I remember one day, after being chastised for some behavior, Kalisha looked at me and very seriously asked, "When I do things like that, is it because I'm autistic or am I just being a brat?"
I probably told her that day that she was being a brat, because I was pretty upset with her. I have no recollection what she had done, but I have never forgotten the question.
I have asked myself that question about some of her behaviors, hundreds of times over the years. I believe it is a question that nearly every parent of a special needs child struggles with, at some point. Just because a child has special needs doesn't mean that they never misbehave. To give them an excuse for every 'misdeed' is to create a very spoiled person. The problem is in discerning the difference.
Is the blanket really too hot or does she just want to keep getting out of bed and stay up longer?
Did she pull her shirt up in the third grade classroom because it was itchy or did she like the attention she was getting from teacher and students or both reasons?
Was she just being a teenager with all that defiance or was there something that was really bothering her that she couldn't express?
Can she really not understand that it is time to leave NOW, or does she just want to read a little longer and doesn't care if we are late?
I think I asked the same questions sometimes with my typical children, but I didn't have to analyze their actions so closely. (They typically had no excuse; they really were just being a brat.) :)
It may have all been innocent when she was younger, but she has gotten a little more savvy about pulling out the autism card. Occasionally, when she is having a difficult situation with a friend, she will say, "Well, they just don't understand that I have a disability." Is she making an excuse? OR, have I made excuses for her and now she is just mimmicking my actions?
I recall the day when she was 8 or 9 that she was setting on the living room floor and I had asked her numerous times to stop what she was doing and stand up, so we could leave the house. (I had prepared her ahead of time and told her when and where we had to go) She would not stand up and when I tried to stand her on her feet, she pulled her legs up and turned into a 'limp noodle'....you know what I'm talking about. I tried a different tactic; I grabbed a handful of her hair on the top of her head and started to pull upwards. (Don't call CPS, it was a long time ago and she didn't even cry and I never did it again) But she did stand up; pretty quickly.
I don't recommend this action, for various reasons. #1) It probably is child abuse #2) She learned to duplicate it. When she was at her sister's house (all of her sisters have lots of thick, curly hair) Kalisha wasn't getting Sister #3's attention fast enough, so she grabbed a handful of her sister's hair and started pulling upward.
Did she really not remember that I had apologized, asked for forgiveness and explained why pulling hair was not a nice thing to do, or did she think she could get away with it because her sister would excuse that behavior or was she just mimmicking me?
I don't pretend to know the answers. What I do know is that every child is different and no one knows your child as well as you do. You have to decide what is unacceptable behavior and what is excusable due to a disability.
I want to remind you that the name of this blog is "getting it right, occasionally" which indicates that I get it wrong quite often. But with lots of prayers, we keep moving forward.