March 8, 2015

Setting Realistic Goals and Sticking to Them

Yesterday was Brandon's second week dance class.  Remember in my last post I said how great he did last week?  (here)  Well, he lost his damn mind this week.  He fought me every step of the way.  You know what the worst part was?  He CRACKED up every time he did something he knew he shouldn't do.  Uncontrollable laughter.  My little man can be jokester, but I did not recognize my child at this class.

First, we sat in a circle to warm up and stretch.  With him having a limp body, I directed him with every stretch.  I was like a puppet master.  "Time to touch your toes, the teacher said."  He looked at the assistant teacher next to him, and touched her toes. least he followed some sort of direction.  His receptive language is still not near where it should be developmentally, so I was proud that he heard the word "toes" and touched some toes!  

What did he to next?

He BIT her shoe!  I don't get embarassed easily when it comes to Brandon's behavior, but this one did it.  He opened his mouth as wide as he could and chomped down right on her dirty sneakers.  My jaw dropped.

Next, we sat along the wall to take turns doing steps.  To his credit, he did stay over there.  But he was flailing around, sliding across the floor, and kicking me.  It's not like I was caught in the crossfire of his flailing body.  He deliberately kicked me.  Several times.  And cracked up about it.  He thought it was hilarious to kick me.  He's never acted like that before!  Again, I was dumbfounded at his behavior.

And if all that wasn't enough, this child proceeded to take his index finger, and draw a big 'ole scratch down my chest.  It stung.  I said "Brandon!  No!"  This kid looked right at me, laughed, took his other finger, and drew another scratch down my chest to match the first.

I don't know what happened to this child at dance class, but it was like he was some other kid.  I have never seen this kind of behavior with him.  Ever.  I'm not saying he's never kicked me or even bit me (over a year ago), but he has NEVER laughed in my face about his behavior.  If anything, he gets very sensitive if he gets in trouble.  If he accidentally spills his drink, he cries instantly, runs and gets a towel, and cleans it up himself.

This is one of those times that people don't typically see.  My son is three-and-a-half years old.  This is not acceptable or typical behavior of a three-and-a-half year old.  I am so happy that my son "behaves" a lot of the time, and that for some people it's hard to tell he has autism.  It's not that I want people to think that I have a hard life, or that my son is a bad kid.  But it's hard to explain the struggles we go through sometimes...especially when people don't see it for themselves.  "All kids do that," or "He's just being a boy," or "It's just the awful threes," does not apply here.  Just a side note - never say these things to a parent of a child with autism.  I know you think it's helpful, and we appreciate you trying to make us feel better.  But it doesn't, because we know the truth, and it just gives us the feeling that you don't believe us.

So, at the beginning of class, the teacher talked to us about the dance recital.  After last week, I thought..."I think we may actually be able to do this!"  But, this dance class reminded me of something very important about the goals I set for Brandon.  Remember to aim to reach  goals you set, and not create unrealistic expectations.  Take one step at a time.  Expecting too little creates behavior issues.  Expecting too much is defeating for the child and the parent.  The goal is to get to the point where Brandon can participate in dance class without hand over hand direction from me.  The goal is not to do all the dance moves perfectly.  It's not to perform on stage.  It's not even necessarily the social interaction with his peers.    I long to see my son do all of these things.  I want to see him up on the dance stage, strutting his stuff with a smile on his face.  It hurts to know this is an unrealistic expectation at this point.  We will get there.  However, the time is not now.

One step at a time.


  1. I have to admit, I laughed when I read that he bit the assistant's shoe. I remember my son behaving like this when he was around this age. In retrospect, I think he was over-stimulated and didn't know how to manage his strong response to situations - excited, processing a lot of sounds, sights, textures, etc. I think your response was perfect! Way to go Mom!

    1. I giggled reading you comment because you reminded me I'm not alone! Thank you! :) Honestly, it is kind of funny in retrospect. His mouth was so wide, and he so purposefully chomped down on her shoe. She was very understanding about it.

  2. Rachael, is this a special needs dance class or NT dance class? Text or PM me more info about it if you have time. :)


  3. This is really a wonderful post.


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