We have a slight dilemma at the moment at superhero headquarters, O has started using her ASD diagnosis as an excuse for almost everything. "I don't like noise because.......," "I can't calm down because......," "I'm using this voice because...," and so on.
It is the one thing that we were concerned about occurring, that either of the little superheroes would see their ASD diagnosis as an excuse for not trying their hardest or use their ASD diagnosis as a reason to get out of doing something or for certain behaviors.
Using a disability or a diagnosis as an excuse is one of my pet dislikes. Oh I can't do that because I have x, y or z. This really doesn't sit well with me.
I went through high school with a young lady who was blind. Her sight impairment did not stop her from learning to play the bass guitar - she was simply amazing. A music teacher would give her the sheet music translated into braille and she would be able to learn it in one go. Her sight impairment did not stop her from graduating year 12 at the top of her class. In fact when she graduated, she received the highest marks out of all the year 12's in the state for that year! This young lady could have easily said that she couldn't do it, but she didn't.
A disability shouldn't stop you from doing your best, you may just need to try harder or take a few detours to get to where you want to go. A disability is a reason why an individual may exhibit certain behaviour or take longer to get to where they want to go, but it certainly does not excuse their behaviour.
An ASD diagnosis explains why both my little superheroes have meltdowns however they both need to learn that meltdowns are not an acceptable behaviour.
So what can we do with miss O?
Well, generally, and it sounds quite harsh, but we just ignore the "because I have autism" part of the statement. By acknowledging that part of the statement we are reinforcing her beliefs that autism is going to stop her from trying her hardest.
Both my little superheroes, at times, struggle when there is a lot of back ground noise however noise is a part of life. Throughout life we all come into contact with noisy environments, they are not something that can be totally avoided.
What we can do is provide the little superheroes with strategies that they can use to reduce the impact of various situations on them. We want to be able to empower them both with skills and strategies that they can take with them through life.
We talk constantly with both little superheroes about what they are capable of doing, of their strengths and we try very hard not to focus on their weaknesses. And we ask others to do the same.
We don't make a big deal out of their ASD diagnosis unless it is absolutely necessary. For L this is
usually when his ASD becomes a safety issue. For O it is usually when we are explaining her anxiety.
In the last few weeks we have had many tantrums, as opposed to meltdowns, when O has disagreed with what we've had to say about her autism and the fact that it isn't stopping her from trying her hardest. It is her fear of failure which then sets off her anxiety. This is something that we are working very hard to help O to overcome. And I am sure that there will be many more tantrums to come before O comes to the realisation that she can overcome her fears.
I can see that in some situations it would be easier just to say "nope can't do it, not even going to try, I give up." But this is not a scenario that you will see in superhero headquarters. I will always encourage my little superheroes to try their hardest, to test their abilities and reach for the stars.
Their ASD is not a weakness, it is just a different ability.