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Stepmom to possible aspie - help!

Discussion in 'Parenting & Autism Discussions' started by stepmom2aspie, Nov 29, 2017.

  1. stepmom2aspie

    stepmom2aspie New Member

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    Hello - I am a stepmom to a 16 year old stepdaughter (who I'll call SD16) who I believe has Asperger's. I've observed her for 4 years now and I have become more and more convinced as time has gone by. My husband agrees but he has never had her evaluated. I think this is because he didn't want her to be treated differently, he knew his ex-wife wouldn't support getting her evaluated and even if he managed to do so she would blame him since he has an uncle with autism. This woman is the type of person who would tell her daughter - I'm sorry you have autism because of your father! He can't bear to be blamed for yet another thing by her.

    My husband has struggled with SD16 her entire life. She has always had social issues, ticks, hyper-sensitivity to the feel of clothing, taste/texture of foods, sounds, etc. She was bullied quite a bit through elementary and middle school. She has never been affectionate. She does not come across as loving or empathetic. If she is - she hides it well. She talks too loud, interrupts a lot and will want to go on and on and on about a topic she's interested in and wants no one else to add anything. She sees no reason why she shouldn't be able to say something like "I don't like this food you made. It's gross."

    I came on the scene when she was 12 - already a hard age to come into a girl's life. She basically rejected me from the start and has never brought her walls down and shown acceptance. I feel she just tolerates me now.

    She has a younger sister - SD13. She was 9 when I first met them. She's basically the total opposite. She accepted me from the beginning and has NOT ONCE gotten mad at me, shown frustration, or rejected me in any way. She's extremely loving, affectionate and empathetic. She makes elaborate hand-made cards for me with paragraphs about how awesome I am and how much she loves me lol I know that sounds over the top but I'm serious!

    I treated both girls the exact same way from the start. I was respectful, kind, generous, supportive and encouraging. I never disciplined them in the beginning - I left that to their father. I didn't discipline either of them directly until years in. I've gotten 2 totally different reactions from these 2 girls who have the same parents and were raised in the same households. Yes, I know siblings can be very different from each other but this is extreme!

    I've tried and tried to connect with SD16. I've drastically adjusted my approach with her since she seemed more irritated than pleased with my tendency to be nice, supportive and encouraging. I'm more laid-back like "hey what's up?" rather than "How are you!? It's so good to see you again!" She expresses no interest in receiving cards or gifts. I've bought her many things she's even asked for and most of the time she never uses them. They end up thrown in the bottom of her closet never to be seen again. When I tried calmly explaining to her that it hurts my feelings when I get her things she specifically asked for and she never uses them - she literally did not get it AT ALL. SD13 was even in the room with us and was looking at her and me like ????? - sorry I don't get my sister either! She did say one thing that was somewhat revealing. I said - do you understand that it makes me feel bad when you do this? and she said - "I don't think I even understand how I feel." Which I think is true!

    I try to just work with how she is but I feel like I'm walking on eggshells. Her dad and I don't dare to ever ask her to do anything like pick up the trash that she threw on the floor or rinse her dish in the sink or not leave her disgusting plaque-encrusted retainer out on the kitchen table that she refuses to brush. That's another thing- she has no interest in taking care of her body. She would be content to eat chips, candy and ice cream all day everyday and sees no reason why this isn't ok. Her mother is even a doctor and she doesn't get it. I swear her mom has asperger's too. SD16 doesn't bathe, brush her teeth, brush her hair, or even change her underwear everyday! We've gone on week-long trips and I've checked her bag and she brings no extra underwear at all. Her dad talked to her mom about this and it was like talking to a brick wall. Her mother just kept making excuses for her. She said she would talk to her about these things but then later told my husband - well she brushes her teeth at MY house, etc. Like oh it must just be your fault that she's not doing these things at your house.

    I'm to the point where I don't want to try anymore. She comes over, makes messes, doesn't help out, acts rude towards all of us, insults my cooking, interrupts constantly, acts b*tchy, makes no apologies and if we ever try talking to her about certain issues like expressing empathy she reacts to us as though we're the crazy ones. She doesn't see the need to do A, B or C therefore there must be no need to do A, B or C. It doesn't help that her mother doesn't see the need for these things either - or she's just so hellbent on making her daughter think SHE'S the awesome one because she never scolds her or tries to get her to improve upon anything.

    I'm very frustrated and feel I've hit a wall with her. I don't even want to interact with her anymore. I feel like the next time she comes over and is rude and refuses to help I'm just gonna tell her to leave and not come back until she can be respectful and help out. Her father has actually done this with her before. We didn't see her for a little over a month. She even missed her dad's b-day. She was a tiny bit better for a time but of course it made no real impact.

    My husband isn't more strict with her like taking her phone away as a consequence because he thinks she'll actually be physically violent with him. He's ex-wife was at certain points in their marriage - she would push him up against a wall and try to choke up out with her forearm. Both SD16 and her mom probably weigh more than my husband.

    It feels like a very precarious situation and like I'm a prisoner in my own home when she comes over.
     
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  2. Tom

    Tom Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Whether NT or Aspie (and I mean Aspie in the sense of any High Functioning Autistic) if you don't deal with kid issues when they are little you are going to be facing them when they are big and more entrenched. All kids need discipline but the process is different when dealing with Aspies. To deal with Aspies well you have to understand their condition and behaviors to a fair extent. The parents blew it with SD16 and I would try and leave that entirely to the parents. Because they have never dealt with it you would be injecting yourself in the middle of a three way debacle most likely. SD13 sounds like a different story and make the most of it. If you are certain SD16 has autism, you might try studying up on it and engaging on your own with her in a more informed way.
     
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  3. Judge

    Judge Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Sounds like all the anger and resentment of a marriage that spilled over into the lives of at least one of their children. And perhaps long before the marriage formally terminated. Where a child took her mother's side.

    In as much as you sincerely want to "purify the water she drinks", her biological mother may have long ago "poisoned that well". Which would reflect her poor relationship with both you and her father. Regardless of whether she is on the spectrum of autism or not.

    Equally her sibling may have been young enough to either not understand or be so heavily influenced by her mother as is her older sister. Unfortunately I just don't see focusing on the girl's probable autism as being particularly helpful under such circumstances.

    Given she's so close to legal adulthood in less than two years, I'm not sure there is an answer to such a dilemma. Not unless your stepdaughter should suddenly have some "change of heart" which could be anytime from now to never which might depend on how she matures in time.

    Sometimes a divorce can create long-term or even permanent "collateral damage" to the children, let alone an unsuspecting stepparent. You have my condolences.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
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  4. stepmom2aspie

    stepmom2aspie New Member

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    that's what i was afraid of - that they blew it, in a way. she's so defiant in general that even getting her evaluated now would be a fight. even if more than one professional diagnosed her with aperger's, HFA, or anything else she wouldn't accept it. and her mother saying it's BS wouldn't help.

    i don't really expect to get her evaluated and i'm not sure it would be helpful anyway but i really was just looking for a way to interact with her that wouldn't be so fraught with conflict but everything i've read isn't really helpful. most advice is for people with little kids - kids who are diagnosed young and therefore you can work with them early on certain behaviours i.e. figuring out how to interact with NT people

    but what if a kid was never taught? what if a kid thinks - i know i'm different than most people but it's just that most people aren't as good as me. and therefore she has no interest in accommodating other people. hearing them out. nothing. she's basically like - well i don't care about *blank* so you shouldn't either. end of story.

    i actually think she'll probably do fine career-wise. she's very smart and a hard-worker. in fact, achieving academically and later career-wise seems to be her main reason for living. but i worry about her emotional state. she comes across as very anxious and depressed. i recognize this in her because I, myself, have anxiety and depression. i think she's written off ever having a romantic relationship with anyone because she's seen her mother fail miserably at it twice. i think her goal is to be like her mother but even better. she wants to achieve like her mother has (or do even better) but also not get side-tracked by any useless relationships. (side note: the reason her mom and dad's relationship didn't work out is because mom treated dad like crap all the time and he got sick of it....no surprise that SD16 treats him the same way).

    i plan to basically stay out of the way but the only problem is, if she comes to my house and eats the food that i make - i want no complaints. if she makes a mess - i expect her to clean it up, not me. her dad does ask her to do things but she's just such a biotch about it he tends to pick his battles veeeerrrrrry sparingly. i try to tell them that he's letting her "win" - she has learned that if she is enough of a biotch she won't have to do anything! i feel like i have to be the bad guy in order not to get walked all over. he doesn't wanna hear it from SD16 and later from her mother. it's a double whammy.

    i cannot wait til she's an adult and i can expect adult behavior from her or else she can simply not visit. bye felicia! lol

    sorry if that sounds harsh but i've had 4 years of being treated like i'm not worthy of respect in my own home. i have to draw the line somewhere.
     
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  5. Gracey

    Gracey Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I've seen something similar with my own niece and her step mum.

    Step mum came along with a different set of expectations than my nieces were used to.
    They tried, she tried but it didn't really work out so well. It caused a lot of friction and disagreements amongst the family.
    Step mum told my niece's they weren't welcome to stay at their dad's any longer due to their 'disrespect' for the step mum's rules.

    My nieces are more independent now and the step mum no longer has a legal duty of care.
    They all get on with their own lives and are civil at best.


    There are worse things your step daughter could be doing to or in your home however, if you really feel at the end of your patience and can no longer tolerate her behaviour I can only suggest that perhaps you think long and hard over your next decision and discuss it with your husband.

    I'm inclined to agree with @Judge above, break ups can have devastating effects on children, add raging hormones into the mix and it isn't going to be at all pleasant.

    If SD16's mum in her role as a doctor (medical doctor?) hasn't picked up on any Autism traits in the past 16 years, or any indicators that may warrant investigation then I'm guessing (because I know so little about your situation) that there maybe other reasons to explain behaviour.?

    I wish you luck.
     
  6. stepmom2aspie

    stepmom2aspie New Member

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    gracey-

    SD16 was only 5 when her mom and dad split. she even told me once that it didn't affect her, that she didn't care that it happened. she barely remembers them being together. of course, i know that SHE may not understand how that may have affected her but i do believe that it's not something she thinks about much or worries about. i don't think she has any desire for her parents to get back together. she sees how different they are and i thinks she's perfectly happy to mainly live with her mom and only visit dad.

    SD13 was only 2 and definitely doesn't remember her parents being together. she is more the type of kid that may have wondered from time to time what it would have been like if her parents had stayed together. and she may wish that they could get along better. but i think she too sees how different they are and that it couldn't work.

    yes, there are issues with kids after divorce but SD16's issues go well beyond that. her dad has told me all sorts of info about SD16 from throughout her life that indicate asperger's or something like it. he had residential custody first because he was a stay-at-home dad. he never got her eval'd after divorce because he was reeling from it and trying to get his life back on track. by the time he did it was time for their mom to have residential custody and they were all adjusting to that. then mom got a bf and moved him in. then dad met me and moved me in. then we found out mom's bf was molesting SD13! which is a whole other story.

    i say all this to give a better picture why SD16 was never eval'd. and yes, she has issues due to what happened to her sister as well. her most likely being asperger's just makes dealing with everything in her life that much harder. despite SD13 going what she went through she's actually much more emotionally stable than SD16!

    i think SD16 needs therapy at the very least but she'll never get it because as her mom said when we suggested post molestation-revelation -"she's just like me. she won't talk." and that was the end of discussion. her mom can't stand failure. she sees SD13 being molested as her failure and i think she just can't stand to admit that SD16 may have issues as well that need to be dealt with.

    maybe it's not my place to worry about any of this but IT IS my place to have certain expectations in my household. expectations that their dad has as well. and they don't even reach the level of expectations that most people have for kids in first families. the kids i know in first families (i.e. not divorced/stepfamilies) have to do way more chores, they have a set routine that must be followed for the most part, rudeness isn't tolerated - period - and there are consequences! all i ask is not to be directly insulted and not to have to clean up after a 16 year old as if she's 5!

    what i would like most is direct advice about how to approach communication with SD16 especially if i need to ask her to do something like pick up her trash off the floor. and don't bother saying to ask her dad to do it every time because sometimes he's not there or he's doing something else and it's super inconvenient to go get him and ask him to go do it. it just isn't a natural series of actions. i should be able to nicely ask SD16 to do something that is very reasonable without her being a total b*tch about it and argue with me endlessly about why she shouldn't have to do said thing.

    and IF she refuses to follow our rules in our house then there should be consequences.

    most of what i'm hearing about dealing with asperger's kids is - don't bother disciplining them. they won't get it and that's ok cuz they just live in a different reality than you and you need to accept it! even though 75% of people do not live in that reality. i'm sorry but that just does not sound like a recipe for success for these kids. i would think the best thing is to teach them how the majority of people interact in society. not that they need to interact with society 24/7. they can go into their bubbles but when they come out of that bubble they can't expect the whole world to change for them.
     
  7. Judge

    Judge Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Bear in mind that here, you're most likely dealing with autistic adults. Not autistic children. Here is the reality for most of us "coming out of that bubble":

    There is no "recipe for success" for us in a world which expects or demands that we conform to their way of thinking and communicating. There is only stressful and exhausting mimicry and masking of autistic traits and behaviors, many of which may be neurologically "hard-wired" preventing us from modifying them in whole or in part. Most of us do so pragmatically with limited results merely to keep our asses from routinely being kicked for perceived social indiscretions by unforgiving and indifferent Neurotypicals.

    However none of that will likely change the minds of children who are caught in the middle of uber-messy divorces. For them it's either side with or be programmed Mom or Dad. IMO your issues with your stepdaughter are mutually exclusive when it comes to her possibly being on the spectrum of autism, and a child from a broken home.

    One thing for sure. It's unreasonable to expect much of any child to become self-aware of their autism with no prospect of a formal diagnosis which can only be initiated by a parent or guardian.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
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  8. kay

    kay Well-Known Member

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    This really seems to be an issue with you and the parents rather than you and SD16. It is her parents that have failed and not her. She has had, from what you have said, what appears to be a rather unsettled life. Rather than continue to think of this kid as a b***h, look at the environment that she has been in. If there is a chance she was sexually assaulted by the mother's ex boyfriend that may explain some of her behavior. And remember, you see it as your home but she rightfully sees it as her home as well. If she is autistic it's likely you may do all sorts of things that stress her out so that she acts out more. Right now I am dealing with the stress of having someone put their toothbrush in MY toothbrush holder for a week. And they will be back and most likely do it again. I don't bother to tell them because it is my bf's adult son who grew up in this house and in no way do I want him to feel unwelcome. So, I am just going to figure out a new place for my toothbrush before he comes back that he won't use. But the toothbrush thing, as small as it seems, just about causes me to cry. So if you can understand that at 12-16 having you pop into her already messy life is just more than she could cope with and she had no say in it at all. Anyway, I think the issue is you have is really with the girl's parents. She didn't raise herself.
     
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  9. Ambi

    Ambi Well-Known Member

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    You know....unless you are misunderstanding her behaviors.....I don't think those social issues of rejection have to do with her ASD. Just my own, amateur opinion. ASD doesn't make people mean and rejecting...but sometimes I think our facial expressions and responses can be construed that way, even if it's not our intention. She may well have ASD, but her being obnoxious or spoiled....that's just her personality, or maybe she has some other kind of psychological issue. But that girl needs help - just because mom and dad put up with that doesn't mean the world will - she'll never make it in the world like that. I think that is her biological parents' responsibility, but I don't know if they'll take it up. I never wanted to make people feel bad, but they always thought I was so dour - when really, I was anxious and depressed - and on edge from that. But if people were nice to me, I was very appreciative of that. I remember volunteering with a child with autism once...and I remember the look in his eyes - I remember that it didn't at all seem like he *wanted* to be a problem - he *wanted* to be "good" to not be a problem.

    Anyways...I don't have much of use to say, but I just wanted to say - you poor woman! I hope things get better.
     
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  10. OkRad

    OkRad Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    It seems very clear to me you do not like her ----and I just met you. There is a good chance she feels VERY unliked, especially with you and the younger sister getting along so swimmingly.

    In every comment you made about her, there was very little about her strengths, what she has endured, the hard road she has.......it is all about how she is big and loud and interrupts and you painted a very unsavoury picture of a young girl in a lot of pain.

    Sad to say, but I would be hard pressed to do anything but take her side and help her gently endure what she must so she can move onto a life where people can write even one paragraph about how beautiful she is.
     
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  11. Gracey

    Gracey Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    But you're not dealing with 75% of people are you? You're trying to understand SD16.
    A unique individual with, it would seem, a reluctance or inability to say how she feels.

    Of course you have every right to lay down the law in your own home, everyone does.

    If you treat her like 75% of people (which she hasn't responded positively to thus far) no wonder you're at the end of your tether, you're wasting your breath and I should imagine very frustrated.

    Tough love won't work. Expecting her to come out of her; as you so delicately phrase it, "Aspie bubble"is an unrealistic expectation and you may be doing more harm than good.

    Try to see the world through her eyes? Understand her reality, if indeed she's on the spectrum. It may give you a better idea of how to adapt and make a real connection with her.

    "My way or the highway" never bodes well as there's clearly something troubling this young lady.

    Perhaps you're right in trying to organise some therapy for her?
    If she doesn't feel she can talk to you or her dad, maybe a stranger(therapist) may help - preferably one that understands the spectrum.

    Understanding what makes this young lady tick is the route to adapting your own perception and expectations (you being the adult and responsible for her while she's in your care)

    Consistent unconditional love, warmth, the patience of a saint and acceptance should work. It's not going to be easy and I don't envy your predicament:)

    I do agree with everyone mucking in with the chores though. Perhaps that will need putting into context for her.
    I doubt she'll be very sympathetic with how much work it makes for you when she's untidy so that approach won't be an effective one.
    (That's 16 yr old hormonal teenager and not Aspie :) )
    Do some research, understand how she ticks and get creative with your ideas?

    I would like to offer effective solutions by way of tried and tested methods for you to follow but the spectrum is so wide ranging and those on it differ in abilities there is no 'one size fits all'
     
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  12. LucyPurrs

    LucyPurrs NT, INFJ V.I.P Member

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    Suggest you consider starting with some very basic structure and consequences ( which have to be both positive and negative). She sounds like she needs a lot of structure. By very basic I mean things like get up, brush teeth , take bath/shower and put on clean clothes. You may need to teach her how to do each of these things if she doesn't know. Maybe you should have a wardrobe of clothes for her at your house if she doesn't bring enough underwear, enough changes of clothes etc. A reward could be that she gets to pick them out and what she wants to wear each day (only clean clothes are choices). Perhaps a basic rule like breakfast, lunch and dinner are contingent on her being clean, groomed and dressed in clean clothes to sit down and eat. This may sound harsh but she will never make it at a job or have any social success if she is unclean, smelly and wearing dirty clothes all the time. I'd make a chart and have her use it to guide her behavior daily. This may sound very juvenile but you will need to start her at the level she is at maturationally.
    You could go for some counseling with an autism knowledgeable counselor to get support and help re how to best deal with her and your husband.
     
  13. Bella Pines

    Bella Pines Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Wow, I thought I had a lot to deal with but you've taken on so much and have put in so much good work. I know you probably feel like giving up after a hard 4 year uphill struggle, but it sounds like you've made real progress. Step outside the situation for a second and read what you have written. You have tried different things, you have been there for years, you have tried gifts. That's a lot of progress. You've hit the nail on the head with the laid back approach. Aspies can't stand the emotional offloading and enthusiasm. When I get home from work my husband just nods at me as I go past, he knows to let me settle in and not to come on too strong too soon.


    Now for the bad news. I probably shouldn't say this because you are in a hard enough position as it is. But I agree with @OkRad, you are focusing on the bad points, you've listed everything that she struggles with and not a single positive trait. Aspies are often quite intelligent, they are logical, they see things independently, they are less likely to be duped by false news reports, they are good at spotting patterns, they have focused special interests.

    You see her as b*tchy, that's not the case, she is simply logical and states facts. You see her as rude, that is not the case, she simply doesn't make flowery statements. You are offended if she doesn't like one of your gifts, that is not the case, she simply has no use for it.

    I'm in my 40s now with a husband and 2 children of my own and 30 years ago I was SD16. And I have to agree with her, to me, it does sound like you're the crazy ones. I brush my hair because people get fussy if I don't. I don't really see the purpose to it. I change my underwear everyday because people think I should, but ultimately, humans have been smelling the way they smell for millions of years. Why should I smell differently because glaxosmythklein tells me to? Why should I put on deodorant and smell like a flower, do I want to attract bees? Not particularly.

    So please don't give up, it really sounds like she could learn a lot from you about how to fit in to society. The first step would be to break the communication barrier, look for something good about her, just one thing. Try to stop focusing on the things she does that "hurt you" or that you judge to be socially unacceptable. Then once you've learned to accept her, that will teach her how to accept you. And feel free to post specific incidents, like "my step daughter just had a meltdown and smashed all the crockery in the house, what do I do?". Someone here will probably answer "buy new crockery" :)
     
  14. Jana Delaney

    Jana Delaney Member

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    I read your original post all the way through, even though it was quite long, and formed several conclusions, which may or not be correct, but I shall convey them anyway, in the hope that it may contribute towards some expansion of your perspective.

    It is very obvious from your post that you dislike your stepdaughter, even to the point of comparing her to her 'normal' sister. If you think she is unaware that you dislike her, you are mistaken. Secondly, you see her as a 'problem', which needs to be fixed, which is, either overtly or covertly, how most non-autistic people see autistic people. The general message in your post is one of judgment; harsh judgement at that. Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change. Whilst I realise that having feelings of dislike and antipathy towards Autistic people is practically an International sport, I personally feel no particular obligation to pander to it, humour it, or pretend that it is in anyway logical, justified, rational or fair. It isn't. What struck me particularly about your post was your descriptions of lecturing your stepdaughter regarding her 'hurting your feelings'. She will, whether she, or you are directly aware of it, be picking up the 'vibes' of your dislike for her. Also, she is not responsible for your feelings. Being offended is a choice, no matter how difficult that may be for all human beings to accept. If you feel she is ungrateful, don't buy her any more gifts, there is no law which says you have to. And try to stop comparing her to her sister; it's kind of a shitty thing to do. Hope this provides some much needed perspective.
     
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  15. Homebrand

    Homebrand Giver and receiver of good vibes

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    If the biggest concerns of the mother and father are who will get the blame then thats truely sad. The focus your be the investigations, possible diagnosis, education for parents and the child around any diagnosis and any appropriate interventions needed that could better support the development of this child.

    Also getting to completely different reactions seems fairly normal sense these are two completely different people with their own view and feelings. Plus the kid is 16 and even at the age of 12 when you met the girls, Its right at that age or puberty and hormone changes. I'm not saying though that she couldn't still be autistic but just some things worth considering.

    Autism or not she is 16 and you should be mature enough not to take every little thing to heart just because your feelings are not a priority to her and I say this not to be rude but because SHE IS 16! In regards to her pulling her wait and behaving with respect to you and your partner as parents, it shouldn't matter how she is treated at her mothers or what is expected of her at her mothers. Your house, your rules and children need to be taught to have respect and pull their wait, teenagers especially will rarely display respect and just do a bunch of random chores unless these things are taught.

    Personally I think the best approach is a real matter-of-fact attitude. Its not step 1. asking for chores to be done and step 2. complaining if there not done. Its step 1. these are you chore and you are expected to do them now or at this particular time, daily ect. and if there not done - step 2. get up now and do this chore or 'this and that privileged will be taken away' and then you will still be required to carry out the chore.
    Being afraid of her reactions and therefor allowing her to get away with what she wants as a great way to lose all parental control and give up your rights to tell her what to do in any way from this point on. That's not okay because as a child she's not mature enough to take on full responsibility for herself yet. I'm a believer that the parent should lead the child and not the other way around.

    As for any possible disabilities ignoring the problem and hoping it will not exist is not a solution. Its probably less important whether she does or doesn't have a disability than the importance of finding out either way. You can't find solutions to a problem if you don't know the problem even exists.

    (Oh hey apologies If I seem like I'm being a know-it-all or that I'm trying to tell you what to do as though I know better. Only meaning to give advise on what I would do in that situation.)