Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Following the Pack.

Everybody else does it so why can't I?....

This phrase makes me see red, how about you? 

Sometimes I'm thankful that A is starting to pay attention to what his peers are up to and sometimes I most certainly am not. A's ASD means that he has little awareness of others at times and doesn't feel peer pressure like the rest of us. This is a blessing and a curse. He will always be different and while there are occasions when he revels in this, the times that that this could worry him appear to pass him by. We are relived given that he is fast approaching becoming a teenager, that peer pressure has little or no effect on him but sometimes we wished that he would feel a bit of pressure sometimes. His friends work hard at school, he doesn't and sometimes opts for the easiest and quickest route. His friends are quite quiet and bashful, he is completely unabashed and says whatever pops into his head at any given moment. We have always encouraged him to embrace his individuality but there are sometimes, I cringe and think why can't you see that no one else does this. Take talking to himself for example. Without going into all of the boring medical details, A has SPD or Sensory Processing Disorder, a common side effect of autism. This means that when one of his senses are overloaded he compensates by cranking up another. So, say, when we are on a busy street where there are lots of cars and trucks passing by, his visual senses are bombarded. A combats this by being louder than the noise on the street. This can manifest itself in him singing to himself, or his latest craze which is beat-boxing or just continually talking and talking and talking. I know this is his way of coping and you can't stop him doing it so it elicits stares when walking down the street. I have perfected my oh just fuck off and mind your own business stare over the years but in school, he has had some flack in the past for it. One particular friend who is very academic descends into a rage in class when A does this as it puts him off his work. I say friend because A still likes him and hangs around with him although my opinion of the boy is slightly less forgiving.

Anyway...what was the point of this. Oh aye! The phrase above and it's compatriots; everyone else has one and so and so's mum lets him. I have heard this phrase more times than I care to mention in the last week. We work hard to make sure that A, despite his disability, has the same opportunities as all of his peers and we work hard to make sure that he has the stuff that he wants and needs. So when he says this, I explode and a lecture ensues about  why we have rules in this house blah, blah blah (I cringe sometimes) and all I get is him shrugging his shoulders and saying "soooooorrrrrrrrryyyyy!" and retreating to his room.

So trying to negotiate certain grey areas on the cusp of teenage-dom to an autistic kid can be trying. All kids feel like they've suffered the greatest injustice if they are not allowed something that their peers have but with the black and white thinking that comes with ASD, it is harder for them to grasp just why we have one set of rules in our house when many others have different ones. It plays out just like other kids scenarios do.

A went to a relatively conservative Catholic school where the uniform was strictly enforced and the kids were not really given a huge amount of freedom. There is nothing wrong with this and the austere nature of the school suited him at that time. Now the kids are a high school and are mixing with a bigger cross section of Edinburgh society, the vast majority of parents appear to have had a lobotomy over the summer and have gone from being very strict, to exceedingly liberal. This is making my job very, very hard. Over the summer holidays, almost all of his class have gained Facebook profiles (the age range is from 11 to 13 in the class), Call of Duty: Black Ops, MSN Messenger, touch screen mobile phones. These items are still, in my opinion, far from appropriate for the kids in question given that in comparison to their classmates, they have led sheltered existences so far but it is now entirely up to the parents. Of the five feeder schools who were starting S1 this year, the majority of parents who arrived at the school to collect their kids were parents from A's primary. This is particularly remarkable because we live the closest to the school.

So in light of this recent 360 degree shift, I am now bombarded with questions of why can't I have a Facebook profile if Jimmy-What's-His-Face has one? and Archibald-Hetherington-Smythe's mother lets him play Call of Duty and go on Xbox Live, so why can't I? Sigh....

I very nearly gave in to the Facebook profile at one point, because it is an easy way to get in touch with his breakdancing friends but OD put his foot down and I came to my senses. I cringe when I read some of the stuff that teenagers write on Facebook and their little mini-dramas. The vast majority of his classmates do not have private profiles so I had a nosey. Eurgh! He was also a bit shocked when I mentioned that when he does eventually get a Facebook profile, in no way is he to send me a friend request. I like Facebook (sometimes) and I don't want him to see what I post. I already have some teenage nieces and nephews as friends and that means that I watch what I say, keeping swearing to impassioned political moments. I already have to endure his incessant questions and the daft things that come out of his mouth in real life and so I don't want to see the cyber version too. I did remind him that I would harass him about his spelling, constantly and would probably embarrass him at every turn. I really don't understand why parents want to be friends with their kids online at that age. There are other ways to police their usage without subjecting them to the crap that their parents write. I know quite a few folk who make my toes curl with the nonsense that they post online for their kids to see.

We have managed to leave the Facebook thing, with the promise that we will re-open discussions next year but he still finds a million other things to harp on about. This morning it was:
"can I take my iPod touch to school?"
"Why not?"
"Because the last time you took it out of the house, you dropped it down the toilet."
"Yeah but that was a year ago"
"No! You're at school to learn, not to muck about with music." "End of discussion"
"But Muuuuum..."
*I sigh and walk away (I hadn't had my coffee yet).

How do you guys deal with incessant unrealistic demands? How did you negotiate the Tween stage?

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