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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Request in a letter, needs expert translator

At various opportune intervals during the day, I nab him to park him at the table. Once in position, I mention that it might be a good idea to add to his list for Father Christmas. [translation = Santa Claus]. He sighs with a mixture of weary patience and defeat, “O.k. what we are putting now!” he queries with exasperation. Autism’s rigidity seems impenetrable. [Ref 1]
I detail the five items that I have managed to extract from him thus far: [translation = auto suggestion] chocolate, Belgium only, a book, non-specific, a game, general but probably of the ‘board’ variety, something to cuddle and ‘a present.’ It is a woefully short list for any 6 year old to have produced. Generally children of this age either have a list several yards in length, or a shorter version with very specific items, make serial number and price, just so that there can be no mix ups.
“Can’t you think of anything else you’d like him to bring you for being such a good boy all year?” I weedle.

“Ah mummy, I is not a good boy anyways and I don want nuffink any roads up.” I seek out the blue eyes to see if I have timed this badly? I point to my beautifully configured numbers in the hope of encouraging him to add another. I don’t want to induce cardiac arrest in Santa when he finds a list with only five items on it.
“Can’t you think of anything that would make you feel very happy, that would make you feel a happy green?”
“Well, maybe I am wanting something.”
“Really? What?”
“I am having to want three eggs actually.”
“Great! Number 6, three eggs, that’s a great one! Can you think of another one?”
“Er, well, maybe I fink I am wanting a great gold star.” Saints preserve us, we’re on a roll! “Wonderful! That would make a superb gift. Anything else?” Is there a chance we might reach double digits?
“Hmm, let me see now, I think my last fing would be some green toofpaste so that my teef can be happy too.” Why didn’t I anticipate this? Does anyone manufacture green toothpaste? Do I have enough time to go to Walgreens? Will they let me open half a dozen tubes so that I can squeeze out a squirt and check colours? “Superb, happy teeth must be the best thing in the world, anything else?”
“ Umm, may be I need some bendy pens, I mean soft pens that won’t be hurting my hands and fingers.”
I know that his 'list' looks strange to a casual observer. I could explain each items significance but that's not really the point. The point is that he has no compunction to explain what these things are. The theory of mind, or lack thereof, tells us that he assumes that I understand, that I think as he does, therefore there is no need for him to expound. Even if I were a complete stranger he would still not explain, even if prompted, there would be no point. His perspective is that everyone knows their significance. It is easy to see why this tendency is seen as pivotal, in an autism diagnoses if not merely narcissistic.

“Fantabulous, those are the best pens on the planet! I hope he has some?” I wonder where they can be bought? “Any other offers? Anything else? You’re up to 8 now!”
“My last thing will be a sharing thingy.”
“What kind of a sharing thingy?”
“A game that my bruvver is liking very much, so that we can be taking turns together. I like the game cube game because is it yellow, er because is it nearly golden colour, which is my favourite colour, but he is liking it because it is a Pokemon game and it will be making him happy, it is called a “Topaz Pokemon Version.”

So much for the Theory of Mind.

Ref 1 = 
adamantine \ad-uh-MAN-teen\ adjective
1 : made of or having the quality of adamant 
*2 : rigidly firm : unyielding 
3 : resembling the diamond in hardness or luster

Vegetables win, even though tomatoes are a fruit

I’ve never been a very good cook, something to do with beating sauces anti clockwise, I believe, but it never made much sense to me. To this day I can’t understand how you can hold a wooden spoon backwards, but apparently I am guilty of this crime also. I’ve never been one for labels, so if my soup turned into a solid, then I’ll call it a stew. If my dessert turned itself into a liquid, I’d just give a different name. It’s remarkable how often you can call something ‘Surprise Fricasse’ and no-one is any the wiser. Never mind if it was overcooked, just chop off the burnt bits. Underdone, never mind, nuke it in the microwave, who cares if it’s a bit rubbery, you can bluff it out: “Yes, that’s right, I said ‘Goodbody Flan,’ it’s an ancient recipe to line the stomach of miners when they were down the pits, very nutritious.”
It’s very handy for desserts that refuse to set, as modern appliances such as the cuisinart [translation = magimix] mean that you can just whiz it to a liquid and you have pudding soup, it still tastes o.k. It’s all about expectations.

These days, cooking and catering is so much easier. All I have to do is shake out a cup full of Goldfish crackers for the children and a bowl of fishy bites for the cats and I’m all finished. [translation = done] I figure that this just makes them all vegetarians by default. Whilst we are making great progress in the food department, fruit and vegetables are not ‘preferred foods.’ The ‘make your own packed lunch’ campaign has been a moderate success and senior son will volunteer to make his own sandwich at other times to ensure that he can use at least 2 ounces of butter on each slice of bread. At this stage, compliance and task completion are paramount. Coronary heart disease is low on the agenda.
Thus when I hear a squeak of surprise from him, I walk over to determine the cause. “My sandwich!?” he bleats.
“Yes, that’s right. It’s a sandwich. Well done for making it on your own. You must be very hungry to have made one now?” [Translation = less than an hour before supper]
“But it is tasting, er, not quite right.” I look at the sandwich with one perfect semi circle missing because he didn’t get the wonky teeth gene.
“What’s not quite right dear.” He pulls a face and bares his teeth, arching his back as he hunts for words. “It, it, it……I dun know, but it is tasting funny.” I peak under the top slice which reveals chunks of too hard butter, dollops of peanut butter and a bright red smearing of something that isn’t jam. [translation = jelly]

I glance back to the kitchen counter, the scene of devastation following his ‘cooking’ session. I step closer as the bifocals aren’t up to the task. I trickle of oil seeps from the up turned lid; Tomato pesto sauce. I rearrange my face and return to the table where he is on his second mouthful.

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