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07 Jun 2017, 5:15 pm

Hey everyone. I was wondering if there are any other step-parents on the spectrum out there. I recently became a step-mom and I would love to vent --- er....uh... i mean DISCUSS some of the challenges with someone who understands. :)
(Of course, I'm open to hearing from step-parents not on the spectrum as well.)
Thanks, guys - hope you're all having a good week.


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07 Jun 2017, 9:48 pm

I guess I am a step-parent---though my "son" is 48, and I'm 56.

He's a doctor in England. I'm a clerk in the US. He has some Asperger's traits (maybe). I was classically autistic as a young child, then I became "Aspergian.

I hope your husband is your Romeo for life.

When I was 15, I knew this girl named Patricia, and we had this West Side Story thing going. I'm white, and she's Hispanic. She liked me, and I liked her. But her father banned me from seeing her. She was 14.



catmiao
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17 Jul 2017, 2:18 pm

I am also a step parent of a pre-teen ASD + ADHD boy, so I think I understand how you feel.

It has been a constant battle with the lack of empathy (not my word), laziness (which really has nothing to do with ASD), lying (surprise), and endless arguing.... I can say that being a stepmom is already a very thankless job, and with ASD on top of it, I have to remind myself to be the adult, constantly. My ss live with us full time, and I also have a NT daughter of my own. his bio mom is somewhat in the picture...just to make things 10 times worse because she doesn't discipline, at all (but she sometimes impulsively punishes him, which is totally not helpful in terms of getting my ss to understand how and why he's punished).

I have read many books regarding ASD and tried to understand how they feel, but I have not felt much help from the books, yet.

My husband is very supportive and we are most of the time on the same side, but we still feel that we're at the wits end. Not sure it's because of my ss' age (being pre-teen) or something else.



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17 Jul 2017, 5:41 pm

A lack of empathy is not a characteristic of ASD. Empathy is often expressed in atypical ways, which makes it hard for neurotypicals to detect it.

What resources have you been reading? Tony Atwood is a good author, if you have not read his work, yet.



catmiao
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18 Jul 2017, 3:04 pm

Hi ASDMommyASDKid,
Thanks for the recommendations of books. I have not read any of Dr. Attwood's books, and as I just checked, there are many of them. Would you recommend one or two of his works to start with?

Other books I have read are:
1. The reason I jump
2. Parenting kids with Asperger's
3. Look me in the eye (this is not really a guide for parents but it does shed some lights of how Aspie minds work)

I also read some other books not specifically related to ASD but more about step-parenting. As far as I know there is not really a book targeting step parents of ASD children. I would really appreciate if anyone knows any book for this very topic though.

And, I should have made it clearer, but when I said lack of empathy, I meant that it seems to be difficult to make my ss understand why his dad and I are frustrated with some of his actions, even after repeated explanations. It is also as if my ss has no remorse of his inappropriate actions. One example is that one day he commented on my body using words we don't speak at home (I really don't know where he learned that from). Even though I don't take his comments seriously, it still made me very uneasy. :| He did apologize afterwards, however a week later he made comments about my daughter's body part again...

Sorry for the long post...I don't mean to hijack the thread..

**Edit: I just realized that I was responding to the wrong person, my bad.



Last edited by catmiao on 18 Jul 2017, 3:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ASDMommyASDKid
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18 Jul 2017, 3:50 pm

I would not worry about hijacking too much at this point because the OP has not been back and also b/c her situation was very different in that she was a step parent with autism step-parenting childrem of unknown (to us) neurology which would be very different from your perspective as she was the one with AS and maybe her step kid is neurotypical (NT).

The book we have is The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome, (by Tony Attwood) and we got it very early on after the initial diagnosis.

TBH we don't have a large number of step parent posters, and usually they are drive-by-posts or don't stay long because many of them are very antagonistic towards the aspie child, and looking for validation that they should kick the kid out or are hoping to be told to parent the child very punitively. Naturally those kinds of posts don't go well on this board because it is a board for autistic people and even on the parent part you are going to find a mix of neurologies.

A lot of the common issues are the typical step-parenting issues that have nothing to do with neurology and have everything to do with issues common to blended families (disagreements about parenting styles, inconsistencies between both households etc.)

Those things do get amplified when you have a child in the mix who is on the spectrum because of the learning curve for the step-parent and the rigidities of the child. Kids on the spectrum are much more affected by change--and while it is not uncommon to see regression and behavioral issues in an NT child in that situation, you are apt to see more with a kid on the spectrum. Depending on the particular child, change can be incredibly destabilizing.

As far as what you have so far described, I don't see lack of empathy, so much as I see inward focus. He is going to be focused on how the changes are affecting him -not- on how the adjustments affect you and your husband.

Whether or not you are frustrated with dealing with him is more than he can deal with, I would expect, and I think even NT teens would view it from that perspective. Imagine yourself in his shoes. You at least had choice and agency in deciding to form a merged family, while he is dealing with the change without choice.

Regarding the boundary issues. Yes, that has to be nipped in the bud, pronto. Kids on the spectrum are all different and they respond to different things. At his age, I don't know that a social story is going to work, but he probably could use a talk from his dad about sexual harassment anyway. However these things are best communicated (maybe in writing) this should be handled by his dad and told that you and your daughter are family and it is not appropriate to make those kinds of remarks and he should have respect for his classmates as well. yada yada. It is promising that he understood once explained, so hopefully if dealt with consistently, this issue will go away.

Edited to add: It may take longer than you think it ought to because kids on the spectrum can have a lot of issues generalizing -- meaning that a new instance that is close to what he is doing now but not exactly the same may not register to him instantly as inappropriate.



catmiao
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18 Jul 2017, 4:41 pm

Hi ASDMommyASDKid,

Thanks again, and I will surely get the book!

I understand that kids on the spectrum don't handle changes well, so we usually give him (a lot) more time to adapt. We also do not have the same standards towards my ss and my daughter (who's younger) since she's NT, we usually ask her to be more accepting and tolerant. I will have to admit that there are times my husband and I both think about sending him to his mom forever, but that is also not a good solution for anyone. I know my husband will miss him dearly, and my ss' bio mom really cannot provide much support to the child (both financially and emotionally).

And yes, I do agree that many issues are more with the blended family, as I have read in the stepfamily books. Although I do find bonding with ASD child is more difficult, I guess this is not so big of a surprise, either. To me, the biggest challenge is that I don't know how to make him aware the world will not work around him. Within the family we try to accommodate as much as we can, but I believe that he still needs the social skills (or at least, some social understanding) to be able to work with others one day, so that he can be independent. We tried using sentences like this "If you do ______, I will feel _______" and follow with actions/suggestions for him to take, but I don't feel any of these has actually registered in his mind yet. So it's not uncommon to see my ss asks for entertainments while his dad is still fuming about ss' bad behaviors. (My husband is a very dedicated father, his anger is towards events and usually doesn't last longer than 10 minutes) This really just made his dad even more frustrated. My ss seems to be able to understand that if others do the same bad behaviors towards him, he will get upset, but can't get a grip on the vise versa.

I also want to be specific about bad behaviors mentioned here. Lying, being rude to people (yelling or screaming, or saying inappropriate things), and not putting effort into his school works are in general the 3 main things we constantly talk about at home. We try to get him to have eye contact with people, but not too picky about that. As long as he really is paying attention when we are talking to him we can accept the poor eye contact is just part of him.

As for the inappropriate event I described in my last post, my husband was there at the time so he immediately correct my ss. I guess we just have to be more patient :| I really wish his social ah-ha moment will come sooner though.



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18 Jul 2017, 8:57 pm

A lot of these life lessons take a really long time to learn. Theory of Mind is the ability to look at things from the perspective of someone else, and it is often a real challenge for people on the spectrum. This is another thing that may look like faulty empathy, when it is really an issue of perspective. If you explicitly bring up the "How would you feel if someone did that to you?" subject, but it often does require the specific prompt to make the child look at it that way. Another problem, you might inadvertently run into is that the person may not feel they way you expect and so it backfires. Something another person might love, he might hate and visa versa.

You and your husband will need to make sure that you are practicing Theory of Mind yourselves on a regular basis and asking yourselves how he is feeling about something (Which again, may not be the same as how you would feel in a given instance.) He may not be able to communicate how he feels, well, especially when agitated. He may not understand how he feels, either. So you may need to be a detective. as you get to know him.

As far as lying goes, what is he lying about? Usually people on the spectrum are not very good liars and typically it is not a natural inclination. Is he lying to avoid conversation, to get privileges, to avoid consequences? Is it a consistent pattern that you can predict and maybe scaffold what is going on to set him up for success on truth-telling to get him out of that pattern?

Is he avoiding schoolwork to do a preferred activity or is he having anxiety about the work? Does he have motor skill issues doing the work? Many kids on the spectrum have issues with writing. Understanding why he does what he does and doesn't do what he does not do, will help figure out ways to make things easier for him.

The more global issues of functioning are a more complicated thing. You are on the right track in not putting pressure on him regarding eye-contact because it can be really painful for many people on the spectrum. You can give him hints like telling him to look at people's noses and explain to him that eye contact is a thing people expect, and explain the social consequences for behaving in ways people do not expect. Beyond that, I would drop it, because he has to decide himself if the discomfort is worth it to avoid the social consequences. Most of what will happen will boil down to that type of answer. He is more likely to be compliant when he is happy, and when he understands the reason for what he is supposed to do, and agrees that it will help him. Some things he may not be able to do and may need to mature to do. Some things, he may never do. You won't know what those things are.



catmiao
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19 Jul 2017, 11:59 am

Hi ASDMommy,

It is very true that many times we do not know how he feels. There are many occasions I asked my husband what my ss is thinking when he chose to do xyz, and most of the time he told me he doesn't know what his son thinks either. For example, my ss could be crying last minute being disciplined, and singing in the next cheerfully as nothing had happened. To me it is very confusing, because I don't know if this is the way he uses to calm himself down, or that he just simply doesn't care about what happened.

As for lying, he had lied to avoid consequences (e.g. saying he had a good day when he actually argued with the teacher a lot during the day), get privileges (e.g. saying he has done his hw well so that he can go out and play), and sometimes to shift or get attention (e.g. lying about being bullied to get his dad's attention and sympathy. The bullying event didn't happen, and he admitted he lied at the eventually). I have read in many different places that lying does not come natural to many ASD kids, my ss however has the tendency to make up stories to questions as simple as "how was your day." We really don't know how to get him to be honest. There are times he chose to lie when we told him there will not be consequences as long as he is honest.

We aren't really picky about his handwriting, unless it's very unrecognizable. To be honest his handwriting has improved quite a lot during the past year, and he himself is very proud of it too. It is math that he doesn't like, so it's hard to get him focus. I found that if one of the adults is present, he would do his work quite well, even without help. However if we just let him do it on his own, he tends to get distracted very easily (his ADHD probably). What my concern is that we simply can't be there every step of the way, so how is he going to be able to do work when we can't be there with him, say, in college? (Maybe I'm thinking too far down...) :|

I feel like my relationship with my ss is in a bad place right now. I also feel lost not knowing how I can help better or if I'm even being helpful at all. The day-to-day situation is often not very encouraging for both of us, and it's very exhausting to me personally :|



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20 Jul 2017, 5:13 am

Baaed on this last bit, I think the most important thing at this point may be to improve the relationship. Maybe do fun things as a family. Let him have some time with his dad while you have time with your daughter. Let his father do any heavy lifting having to do with rules if you can. He may also need more alone time, by himself. Aspies tend to need a lot more recreation time in general than NTs and alone time as well.

Lying for attention as a component of this makes me think a lot of this is adjustment-related, and I don't know if you can get a handle on the rest of it, until he feels more safe and stable. He has to get used to the new status quo and it will take time.



catmiao
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27 Jul 2017, 6:35 pm

Hi ASDMommy,

We actually do a lot of family activities. I do start to let my husband to do the discipline unless I am the only adult available at the time. In general my ss and I are civil, it's just always hard when it comes to correcting his school work. I'm not really sure how my ss think of me (and I think that's quite petty for an adult to ask an autistic child for approval), I can only try to be patient and not to "lose it" whenever I'm close to my limit.

The specific case of him lying about being bullied was actually to shift his dad's attention and to gain the father's sympathy (He had a bad day at school, not because he was bullied, but because he was not listening to the teachers). I was definitely bothered at the time but I don't worry about it all that much.

I often feel like I just have to reset everyday as a new day and cannot (or should not) predict based on the past performance, because I really don't know what will be coming that day. Sometime's he's very difficult, and other times he's very sweet and would just do whatever told. Do you also feel that you have to reset your expectation of the day to zero all the time? I feel somewhat discouraged because of not knowing how I should expect everyday :/



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27 Jul 2017, 9:19 pm

Yeah, a reset is a good way to think about it. I don't have to do this consciously anymore, but earlier on, yeah, I had to remember that it all starts over. It is actually a good thing because if the day prior was bad, you realize you still have a good shot at a good day today. Not that they don't perseverate about things from past days, but more often things reset.

Think about it like weather vs climate. You have climactic trends that follow a trend line. You have a seasonal component, and then you have daily fluctuations and changes. You sort of have all of that going on at once, but on a daily basis there are pragmatic things going on that you notice on the fly. (You have to assume daily weather forecasts don't exist for the analogy to make sense, but otherwise it is pretty close)

If you see things going badly, you have to increase the scaffolding and it is one of those things that if you pay attention to the signals, you get better over time.

Some people will make their own informal ABA type analysis, by what I mean is writing possible triggers down along with whatever issues you are having and keeping track of them to see if you can spot patterns.

So in other words x event happens, you write down the date, what happened and what else happened that day, even if you don't think they have relevance. Some people will also include diet, if they suspect that is an issue. Then you continue to track, and eventually, hopefully you will see patterns. Then you can try to pre-empt triggers and/or as you figure out solutions, implement calming or other procedures to pre-empt meltdowns or whatever the predicted, unwanted behavior is after you see the trigger.



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28 Jul 2017, 1:32 am

It's important to remember that parents are the example, if you allow yourself to not follow your rules
it's not that using a lot of words will cover up for that
confusion everywhere
make clear demands on dad too

A womans role is often retreated in to the corner of policing appearances but really, that's the least of things that are important in life
try switching off your everyday-thoughtloops more, you can also call that mindfullness


-" It's just always hard when it comes to correcting his school work" - you don't, ask about it, show interest but don't do the homework or correction
-" I think that's quite petty for an adult to ask an autistic child for approval", WHAT?? 8) 8O :?:
with all the wrongs in this phrase, you respect them in order to get respected too, you say sorry for your misbehaving in order to learn them that, you don't search approval, you are confident enough without them needing to bow for you




catmiao
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28 Jul 2017, 1:17 pm

ASDMommy,

Thanks for the encouragement. I guess what confused me was that we often see two good days, and one very bad day following the two goods. It sometimes makes me feel that my ss was tired of being good, so he just let loose for one day. I do understand that kids with ASD have to work twice as hard (than NT kids) socializing and maneuvering through school days, but the bad days usually comes with a lot of screaming (ss to others, including us) which makes those bad days very exhausting.

But, I will try to reset my expectation everyday. Hopefully things will get better, and/or at least I will have more mindfulness through my everyday life.

Traven,

Thanks for your response. TBH I'm usually the one that really follows through my rules. If I promise anything (that goes for both rewards and punishments) I fulfill. It really sometimes is that being a stepparent, I feel wicked whenever I need to discipline. Since I have my own, I can clearly feel the difference. I discipline my ss the same way I do my daughter, but I can't guarantee he sees it the same way I do. And no...I don't pick on him about his appearance and small things like that. Once in a while I would suggest that he "might" want to match his socks. If he chooses not to, it's really not a big deal for me so I won't even bother to force him to do it.

For the homework correction, there are times I am the only adult in the house, so it's unavoidable sometimes. :| I don't like to drag the day too long, it's tiring for both the kids and adults in the house.

And I guess I didn't phrase myself well enough for the sentence talking about needing approval from my children. What I meant is that I don't actually seek anything in return, I do what I have to in hope to prepare them ready to go into the society when the time comes. I definitely do not need my kids to bow for me, however I do hope that they would listen more and argue less. I don't think I'm asking too much for just that though :|