Control Issues and How to Control Them

[et_pb_section bb_built="1"][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_image _builder_version="3.0.92" saved_tabs="all" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" align="center" always_center_on_mobile="on" force_fullwidth="off" max_width="75%" module_alignment="center" show_bottom_space="on" src="http://www.brendashiekh.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Brenda-Kids.jpg" /][et_pb_text _builder_version="3.0.92" background_layout="light"] One of my sons was diagnosed with Aspergers at eighteen months old.  A few months before his diagnosis, we noticed he would line up his hot wheel cars according to color and type in very elaborate patterns.  I thought he was a genius, but when I bragged about it to my doctor she told me to get him to the neurologist right away. I brushed it off, but it wasn’t long before we started seeing an increase in his strange behavior.  He hated wrinkles in paper, became obsessed with pictures of orcas and they needed be in a particular position, and he only ate maybe three types of food willingly.

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We were lucky enough to get him into an early intervention program at UCLA.  In order to be admitted, they required that family members be willing to participate in interviews so the research center could determine if there was a genetic component to the diagnosis. I told them no one in our family had the same problem, but if the interview could happen on the 8th floor instead of 7th because I like even numbers, I would consider participating.

 

I was the first to be interviewed and I thought it went well.  I was waiting to find out who from the family they needed to interview next, but they said they didn’t need to dig any deeper to find a genetic source of the Aspergers.  I was stunned.  Apparently my interview was enough proof that the syndrome was clearly passed down from me to my son.  As I sat  alphabetizing the magazines in their waiting room, I was flooded with recollections of my own inflexibilities over the span of my whole life.  With the Oprah Magazine appropriately on top of Time, I realized how much I related to my son’s need for things to be “just so” in order to feel safe.  Maybe I wasn’t lining up cars, but I certainly knew how to line up the boys in my life, and everyone of them knew better than to get out of line.

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So for the thirteen weeks at the UCLA program  I watched as my son learned how to interpret other people’s perspectives, how to say hi and goodbye, how to understand people’s body language, to be aware that people have different points of view, how to take turns and let other people decide the rules of a game.  Who knew it was standard to say hi to someone when you enter a room? It was the best thing that could have ever happened to me because to be honest I didn’t know any of these things were necessary.

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We also realized that we both had a voice in our head setting off alarms when things weren’t going a certain way.  We called them our “Worry Bullies.” My son’s doctor had a great game that helped re-route his automatic need to try to control things.  The doctor would put my son in a social situation where she knew he would become agitated and want to be bossy, and right when he was at the edge of losing his mind, she would have him get up and run to turn off the light switch.  Then turn it back on.  She called it flipping the switch.  Pretty soon my son was able to just use his imagination of flipping the switch to re-direct himself.  It was such a powerful tool, for both of us.  I use this tool so often now, the inside of my mind looks like the strobe light at Studio 54.

 

Our Worry Bullies never really stop trying to control things, just ask my husband, but I know that both my son and I really try to focus on opening our minds, not needing to be the bossy pants all the time and we step into the awareness of other people’s experiences.  It’s given us both tremendous peace of mind and a whole new level of love and security.  Now when I’m in the lobby at the dentist office I don’t even notice if the magazines are in alphabetical order.  As long as they’re equally spaced out.

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KidsRosemary Watson