What Does it Mean?

Every day, in every moment, we get to choose what we believe our children's actions mean. Johnny throws a toy, Suzie pees on the floor. Is it excessive defiance? Perseveration? Strong, accurate gross motor movement? Imaginative play (Suzie is creating a waterfall)? As parents, we are never 100% certain about the meaning of any of our children's behaviors.

I remember hearing a story about a man on the train with his kids. The kids looked like they were running wild, completely out of control and disruptive. The man looked unaware, just sitting, gazing, absorbed in his own thoughts. A passenger on the train, unable to ignore the situation much longer, said to the father "Don't you see how your kids are behaving? Do something about it!" The father stirred from his thinking, looked around gaining awareness and said "I'm so sorry. We are just coming from the hospital. Their mother died today. They don't know how to deal with it and neither do I". The stunned passenger suddenly had a different perspective, a new understanding and insight that helped explain these children's behaviors.

We never really know what's going on inside another person. Our children with ASD may be experiencing so many different things that we don't yet understand. So, I've decided that every behavior has a reason. My not understanding it does not immediately render it invalid.

If I must have a meaning, I can make one up that is nurturing and supportive for me!

Recently, Jaedon has become fascinated by feeling the walls and edges of every room that he is in. He presses himself against the wall, running his hands and sometimes toes, into every corner and crevice. The route to any point is not the straight line for Jay. It is the line that covers the most detailed perimeter of the room. My mom stands in the kitchen and says "Jaedon, come for your dinner!" She doesn't see him appear with his usual speed. She calls again. What she hasn't realized is that the route to the kitchen involves the edges of the table (in the opposite direction from the kitchen), around the big chair, by the book case, past the shoe rack, across the main door (very far from the kitchen) across the other shoe rack, carefully past the toy trunk and side tables, into the dining room,.... until finally he is at the kitchen door. One might look at him and think he hasn't heard her, or that he is being defiant. I reassure her that he's coming. I look at him and think,"how clever to know that sensory input from his eyes alone is unreliable and to be using his body to firmly establish a map of the room in is mind!"

Generally speaking, I decide that Jaedon is making progress every day, and look for many opportunities to interpret his behaviors in light of that belief. So, the next time your child does something you don't understand, remember, you get to decide what it means!