Thursday, February 14, 2008
Taking Stress Down a Notch
Here is a story I want to share because it highlights how important it is for parents of children with ASD to cultivate mental flexibility, emotional regulation (staying relaxed and happy) and to model these qualities of being for their child.
The mother of a child with Asperger Syndrome told me how she took the stress down a notch for herself and her son recently by deciding that she did not need to keep doing things the same stressful way day after day. Both she and her eight year old son are a little more focussed on the clock than she'd like or feels is healthy. Having a bit of a thing about time herself, she has clocks literally all over her small apartment. Time became more and more the source of anxiety for both her and her son each morning before school. He wanted to play in the morning and yet knew exactly what time it was at all times and how much time was left before he needed to leave for school. She reminded him frequently how much time was left (even though he was as aware of time as she). At school, being late was counted against a record of perfect attendance and her son wanted perfect attendance in the worst way so he worried about being tardy all morning while also trying to get in a little play time and the press of both needs made him very anxious. She did not want him late either and so she was also very anxious. They did not enjoy the morning most days.
One day her son asked if she would set the alarm clock for 5:30 am so that he would have time to play in the morning and still not be late for school. The stress of time was clearly on his mind. So, this mom went to school that day and got her son's Individual Education Plan changed such that a tardy would not be recorded on her son's attendance record. The possibility of a tardy was causing him too much anxiety, she explained. That night, she told him there was a change in the rules for him and he would not get a tardy as long as he came to school sometime each day--therefore, he was allowed to play each morning and get ready after he'd had some playtime. The next morning, she did not mention the time even once. She encouraged him to play until he was ready to get ready for school. She did not mention time any morning after that. They got up at the regular time and ate and played and got dressed. So far, her son has never been late to school. She is learning to stop worrying so much about time, herself. The mornings are much happier and the teacher noticed right away how much more relaxed her son was each day at school. If they are ever late because they are too busy playing, so be it.