“Actually I’m going out to Target today to grab a few things.”
“Grab? I hope you’re going to pay for them first. What an odd way to describe a shopping trip, very uncouth.”
“Mmm I hadn’t noticed that had slipped into usage around here.”
“So what are you planning to buy?”
“Presents, probably Transformers and a table cloth.”
“That’s hardly a trip, two things.”
“Believe me, two things will be a miracle, if we can manage it.”
“Ah you’re taking the boys with you then?”
“No-one of has a birthday for ages though?”
“It’s for a friend’s birthday party, which makes it even more challenging.”
“Because the birthday boy likes the same stuff as my boys, namely Transformers, so I have to buy something that they like for some one else. That’s tough for any child.”
“You haven’t managed to instill generosity into them yet?”
“Actually, they’re naturally generous.”
“Doesn’t sound like it to me.”
“Well this is a special scenario. Buy your favourite thing and give it to someone else.”
“Hmm. I can’t think why you’re buying a tablecloth.”
“To cover the table.”
“Don’t be fascetious, you know what I mean.”
“Actually I don’t really. Why shouldn’t I buy another table cloth?”
“Another? Do you mean you already have one?”
“I have lots.”
“Lots? I hope you’re not using best linen for every day use?”
“I have one or two that are ‘best,’ but I have loads that are everyday kind.”
“How extraordinary. You do surprise me.”
“Why is that so surprising?”
“Well, with your lot…….I mean……..what’s the point?”
“The point is to slow the spillage. It’s like putting a huge towel on the table to minimize the fall out.”
“Ooo dear. How vile. What an unpleasant picture you paint.”
“Really? Isn’t that what most people use them for, to minimize the mess, catch the crumbs and spills.”
“Yes, but even so. It’s more important as a decorative feature, to dress the table, make it look attractive.”
“Good point. That’s a handy by-product.”
“Surely you don’t think that they appreciate a beautifully dressed table? Are they that sophisticated?”
“I have no idea, but I’m sure they appreciate not being dosed by a glass of water that spins out of control.”
“Oh dear. You know you forget!”
“Yes. I’ve seen them eating. In a restaurant...... that time.”
“Oh yes, I had forgotten. So?”
“Well I remember it as clear as day.”
“Mayhem, absolute mayhem. The whole thing was ghastly enough to give me indigestion.”
“Hmm, it can be a little overwhelming if you’re not used to it.”
“I wouldn’t care to get used to it.”
“That was over a year ago. We’ve been practicing since then, every weekend.”
“Practicing? How do you ‘practice’ going to a restaurant? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“It’s just as it sounds.”
“How grueling. It always reminds me of……..”
“Oh you know……….”
“Those Chimpanzees and the tea party?”
“No, no, no…..er let me see……stop teasing me I can't think straight.”
“Clowns throwing cream pies?”
“Stop it! No…..er. I know! The Mad Hatter’s Tea party?”
“You know, everyone constantly on the move and someone falls asleep in the middle of the table.”
“Ah, yes he was emotionally exhausted after trying to eat those fries with the little black flecks on them.”
“Don’t remind me. I’ve never heard a child scream so loudly. So embarrassing. Everyone looking at us as if we’d been sticking pins in him.”
“Were they what?”
“Were they looking at us?”
“Don’t you remember?”
“Not really. I was to busy trying to persuade him to get out from under the table.”
“Oh dear yes. I’ve never experienced anything like it. What possessed you to choose such a noisy restaurant?”
“Easier to blend in.”
“What? Oh I see what you mean. I just kept quiet.”
“Actually you were quite quiet if I remember correctly. Why was that?”
“You know, the truth is, you were so busy with them all and I just wanted to help but I had no idea what to do? I suppose I just don’t know them well enough but it made me feel so helpless and useless. I just wanted to ease the situation, calm the chaos but…......”
“Oh I’m so sorry. I didn’t really notice at the time.”
“You know me. I’m happy to roll my sleeves up and muck in with the rest of you, but I found I was just out of my depth. I’ve never been in that situation before when everyone is looking at you, mouths open, tut tutting……..it was horrible……….it made me feel quiet tearful and I knew that wouldn’t help anyone.”
“Don’t worry. It really doesn’t bother me much any more.”
“Really. People can think what they think. I can’t make anyone think differently from how they do. We’ll just keep practicing regardless.”
“Really? Do you really mean that?”
“Yes I do. Actually I’ll tell you a secret. A confession if you will. Four years ago it was torture, a marathon but only, or rather partly, because I let myself get upset. I wanted them to be quiet, or quietish, just for an hour whilst we were there. Talk about deluded.”
“Yes. You see by my forties I was already set in my public persona. How to behave. I was just too self conscious, or embarrassed if you will. I was o.k. doing what I do in private without anyone looking, but in public I was too embarrassed to do the things that worked, because I knew they’d look odd, or rather even more odd. Too much of a dent to my dignity.”
“Well when he dives under the table you can’t use the ordinary kinds of discipline that people expect, because they simply don’t work. I basically didn’t want to get under the table with him, calm him down, perhaps use the Incredible Five Point Scale, practice breathing, perhaps a bit of shoulder massage, all the stuff I’m quite happy to do at home.”
“I was making the situation worse. The children expected me to behave in a certain way. I was, and still am, their scaffolding, and in public I just bailed on them. It’s no wonder it was all so dreadful, but the ‘dreadful’ was really all in my own head.”
“I basically caved to public opinion. I allowed a bunch of strangers to dictate my own behaviour. I’d be angry that people thought they were just spoilt and badly behaved. It took me a while to realize what I was doing and why I was doing it.”
“Hmm. What then?”
“I just decided to do in public what I was doing at home, the magic of consistency. It wasn’t an over-night turn around, but gradually I found we were all moving in the right direction."
"Geez it takes such a long time."
"Yes but they say that 'pride comes before a fall.' I'd fallen into a huge pit, entirely of my own making."
"By the by."
"I don't think anyone really notices if you dive under the table. Most people are too busy with their own business anyway. With hindsight, I think I must have had a massive ego to think that anyone would have been the least bit interested."
"Do you know.......now I come to think of it.....apart from that one time with you.........I can't remember when I last saw someone under a table in a restaurant, if ever?"
"Well there you go then!"
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I listen in, shameless ear-wigging. It’s a treat for me, to hear my son volunteer information, engage in what might be described as social communication. Social communication is generally the fluff of human exchange, unnecessary, but we all do it anyway. Many would say that our lives are richer as a result. This kind of fluff is generally not the kind of chat that autistic children or adults engage in. I now understand that it’s purposeless.
For years and years we have endured silence or meltdowns or functional language. Functional language is used to communicate one’s needs. When babies first start to communicate, often they use single word commands such as ‘juice’ or ‘milk.’ Parents encourage their children to tack on additional words, depending upon their own priorities such as ‘please.’ Gradually, small sentences emerge, three words, and later more. The average child can use single words in a social context, ‘look! Star!’ This is social communication. The child is seeking the joint attention of someone else, inviting the someone else to share, it is not functional. My autistic children never did this, not as toddlers nor when they were older. They do now, occasionally, but it’s just one of the many things that I can’t take for granted.
Some children will never communicate verbally. Some children will, eventually. Many will achieve functional language because it has a purpose. Some, may surprise me by indulging in fluffy talk. Fluffy talk is hard to define but you know it when you see it or hear it.
The easiest kind of fluffy talk to recognize, is complements. I say something nice about you and you thank me or offer a complement in return, completely purposeless, for some people.
The best kind of fluffy talk sprouts into a conversation, an exchange of words, where each person takes a turn. Clever people call this reciprocal exchange. It’s the exchange bit that’s pivotal. If I make a statement or ask a question, and no-one responds then I might not bother to do it again. Some people, the really desperate kind of people, count the number of exchanges. They may start with just one exchange, a statement and a response. Sometimes the number of exchanges increases. It may even increase sufficiently for me to be able to categorize it as a conversation, a fluffy one with no purpose.
Six years ago I could not have imagined that there would ever be any fluffy talk around here.
“What you fink my worsted day is be?”
“Coz of therapy?”
“But I thought you hated double therapy on Wednesday afternoons?”
“Yeah, but I am hate other fings morer.”
“What’s worse than double therapy?”
“Dah wart doctor!”
Nearly nine years for fluffy talk to emerge. I sincerely hope that other people have the chance to be lucky and fluffy too.
New Post up of "Alien."
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