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Okay, I know I said I was going to head into kindergarten and grade one in this next post, but I really, really feel the need to address something here.

I consider all of these entries to be very specifically about my thoughts and process, very much like my posts about writing are. I once wrote a post comparing being a mother to being a writer, and I want to take a moment to do something similar, because I feel it's still true.

Every book is different. We can approach the writing of each book in a similar way to start, but we learn about the book as we go, and some books will require us to take risks with our process in ways that we hadn't previously.

Every child is also different--and people, for the most part, recognize this. But the recognition is often entirely intellectual; it's not visceral enough.

What I'm writing about in these posts about my ASD oldest son is my ASD oldest son and the context of his life. I am also writing about my parenting process, which, to be sure, is in part a response to my son as an individual. But it is my process. It's not your process, although there may be some overlap, because processes between parents do have some overlap.

I read a lot of posts about the writing process from a variety of different writers because I find it fascinating to see how they think and work--and on some occasions, they've said or done something that I'd never considered before that seems like it could be highly useful.

This could be something as simple as the use of a software program (Scrivener). It could be more complicated thoughts about world-building.

I'll try some of these things, and if they prove useful, I incorporate them into my own writing process; if they don't, I'll drop them. In no way, shape or form does this mean I am either writing someone else's books or totally abandoning a process which has worked for me; I know my process, and I'm looking for ways to improve it, insights to explain the muddier parts of it to myself.

But some books are romantic comedies and some books are Noir. Some are high tech philosophy and some are memoir. There are consequently some tools which are totally valid for one type of book that will destroy another, or at least make it much, much harder to complete.

When I read about process, the comparisons I make between mine and another writer's are fascinating to me--but they don't make me feel guilty, they don't make me feel inadequate, they don't make me question my career choices to date.

The results - the final book - might very well cause those responses in me. Or the book's sales. But similar process between writers (and there are some who are very very similar in their approach, although never completely the same) can produce wildly different books with wildly different success levels, and sometimes it's just a matter of the timing of publication--or the timing of birth. Thirty years ago, it would have been so much harder in every possible way to raise my son.

You can see where this is going, right?

These posts are about the parenting process. One of the reasons I write them is the hope that other parents will find them interesting; it's not the only reason, but it's a strong one. If other parents find parts of what I've written food for thought, if they want to take the bits and parts that seem like they could be useful and attempt to incorporate them into their own approach, I'm happy. But, conversely, if they don't, I'm not unhappy. We are approaching our children in different ways because they are different children.

Even if something I write makes another parent think, how they respond to those thoughts is entirely inherent in their own process, and in their own context.

What I don't want--viscerally--is that parents who are already struggling read these posts and use them to beat themselves up. Because that helps no one. I don't want these posts to be the cause of horrible regret or fuel in self-immolation.

nerthus, I want specifically to address this last part to you.

Our situations are so very, very different. My son is ASD, yes. But he is not diabetic, he is not severely arthritic, he can walk, dress himself, brush his teeth; he is not in constant pain.

Did we realize my son was ASD?

No. We didn't. We didn't realize it until grade one. But this was in large part because the ASD behaviours that were more extreme - the stimming, for instance -- didn't occur at home. They occurred at school.

They occurred at school because they occurred whenever he wasn't in a safe space. He didn't understand other people, and he was now surrounded by twenty-five of them. He didn't understand the social interactions because he hadn't had the time to learn about twenty-five other people. The rules were different. The teachers were not his parents. The smells, the lights, the textures of various things were all different.

As school slowly evolved into a safe space for him, the most egregious and disruptive of his behaviours eroded. But whenever he felt the space wasn't safe, he reverted. It was hard.

Your daughter? Her whole body isn't, at the moment, a safe space. My son totally flipped out if he was in pain and he didn't understand the reason why. He could run full-tilt into a wall or the side of car and stand up and shake his head and then run off again; that was fine. But if he stood up, say, under a table, and hit his head -- screaming and tears.

Why? Fear. He didn't know what had hit him; he didn't know if it would keep hitting him; he didn't know if or how it would stop. If he backed into something, he did the same thing. When we pointed out the table top or the guide bar that he'd backed into, he'd instantly stop, because he would understand what had happened.

If he were in your daughter's position with the severe degenerative arthritis, he would regress enormously because, as I said, his entire body would cease to be a safe space. I'm not even sure how I would deal with that, because I have been enormously lucky and it hasn't been an issue; I think we would attempt to make completely certain that he understood all of what was happening, what was causing it, and what steps we were taking to attempt to contain it. Knowledge, for my son, helped him deal with fear, and it was the reason everything had to be explained about, well, everything.

Her total lack of desire to socialize right now isn't any failure on your part. Never think that. I can see my son, in her position, being exactly the same, and it would be hard to keep him balanced enough because the ASD fear-responses would be so obvious and so loud. My son would not be functioning at anywhere near a high level in her situation; we could be perfect parents for him (and we're not perfect), and it wouldn't make a difference.

If I were in your situation, I wouldn't force the issue of socialization because it wouldn't work for my son. Almost all of our parenting decisions stemmed from that: Will it work? I would spend what time and energy I had attempting to alleviate his pain, because until that was under control in a reliable way, he'd be so off-balance and so unhappy that he would have no energy for anything else. And from the sounds of it, that's exactly what you're doing.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 17th, 2010 08:37 pm (UTC)
What I don't want--viscerally--is that parents who are already struggling read these posts and use them to beat themselves up. Because that helps no one. I don't want these posts to be the cause of horrible regret or fuel in self-immolation.

I understand that you are not trying to make anyone feel guilty or inadequate, but I really wish I had known you when my son was young. I am so not a people person that I didn't see the types of things you have pointed out when they were going on in his head.
Oct. 17th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
I am so not a people person that I didn't see the types of things you have pointed out when they were going on in his head.

The funny thing is that I don't consider myself much of a people person, either. I asked my son if he thought I was much of a people person and he laughed. Loudly.

I made a lot of mistakes as we tried to figure out who our son was. But as we started to figure things out, we could sometimes explain to him why we'd made some of the mistakes we'd made, and when he could understand our reasoning (admittedly this took a bit of work), it unwound that strand of tension.

And as I mentioned in the previous post, we had so many people who could help; my parents, my son's godfather, each other. It takes a certain amount of time to be able to figure things out, and when you're running a household and working full-time and the single parent of a three year old, you don't have that breathing space.
Oct. 17th, 2010 09:22 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry if I added to you feeling pressured that people might use this to judge themselves, I didn't intend to do so. Every child is different, and it's good. But I do agree with controuble that I think you've offered up a lot of useful food for thought; getting into other people's heads can be difficult for many people, so it's--nice to read from the perspective of someone who has some talent at it.

(I'm mostly reading these because it's fascinating reading about ASD from the non-ASD point of view. Sorry for butting in!)
Oct. 17th, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
(I'm mostly reading these because it's fascinating reading about ASD from the non-ASD point of view. Sorry for butting in!)

You didn't in any way appear to be putting yourself down or beating yourself up. You really didn't. This one is hard for me because I want people to talk or to comment -- or not, if they themselves don't feel comfortable doing so -- I just don't want them to walk away feeling even worse about themselves than they did before they read these posts.

Some of the people who don't post will also feel worse or feel guilty -- and I do worry about; with anyone else I can say something here, I can point out all the ways in which the circumstances are different.

And: my son laughed when he read your post because he does, in fact, do the same thing sometimes now (the forgetting that other people don't know what he's thinking) and he recognizes himself in what you wrote (he's seventeen now).

Edited at 2010-10-17 10:59 pm (UTC)
Oct. 17th, 2010 11:30 pm (UTC)
he's seventeen now

Now I really wish I'd known you earlier - you've got a 3 year head-start on me as mine is only 14 (the icon pic is a few years old).
Oct. 19th, 2010 05:46 am (UTC)
Just dropping a comment to say hello, after reading some of the past entries, though I haven't read any of the comments. I followed from Jim Hines post a little bit back. I didn't read things in one shot, so... slightly delayed.

Anyway, I (also just) want to say thank you for the information. Last school year I was a Para Educator Substitute. It was a difficult position at times, but that experience, mixed with all my others as an educator (park interpreter, camp counselor, education staff, ect) have given me a diverse view, and high need to adapt to situations. These have served as a reminder for some of the different ways needed to look at a situation that might not completely add up, and the need to constantly re-evaluate things. To step back and take another look. It's a reminder we need not only in classrooms, but in almost all settings.

Probably not as coherent as I meant to be, but it's late, and even fully awake I'm not always the best with words.

Take care.
Oct. 21st, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC)
I've just added you to my friends list, largely because I want to read more about your methods. I'm proud of some things I"ve managed with my children (9 & 12), and worrying about others, and unfortunately some of what might have applied IS too late. I'll have to think about it more.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )