Sunday, July 26, 2009

Missed Signals


photo credit-atomicshark
creative commons license



Well, we're off, on what promises to be a great vacation (holiday). We had a mostly good day, with but a small (but typical) interchange at the motel pool after we checked in.

The pool was packed, and noisy. There were kids everywhere. Buddy Boy and Sweet Pea jumped right in, swam around some, and seemed to be having fun.

As I was watching Buddy Boy, he approached a group of kids at one end of the pool. It was apparent that they all knew each other, and were goofing around with each other a bit. Buddy Boy pretty much just inserted himself in the middle of the group and tried to start interacting with them. I couldn't hear what was being said, but then it appeared that (perhaps) they were engaging him and including him in their goofing around. Then I noticed a bit of shoving going on, and the next thing I know Buddy Boy's being shoved a bit forcefully by one of the kids. It turns out that after getting pushed lightly a bit, Buddy Boy kicked him in the groin below the surface of the water. I guess I'd be upset, too. By this time I could tell that something was definitely wrong, and Liz started towards that end of the pool to see what was up (I asked Liz to go, because there were a group of mothers down there, and I thought that perhaps a female touch would go over better than me going down there). Before she gets there the mom of the other boy is pointing at Buddy Boy and shouting that Buddy Boy kicked her son in his private parts (and of course the pool gets pretty quiet, and everyone turns to pay attention).

Buddy Boy, having been shoved a bit hard, comes out of the pool crying loudly. So now the other mother is starting to shout, and Buddy Boy is getting louder. Liz pulled the "A" card (you know, sometimes my son overreacts a little, he's autistic).

Amazingly, it worked. The other mother abruptly stopped, said she understood, and sat back down. We quieted Buddy Boy down, and the kids got back to playing in the water.

Liz says that this incident was pretty typical for Buddy Boy, when he doesn't have someone right by his side facilitating his interactions and intervening. I must admit that I haven't seen things escalate so quickly in the past (okay, maybe I have selective memory), but she sees him more at school, and interacts with his teachers more. Evidently stuff like this happens during recess at school on a fairly regular basis.

Liz and I talked, and we think it's because he just can't read the situation. He doesn't understand how groups of kids that already know each other don't necessarily want someone else to insert themselves into their group. He doesn't get their signals when they tell him to nicely get lost. He doesn't know the difference between gentle playfulness between close friends, and him being a stranger pushing just "that" much harder than they are (which then sets them off, to his surprise and dismay, which escalates his response).

We've tried explanations (which he doesn't want to listen to-"I KNOW"), we've tried a little role playing, which he also doesn't want to partake of. We coach ahead of time, and I always struggle with how far to let him go on his own. I don't want him to have bad experiences, but I also know that eventually he needs to learn to navigate on his own (and it does work, sometimes).

I blame myself for tonight. I should have recognized that the pool was much too crowded, the kids perhaps too tired, and me too lazy to change into a swimsuit and instead sat on the side. I wish I was a bit more like Emily.

11 comments:

Mrs. C said...

You know, it's really hard to strike that balance between interfering and not. I try with Elf to remember that someday I won't be there. For me that is a really scary thought, for his sake!!

Woodjie, it's even scarier because he's not speaking much. I wonder if he would never get in the pool? HOW do other families work that sort of thing? Guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

K said...

Joe,

We try to use social stories (homemade books) a lot and they seem to work really well for at least setting up some rules to go by but it would be difficult to do that for every circumstance. It is getting a bit more difficult as my son ages and tolerance for him by the public is getting less. Just recently, he has been kicked out of a mall and one other place (I can't remember). We too are looking for answers.

Casdok said...

Good to hear the other mother understood.
Hope the rest of your holiday is incident free!

Sirenity said...

Hugs for you!
Don't be too hard on yourself, we parents can only do so much.

Hopefully you will hit a phase when Buddy Boy does WANT the information and understanding of NT social interactions.

We have our son in a social group with other kids who are also ASD, seems to work for him... so far. :)

Best wishes to you and your family!

mumkeepingsane said...

We're dealing with the same issue. It's so hard because, in our case anyway, he wants to follow "the rules" so badly but the lack of impulse control and inability to read a situation really makes it difficult. We try to help him but, honestly, I think it's just going to take time. His worse time is at recess at school because that's when he's not being directly helped with social situations.

I bet my husband would say exactly what you said too (that he hasn't seen this stuff happen so quickly), because I see it at school and when I'm home and he just doesn't get to see Patrick in those situations as much.

I'm glad to hear the other mom understood.

mumkeepingsane said...

We're dealing with the same issue. It's so hard because, in our case anyway, he wants to follow "the rules" so badly but the lack of impulse control and inability to read a situation really makes it difficult. We try to help him but, honestly, I think it's just going to take time. His worse time is at recess at school because that's when he's not being directly helped with social situations.

I bet my husband would say exactly what you said too (that he hasn't seen this stuff happen so quickly), because I see it at school and when I'm home and he just doesn't get to see Patrick in those situations as much.

I'm glad to hear the other mom understood.

Niksmom said...

I think you're being too hard on yourself, Joe. It *is* hard to find the right balance and sometimes all you can do is trust that your intent is right. Buddy Boy will eventually learn whether it's through experience and assimilation or through carefully laid out lessons, books, etc. Maybe this vacation is a time for you and Liz to share your observations and lessons with each other and to observe and gently guide your son when/where you can.

No matter what it is, I hope you all have a relaxing and restful time away. :-)

Sharon said...

Aw Joe, how could you let it happen? I mean, none of the rest of us have ever put a step wrong when it comes to raising or children, autistic and not, now have we?!

If this was 1992 I could have added a "...not!" but I'm much too sophisticated.

Liz and you are wonderful and your children know that. It's hard to get it right every time and sometimes the things that go wrong are pointers for the future. I returned to the hospital where Duncan had a disastrous appointment a few months back and I was armed with the insight into what kind of things he'd be unable to cope with so it went so much better this time.

I hope you all have a lovely holiday.

Club 166 said...

Well the last two days have been much better. Things got a little tense while waiting almost two hours to get through Canadian customs ("How much LONGER?!!", "We don't know, and please be quiet when we talk to the customs officer").

Had a good day today seeing Niagara Falls and the surrounding area.

Joe

kristina said...

I read this over the weekend and we promptly had a little "issue" in the pool, with two kids laughing at Charlie's "funny noises" (and still laughing after my attempt at an explanation). ..... Meanwhile, at the other end of the pool, some boys Charlie's age had commandeered the pool toys he likes to use and he first hurried and swam over as soon as one seems to be empty, but the boys kept getting back on. Charlie swam away and I felt that hesitation---should I go in and tell the other boys to share? But somehow I felt it was a moment to let Charlie handle things. (Especially after my unsuccessful interaction with the other 2 children.)

I tend to let Charlie be in the pool as it's a place where he is more "able." But then, so often, it seems that what's best to do shifts----glad things save been better (and "much better" at that).

Maddy said...

I'm in the middle of Laura's book and the dilemma about when to intervene, shadowing etc. seems to be ever present.

I'm glad that it didn't escalate.