Being the father of a child with Aspergers Syndrome adds a few extra twists to the already quite challenging job of parenting.
Things have been going remarkably smoothly for us this summer. We were quite worried about the transition from school to summer daycare but that went without a hitch. In fact we've had no issues for 7 weeks. Everything was going so well I just stopped worrying about it. Which is when, of course, something happened.
Yesterday we got an email from the daycare letting us know that our son had been having a "bad day". He was short tempered, yelled at the other children, spat and refused to eat his lunch.
By this point I know from experience that things are likely to get worse. When my son has a bad day he has a really hard time pulling out of that downward spin. So I arranged to leave work a little early that day in the hope of cutting his day short and minimizing the stress he was under.
Unfortunately I arrived too late.
To Punish or Not To Punish
My son had lost his temper and hit the teacher. Understandably that behavior is not tolerated and he had to stay home today. He will be allowed back at the daycare tomorrow. I don't blame them for making this decision, even if it is extremely inconvenient for us.
My problem is how to handle a situation which occurred when I wasn't present and for which he has already been punished by being suspended for a day.
On the one hand it's a serious matter. I won't have my son going around hitting people. He knows it's not acceptable behavior, but sometimes his temper gets the better of him. On the other hand I know that once he gets to a certain state of mind he is essentially incapable of thinking rationally enough to stop himself.
Even writing that I know it sounds like I'm making excuses, but it's the reality. When he's calm, my son knows perfectly well what he did wrong. He is generally contrite and often tearful about it. But his understanding and control of his Aspergers symptoms is limited (he's only 6). So do I apply additional punishment for something that is at least partly outside his control?
Striking that Balance
As always my wife and I tried to strike a balance between being supportive of him and discouraging repeat behavior without making him feel bad about himself. In this case he was not allowed to play on his computer for the evening and today he had to create an apology card to give to the teacher he hit.
We have talked through the incident several times and he not only knows what he did was wrong, he knows what he should have done. It would be nice to think that the lesson has been learned.
Unfortunately I know that inevitably there will be further meltdowns to come. I can't condone the behavior, but I can't blame him either. I can put myself in his position and I know the way his head is spinning, the overwhelming sensory input he's trying to filter out. Sometimes knowing the right thing to do isn't enough.
- Why is Asperger's syndrome considered a form of autism? (zocdoc.com)
- Effects of Asperger's syndrome noticeable in babies (medicalxpress.com)
- Health Tip: Recognize Signs of Asperger Syndrome (nlm.nih.gov)
- How to Choose Gifts for a Child with Asperger's (brighthub.com)
- Aspergers - What my son has taught me about life Part 2. (curtisplumstone.wordpress.com)
- Helping Preschoolers with Aspergers Improve Gross Motor (brighthub.com)