You Need to Separate From your Son

Prior to the diagnosis of Autism this past week, we met with Aj’s counselor. I say Aj’s counselor but really he helps my ex husband and I to move forward with Aj and occasionally he does play a game to interact with Aj, overall he is more there to ensure we are keeping up with the parenting techniques that work for Aj. While I will tell you that I would highly recommend Aj’s counselor, I was left feeling jaw dropped at an appointment we had about a month ago.

Here’s what happened…

On this particular visit the emotional connection between Aj and I was very prevalent in the room. The counselor noticed it, my ex husband noticed it and of course I noticed it. Aj was having a rough time this visit and needed to have a time out, a time out with Aj usually means to-be-restrained, because usually he will not handle sitting in a time out without the basketball hold restraint. It took everything out of me emotionally to watch as my ex husband restrained our son, I don’t like it. I always feel there has to be another solution to working through Aj’s frustrations with communication or redirection.  Yet I do realize restraining had become the only option up until that point because of the medications messing with our son.

This restraining situation is what pushed the next topic in the session …

The counselor told me that I had to separate that emotional connection I have with my son, because as I spoke about Aj tears began to form in my eyes, my heart was breaking for my son as I spoke to the counselor. Mind you, this was before the autism diagnosis and I was simply starting to feel lost, as if we would never find a good solution for my son to thrive. I understood what the counselor meant, but I don’t think he realized what I meant. You see, emotionally connected to Aj, means that we have this energy about us, we have this connection much unlike the connection I have with my other two children. While I love and connect with all three of my children, this particular connection between Aj and I is different, it feels almost spiritual.  I left that appointment feeling upset, angry and frustrated. I was upset that the counselor wasn’t really seeing that my emotional connection with Aj is more beneficial than harmful for my son.

Here’s what I’ve now realized about that emotional connection …

For one, I am the primary parental unit for my children, specifically with Aj I have been the one constant, meaning while he does have a relationship with his father and my fiance, I am the one who works from home, is here for all appointments and takes him to the appointments, goes to all events and is home 24/7 so it’s only natural that Aj has formed more of a connection or bond with me versus the type of bond he has with others he loves. Once I felt in my heart that Aj was on the spectrum, which happened within the past couple of months that he’s been medication-free, something changed in me. I started having more patience and I started being more aware of what works for Aj and I started to work with and for Aj versus trying to get him to adapt into what I felt he should be. While I am not that parent that pushes a child to be a certain way, I simply mean that Aj couldn’t adapt to the parenting ways that his siblings can, so I stepped back and started to adapt my parenting techniques to him. This decision to adapt to my son has made Aj thrive in ways he never has. In this past month I was able to convince Aj to attend THREE functions; Family Math Night, Family Literacy Night and The Library Arts Center Elementary Art Exhibit Show.

I would have never in a million years been able to convince Aj to go to any events. Aj has always been that kid who thrives on a rigid routine, when we arrive home from school there is no leaving the house again, without a fit. For me to use the emotional connection that I have with Aj as a way to gain trust in him to go outside of his comfort zone tells me that there is nothing wrong with the emotional connection Aj and I have. Aj is on the spectrum and he is going to be that connected to those who he has a bond with, plain and simple. If one were to try to separate that connection we have, it would be detrimental to his growth. Our emotional connection has allowed me to get Aj to go outside of his comfort zone, to try a few new things, to be open to the idea of small changes. While this is a lot of work using my words and tones to get him to come around and take part in extra events, I am willing to do that work if it means he is showing signs of advancement socially.

Aj didn’t last more than 30 minutes at Math Night, he only lasted 45 minutes at literacy night and the art show; but he wouldn’t have even gone into the van to leave just a few months ago without a fit of rage and me having to drag him to the van. To me, that is what our emotional connection has done for Aj. My emotional connection with my son and patient, loving, nurturing personality is what has allowed my son to thrive in more ways than he ever has in the past on medications. The gift of Mama’s love and encouragement has shown me that medicine isn’t always about popping a pill.

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  1. While I say this gently because some parents really aren’t capable of seeing the right decision, I think in your case, you know what does and doesn’t work and you know in your heart what’s the best thing to do. I think mommy instinct overrides a lot of things, including a professional opinion in some cases. Not voicing an, “I think you should…” thing here, just saying what came to mind as I read your post.

    1. I get what you mean Rosey, I do tend to be more open minded because honestly that has been very beneficial to helping me parent properly. In this case, I don’t agree with the counselor BUT I think that he also was sensing a different kind of emotional connection at that moment so it made sense what he was trying to say. I do think that the counselor may have thought I was getting emotions in the way of parenting, in that case I totally can understand, but I feel my connection with my son has been used to parent better. I don’t over protect, and I don’t hold him back, I actually use our connection as a means to teach him more trust and confidence in himself and others. I do understand that some parents use this emotional connection to actually hold a child back from growth – which they may do on accident, but I know I am not that parent, simply because of that one reference – having been able to get Aj to go to THREE events this month that he never ever would have gone to in the past. So I guess I am that parent who uses the connection to better him vs hold him back for my own “baby blues” sort of mama issues or whatever some people have that cause them to hold children back.

  2. Boy, do I know what you are saying. I have been in your shoes. I have been where you are at.
    I had to also do the restraining. Just a quick question, When you are in restraining mode do you talk to him? By that I mean, I would say very little except a couple of things. I always said do you have a hold of yourself yet? Eventually, he began to say no, I am not yet, and I would hold on a bit longer and ask him again. It helped him to learn to control himself, and that even though I was restraining him, he still had some control of the situation. Can I recommend you try this? It did take awhile, but it very much helped, and I only had to do that for a few months and I stopped needing to restrain him at all.

    Also, did you know that you can write in his IEP that teachers must be aware of his difficulty in changing schedules, and prepare him as much as possible? I always had that written in my son’s.

    It was awful for my son in elementary and middle school. The change in routine still threw him in high school, but there weren’t breakdowns by then.

    I can tell you it does get better. It takes a whole lot of work on your part (and maybe a few gray hairs) but it does get better. Hang in there. And, dump your doc if he keeps saying things like that. That isn’t true, and you don’t need to listen to it.

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