Here are some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on special needs.
This is a Premium feature
Please help - step mum to autistic child(5 Posts)
Apologies in advance as I think this will be a long post...
I have been step mum to my partner’s son since he was 2 years old, nearly six years now as he turns 8 next month. Our relationship is generally excellent, he sees me more as a second Mum as he’s known me pretty much his whole life. His real mum has a partner and toddler with him, and they live with my stepson’s grandmother too. My partner and I live 5 minutes’ walk away and his son stays with us 3 nights of the week. In this respect things are pretty good given that everyone communicates with each other and my stepson is growing up with 5 adults raising him and providing him with love and care.
My stepson has a form of autism called PDA (pathological demand avoidance) and also mild ADHD. He has started a new specialist school this year which has been so good for him.
My problem is that, at his mum’s house, he is completely fawned over and mollycoddled (in my opinion); his mum and grandma will literally give him whatever he wants, whenever he wants, which he has even used against my partner and I when he doesn’t get his own way when he stays with us: “Mum and grandma let me do what I want when I want to and do everything for me!” he will shout at us. He is 8 years old next month yet still expects to be literally spoon fed his breakfast every morning even though he is perfectly capable of feeding himself. He also has an unhealthy addiction to screens, and his mum has given him his own laptop, iPad, tv, and mobile phone. When they break, she gives him hers to use until buying a new one. He spends hours on them from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to bed. He watches horrific videos that involve blood and guns and killing, and has learnt all sorts of horrific words from them. We have had massive issues with his use of swearing when he has an anxiety attack, and somehow have managed to get it so that he never ever swears when he stays with my partner and I, even during an anxiety attack, yet swears all the time when staying with his mum, even when not feeling angry or upset. It’s very clear that our households have different rules and opinions, and that my stepson reacts differently depending on who he is with. There have been times where when angry, my stepson has gone around screaming “I am going to fucking rape you!” Or calls his teacher a “motherfucker”. (Apologies for the language.)
When voicing my concerns to a therapist about the videos that his mum lets him watch, she mentioned that this seemed serious enough to report to social services. His mum always uses his “condition” as an excuse, saying he is not neurotypical and it’s easier to let him feel calm and avoid anxiety attacks by letting him have his devices and watching what he wants. His teacher at school once called her to ask why he had been watching these videos and she explained it was because of his “condition”.
He has his own YouTube channel and on his phone downloads games where the aim is to decapitate animals etc. I recently looked at his search history and found that he had written “kill a baby”. On the other hand he has really lovely hobbies and is obsessed with flags and languages and trains. He can be extremely loving and caring too.
I should say that his mum is extremely loving and provides him with more clothes and toys than you could imagine, but to the point where I feel it is irresponsible to be letting a vulnerable child have so many devices and accessibility to online dangers.
I realise I am not the real mother, though we have all accepted I have quite a prominent parental role having been in the picture since my stepson was a toddler; we have taken him on holidays, I look after him without my partner and really play a massive part in his life, dare I say am nearly just as much a mother figure without the biological links, because of how he spends half of his life with us.
My partner is himself on the spectrum and finds confrontation difficult, so when faced with it from his ex or his son, usually goes along with whatever keeps everyone happy.
I’ve been told that I am trying too much to be his real mother, but I’m finding it difficult to watch a child who is so bright and intelligent and loving, be, in my opinion, let down, and to not say something, though when I do it is met with resentment from most parties, even though it would appear that all of my concerns are actually valid when speaking to other parents.
What do I do?
Tough one - ill be back with some thoughts later but just wanted to say we have a daughter with PDA and it is certainly not an excuse to allow them access to adult material etc
Thank you @Imnotacelebgetmeoutt
They might not be helpful thoughts but this is what id be considering...
As your DH is on the spectrum would it be easier to frame concerns in a black / white legal terms.. ie at 8yrs old he isnt allowed to have social media accounts / graphic content. Thus its not a personal preference..its a fact.
I have a phrase in this house which is " we make allowances not excuses" - essentially there are things that ill allow that i wouldnt for a neurotypical child but we make no excuses for behaviour that is harmful to ourselves or others wether its physical, verbal or emotional. This rule is because all 4 of ours have ASD amongst other diagnoses and its a challenging household. PDA or not we wont tolerate abusive language or suggestions of violence, there will be consequences ...but we dont demand apologies as this raises anxiety and it becomes a vicious cycle.
I would suggest talking to his mum again, and perhaps again frame it as beneficial to her " ie can we agree a consistent approach so hes more settled across both homes" so she isn't defensive. I found reading PDA specific books really useful.
Regarding the mollycoddling...its a tricky balance as PDA kids need the velvet glove approach generally but that still means boundaries and rules - non negotiables.
Probably worth talking to the school also, its in his best interests and frankly id be quite concerned that she allows free access to internet given his search history.
Disclaimer - my PDA-er is only 5 and i may be talking out my backside however i was genuinely struggling to manage her behaviour and recognised if we didnt learn fast she will be a teen and we would have no chance of parenting her in an appropriate manner.
Speak to the school with his Dad. They will no doubt also have concerns. There may be family support/parenting courses that his biological mum might be able to be referred to via an early help assessment that would help her understand the risks of allowing such unmonitored internet access and device use in her vulnerable child.