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Marriage and “The Explosive Child”

marriage and Autism My first husband was killed. For the next 9 years I was on my own with the “joys” and frustrations of raising and training these special children. Then in 2001, I remarried.

I think we were both a little idealistic. As my husband observed the girls from a distance he was gaining ideas as to how to make us one big “normal” happy family.  I think his opinion was that mom was to easy going. All they needed was a papa to come into their lives and bring some order, discipline a firm hand and everything “should” just fall in place. 

I was seeing a very loving, kind, caring, sensitive man who would walk into our lives, being sensitive to all our special needs, have some answers that I didn’t have.  From a distance the girls were growing to love “Papa” and he was growing to love them.

Friends with good intentions, tell us things “for our own good.” What worked for their NT children probably won’t work for our Asperger children. But it’s much easier to have answers while looking on, than being an active member of the dysfunctional household.  The Bible says to “train up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I see the father as the admonisher and the mother as the nurturer. Even in homes where there are no Asperger children there is often a conflict between the admonishing and the nurturing. Mom’s usually the soft touch and dad lays down the law.  Sometimes dad’s don’t understand Aspergers (do any of us?) because they aren’t with the children all day and believe if they just “lay down the law or are strict enough they can make it go away.  It doesn’t work like that!

If you have friends or a spouse who doesn’t “believe in” Aspergers, encourage them to read “The Explosive Child”, written by Doctor Ross W. Greene PhD.  We’ve had to make some changes.  If the husband and wife aren’t together, raising children, it’s a much harder job.  So our bedroom and bath is off limits to the children. That took some getting used to because as a single mom, my bedroom seemed to be the family gathering place. My big garden tub could fit four little girls at the same time for a “splashing” good time! But it was a necessity to make those rules.

When life gets overwhelming as it does sometime with OD, Asperger children, we can come to our retreat, catch our breath and gain strength from each other.  Don’t get in the “blaming habit.” “If you would have been more consistent…” or “If you’d be more patient, and understanding…”  It’s hard to always be consistent, and it’s hard to always be patient and understanding. We try our hardest to be good parents, we want to do the right things but when our best don’t work, It’s easy to blame. We don’t know what to do or how to handle a situation so we point the finger and make it someone else’s’ fault and we’re off the hook.

My husband tells people that he and I have two different approaches to the children. He still believes to some extent that if he was in complete charge they would probably be more “normal” because he’d crack down a little harder. I believe in a few good rules and carrying through with them. In picking and choosing my battles I have to let the non essentials slide by. I have discovered that too much pressure on these children and they retreat into themselves and shut down. Too much negative and they might possibly withdraw into full blown Autism. They usually do not learn from their mistakes and “facing the consequences” doesn’t always teach them, although they do need to learn there are consequences for their actions. I believe the best consequences are the natural consequences, such as, If you don’t do homework you will face the disfavor the teacher the next day. They don’t need mom fussing about it too.They don’t need to constantly be reminded that they are disrupting the house, I believe they already are very aware of it and feel badly that they are but aren’t sure how to make things different. They don’t need to be reminded that their room is filthy.They know it is and probably don’t like it any better than the rest of us do but their organizational skills are so poor that they don’t know how to get started.  They need more help with most things than the NT child, more encouragement, more reminding how to finish the job, more one on one help. Love, patience, compassion, positive attitude, praise and respect towards our children go a long ways. DON’T BE CRITICAL!

Most kids, tend to respond differently to MOM than they do to DAD (assuming that mom is the primary care giver). They tend to test and “misbehave” more with their mothers (or whoever is the primary care giver). I also think that the more people read, the more they are apt to moderate their opinions regarding behavior and discipline. I think education is the key to finding a compromise.”  The kids are probably getting all the negative input they can handle from their peers and from their own self-talk. To hear it from parents is just to reinforce the messages that they are inadequate and unworthy. I think its right to point out mistakes and to offer positive correction and/or discipline, but I don’t think it’s necessary to keep bringing it up. That could almost be perceived by the kids as unforgiving, harassment, or “you never give me a break.” I suspect most kids would try harder to work for positive attention if they got it regularly.

The most important necessity for parents of special needs children is our source of strength outside our selves. I believe our country is a strong country because it was built on Godly principals. I also believe a home built on those same God fearing principals will be a strong home. It takes commitment!  A husband and wife must honor the commitment they made to each other at their wedding, to have a strong marriage. That same kind of commitment will keep a family strong when the Aspergers threatens to make it dysfunctional.

A social worker said that marriage breakdown is very high, something like 90%, when there is a special needs child. That’s almost double the average divorce rate. The private consensus amongst her associates was that marriages that might have otherwise survived, (those with a few cracks) crumble under the pressure, and unfortunately, the mother winds up being sole care giver in a very large number of cases.

I used to teach foster parent classes. One of the things I would tell the prospective foster parents who wanted a “nice little foster child” to complete their happy little family circle, was that taking a child was like a marriage commitment. No matter what they put you through, you were committed to caring for them and loving them unconditionally. They were going to come with a whole set of problems. They had experienced enough rejections and they didn’t need any more. With special children you probably feel very discouraged at times, and may have even considered “giving up” but you don’t because you are committed. Children will drive you to your knees! It takes a strong faith in God to survive some of the struggles we as parents go through. God is faithful and He will give you the strength you need to get through the hard times. One of my favorite verses is in Philippians 4:19 “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

While were going through a meltdown with our child we need all the strength we can get. Prayer and faith has gotten me through many difficult times.

What makes your marriage work when dealing with your special needs child?

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0 thoughts on “Marriage and “The Explosive Child”

  • Strong communication and a level of mutual understanding keeps things afloat…but we still have to work on date nights and the like to keep it strong.

  • “…Love, patience, compassion, positive attitude, praise and respect towards our children go a long ways. DON’T BE CRITICAL!…”

    So 100000% true. It apply to any family and any type of relationship.

    The world would be more peaceful and better if people learn these.


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