So, what is “normal” behaviour anyway?

So, one blog I like reading, with my mum hat on and with my potential Autistic Spectrum Condition son is Contemplative Chaos. Recently Mommy Catharsis posted a great piece there about constantly wondering if her son’s behaviour is ASC or Neuro Typical (also known as NT, i.e. not autistic spectrum behaviour).

My first reaction was a very condescending “But of course, all of Big C [her ASC son]’s behaviour is Big C behaviour, it doesn’t matter if it’s ASC or NT”, which is something she admits herself. Then I gave myself a stern talking to and admitted that this “ASC/NT?” dilema seemed very familiar to me and it is VERY hard to forget it and concentrate on the child. In our case, our son has not been assessed for diagnosis, so there is an added “oh is that evidence of ASC that would help with a diagnosis I must remember that / why am I thinking of diagnosis and trying to medicalise our son” kind of thing going on.

That has been heightened recently as last week the boy had what I thought was going to be an assesment for ASC. It wasn’t. It turns out it was an information gathering session with a pediatrician that had been requested by the team that does the assessments. I think the explanation she gave me was that she was checking his general health and also seeing if he might have another condition that presents similarly. I also got the impression that she could have stopped the whole ASC assessment thing if she felt it was an inappropriate route to take, as it was she said she would recommend that he goes on the (long) waiting list for an assessment.

So, a bit of an inconclusive thing but in general a fairly positive experience as she was very nice and didn’t ask why on earth we were pursuing this, plus she gave me the name of an independent organisation that supports parents when she realised that school were not being as helpful as they might. Hooray.

So, I left that feeling we were on the right route and hubby and I discussed it afterwards and were pretty happy. Then I discussed things (very breifly, as kids were floating about) with a friend I haven’t seen much recently. For context, he’s just completed a psychology degree although has no experience working as a psychologist. He was quite surprised to find out that it was felt the boy may be on the autistic spectrum and felt quite strongly he wasnt.

Cue lots of more waivering and internal dialogue and guilt from me, back to flip flopping between “yes, he has this, we need to get it reognised so we can gain & spread understanding and get him support) to “why on earth am I making out that his behaviour, which may be unusual but isn’t really anything out of the ordinary, is a Thing, why not accept him for what he is and get on with it”.

And then we had 2 episodes this week that are big “NT/ASC?” for me.

Number 1 was a bedtime crying fit (no surprise there really) from a boy, really upset because of the unfairness and illogicalness that not only is female clothing different from male clothing but that women/girls have a greater range of choice. Is that within the standard deviation for 8 year old boy behaviour? It took a long time to talk him down from that one to a point we could put them to bed. Along the way, we tried various things, at one point I was slightly exasperated and mentioned the gender pay divide and the glass ceiling for women in work places, I think I was trying to point out some upsides of being male in our culture. That only made it twice as bad, as he was as upset about the unfairness and illogicalness of these issues as he was about clothes. I should point out that he was genuinely upset, not just sulking or playing for time. Also, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to wear girls clothes (not that that would be a problem, well not for us his parents, it wouldn’t be the easiest journey through life), he just doesn’t understand why they’re different and why they have so many more options (e.g. girls can wear dresses or skirts or leggings or trousers, whereas boys just get trousers).

Number 2 was over a catapult I didn’t think he should be taking to school. Things were fraught,I was trying to get us all out of the house at the time and he ended up shouting in my face, more than once, in reply to me, which in turn made me quite annoyed. Eventually I realised that the problem was that I was referring to it as a catapult, which seemed innacurate and wrong to him, because it was just a Y shaped piece of wood that he hopes to make into a catapult in the future. The actual request to leave it behind he was ok with, but by calling it a catapult when it clearly wasn’t to him, I made him quite agitated and cross and he couldn’t just accept I was using a term he found inacurate, despite understanding what I meant. So the only course of action was to shout in my face in frustration which in turn made me cross.

I still don’t know, perhaps I never will. I’m pretty sure he has ASC traits. I’m also sure the issues he faces are not as severe as those some people on the spectrum face. Is he far enough along the spectrum to warrant a diagnosis? Don’t know. Is persuing an assessment the right course of action to take? I hope so, but I don’t really know.

Is my son great? Definitely. Hard work sometimes? Yes. Totally worth it? Of course.

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