Working on Preventing Overstimulation When Leaving the Home
I’m not going to lie. Today has been a rough day. I’ve gotten to a point in my life that, with my only difficulties with fibromyalgia and degenerative disk disease, taking both boys outside of the house with me is a painful endeavor. Perhaps I expect too much, though. Our routine at home is a laid-back one, but taking my son outside of the home is unpredictable for him. When attempting to do things like interview potential mentors and get the car fixed, a timeline is difficult to predict. In short, the screaming, disrobing, and destructive behaviors increase shortly after entering a place he doesn’t want to be. But I have no reliable childcare, and taking him childcare facilities usually ends in a phone call that occurs roughly half an hour after dropping him off. This leaves me kind of at a loss for how to manage accomplishing necessary tasks outside of the home in a way that doesn’t create overstimulation.
Here are the things I’ve tried to help mitigate the disaster and prevent overstimulation:
- Using technology. While I’ve noticed several children with autism responding well when given something else to focus on (especially iPads and tablets), his attention span doesn’t make this solution workable for us. He just isn’t interested in playing his games. Even at home, he doesn’t stay on it long.
- Bringing toys with us. There’s nothing like the familiar to make a child feel comfortable outside of the home. Except that, like the tablet, his toys do not hold him long.
- Bear hugs. He loves the pressure that comes with a nice big hug, but it only works for a few minutes after hugging him and he doesn’t want me to hold him the whole time.
- Rewards. Yes, I’ve tried using bribery and providing him with lots of reminders. I was able to get through the interviews with prospective mentors using McDonald’s, but it was not as effective at the car dealership.
- Consequences. He doesn’t really seem to care about me taking things away from him at all. In fact, he is able to find other ways to reward himself when I take away the television, the pool, etc. What do you do when consequences or the threat thereof do nothing to prevent or stop the behavior?
Help me! I’m lost!
I’m working on getting some social stories and other picture cues from someone who has the software to make them. My hope is that we can work through some of these problems by helping him understand my communication towards him without me using a whole bunch of words. I also would like for him to be able to express his frustration to me in some other way. I want him to feel safe and secure when we leave the house. I also want to feel less overstimulation (for him to feel less overstimulation) when we go out in public. I don’t want to hold my expectations so high that he cannot reach them, but I also don’t want him to spin out of control. I’m not sure what to do other than what I’m doing. Sometimes I feel a bit inept as a parent because I’m out in public and his screaming out things like “Shut up!” and “Leave me alone!” and “You’re stupid!” and I think perhaps I care too much about what other people think of us in those moments.
[bctt tweet=”How do you prevent overstimulation outside of the home? #realtalk #autism” username=”embracespectrum”]
Moving past caring about social stigmas is hard.
While I’ve had some positive experiences when taking my son out in public, sometimes people look at me like I’ve sprouted an extra head. I know the awareness is out there. I had an elderly gentleman inquire about whether my son had autism. He gave me this knowing look, but it was a sensitive one. He and his wife smiled at me while I tried to juggle my children. It’s sometimes hard to get the younger child to get up and move along when Squeaker wants to run off, but I can’t leave him. It scares me sometimes. I want them both to be safe when we go out, but I don’t want to resort to using a child leash. I also want to be able to relax some and tell myself it’s okay. He’s okay. Maybe he screams at me. Maybe he takes his shirt off. But he’s not hurting anyone. At the end of the day, that’s a moderate success. As I wait for the social stories and picture cues, I guess I need to just reassure myself that I’m doing okay. I don’t feel quite like a rock star, but perhaps I’m not a horrible mom either.
How do you manage taking your child outside of the home?
If you have more than one child, I’m especially interested in hearing suggestions. It seems that while my five year old sort of “gets” him, he also sometimes triggers him. When you have a lot to get done in a day, how do you do it? How to you prevent the meltdowns, the screaming, and the destruction? How do you prevent the overstimulation?