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Friday, November 03, 2006

The Joys of Autism - progress for all

You think I’m joking, but I’m not. Enough of this depressing moaning and groaning about the tragedy of autism. For us at least, it has been a good kick up the backside. [translation = but{t}?] Whilst I would not have chosen to have autistic children, now they’re actually here, they sort of grow on me after a while.

Just the other day, I heard on the radio that for most of us, our characters have been formed and set in concrete, from our early thirties. This is a little surprising as I’m sure that it wasn’t until the mid 40’s that the dye was truly set. [translation = cast] Short of a life changing tragedy, such as a near death experience, most of us are unlikely to change more than about 10%, at best. I believe this to be true and it certainly was for me, or at least it was, until we had two autistic boys, following two typical girls.

At first it seemed like the worst kind of career change that I could have possibly chosen. I was unqualified for such a responsibility, [translation = terrified newbie] without the slightest clue about what I should do or how? It was made more confusing by the fact that although they had the same diagnoses, their 'symptoms' were almost opposite. I think that’s why they call it a ‘spectrum disorder.’ Any parenting principles that I'd picked up over the years, were quite frankly, irrelevant. [translation = bad news] I had to start again from first principles, unlearn and re-learn everything. It was daunting. I had been reasonably confident of my competence in at least this one realm of my life. Then I found that due to a couple of dodgy genes, I was now a complete ignoramus. I think I might have preferred to have had autistic boys when I was younger, when I had more energy, when my brain was still flexible enough to adapt. [translation = a sponge not an icicle] I wouldn’t have fretted over every little decision, because the young don’t generally.

On the other hand, age and crumbliness may sometimes allow for a more patient approach, after all I’ve nothing better to do with my life now. And what could be more gratifying than learning to see the world from a whole new perspective, in fact, a couple of new perspectives, at my time of life. Maybe a case of rose tinted spectacles. [translation = Double vision or bifocals, I know which I prefer.

A GOLDFISH = snack cracker

An American commercial nibble. Baked not fried!

In the eye on the beholder

I do my best to ignore the revolting bowl that I’ve just brought back from the studio. I shall never be able to support the family with this particular hobby. [translation = craft] Pottery is too time consuming a hobby for me anyway, not in the least therapeutic, more a source of frustration. The shape is good. The weight is acceptable, you don’t have to be physically fit to lift it. The rim is about as perfect as I’m capable of. The bottom is neat and not too heavy. The glaze coverage is smooth and bubble free. It’s a fair size, bearing in mind that they shrink in the kiln by about 12%, a figure that I find difficult to visualize. It’s not too small to be useless, nor too large to be cumbersome. Not that I’m picky, it’s just that I ever so carefully painted fish all over it, shaped like goldfish crackers. [translation = American snack food] An oval with a ‘<’ for a tail, but for some reason, a great number of the fish icons have chipped off. They have missing chunks, which means that the white clay beneath shows through.

Ruined, completely ruined, just typical! I can’t recycle it, nor even give it away. I nudge it away and continue the washing up as senior son comes sauntering up. He leans against my body as one would a lamp post, idle and content, his line of sight aligned with the kitchen counter. He startles. “You have made me a new bowl?” he gasps. I lean on the edge of the sink and examine him. The arrival of new bowls, usually with the children’s names emblazoned upon them, to avoid ownership disputes, are soon smashed within a few days of entering the household. The bowls I make are a challenge for those with poor fine motor skills and the strength of overcooked spaghetti. They are never a cause for comment, let alone interest. He rocks back and forth, heel to toe, hands covering his mouth, which means that either he is about to explode into a hideous meltdown or he is experiencing excitement. Under the circumstances, I err on the side of caution, anticipating a meltdown as I answer, “Yes. Why? You’re not into bowls all of a sudden are you?”

“In? Into? In? I am not in the bowl, I am near the bowl,” he explains to his mother, the idiot, as there are so many literal word traps for me to fall into. At least this is an indication that speech therapy is having a positive effect.
“Can I see it proper, prop, properly?” he asks breathlessly.
“Sure.” I lean over, grab the bowl and swing it towards him in one easy movement, even though he is now crouching for some unaccountable reason? “Be careful!” he warns, “you might be breaking it!” Each additional word confuses me further. He cradles it gently in the palm of his hands examining the fish on the inside of the bowl, screwing up his eyes. He sighs, “I know Orca whales are the best if you don call them killer whales, thank you Mum.” He lollops away, leaving me confused, but calls over his shoulder, “you can call it my Orca bowl, I use it for supper tonight. O.k.?” I re-examine the bowl and the chips with a different viewpoint.

Top 7

Taken from - Monthly progress report during December 2004

1. It is virtually impossible to ‘kiss better’ the inside of a small person’s mouth after experimenting with unco-operative drinking straws.

2. Pretending to be a cat is delightful progress; pretending to use the cat litter falls into another category.

3. Fog is deemed 'scary' by the non verbal, such that driving at 5 mph becomes compulsory; we hope that the Highway Patrol are sympathetic.

4. Motor planning and co-ordination are improving; six inch red high heel shoes [size nine and a half] on a small boy should ensure that we enter the hallowed halls of the Child Protection League shortly.

5. Junior son’s sensitivities [translation – tactile defensiveness] have been reduced so much that now, at the age of four, for the first time ever, he is able to pick his nose with his very own finger. Hallelujah!

6. Team leadership, co-operation, sharing and turn taking skills, in addition to comprehension. Following watching a program demonstrating how 16 people can be crammed into a British Mini car, Junior daughter demonstrates that two small boys can in fact be persuaded to squeeze into a tumble drier together. Well done Junior daughter, especially managing to shut the door.

7. It is unwise to be without your underwear, if you have poor coordination [translation = fine and gross motor skills] and a penchant for rotary egg beaters [translation = whisks] because;

a. It hurts

b. It is difficult to place a plaster [translation = band-aid] on the offending member

c. Your requests to ‘kiss it better’ makes my brain hurt.

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