It's All Okay

Just a mom blogging about life with an autistic child.

Location: Canada

I'm a stay at home mom with two boys. Patrick is my youngest and has ASD.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Adding or Extinguishing

I hear a lot about extinguishing traits. From some parents it's all about getting rid of the autism and for autistic bloggers it seems to be about making sure we don't extinguish what is uniquely autism.

So I wonder. Do I add or do I extinguish?

Patrick never did flap. It's one of those things that everyone assumes your child will do. I've even been told that because he doesn't flap, he isn't autistic. But remembering back, Patrick did do this one thing. He used to tap his thumb and first finger together. Sometimes he would just be standing there tapping. We thought it was interesting of course. But in the same way his climbing was interesting, or his brother's latest drawing was interesting. It wasn't until years later that I realized this could be considered a repetative behaviour. Eventually he just stopped doing it...perhaps when his ability to communicate made life easier for him? I wonder if we'd had the diagnosis at a younger age if I would have been tempted to extinguish this?

Patrick's only speech at a young age was echolalia. Absolutely nothing came uniquely from him. So we took him to speech therapy, used some signs, made him use words for requests, etc. Interestingly enough, early on we decided not to try and decrease the echolalia. The result? The sum total of his speech increased. So now he does converse reasonably well, but he also still enjoys repeating things over and over. No conclusion, just an interesting observation. He certainly has a fantastic memory. I wonder how that will serve him in the future?

So, does a parent focus on extinguishing behaviours? I'm not referring to Self Injury here. But simple things that bring attention to your child for being different? Is there a cost to this? How do we decide what to keep and what to get rid of? Is it a value judgment?

My overall philosophy in this parenting journey has been to try and add to my children's abilities. It seems, to me anyway, that when positive things like communication, education, and safety are added to a child's life the need to extinguish behaviours diminishes.

No answers here. Just a lot of questions.


Blogger farmwifetwo said...

I don't make a point of extinguishing unless they are causing physical harm. Hand ringing - fingers are twisting; head banging - bruises, swelling, fear of concussions with age and speed/force.

BUT... saying that, I have found that a lot of the behaviours decrease as they learn to speak and interact with the world around them.

I think a lot of the behaviours are a coping mechanism and as one learns other coping mechanisms they are simply changed to something else. So, techically they still exist.

But using them as an excuse not to teach speech, math, reading etc... b/c they have autism and they may cease to be textbook "autistic" IMO is wrong.

I appreciate those in the deaf community and those in the autism community view themselves as a culture. Which is fine, if that brings you the feeling of security and comfort. But not everyone with those dx's wishes to join the club... and that too has to be respected. A person can only make that choice through education.

IMO, that's the #1 most important thing you can do for any child... is teach them and not use their weaknesses as an excuse not to.

Having school problems with the eldest AGAIN.... sigh.

Mon Apr 21, 07:11:00 AM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We take each one as it comes. There are no easy answers. Like you I allow some and try to change others if they are very disruptive or harmful.

There are always questions and it seems just when I think I have answers things change. I don't think the questions ever stop. I know for my parents they still worry and have questions about my older sister who is disabled with children.

Mon Apr 21, 07:29:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Bonnie D. said...

I totally relate to this topic but on a broader scale concerning my son's perseverations. I have basically accepted his little "stims" and funny lanky walking with his arms outstretched at some points, let people think what they want.

I am more concerned with his extreme need for computer and tv stuff. He loves both excessively, and as much as we try to stifle, he fights us all the way. The bad thing about stifling it is, we can get the most conversation and interaction out of him when he is watching tv or playing computer. I won't go into boring details on how, but it's oddly true. So, do we stifle them, or do we only allow them when we can't be involved? Geez, I should be blogging this stuff!

Wed Apr 23, 10:05:00 AM 2008  

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