Well the end of primary school is getting ever closer and things are starting to get more difficult round here.
For all children the transfer from primary school to secondary school is a big deal and is fraught with stress and anxiety for parents and children, but for a child with Asperger’s it is even more stressful, having to cope with the thought of changes to routine, the idea of getting to know new people, new places, talk to different people etc. For B, he not only has all of that to cope with, but also his visual impairment and the worries of recognising people and places, how he will carry around a computer and keep it charged up etc.
So far B has coped better than we could have thought he has asked questions and not appeared overly concerned about the change. But this week we have noticed some changes, which we are sure are connected with the realisation of big changes ahead.
Last Friday was ‘the beginning of the end’. The lovely teacher the children have had this year, and in a previous school year, left to go on maternity leave. (sorry Miss, you are a fab teacher, and we’re all very pleased for you, but really that was crap timing!!). So the children have got different teachers for their last 5 weeks of primary school. One teacher who is now teaching them for 3 days a week till the end of term is the deputy head, so they do know him, but the other two days they are being taught by a supply teacher, who is someone they don’t really know. You could argue, that this is, in fact, quite good preparation for High School as they will have to get used to different teachers and different teaching styles etc. However, I do feel that these extra changes are just another thing for B to have to cope with.
Last weekend, which was our busy weekend of music and sport. B was incredibly quiet. He barely spoke, he just wanted to sit in his room. He even volunteered to read a book! On Saturday night after returning from the fab athletics day we were all at my Mum’s. B loves being at Grandma’s and even though he was clearly tired he would usually join in with the chat or go and play on the play station, but he didn’t, he just sat next to Grandma without really joining in with the chat. Eventually he asked if he could go to bed. Again, he does do this occasionally, but when he does it is usually an indication that there is something on his mind.
On Sunday when he came home, he was still very subdued and didn’t really want to engage with this sister and our neighbour’s children. D and I both spoke to him at various points to ask if there was anything bothering him or if he wanted to talk and he just said No. I think he finds it very difficult to put his feelings into words, so it’s almost like he is bottling them up. I just wish I knew how to help him share them.
Ultimately those feelings do eventually come out. But they come in the form of snapping, shouting and spite towards his sister, our neighbour’s children and us. We have had countless incidents this week of general bickering and snapping. There hasn’t been a big explosion, just lots of little eruptions. This is all very wearing, because we don’t know exactly when or exactly what is going to cause it. I know what the underlying cause is, but I don’t know how to help. I know some of this is probably fairly normal pre-teen behaviour, but I think the Asperger’s definitely adds an extra dimension.
Meanwhile we can’t ignore the little bickering and snapping. If I ignore B and don’t tell him off then I give mixed messages to our 9yo, who thinks if B isn’t told off for kicking her then it must be alright for her to kick him back. Other little things like making spiteful comments to friends, the other children get upset and I feel I have to intervene. I cannot sit back an ignore that he is telling other children to ‘shut up’ or if he is deliberately throwing all the toys over the fence when he is fed up with the game or if someone isn’t playing the way he wants to!
We do talk to M about B having Asperger’s and we try to explain what that must be like, but it is very hard for her to understand, especially as B is very bright so it is very difficult for her to comprehend that he can understand all the things he does, yet not be able to think through that it isn’t acceptable to kick her when he’s angry or frustrated. Equally I don’t feel comfortable explaining to M’s friends that they should excuse her brother because of his Asperger’s.
We are also quite worried about the effect on B’s behaviour if we talk to him and other’s about the impact of Asperger’s on his behaviour. Although we know why he is lashing out. I am not comfortable with explaining it away by merely accepting it is Autism. He is bright and my concern is that he needs to find ways of recognising when he is frustrated, angry, worried or anxious and then to find much more appropriate ways of channelling those feelings.
The questions for us are
where do we go from here?
How do we get to what he is feeling?
Should I just accept it and explain it away to B and others as a part of being on the Autistic Spectrum?
How do we get any support to help us manage these issues before we get right into the throes of teenage angst on top?
The issue of support is a big one, I would love some advice, but because B doesn’t present as being aggressive outside the home and it doesn’t happen hugely often there is no-one who will recognise that we have a need. I am frightened that it will be left till things get desperate, and I have read so many horror stories that I know even that isn’t a guarantee of getting appropriate support.
I would really appreciate some advice from others who might have been in a similar position.
How do you channel the frustration?
Are there any ideas of support we might get?
How do you manage to juggle the teaching of appropriate behaviour and explaining the difficulties to younger siblings?
Thanks for reading and please share as I’d love to find others who have been here or are in the same boat. Advice from anyone on the spectrum about what helped you to channel those feelings of anxiety in an appropriate direction, what can we do, as parents to help?