The Middle Way

Age 2:

“Flemmings isn’t talking at all, kids normally talk at this age but Flemmings doesn’t say anything”

Age 14:

“Flemmings you talk too much, no one need to know what goes on in our house. Why did you have to tell my co-worker all of that stuff?”

Age 2:

“Flemmings isn’t eating any solid foods, I have to blend up food and feed it to him through a bottle”

Age 14:

“Flemmings eats too much, he can’t control himself around food and he eats very large portions.”

Age 2:

“Flemmings isn’t talking at all, he doesn’t respond to anyone or acknowledges them”

Age 14:

“Flemmings can be very loud, sometimes he doesn’t know the correct volume for the correct situation”

Age 12:

“Flemmings writes very little, he needs to learn to write more”

Age 16:

“You write too much and a lot of it doesn’t make sense”

Age 21:

“Flemmings you drink way too much alcohol, you’re not supposed to consume that much alcohol in one night.”

Age 25:

“That’s it? Oh come on man that’s an insult to good liquor.”

At this point you probably have an idea where I’m trying to go with this and if you don’t then allow me to elaborate. If you’re a parent of a child on the spectrum then you’ve probably dealt with a phenomenon I’d like to call “The Case of Extremes”. Essentially your child either does something too much or they do it too little. Your child either doesn’t talk enough or they talk so much that there’s only so much “pretending to give a shit about reptiles or trains or World War II weaponry” you can do before you either have to calmly attempt to change the subject or find the nicest way possible to tell them to shut the hell up. Your child either eats absolutely nothing, they eat only one damn thing or they eat so much food you’d think they were Pac Man or Kobayashi except unlike those two your child only increases in size before you have to endure meltdowns as a result of restricting their diet and let me tell you, telling any child no is hard enough but telling an Autistic child no is the equivalent of playing Russian Roulette while jumping into a volcano with a bomb strapped to your chest, you’ll always lose. Your child either doesn’t give enough information or they give so much information that everyone knows that mom had violent diarrhea last night or that dad drinks brandy in his den when he has a bad day or that his nickname after bedtime is “harder baby harder!” or that mom thinks that her co-worker is the biggest bitch to ever walk this earth.

Early intervention is an interesting tool because in an attempt to program all of the habits that your child is missing, there’s that part of the brain that doesn’t send the “don’t do this in excess signal”, the same part of the brain that naturally picks this up in a neurotypical. When I was diagnosed at the age of two, I wasn’t eating a thing. My mother would show me various foods and I just wasn’t eating them. A big reason is because it all looked foreign to me and anything that looked weird just wasn’t worth my time. The first solid food I ever ate was a McDonald’s cheeseburger and since then I slowly but surely fell in love with food. As the years passed and my palate expanded, I started eating way more and in larger quantities. Because I started eating more foods at a later age, I missed that in between stage where I was supposed to learn moderation. It was a problem that plagued me long into adulthood and I never truly mastered food moderation until I was in my mid twenties.

Talking was another huge problem for me. I didn’t start talking until I was 6 or 7 and by my teen years I was either divulging information that was better left at home or I talked so much that people got sick of me. I bore a girl to death once talking about my entire video game collection and my mother’s co workers learned things about our home life that were better left unsaid.  It took me quite some time to master the art of conversation. Truthfully I don’t have the art of conversation down as well as I’d like to. I went from not talking enough to talking more than Haitian mothers on the phone with their relatives or best friends back to not talking as much as I should. I’m terrible at small talk and sometimes I can be really awkward when I’m talking to people I don’t know. To this very day I’m still learning to strike that conversational balance and honesty that may never happen but who know.

To sum this all up, being on the Autism spectrum is a game of trying to find the middle and center in every thing in life. It’s that balance right in between too much and too little, that Goldilocks effect of “just right”. Buddhism is built on the very concept of “finding the middle” or a path to inner peace also known as “Nirvana”. Children usually start off doing something too little and when we teach them a new concept it can eventually be done in excess because they learn the concept so late and so abruptly that they “moderation stage” is often skipped. The same thing can happen when we correct/modify a behavior and it can drop in frequency to the point where they aren’t doing it at all. I guess the purpose of this post is that when trying to mold your Autistic child, don’t always look at it as black as eliminating habits or as white as adding habits because other wise you have that “Case of Extremes” phenomenon that I brought up earlier. Instead, trying to approach it as “finding the middle” and that’s making sure that with every habit that there is that moderation step. With this being said, even with the best intentions or child will never be the world’s definition of perfect and that’s okay. In the end, you want your children be the best possible version of themselves. It wasn’t much of a blog but it’s something, stay classy people….


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