As you will know by now we love going outdoors. One place we like to visit is the Isle of Bute and we took a wee trip there recently. J loved the boat trip and had us exhausted from running around after him, while he explored the boat, to make sure he didn’t go over board!
Once we arrived he was happy to go to our accommodation and enjoyed the view of the boats coming and going from the window. We then spent the day exploring the beach and going for a walk along the sea front, splashing in the water and visiting one of the island’s swing parks. J was then happy to return to our flat for a bite to eat and a wee rest.
The problems started when we tried to get him ready for bed. This must have been when he realised we weren’t going home. I hadn’t even thought about this. He obviously thought we were going somewhere for a wee visit but that he would return home to his own bed and his usual toys, lights and comforts. To him, the long journey to get here was just part of the adventure and didn’t merit staying any longer than necessary to complete the day’s activities. Cue the start of a long evening. It started with the whimpering and face contortions he uses to let us know he’s not happy. When this didn’t have the desired effect he decided to go for a full blown cry and some stamping around, pulling our arms to try to get us to move toward the door. This did not have the work either, so he started throwing himself down on the floor and it finally culminated in him coughing until he made himself sick.
To the untrained ear this may sound cruel and you may think he was just finding it difficult to cope. Yes he was finding it difficult to cope but J can also be very clever and tries to manipulate situations to get his own way. He is also persistent and hopes that if he perseveres in his tizzy we will just give in. Perhaps in a different situation we would have but we were stuck on an island and the last boat had sailed. We had no choice. It turns out that this was a good thing though, as giving in to children’s demands only reinforces the negative behaviour they use to get their wish. Children with autism also need to learn how to cope with life and with not always having things go their way. Yes some things are out with J’s control and result in meltdown for him but some behaviour is linked purely to getting what he wants. It can be hard to tell the difference. J was finding it difficult to cope but he was also determined that we were going to do what he wanted and he wasn’t giving in.
One of the lessons we learned from this was to make sure we tell J if we are going to be staying over wherever we go, as well as taking some of his home comforts with us like one of his night lights and some of his favourite toys. Simple things that could have helped to avoid some of what went wrong. It’s hard to think of these things until you have been in the situation too. It’s also important to note that doing these things won’t solve the problem overnight either. This is a learning curve and we need to learn to be persistent in our reinforcement of positive behaviour, as well as helping J to develop coping skills when something is new or different. The positive from this experience is that it let us see that we need to explain what is happening to J. Even though he can’t yet talk, he has some level of understanding and we should explain things as we go along, rather than just assuming he won’t understand.
This link is good for explaining different types of behaviour and also discusses tantrums, meltdowns and dealing with these types of behaviour: