Sunday, 17 November 2013

Learning in the Real World

Yesterday, after one month as an apprentice car mechanic, my son replaced a bulb in my headlight. At Halfords it would have cost me £18, at our local friendly village garage about £6. This time it cost me 49p, being the cost of a bulb, charged to my son’s trade card. I explained that having a practical skill like this could in fact make him better off than earning a five figure salary but  having no practical skills.

One of the things I learned when I gave up work is that you’ve more time (an extremely valuable commodity) and if you have the practical skills , things that most people have to pay for such as car repairs, decorating and creative projects are free, other than the costs of the materials. You actually save yourself hundreds, if not thousands of pounds.

Several years ago, my husband bought a college DVD plastering course on E-bay. He sat through the night watching it over and over again and then he started on his wall. That DVD (which cost a few pounds), and my husband’s motivation have now saved us the cost of plastering two houses.

Not all is going to plan in the Frost household however (MY plan that is). My efforts to set my eldest son on the road to living in the real world are so far failing dismally on the laundry front. Having explained that now he was working in the adult world I was going to stop doing his washing and hand over the responsibility to him in order to prepare him for independent living,it doesn't seem to have sunk in.

 A week ago I suggested that his laundry pile was mounting up. One week on I am tripping over a smelly pile of underwear in his bedroom. It’s as much as I can do to bite my tongue but what I've learned is sometimes setting up your children for failure is the right thing to do. If my son  has a date and finds that all his shirts are smelly and creased then he it will be his problem not mine. I'm determined not to fall out over it but it’s hard. I keep telling myself that in the scheme of things it’s not really important. Health, happiness and friendships are and, as he is not in any danger, he will find his own way.

I have learned to have the same attitude with   my autistic son. I've found that there’s a name for it – peaceful parenting. Peaceful it certainly is, far preferable to having family disputes over every trivial thing.When you have a family full of teenagers it’s worth knowing about. I didn't realise I was doing it at first but when you have an autistic child with who normal disciplining techniques don’t work you have to try something different! Ross Greene’s book "The Explosive Child" was an eye opener and turned all professional advice on its head. No wonder my son was constantly angry at school, throwing chairs across the classroom and getting angry that he was always in trouble. He saw the world in a different way and he wasn't understood.

Four years on and things are far more peaceful. We don’t push him beyond endurance to do things he feels he can’t do, We encourage him and support him if he wants to try  to do something such as going out or visiting friends , but if he doesn't want to go then we don’t force it ‘because it would be impolite’ or someone would ‘appreciate it’. We tell it as it is and most of our friends understand that it’s not personal or rude, it’s just Aspergers.

Last night we went to Grandma’s. My Autistic son asked to come.He could have stayed behind with his big brother but he wanted to go out. Because it was his choice he was happy and chatty and enjoyed telling his grandparents what he had been doing, and when he was ready to go we went.

A rare family moment outdoors with my Autistic son

So it’s not for me as a parent to tell my children what they will learn, or what career they will follow. My job is far harder than that. I need to sit back and just watch and listen. As I see an interest I need to facilitate it. If a book or a film or an activity is rejected I am not a failure, it’s just not the right time .The right time may not materialise although it normally does. Patience is the key.

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