Monday, February 05, 2007

Boundary Pushing

A. was home over the weekend, and I found him pushing the boundaries of physical safety on some of our usual outings. This is new, and it scared me a little. It began when we were playing a little chase game at a local park. A portion of the park runs alongside a bayou. There's a boat-launch leading directly into the water; on one side there runs a sidewalk with a railing, while the other side has no railing due to the hitches for boats to tie up and load/unload. A. and I were about to run around the boat launch to the un-railed side. I was anticipating my safety procedure for that side of the park, placing myself between A. and the bayou and keeping us both a safe distance from the edge. Suddenly, A. darted down the launch and into the cold water. I tossed my jacket off and started after him, when he turned around and walked out. He was amused by my surprise. Later, we went to the other local park, where A. spotted a couple of gaps in the fences separating the play area from an interstate highway. He had no chance to get through those gaps, as I spotted them also and blocked the way. One of those gaps was atop an embankment that local kids slide down on pieces of cardboard. A. likes sliding like that, though I have to bend over and pull him down. I suppose it makes him feel cool, like a teenager. Anyhow, whenever we got to the top, he would lean over the guardrail, as if he wanted me to lift him over it and onto the roadway. I wouldn't do that, of course, and I wouldn't walk him down the roadway any further than the end of the guardrail.

We've always been conscious of physical safety issues, something that is a matter of particular concern to the parents of children with autism. Many autistic kids have no fear of danger, and A. falls into that category. Also, most children--whether or not they have autism--tend to push against the boundaries that we parents impose on them. A. also shows the potential of becoming a kind of "adreneline junkie" thrill-seeker, not something most parents relish. This is the first time I've really noticed one of my kids deliberately pushing the boundaries of his own physical safety. I suppose we'll have to work at setting up appropriate times and places for certain activities, like running, that inherently have some potential for danger, and more strictly enforce the limitations we already impose.

Simultaneous with this is the difficult task of training T. in age-appropriate behavior as he nears puberty. His mental functioning may be at the level of a 3-year-old overall, but his hormones and his body are those of a 10-year-old. A couple of the issues we're working on have dredged up some unpleasant, anxiety-provoking experiences from my own early childhood that I had forgotten about. I've been told this is a fairly common phenomenon for parents.

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