Sunday, November 1, 2009

L is for Lemons...


A few nights ago, a fellow Facebooker came online looking for support and advice as a realisation hit her full force and with no warning when putting her little boy to bed. She did the usual nighttime routine but this time, when she said I love you, he answered A is for Annie Apple... The sudden awareness that all her sons responses were rote hit her in the heart like a sledgehammer and left her wondering if her little boy could truly feel love at all... Within minutes of her posting, the troops rallied and everyone was there to help her through this time. Its something that has passed through all our minds when we wonder about our little ones and their problems with empathy and understanding emotions and feelings. The one consistent response that was posted was that our little ones may have trouble articulating their feelings but they certainly do FEEL them. When Munchkin is hurt, or hungry, or scared it's me she looks for... when she's tired and wants snuggles, no one else will do the job quite as good as Mummy. When she has a bad dream and wakes terrified in the night, the scream is for me to come get her and then she curls up so tightly in my arms for the rest of the night. Its times like these I KNOW she loves me. She doesn't have to say the words, she shows me. She will repeat "I love you" if I ask her but she's just as likely to reply to the question of who she loves with "I love Mummys phone!"

I do often wonder about her interpretation of feelings when I'm trying to teach her emotions and the correct response to have when another child has hurt themselves, or is happy, or angry... Her lack of empathy is a problem at times as if one of her peers was to fall and hurt themselves badly, her reaction is to laugh. The comical aspect of someone tripping makes us laugh and is quite typical, and lets face it, we all have a chuckle when someone falls over. The realisation however that the person had injured themselves would immediately trigger empathy in us and we would stop laughing and show and feel concern. Munchkin just continues laughing. This is something that will have to be addressed and taught in her home program as it's just one typical example of where our little ones will have problems if mainstreaming.

My mother asked me recently if Munchkin will ever FEEL empathy, or will it always be a rote response to a situation. I can only answer I don't know to this question, but I like to believe that she will learn empathy and relate those feeling to her own but it's going to take time. It will only be through feeling emotions herself and being reminded when teaching her to generalise that it may register with her. This isn't something that's going to happen overnight like an epiphany, but a long haul process...

The Gruesome Twosome (Elder Lemon and Yani) returned on Friday after spending a week in London with their father and his wife and kids. They have a little brother who is five and a little sister who will be 3 next February. It was an eyeopener for both of them spending time with NT kiddies and they were a little subdued when they came home... They opened up about their feelings to me and told me of the sadness they were feeling as they had their own penny dropping moments as they watched their youngest sister over the week chatting away to everyone and having conversations. They had a dose of "normal" and it hit home strongly that Munchkins problems, even though she has come so far, are quite startling in comparison. They struggle to come to terms with the fact she won't cuddle them or let them kiss or hug her most of the time, and can feel quite rejected by her. They felt scared suddenly for her. After talking through our feelings and worries, they have accepted that to compare Munchkin to other children is unfair and a pointless exercise. Acceptance is the key to moving forward and I'm very proud of how my teenagers have talked things through and made their decisions to accept and support instead of feeling angry on their little sisters behalf. Life is chucking us lemons so we are just going to make some fabulous lemonade :) With love and understanding who knows what Munchkins capabilities and possibilities are...

For Ruthie xxx

8 comments:

Jen said...

Lovely post. It kind of worries me that I know I will face this someday, with a non-verbal child its easier to ignore at the moment and focus on the here and now. It is great to have the knowledge though, it will help when the situation does arise. Thank you. Jen

Anonymous said...

I must have missed this on FB, and have had the same feelings about Joseph. It is heart breaking. Well done to your teenagers for expressing how they are feeling. Great post Trac.
xxx
Michele

Anonymous said...

all i can really say is so, so well put. think this is def one topic we can all relate to no matter where on spectrum kids are
claire
xxx

Hammie said...

Every year when I go home to Australia and spend time with my NT nieces and nephews, I get exactly what your two older guys are getting. The rest of the time I live in Autism Land and take what comes as "normal". They are both so clever and you must be such a great mum to facilitate them talking about it. I predict there will come a time when they "prefer" Munchkin's particular version of reality. As for "empathy" deliberate inverted commas there, I think a lot of so called empathy exhibited by the normies is totally rote. Most people laugh when they see someone fall on tv. It is only when they are in front of them that they pretend to be empathetic because it is socially reinforcing. Just make expression of empathy reinforcing and play up to it in a dramatic way, and she will soon get it! xx

Anonymous said...

Great post, Petunia - and again this is a worry a lot of autie mums have. Personally I believe that it is not the lack of empathy, but an inability to express feelings properly that creates this "laughing at the other's misery" reaction. I had occasions when my son astonished me with his subtle ways of expressing emotions - like when I explained to him that my dad is dead (hard to grasp the concept of death at 6, NT or not) and a week later he told me his Lego boy died to keep granda company.
xx Truf

Jean said...

what great kids you have petunia
truf is so right that it's our kids difficulty with expressing their emotions rather than their in ability to feel them that's the issue.
lovely post xxx

3laine said...

Wonderful post Petunia, as always. Again echoing everyone else here, it's not so much that autistic people can't feel empathy, it's just that we don't always know how to express it. I think that regardless of whether we are autistic or NT, we are all capable of having our unempathetic moments. It is brilliant that you can sit down with your kids and just talk to them, as I know it will put their minds at ease as well. Be proud of them for having the courage to tell you how they are feeling and for just accepting Munchkin the way she is. xx

jazzygal said...

Oh Petunia, what a lovely yet thought provoking post. I too missed it on fb.

I agree with Elaine , Truf and Lisadom. They will learn empathy from Home or School programmes AND from any mainstream settings. It'll be rote- learning! Which I too think we also do, at times.

And Ruthie ..... Annie Apple is autie-speak for "I love you too Mummy"!! He said what he was most comfortable with at a time he heard most comforting words. In time he will be comfortable giving the more usual response!

Oh, and Petunia you are raising 3 fabulous children. It's fantastic that your teens opened up to you like that. I do wonder though if perhaps they could share their newly gained insight with the Elder, Elder Lemon.??!! xx Jazzy

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