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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Questions on parenting an autistic child

Questions on parenting an autistic child

A former member
Post #: 4
I have a stepdaughter. We have her right now for a month. She lived with us from the time she was about 3-1/2 to about the time she turned 7. She's now almost 8. She lived with her father in Longview between that time. He has cirrhosis and is expected to die within the next several years. My stepdaughter is on the autism spectrum. It's relatively minor, however. It's more Asperger Syndrome than the type of autistic people who are so extreme that they can't function and who rock back and forth constantly and things like that. I've read lots of material on autism, yet I still find it very difficult to deal with her in many ways. For instance, I know that autistic people are not conceptual thinkers. I'm constantly trying to teach her concepts, yet she doesn't get it. She just wants a rule told to her for every conceivable concrete situation in life. I find this very frustrating, yet I understand that it's largely or completely because of the autism, so I can deal with it to some extent. She's also easily the most second-handed person I've ever known. Her father raises her to be religious. He has said that he gets along better with his wife than he did with my wife when they were dating because his wife flat out tells him what to do and what not to do. This and his religiosity seem pretty clearly to be examples of him wanting to be spared the burden of thinking. I see this in my stepdaughter VERY strongly, as well. When she lived with us, I tried and tried and tried to get her to think for herself on anything. She actively rebels against thinking for herself. She gets very angry and freaked out and will tell me just to tell her the answer or the rule for whatever situation. I've never come across another person who literally despises the very idea of even being able to do anything by herself. The only thing she seems to want in life is love. It doesn't matter why or from whom or what kind of love. She wants it. She sees people doing things for her as love, so she sees doing anything by herself as meaning that there isn't someone there doing it for her, and thus, loving her. I'm frankly at a loss for how to deal with this. To some extent, I don't need to wrack my brain too much over her long-term situation right now since she lives with her father most of the time and probably will continue to until he dies, but since he's likely to die within the next few years, we would obviously take her back then. I don't know what to do. I know that the anti-conceptual way of thinking isn't totally her fault, so I can handle her not thinking that way, at least to some extent. I don't think the second-handedness is a function of her autism, though. When I try to get her to think for herself, it's psychologically excruciating for both of us, because she freaks out, yells, screams, cries and throws fits like I've never seen anyone throw fits before. She hates the very idea of mental independence with such an intensity that it's probably hard for you to understand fully what I'm saying. Yet, the idea of me just cramming 86,000,000 rules into her and saying these are rules of life by which to live in any conceivable situation just because I said so is also excruciating to me, as I don't think this is good parenting/teaching. Does anyone have any insight at all into how you think I should deal with this situation?
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 1,070
We have an autistic child too (also Asperger's). The thing you need to remember is that she is only 8 years old. I don't believe that kids on the spectrum are necessarily always going to be non-conceptual thinkers either. Our daughter is now 13 and does a better job with conceptual thinking, but is also rigid in very many ways still. What I would suggest is go ahead and give her rules to help her cope, but also give the reasons behind the rules. Again, she is only 8 years old and it is not uncommon for even a typical child at that age to have trouble thinking on their own. If you can give her some rules this offers her structure which is extremely important for autistic kids. It can give her some security and comfort, and as time goes by you should be able to help her start thinking more independently. However if you push too hard it will backfire on you. Been there done that my friend. I totally get your frustration, but you have to try to understand her perspective more in order to understand her thinking. It surely isn't easy, and I highly recommend taking her with you to see a child psychologist that specializes in this area to help guide you with her. We did that and it was the best thing we have ever done.
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 1,071
One more thing I want to add: I would be very leery of pegging the child as a second hander. She is young enough that she still has a lot to learn about independence and responsibility.
A former member
Post #: 6
Thank you for replying. I will use your advice to give the rules but also to give her the reasons behind them.
A former member
Post #: 7
I certainly understand your advice not to peg her as being second-handed. I don't tell her this and I won't, but it's pretty intense. As one example, just the other day we were eating and she asked her mom if she could have more food. Her mom told her that she should eat until she's full. She then said, "Can you tell me when I'm full?" This type of thing is not out of the ordinary for her at all. She literally wants someone else to tell her what her biological functions are doing. As I said about her dad, he actively tries to avoid the burden of thinking. I think that's why he likes his wife and why he's religious. I think he might be autistic, too. He's extremely structure- and rule-based. He tells her how much to eat and when to go to the bathroom and such. As someone who's always been a very independent thinker, I simply can't fathom her way of thinking. She freaks out when I try to get her to think about anything, even something like when she's full. Thanks for the advice, though.
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