Almost 9 years ago I gave birth to my first child. He has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS. One of the KEY things that are advocated for children on the spectrum is behavioral therapy as soon as possible, as frequently as possible. For several reasons that are not important to this post I chose to research as much as possible about behavioral therapy and to provide this to my son directly. For who would know him better than I? Who would recognize the small signs that he was mimicking faster than me? So I started…
Many people who meet him now tell me that they wouldn’t have recognized that he was on the spectrum right away or without really “looking” for it. Several people that have known him all along tell me how incredible the change in him is over the years.
I devoted every single waking moment from the time he was 2.5yrs old until he was 6yrs old to him and all that he needed to learn to function in our society. I broke down every situation we came across and explained every person’s part in it. I explained what wasn’t said out loud but was inferred, how to tell when something was inferred, how to infer himself. As well as the crucial lesson of how to NOT infer something he didn’t mean.
From the time he was 6yrs old until now I have had to share the time I devote to him with his younger brother and then with his younger sister as well as his 2 step-sisters. But still I make his behavioral therapy a vital, integral part of every single day. I will take the time to explain everything I possibly can to him, because I HAVE to. If I don’t, he won’t “get it” and you know what I’ll be blunt, I think I’m doing a damn fine job. I’m proud of the son I’m raising. I’m going to say that again because it bears saying twice it’s that important: I’m proud of the son I’m raising!
I made sure I was breaking down every single little social construct for him to examine, digest, process, and assimilate into concrete information he can later use in different social settings to obtain the results he wants from them. Now he might simply want to make a friend, or eventually walk into the tumultuous waters of romantic relationships and while I know he’ll have trials, heck we ALL do! He’ll do okay, no scratch that, he’ll thrive! Why? Because of every moment I put into making sure he was given every single advantage I could give him, and every scrap of helpful information I could think of to ensure his success in all he chooses to do in life.
Now the unexpected part of his behavioral therapy…IT RADICALLY CHANGED ME!
By having to break down every social construct to it’s basest nature/reasoning I had to understand those same social constructs and as I started to explain them I’d think to myself how ridiculous some of them seemed. And eventually I’d hear similar thoughts from my son about some of them. And at first I’d try to justify why this or that was the way it was when I could see it was ridiculous just as he could. But as time went on, we came up with a short hand almost by accident, after I’d explained something one of us would look the other in the eye and say “I know, but it is” and that said so much to both of us. It reaffirmed for him that it wasn’t just him that didn’t “get” why such a social construct or rule was in place in our society in general or in that type of situation specifically.
But it also was a wake up call for me. It made me question SO many social rules, and slowly without actively realizing it, I started to discard the ones that didn’t make sense to me. I stopped adhering to them, I started to become a lion amongst sheep if you will 😉
In part it was because I gave my son that very same freedom. There were oh so many times he would tell me he understood that what he wanted to do wasn’t considered socially acceptable. That he understood he might be made fun of but that he had to be true to his own self. Why did he say that? Why did he choose to go to the mall in May dressed up in his transformers costume, or have me paint his nails crimson red because he thought it was a great color? Because I promised him, I’d hold his hand in support no matter what his choices. I told him I couldn’t be prouder of the young man he’s becoming if I’d chosen every single aspect of him myself ahead of time. I told him that I love him unconditionally, and that means NO MATTER WHAT, FOREVER. I told him to be proud of the Lion he is, to not worry what sheep think. I told him that REAL friends will care for him EXACTLY as he is.
I’m the type of woman that feels if you’re gonna talk the talk, than put on your grown-up underwear and walk the walk!
So I did, and now I do. Does that make me uncomfortable for some people to be around, YEP! Does the fact that less people like me with how blunt I am now sadden me, honestly hell yeah. I’m still sensitive to criticism, but I’ve learnt that it’s better to be criticized for who I am than liked for who I’m not.
A cousin of mine recently told me that I’m “transparent” because I don’t “do” all the fake niceties. If I’m nice, it’s genuine, and if I’m screaming that I can’t stand you, well then that’s real too (I know I need to work on my temper, but that’s another post 😉
On the plus side, it means that I don’t EVER offer flattery. I do however frequently give sincere compliments. Because it’s NICE to hear the positive. I simply make sure what I say is the truth as I see it. So if I say to someone that their smile lights up a room, I mean it! If I tell someone that I treasure their friendship, than you guessed it I really do!
Am I aware that I’m talked about behind my back in ways that at times make me cry, yep that’s why they make me cry. But I refuse to let someone else dictate who I am to be and how I’m to live my life.
The ONLY person that has to live with all of my choices is me, so I need to be at peace with them. Even if I’m the only person that is, than that is what it is.
It’s ironic, because I’m more blunt, and harsher in my personality than I used to be I am liked less than I used to be. YET, with all that I’ve struggled with, and all the times I’ve fallen asleep physically sore from the gut wrenching sobs I’ve cried when the days were really bad for my son I’m now ALLOT more sensitive and caring than I used to be. People that I call a friend matter to me, deeply. Even when their “new” friends, because I stopped a long time ago trying to make friends just to “have lots of them”.
Instead I open up to those souls whose energies resonate with me, who make me feel like I’d be honored to have them in my life. I TRY to make friends with those people that I can see would be a true blessing to my life.
So my dear readers beware, life isn’t easy being true to your own self at all times and if you too try to embark upon either helping your own child with behavioral therapy or *gasp* becoming a behavioral therapist take heed to my warning, it WILL change you! 😉
You WILL have less time for BS. You will say what you mean, and mean what you say. You’ll “see the other side of the coin” about most situations, even when it’s to your disadvantage to do so. You’ll notice when it really was your fault, and you’ll feel the need to own up to it. You’ll feel, truly feel a connection with people that you call your friends or family. How you treat them, even, no especially when they don’t realize it; will matter to you. In essence, you’ll want to be able to look a child in the face and without embarrassment or shame explain your actions when they ask why you did or said _______.