Monday 27 July 2015

Are Relationships important?

Sophie will do what she is asked to do if she likes someone.

There. That doesn't sound too difficult, does it?!

But wait. There's more. I stopped too soon.

Sophie will do what she is asked to do if she likes someone, sometimes.

What I actually mean is: Sophie will do what she is asked to do, if she likes someone, sometimes, if she is in the right mood.

Scrap that. Sophie will do what she is asked to do, if she likes someone, sometimes, if she is in the right mood, if her day has gone well, if she knows exactly what she needs to do and why, and if she is not too nervous about the outcome or too scared of failing.

That nearly covers it, I think. 

I'm well aware that this statement makes it sound like Sophie does only what Sophie wants to do. That she is just anxious and obstinate. 

I've heard the phrase 'picking and choosing' in relation to Sophie more than once if I'm honest, and similar jibes about my parenting skills are slipped into discussions on occasion. 

I bite my tongue. I don't agree. They don't live with Sophie; how could they possibly understand the workings of such a different, unique mind? I haven't made up the diagnosis of autism, although some people inadvertently seem to suggest I have. 

I'd like to be able to say that I haven't parented either of my children differently, but of course as Sophie's difficulties became apparent, it was clear to me that I needed to parent Sophie in a way that was far removed from 'traditional' or 'standard' parenting. At the same time, I carried on parenting Tilly in that 'traditional' manner. I didn't change my style for Sophie because I fancied trying something new, because I was bored as a parent, or just because I felt like it. I wonder if it has crossed their minds that I'd love to be simply parenting in that traditional manner? Let me be clear; I had to alter my way of thinking and acting in order to accommodate Sophie's needs and in order to keep our family life calm and on track for all of us.

Of course, just like any child, there are things Sophie likes to do (speak Spanish), and things she most definitely doesn't want to do (hang around in assembly). We have to know when it's right to push her boundaries. We also have to appreciate more quickly when we may have made a mistake.

I've been asked recently if Sophie has challenging behaviour. Now there's a million dollar question.

Sophie is rarely violent or abusive, verbally or otherwise. Maybe that is because we use the right strategies to make her comfortable more often than not, and we don't push her too far. I'd still say her behaviour is challenging on a daily basis - more challenging than that of non-autistic children for sure. 

In our heads we have slightly different rules for Sophie than we do for her older sister, and the goal posts can move on a regular basis. We sometimes have to think on our feet. Mostly, we have to plan everything very well in advance. This is of course very difficult for Tilly to understand and accept, but she does a sterling job.

Now though, I must take this right back to the start. 

That certain someone. It has to be the right person. It has to be someone that Sophie has learned to trust or who she instinctively likes. Someone who can be flexible and listen to what she is telling them, verbally or otherwise. Someone who does not give direct instructions and just expect her to follow them. Someone who can phrase a demand to make it seem like a request by offering choices. Someone who does not talk too much or ask too many questions; someone who will give her peace, space and time to calm down once she starts to get upset.

Someone who has time to care about a very unique girl.