The Denver Autism Wheel

Another example of flexible thinking

Posted on: November 18, 2010

I’ve been giving this some thought lately. When you live in a family, any kind of family, you end up having to work with/around other people’s behaviors. The difference, when you live with someone with autism, is that you’re coming at behaviors from different perspectives. It’s still communication; it’s still interaction. It’s just that you go into it with a different set of expectations.

Parents raising kids with autism have to get out of the house just like parents raising typical kids. Everybody needs a chance to recharge their batteries (this includes the kids, too) around other people. The problem with autism is getting a babysitter to show up twice. After going through all the teenage girls on our block, I can attest to the fact that it gets demoralizing to have to listen to adolescent girls stumble around for nice words to say, “I do not want to babysit your kid because he’s confusing and a little scary” when I know my boy and his behaviors and how good he actually is. It feels easier not to try to go out instead of feeling like you have to beg for a little time to yourself.

But it’s necessary. For you and for him or her or them…completely necessary and completely healthy.

Enter flexible thinking. Instead of reinforcing the rigid thinking patterns and scheduling you—and because they learn what we model—your child can fall into, you need to shake things up. You need to be able to think straight for a moment. Your child or children need to be able to behave themselves around strangers, other kids, and other adults. They need the exposure to new experiences.

And, like most of your experience with autism, it takes repetition: it’s not a one-off “oh, great, now my kid knows how to deal with other kids” experiment. It’s a process. You have to provide the opportunity to expose your child to other people repeatedly and let them succeed (and fail) repeatedly before it becomes part of the landscape.

If babysitters don’t work, and you’re sick of hearing from your MIL how your husband never behaved like that when he was little, it’s time for a new plan. In the Links section, click the Gimme a Break link. The Autism Society of Colorado trains caregivers who specialize in respite for parents (this means the caregivers know what autism looks like and understand what to do). Give them a chance, give yourself a chance, and give your kid a chance to do something new. If it’s scary to bring a stranger into the house, do it anyway.

Also in the Links section, click the Club 4 Kids link. They are a drop-in care center. They don’t specialize in autism, but they are run by moms, some of whom are special ed instructors in the public school system. They have recommendations from the STARS program here in town. They have asked me to let you know that they are willing and able to care for your autie or aspie with compassion and understanding. I can vouch for them because we’ve been taking Chris and Luke there for about 8 years and have never had them call us in the middle of dinner because they couldn’t cope with Chris’ needs…it’s never happened. Imagine a whole dinner…out…without being a spectacle. It’s beautiful.

And then, go pick them up or go home and kiss them good-night. You will feel refreshed and be ready to handle the next onslaught (there’s always a “next” onslaught), and you will have opened the world a little for your child or children, too.

6 Responses to "Another example of flexible thinking"

You’re right. That kind of generalization takes a lot of exposure.

Hi, I’ve arrived here from ICLW 🙂

Those services sound like wonderful ideas. We were lucky to find a babysitter for my sons – one is autistic, two are not – but it wasn’t an easy task. And many people don’t even try due to the lack of understanding floating around. Well done to the organisations in your area for doing something to help 🙂


Happy ICWL!

You are so right! Our local Autism group has a relationship with the local colleges whereby interested psych, ed, ot, etc. students and grad students can get on our list as respite providers. This often seems to work out better than people agencies send because these are people going into fields that will work with kids like ours, so they come prepared and interested.

This is a beautiful blog!

Here from ICLW 🙂 GREAT post! And I loved the tag “reframing.” Perspective shifting can be so important in dealing with a whole host of issues. How I look at things can drastically impact my happiness and my actions. Bravo to you for handling this issue with grace. Sending prayers and best wishes to you and your family.

Thanks for this…. we think that our 3 yr old is somewhere on the spectrum, as he doesn’t have classic autism, he has a lot of the traits. Like, very sensory oriented, repetitive, he likes to be in small spaces and various other stuff… My husband and I haven’t been out on a date without kids for…… ooooooooh geez…. 2 years now! Happy ICLW!

Sometimes it’s really difficult. We were very lucky to find Club 4 Kids. There might be something similar in your area. If you have the chance to grab some couple time, though, it’s so worth it. Good luck, and thanks!

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