With my size 10 boot!
By Mia McDonald
A social skills group my son attends asked the parents to read “The Loving Push” by Dr. Temple Grandin and Dr. Debra Moore, one a doctor of animal science, the other of psychology. Both fields of study adequately prepared these capable women to write this life-changing book. As with most things, my husband and I were late to the game and the other parents were done with the book before we even attended our first meeting. I downloaded the audio version before a long work trip and later purchased the kindle version for my husband. If you know how cheap I am, you know this is a big deal. (I’m so cheap I checked it out of the library to look at the pictures.)
Dr. Grandin spoke to my heart with her plea to parents, especially mothers, to give your ASD kids a loving push to do more. Sometimes, this looked more like a loving kick in the rear end.
Our kids with ASD like things the same, even when the same is not beneficial or even harmful. This is also true for kids who are not on the spectrum. I have no problem saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to activities for my neurotypical (NT) kids, of which there are four younger than my son with ASD. I just think about the pros, cons, safety issues, time concerns and financial responsibility of the activity and make a choice. With Liam, my 16-year-old with ASD, I think about how he will react, what his behavior will be, or if he will even be able to do it or if he will become overcome with anxiety and crumble into a 6’1” 175lb pile of uncontrollable man-child. I looked at life changes and activities through a lens of fear. Even though I have attended countless IEP meetings where we take each activity and break it down, add accommodations and support and MAKE. IT. HAPPEN. I was not doing this to longer goals and life activities. Dr. Grandin changed that for me. She inspired me to make some big changes.
First: listen to my kids’ hearts and speak truth into their desires. Then, just like learning in the sheltered school environment, I learned to break it down, add accommodations or support, and then take those steps to make it happen. This may mean asking for help. There are others in Liam’s life that inspire him to more than I do. He feels the need to fall back on me. Not so for his grandfather, uncles, favorite teacher, coach or priest. As opportunities are coming up in my NT kids lives, especially my 12-year-old daughter, I’m pushing Liam to do them, as well. I will say, “If your little sister can do it, then you know you can do it. Come ON!” This places him in his beloved role as mentor and big brother.
When Liam told me he was planning on being in the NBA, I suggested he try playing on a basketball team to prepare. Instead of rationalizing all the reasons he couldn’t, or try to scale the great wall of high school sports, I researched local teams for kids his age. Right under my nose we found our church has a league for non-varsity high schoolers, and I knew the coach from a former city commission where we served. A father of six and repeat coach, he welcomed Liam joining the team. Liam made his first basket during a game last weekend.
To my husband’s shock, and despite my old age, I have generalized this to other areas and other children. When two of my kids asked to ride their bike to school, we broke it down into steps and practiced. We even practice riding along Webster Square, which is on the way to school. On the practice run, my NT child completely peed their pants on the trip home. They learned there are no privacy trees to jump behind in the City. (They would die if I said which one, so we just laugh at him/her in the privacy of our own home.)
I strongly encourage you to find this book and read it. Feel free to ask me any questions. But you are officially warned that getting me talking about my sister-from-another-mister Dr. Grandin would be akin to getting stuck next to someone at a party who recently started CrossFit. It might save time to just get the book and read the whole thing yourself.