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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Aspergers and compulsive scooter-fixing

The kids started back at school today after 5 weeks off.
Even though he was on a day off himself, Ethan was up before me and had given the boys breakfast and was chatting to them happily by the time I came down.
The next hour went smoothly. We worked as a team. We got a boy dressed each. Ava got herself dressed without too much coaxing. Ethan only needed reminding once to hurry up in the shower so that he wouldn't make the kids late for school (I was working so he was on drop-off today).
By 08:30 all three kids were dressed in clean uniforms, Ava's hair was brushed, we'd taken a photo of them all together, shoes were on, bags and lunch-boxes were packed and we were still all fairly calm and affable. And we were going to be on time!!
By 08:33 Ethan had discovered that Ava's scooter wasn't opening properly. At 08:36 Ethan was still fiddling with Ava's scooter. By 08:37 I was shouting at Ethan to stop fiddling with the scooter, look at it later and get the kids to school. By 08:38 we discovered we'd lost Ava's school bag. At 08:38:30 Ethan started walking off with the boys down the drive. At 08:38:32 I started shouting down the drive at Ethan to stop walking off - we'd still lost Ava's school bag and went back inside to locate it. At 08:38:40, Ethan started walking off again (minus Ava and her bag). Simultaneously I started shouting again (with more vigour this time) for him to stop walking off, nothing had changed since ten seconds ago when we couldn't find Ava's bag. By 08:39 Ethan had stomped back into the house and raced upstairs, followed by Sam, looking for Ava's bag. By 08:41, Sam was crying because Ethan had snatched a toy off him (that Sam had decided he wanted to show his teacher) and had thrown it across the landing whilst shouting at Sam to get downstairs. I was sniping at Ethan for having made Sam cry just as he was leaving for his first day in a new school year. Ethan was shouting at me to stop interfering and that he was going, with or without Ava's bag. Ava, in turn, was getting hysterical about going to school without her bag. Poor old Oliver had been strapped into the pram in our driveway the whole time and so couldn't do much except watch and despair at his dysfunctional (or perhaps entirely normal?) chaotic family.
We found the bag. The kids were late for their first day at school. It wasn't the end of the world. But it was frustrating and stressful at the time when I thought we'd been so on top of things. I don't know whether my scattiness was to blame (I'd moved the bag and forgotten where I'd put it) or Ethan's compulsion to fix a problem right there and then however inappropriate the timing and however urgent the other priorities (Aspergers, or just him? I don't know. But the compulsion only relates to fixing objects - not relationships!). Or were the kids to blame for, well, just being kids? I suspect all three: the combination is explosive at times. And Ethan recognises that he really needs to reign in his temper and self-control as well as engaging with the moment and listening to what's going on. Just as I need to reign in my nagging and intensity...ok, and scattiness.

Every day brings another lesson and another opportunity to practice.  


  1. Laura do you know what is the thing about the temper? That is probably be biggest single factor that still continues to cause problems for us.

    It uses to be really bad - my partner would have such uncontrollable frustration rages (at himself) that it was like trying to manage a 3yr old. I really mean it. I was worried for his safety (never mine as he has never been aggressive to anyone but himself).

    We have managed to bring it HUGELY more under control - and he now agrees that it is not helpful or healthy for him either to allow himself to get in that stage. He is a lot better coming to me for help to stop the spiral earlier - and he has a wider range of effective strategies he uses.

    But still. Eg this morning. He is very much a morning person and woke up giving me a cuddle (all was well and calm). I asked about his CD covers, trying to begin a discussion about if we could change the location where he stores them. He really likes those covers - they are precious to him. I just wanted to talk to him about moving them onto a slightly higher shelf so that we could place some books on lower shelves (Im a lot shorter so I could reach to the books).

    He just flew off the handle. He was up and dressed and angry before I could say anything more. 'Raging' about how I was making him to get rid off of all his stuff (he is not usually attached to stuff in the Asp way - he does not collect things etc). He stormed out of the bedroom, and when I later went to the room where the CDs were - they were all gone. I am presuming he has thrown them in the bin.

    I was never going to ask him get rid of them. But we never even got to the start of the discussion and he had lost his temper.

    He is not always like this. Sometimes he can be really calm - a lot calmer than me. But when he is stressed (I can see he is but he always claims he is not) it is like this. It is just silly (there really was no need for the row this morning). And it causes a lot of upset to both of us - once this row settles he will still have lost the CD covers and he will be really sad his temper got him to losing them, and that makes me sad too.

    I always thought the temper things was him, and a kind of a secondary symptom to feeling lost in the world. But having read your posts and a few other sites this morning I am now thinking it is more directly related to the Asp... It would make sense from the nervous system point of view also - that the neuro side of Asp affects the regulation of the fight/flight response... and therefore emotional regulation. Not sure what one can do about it thought even if that is the case - but I tend to find that correctly identifying the challenge is a key part to the solution...

    It is really helpful to read your blog. It is exactly this real life day to day stuff that I need. I work in the field so don't need more of the professional sterile advice (it helps to know it but is not enough) but just someone to relate to - someone whose experiences I can learn from and reflect upon.

    A HUGE thanks.

    1. Hi Josefina,
      Really great to read your comments - to know that there are lots of us working through similar issues, and that we can help and support each other.
      I'm sorry I can't write more at the moment as Ethan has just gone up to bed - I've not given him much time since I got in from work, and I need to spend a bit of time with him now. But I'll write more when I get chance.
      In the meantime, sending positive vibes and thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  2. Hello :)

    I am really glad to hear you are prioritising spending time with Ethan - and that you are findings good ways to communicate (your latest post about the txt message!).

    Having read your blog I went on and found some interesting stuff related to the temper, neuroscience behind it and mindfulness. Indeed sounds like there may plausibly be a link.

    I chatted about it with my partner, and it was quite helpful. It helps shifting the blame away from him (especially him not blaming himself so much!) which - I felt - in turn set a more positive scene for us to talk about helpful ways to manage the day to day stuff.

    I will post the links here the next time I am on my laptop... might be the weekend though.

    Have a good rest of the week! :)