Friday, May 13, 2011

Tales of Woe and Chocolate

"What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate." - Katherine Hepburn

As·pie Mo·ment  temporary breakdown induced by a child with Asperger’s syndrome; moment of insanity temporarily cured by consuming mass amounts of chocolate

Okay, okay…an aspie moment isn’t really about the mother, but ingesting chocolate can increase a mother’s ability to cope. What is an aspie moment? It may be the breakdown a person with Asperger’s syndrome has when they are too overwhelmed and their sensory integration systems are short circuiting. It may be the meltdown that comes when an aspie wants what they want the moment they want it…but they don’t get it. Or, it may just be one of those ‘uh…alrighty then’ kind of moments that you witness an aspie having.

This last one, you just have to experience to understand. Last week in a restaurant, I saw my aspie pick up a glass to move it across the table. He stopped, mid-move, lifted another glass, and clanged the two together. He listened intently to the sound and then returned to dipping his fries in a bath of honey mustard (the 2nd bowl of honey mustard he had asked the waiter for).  I immediately thought to myself “uh…alrighty then.” If you know an aspie, you have probably witnessed many such moments. You may even witness such moments among strangers and think to yourself “I wonder if they are on the spectrum?”

Anyhoo, this week I’ve witnessed aspie moments of the worst kind.  Sixteen year-old Aspie has been breaking down to the point of tears over relatively minor crises: the trash being too heavy, the lawn mower blade needing sharpening, pizza from the refrigerator being cold. He is overwhelmed by the situation and quickly resorts to whining and finally to tears and storming off to his room. Several tearful fits finally led to a mildly aggressive outburst.

Now Big Dog and I get to play the very un-amusing game of Guess-the-Problem. It could be the new medication we’re trying. Or it could be the end-of-quarter change of school schedule. Or it could be that he is interested in a girl and hasn’t resolved asking her out yet. Or it could be that he asked her out and got rejected. Or it could be that his senior-year friends are graduating. Or…

And so the game goes. We may never find the answer. Aspie doesn’t really know either. Although he is graced with exceptional language abilities, he doesn’t have the ability to articulate what is bothering him. Whatever it is, it activates the very primal fight-or-flight syndrome. Sometimes he fights. Sometimes he flees. Sometimes he just stands there and cries. It is frustrating and exhausting for all involved.

As a mother, I generally lose the game. I can never figure out what the problem is and I end up losing my patience when he won’t comply with chores, or meal plans, or schedules. In the end, he goes to bed overwhelmed and frustrated, and I turn to chocolate. 

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