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Unconditional Parenting and children with special needs

(15 Posts)
thisisyesterday Fri 14-Jan-11 21:25:16

Hello, hoping some other fairly UP parents will be around tonight, and more than that, hoping that someone will be able to help me with a very specific problem

ds1 has some issues. Paediatrician thinks it's likely that he will be diagnosed with Asperger's.
I lean naturally towards UP, but I'm really struggling now with certain aspects of DS1's behaviour and I just can't see how to deal with them in a UP way.

For instance, he has major temper tantrums. He is a danger to his young brothers, and he will accept no comfort from anyone.
The only thing I can do with him to safeguard the rest of us is to put him in a room by himself.
Now, I wouldn't necessarily be unhappy with that, although technically it's a time-out (we never say this, he is welcome to come back any time he wants as long as he has calmed down enough)
The problem is, I don't think it's good for him. All he seems to get from the experience is that we hate him, that we make him be alone, that we've been mean to him etc etc

Right now I don't know if he can't see that his behaviour is unacceptable, or whether he just doesn't want to. But I can't see another alternative to this

I've been on the AK site but can't see that he has written anything really about children with special needs and how to deal with stuff like this.

so.... any ideas?

P.S... I know that UP threads generally turn into bun-fights with people coming on to slag off people who who parent this way, or tell stories of how awful all the children they know are... I would like to politely ask you not to. I am feeling fairly sensitive about it all right now, DS1's assessment by the paediatrician was only on Thursday and it's all a bit new and raw so the last thing I need right now is others picking holes in how I choose to bring my children up.

MavisG Fri 14-Jan-11 21:35:19

I don't know anything about sn, but read a lot about UP (btw there's a yahoo group called Positive Parenting that might be useful to you) and I see 'time in's advocated a lot, where you spend time with and focussing on your child at flash points.

The most useful thing I am learning is to focus on the relationship with your child, not on the behaviour. If you can keep the relationship going as close as possible, all else will fall into place. But I should point out that not only do I know fa about sn, I've only a 2-year-old.

Good luck.

thisisyesterday Fri 14-Jan-11 21:55:24

thanks for replying Mavis. I think our problem is that once he goes into a full-on meltdown (and these can be triggered by really nothing at all sometimes) he seems to need to just go through it to the end.
If you get close to him he will just lash out

I kind of feel like I then spend sooooooo much time and attention on him while I get him to stop it, that his brothers are not getting what they deserve from me.

it's really difficult. will look up the yahoo group though, and have also filled in the "contact us" form on the alfie kohn site lol

tis a good point about my relationship with him though, we've had a tough time recently and maybe we need to focus on that for a bit and maybe he will respond to me a bit better

asdx2 Fri 14-Jan-11 22:02:17

I have two with autism and practise extreme positive parenting I suppose.Every positive is noticed here, commented on and rewarded if necessary. I also choose my battles have learned not to sweat the small stuff and look in the longterm rather than getting too het up over what is probably a blip. It works for us ds was described as having extreme challenging behaviours at his diagnosis but now he the most well behaved teen I know.Dd was never challenging but I've used the same methods and she is just delightful.

MavisG Fri 14-Jan-11 22:13:40

Just to add that positive parenting doesn't - at least, my understanding of it is that it doesn't - include rewards/praise. I appreciate that's unusual. What I aim to do is to talk to/behave towards my son as I would towards an adult friend, so praise etc would be a bit weird/patronising/distancing. (Having said that, I do give myself a break on this on the basis that, had I any adult friends who asked from me what my 2-year-old demands, I'd ditch em!)

TIY, I can imagine it's difficult - extremely - to meet everyone's needs, especially with other children. Another resource I find useful is Scott Noelle's email (google it if interested, am on phone).

asdx2 Fri 14-Jan-11 22:26:58

It would be a bit difficult for me to have done it your way Mavis ds didn't speak until he was 7 and his understanding of speech is still below what you'd expect. Stickers on his jumper he at least grasped then, the chat would have been lost on him. I think with ASD it would be quite difficult get the behaviour you want without reinforcers as an ASD child is unlikely to pick up on subtle suggestions and doesn't have the necessary social awareness to realise what is or isn't acceptable at that moment.

tabulahrasa Sat 15-Jan-11 00:17:23

have you tried talking to him about his tantrums when he is calm - not straight away obviously, but at another time?

I'd explain why you're sending him away and acknowledge how he feels and ask how he'd rather be dealt with when he's in that state.

The problem is that it's very very common for children with ASDs to have problems dealing with strong emotions - I'm guessing by describing it as a temper tantrum then it's anger in this case.

With my son it was being upset rather than angry, we got hysteria, but it was the crying kind, lol.

You need strategies for him to deal with his anger in an appropriate way with the ultimate aim being that he can control it a bit more, but you also need to work out what triggers it so that you can see whether you can deal with him in a better way.

I'm not saying that you have to give him whatever he wants or picking holes in how you parent at all, but I know that with me I worked out that actually it was the way I dealt with things that caused the reaction and not the original problem at all - if that makes sense?

StartingAfresh Sat 15-Jan-11 00:24:39

Have you tried getting something like a motivader?

Every time it clicks/buzzes you praise your child for the good behaviour etc. Hopefully that way, you completely outweigh the small time he is banished to his room etc.

I had to reconcile ABA (behaviourism) with Attachment Parenting. The two aren't the opposite ends of the spectrum that they had first appeared to be!

Starlight x

FiveOrangePips Sat 15-Jan-11 01:06:38

Even though you need to take him to a separate room could you sit outside the room, so the first thing he sees when he comes out is you? Would he cope with seeing you outside, then you could leave the door open and just sit there, don't look or speak to him until he comes to you?

I am aware of UP but don't know much about it, so can't really help on that aspect, but I do have a child with sn, so you have my sympathy. How old is your ds?

My ds had awful tantrums, I can hardly believe how bad they were now that he is 6, and much more able to communicate - he still doesn't deal well with conflict (can't think of a better word), but he has got so much better. It was a very slow improvement it took years, but a quiet calm consistent approach, where I didn't engage but he knew I was there seemed to eventually work - he couldn't cope with me leaving him when he was having a tantrum though, so I had to be with him, but I just sat quietly and waited.

belindarose Sat 15-Jan-11 09:35:10

I think 'social stories' are a very respectful tool for supporting behaviour in people with asd so might fit in with your parenting style. There's a good yahoo group. Google Carol Gray social stories if you don't know about them already. Very effective IME (as a teacher, not a parent).

thisisyesterday Sat 15-Jan-11 11:07:16

thank you all for taking the time to reply

have talked to him about it a lot. one time he was telling me how mummies aren't supposed to make their children cry... so i asked him what HE would do if he had a child who didn't want to stop doing things he shouldn't be doing... that DID make him think, his first answer was that I just need to say "no" and he would stop doing it lol

his understanding is excellent, and he can come up with ways of dealing with it.... but in the heat of the moment it just seems to go. he either can't or won't remember it, or is incapable of acting on it

we do try and avoid triggers, but quite often he will kick off over basically nothing and it's impossible to avoid. Other times, when he is hungry or tired or we're in an unusual situation, his responses are exacerbated and it's really hard to get him to calm down

I think I just get stuck in this place where I feel like he kicks off and I then am neglecting my other children because I am literally having to give ds1 ALL of my attention, for what is often a very long time.
I am scared too that they see this and will start copying it. ds1 tantrums and gets mummy to himself for ages... so they will to? this is partly why we send him into another room. we always say to him it's just for him to calm down. he can play with stuff, or read, and that he can come back and join us once he feels he can stop hurting people/screaming at us

but he really gets nothing from the experience than this feeling that we all hate him.. which isn't what I want at all!

we do have a couple of social stories, but perhaps I need some more specific ones for him. also had some good advice on the SN board about visual aids for dealing with anger and staying calm, which I will try and put into action

I guess what I am looking for is a more UP way of dealing with the unavoidable tantrums that meets his needs as well as those of his 2 younger brothers. this may be impossible! I did get an e-mail from Alfie Kohn during the night, and he has recommended a couple of books to me, so I will look those up and see if they're any help.

NannyState Sat 15-Jan-11 11:13:59

I have a 6 yr old son with AS. My attitude is I suppose what you'd call 'UP' (although personally, I find any 'parenting philosphy' cringeworthy). I am child-centred, child-led etc. Certainly not an authoritarian and hate all that 'naughty step' guff.

But children with ASC, more than any other children, need firm boundaries. They suffer from anxiety, insecurity and control issues as it is. Without very clear rules and thwe knowledge you are going to react in the same way every time certain situations occur - they flounder. I have learned this the hard way, btw!

You don't need to suddenly revert to some sort of nightmare-ish Super Nanny type grin. But I would definitely recommend working out how you are going to deal with the tantrums and following throgh in the same way every time. I find 'time out' 9although we call it 'calm down time' works well. It doesn't stop DS kicking off, but over the past couple of years we have found that it definitely descalates the situation 9eventually) and stops it dragging on. Afterwards he always has the opportunity for a cuddle, a drink, some deep breaths and a chance to talk about what happened. This is a really good time to weave in the social story type stuff.

I am happy to talk more if you like? Dashing out now. x

MavisG Sat 15-Jan-11 11:16:10

Kept thinking about your situation last night, TIY. Another resource I think might be useful to you is Non-Violent Communication - this link is to the first in a series of You Tube vids, but there are books if you prefer. I can't remember which vid has this on but he talks about guessing what the other person's feeling - similar to Naomi Aldort's (Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves) 'naming the feeling', which might be useful if you choose to remain with him while he has a meltdown and/or if you talk to him about it when he's calm. He (NVC fella) also talks about only giving from a joyful place, when you want to - I'm not really sure how this relates to being a parent when you feel you have to, but I find it substantial food for thought, because I think children can sense when we're 'giving' from a sense of duty and when we do it for sheer joy. I think authenticity's key and that it's good to express your feelings, e.g. 'I'm feeling frustrated and powerless because I don't know how to help you right now and because I think your brothers need me too' and 'I feel hopeful when you tell me how you feel because, even though I can't solve this for you, I may be able to help you solve it now you've told me what it is' - basically, he can sense your inauthenticity when you express different feelings from what you're experiencing and that may be scarier for him than the truth.

Gotta go, just wanted to give you that link and to say also that although I am living in fucking clover compared to you right now, I really need my real life UP friends and support so if you're managing without that then you are super-hero-special. I really believe in UP, think it's a powerful step towards a more peaceful world. PM me if you live in London x

tabulahrasa Sat 15-Jan-11 12:58:29

if he's able to come up with ways of dealing with it - I'd pick one, discuss it beforehand and stick to it

He won't be able to do it himself when he's in the middle of a meltdown, you'll need to then make him do it

We had to have calm down time as well, it wasn't a punishment - it's just that you can't do anything with a child until they're in control of themselves again

I don't really know enough about unconditional parenting to comment on it - but in general, children with AS need the world to be consistent and have clear rules

ommmward Sat 15-Jan-11 13:10:33

In some ways, I think it is more crucial to parent a child on the spectrum, or with similar needs, in a UP-stylee way than it is to interact with neuro-typical children in that way, because so often a child on the spectrum can get really stuck in a situation, and then that whole consistent parenting, firm boundaries, punishment and rewards stuff is just a recipe for agony for everyone.

That's my first response, just saying that I really honour your general approach

Then there are two things. One is tantrum management and the other is tantrum avoidance.

tantrum management

Once a tantrum has started, only your child knows what helps them recover and recover fast. It may well be that you just need to take the other children to another room, or turn your back on the child, and just say "X is sad, isn't he. Let's wait for him to cheer up a bit" Or maybe just hold his foot firmly (but not if he then kicks and flails).

There is a stage when a child can begin to learn how to get themself out of a tantrum themself, but you really have to give them time to express the emotions and then get through them - the less interfering the better IMO

tantrum avoidance

there are all sorts of things here. The more you can engage in common-preference finding with your children, the less likely the triggers are to arise. You might enjoy exploring here

The more your children learn to interact with each other independently, the less the tantrums will arise. Maybe read Siblings without Rivalry? Maybe ,as an experiment, have a day where you do not intervene between your children, except to stop anyone actually getting physically hurt (and then you just place your body in the way). See how, at first, there is a lot of "mine, mine" and "he did this", and screaming, and then gradually they start to work out their own battles. I was really astonished when I started seeing that happening in my own family. Quite often, if one child is really upset about an object not being in their hands, the holder of the object will spontaneously give it to them.

And work really hard on structural discipline. Here's a little introduction to that idea. Rather than having to say no to your children, have the house set up so that everywhere they have access to they have freedom of action in. (we have one room locked with a padlock where tools and machinery and my precious books and things live)

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