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Friday, November 24, 2006

Foul language begets reciprocal exchange

[translation = swearing promotes connectivity in a common goal] Yes, my boys are autistic and the speech delays are a little taxing, [translation = tough on aged brain cells] but as they grow and change they make me catch my breath. [translation = steam up the bifocals.]

I take my chest infection downstairs in the small wee hours of the morning so that at least one of us can attempt to sleep so as to have the chance to cope better later in the day. I sleep fitfully until soft footfalls wake me in the darkness. The light flicks on to a chorus of gasped surprises. Somebody snaps it back off again and approaches in the gloom. I am uncertain if I've failed to fall asleep or whether I am just waking up? A conversation ensues that I am not party too. [translation = I play dead]

“I fink she is asleep.”
“No! Don poke her eyes!”
“Oops sorry. Sorry mum.”
“She cant hear you. She is asleep dumbass.”
“Don call me dumbass. Dumbass is a bad word, we don use bad words in dis famly.”
“Oops sorry!”
“It is morning?”
“Why it dark den?”
“I don know.”
“Why is mummy in the sleeping then, if it is da morning?”
“Because she is ill, dumbass.”
“Don call me dumbass or I will tell mummy on you.”
“Don tell mummy, she is asleep, she cant hear you anyways dumbass.”

Silence falls but I feel the sofa ease as two small figures snuggle up.
“What was dat?”
“I don know. It’s a pokey thing.”
“Oh no, you have squished the glasses. Are they broked?”
“No, I don fink so. It was a accident.”
“You dumbass, now mummy will be not be able to see anyfink.”
“Oops sorry.”
“Shall we have a sleep over?” [translation = voluntary initiation of positive social interaction?]
“Das a great idea.” [translation = acknowledgment of common goal, complimentary, appropriate and perhaps acceptance that he actually has a brother!]
“We can have a sleep over if it is morning? Is it morning?”
“I don know. It’s dark. I think maybe it is nighttime afterall.”
“Yes, you’re right. It is nighttime and we can be having a sleepover.” [translation = a desirable social event - perhaps?]
“Shall we have a sleep over wiv mummy too?”
“We shall ask her?”
“No dumbass, she’s asleep. Oops sorry.”

We enjoy a 'sleep over' together for the next forty five minutes until 6:50.

Ear wigging

[translation = listening to other people's conversations]

Senior son, now seven and a half, is considered to have a speech delay of approximately two and a half years. Because he is also autistic, he has many of the classic impairments that distinguish autistic children from the rest of the population. His ability to tune in to the subtleties of sophisticated communication would appear to be limited to a casual observer. [translation = not so the crazed mother trawling for evidence to the contrary]

He tries to show her his report card from school. [translation = impart the pertinent details, the winning of a prize for 'adequate' behaviour]
“Do I get a prize too?” she whines to her brother.
“Yes, but first you gotta do yer chores.” [translation = magnanimous,pragmatic]
“What chores?” Clear evidence of reciprocal exchange where two people communicate with each other.
“Er, um, lemme see now. You gotta tidy yer toys and er, um, what is it, oh yeah, right, clean yer teef and er, um, oh yes, oh yes, put yer perjamas on.” I am stunned to further silence, the right tasks in the right order, and he’s telling her! The same little phrase that I repeat daily, that I have repeated on a daily basis for nearly four months to deaf ears! [translation = wrong again, it does eventually penetrate, lodge and take root] I await further news. He continues in his deep baritone, “when yuv chosen yer prize then we can play together.” Her eyebrows knit, “you’re askin me to play with you?” The superior tone of a California girl, is fully developed. [translation = no I didn't think it would ever happen either dear]
“Sure! You gotta problem wiv dat?” he snaps back, with no delay, the appropriate tone and volume, and yes he was looking at her eyes when he spoke. I check that I’m in the right household.

I am.

“No. I’ve not got a problem, you’re the one with…..” she peters out just in time, whilst I bite my nails down to the quicks.
“Good, so…..get on wiv it den, yer wastin time! Don cha know it’s nearly time fer bed?”

I think I had better go and lie down myself! [translation = before I fall down]

Ref 1] At ages three, four, and five a child's vocabulary rapidly increases, and he or she begins to master the rules of language. These rules include the rules of phonology (speech sounds), morphology (word formation), syntax (sentence formation), semantics (word and sentence meaning), prosody (intonation and rhythm of speech), and pragmatics (effective use of language).

Figure it out [translation = work it out together]

I dash back inside with armfuls of post [translation = mail] and dump it on the kitchen counter for later. My eye catches a postcard. Closer inspection reveals that it is an invitation to a party for the boys, but there are no details of when or where? Luckily I know who it is from, so I can phone later, obviously they were too busy to fill it out properly. [translation = spotty task completion by an adult]

I try something novel. “I’m going to wash the floor, you two can play together for 10 minutes in the family room.” [translation = thus far, 5 minutes 'unsupervised or unstructured play' is their absolute limit] They look at me with slumpy bodies but alert faces.

“Play? Wiv him?” They look at each other as if they’ve been asked to marry a stranger. [translation = no keeping of brothers around this neck of the woods] They marshal their combined forces;

“What play?” [translation = they agreed to the principal of playing with one another, but lack the impetus to start or the skill to choose a starting point] I shuffle them into the family room, which was strewn knee deep with toys just prior to their sisters departure. [translation = too 'busy' a scene for them to be able to distinguish items, which causes confusion] They take in the carpet, observe that there is not enough room to place one foot in front of the other. [translation = especially if motor planning isn't one of your strengths]

“What we do?” he asks his little brother. [translation = acknowledges that they are related to one another]
“I don know. What we do?” [translation = horray! On the precipice of a joint enterprise.] They both turn to look at me as if I have the answer, but I’m not going to help them, “you figure it out,” I say turning on my heel mop in hand.

“Figure it out?” they both echo.

I mop the floor and listen carefully for any signs of progress in the family room. It’s a slow start but they gradually warm to the concept of ‘play.’ After seven or eight minutes, I can tell that their ability to play has run out. I call “all finished! Come and choose your snacks.”

They bound into the kitchen, junior fiddles with the stack of mail whilst senior examines the contents of the cupboard. I supervise. It takes a while for him to decide what his body needs, so I take down a couple of bowls whilst he dithers. I hear a little voice behind me; ‘please come to my party on Sunday da fird of September, time 1:30 to 3:30 love Elliott. What does ‘RSVP’ meaning?” I turn to see that junior has managed to open what I thought was a postcard.

It would appear that we all have our skills sets and deficiencies.

I am not princess [translation = but I may have a pea]

I await the day that the boys bodies adjust to Daylight saving. The day that they will wake up at 6 again rather than 5. That day finally arrives. Unfortunately, it is also the same day that the thermostat detects coldness.

I propel myself downstairs to greet the boys at 4:30 in the morning. I detect sound and movement. I am on automatic pilot. I negotiate stairs and propel myself into the kitchen, persuade my eye lids to open, force my pupils to focus through my dirty bifocals. I stand motionless, thus better able to detect the presence of a couple of small people, only to find that they are not there.

Instead I am met by wafts of warm air, tickling my ankles. The heating system has started to work. Cold in California. I must be a barometer! A motion detector? Senile.

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