Wanted: Parenting Advice

Lizze and I have found ourselves in a position where we aren’t sure what the right thing to do is. Normally these positions revolve around Gavin but this time it’s Elliott.

As many of you know, Elliott has aspergers and severe anxiety.  He’s been through a great deal in his life, especially in the last month or so.

This week at school is martial arts promotion and the schools annual Christmas program. Elliott wants nothing to do both either.  Promotion is actually this afternoon around 2pm. However, that conflicts with Elliott‘s weekly OT appointment.

At this point, Elliott is doesn‘t want to miss OT. He’s also dead set on not participating in the Christmas show his classroom is putting on this Thursday.

As his parent, I’m at a loss as to what we should do.

I understand what’s behind this.  He really needs OT and knows that it will help him to feel better. He’s been through a lot this past weekend and is grappling for some control and stability in his life.  Personally, I’m of the mindset to let him have it.  Lizze however, thinks he should at least go to promotion.

Part of me knows that she’s right. Promotion is a pretty big deal and it’s all about building him up. She’s absolutely right

However, we both don‘t want to make his anxiety any worse.


He’s already struggling with the fact that we had to put my old dog Rogue down over the weekend.  She has been there all his life and now she’s not. 

This is really his first run in with loss.  Do we really want to push him?

It’s not like he’s asking to just stay home.  He wants to go to OT and that’s productive and a physical outlet. I want to give him control over his life, as does Lizze.  The question is, how much control?

As far as the Christmas show on Thursday, I honestly couldn’t care less what he does. This is something put on for the parents and he’s really freaked out by this.  Lizze and I don‘t want to force him to do something that really isn’t important in the grand scheme of things, especially if it will upset him this much. 

He told me today that he’s having a hard time remembering the words to the songs and he gets confused and embarrassed.

I’ve offered to help him learn the words as well as encouraged him to go through with it. 

However, I think that all he really wants is to be rescued from this and told that he doesn‘t have to do it.  Again, I’m of the mindset to let him make the choice.

Having said that, I don‘t know if that’s the right thing to do. 

I mean, Elliott‘s only 6 years old and lost a great deal in a short amount of time.  If he needs to make some decisions in his life, shouldn’t we let him? We’re not talking life or death decisions here. We’re talking attending events at school that have him extremely anxious. 

Of course, he’s going to have to learn to do things, even though he doesn‘t want to.  However, he has the rest of his life to do that.  We have a chance to provide him with some relief and I don‘t see a compelling reason not to give it to him.

What would you do? Have any of your kids been in a similar situation? How have you handled it? How much control do you give a 6 year old little boy?

I would really appreciate your thoughts on this. 

Rob Gorski

Full time, work from home single Dad to my 3 amazing boys. Oh...and creator fo this blog. :-)
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My oldest could  not handle the school performance at 6 so we skipped it. He could not even handle getting onstage without a meltdown. I was disappointed, but decided to roll with the punches. he was okay with it at age 7 and did all three performances even though he was nervous.  Last year he got stage fright and  opted out of the nighttime performance. I was a little bummed, but he has anxiety and from personal experience, all that sensory stuff going on can be so overwhelming. It feels like the ceiling is crashing down and the floor is flooding all around your feet and there’s nothing you can do to stop it when sensory overload and anxiety hit like that. Not to mention the anticipation if you have social anxiety. It’s the worst feeling of doom and dread ever. I think Lizze’s idea is great. If he can handle one of the two events, then that should be considered a success, given his recent high anxiety. Maybe next year will feel a bit easier for him anxiety wise.

wendy roberts

This time of year is HELL on aspies. Mine is 17 and has come a LONG way. I used to have to bribe him with a new game to do the Christmas concerts lol but he also got the very next day off even if it was a school day. He needed to decompress after the event. There’s no harm in letting him miss because of everything else going on. You can always suggest that in return, he has to sing along to the songs at home with his family so that’s way he’s made that contribution?


I agree with the others here.  I would let him make this decision based on what he’s been going through lately.  Since he is picking OT, which a valid choice, let him make it.  Maybe add the stipulation that the next promotion will be attended?  I can see where the Christmas program may be too much for him and get why he probably doesn’t want to attend that.

Mary Franzen Costello

I forced my typical son to be in the church Xmas program. It did nothing for him but give us a memory of him moping, not singing, in silly donkey ears. If I had to do it over again, I would have let him off the hook, cause it was really all about me wanting to see him up there. I know nothing about promotions, so I can’t speak to whether its the same thing. Having a kiddo with sensory issues, I know how important therapy is. Sensory diets really are huge to our kiddos. The wrong sensory input can put them in a tailspin for hours .


I agree with everyone else.  There’s no event for 6 year olds that is more important than knowing that your parents will listen to your fears and help you.


Quick question: is there any chance that Elliot actually has something going on at school that is a problem? The obvious possibility is bullying, but teachers or interacting with Gavin (the do go to the same school, right?) are other options. 
I ask this because Elliot, like you and your wife, seems like the kind of person who will do everything they can to minimize or hide his own problems in order to avoid burdening others. He’s smart, so he may be good enough at hiding it that the magnitude of the problem is not immediately apparent to the teachers.


I’m no expert here but I would think he has plenty of years to learn the lesson that we have to sometimes do things we don’t want to do or that are good for us, and if he is that stressed and upset about going to or being involved in these things they won’t be of any benefit to him. Regarding the Christmas production maybe you speak to the teacher and get him a less demanding part – like playing an instrument, so that he can feel involved still. Just an idea.


I recommend giving him control in the ability to voice his opinion and know that he is being heard, but not that he gets to decide what happens.  Your choice should be about what will give him and the family the most benefit.  And do not allow him to make up excuses in order to get out of something; we all do that occasionally but with his issues he could easily begin doing it all the time.  You would have the same situation that you have with Gavin as in you would have a hard time figuring whether he is being truthful about something.  You could ask him how he feels about each activity and what his concerns may be about going/not going.  If participating is too difficult then maybe he should go as a spectator; that way he still has to attend but has the ability to see it from the outside instead of being in the middle of any perceived chaos.


I would take him to OT.  the other stuff isn’t as important as what he needs right now.  he needs to feel “normal” at least as normal as he feels. 
My oldest boy has sensory issues.  gets physically ill if there is too much noise/stimuli when he is in the area.  As a result, we really strive to limit how much we push him to special school events.  Just my thoughts my friend.  No matter what you do, follow your heart.  Elliott will show you the way.


You have been writing about Elliott’s difficulties for a while. He is obviously struggling with a lot of stress and anxiety. I think on a day-to-day basis your children have a lot to deal with, and they are on the go all the time to various appointments, therapies, etc. He’s telling you he needs a break, and that the special school program is too much for him. It seems pretty clear to me.
Kids with special needs are just that. They aren’t like mainstream children. My son used to freak out at school parties, and promotion ceremonies. Too much noise, too many people. We tell ourselves that these events are for the kids, but in many ways it’s for parents, to make us feel we are doing the right thing for our kids. Those needs are societal needs, not the needs of our kids.
As Elliott gets older he will have better coping skills.


I can only offer you what I would do if I were in your situation,, you and Lizzie must come to an understanding together as what you guys feel is best, regardless of mine or anyone elses take.. I am from the outside looking in.Based on just the facts ,all the non stop stress put on everyone including Elliot these past few weeks EVERYONE needs a break, a breather, a time to slow down. You all have been dealt alot of crap that you have had NO control over and its been fast and furiuos.Heres a situation where you DO have control, and lets face it, is it really gonna matter 5 yrs from now wether he attends the play or the promotion or even the one session of OT?  Do you want your family to remember over the years all the running around doing this and doing that and being made to do things you didnt want to do, or how you came together, put the world on hold for a day or so and just decided to be together, play a few games shared a few much needed smiles and did your best to take a mini mental health vacation..
I would not let Elliot be the decision maker tho, this could bring backlash in the future for any other instance he didnt want to attend. I would simply say, Mom and I have talked about a few things and ( be honest )  and we decided that we are going to take a few days off from running and going and doing and we want to spend some time with you guys alone, just us as a family. Afterall its Christmas and isnt that really what its all about, time with family filled with love? Turn off the cells, the pc and get creative.
Yes I think you are right Elliot wants to be saved from the maddness, and taking a day off every now and then for a mental health break is just what I think is needed. Hes a smart boy that kid of yours 🙂

gina valley

Every one needs a break some time.  If you can’t reschedule his OT, let him go.  You know the promotion is good for him, but he doesn’t.  He’s just trying to make something be normal and going to OT does that.  If he’s stressed over the Christmas program and you do believe that is primarily because of this months issues, let him skip it after letting him know that you are counting on him to be ready for the next one (with your help and support,, of course.).  Life’s short.  It’s stressful.  Let him relax.


Could you reschedule ot for later in the week or day? Or give him the choice of eithier go to the show or the promotion? Or go for 1/2 the promotion and 1/2 ot session (depending on logistics of course)? Go to Christmas show as an audience member?