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Aspies Gone Wild

My own kids make me want to drink.
Throw yours into the mix,
I may need a drug dealer.When my long-time friend found herself in a pickle, her nanny was on vacation for a week and  she
needed child care for her 12 year old Aspy, I offered to help. "Send him here", I told her. "What's one more?" 
A lot actually.

I already knew many of his issues through the many conversations I had with his mom. And since I have an Aspy myself, I knew that anxiety, impulsiveness, and attention seeking behavior often piggyback with ASD.   Aspies are very bright, and very complex, and adding puberty into the mix, makes every day alcohol appreciation day.

When I talked to him on the phone before he came, I asked him what he liked to eat and if he didn't eat certain foods. He responded, "I pretty much eat everything." From the moment he entered the house, the list of food he wouldn't eat got longer and longer until the list just had bagels, cereal, yogurt, ice cream, and pizza. He was even picker than #1 who insists on eating pasta with sauce and cheese every day. Every food had something "wrong" with it.  My friend told me that he didn't like eating in front of people and that he often snuck food in the middle of the night. "it's like he can't control himself. He seems to have no memory of it when asked about it." We went through the cupboards and put away all food that we thought would trigger impulsive eating. We missed a few things.

We found random snack rappers under his bed and a few cups next to his bed. They had a black ring on the bottom and smelled like soy sauce. We then asked him what it was. "I don't know and I didn't put it there", he replied. Oooh the lying, can't stand the lying. I told him, "you do know what it is and you put it there yourself three times. Tell me what it is." After several attempts and promising him that he wouldn't be yelled at, he did nod his head when asked, "is it soy sauce." But to extract that answer was so draining and there was really no reason for it.

We decided that the best way to keep conflict to a minimum was to keep them occupied. Everyday had an activity and some days there were several different things planned. But there was still enough down time for antagonistic behavior to surface.

One of his talents was that he systematically tried to figure out what everyone's triggers were and push them.

He was really good with the twins, that is until he pushed them harder than he thought he did and they toppled over.  It's an easy thing to do if you're 12 years old,  5'10" and 180 lbs; you have a wee bit more power than you think you do. After a few days of him being kind and then taking their toys away, they didn't trust him as readily. They wanted to be around him, but inevitably they would wind up screaming about something either X did to them or something they did to him. Eventually, he got used to their fickleness and they all became good buddies. He got lots of good praise for that.

#3 had a lot of fun with him. He'd play chase games or tickle games which  would get #3 really wound up. But then, all of a sudden, he didn't want to play anymore and didn't offer any type of transition out of it. So, #3 keep playing and then X would get upset that #3 was bothering him.

X and #2 would have the "Well Actually" wars. They would throw random facts at each other claiming to be the smarter one and when either one of them didn't know as much as the other on a particular topic, #2 would make stuff up and X would insist that he was wrong. From there it went down hill quickly. #2 would get frustrated with X and then X would put his hands on him. Game over. By mid-week we had to keep them separated because X knew how to push #2's buttons so well that he'd melt every time, and X would throw his hands in the air and say, "I didn't do anything." That combination alone was vodka worthy.

The one thing they did have in common was how they treated #1. Since they both had trouble interacting with him the way they wanted to, they both usually wound up putting their hands on him in some sensory fashion; squeezing, pushing or holding. And when they'd get frustrated with him, they'd boss him around to the point that #1 would get upset and go to his room.

We did spend most of the week modeling language for everyone. We had to prep X to deal with so many kids. "I need a break, I'll play later." And, "I don't like that. Stop please." In some ways, it felt weird modeling language for X , but I had to remember that although he was very articulate, and very smart, a core ASD deficit is not being able to express feelings effectively.  Four-year-olds aren't very good at that either. By the end of the week, everyone was expressing themselves much better. And the Bailey's bottle was only half-empty.

It did seem like his best moments were when he played nicely with #3 and the girls and when he was the only kid around and he had all the adult attention to himself. And when he was one on one with an adult, he demanded constant interaction. Whether it was fact sharing, silliness, or just making sounds.

In the end, the kids were sad when X was leaving, and #1 asked him when he was coming back.  We were able to help my dear friend in a moment of crisis and give X a different perspective and appreciation for his one sibling. Maybe being in our house for a week made him appreciate having just one sister to avoid.As they say at Dunkin Donuts, "Thank you, come again."

Hanging on the porch swing

Peach Picking


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