No change please! ASD Son2 and the hair tong dilemma: Can you decide?

Tania writes:

Yesterday it was my birthday and I was very pleased to receive some wave-making hair tongs to bring a spot of variety to my poker-straight locks.

tania-bday13
The scene of the crime

I gave them a try that evening as we were going out for a family dinner to our favourite Italian (Il Colosseo in Farnborough in case you're interested). I was pretty pleased with the results and went to show Asperger's Son2 (almost 14) who was, as usual, ensconced in the Technolair.

He broke off from his laptop for a moment to have a look and I could tell by his face that it wouldn't be good.

"You look like a Disney Princess," he said. "I don't like it." He gave me a hard glare and turned back to his computer.

I was, actually, rather pleased with looking like a princess, especially given my advanced years - although there is always the danger of looking a bit mutton.

This reminded me of when I (obviously mistakenly) wore some purple crushed velvet leggings- something quite different and unusual for me. Son2 pointed at them and asked, "What is that fiasco? Take them off."

When I told him I wasn't going anywhere and no one would see me he replied that he would see me, because, of course, that was all that mattered. I have never worn them again.

Son2, like many children with ASD, finds change very difficult and for him, this is only getting worse as he gets older. It particularly includes anything different about me. As the central person in his life, he likes me to be the same at all times. He also doesn't like me being away, which can make life difficult.

tania-bday13-2
Don't mention the hair...

When we got to the restaurant, me still with the dreaded waves intact, I made the mistake of mentioning to my sister-in-law, within Son2's hearing, that he was unhappy with my Disney Princess look. This, of course, reminded him of his unhappiness and that, coupled with the noise of the restaurant, was too much. He refused to speak or to order any main course or eat any birthday cake and sat plugged into his iPad for most of the rest of the evening.

It was only near the end of the evening, when he pulled up the familiar images on his iPad of his carefully-painted Warhammer figures that he began to relax and managed to have some after-dinner mints.

I could have kicked myself for mentioning the hair when we were at the restaurant. It's a bit like the Fawlty Towers German/war scene: Don't mention the hair. I mentioned it once and I think I got away with it.  I got away with it in the house, but alas, the second time meant the evening teetered on the edge of disaster.

I think it illustrates how easy it is to slip up when you're walking on eggshells most of the time. Life is not normal, even though your kids have no visible sign of disability. I wasn't thinking about the repercussions of careless talk.

When we got home, I tied my hair back but it wasn't enough. This morning I went into him with freshly washed and back-to-normal straight hair. He opened his eyes, looked at it and sighed happily. Everything was as it should be.

So what do I do with the hair tongs? Do I keep using them in the hope he'll just get used to them or pack them away in their box? Help me out and vote below!

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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two young adults with autism. Tania is a member of the Whole School SEND Expert Reference Group for SEND Leadership, the Ofsted SEND Inspections Stakeholders Group, and sits on the Advisory Board of the Royal Holloway, University of London Centre of Gene and Cell Therapy.
She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
Tania Tirraoro
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14 Comments

  1. Tania Tirraoro

    Juliana Carson said: – 4 minutes ago
    Oh you made me smile ! ( Happy Belated Birthday, by the way !! ) You can keep the hair irons and use them again – but the response from the boys will be the same – if nothing else – they are consistant !! It is a bit of a bugger when we try anything new, even if i change the fabric softener – i get a lecture. Nothing must change – not my perfume, fashion, shoes, furniture – even the loo paper must be the same !!! But – i love reading your blogs, you just say what we all think – in your own way, and makes our wierd and wonderful lives feel normal !

  2. Happy belated birthday Tania – Thats a beautiful post, I can so relate, my son will be the first to notice any small changes I make, perfumes/clothes/hairstyles/facial expressions etc. Sometimes I feel owned by him – I try and make peaceful compromises – but in the same way he is the first to critique something, he is also the first to compliment (although thats a bit rarer) – Keep tonging girl 🙂 x

  3. vaguest

    I am so lucky! A few years ago any change to my style would have resulted in a similarly negative response from my AS son. In fact I had it cut once and he burst into tears at the sight of it. So when I wanted to make more extreme changes to my hair more recently, I decided to talk to him about it first, so he was pre-warned about the upcoming change. In fact he said, “It’s your hair, Mum, you can do what you want with it.” This relaxation of the need for things to be the same has come about mainly as a result of him being in a specialist school (which is a whole other story!) Mind you, the reactions lend weight to my concerns about my youngest being on the spectrum, since when I had it cut she also burst into tears and was inconsolable for some time. But the pink and blue dye went down very well, especially since they were involved in choosing the colours and helping with the process by telling me if I’d missed any bits at the back 🙂

  4. I have had the same problem, and have a wardrobe of unworn skirts as I have to wear jeans. What helped me was exploring why my son didn’t like me to change, why I had to wear the same swimsuit or the same jeans and t-shirts. it turns out that he doesn’t recognise people by their faces but by what they are wearing or in some cases their voices. This came to light when we had twins walking our dogs, one was a goth with long black hair, the other a normal teenager with shoulder length brown hair. He couldn’t tell them apart because their voices sounded the same!

    That lead to a gentle exploratory conversation, and it turned out that he couldn’t tell me apart from anyone else in the swimming pool except by my swimsuit, and it scared him that he wouldn’t be able to find me. I realised that he wasn’t being stubborn when he ‘didn’t like change’ it was actually a real problem if I wore different clothes, changed my hair or glasses. He really depended on me looking the same so that I didn’t disappear into a crowd of people. It must be pretty scary to lose your mum that way.

    So I stay the same, and I get to forget about fashion which is actually quite nice. I don’t have dilemmas about what to wear! Sometimes when you understand what is behind their problems, they stop being problems.

  5. Tania Tirraoro

    Yvonne Melia said: – 6 hours ago
    Hello Sister, how I laughed at your blog! Can I change my vote please? I vote keep using them and don’t mention it next time, maybe just around the house at first until he stops noticing. Remember (back to the war reference), careless talk costs lives. We hope you had a lovely day anyway, sorry I am so hopeless with birthday cards, we LOVE your Disney Princess curls and think you look beautiful (especially Eliza). Love xxx

  6. I would say you need to do whatever makes you happy – I voted for the hair tongs – but it is what make’s you feel happy, feel good about yourself and makes you feel alive. I firmly believe that if the battle is worth winning, then it is worth fighting… and have learnt up my journey that you need to fight larger so you are happy with the compromise that follows….. so get out the facepaint and once you spend the day face painted as a pig complete with a nose ring, with beautiful curled locks…. you might win this battle…. as you can compromise by taking off the facepaint and the curls will be a delightful return to something almost normal :)There is one condition though – we need photos of the facepaint – otherwise it wont work!

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