I cannot tell you how many times I have heard well meaning friends or family say “its only a phase” after seeing a child act a certain way. I wish it was that simple. Once we started on this Autism journey we started to learn that its never just a phase and children do things for a reason just like us adults do. Children are not manipulative but are making choices every single moment of the day like we do but they are immature and still learning why things happen and why people act the way they do. Children make wrong choices and good choices. Children make mistakes but isn’t that how we all learn? Children get emotional. A child’s behaviour tells us a lot about what is going on in their heads and is another way for them to tell us or rather show us what they are trying to convey.
So when I hear “its just another phase” uttered after observing a child’s behaviour I feel frustrated and disappointed. There has to be attempt to wonder why the child is crying incessantly. Are transitions from one activity to another hard? Why is the child hitting? Why is the child being disruptive? Are some situations just too hard because of all the sensory input? Does the child understand the expectations? Are we as parents or caregivers always saying “don’t do this” or “no” instead of emphasizing what we want them to do? Is he or she happy? What is he or she trying to tell us right now? When a baby cries we always go down the check list of hungry, diaper, or tired. How would I feel if someone observed how I was acting and said “she is going through a phase?” Probably the same way I do when I am told I am acting “hormonal.” I do not feel I am making excuses or over analyising. I am trying to understand and learn the best strategies instead of going down the road of punishment and “naughty stair.” Maybe because my child was nonverbal until age 4 we had to learn to really observe and some how figure out what he was trying to tell us with out words. I cannot imagine going through my day being told all the things I am doing wrong and being told “no” all the time. I would feel angry and frustrated. Do we congratulate our children enough about how they sat nice at the table or if they waited nicely? When I go through my daily routines I don’t endeavour to disappoint but do the right thing if I can. Do we respect our children enough to consider that they try and do the same?
If there are two things I have learned on this journey of learning about early child education and autism is there is always more to meets the eye when dealing with a child and we must always respect a child. We do not respect a child when we just say “its only a phase” because what they think or say is important.