The Precarious Balancing Act of Parenting an Aspergers Child

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.

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?


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