Why does my son avoid the baby?

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Pteranomom
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19 May 2022, 4:05 pm

I have 4 kids. My youngest is about 6 months old and my HFA autistic kiddo is 12. This was a planned pregnancy, not an oops, they all have the same father, we have a very stable family life, etc.

My son will not look at the baby and yelps/screams if he accidentally sees him or if they accidentally touch. He tries not to be in the same room with the baby and puts his hands over his ears when the baby makes cooing noises. (These are not loud.)

He is upset by the idea of the baby eating. I understand why a kid might find breast-feeding icky, but he also runs away if his brother is eating mushy veggies with a spoon, or if I so much as mention giving the baby a bottle.

He seems to get angry sometimes when I talk to the baby; yesterday he broke a plastic spoon in anger when he heard me telling the baby he's a cutie.

My son says he likes the baby/doesn't hate him. He has never been aggressive toward the baby aside from once telling him to shut up when he was crying in the car. (Which I explained was not a good thing to say to a baby and he has not repeated.) He has never hurt him or messed with his toys. He does say hello to the baby, but in this way that is imitating his siblings (he often imitates. He does great impressions of famous people).

I have asked if he is jealous and he says no; I've asked if he thinks I sound stupid when I'm doing the baby voice and he said no, etc. He can't or maybe won't offer any explanation for his behavior. Unfortunately it's kind of a problem since we all live together, so I'd really like to help him get used to his baby brother enough that he can be comfortable being in the same room.

Has anyone here experienced anything similar? Do you have any idea what's going on in my kid's head, or how I can help him? Thank you.

Edited to add: he has had other aversions in the past. He used to be terrified of dogs. He was afraid they would lick him, and dogs can move in very unpredictable ways. But I helped him learn that dogs aren't going to randomly lick him, and he likes them now. So long as I know what the problem is. I can try to help.



Last edited by Pteranomom on 19 May 2022, 4:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Fnord
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19 May 2022, 4:07 pm

I think he is jealous, and either does not understand what it means, or he does and will not admit to being jealous.



IsabellaLinton
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19 May 2022, 4:11 pm

I agree with Fnord.

Your son could have difficulty understanding what jealousy is or how it feels. He might think jealousy is the same thing as envy (wanting someone's toys). Sibling-jealousy is common for many children but it might be especially confusing for someone on the spectrum. He could also have Alexithymia or problems knowing how his emotions feel. Being twelve, he might even know where babies come from. Perhaps that's making him uncomfortable.

If it's not those, it seems like a sensory problem related to the baby's noises, food textures, and probable smells.



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19 May 2022, 4:20 pm

Thanks, guys. You're probably right.



IsabellaLinton
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19 May 2022, 4:28 pm

I'm wondering if he could work with an OT?

They could help him to understand and express his feelings (not just about the baby but in general), and they can probably teach him some caregiving skills like a babysitting or first aid course. I think that might help him feel more empowered like he knows how he feels and how to help.



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19 May 2022, 6:43 pm

That's a nice idea. He used to get OT and PT through the local elementary, but he got too good and "graduated". He was upset about that, too--he loves those classes.



lostonearth35
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19 May 2022, 7:45 pm

Having three other siblings when you're on the spectrum is hard enough, but when one of them is a baby it can bring on all kinds of sensory issues. Babies tend to look really homely when they are born, they almost don't look human at all, when can be creepy or scary to a kid, even though they usually get cuter as they grow. And then there's all the odors: dirty diapers, baby powder, baby barf, lovely. Babies can be unpredictable with their sounds and movements. When I was a kid I couldn't watch them eat baby food because it would make me gag.

It could be jealousy as well. That's a problem even with NT kids that's been a problem since the beginning of history.

I'm always amazed when an woman aspie says she has babies, because I personally don't understand how she could handle all the unpleasant, uncomfortable, painful changes to her body and her whole life. But that's just me.



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20 May 2022, 12:34 am

(Oh, I actually find that pregnancy has a calming effect on my mood, which makes me feel pretty good.)



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20 May 2022, 6:09 am

It could be something as simple as anger at the change of home routine seeing the baby as representative of this "disorder".

12 is old enough to be held responsible for his actions and words. He needs to learn that if he fails to develop self-control and adaptability, he may have a very unpleasant life ahead of him. You might try getting him to acknowledge that he is deficient in this area and needs to improve.



Pteranomom
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20 May 2022, 10:38 am

Poor kid already gets that lecture.

His behavior has actually improved a lot over the past 6 months overall--last Dec/January was kind of a nadir of meltdowns/anger/misbehavior. Since then he has been trying to improve his behavior, but I think he could improve faster if he/we understood better what's motivating it.



Joe90
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20 May 2022, 5:55 pm

Maybe he's a bit afraid of babies, or even embarrassed. When I was a kid I used to get embarrassed when parents burped their baby, so I had to leave the room while they were being fed. I still get embarrassed now but I've learnt to hide it and I understand about babies now.

He'll grow used to the baby in time. He's probably still getting used to having a baby around the house.


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Pteranomom
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21 May 2022, 4:32 pm

Thanks, Joe. Luckily babies aren't babies forever. Hopefully he'll be ok with a toddler. It all makes me a little sad.



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22 May 2022, 2:33 pm

I think there could definitely be a sensory aspect to this as well as possible jealousy. Perhaps something to do with the sound of eating mushy foods, or the baby's crying?


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27 May 2022, 10:41 am

lostonearth35 wrote:
Having three other siblings when you're on the spectrum is hard enough, but when one of them is a baby it can bring on all kinds of sensory issues. Babies tend to look really homely when they are born, they almost don't look human at all, when can be creepy or scary to a kid, even though they usually get cuter as they grow. And then there's all the odors: dirty diapers, baby powder, baby barf, lovely. Babies can be unpredictable with their sounds and movements. When I was a kid I couldn't watch them eat baby food because it would make me gag.


I think this is absolutely what is happening. And it is not just with autism. It happened with my ADHD son, and I believe it can happen with simply sensitive people as well.

Humans are meant to have alert triggers to respond to babies' needs. It seems to be tuned too finely in some people and they are overwhelmed by it to the point that it is like being burned by a hot stove. They will run away from or lash out at a crying or messy baby before their conscious brain has time to think about it.

I believe you should try to keep your kid away from the baby in all but optimal situations and then try to increase tolerance slowly. Try to get the negative associations to an absolute minimum. The relationship will build naturally when the baby is older.



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27 May 2022, 12:52 pm

I do try to keep them apart, at least as much as I can in a small house without neglecting anyone. I've also taken to reassuring him that the baby is clean and not smelly (I was him every day, so he smells nice) or droolly when we are together, since he's concerned about messy things. He tends to do well when I reassure him that whatever he's worried about isn't going to cause a huge mess.



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02 Jun 2022, 2:02 pm

Aha, I got some insight by talking to my daughter, who is better able to articulate her internal states than my son. She also the baby, albeit to a lesser degree.

She says the baby is, in no particular order:
1. Funny looking. His head is too big for his body and even his hands seem weirdly proportioned.
I note that my daughter has never been into dolls (after the age of 2) and has been quite loudly opposed to them. She says dolls are "creepy." My son adores plush toys, including stylized smiley face plushes, but not dolls.

2. Feels weird. (Too soft, I guess.)

3. The baby puts his hands in his mouth, which gets spit on them, so if the baby touches you he gets spit on you. He also touches himself so he is effectively covered in spit.

4. He could poop at any time.

5. Doesn't talk, so you can't communicate with him.

In short, the baby is a squishy drooling homunculus who spontaneously poops.

I tried to be non-judgmental while she was talking and thanked her for her observations, though of course I felt a little compelled to defend the baby.

Since then I have tried mentioning to both of them how they love and accept their grandfather, even though he has ALS, which makes him look and sound different (and he drools and chokes while eating and a variety of other unpleasantries.) They're used to him because he's been that way their whole lives, and they know that despite his appearance, he's still a person inside. Likewise, even though the baby is funny looking, we should still try to be polite around it.