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The Broad Spectrum Project – Here comes the train

Just when I thought that my son’s train obsession was under control, it’s back again.  Not as bad this time but unfortunately his therapist’s office is DIRECTLY in front of a fucking T stop.  Nice.  I believe that if you let an obsession run its course with him it usually has a short shelf life.  But this one seems to come and go often.  He begs for a train ride at least once a week.  From the time he was very small the Thomas Train Table at Toys ‘r us was like a crack den to him.  Try to pull him away and he would go bonkers.  Now I know you are thinking “My kid has tantrums when I take him/her away from something they like”.  Well, I got news for those people, you have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to tantrums and ASD.  Ask any parent who has a kid with ASD and they will tell you that an autistic tantrum is not your average tantrum. And it’s not just the level of the tantrum but WHY they have their fit and when too.  Sometimes my son’s tantrums were so intense he would vomit…A LOT!  Sometimes my son would have a fit if I drove a different route that I normally would take.  He would scream that we HAD TO TAKE THE ROUTE WE ALWAYS GO!  Fun huh?  Oy!

The question I get a lot is “How come he doesn’t do that now?”  Well he still gets super emotional about stuff but basically, we just don’t allow him to behave in this way.  In the beginning we used a sort of hmmmm, how can I explain it?  Kind of a “countdown to doomsday” approach.  We would warn him months in advance that on a certain day, he was not allow to have a fit about something anymore.  Here’s an example that can explain it better.  From the time our son could walk and push a button he was obsessed with elevators.  Going to the mall, or any shopping area for that matter, was a nightmare for us.  Either my husband or I would ride the elevator up and down with our son while the other did the shopping.  I can’t tell you the elation I felt when I took my 2nd kid to the Boston Children’s museum only to find that the elevator was NOT the main attraction for him.  I called my husband in tears informing him that our 2nd kid  would rather go to the Arthur exhibit then play elevator door man.  I used to joke with strangers that my son worked for tips as he pushed the elevator buttons for everyone that entered it.  They thought it was cute.  I was mortified.  I was angry.  I was fucking over it!  So here is what I did.  One day someone at the mall, a grown up, walked ahead of our kid and pushed the up button.  Instant meltdown from my kid.  So I calmed him down and basically said the following.  “Listen to me.  You are a big boy now.  You are going to be four years old in two months.  When you turn four you are not allowed to be the only person in the world that is going to push the buttons.  And we are not going to ride the elevator for fun.  We are going to take it to where we have to go.  Once up, and then once down when we are leaving.  Do you understand?  You can do it.  You can’t let the autism monster win.  You have two months to still push the buttons first and ride it.  But after your birthday party, it’s big boy time.  No more”.

And guess what?  IT WORKED!  We had to really be tough about it, but he didn’t melt down.  We stayed strong and worked as a team.  The three of us.  We asked him to explain to us what it actually felt like to “push the buttons”.  One time when he pushed it he flapped his arms and jumped up and down like he does when he’s stimulated and excited and said to me, “Mama, I love to push buttons”.  To that I replied “Oh sweetie, you have no idea how much I know you like to push the buttons”.  Yes I was being sarcastic but at that time he had no clue was sarcasm was and I needed to get in a little jab to make myself feel better.  Judge all you want. I couldn’t help it.  Now we laugh about that story.  The feeling hasn’t gone away for him at all.  I see him struggle when someone else pushes the buttons or when he fights to get to the elevator before his brother so he can push the up button.  But he is coping very well.

I really try to treat his autism like a behavior that needs to be controlled.  Now I know this is TOTALLY not possible for a lot of kids on the spectrum because every case of ASD is different.  A Broad Spectrum so to speak.  For a kid that is high functioning, it works.  Ask Temple Grandin.  We got the idea from her pretty much.

This photo was taken on the T.  I shot it with my phone and then ran it through Instagram.  We had the entire car to ourselves.  Crack den for sure.

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