At least, that's the theory.
We're still trying to sort out the details. Like the bedtime routine, where my aspie boy says that he is afraid to go to sleep unless I am in the room. I have been trying to escape for months. The slow retreat did not work, nor did keeping him up late. In fact it ended in disaster earlier this week when my back went into spasm following a sudden move after sitting still and silent for almost an hour. Even he recognised that something had to change. During the bright safe daylight hours he thought that he could go to sleep on his own. But once the light faded his night fears came back. So we agreed on another idea. A really good one. He's still staying downstairs with me until late, but then we're both going to sit in his room to read for a while. He has the book chosen - a Roald Dahl - and so far this means that he is getting to sleep much faster. And that's a start.
Did you notice that I wrote 'we agreed on'? I've been thinking about why I do what I do, and then don't do what other people tell me to do. As the parent of a child with aspergers, I get a lot of parenting advice, but often it doesn't sit well with me. And I was trying to work out why, and what sort of parent I am. And then I wondered about other people and what sort of parents they are, and I came up with four different types. Do you recognise yourself? Or have I missed out any categories?
...The authoritarian parent tells the child what to do.
...The consensus parent negotiates with the children, and agrees a plan of action.
...The laissez-faire parent lets their children do whatever they want.
...The middle-of-the-road parent mixes up all the other styles.
You don't need me to tell you that I am a consensus parent most of the time. Some people call me a push-over - I struggle with parenting plans that involve harsh discipline, or the imposition of rules and routines, and I find some child-rearing ideas scary and creepy.
Consensus parenting means that I always assume that my children are doing their best. I like to think that we work together as a team, that we're on the same side. I'm the kind of mum who says, "if you help me clear the kitchen, then we'll have time to go to the park". This worked with Angel - even during the teenage years - but not so well with my son.
I've had to add some new ingredients to the parenting mix: patience and calmness. Oh I had them before, but I didn't have to force them. Now it seems that I do.
This morning he wanted to go up to the attic before school to get something 'important'. Foolishly, I suggested that he took a shower first. His voice started to rise and I could hear the panic setting in.
"But Mum, I might not have time to get it then!"
Alarm bells went off in my head. What I wanted to do was 'make' him prioritise the shower over the game, as it's taken so long to get to this point. But then he would just have a meltdown. So I took some deep breaths and counted. We went up to the attic together, and then he had his shower.
What makes it all even harder is that the latest thinking is that children with autism are highly tuned in to emotions, so not only should you sound calm, you have to FORCE yourself to be calm inside too. Performing emotional somersaults in the process. The advice usually is to feel your feelings, not to file them away in a box with a 'do not open' notice on it. I'm finding that forcing myself to feel the complete opposite of what I actually feel is very stressful and I can go to pieces when I get a break from him. The good thing is that it is working for him. He comes home hyper and goes back to school calm the next day. And he appreciates what I am doing - he returned from a school trip with a present for me recently. His own idea.
I think he's on my side.
For more help on how to school your feelings during a meltdown, check out this link: