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How best to teach my child about Autism?

(9 Posts)
WurzelBoot Fri 02-Oct-09 15:43:42

Hello, I'm a very new poster, you all seem lovely so I was hoping you could give me some advice with this.

My son started school this year. He started with 3 other children from nursery but is now starting to make friends outside of this group. One of the new friends he's starting to play with is J. Yesterday, he was very upset after an incident at the park after school as J said he would never ever be his friend again.

What seems to have happened was that Son suddenly changed the rules of the game J got upset.

Now I happen to know that J has some level of autism. Beyond that I don't know. What I feel I want to do is to explain to Son that sometimes people get upset with things go wrong or games change quickly and I bumbled about trying to explain that sometimes Dad gets upset if his book aren't in the right places. I told him I thought J would still be his friend today and not to worry about it.

I don't know whether this was the right thing to do or how to explain to him better - I don't know enough about autism to feel confident in what I tell him. I don't want to single out J in this case as I'd like Son to have a sense of all people being the same but different. I don't even know whether J got so upset because of his autism - it seemed typically 4yo behaviour to me too.

I think I'm kind of torn between not wanting to make an issue out of it, or for Son to treat J differently to others, but also to help him understand that all of us have brains that work differently so to have some understanding about this... but also to bare in mind he's 4.

What doesn't help is that I work full time so the events yesterday where channelled second hand through MIL who has him after school some days. She's hugely defensive of Son and was very much 'Son was only being as naughty as the other J, J overreacted.' (she doesn't know about the Autism). Coupled with the fact that Son was exhausted at the end of the day so didn't want to hear anything. I'm going to have to raise this by myself at an appropriate time...

Any advice or views would be greatly appreciated.

sickofsocalledexperts Fri 02-Oct-09 16:11:30

I always very much wish parents of my autistic son's classmates would be very honest with them about autism, and tell them that the reason why DS doesn't talk, and sometimes flaps his hands or makes odd noises, is not that he's "silly" but that he's autistic. That's only though if the parents are "out" - have they told eveyrone their kid is autistic or is it just you that knows?

The simplest way to explain it perhaps is that children are born with something called autism, just like your boy was born with blue eyes, which means their brains are wired differently and they sometimes can't understand so well how to play WITH people rather than alone. They also may have problem with change, and they may not be as good at talking as other kids. You could add that sometimes they have funny movements, like bouncing up and down when excited, or you could leave that out if it doesn't apply.I am trying to get an article in our school newsletter to explain autism in simple terms, as when I talk to people I can see them sort of glaze over when I say the word "autistic", as they just don't really know what it means, but at the same time I don't want to go into a long , detailed explanation at what should be a light school pick-up type chat. Any more than they would go into some long-winded description of why their kid is, say, bad at running but good at swimming. It's too much info. But being honest is good as young kids imho are far more accepting of differences than are adults (or most of them, anyway).Thanks for posting, you sound like a very enlightened person!

Marne Fri 02-Oct-09 16:16:03

Hi, this was a huge problem with dd1 when she started school, she could not handle change of rules or other children winning.

A year on and she still gets upset but not as bad as before. I spent a lot of time playing with her at home (being the other child that changes the rules), to start with we had huge meltdowns but these have now gone. She still likes to stick to rules and is quick to pick up if someone has broken the rules but she doesn't get as upset.

Its hard for them to accept a rule change because rules are rules after all and should not be broken.

There maybe someone on here could point you towards a social story, we have used some with dd1 and they have helped a lot.

vjg13 Fri 02-Oct-09 16:43:27

There is a really nice book called 'Looking after Louis' which we have, Louis has ASD.here. It has great pictures and explains how children with additional needs fit in too.

troutpout Fri 02-Oct-09 16:45:47

you sound lovely smile
oh if only all other parents could be as accepting and willing to find out as you

It can be typical 4yold behaviour you are right at about that. I think (fwiw) that you did enough to be honest . Your boy is only little...just creating that awareness that everyone is different and that some people have difficulties where others don't is probably enough at this stage.

MrsMagnolia Fri 02-Oct-09 17:02:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WurzelBoot Fri 02-Oct-09 17:44:21

Thank you all! And thank you for the book; that sounds ideal!

(And thanks for the compliments blush.)

As to whether the Mum told me; I honest to Pete can't remember. None of this is helped by the fact that I have severe anxiety, rubbish social skills and also at the moment quite bad depression. I'm only saying this to explain the fact that during the week of school I spent the pick up times nodding and smiling, trying to seem funny and sane while at the same time trying not to throw up, cry or faint!

Suffice to say, my recollection of who said what and when is quite messy. Certainly no-one seemed bothered by the information, there was no snide "just so you know..." feel or anything, it was just stating a fact. I can't remember at all how the subject came up and I feel the need to not drive the point too far in case my mind wasn't quite where it should be and I got the wrong end of the stick entirely.

Sorry - I think I now sound a bit rubbish sad.

The thing is, to my mind it doesn't matter too much; the chances are he will be in a class with a child with autism, I think he already is and I think it's J (which is why I'm asking about Autism rather than other disabilities). Though obviously I'm not going to single J out, I'd like him to know that sometimes people act in a way others don't (like sickofsocalledexpert's son with the flappy hands), and that this is OK, and it might be because something in their brain is wired up to do that, whereas Son's isn't.

Anyhow, what's ultimately most helpful is that you all seem to agree that talking about it is a useful thing to do and that there are simple ways to do so that people with autism are not surprising or strange to him.

busybeingmum Fri 02-Oct-09 17:45:34

Message withdrawn

MoonlightMcKenzie Fri 02-Oct-09 18:12:11

Can you explain your son's bedtime routine to him and ask him how he would feel if you changed something without warning and ask how it would make him feel, and then go on to explain that would upset J 100x more, especially as you could give your ds a reason but J wouldn't understand the reason so he would be confused.

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