Thursday, April 17, 2008

Autism and Impulse Control

My son is 17. Emotionally, he's probably about 12 - still enthralled with Pokemon, DragonBall Z and the like.  His body is that of a 17 year old, with the whiskers and skin eruptions and a deep booming voice.  He is autistic. When asked about most stuff that kids his age care about, he is vehement that he's not interested in that stuff.  Emotionally, he may not be, but his hormones are telling him otherwise.  We've tried to talk with him, council him and make him generally aware of what's "socially acceptable" and impact of his actions.  There is so much information for younger children, but for young adults, it's just not there.  He was diagnosed at a relatively young age, prior to the "epidemic", so we've often been in the dark when it comes to education and information, we've just had to negotiate based on the input that was available and pure gut.  It never stops - sometimes I get exhausted from sailing without a compass....or a sail...or other tools than can help on this journey.

Without going into lots of detail, he's had a few incidents where he acted on or said what was in his head, even though he "knew better".  That's a huge problem for autistic kids - there's no control button.  Even though we've explained and his teachers have explained that at his age, the impact is much greater, he literally could not stop himself.  He's innocent enough to think that "sorry" makes everything better - he does not always get consequences -he doesn't think they don't apply to him, he truly doesn't understand them.

This keeps me up at night.  What if one day he does cross the line at the wrong place in an environment where there are no understanding adults, teachers or family?  He's verbal, but when he's in a stressful situation, he melts down and spirals down into a dark and frightening place.  What can we do to protect him? How can we teach him control when the brain simply doesn't work that way? 

1 comment:

Libby said...

This cannot have been easy to write. I hope that the medical community gets busy on creating a much needed "sailing map" for older kids soon, though it seems to me (remembering the photos you posted from the school dance a while back) that you've been doing a remarkable job on your own.