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Tiny Tyger, Baby Bear and Me: Poo You!! (Are ASD Parents Too Sensitive?)

Sunday 12 July 2015

Poo You!! (Are ASD Parents Too Sensitive?)

Tyger has been lining things up a lot recently.  It's an ASD thing and something he's always done but he's doing it far more right now, especially with his cars.  Perhaps it's a coping mechanism because he knows there's change coming (he will go to preschool after the summer) or maybe I'm just noticing it more at the moment or it might be he's already forging a future career as a...parking attendant or something.  I don't know.

Yes, that's a door in the background and no, we were not allowed to move the 'traffic' away from the door...

This week, at a toddler group, Tyger diligently lined up all the ride-on cars and the toy buggies along the edge of the room.  It was pretty conspicuous so I briefly explained to a couple of the other mums about Tyger's compulsion to line things up.  They know he's being assessed for ASD.  One of the mums just smiled and mentioned her own son's phase of lining things up.

I immediately felt defensive.  Defensive and a little...belittled?  I thought about Tyger's concentration as he lined up perhaps 20 or so cars at home and then his distress if anyone tried to move them.  I thought about all the different things he lines up (cars obviously, blocks, CDs, toy animals, his Henry Hoover collection, buckets, trains...) and how long he's been doing it (probably about a year now).  I know a lot of toddlers go through a phase of lining up when they're learning to categorise the world around them but it's not really on the same level.  This is probably where a lot of people would use a sports metaphor and talk about...leagues?  But I don't do sport.  I guess it probably felt like someone who's been out on a pedalo a few time comparing himself to the captain of a ship.  Except that makes it sound like I think this little boy was an amateur liner-upper whilst Tyger is an expert and that's not what I mean.

Anyway, the previous week something similar had happened.  After watching another boy who was playing with a doll in a buggy, Tyger found another doll and another buggy and wheeled them over to the other boy so they stood next to each other.  I mentioned the fact Tyger often very closely imitates other people to the boy's mum and she said she thought all kids do that.  I know all children copy to some extent.  I know if one child decides to play with the train track you're far more likely to get others suddenly showing an interest in the train track.  And children love cleaning 'just like Mummy and Daddy' (haha! I avoided the trap of just putting 'Mummy' - how many feminism points do I get?); unfortunately, they don't do it well enough to take over all cleaning duties (I know - I've tried).  I know kids often pick up phrases they've heard from adults (normally either ones that sound massively cute coming from a child or - more likely - hugely inappropriate phrases that you just said that one time and why did they have to pick up on that specific phrase out of all the things you say!).

But Tyger doesn't just do a little copying here and there.  He'll watch someone intently and imitate everything about them.  If they have a backpack on, he'll get his own (or - if they have a buggy!).  If they're sat with their hands in their lap, he'll sit with his hands in his lap.  If they walk away, he'll walk along right next to them (think shoulders touching).  When they speak, he repeats wheat they've said in the same tone of voice.  He does this a lot.  In fact, it's a huge problem with his interactions with Baby Bear.  Tyger often copies Bear (babbling, chewing on things, maybe crawling) and does it so close to Bear he's pretty much on top of the poor child.  As you can imagine, Bear is less than thrilled to have this limpet stuck to him at all times.

When someone says they think all children are like Tyger, it feels like Tyger's struggles are being downplayed.  I feel like shouting 'poo you!!' sometimes (which is something Tyger said to the Wolf the other day when the Wolf was teasing him and it tickled me).  But I know nobody's trying to make me feel bad.  I know the other mums almost certainly aren't trying to insinuate I'm exaggerating or even lying about Tyger's ASD.  I imagine they either don't even think about it at all or - if they do - are trying to be supportive by suggesting Tyger is still 'normal' despite his ASD.  I doubt there's any malice there.

Why do I feel so defensive?  Well, I think there are probably a few reasons.  For one thing, I always feel a little defensive when it comes to Tyger.  When your kid decides he absolutely needs to roll around on the floor when you're out, or when he has a meltdown and starts kicking as you pick him up and you can feel the eyes on you and hear the thoughts, it can make you defensive.  When the first few health care professionals you mentioned ASD to, were completely dismissive because your child 'makes eye contact' it can also make you defensive.

I don't tell anyone to go poo themselves (wow, maybe the 'poo you' insult doesn't work as well as I thought...or maybe it works a little too well and too...disgustingly) but I do feel like it.  I don't think it's at all unusual for an ASD parent.

I have also read a lot recently from parents of kids with ASD and adults with ASD who say they are offended by so many terms.  Some dislike the term 'on the spectrum' because there is confusion over whether 'the spectrum' refers to just the autistic spectrum or the whole lot ranging from completely neurotypical through to very autistic (it's the former - I checked!).  And then you get people saying 'everyone's on the spectrum', which (as I now know) is certainly not the case.  So, the whole concept of a spectrum can be problematic but that's not all.

Other members on these forums don't like 'autistic' as a term because autism is not something people are but something they have (if it seems like I refer to a disproportionate number of conversations that take place online rather than in real life that's because most of my conversations in real life are with people I'm related to - I suspect if I worked out which adults I spend the most time actually talking to the postman would easily feature in the top 10 (and that isn't hyperbole for comic purposes...just the truth for comic purposes)).  However, others actually prefer to be called/have their children called 'autistic' rather than using the phrase 'has autism/ASD' because it is a part of them and not something to be ashamed of.

That doesn't even touch on the controversy surrounding terms like 'high functioning', which some people find useful and others find pretty offensive because the opposite of 'low functioning' has such negative connotations.  Also, 'high functioning' suggests the child is not overly affected by ASD when actually a child who is very capable in terms of language, academic ability etc. can still be hugely negatively impacted by ASD and struggle daily.  'Asperger's' is no longer used as a diagnosis in the US and its use is inconsistent in the UK.

I have even recently learned some people resent the term 'ASD traits'.

Confused yet?  I am and I think I know more about the subject than your average person.  I'm afraid of offending when it comes to discussing ASD.  I'm afraid these blog posts often have scope to offend...which makes me think I should go easier on those who unwittingly offend me.  You know what, don't poo yourself!

My Random Musings

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At 13 July 2015 at 01:09 , Blogger Emily Twin Mummy and Daddy said...

It must be tough. I can see your point of view, but I guess the other parent just wanted to share with you that her child does it too - obviously not to the same extent though. #anythinggoes

At 13 July 2015 at 04:04 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Rationally, I know that. It's the automatic emotional response I need to learn to control. I know, really, that they're just trying to connect and share and empathise but I still feel a bit defensive.

At 13 July 2015 at 04:33 , Blogger Random Musings said...

Great post. I've probably made comments along these lines myself at some point. Not to under play the seriousness of a child's behaviour, just in trying to reassure someone. I'll be more careful in future because I've never considered it from this view point before, and I would hate to think I offended anyone
Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

At 13 July 2015 at 06:00 , Blogger jeremy@thirstydaddy said...

Can't imagine how tough it must get sometimes, but I can say with some confidence that I'd probably be having the same feelings towards those kind of comments. I can imagine the defense mechanism immediately kicking in. Great post and a good reminder that we never know whats going on in another parent's life or head

At 13 July 2015 at 06:17 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Thanks. I've almost certainly done i in the past, too! I like to think of myself as pretty hard to offend but I guess there are a couple of areas that are sore spots for me.

At 13 July 2015 at 06:22 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Thanks. No doubt I've unwittingly made comments to other parents that have similarly ruffled them. Like you say, you never know what's happening in someone else's head but as long as we always try to be kind I think we can work past any comments said in ignorance.

At 13 July 2015 at 12:17 , Blogger Tubbs said...

Great post. Always good to remember that there are so many different ways of doing this, so many different situations.

At 13 July 2015 at 12:21 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

When there's something you are really aware of, you can't help but feel that you have to explain it. I do this with my son (he has a condition affecting his eyes). If he gets really close to something, or bumps into something/someone I feel the need to explain his behaviour when the chances are they weren't even thinking about it at all.
I agree that the language used around all of this is incredibly emotive and needs to be carefully considered. I have a massive chip on my shoulder about that sometimes!!!
I hope you don't take offence in my comparing our situations, which are of course completely different. :)
x Alice

At 13 July 2015 at 12:48 , Blogger Unknown said...

It is my experience that most people don't say it to offend, they just don't know any better or are trying to be reassuring on this one issue. Those who are doing it to offend are not worth your time. I think many of us say things in all innocence along these lines.
It is tough to feel different and I so understand what you mean about being defensive. You could see it another way. You could see it as protective. We have to fight our child's corner much more when there is issues and it is harder to relax or trust that things will work out. I think this is something felt by many parents with children with challenges. Thanks for sharing this. You have really made me think and reflect on some of my experiences. #anythinggoes

At 14 July 2015 at 00:45 , Blogger Lady Nym said...


At 14 July 2015 at 00:51 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Haha, not at all. Yeah, I'm sure most people wouldn't even think anything of most of Tyger's actions. In fact, half my battle so far has been because Tyger's ASD is not immediately apparent but I still feel the need to jump in with an explanation! I hope your son gets all the support he needs for his condition.

At 14 July 2015 at 00:55 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Yes, perhaps protective is a better word! I know people are generally just being nice and it's my 'issue' not theirs. I guess you get into a habit of fighting their corner - as you put it - and it's hard to step back from that.

At 14 July 2015 at 03:41 , Blogger Unknown said...

Be proud that you have fought his corner and you are protective. We all learn as we go along. I am glad you wrote this post. It is great for everyone to reflect on how we deal with these situations.


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