Parenting An Eccentric Child

 

This article has been a long time coming but the problem has always been how I would go about tackling this issue. You see this article is about the situation you find yourself in when you come to realise that your child is not quite like other kids.

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All children are unique. But some are just a little bit more unique!

Master 6 is my eldest child and from day dot he has loved routine, to the point that flexibility and spontaneity are not even concepts he can consider without anxiety. He was easy to care for, I’ll admit that. He liked things a certain way, at a certain time and that was that. He would eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day; vegemite toast for breakfast and a cheese sandwich for lunch (toasted in cooler months).

Things had to be done in certain orders. For bedtime the order MUST be brush teeth, use the toilet, story, prayers and lights out in that order. Do not even think about changing that order or a meltdown will occur (and still does).

To begin with I had no reason to think that he was abnormal. He was my first so I had little experience with other children at home and we were homebodies so we didn’t go out that much to begin with aside from Mass or grocery shopping.

But then we started seeing other children regularly and I began to notice that my son did things a little bit differently to the others.

He couldn’t cope with change, it distressed him no end. Even the smallest change in the order of activities at the local libraries Storytime was enough to send him into hysterics.

He seemed unable to read social cues in many situations and it became a nightmare to take him anywhere. Before we went anywhere I had to explain where we were going, what we were doing and encourage the correct behaviour. For example he had no idea that when the librarian was reading that he should not be talking to the other children. He wasn’t being disobedient as such, he just didn’t get it.

He was either hot or cold; everything was black or white. If he hurt himself, whether it was a light tap or a more serious injury the reaction was the same: over the top hysteria. He would scream and cry for ages.

He was obsessed with certain things, in this case machinery like tractors and excavators, and wasn’t interested in anything else.

He was clever, strong willed and was easily constructing complicated Lego machines by age four and a half by himself, and creating his own designs including working windmills and trucks soon after. He was trying to tell the time at about four years of age and could tell his left from his right by the time he started school.

When we went out socially he spent more time conversing with adults rather than with kids his own age.

We had to plan out everything beforehand. When contemplating his adjustment to school we felt our hand was forced and so we enrolled him at preschool to get him ready. At preschool he consistently played with the same activities, misread social cues frequently and rarely played with the other children.

So, I started doing a bit of research and found that all doors lead towards autism or aspergers, and that’s when I started to worry. Was I being over the top?

I was in two minds, should I get him checked out or should I not worry about it and see how things go. In the end I found the Australian Scale for Asperger’s Syndrome which was very helpful. It’s basically a questionnaire about autism spectrum traits and if your average score is over a certain number then they suggest you undertake further testing.

My son, then aged 5, was well inside that range and so I bit the bullet, so to speak, and booked in to see our paediatrician.

Thankfully our paediatrician is absolutely fantastic and listened to my concerns without judgement and evaluated my son that day. We were there for about an hour and we left with a plan of attack.

My son has not been given a diagnosis of autism because he is social and can communicate beyond his peer level hence his preference for conversing with adults. However he has autism spectrum features which need to be addressed and as such we work with an occupational therapist and there is a possibility that we will be working with a behavioural psychologist in the future.

So if my son has autistic features, why not call him autistic? Basically, because my son is normal enough to cope in regular situations so long as strategies are in place, a diagnosis of autism would actually be detrimental to him; he would be pigeonholed and may even regress.

School has been interesting. We have been working with his occupational therapist and his teacher, and after six weeks of settling in, he is now familiar with and at home with the school routine and environment and is flourishing academically. His ability to retain information is amazing and his reading comprehension already just blows my mind.

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Getting him ready for school proved a challenge.

He is still very much his own person and because he’s only 6 the other, older kids, think he’s cute and often anecdotes about his behaviour make it home to other families who delight in passing them on to me. I’m sure one day, when he’s older, he’ll probably be that weird kid at school, but I’ll worry about that later.

He does still have meltdowns, more regularly than I’d like, but less regularly than they have been before. Only last week his swimming instructor was absent and he had someone else who was absolutely lovely and didn’t do anything different but he cried and was agitated the whole time. But now we know how to manage his behaviour and assist him in regulating his behaviour.

One day we might actually arrive at a point where he can be flexible and react to particular stimuli without such an exaggerated response. It’s going to be a long road, we’ve been warned of that, and it has been an investment in terms of occupational therapy bills and resources. I’ve spent hours printing, cutting and laminating visual cues for routines and social situations as well as purchasing and making sensory items like the Eye Spy bag, for use when he’s over stressed, overwrought or hysterical.

Yes, my son is eccentric and that can be confronting for some, but I love him and truth be told, I wouldn’t change him at all. He can be a handful, but he is overly affectionate, engrossingly intelligent and hilariously eccentric at times.

Life is never dull!

 

 

Filed Under: ChildrenFamily LifeFeaturedParenting

About the Author: Emily is a former ACPA award winning editor and journalist turned stay at home mum and blogger. She lives on a farm in regional NSW with her husband and their five children where she spends the time she should be doing housework reading books and writing posts.

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  1. Virginia Tanna says:

    I’m impressed at your commitment. The problem however is when the behaviour of the older child influences the younger siblings, such as arguing, not controlling impulse or lashing out negatively. We too take our children to Mass regularly, but it is very hard to see the ‘funny’ side when they wonder around or insist on not kneeling etc. Suggestions?

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