Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The reason, but NEVER the excuse

OK, time to tackle a hard topic.

I am friends on FB and in real life with a fair number of people who either are somewhere on the Autism Spectrum or are parenting someone on the Autism Spectrum, everything from classic Autism to people like me, who seem fine on the surface unless you know what is in the brain.  I see many such posts about how we have to understand and be more accepting of bad behavior from Autistic kids because they don't have control over it, and we need to understand the differences between a bratty kid temper tantrum and an Autistic meltdown. And to some extent, this is true.

But, and here is where people might disagree with me, HAVING AUTISM IS NOT AN EXCUSE TO BE A BRAT.

Whew.  I said it.

The thing is, if you are anywhere on the Autistic Spectrum you DO have meltdowns.  These are totally understandable to someone who knows the etiology of Autism.  And yes, as a society who cares about our children struggling with a true mental disability or at least a challenge, we need to be understanding.  And if you are a parent who has a child in the middle of the meltdown, it is absolutely essential to figure out then practice what buttons you can press to calm them down, or avoid triggering an attack all together if you can prevent it.  If you are a friend of someone on the Spectrum who is having a meltdown, you should certainly be calm and understanding and help them out.  Because we are not doing this on purpose.

BUT.  If your child is screaming in the middle of the grocery store because he is having a meltdown, it is NOT OK for him to be doing this  You need to take him away and calm down.  If your child gets everything they want because they have a meltdown when they don't get their way, this is NOT OK.  They will get spoiled.  And if they behave badly in every social situation this is NOT OK.  You need to either remove them from the situations, or train them to handle them, or both.  If you treat your friends badly and alienate them continually, even though they try to be understanding and helpful, you don't deserve to have those friends.

You see, being an Aspie is hard.  It is hard for me to hold conversations with people (though it is much better than it used to be).  It is hard for me to keep my mouth shut and be politic and not hurt people's feelings.  It is hard for me to pay attention to any given conversation to make sure I say enough to be interested, not so much I dominate the conversation, to try and know if people are interested though I can't read body language to save my immortal soul.  It is hard to not fidget so much.  It is hard for me to be on the phone.  It is hard for me to let go of upset or frustration or worry so I can move on with life.  It is hard for me to not dissect every conversation I have with people for hours after it happened worried that I made  a mistake somewhere along the line.

But society, manners, culture, the mores of good behavior dictate that I do these things.  And while understanding of others is nice, the plain fact of the matter is that the burden of learning to deal with society and maintain friendships and have good behavior lies on me.  Not society.  I can hope society may  forgive me my slip ups, and I certainly hope I can learn to forgive myself for making mistakes.  I can understand it is hard for me, and avoid situations I know I can't handle. I can work hard to gain the tools needed to function in society in such a way that people don't know I am an Aspie.  And through sheer determination, a stubborn mother, and the grace of God, I have managed to do these things.  Mostly.

But at the end of the day my Asperger's is a reason these things are hard for me.  It is the reason I end up exhausted after every social day,  even when I have had a good time.  It's the reason I am so often frustrated.  But if I treat someone badly, if I commit an egregious social faux pas, if I have a meltdown and cause a scene rather then leaving until I can calm down, that is on me.  Society doesn't have to conform to me.  I have to conform to them.

Because Asperger's may be the reason, but it is never, never the excuse.


  1. Well said. I'm an undiagnosed Aspie who's the father of an 'officially' diagnosed Aspie daughter. An Aspie raising an Aspie - heaven help us all.

    This post illustrates both what it's like to deal with Asperger's while also noting the importance of instilling appropriate coping skills in children who have it.

    Erudite Mom led me to this blog via Twitter. I'm bookmarking it and look forward to future entries.

  2. Welcome to our humble blog!

    Well, it's her humble blog, she just lets me post here from time to time. :)

  3. Thank you for the kind words. Please browse through earlier entries, and share your experiences! Guest blogging is also not out of the questions...

    Also, if there is any topic that you would like to learn about or would like to hear about via my own experiences, do let me know.

  4. I can not always control a meltdown, nor do I have the time or forewarning every time to be able to walk away. For me it depends on the sort of day I have had and the amount of stimulation going on around me at the time. I wish it were as simple as you have stated. Perhaps you have 'mastered the art' of this issue and achievement is yet to come for me. I do hope one day to have the control you express here as having. Never, have I used being an Aspie as an excuse for having a meltdown. Neither will I conform to any conventions of societ that I know can trigger a meltdown. It is a fine and sometimes unseen line, though. I do want to fit in, but simply put, it just doesn't work that way many of the times. My primary and repetive feeling is frustration and anxiety each day.

    1. Julie, sure. I am an Aspie too. I get it. I know what it is to meltdown for no reason. I know what it is to have the comfort around being around people that understand my brain and make life easy for me. Example--I was with friends and their family for Christmas last year--I knew almost no one there. After everyone had gone, my friends entreated me to stay another night rather than drive home because, to quote 'a day like that full of strangers is hard on anyone, it must be much harder on you'. That was understanding. But STILL, it didn't mean that being an Aspie meant I had the right to be rude. It didn't mean that if I had had a meltdown I wouldn't have had the responsibility of going into another room until I regained control. See what I mean? It IS a fine line, but at the end of the day, Aspie or not, we have to be polite. It isn't fitting in, so much as having good manners. And yeah, over a decade of actively working on it means it is easier for me than it used to be--but by no means am I perfect, and it is still just as hard in terms of energy expenditures.