Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meltdowns and Self-Awareness

Three steps forward, two steps back.  One step forward, three steps back.  Four steps forward, one step back.  The only certainty about autism spectrum disorders is the uncertainty of any progress for the person who has it.  Just when we though we were doing pretty good and Safety Guy was hitting a new high, a nice, big meltdown came along to bite us in the butt.

And it's not like it was a long high time - just a week or so of thinking, "Maybe we're making an impression.  Maybe being grounded has really gotten his attention and he's making a habit of better choices.  Maybe this will go on for a while longer."

Sadly, no.  Safety Guy earned his coveted electronics privileges back this morning, after two whole weeks of doing without.  Just after 4 PM, he lost them through the weekend.

It's times like this that make me seriously worried about his future independence, and the effects his choices will have on his life.  While I'm not a fan of the term "high-functioning autism," it is a reasonably good description of his place on the spectrum.  He's mostly socially acceptable and polite - except when he's not.  He's mostly responsible - except when he thinks he shouldn't have to be.  He's mostly friendly and kind - except when he's short-tempered and mean.  He's mostly gentle and sweet - except when he loses his temper.  And while everyone is like that to some extent (we're only human), because of his Aspergers it worries me more.

Am I holding him to a higher standard because of his autism?  Am I afraid that he'll be punished more harshly by society when he steps out of bounds because of his Aspergers?  Am I worried that I haven't done enough for him?  Am I afraid that I'm being judged by everyone who sees my son's behavior?  Am I afraid that his choices influenced by his Aspergers will bring him heartache and trouble throughout his life?

Yes.  Yes to all of it at one time or another.

And I guess it would be like that for me as a parent even if he did not have Aspergers, worrying about his choices and his life once he leaves our home, our supervision and our guidance.  I feel somewhat like that about his neurotypical sister.  Goodness knows she'll make her own better and poorer choices as well.

It has not been a good afternoon for the "Mom guilt" or the "what ifs."  His meltdown gave me an almost instantaneous headache as well as a sharp heartache.

But there's hope.  When we got home (we were out in the car when the manure hit the windmill), he went right up to his room.  Instead of having another meltdown, instead of hitting the door or yelling or otherwise venting, he was quiet.  Very quiet.  I left him alone for a little while, then went to check on him.  He was sitting on his bed.  He said, "I'm so angry with myself for the way I acted," calmly but sadly, and without blaming anyone else.  My heart broke for him, but I was so glad to see that he was owning his actions.  THAT was a victory, right there.  No excuses, no drama, just a simple acknowledgment that he'd messed up, and he owned it.

One step back, two steps forward.