Saturday, March 3, 2012

AoA: Family Dynamic

This is less an anecdote about Asperger's, and more a "tale from the trenches".  And believe me, an Aspie mother with an Aspie daughter?  Sometimes it feels like war.

We had been having problems with CC lately in school, mostly related to procrastinating on aspects of her homework.  She'd lose a library book she needed for a report, she'd never say anything, I'd just get an email from the teacher a week later saying the project is late.  Or she wouldn't fill out a reading log for weeks.  Or she'd forget to print a report that's on her flash drive.

So her counselor at school said we needed to use her currency to motivate her.  Limit her computer time, and offer her more when she did good with her homework and chores.  I resisted.  This had been brought up at her last ARD review, and I didn't do it then because I knew what would happen if you imposed limits onto something that my kid has been using without restriction for pretty much all of her thirteen years... there was going to be a shit-storm of a meltdown.  Well I finally bit the bullet last Monday.

I was right.

I had wanted to discuss it with her on Sunday, and implement the parental controls (thank you Vista) on Monday, for the first school day of the week.  My husband, dear, sweet, non-confrontational man that he can be when it comes to his daughter, put it off and put it off until it was finally 9pm on Sunday and we still hadn't talked to her.  I warned him, and I was pretty angry that he'd procrastinated, because now I was going to have to tell her alone, right when she gets home from school, because she usually hops into her chair two minutes after she gets home.

"Expect tantrums and tears still going on by the time you get home," I said.  What I got was waaaaaaay beyond anything I could have imagined.

She cried, but she flopped on the bed sobbing, and got this weird grin on her face at the same time.  No, not just lips pulled back in a grimace, a true grin.  I was reminded of the fucking Joker-- not an affable Jack Nicholson Joker, either, more like Heath Ledger.  Tears rolling down her cheeks, big grin.  It seriously freaked me out.  This lasted about an hour, while I tried to talk her into a more stable emotional state. 

I was really calm, and composed outwardly this whole time.  I was quite proud of myself.  Normally her crying will eventually cause me to lose my temper.  I think I was able to maintain my cool because I knew it was coming, and I knew it would be bad.  I finally just went on with my day, knowing that eventually she would stop being upset.

By the time her father came home, she would still burst into tears every once in a while, but the freaky part was over.  She proclaimed between fits that I'd "ruined" her computer, and that she wasn't going to touch it ever again.  She began using my old laptop (which I'd forgotten about, duh) that she uses for drawing, but miraculously she was sticking to the imposed time limits on her own.  She'd power it down at 9 pm without being prompted.

I warned her that if she went beyond the limits, I'd put the restrictions on the laptop, too.

Wednesday, she went beyond the time limit by an hour.  She'd turned in a paper that had been weeks late that day, so I allowed it.

Thursday, I downloaded a game we both loved that was web-only up until then, and started playing it.  She kept wanting to hop on my computer and play.  I said I would buy her a copy and she could play it whenever she wanted... provided she used her own desktop computer.  She refused.  She said she wasn't touching it until "it was fixed".  Progress! 

Friday, I had a dental appointment, and was not a happy camper.  When she started trying to help me play my game, I again brought up the fact that she could play it herself, on her own computer.  She said "Yeah, but it's 9:30, I couldn't play anyway."  Progress!  I told her that non-school nights had a later cut-off time, and I'd log in the parental account and give her a little bit more time on Friday nights, for tonight only.  She played for an hour before bed, no tears when it was time to go.

Success!  It took almost a week, and there was a lot of moaning and crying and attitude all week long.  But it eventually worked out.  Here's hoping it's an effective tool towards her success.


  1. Thanks for this post. I can see areas where Alexis is now pushing my buttons, getting an attitude when restrictions are made and sometimes I'm so drained that I have no fight in me. But you've reminded me that setting limits is very important. I'm going have to give more though on how to implement more structure into Alexis's schedule.

    1. I think these days, we spend so little time with our kids, that when we're together we do anything to avoid the things that cause meltdowns and tantrums. We try to ease through the day in the short term, but forget the long term.

      It took this incident to remind me that eventually it all calms back down, and we're in a better situation in the end, even though it feels really crappy at the time.