Finding Ourselves on the Autism Spectrum

Posts tagged ‘attention’

Freaking out

This is the third new post I’ve started in as many days. My thoughts just haven’t been coming together around anything in particular. I think I’ve got something to share now, though.

I was woken in the middle of the night last by a six-foot-tall teenager telling me he was “freaking out” and couldn’t get back to sleep. I have a tendency to freak out myself when my sleep is suddenly interrupted – that really made the baby years fun – so I wasn’t exactly at my best for handling the situation. It seems that what put my already anxiety-prone son over the edge was watching a scary TV show last evening. This is usually supposed to be an issue for younger kids, but it’s not that way at our house.

I hadn’t even authorized the viewing of this particular show, which was, by the way, not one of the scariest Doctor Who episodes I’ve ever seen. But you can never tell what’s going to hit a nerve with another person, and I get that. I personally stopped watching a lot of crime dramas, because that stuff really happens to people, so it does tend to bother me. I’m not so much worried about aliens moving into secret rooms in my house that I don’t know exist or impersonating me while I’m in a coma.

So it’s my fault the show was available, because I mostly record them for me. Hubby is finally watching some with me, mostly because a lot of his favorite shows are into reruns, and there aren’t any compelling sporting events to watch at the moment. So he gave a couple episodes a try and decided it was actually kind of fun. Also, Alvin usually likes a lot of what I like, so he starts watching any time I turn on an episode when he happens to be around. Even the very sensitive seven-year-old Theodore has started being OK with having the show on and not feeling a need to go elsewhere, so I figured maybe we were OK in terms of everybody’s comfort level. And thanks to our new trial DVR setup – which we’ll probably have to give up after the introductory low price runs out – we can watch anything we have recorded on any of the televisions in the house. So while Simon was supposed to be getting his homework finished in the basement, Alvin turned on the episode, and that’s when the work stopped.

Simon actually can’t stop watching something once it’s got his attention. I’ve tried. He’s tried. I can yell right next to him or even walk around in front of the TV waving at him, and he just keeps looking around me, even though he knows it’s going to cause trouble. No matter what is on or who is watching, everyone in the house now knows to respond to the word “pause” where the TV is concerned, so that I can get my kid back. (In a house full of guys with a mom who can only mentally attend to one thing at a time, this is sometimes necessary with the rest of us, as well :)) Even Simon can usually pause the show, but he can’t just stop watching or look away while it’s playing. So it was a bit of a challenge when I came by inquiring about the status of his homework to get Simon back working again. Alvin paused the show, but Simon was hooked in by then, and kept begging me to let him finish. I probably would have gone along if it wasn’t getting so late in the evening and if I wasn’t already worn out from a snow day at home with the kids.

It turned out that there was more than one unfinished homework assignment, and one assignment was missing altogether. So we spent the next half hour looking for the missing assignment while I was supposed to be making dinner, but we didn’t end up finding it. Simon eventually got his other assignments done, and I agreed to let him finish the show – there were only 15 minutes left, anyway. He mentioned that it was kind of creepy, but he smiled as he said it, probably because he really likes the funny bits, so I wasn’t especially concerned. Some things bother him and some don’t, and it’s hard to predict what will be a problem. It turned out that this was a problem.

Simon came downstairs a while after going to bed and was a bit restless. He said he might be a bit wound up from the show, and I asked if he had something more relaxing to read in bed. It took a few minutes, but he came up with his copy of Cheaper by the Dozen – he’s listened to the whole book on CD many times, but this was a paperback copy he decided to try – and things were looking good. It’s a comfort thing for him, and I was pleased that he had come up with the idea on his own. When I went upstairs a little while later, he was already asleep. Problem solved. Not.

So I get the knock on my door sometime between midnight and one. The first thing I tell my son is No More Doctor Who. Then, in my confused and stressed and under-pressure-to-fix-things state, I spend an unfortunate period of time listing all the problems that this has caused and would probably cause in the near future – my inability to get back to sleep, the fact that we both had to be up at 5AM and would both likely be useless then, the fact that he was going to be extra tired while trying to deal with talking to his teacher about his missing assignment and also returning to the new class this semester that already had him so upset that he had to leave class the day before, etc. And I let him know that I didn’t have a quick fix.

When I had started to calm down a little, I found myself talking to Simon about taking control of his thoughts and developing some skills in less stressful moments that he could have ready when he did find himself “freaking out”. I talked about my personal spiritual beliefs and about finding his own beliefs that could carry him through difficulties. I mentioned that sometimes the good in the difficulties we experience is that we are motivated to reach for something better than just learning to live with discomfort – that we can have more than that and are meant for more than that. I also told him that when I wake up on my own once in a while “freaking out”, there are things I read and ideas that I focus on that help to remind me that I get to choose which thoughts to hang on to in my mind and which to send packing -that just because a thought appears in my head doesn’t mean I have to claim it and feed it and make it my own.

I’ve tried having some of these talks before, but because the subject isn’t entertaining, it’s hard for Simon to pay attention for long. That’s always bothered me, because I know what it is to have some measure of these problems, and I want for my son to be able to have the help that I’ve had. He seemed fairly motivated right then, and we didn’t have anything else to work with, so he went along. I got him to work on counting and slowing his breathing – that’s one we’ve practiced before – and I prayed out loud and said some affirmation-type stuff that I’ve personally found helpful, and he started to feel calmer. He even came up with an affirmative thought of his own. I stayed in the room while he went to sleep.

Here’s the cool part. This morning, after we both woke up enough to be somewhat coherent, Simon told me that something had changed for him. He said that before the way he’d always gotten through things was to just put things that were bothering him back in some corner of his mind and try to just move around them or ignore them, but they were still there. He said that in just a few minutes of listening and breathing he was able to feel so much better and like he really could choose different thoughts. I mentioned that he could use some of what he’s learned on his own the next time he’s having a difficulty, and that we’d have a better starting point the next time he wants help from me, since we have an idea what’s working for him. He plans to write some helpful thoughts down at bedtime to keep next to him for when he’s having a problem. If that works out for him, I think I might suggest that being a helpful practice for before problems start.

Once we were both in this better frame of mind, Simon found his missing homework assignment. He even had time to complete most of it before leaving for school. As I keep finding to be the case, we didn’t get to choose the experience we were going to have last night and this morning, but we did get to choose how to respond. We even got to choose again after getting off to a bumpy start. And for us that gave the experience meaning and value.

I’m glad I’ve found a place to share these moments. This isn’t exactly Facebook material. ūüôā

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Nothing in particular

I want to post something today, partly because I’m all about momentum and don’t want to lost what I have going, and partly because I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy about finding this wonderful community and just want to say hi and I’m very grateful you are all here.

Just us Aspies

The neurotypical family members have all gone out to a hockey game, and my oldest and I have the place to ourselves.¬†¬† Other than me checking in with him once in a while to make sure no surprise problems have developed, we’re mostly off in our own spaces doing our own things.¬† We both enjoy our alone time and the peace and quiet when no one is trying to get us to do something interactive that’s supposed to be more fun than what we actually want to do.

Limited attention

I haven’t yet figured out what time setting my blog is on – I can only handle learning a little at a time, but I’m writing in the middle of evening, and my deeper thoughts processes just don’t function by this point, especially when I was up early this morning getting the oldest up and ready for an all-day activity.¬† I have trouble convincing my husband about this time of day thing about me, as he seems pretty much the same all through the day.¬† If you want to discuss something important with me, it had better be before I¬†mentally shut off ¬†for the night. Also when there aren’t too many other things going on at the same time.¬† You may think I’m taking it all in, but it’s likely that I’m really not.

The thing that happened

I did something silly last evening.¬† My ASD oldest son was waiting for a turn on the basement PC and decided it might be fun to beat mom in a friendly game of Blokus.¬† We bought this for the 7-year old, because the teenager wouldn’t like a gift in a box that said ages 5 and up, but we knew it was more along his line.¬† He commented on the fact that someone had restuck the sticky parts on the sides of the box that keep it from opening when it’s still in the store.¬† Odd, but life around here is usually odd, and I don’t ask too many questions about things that don’t seem to present a significant problem.¬† The little plastic pieces were still sealed in baggies inside the box, too.¬† This was surprising and we both commented that we thought the game, which was a Christmas present this year, had already been played by the other family members on a previous evening. ¬†I especially remembered this, because as I was leaving to take the oldest to another activity, the comment was made by my middle son that he’d enjoy a chance to play the game and maybe even win once while his big brother was away.¬†¬†My oldest doesn’t lose many games of anything, especially when there’s a definite strategy to winning ūüôā¬† So we decided maybe we were mistaken and moved on.

Playing games

So we played our game, and since I had¬†never played and had no idea what was¬†going on until¬†I could already see that I was way behind¬†, he crushed me.¬† I did get better towards the end, when I knew more of what was going on.¬† I have to actually see¬†a strategy played out to get it.¬† Middle son requested a bit more time to finish what he was doing on the PC, so the oldest asked to teach me a simplified version of a ¬†game he really likes, which is called Go, while he waited.¬† At first I refused, because even my hubby gets completely frustrated trying to play this kid in Go. (Hubby doesn’t lose many games, either, and is having trouble adjusting to the fact that he just can’t beat this kid ūüôā¬† If Hubby can’t take him, I’m just going to get pummeled, and we already did that once.¬† But he really seemed to want to teach me, and we actually end up having a very nice time, because he’s really quite pleasant in teaching mode.

Remembering

Fast forward to today.¬† I was straightening up just a little –¬†because I’m the only female in the house, and it’s the only way anything is getting picked up¬†EVER – and I noticed the Blokus game sitting out.¬† As I put it away, I noticed another Blokus game sitting under a pile of our other games.¬† And Then I Remembered.¬† Hubby had bought a second Blokus game weeks ago, because the price was just So Good, and he planned to hang onto it as a possible gift for someone later.¬† When my oldest was opening the sealed¬†up Blokus game, it somehow never dawned on me that maybe this was The Second Game.¬† Understand, the males in my house are packrats, and I long ago stopped being able to keep track of what all is in our home at any given time.¬† Also, I’m going to go ahead and blame my husband for not stashing the second game somewhere that the kids wouldn’t come across it.¬† But still, this doesn’t reflect particularly well on my mental faculties.

Amusement

It was over an hour before I sensed the right casual moment to tell both¬†my Aspie¬†boy and¬†my husband¬†what had happened.¬†¬† I couldn’t even say it without cracking up when I was only partway through.¬† At first¬†Hubby just stared at me.¬† Then, in a disbelieving voice and with a quizzical look, he says “You didn’t.”¬† And Aspie boy and I both started cracking up.¬† Hubby was perfectly¬†accepting of the whole thing, but we both know he’s going to be giving me a hard time about this for quite a while to come, because that’s what we do.¬†¬† Once again, just because I¬† look like I’m with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am ūüôā

I’m tired, and the guys are¬† back from their game.¬† Good night all.

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