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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is it Aspergers or his age?



This is how my morning began...

Me: Hunter, you did not clean your room like I asked you to yesterday.

Hunter: I am tired of you pushing me around and telling me what to do!

Welcome to my daily struggle with my Aspergers kiddo. The struggle is not always over cleaning his room. It can be over the homework he constantly tries to avoid. It can be over any number of things I ask him to do or that are his responsibility. He is twelve, so the million dollar question is always, "Is it his age or the Aspergers?" To be honest, I don't know the answer, but I do know that it is exhausting!

I have been told that Aspergers is the "syndrome of laziness" by a school psychologist. At first I took real offense to this comment, but through the years, I have come to truly understand what this professional meant.

If you know one person with Aspergers, you only know one person with Aspergers. For my Aspergers son, life revolves around his wants and needs. He is very ego-centric. Anything that gets in the way of things he wants are out of the question in his opinion. We have trouble going out to eat, or going to the bank, or even to the movies or bowling if he has not had his video game time. The easy answer from everyone around us is to just take the electronic games away. It sounds sooo easy, right?

We have tried this and then the situation gets worse. He shuts down completely. He can't function. He suddenly can't clean himself in the shower. His already strong lack of desire to do homework becomes even worse. His dishonesty that is already constant becomes worse. Sneaking around becomes worse. Then, my husband and I just shake our heads. What now?

Our solution, for lack of any better ideas, has been to limit his game time to 1 1/2 hours a day on the weekend. He has to earn "computer time" through the week by being honest about his homework, keeping his grades up, and showing respect to his father and I. When "computer time" is over, we give him around 10 minutes warning to wrap it up. Once we tell him he must get off, we start deducting time from the next day. We have made these boundaries clear, and they seem to work better than many other ideas we have attempted.

The challenge with Hunter is that from day to day the challenges are a little different. His attitude can be completely different. His ability to reason things vary. Some days he actually seems somewhat willing to help in small ways. Other days, if I ask him to pick up his shoes, he tells me he hates me. The one constant is that feelings and emotions of others, especially those closest to him, don't really matter most days. This means many hurt feelings in our house. It means trying to reason the fact that, for him, it is not personal.

Is it Aspergers? Is it his age? My guess is that it is a mixture of both that creates an exhausted mom and dad; a sad little brother; and confused pre-teen boy that just wants us to all understand why he feels the way he feels.

After his words to me this morning, I took the time to talk to him in the car on the way to school (I do this often, as he is trapped and has to listen, he he). I told him I love him more than he will ever know. I told him he doesn't have to like me, but I need him to know I am always on his side and I will always be here to protect him. Then, I dropped him off at the door of the school, and he turned to me and said, "Well, hopefully SOMEBODY is in a better mood this afternoon!!" By the way, I wasn't! He was, though, and he did seem try to get along better this afternoon. Maybe he listened; maybe it was a coincidence; maybe he wanted something, but he was better this afternoon. For that, I am thankful and hopeful that my talk this morning touched a nerve, for a brief moment.