As promised, I had a few more things I wanted to say about how we work with Asperger’s here at the ranch, and I will list them here with the understanding that, like I said before, each family and child is different, our lifestyles, backgrounds, and cultures are different, and the way we do things may not necessarily be right for anyone else in the world.
Also, it is important to note that my daughter is not abusive to her siblings or myself. In the case where an Asperger’s child is abusive, different steps would need to be taken, including taking advantage of outside support, where needed.
4. Very little movies, especially with imitative behavior.
My daughter loves to copy–it makes her feel secure, I think. She also has an astounding ability to mimic accents, behaviors, and can memorize things quite easily. This can be a fine talent when one is pretending or acting, and it’s often even good to imitate role models from books, but something different happens when her senses are inundated with a movie.
She becomes a character, and becomes somewhat obsessed.
Then, she mimics, copies, and pretty much assumes the role of whatever character with whom she is infatuated.
(I shudder to think how video games would affect her–the line between reality and virtual reality is so blurred! It has been shown that video gaming causes dopamine triggers and can lead to addiction and compulsion in anyone, and we are a non-gaming family for this reason, among others.)
Also, television and/or movies does little in the way of helping her to reason or concentrate, and really, that happens with my other children as well, just not to the degree that it happens to her. As a result, we got rid of the television 4 years ago.
Even if it’s a good movie, sometimes I just know that I will end up losing her for a week and getting the main character from the film instead.
Sometimes I will give in to her near constant desire to watch movies. When that happens, she is not able to focus on schoolwork, nor is she really herself. And I miss her too much, so we have really cut back on that.
It’s funny, because when we are actually performing Shakespeare or other plays, I don’t lose her the same way. And we use music all the time to help–beautiful, uplifting, music.
Thankfully, there are thousands of better things to do with one’s time and I have found nixing the tv/movies/video gaming has been a positive for everyone–we spend more time with books, games, learning, serving, and loving each other.
5. Following the Word of Wisdom
I am not talking about GAPS, Paleo, Gluten Free, Vegan, Raw, Sunshine and Rainbows, or Unicorn Sparkle diets, and I never recommend types of diets because I believe the way we eat our food should be based on personal revelation. I believe that each of us, whether it is because of our genetic make up, our environment growing up, or any number of other facts, responds to different foods differently.
Also, I spent several years studying all different kinds of diets and studies and you know what I learned?
Because I seriously could find evidence, studies, diets, and testimonials that could contradict any other evidence, study, diet or testimonial on the planet.
And this has been going on for longer than I’ve been around. So, I came to a refreshing conclusion at the end of my journey:
The Word of Wisdom.
I started by reading it, then fasting about it, then studying it, then praying about it again, then listening to the Spirit. And guess what? It works! When our family is following the Word of Wisdom in the way the Spirit directs me as the primary nurturer along with my husband’s righteous counsel*, my daughter does better. No, it’s not a cure. But, she focuses more easily and is less apt to fall apart. She is able to do her schoolwork much more easily, and the Spirit flows more easily in the home.
One of the greatest advantages is that I am able to be prompted by the Spirit more easily when I am following the Word of Wisdom.
*Oftentimes, this can be a sticky subject in a marriage. Food is also very emotional for most people. When I started looking into healthier eating, I had a tendency to get far too caught up while my husband had a tendency to not get worked up about it at all. I find that this has been positive in my marriage at least, because sometimes women (like me), especially, can turn their quest for healthy eating into a type of idol worship or a kind of obsession, and if they have a husband who is more even keeled, he can keep her centered on Christ, not on some lifestyle as “the answer.” It is also important to remember that no decisions should be made until both husband and wife are in complete agreement.
6. Discipline and Love
I cannot discipline my daughter (or any of my children) unless I am filled with love.
That is hard. Sometimes I have to take a moment, or an hour to pray to see the truth of the situation before I make any disciplinary decisions.
My daughter often doesn’t understand what is being asked of her, or what is going on in a situation, but there is still a need to teach her that some things are acceptable and some things are not, whether or not she gets “why.” And it is my responsibility as her mother to discipline her. So, I try to do what Jesus would do if he were here.
I absolutely fail a lot.
But, as time goes by, I am finding myself getting it right with more and more consistency. And how does a person discipline someone who has a mostly pure heart and honestly doesn’t understand the concept of cause and effect or consequences?
Well, I tell you, I have a mentor who helps me, and it is the Holy Ghost. Without Him, I couldn’t do it.
- We always have a talk, and I try to listen, as often I am quite surprised at her take on things.
- I try not to interrupt.
- As she is speaking, I am not just listening to her, but praying for Father in Heaven to reveal to me what the truth actually is, and what to do about it.
- Usually, before she is done speaking I know what kind of consequences should happen. After she is done telling me how she feels, we take turns saying a prayer to Heavenly Father.
- After that is done, I discuss with her the consequence–sometimes it is an extra chore or going to bed a little early; sometimes it is copying scriptures, or singing some hymns, or playing with a sibling, but whatever it is, it is given out of love.
It is important to note that no discipline takes place during tantrums or craziness. The steady constant in our home is that tantrums do not happen in public spaces, and that discipline must happen when both parties can be edified. Sometimes, with some children, we have had to stay with them to keep them safe during a tantrum. In that case, whomever is not emotionally involved may sit in the room with the offender and watch carefully (and sometimes gently hold) the tantrum thrower.
Never at any time should someone who is angry go in with the tantrum thrower. If you are, then pray for angels to help you at least temporarily pull yourself together–that usually works if there is nothing else you can do. Heavenly Father does not leave us alone.
Most of the time, my daughter can be left to throw a fit by herself in her room and still be safe. It is important for me to go through with the discipline as soon as possible after the tantrum. Before I go in, I ask the other children to pray for me and the tantrum thrower.
If my daughter’s problem involves another sibling, I talk to the sibling. I listen and we pray. I try to listen to the Spirit to know how to help them.
In any event, we should all be able to feel the Spirit as the outcome in a disciplinary situation. Most of the time, we do. In any event, after disciplining my daughter this way, I have decided it is a good way to discipline all of my children.
My husband and I have explained to our children that using this type of discipline, we are following the Spirit, therefore, there is no hard and fast overall measure that applies to everyone. Each case is handled on an individual basis. This may not work for some families, but there is no way we could apply one punishment or consequence, because each child breaks rules for different reasons, and each child is at a different level of maturity, knowledge, understanding and accountability.
In this way, we have avoided anyone feeling like we give “special treatment” to any one single child.
Finally, in the end, I can’t stress how important it has been for me to have my husband and I constantly insure that we are unified. That is not always easy. Sometimes we don’t like each other, no matter how much we love each other, and we are both fiery, passionate people who have an opinion on everything. Because of this, we often find ourselves at odds. In this we have simply had to grow up and think more on things of eternity than the moment, and act out of Christlike love rather than passion.
After 16 years, we are finally almost there. But we still have epic fail days sometimes and just have to start fresh the next day. For me, at times, it requires all of my everything to be able to barely make it. And, some days, I just need to take a break. Luckily, I have a few people who can help me with that.
If you don’t have a special someone you can trust to help you, I strongly encourage you to begin praying now for a special person you can call when you either need a helping hand or need to just take a 20 minute drive to clear your head.
Even if you don’t feel comfortable with anyone you currently know, I promise you that if you pray in faith (and sometimes it takes fasting, too), Heavenly Father will send someone to you. And if you need help, email me and I will pray for you, too.
This is one of our favorite things to remember:
It’s so important for husbands and wives to be united when making parenting decisions. If either parent doesn’t feel good about something, then permission should not be granted. If either feels uncomfortable about a movie, a television show, a video game, a party, a dress, a swimsuit, or an Internet activity, have the courage to support each other and say no. (Courageous Parenting, October 2010 Conference, Elder Larry R. Lawrence)
Other things that have helped me with this aspect of dealing with Asperger’s:
How To Obtain Revelation and Inspiration For Your Personal Life, Elder Richard G. Scott, April 2012 Conference
The Majesty of Calmness, William George Jordan
The Works of God, President James E. Faust, October 1984 General Conference
The Moving of the Water, April 1991 General Conference, President Boyd K. Packer
He Heals The Heavy Laden, October 2006 General Conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Other Posts In This Series
- stepping to the music we hear
- stepping to the music we hear, part 2 (This post)
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