Necessary Discussions in Autism Land

Between discussions with my daughter about who are her new classmates or if the zippered binder I bought for her is the right one, and discussions with my youngest about how his first day of school was and how he needs to make sure to eat his lunch, we also have these discussions:

How the kids need to listen to Mamma, and what they should do when Bhai (Lil D) has a meltdown.

The other day, when all heck broke loose in our family room with Lil D, Hamza was right there playing with is cars. Amal was reading up in her room. When it became clear that this was going to be a bad one, I instructed Hamza to go upstairs to his sister’s room and play there.

At first, as he typically does, he kept playing. Then I sternly told him to go upstairs. “Ok Mamma,” he said, “But can I take my car mat and some cars with me?”

“Of course,” I told him. And he grabbed a few cars and his car mat and slowly trudged up the stairs.

As I dealt with the awfulness unfolding in front of me, I kept an ear out for what was going on upstairs. Amal and Hamza play well together. But, like many brothers and sisters, they fight as well. Sure enough, a minute after I had sent Hamza upstairs so that he wouldn’t see Lil D in his meltdown (or be in harm’s way), I heard the door slam.

I ran upstairs to see Hamza ejected to the hallway. I opened the door and told my daughter that now was not the time for her to fight with Hamza and not the time to kick him out, even if he had done something to upset her or if he had messed up something in her room. I then brought Hamza back inside and instructed them to hang out there until things were quieter downstairs.

Once things had calmed down with Lil D, I sat my two younger ones down and said, “Let’s talk.” I asked them if they understand their brother has problems at times and can get very upset. They nodded. Hamza, at age almost-five, squirmed and tried to play with his toys. Pay attention, I told him.

I told them that when Lil D gets that upset, it is very important that they listen to me and do whatever I ask of them.

“I know you guys fight sometimes, and that’s fine. Amal, I know Hamza is annoying and messes up your stuff. Hamza, I know you think Apa (older sister) is bossy at times. But when Bhai is upset, and I tell you two to go upstairs to Apa’s room, or downstairs to the basement, or to go to Dadima (their grandmother), you must listen to me. Right away. Amal, you have keep Hamza with you. I tell you guys to go away because I know you love Bhai, and it makes you sad to see him upset. And, I want to make sure you guys are safe. When Bhai gets that upset, he doesn’t know what he is doing. And, I don’t want anybody getting hurt. Ok?”

Four eyes looked at me, not with fear or confusion, but soberly and with some understanding. Two heads nodded.

“Do you guys have any questions or anything you want to say to me?”

“Mamma,” my daughter said, “I don’t like it when you yell at Bhai. I don’t like the loudness.”

“I know, Amal,” I said. “And I’m sorry things get loud. But the reason I raise my voice is to snap him out of it. Sometimes I have found that when he is that upset and can’t understand what is going on, if I raise my voice, it sometimes snaps him out of it. I’m not mad at him. I’m not upset. Well, honestly sometimes I’m upset, but that’s ok to be upset. But I am not mad. It’s not his fault. I do a lot of different things to try and help him out of it. And sometimes I have to just wait for him to calm down by himself. But the most important thing is that I love all of you guys, and I need you to listen to me the first time when I ask you to do something. ”

She was satisfied with the answer, and I declared the conversation down. We high fived each other and went about our day.

These two are not sheltered, and they have seen some stuff go down in our house. I wager that most kids witness unpleasant things from time to time in their homes. But for our kids, the unpleasantness can reach a whole other level. And so, these discussions must be had. It’s never easy to talk about special needs or explain things to my younger kids when often I don’t understand things completely, but it has to be done. It’s as work in progress.

I worry about how all this will affect them as they grow and how it affects them now. But what I’ve learned is as sensitive as they are, they are also that strong, resilient and compassionate.

Because when Lil D is calm and smiling, they are the first to say, “Hey Mamma, Bhai’s in a good mood! He’s happy!”

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  • shana

    You are so very blessed in your family and in having such good relationships between your children and yourself. I have good kids, too, that help me when their sister (who has moderate Asperger’s but is antisocial) and brother (who has moderate autism) have their own ‘melt down’ days. Fortunately, we don’t have them frequently but when we do – oh how wonderful be surrounded by people who understand enough to be real help.

    I’m so grateful that the One who made us loves us enough to provide for us, not always the way we want, but always in the way we need.

  • Kiran

    this is a great article to read. i just felt this way after saying night to both sleeping boys – i said aA for my older one for, at 3 years old being so helpful, compassionate, and forgiving of his brother; who at 2 years old is just beginning to have meltdowns. iA it’ll stay this way, or close enough!

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    I believe the trials we went through (and sometimes still experience) when my son was younger made my daughter a better person. It was hard at the time, and she retreated to her room so she wouldn’t hear the explosions and the terrible things coming out of his mouth, or our attempts to discipline him. Now he’s 14 and in a special school for children with asperger’s, and she’s 11, and she has an infinite capacity for compassion. She always–always–insists on getting him something or bringing him something, and always makes an extra effort to draw him out. It was hard for her, I know that. But I’m so proud of who she’s become because of that experience.