Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Wonder…

Are all kids as sweet as my son, or does his autism help make him that way?

After our bike ride on Sunday, Kai wanted the two of us to build an electronic circuit with a set we had given him three Christmases ago. He hadn’t played with it much in the past year and a half so I was surprised that he wanted to now.

But before we would do that, I wanted Kai do a little bit of online math work. He has been doing math on the Khan Academy website for several months now, mostly on weekends, to get in some extra practice at home.

Kai enjoys math so it was not difficult getting him to agree to work on one or two sets of problems.

On this occasion, I had him work on pattern recognition. He solved the first problem easily, but started having trouble with the next one. Frankly, I didn’t quite understand what the problem was asking for, and couldn’t point out to Kai an error in his answer.

And once Kai gets an answer wrong, he starts to get frustrated.

The next problem was also a bit difficult for him. But I understood it and tried to help Kai by asking pointed questions intended to get him to think through the problem better himself.

But once he is frustrated, his listening skills deteriorate.

Rather than answer my questions, he started randomly guessing answers to the problem. I tried to slow him down and try to figure out the problem one step at a time, but he was too upset to think about what I was telling him.

I asked him to write things down on paper, as it would help him to work things out. He chewed on his pen, and then angrily wrote things down, but so sloppily that it did not help him gain clarity.

At one point, I read aloud the key sentence in the problem that should have clued him in to the answer immediately. When he still didn’t see the answer, and continued yelling that he didn’t want to do this anymore, my frustration grew equal to his.

He wanted to quit. I was angry. I yelled at him to keep going.

He started crying that we would not have time to do the Electronic Snap Circuits as it was now approaching dinnertime.

I could see that it was probably pointless to continue working on math when his mind was in this state. And I felt terrible that I had lost patience, and my temper.

But, I’m stubborn. And I didn’t want to stop on a low note so I pressed on.

I tried to calm myself down.

I finally decided that if he could get one more answer correct, that would be enough for that day. When I told him that, he seemed to calm down enough to start thinking about the math problem again.

And when he got the problem right, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

After our ordeal with the math, I was a bit surprised that he still wanted to do the electronics with me. And so I eagerly joined him.

He did not really need my help, though. He was able to read all the instructions, view the diagrams in the book, and build the circuits by himself.

But he really enjoyed that I was there with him, constantly explaining to me all the steps as he did them, and occasionally asking me to grab a piece for him.

He built a circuit that would record and re-play his voice. On his first attempt at recording, he spoke very tentatively and barely got any words in before the 8 second limit had passed and the beep sounded. But after that, he enjoyed recording his voice many times, saying something different each time.

After a break for dinner, he wanted to build another circuit, this time asking Mom to watch us while he built an FM radio. It really worked.

At bedtime, he told me that he wanted to build another circuit with him the next day. And when I came home from work on Monday evening, he was eagerly waiting for me.

He was so sweet.

It made me wonder. How does this sweet boy continue to love me so much when I keep getting frustrated with him?

I don’t know why.

But I do know that I want to work harder not to get frustrated.

I don’t want to risk losing his love.


  1. I know how you feel. I am much the same way. However, although I feel terrible some times for having to yell, I know that it came to that point only because that all other lower levels of correction had proved to be ineffective. A father must father first. It is for the long term happiness, and success, of the child. This is demonstrated love. Children know right from wrong. What they lack, is impulse control...and experience. Kai knows he was wrong...and so...he doesn't hate you...even when you yell. He just couldn't control his actions. He knows you were right...and your actions does my son, when I must yell. I can tell you that my son trusts me....because I care enough to be vigilant in ensuring he is on the correct path in life. So long as all other avenues for action correction have been exhausted...and the same negative actions persist...yelling is a valid action.

    Sometimes a father must yell to get things moving and corrected...without unnecessary delay. Sometimes children simply must try their limits. What must not happen is to have no limits. Sometimes children must do something immediately, even before an explanation is proffered (sometimes)...just to get them used to not balking at a duty until they have a full explanation. Without this...the child WILL get fired from any decent job (not counting when the action would be wrong if done).

    So...yes, it is natural to feel terrible when you yell (as do I). And would be worse to not correct the action by not yelling...when yelling was necessary.

    1. I know what you are saying. The thing I struggle with sometimes is whether the yelling truly is necessary, or if there is another way to get through to Kai. I think sometimes an alternative approach -- using humor, taking a break, etc. -- might make a difference. But I definitely agree that we should not let the incorrect action go.

  2. He shows you unconditional love...just like you show him. :)

    1. I think you are absolutely right, Betsy. Thanks!


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