Daily Prompt: Expectations

Hi everyone, I had a lot of positive feedback from last week’s article focusing on growing up with an autistic sibling so I thought I would write some more. Today I am working off of one of the daily prompt posts: expectations, which actually works quite well with what I wanted to talk about. Let’s get started.

What he expects to happen: the answer to this question in two words is: a lot. When we got letters in the post addressed to both of us as kids he expected that he would get to open it, and kick up no small amount of fuss when he didn’t get his way. Simple stuff like who would sit in the front seat was a situation I learned to yield to early on because he expected it to be him every time and didn’t respect any attempt at compromise (No I will sit in the front on the way out and the way back thank you very much). More important stuff like birthday’s, family gatherings, and, god help us, weddings all received his best attempts to shape them to what he expected to happen. Now, despite a bubbling frustration when I was younger I came to learn that he didn’t force things to conform to his expectations because he was an evil megalomaniac (although), no, the reason he did this was because he was scared of the alternative. I like to think of his expectations as points on a map, and if he follows them he gets from where he began to where he wants to go. If he misses one point on his map, takes an unfamiliar path, then everything else is blank and he has no idea how to get to point B if he can get there at all. It’s hard to be angry at him for his belligerence when you consider just how scary life is without his points on the map.

What I expect to happen: the answer to this question in two words is: god knows. I like to say that my little brother was one of the most unpredictable people to ever follow a strict routine. The older he’s gotten, the more words and actions are likely to cause him to react in a negative fashion, even simple words like ok. Life became something like a minefield but as I got older I got better at managing this and picking which battles to fight, and which ones weren’t worth the trouble. Nowadays I expect resistance on certain issues and receive it every time, but I know which issues are worth standing my ground on. My little brother used to be quite physically aggressive when he was younger, and would occasionally try and bully his way into making things happen the way he expected them to. We met him head on with this telling him in no uncertain terms that this was just not going to happen.

Expectations that need changing: The above example about physical threats is just one example of an expectation that needs changing. We all get stuck in certain routines as we get older, and my little brother and other people with autism get stuck a lot quicker and have a harder time making new routines once formed. If you are in a similar situation then make it clear from the beginning that this does not work. I imagine this applies to children in general when growing up, it certainly did with me, but it’s important for someone with autism because once they’ve worked out that threatening to hit will make it that much easier to control their lives then breaking the habit is difficult if not impossible. Everyone I’ve ever met with autism is different in some way so the process is always going to be different, my only suggestion is consistency every time. My little brother thinks like an evil lawyer on some days, and if he spots the smallest inconsistency then he will exploit it so make sure that all family members are on the same page.

I meant for this to be at least a little bit amusing but this turned out a lot more serious than I imagined, but that doesn’t take away from what I’ve written. If you’re after something lighter with plenty of information and anecdotes The Little Book of Thomasisms is still available for pre-order here, with a sample chapter available here. It’s shameless self-promotion I know but I honestly think that some of the stuff I’ve written is informative, if not for parents, then for children and teens growing up with autistic siblings. I’ve been there, it can suck but it’s honestly not all bad. My brother is a force of personality and some days it seems easier to let him get his own way and excuse any negative behaviours as part of his autism. I personally think it’s important to know when he’s displaying negative behaviours out of fear and uncertainty, and yielding a little to help him cope, and when he’s just being a pint-sized tyrant to get his own way. I sometimes wonder if life would have been different growing up with a sibling without autism, but I always come back to this: he would still be my brother, and sometimes he would be a little bugger just cause.