it he straightens up right away. That's my boy!
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