One of the most frustrating parts of raising a child on the spectrum for me is what I call the “age gap”. I have spoken about this before but it is something I struggle with everyday. I constantly have to remind myself to look below the surface before I react to whatever is going on.
Please keep in mind that I’m speaking only to the experience I’m having with Gavin. In the Lost and Tired family, Gavin it the best example of this phenomenon. Please don’t take this as a blanket statement about all Autistic persons. Everyone is different and so this may not apply to your situation. However, I will say that I have heard from many people who are dealing with the exact same issues.
I wish there was some kind of magical truth mirror or something. This mirror would show a true reflection of who you are on the inside.
I think that many people aren’t aware of this age gap.. They aren’t aware that with kids like Gavin, looks can and will be decieving. You look at Gavin and you see a 11 year old boy throwing fit or melting down when he doesn’t get his way. However, there is quite so much more going on underneath the surface. While Gavin does have control over himself in many of these behavioral situations, this gap in age plays a huge role in his decision making process.
If you stuck Gavin in front of this special mirror or looked at him through a magic lens, you would see a small child not 11 year old boy. Gavin is emotionally stunted at about 2 or 3 years of age. His intelligence far surpasses that of a 11 year old boy but inside he is only 2 or 3 years old, emotionally.
Symbolic of the “age gap”
In other words, when he’s stressed out or overwhelmed he will react like a 2 or 3 year old would. So in a sense he’s an 11 year old toddler as developmentally, that’s about where he’s at. This is something that I find myself struggling with everyday.
It’s really easy to forget this when he’s in the midde of a meltdown. I tend to want to hold his accountable as an 11 year old for his behavioral choices.
The problem with that is he simply isn’t 11 years old developmentally.
For me, It’s far to easy to see someone that is just being difficult or uncooperative instead of seeing the situation for what it is. If Gavin were actually 3 years old then this behavior wouldn’t be such a hard pill to swallow. It’s age appropriate for a 3 year old have meltdowns and tantrums.
When you see Gavin melting down it’s pretty easy to assume things about him. However, the reality is far more complicated than that. It’s never a good idea to assume things about kids with Autism. While Gavin is probably not the purest example of this simply because of everything else he has going, I think the principle is the same. Many kids on the spectrum have a sizable gap between their emotional and chronological ages. Hence the developmental delay of Pervasive Developmental Disorder.
As a society and even as parents to these amazing, yet challenging kids, we should try to keep this in mind.
It’s really important to keep perspective when dealing with these very special children because it will help you to better understand their behavior.
Disciplining your child is a very difficult part of being a special needs parent. Trying to find that balance between real world accountability and what they can actually be held accountable for is a never ending struggle.
Perhaps this will give you a fresh perspective on things. Maybe it will help you to consider more age appropriate ways of addressing the inappropriate behavior. If nothing else it’s something to think about.
It’s a good idea to learn your child’s emotional age as it will give you valuable insight into their world. You can gain a better understanding of what makes them tick and also what drives their behavioral decisions. Problem behaviors still need to be addressed and there should be consequences, but you will have a better understanding of why it’s happening, insight into more age appropriate disciplinary actions and even how to avoid some of these behaviors going forward.