Home > General > The weekend is over? What? Nononononononono!

The weekend is over? What? Nononononononono!

The reaction seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? The weekend came to an end, just the same as last time. There will be another weekend someday soon, and if I play my cards right it might be even better than the last one.

Okay, now go back and plug in “computer time” or “Wii time” or “Sleep time” or “couch time” in place of the weekend, and also take me out of the equation and plug James in. Then add a shocked expression when the time ran out, a lot of loud pleading then yelling when he realizes there is really no more time, a bunch of stomping that sometimes results in James falling, 5 minutes of timeout and a cherry on top.

Here is a very specific instance that we go through at least  once a week:

6:45AM

Me: “James, you have 5 minutes and then it is time to get dressed.”  James: “Okay.”

6:55AM

Me: “James, just one more minute and it is time to get up.” James: “Okay, just one more minute.”

7:01AM

Me: “James, time to get up. Please go to the bathroom.” James: “One more minute.” Me: “No, it is really time to get up now. Please get up and go to the bathroom.” James: “No. I don’t want to.”

At this point, James usually pulls the covers over his head. I walk over and pull the covers off at which point we have a short tug-of-war. I win, to which James responds “Nonononononono” at an incredible volume considering he is so tired. I pull James up out of bed and direct him to the bathroom, the entire time James complaining loudly, “Ow, you’re hurting me” or “No, I’m too tired” or my personal favorite “It’s too hard to listen to you!”  Every time James screams or refuses to take the next step, standing up, going to the bathroom, putting his underwear on, he gets a “strike.” Three strikes and he loses a privilege like playing Wii, watching TV, etc. The punishment sometimes puts an end to the situation, but about half the time results in more volume and more protests. To add to the event the noise often wakes my husband or the baby, neither who are pleased to be woken in this way.

The second example happens at least 3-4 times per week, and usually occurs when we want James to stop doing something – reading, playing video games, watching TV, but can also occur when we want him to start something – take a shower, get dressed, go to the bathroom. James needs a lot of prep leading up to the starts and ends of activities. A LOT. The 5 minute warning equals 10 real-time minutes, the 3 minute warning equals about 5 more and the infamous 1 minute warning equals about 5 more. After every warning, “5 minutes to shower time,” “1 minute until you turn off the computer,” “when you crash, Mario is turned off” James responds sweetly, “Okay, Mom.”

Then I say, “Okay, buddy, time to __________.” James responds, “Almost time?” to which I always say, “No, it’s time now,” to which James replies, “What??!!” And the battle resumes.

Because James is already awake these battles are often less dramatic than the morning routine, though not always. And if you try to get him to do something or stop something with no warnings? I’m sure I am not the only parent of a child on the spectrum that is cringing right now.

Many of you who know or have met James realize that he is not like this most of the time. Some of you probably even think I am exaggerating the above scenarios. Yet many parents who have a special needs child, especially one with a Autism spectrum disorder, know that the Jeckyll/Hyde scenario I am talking about is perfectly possible, even with the sweetest, most well-intentioned child. Each episode beginning to end usually lasts 5-15 minutes, certainly not a long time, but as we all know time can be relative.  After James has thrown this small tantrum or incredible fit and has been punished by losing a privilege or a timeout, he is usually over it. He is no longer “in trouble” and returns to his cheerful self. But the aftershocks – loss of activities for James later in the day, younger children having witnessed or been woken by this behavior, stressed out husband who doesn’t “turn on and off” the way James does. Aftershocks can sometimes do as much damage as the quake itself, even if they just seem like small rumbles at first.

I will be the first to say that in many ways James is a very easy child, and 95% of the time he is pleasant, well-behaved, sweet and happy. But this “scheduling breakdown” was in need of a more permanent repair, so I decided to document my latest attempt, inspired by my husband’s need for peaceful mornings and Nancy Trush.

James sleeps with a lamp on in his room and reads himself to sleep after being tucked in – my husband is a firm believer in sleeping with the lights off, and felt that James was waking up tired because the light was too bright all night. James is not a fan of the dark, so as a compromise I bought a really neat gadget on Amazon, an attachable dimmer that works on any light or lamp in the house. The first night I dimmed his lamp prior to turning it on so that James wouldn’t be able to protest – after all, the lamp itself looks the same. He definitely stared at it suspiciously for a few minutes when I turned on the much softer light and asked that it be moved closer to him, but didn’t seem to know what else to say. 5 days later the dimmer is going strong and James is falling asleep earlier. This past week only 2 days were unpleasant in the morning. Coincidence? Maybe – so I decided to take no chances and pursue the next step of the plan.

As a preschool teacher Nancy has offered me a lot of insight into what works for her 3 and 4 year olds, which is around where James is mentally. For this particular issue she suggested a timer or alarm clock. Genius, I thought! Blame it on the clock, not on the person. But my very next thought was, James will never go for anything that makes sudden noises – especially alarm noises. So, James and I spent some time online looking at cool alarm clocks as a special present – http://www.trendhunter.com/slideshow/fun-alarm-clocks. My husband and I spent some time meanly laughing at the ones that would wake James up the best and probably cause him to remain awake for the next decade (look up the Sonic Boom Alarm clock on youtube), but in the end James picked the one we are going to try. It is a Hot Wheels alarm clock that makes the sound of cars peeling away from the starting line as the alarm noise, and as an extra perk it looks like the back of a hot wheels car too. We were able to watch it together on youtube to make sure James wasn’t going to freak out once it arrived, and now we are ready to implement the rest of the plan.

As with many of my posts, there is not a neat conclusion or a “hey we fixed it!” moment. Yet. These stories usually unfold over the course of a week or a month, or even have come to a head after several years of working on an issue. When the alarm clock gets here it might further help with the scheduling meltdowns we have been working on.

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  1. May 16, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Maybe I should try this with my husband…

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