4C, 4 Momma, 4D, 4A, and 4B

4C, 4 Momma, 4D, 4A, and 4B
Most of the Four me (and you) fam

Friday, March 16, 2012

Being a NT in an Aspie's space

I think I've tried to describe how it feels for 4A, being an Aspie living in a NT world. I hope I've also accurately described the profound respect that I have for her, her wiring, and her "world view." As you know by now, I hope, there is nothing "wrong" with her; she is just wired in another way, a way that is different from the NT way.

All of this is okay. It's not sad. It's not upsetting. I'm not heartbroken. I don't feel like we all got the short stick. Quite the opposite, in fact. I feel that we're lucky. Lucky to have the the experience that things aren't always as they seem. Lucky to know that all things are not easy or normal or as expected. Autism has enriched our family, not detracted from it.

But, all that being said, I want to describe for you today what it is to be a NT who lives with or alongside the Aspie world. We aren't in that world or even invited to participate in it, but we are privy to it. We understand what it looks like and how it works, and we've come to respect (and, dare I say, admire) it.

That doesn't mean, though, that it doesn't suck to be so close to it at times. Please know that we are not upset or sad or discouraged or mad. We love it. We love her. She loves us. All is right with the world. But, there are days or times or stretches where we feel battered.

Because of her autism, 4A perceives the world around her, including the social interactions in it, in a factual or literal way. Having no filter, she then reports or describes the thing she sees or experiences in a factual or literal way. Again, this is all "okay." We know that she doesn't mean what she says in the social sense of the word "mean." She means it in a factual way. The factual way, for her, is not rude or offensive or jarring. She's not trying to hurt us; she's simply reporting what she perceives.

But, being the NT in the equation, even a NT who understands and respects the wiring, I sometimes feel beaten down by all her "honesty" and factual observations. 4Daddy and 4B do, too. It's okay. We love her. We know she doesn't "mean" it, but NT as we are, with wiring that makes us social and socially sensitive beings, we can and do feel hurt.

Out of the kids in our family, 4B gets the worst of it. Poor kid. I can see him tense up when she asks him a question about his preferences, what he thinks about a book or a movie, or anything that has a yes/no answer. He knows what's coming. She's going to make him feel bad. Not on purpose. But, she's going to make a factual assessment about his opinion juxtaposed against her (superior) one. She's not intending to hurt him, but she does. Her bluntness stings at times. Add into that that he's a particularly sensitive NT, and it makes for probably more hurt feelings on his end than are actually warranted.

Out of the parents in our family, I get the brunt of it. I'm here more than 4Daddy, and 4A has always selected or identified me as her anchor or touchstone. I am the one person with which she needn't try so hard to get it socially correct. I'm her safety. That's a wonderful privilege, and I am honored to hold it and challenged by it. But it still hurts some times even though I know she doesn't "mean" it. Knowing every single thing she thinks about all of the social relations and requests and interactions in our house combined with my NT social wiring and social sensitivities means that I am, at times, on edge or worn down by all her bluntness.

Those of you who are moms of young children know that "on edge" doesn't work very well for a family. A mommy-on-the-edge has a ripple effect. It trickles down and puts everyone else on edge. This, at times, can translate into yelling, anger, resentment, nagging, expecting someone to know better when s/he is developmentally incapable of doing so.

Knowing all of us, what am I to do about it?

Option A: Teach our Apsie the "right" way

Most NTs, especially NT adults who are parents of NT children, presuppose that the answer lies in "fixing" or "teaching" the Aspie the "right" way to do things socially. How much easier life would be in this house if that were possible or probable.

Ironically, there is no "right" way (although this concept generally and frequently eludes most NTs, myself included at times). NTs understand a "right" way in that they "know" there is a generally acceptable social response to certain groups of social situations. NTs, then, are able to generalize or extrapolate the "right" social response for the myriad social encounters they experience.

Aspies don't work that way. An Aspie, mine in particular, treats all social situations factually. Given that the facts are different every single time, the generally-applicable social principle NTs want me to teach her as the "right" way may not feel like it "fits" to my Aspie. An Aspie can, with lots of support, learn the social principle, but figuring out how to apply it becomes a stumbling block because if she learned it in factual situation A she doesn't know that it applies to factual situation B unless I tell her that it does. It is categorically impossible to teach her the principle that applies to every single factual scenario she may encounter.

Option B: Grow a thicker skin

Adult Aspies will tell you this: not only is there nothing "wrong" with them, but their wiring is, in fact, the preferable neurological prototype because it eliminates the "fluff" of feelings. Life would be SO much easier if the Aspie version prevailed. Imagine a world in which you could say what you meant and actually mean what you say!! Heaven on earth. Utopia!

While that isn't the way the world works, I can/could simulate that by just having a thicker skin, letting her factual assessments roll off. Not giving a shit. I've gotten really good at this, actually. More often than not, I can and do let it roll off. The rolling off is made easier by the fact that I understand the place or world from which she operates.

But, I am, alas, a human, and a NT one at that. I do have feelings. I am wired to socially connect with those around me. I want to feel liked and loved by her. I want her to respect me. I want the golden rule to apply. These wants, despite my best efforts at a thicker skin, sometimes do get the best of me. When that happens, my Aspie seems to me (even though she isn't) just downright mean or rude.

Fair? No. Reality? Yes.

Option 3: Try, cope, deal, let it go

This is the ad-hoc response we've bootstrapped together over here.

We try to teach her (with the help of social stories and reinforcers and doctors and social skills training and therapies and the whole nine (million) yards).

We cope as best we can. We have lots of support, take breaks when we can, and reassure each other, balming and soothing hurt NT feelings where we can and redirecting/anticipating/preempting Aspie factual assessments when we can.

We deal with the commingling of NT and Aspie worlds in this house by explaining everything, excusing nothing. Holding all the social aspects of our lives out in the open and treating each other with respect. We deal with the fact that our Aspie has an uphill battle at school, with friends, and outside of our home and family by allowing her a relative or relaxed social freedom at home. Home is, after all, her safe place; everyone deserves a place where she can be herself. We deal with the fact that this relaxed social freedom at home for the Aspie in our family can make life harder for the NTs in our family by making sure that the NTs get lots of breaks and reassurance. And, the occasional extra dessert, wine after (or during) bedtime, and hookey from responsibilities don't hurt either.

We let it go as much and as often as we can. That translates differently depending on the day, week, or moment. Sometimes it's a messy kitchen or floor. Sometimes its a move-all-the-furniture-and-pick-up-every-shred-or-scrap-of-kid-evidence -type of deep clean. Sometimes it's letting someone slide on a chore or responsibility or foul-up. Sometimes its incessant nagging or reminding to do said chores or meet said responsibility. Sometimes it's talking quietly and sweetly and calmly. Sometimes it's screaming at the top of one's lungs. Sometimes it's meeting up with a friend for distraction. Sometimes it's bailing on a friend because we just need downtime. Sometimes it's a long walk or a hot bath or a second (larger) glass of wine. Sometimes its a movie-on-the-couch-with-four-helpings-of-dessert couch potato/gluttonous kind of day. Sometimes it's super early bedtime so we can have peace and quiet faster. Sometimes it's stay up late to talk and cuddle and reassure.

It is, after all, really just life. Life with all of its splendor and aggravation and joy and stress. We, just like you, do the very best we can in each moment that we're given.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Invisible social dances

While we're on the topic of dancing, I want to chat, for a minute, about invisible social dances.

These invisible social dances exist in NT "nature." You know what they look like b/c your dance card is routinely punched for them. A friend tries on a new outfit and says, "Does this make me look fat?" NO! The answer is always no, regardless of the actual facts. You know that. A friend gets a haircut. You know that you're supposed to say "It looks great!," even if it, in fact, does not. A friend's kid whines and pitches a fit until said friend gives up and gives in. You don't call her on it; you say, "Kids are so exhausting, aren't they?" You know these things because you're NT.

Well, I'm a NT. And, someone, unbeknowst to me and without my permission, has punched my dance card for the following lovely numbers.

Upon seeing me with my four children, folks count them and then ask, "Are they all yours?" or say, "You sure do have your hands full!"

Upon hearing my Aspie quip some socially-inappropriate comment or retort, folks get an embarrassed look and say, "Kids!" *head shaking while thinking "That woman should be ashamed to allow that child talk like that."*

Upon offering us a modification or support at school, someone says, "Well, that's just what we think, but you know her best."

I know what I'm supposed to say. I do. Honest. I'm NT, so I'm wired to know what I'm supposed to say to avoid a scene, and I've been appropriately socially trained by my parents and my teachers and the media to know how to respond.

Problem is...I really, REALLY no longer feel like saying what I'm supposed to say.

I want to slap that asshole in the store who just counted my kids. Or, better yet, I want to dump them on him for an hour or two so I can grab a shower and a cup of coffee.

I wanna say, "Yeah, let me tell you a story, buddy, about kids. The kind that have autism and diagnoses. The kind that need social stories and reinforcement. The kind who's teachers and caregivers and friends don't understand them. And the whole nine yards."

I wanna say "Fuck you."

I really, really, really do.

But, I won't because I can't. NT as I am, I don't want to offend anyone or be rude or make a scene.

So, here's what I really want to know.

What idiot decided that this NT invisible social dancing business was a good idea?

Seriously.

Why is it that we can't say what we mean and mean what we say? Why is it that people think they can say borderline inappropriate things to us when they know we can't respond? Why is it that people are allowed to make social assumptions about us because of what we wear or how we look or what we say without knowing a thing about us?

Who decided that all of this invisible bullshit was okay?

My Aspie has bypassed this invisible bullshit because of her wiring; my heart rejoices for her that she's immune to this transparency and "don't-say-what-you-really-think" social mentality. Because of her wiring, she gets to be exactly who she is, unhampered or uninhibited by social reality. She is SO lucky! Honestly, who wants to deal with this two-faced social reality?

So, why is it, then, that I'm socially required to teach her to navigate a "system" that is so systemically flawed and fake and transparent and ridiculous? Who got to say that this is the way the world is "supposed" to work?

Today, that's what I want to know.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Helping NT friends navigate an Aspie

I received the following question about my "AS, encapsulated" post, and I will share my response here. Partly because I am too long-winded and Goggle rejected my response to the comment itself because it was too long! But, mostly because I feel that it nicely frames and raises questions that others out there in cyberspace may have.

The question
"Hollie, I knew that it was 4A saying that, and I was wondering what you thought of how the other leader "reprimanded" her. I'm guessing she didn't know 4a's background, but just wanted to discourage other girls from chiming in. 

So, what would have been the correct way (for 4a) to explain this to her? I'm just curious? Something along the lines of, "Yes, I noticed that he was using the wrong hands too. But saying this out loud in front of everyone made him feel bad." ?? 

My daughter asked me about the situation at home, and i explained that because of the way 4a's brain works, things go right from her brain to her mouth and we need to understand that about her and love her the way she is. Was that an ok way to put it?"

My response
Ah, Laura. You're a good mom to support your girl when friendship is confusing. 

When encountered with Aspie friends or classmates, NT kids need some extra support. It's hard to be friends with someone who's different when you yourself, as a preadolescent, want so desperately to fit in. NT kids need support to have a thicker skin when being friends with an Aspie (because they often don't mean what they say in the social sense of the word "mean") and to see themselves in the role of helper or teacher.

While what 4A said appears mean-spirited to most folks, her brain actually isn't always capable of letting her know that what she said was mean. To her, she made a simple factual statement when she saw a rule being broken; she wasn't trying to be mean. So, while your NT daughter does need your reassurance that it's okay to love 4A even though she doesn't have that filter, you could also encourage her to help 4A when she hears 4A say something that sounds mean-spirited or embarrassing (to herself or others). She could say something like, "4A, don't say that out loud. People think that stuff like that is rude."

When my NT kids ask questions similar to the one your NT daughter asked, I say something like, "Because she has autism, her brain has a hard time knowing when something is mean or rude, and her brain doesn't always stop her from saying what it thinks. It's okay for you to respectfully tell her when she is being mean or rude; that will help her learn." Most often, 4A's statements are facts (in her mind) that are socially unfiltered. When she spouts off a "fact" to a sibling (most often it's a statement of her skill compared to their own), I add the following to my little diddy above: "It's important to love and forgive even if you are hurt or mad." And, to be clear, there are times when she's just downright mean on purpose; all siblings are.

As for the "right" way for the reprimand by an adult to be given in this particular instance, it's not really a question I can answer. Because all the girls were being disruptive, she was right to call all the girls in the room on their behavior. Because we can never know the abilities or quirks or motives of those around us, I always try to make more blanket statements. Something like "girls, please don't call out during the presentation" will likely do the trick without overstepping.

As for a grownup who would attempt to correct 4A in that situation, I would offer this. Words and explanations and lectures are often hopelessly ineffective on an Aspie. Lectures and explanations are given for the purpose of scolding the recipient, in a "you know that wasn't nice, but you did it anyway and that was wrong" kind of way. Many, many folks make the mistake of thinking that if they just explain to the Aspie that she was rude, as they would to a NT child in a similar situation, she'll get it. This is an inaccurate assumption. The Aspie lacks the social wiring that a NT has to be motivated by such a correction. The NT child won't make that mistake again after the "talking to" because she's embarrassed or doesn't want to upset you again or doesn't want people to think she's mean. Those are all social connections that render the "talking to" effective on the NT child.

The Aspie child doesn't have that social wiring. As such, she's likely not going to be motivated to self-correct after the "talking to." As for teaching her intuition about when to keep her mouth shut, social stories may be helpful, but because she treats all of these things factually, it becomes hard to address every possible situation, setting, and scenario. To motivate her to keep it shut, a good solid, overall behavioral system can often reduce problem behaviors while increasing appropriate ones. This is what we use for 4A.

In this particular situation, the reprimander likely didn't notice but also certainly would have never said, in front of the whole group, "Yes, he is using the wrong hand position, but it's not nice to call him on it." If she said that, she, too, would have run the risk of embarrassing the poor kid. She was right to quiet the girls from disrupting the presentation; as for her addressing or assigning motives to the disruption, I choose not to address or think about or comment. I operate on the plane that all kinds of things happen and are said in life. Rather than worrying about the statements or things, we, in this family, worry about our own choices and behaviors and responses rather than calling others out on theirs.

There is a really super cool book, The Autism Acceptance Book. It's a spiral-bound workbook with exercises to help a NT kid understand autism and how best to be friends with someone on the spectrum. I use snippets from it all the time when I teach about autism at the kids' school.

And, I thank you, my friend, for being willing to learn about autism. Your daughter and mine are better off for it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

AS, encapsulated

I finally have it! The most perfectly encapsulated snippet of time that perfectly illustrates Asperger's Syndrome. So perfect, in fact, that I fear it will come across as contrived. You be the judge.

4A is a Girl Scout, and I am her troop leader. Those of you who have or were GS know about Thinking Day. Thinking Day is the most important day of the year for a GS; on that day, she celebrates herself as part of a worldwide movement of GS and Girl Guides, reflecting on how she can change the world. Cool stuff!

Where we live, the GS in our area get together to celebrate. This year, we all selected different countries, showcasing for the girls the things that GS/GG do all over the world.

One troop represented Russia and asked some dancers to come and give a demonstration. The young man was dressed in traditional garb, and he and his female partner described the garb. Apparently, the garb has some romantic significance, and these two, teenagers that they are, were a little silly about describing said romantic significance. The young man was a wonderful presenter: confident, humorous, and showy. All 135 girls in the room felt at ease, cheering or laughing where socially warranted. The silly mood had been set, and it had worked to enrapture the girls.

Now as this all unfolded, the young man described the differences between the way males and females dance in the culture. He made a big show of how male dancers put their hands in fists at their waists to show off their muscles and strength. He even asked two brothers in the group to come up and demonstrate their manliness. Pretty jokey and overdone but all in good fun. Girls and grownups alike giggled at the silliness, enraptured.

The young man then went on, with the help of his female partner, to explain how females dance with their hands open on their waists to show that they are pretty and feminine. Point demonstrated and belabored again, to the giggling delight of all in the room.

Okay. Now the demonstration officially begins. Those NTs in the room were signaled to the fact that it was time to be serious by the change in the young man's tone and expression, the inclusion of music, and the grown-up inspired hushing around the room. All NTs in the room were very clear that the serious portion of the demonstration was about to begin.

At this point, I saw 4A sitting in the front row. I remember feeling vaguely aware that she may be inappropriate, lacking a social filter between her mind and her mouth, as she does due to her AS. But, no matter. We were within the safety of our fellow GS, folks who, whether they know her or not, are bound to be sisterly towards her.

I knew she was going to do it the moment before it happened. I watched the young man begin his serious dance with his hands in the female position. I noticed it. I figured other NTs noticed it. But, none of us was going to say anything, of course, because to do so would have been socially inappropriate. This was, after all, serious time.

Not my Aspie. Hell no! Why would she do that? This young man had just gone on and on about the requirements of hand placement for male and female dancers, why the placement is important, and announced a perfectly valid rule for all of the world to hear. He then violated that rule. He was a boy, but he used open hands at his waist. HE BROKE THE RULE!!

Lacking a social filter to know that it would be inappropriate to call him on it in front of the group during serious time, 4A blurted out, "You're dancing like a girl" in her monotone Aspie voice. Most of the girls and grownups in the room giggled. Why? 4A said what they knew to be true but wouldn't dare say themselves.

Partly because she liked the laughter, I suspect, and partly because he then continued to break the rule by not only using open female hand placement but also by flailing his arms around which he had previously said male dancers don't do, 4A said, loudly and drily again, "Now you're really dancing like a girly-girl."

Uproarious laughter now ensues amongst nearly every one of the 135 girls in the room. Now, the grownups in the room are uncomfortable. Here this sweet teenaged boy had the gumption to get up in front of a room of 135 girls and their moms and dance and actually talk to these girls about why he was doing it, and now those ungrateful little shits are going to LAUGH AT HIM!?!?!?!?! For shame!

So, one leader, loudly and boldly says, appropriately, "Knock it off, girls. This man has shown a lot of courage by getting up in front of you and doing this demonstration. Let's show him a little respect."

She was right, of course. Except that 4A didn't mean to do anything wrong. She made a very factual assessment of the rule violation that she saw taking place in front of her. She didn't say those things to be rude or hurtful or disrespectful. She said them because they were true.

Now, NT kids who heard her comments laughed because maybe they, too, felt awkward that he had violated his own rule. Maybe they just laughed because they thought she was taunting him and being funny. Maybe they just laughed because they got caught up in the mob mentality. Who knows? Who cares? Kids are kids.

One inappropriate comment was socially forgivable. Two, apparently, was not. Now, this grownup who called 4A out had no idea that the speaker had autism. This grownup just heard two socially inappropriate comments and treated them accordingly because she was one of the grownups in charge of the group. I would have done the exact same thing had I heard another kid say something so brass.

Except, that the kid who said it has a neurological disability that made (or prevented her from) say(ing) it. She honest-to-God has no idea that what she did was wrong. Know how I know? Because I asked her about it on the way home, and she was confused as all hell. Me: "Do you remember getting yelled at during the dance?" Her: "Yes." Me: "Know why?" Her: "I know she yelled at me because I must have been saying all kinds of inappropriate stuff." Me: "Why did you say what you said?" Her: "He's a boy, and he was using girl hands." BINGO! I knew it! I KNEW it!

So, as her mother, what am I to do about it?

Berate the lady who berated her because she has autism and can't help it, damn it? Absolutely not.

Not address it with 4A because she already got hollered at about it? Certainly not. Hollering or explaining never works with an Aspie. They're immune.

Ignore it with 4A because she can't help it? Positively, absolutely no way.

I know, of course, because I have a brain and because I can read, that grown Aspie women (and I mean those who have actually been diagnosed as Aspies and not those who identify as Aspies; the latter hold no stature with me), that Aspies do not want to be changed. There is nothing wrong with them, you see. They are wired the way that they are wired, and the world needs to get down with that and leave them alone. In fact, many of these Aspies find their wiring to be preferrable and more advantageous than the NT wiring because it allows them the advantage of a lack of emotional need.

I know that. I get it. On every single level (except the last), I wholeheartedly agree.

I love that girl of mine. I love her wiring. I understand it. I respect it. I get it. I don't want her to change. She doesn't need to. She's just great just how she is.

But, I know that the world doesn't know that. Specifically, that little encapsulated world in that room last night that she is connected to by gender, age, locale, and membership didn't get it. As her mom, I know that's okay. It doesn't matter if they get it or not. I don't need to educate them. I don't need to change them.

I do, however, need to educate my daughter on when it's appropriate to say things and when it's not. That's my job as her mother.

Why is that my job? No one likes an asshole, even an asshole who has a medical reason for being one. Most folks are going to take her factual assessments of truth as socially inappropriate because most of the world finds them to be just that. She's not doing anything wrong. Please understand. However, she needs skills and tools to know what to do about her factual assessments and statements of truth in social situations.

Giving her the skills and tools is rather difficult. Social stories help, of course, but how can one accurately define and describe every single scenario in which it is either socially appropriate or socially inappropriate to voice a comment and then accurately delineate which comments are inappropriate when? Your head should be spinning; her doctors' and mine are. The better/easier/more effective approach is to make a blanket bright-line rule that she may not comment in large groups unless she runs her comment by a trusted grownup first and then reinforce her when she follows that rule or does comment appropriately. That requires, then, a delineation of which grownups can be trusted when and where for appropriate feedback and requires them to, in fact, reinforce her for doing it the right way. When it's appropriate or inappropriate to comment is largely objective, but there are times when it's subjective. Whether or not one would comment at a given time or place is largely dependent on conceptions of hutzpuh or "balls," if you will. Who decides who can have what size balls in which situations? You catching my drift, here?

So, sure, we could bypass this whole headache of trying to teach and just let her spout off whenever and wherever she felt like it, throwing our hands in the air and crying "autism!" If we allowed her to do that, we would have two very big problems on our hands. (1) We'd be shitty parents. We'd be allowing her to get away with something just because it was too hard for us to fix. Shitty parenting I can honestly live with. It's the next one that is the undoing for me. (2) She's going to get hurt.

Hurt? Yep. Again, I remind you that no one likes an asshole, even one who is only an "asshole" because of a medical condition. If no one likes her, she may be just fine because she may, in fact, prefer to be alone. But, she will be an adolescent. Adolescents, as we all know, are ALL about fitting in and friends. Even if she does have social impairment that allows her to escape some of those feelings, she may not like being alone all the time. And, even if she does like being alone, no one can stand being bullied without some big scars. Sure, I can give her tools to withstand the bullying. But, wouldn't it, in fact, be easier to bypass the entire thing by helping her know when it's okay to say something and when it's not? Whether that's a hard thing to teach or not is irrelevant.

It's my job. Nothing about being a parent is easy. Not one single thing. It's my job. And, I'm going to man up (pun intended) and keep teaching her to navigate the invisible social dance of life.

Hard is easy is hard

Well, I learned (or was reminded of) another important lesson this week. NT and "easy" kids need too. Some, I think, would describe their needs as "easier," and some would describe the needs of ASD kids as "harder."

This whole easy/hard business frankly irritates me. At its core, it is very clearly an issue of judgment or a lack of empathy or a shade of envy. 

Your hard may be someone else's easy. Someone else's hard may be your easy. Circumstances are what they are. Circumstances, in and of themselves, are neither hard nor easy. It is the response of one person to her circumstances, the resources she has to confront them, and the multiplicity of circumstances working in her life at one time that render something hard or easy for her, I think. And, the very same circumstances can, for her, be easy one day or moment and hard the next. There is no definable or articulable category of hard or of easy. They are fluid and subjective, comprised of an infinitum list of variables.

As such, I think it's extremely dangerous to make comparisons. A comparison means that I look at my variables and someone else's and try to weigh them out against each other without the benefit of actual knowledge of the variables on one side of the "v." While I can (theoretically) be very accurate in assessing my own variables, I can never truly know with what variables the person on the other side of the "v." is working. So, in actuality, I am making assumptions about her variables, maybe giving her the benefit of the doubt or maybe not. As such, any assessment that I may make is flawed because it is not based in reality on one side of that "v." Comparisons breed anxiety and contempt and self-doubt. None of that is helpful around here.

That being said, I can tell you some things I'm learning while raising a child with ASD and a few NT ones. 

The kids who are perceived as "easy," those that go with the flow and, thus, make life easier, have very real moments of need. Need that can't be ignored just because that need is easy. Need that can't be put off just because that easy kid can wait. Everyone is needy on some level; there is only so long that someone can go, regardless of temperament, without having needs met. Finding time for that in a multitude of neediness is my hard.

The kid who is perceived by the outside world as being "hard" is actually the easiest of them all at times. It's literal and logical and cut-and-dry. It's quick. Little emotion is involved. Grey area is eradicated. If there's concern about the appropriate course, there are doctors to ask. Those doctors will respond with a "yes, that's right" or a "no, try this." You always know where you stand, with the docs and with that "hard" kid. It's definable and ratable and collectible and objective. There aren't a whole lot of "what ifs?" That is my super easy.

When someone is NT and has a strong temperament or inclination to please others, it is both very easy and very hard at the same time. Easy in that there's not a lot of external work that needs to be done to garner compliance. A "good job" or "the look" will usually keep the course steady. But, not everyone can please all of the time, especially a child who is growing and learning how to be an individual. At some point, that person who has always wanted to please learns that not pleasing may have benefits, too. When emotion is involved, logic can be harder to find. What to do about that is my hard.

All kids are different. Of course, NT ones are different than ASD ones. But NT ones differ from one another, too. And, ASD ones differ along the spectrum. People are people, after all. An ASD one can be super definable. Because the neurological wiring that underlies the disorder is locked up in social traits or responses, the social traits or responses one can expect from an ASD kid are predictable. There is a lot less predictability with NT kids. Trying to figure out who these people are, issues of wiring aside, and anticipate their needs is my hard.

All kids need love, Herculean amounts of it. That love needs to be unconditional and full and honest. It also has to include boundaries and limits. Trying to impose boundaries in boundless love can feel counterintuitive. But, boundaries can be reset and adjusted and moved as needed. The love part in the equation never has to be checked or reigned or reeled in. That is my super easy.