Cameron is easily stressed out by new situations. Sometimes, he gets stressed out over simple tasks that he has done a hundred times before.
Sometimes, this stress holds him back. It keeps him from achieving some of the goals that have been set for him. But, goals have to be set for him, not just because he is seven years old, but also because as a young Aspie, if he is never made to leave his comfort zone, he will not do it on his own.
Public situations are one of the things that stress him out. If it is a familiar situation, he is usually fine. If it is a trip to Wal Mart, he can usually handle it well. He knows what is expected of him. The food sections seem to put him on edge a little. This is probably because there are so many people bunched together in one area.
He wants only to get to the toy isle and choose his newest toy. Knowing this, we make him do all of the grocery shopping with us, and then he can go to the toy section and pick out a toy. He will only get a toy if he was well behaved in the grocery section. If he throws a fit, I have no problem with leaving without a toy.
Cameron displays his stress in ways that are different from most young children. If the average child is feeling overwhelmed by the crowds, he/she will usually draw nearer to the parent, and perhaps cling to that parent.
When Cameron is stressed, he acts out. He starts talking loudly (while saying things from television that the average person will not understand), waving his arms about, going up to strangers and saying things that are more odd than usual, throwing himself on the floor and rolling or slithering, and finally, pestering me by saying, “Can we go over to the toy section now? Aren’t we done yet? How about now?”
Trust me, shopping with Cameron is not always a pleasant experience. We tell him ahead of time how things will go, and this does help a lot, but it’s not always enough to overcome the sensory stimulation of all the bright lights, colors, and people in close proximity.
It works out better if we are only going in for about four or five items. We might then say to him, “Okay, we’re going to get these five things, and then we will go look for a toy for you.” If we say it to him this way, it had better go that way. Otherwise, he will start pestering after we have picked up our last item and haven’t yet gone to the toy isle. He forgets almost nothing. Sometimes, this does not work in my favor. He might say, “You said you were getting soap, paper towels, shampoo, and a broom. Then we’re going to the toy section. Let’s go!”
Browsing with my little boy is not something that I usually get to do. He is too restless, which ruins the experience for me. If I want to browse, we usually split up. My husband takes Cameron to the toy section, and I get to look around. It works out well for all of us. My husband doesn’t want to browse either.
Cameron’s stress sometimes shows up in the form of tummy troubles. He has more tummy troubles than any of my other children. He has been known to have episodes of tummy troubles before things like school or other public situations, that are so bad I must keep him home.
As I said, it is often the little things that stress him out and set him off. He likes his cup of milk to have a matching bendy straw. If we have run out of that color, I tell him that he must have another color. In the past, he has reacted by saying, “What! But you can’t put a yellow straw in a green cup!” I deal with this in a firm manner. I say, “Look, you either get a yellow straw in that cup, or you don’t get a straw.”
He has tested me several times. He will try throwing a whiny fit over this topic. I repeat the ultimatum. If he doesn’t agree to do it my way, I put the straw back in the package and walk away.
His dad is a softie, and will often try to reason with and please him. His dad might say, “Well, do you want to switch to a blue cup? We have a lot of blue bendy straws.”
At that moment, I must keep my mouth firmly shut. I know that Cameron will not be changing his mind about the cup. Once he picks the cup, he doesn’t choose another one for that day. We simply wash it multiple times throughout the day.
I am tempted to point this out to my husband, but it will do no good. He is determined to somehow fix this situation. If I push the issue, he will get angry and walk away. If Cameron throws his fit long enough, my husband gets frustrated about not being able to please his little boy, and lets out a few swear words. He walks away then too.
The idea in this situation is to time my approach properly. Since my husband has been trying to handle this, I have stepped back, out of respect for him.
I do not say anything to my husband when I step in. If I do, it will be taken as a criticism and will achieve the above mentioned results.
When I can see that Cameron has pushed my husband’s buttons quite a bit, and both of them are about to lose it. I might step in and say something to Cameron like, “You’re getting the yellow straw, or you’re getting nothing. We’re not talking about it anymore. Daddy and I are going to sit on the back porch. You make your choice, yellow straw or no straw.”
I then walk out on the back porch, hoping that my husband will follow me. He usually meets me there. He calms down, has a cigarette, we walk back in, and mysteriously, Cameron has chosen the yellow straw.
I am tempted at that moment to point out what I have just done, but I have learned to just leave it alone. I know, and that is usually enough.
As you can see, stress for Cameron usually means stress for us. If we handle it properly and quickly, it can usually be resolved without too much drama.